The Duke and the Duchess

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Chapter 10

The sun was almost down and Sandy was coasting, dropping altitude. Nick searched for land in the heaving greenish blue water below but it was a long moment before he spotted a dark slash. The dragon's eyes were better than his.

As they got closer, the duke could see a line of jagged rocks, but the slanting sides and flatter ends of the line looked like places a dragon could alight safely. And as they neared, his impression of the odd island changed; it was bigger and higher than he had thought when he had seen it from far above.

The dragon that carried him flapped a little as they flew over it, then made a sharp turn and settled on the far end, landing gently on his hind fee and balancing with his tail. Once down, Sandy used his unoccupied front foot to take some of his body weight, and brought Nick close to his face.

I'm going to put you down here. There is a place that catches rain water right over there, and I will bring you a fish if you want it. But stay at this end, the others will be landing soon and they might not treat you as well as I have. And remember there is nowhere for you to escape to, so do not make it difficult for me to catch you again when it is time to go.

Nick said, "I understand. Bring me a little fish and I'll try it. Maybe I can even cook it."

The dragon set the human down and opened his hand. Nick sat down quickly, his wobbly legs wouldn't hold him and his arms felt weighted. Sandy paid no attention, turning and gliding off of the rocks, folding his wings and diving into the water.

The duke could see the following dragons coming, but they were still quite a distance away. He scrambled slowly over to a deep depression that held water. It was fresh, and although it tasted a little of rock, it was better than some well water he'd drunk in the past.

His limbs were coming back to life with some sharp tingling. In a few minutes he was able to rise and make his way down a gentle slope to where the ocean lapped against the stone and do the things he needed to do. Then he went back up by the pool and moved over against a rough rock face that was twice his height and hid him from the rest of the island. If the other dragons might be dangerous to him, there was no point in giving them an obvious target. He was glad he wasn't into bright colors; his gray suit blended well and made him harder to see. Although if all dragons saw as well as Sandy, it probably wouldn't make any difference, they would spot him if they looked for him.

He heard the other dragons arrive. Some splashed directly into the water, others landed on the rocks; he could hear their claws scratch on the stone. Nick thought hard for a few minutes about whether he should try to escape. He knew they had flown south, the setting sun to the dragon's right made that obvious, but he had no idea how far, or if they had gone directly south or angled off one way or the other. There hadn't been any land in sight the entire trip once they'd left Anglia behind. They might be off the coast of Franck or even Ibarra by now, he had no way to judge. He could try forming his shield and letting it carry him east as far as his magical strength would take him, but if he didn't reach land he would be in big trouble. And if he did reach land and it happened to be Franck, same thing. The young duke decided to wait. If he stayed with the dragon, the worst that would happen would be he ended up on some strange island where the people would hopefully be at least neutral toward him, if not friendly.

But there was one thing he could do to help himself. He went back down by the ocean and found a fairly large, vertical wall down by the water on the far side from where Sandy dove in. He used his focused fire to etch his name in the rock. Maybe a passing ship would see it and know that he had been there.

He had just returned to the pool area when Sandy emerged from the water quite suddenly, propelled well up on land by a thrust of his wings. He had a very large fish in his jaws and tossed a little fish over to Nick, little being the size of a man's leg. The duke looked at it, wondering what he could do with it. He only had a few coins and a handkerchief in his pockets.

The dragon was lying down enjoying something the size of a small whale. Nick picked up his fish and went over to him. The fish odor was a little strong, but not too bad. And the slightly musty odor of the dragon was gone, although he hadn't found it unpleasant during the long flight.

He asked, "Sandy, could you split this open and remove the guts for me? I don't have a knife."

The dragon put down his meal and took the fish. He split it open with a claw and snaked his tongue through the fish, neatly removing all of its organs and swallowing them. He tossed it back to Nick.

If there was anything to burn on the island, the fish could be spitted and baked, but there was only rock. Well, maybe . . . He took one of his larger coins and used it to scrape the scales off. He rinsed the cleaned fish in the ocean and found a flat rock and heated it. The fish sizzled nicely, and he kept the heat low so it wouldn't burn, turning it over with a small, thin, flat magical shield. It was delicious, but he couldn't eat it all. He gave the remainder to the dragon who didn't seem to care one way or the other whether the fish was cooked or raw.

It was fully dark by the time they had finished eating, but there was a little light from a half moon. The other dragons settled down too, and the island was quiet. The air was getting cool so Nick gathered up some small rocks, put them around where he intended to sleep, and heated them. He warmed the rock surface in the middle just a little.

Sandy had been watching him. Would you make the rock warm here, too?

"Sure," Nick said, and then had an inspiration. "If you let me ride on top of you tomorrow."

I am not your beast.

"Of course not. People let animals ride on them sometimes. I've seen a lady who almost always had a cat on her shoulder, and a man with a bird riding him. The animals weren't in charge, they belonged to the people. I sort of belong to you, at least until the end of our trip."

The tan dragon thought about that for a moment. Warm the rock and I'll consider it.

The duke shrugged and heated the area where the dragon intended to sleep and went back to his own prepared place. He said quietly, "Of course I don't know where we'll be tomorrow night, but if it's a place like this and you carry me in your hand again all day, I won't warm the rock for you."

Sandy snorted and settled down to sleep. The rock felt hard under Nick when he tried to make himself comfortable, but the warmth helped and he soon drifted off as well.

He was awakened by sounds rather than light. The eastern sky was just starting to show color, the sun still below the horizon when the dragons started going into the sea for their breakfasts. Nick sat up in time to see Sandy's tail disappearing into the ocean.

He rose and visited the water's edge again, then drank from the pool. The duke was waiting for his dragon to return with a breakfast fish for him when a large gray dragon dropped out of the darkness and landed in front of him.

I will carry you today.

"I don't think so," Nick said. He knew nothing about this dragon or his intentions; at least Sandy didn't seem interested in eating him. He backed away, raised his hands and let fire flicker from his fingers in a warning.

The gray dragon snorted in derision, and reached for him. Nick switched to lightning and hit it with bolts from both hands. The creature yelped and leapt back and then shook his head. The duke could see the dragon was angry now. He backed as far as he could until he was up against the small cliff. He raised his hands again.

"No more warnings," he called. "Next time I'll hurt you." Nick hoped he actually could hurt the beast; the lightning had been intended to do more than just stun it. It lunged at him and he used his concentrated fire from one finger on both hands, aiming one beam at the dragon's face, the other at its chest.

He smelled something burning, and the beast roared. There was an upheaval of water, and Sandy came out of the sea. The tan dragon dropped the fish it was carrying and leapt on the gray. Nick turned and scrambled up the rough rock face behind him and started to run, and then realized he was running toward a lot more dragons. He stopped and looked around.

The two dragons behind him were fighting in a roaring, tangled ball of gray and tan. If the wrong dragon won, he could be in big trouble. He needed a place where no dragon could reach him so he started looking for a hole, a cave, anywhere to hide.

The duke found a small triangular opening wide enough to crawl into although he wasn't sure he could turn around in it. He backed in on his belly, hoping it was deep enough and that the island really was as deserted as it seemed and there wasn't anything lairing in the hole. His head was in about three feet when his feet hit the end. Nick could still hear the dragon fight going on.

It wasn't long before there was quiet. He heard Prince Henry? in his head and it sounded like Sandy, but he wasn't sure and he stayed where he was. Then there was the sound of claws on rock approaching, and a large tan dragon nose snuffled at the opening.

You can come out now. ________ agreed I would continue to carry you, and I have a nice fish for you.

The duke wriggled his way out and stood up. Sandy turned and went back to where he'd dropped his own fish, leaving Nick to carefully climb back down the small cliff. The tan dragon looked unharmed, to Nick's relief.

He saw that his fish was even larger than the one the night before, and the dragon slit it open, slurped out the innards, and pushed it over to him. Nick scaled it, rinsed it, grilled it, ate what he could and noticed the dragon seemed eager to get the leftovers. When every bit of fish was gone, Sandy was ready to leave.

Time to go.

Nick took one more drink from the pool, visited the ocean again, and approached the big dragon. "So, where's the best place for me to sit?"

Sandy hesitated and then said, In front of my wings, I think. I've never done this before so I don't really know. Just don't interfere with my flying. He crouched down and the duke climbed up. There were quite a few long spines which made good hand holds and Nick settled between two sets of them that rose higher than his head sitting down. The dragon was too wide to straddle comfortably, but at least he could change position whenever he wanted. Its scales were large and hard, but reasonably comfortable to sit on.

Hold on tight, I'm going to launch.

Nick took a firm grip, but almost fell off anyway when Sandy leapt into the air and started flying. He righted himself and looked back at the island receding behind them. The other dragons were coming too in a long stretched out line.

"Why did that gray dragon want to carry me?"

For the reward, of course. All of us will be rewarded, but the one carrying you will get the most. Since it was my idea to take you home, I should be that one.

"I'm glad he didn't hurt you."

Dragons within a group don't fight to hurt, we fight for dominance. I proved I am stronger, so he yielded. The burns you gave him are his worst injury. Stay away from him for a while until his temper cools.

"Right."

Sandy climbed and Nick found himself much colder than the day before. The air temperature continued to drop as they went higher and the wind was fierce without the dragon's hand to protect him. He curled up as much as he could and put up a matter shield between two sets of spines ahead of him which blocked some of the wind.

The morning went by slowly, there was nothing to do riding on the dragon but look at the sky and the ocean. There were dark clouds to the west that were rapidly approaching and the young duke started to worry about flying in a storm. In early afternoon Sandy veered right, heading into strong winds and toward the dark clouds, and started losing altitude.

"Where are we going? There's a storm coming!"

There's a place to shelter near here. If I can find it we will be safe until the storm passes.

Nick peered below and ahead of the dragon but couldn't see anything but ocean. He made his magnifying window and searched with that. He could see the flashes of lightning in the clouds ahead and hear the thunder rumbling. Finally he spotted something that looked like a dimple in front and off to the side of them.

"Over there," he shouted, pointing at it. Then he realized the dragon couldn't see him and tugged on the leftmost spine in front of him. "To your left."

Sandy's head swung that was and he turned toward the odd-looking island and dropped faster. They were in the leading edge of the rain now, but well below the level of the clouds. As they neared the speck of land, Nick could see that it was round and had high rock walls around most of the edge and a depressed area in the middle. He suddenly realized he was seeing the top of a dead volcano--at least he hoped it was dead. He'd never seen on before, but he had read about them with a measure of disbelief.

The dragon flew in low over the walls, banked and turned and Nick could see dark spots in the wall ahead of them that grew into caves as they approached. Sandy landed on a steep slope just below a large one, and used his wings and all four feet to reach it. He folded his wings as he lurched inside.

The cave was big enough that Sandy could go completely into it and easily turn around. He did, and then crouched.

Off. The ride is over for today. Can you warm the cave, Prince Henry?

Nick did, heating the floor gently but the side walls quite a lot. He put a heat rune on one wall near him and poured magical energy into it and then went around to the other side of the dragon and did the same, only to a larger scale.

"Sandy, these are magical runes. If you touch the square in the center it will provide more heat. Touch it again, and the extra heat will go off. I made yours bigger so you could do it yourself on your side of the cave."

The dragon looked at the rune, back at Nick, and at the rune again. He carefully touched the rune with one claw and the rune flared with heat. Sandy moved away from it a little, but then moved back even closer than he was before.

Prince Henry, I think I'm starting to like you.

"Enough to take me back where you found me?"

Well, no, but you can ride on me again tomorrow.

The duke could see the other dragons outside and went to the cave opening to watch them. They were landing and scrambling into caves, but a few kept circling the inside of the rim. One by one they landed and crouched outside already occupied caves, and then went in. One small deep brown dragon landed in front of Nick, who backed up.

She wishes to come in. She is young and quite harmless, I have given her permission.

Nick moved aside and backed up more as the small dragon scrambled inside and shook herself like a dog. The duke and the large dragon had been almost dry in the heat, and now were wet again. The little female suddenly crouched and put her head down on the stone.

I have scolded her for her thoughtlessness. She will go to the back of the cave where the ceiling is low and stay there.

The brown dragon scampered past Nick to the back and pressed herself against the wall. He felt sorry for her, he hadn't heated the wall in the back, so he approached her cautiously.

"If you move away from the wall a little bit, I can heat it for you," he said to her.

After Sandy turned his head and looked at her, she did move a few feet into the cave. Nick heated the wall and then asked, "Sandy, if I give her a rune will she be able to use it?"

Certainly, I will explain it to her.

The duke made the rune a little smaller and lower on the wall than the one he'd made for the big dragon, powered it, and went back to his own rune. The little dragon quickly touched the center, and the rune came on.

"I'm going to call you Mahogany, is that all right?" Nick asked her.

There was a long pause. She looked at Sandy and then at Nick. Her tongue flicked out toward him a couple of times.

Yes. I only know little of your language. You taste good. Thank you for warm.

To the duke's surprise, the words in his head sounded feminine. He wasn't sure how thoughts could come across as male or female, but apparently they did.

"You're welcome. Sandy, I saw some plants out there when we flew over, are any of them edible?"

We don't eat then, too small and dry and we like fish much better.

"But you do eat plants?"

Sometimes, underwater, if a dragon is sick or injured and can't catch fish. But they're disgusting, so only in desperation. I'm going to take a nap now, and so is she. Be quiet for a while Prince Henry.

Nick sat down at the cave entrance and watched the storm. The noise didn't seem to bother the dragons at all, and all the dragons he could see appeared to be sleeping in their caves as well. He looked at the plants nearby, but didn't recognize any of them. He knew better than to eat anything he couldn't positively identify, even though he was tired of fish.

When the storm had passed and the rain stopped, the duke walked out of the cave and slid a little down the sloping rock to the crater floor. He walked around and examined the plants but still didn't recognize anything. If Elizabeth was there she would probably find a dozen things they could eat.

Thinking about her made him sad. She was probably worried sick about him; maybe she even thought he was dead by now. But he didn't have the magical skills to send word to her. Elizabeth would be fine without him, at least for a little while. She had a lot of people around her that would help. Parker would do his best to protect her, not that she needed a lot of protecting. Ralph could handle whatever administrative tasks she didn't care for. He hoped the builders back in Sothalia had made the door into the tower so she could get in and out without him. He longed to be with her, working and playing and . . .

Enough. He had to concentrate on what he was doing so he could survive and return to her. He didn't have access to the ocean, so he did what he needed to away from the cave, and started back to it.

Some of the dragons were awake and flying out of the crater. Sandy and Mahogany came out of their cave and took off as well.

Back with fish soon, from Sandy. Nick started looking for a nice big flat rock to grill on.

The tan dragon came back with five sharks dangling from his claws. Mahogany just carried one. Nick was pleased he didn't have to scale them, and the small dragon copied the big one in cleaning out the insides. The duke made them rinse the sharks out in the ocean since he couldn't easily reach the water and then started cooking them. Both dragons hunkered down close to his cooking rock and watched carefully. When the sharks were done, Sandy cut one in half and left one piece for the human and took the other.

Nick had been concentrating on his cooking, and now noticed he had an audience of three other small dragons as well. He magically flipped the other sharks off of the rock, four to Sandy and one to Mahogany. After eating about two and a half sharks, the big dragon gave each of the other three small dragons about a quarter of a shark each. They went off a little way to eat while Sandy finished the rest of his meal plus Nick's leftovers.

The dragons headed back toward their caves. Nick called after them, "Aren't we going on today? It's still light out."

No, there's no good place to rest again nearby. Tomorrow we will leave early and be home by nightfall.

The duke followed the dragons back to the cave. The air was warmer now that the storm had passed, and he turned off his heat rune. The dragons kept theirs on, curled up in front of them and went to sleep.

Nick wasn't very sleepy, but he was only safe near Sandy so exploring while the big dragon was asleep didn't seem like a good idea. He sat down, leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He started having a mental conversation with himself in Incelian, just in case that did indeed turn out to be their destination. When it got dark out, he tried noun declensions, and that put him to sleep.

They left very early, the sun only partially above the horizon. Nick had cooked fish in the dark for seven dragons for breakfast, while others watched from a distance. Apparently cooked food was another bargaining chip he could use with dragons if he needed to.

There were only a few fluffy clouds in the sky, some of them low enough to fly over or even through. Nick had been taught they were just fogs floating in the air, but now he knew it from personal experience.

It was after midday when the duke addressed the dragon. "Um, Sandy, I'm going to need to, ah . . ."

There's no island here. I can land on the water, but if you do not miss me we will go for an underwater swim.

"I understand," Nick replied. He was curious to see how the dragon would land on top of the water. Sandy started coasting and losing altitude. They slowed and dropped until they were just above the waves, and then the dragon lowered his tail into the ocean which slowed them more. Nick was holding on tight, not sure what was going to happen. But the dragon's back feet started dragging in the water next, and then he used the back edge of his wings to bring them to a halt. Finally he was resting on top of the water with his wings still outstretched.

The duke stood up and edged his way out onto a wing. It was firm underneath, although rocking with the movement of the water. He crept out to the pointy back end of the first rib and did what he had to do. Nick's feet got wet as the occasional wave went over the wing, but he managed to return to Sandy's back without anything worse happening.

Usually I would dive under and come up very fast using my wings, break the surface and keep going up. If you don't want me to go under, then I could use some lift, Mage.

They had already started moving forward. The dragon was paddling and the duke could see his tail undulating behind him. Sandy had lifted his wings off of the water and was sort of rowing with them as well. As they gained speed, Nick formed his flat shield underneath the huge animal and tried to lift and push forward. The dragon was far too big for him to actually raise, but between speed and Nick's help, his wings came farther and farther out of the water until they were airborne once again.

As they gained altitude, Nick could see the other dragons circling, waiting for them and they fell in behind the big tan dragon as soon as he reached them.

They flew for hours. The duke was thirsty, hungry and starting to think another water landing might be necessary, when he spotted a smudge on the horizon ahead of them. He looked at it with his magnifier and could see only a line of dark cliffs in the light of the setting sun.

Even when they neared, the land still looked inhospitable. There was no beach, just a jumble of rocks at the base of steep cliffs, with water seething around them. Sandy sailed right over the rocky barrier, and Nick was surprised to see that past a line of bare rock there were trees, rolling hills, and cottages. But they zoomed past it all until they passed over a huge, sprawling castle. Then the dragon banked and headed down to a large flat area in sight of the building, although some distance away.

All the dragons followed, Sandy landing lightly in the middle, the others in a half circle around him. Wherever they were, they had arrived.


Elizabeth woke early the next morning, but she didn't want to get out of bed. She had to decide what to do, and she just didn't know what was best. Should she wait here in Seagate in case Nick returned quickly? Should she go on with the tour of Sothalia so at least one of them would have seen a good portion of the duchy? Maybe she should just go back to the city of Sothalia and wait there.

Eventually Sylvie came in and began laying out clothing and then there was a knock on the bedroom door and the duchess smelled breakfast. She opened her eyes and sat up.

"Good morning, Your Highness," Sylvie said in a falsely perky voice. "There are eggs and ham and some nice muffins for you and a big pot of tea. Do you want it in bed, or would you prefer to eat at the table?"

The duchess got out of bed and ate at the table, and then dressed. When Sylvie had finished with her hair, she asked her maid to fetch Parker so they could have a discussion.

The three of them got comfortable in the sitting room, Elizabeth ordering the servants to sit. Sylvie and Parker were used to the prince and princess talking to them informally like that in private, so they sat without any reluctance.

Elizabeth began, "I'm not sure what to do, so I'm looking for advice. Should I stay here and wait for Nick, continue on with the tour and see the duchy, or go back to our castle and wait there?"

Sylvie said, "Well, when Prince Henry escapes he'll come back here looking for you, won't he Your Highness?"

The valet countered, "But it depends on when. If he's already on his way back, then yes, he would come here. If it takes him a week or more to return, I doubt he would expect her Highness to be here still."

"I suppose as long as I leave word where I've gone, even if Nick comes here first he could follow and find me," the duchess said. She appreciated that they were assuming he was alive and would return, although she was very aware it might not happen.

"In any case, you're not going to want to go to the ball tonight, are you Your Highness?" her maid asked.

"Oh no, I forgot about the ball. Yes, please send word we won't be attending, Sylvie." The maid got up and went to the door to send one of the messengers waiting in the hall.

"Perhaps Your Highness would consider another option," offered Parker. "The original plan was to tour as many places as possible, but you won't want to be in some backwater if word of the prince comes in. And really, most of the locations don't need to be seen personally. The various lords who rule those domains could be asked for a report on the condition of their properties. We could skip most of them and just go directly to Haverhill, stay for a day or two, and then return home."

Sylvie had returned and nodded at the end of that. She said as she reseated herself, "And going home from Haverhill we wouldn't have to go through that forest with the strange creatures in it either, Your Highness."

Elizabeth thought about that for a few minutes. She wanted to see Haverhill, the wool center of her duchy, but she also wanted to go home and talk to Ralph Winkershime. His counsel was usually good and he might have more ideas about how to find Nick. Then she realized she hadn't sent him word of Nick's disappearance yet.

"Parker, I like your plan, but we've forgotten to send word to Sir Ralph and the council running Sothalia about Nick. Could you dispatch a messenger right away?"

Parker did, and sent word to Captain Gregg that they would be leaving for Haverhill the next day. While the soldiers could be ready to leave quickly, he and Sylvie needed time to pack for their duke and duchess.

The rest of the morning Elizabeth had nothing to keep her occupied. She tried sewing, but she couldn't keep her mind on it. She found herself pacing instead, hoping that any minute Nick would come in or a messenger would arrive saying he'd been found. She knew it was unlikely she would hear anything today, but still, she hoped.

Captain Gregg came to see her just before lunch. "Your Highness," he said, "I have sent twenty of my soldiers to search the coastline, ten to the north and ten to the south. They can only go out a half day so they will be back tonight to prepare to leave tomorrow. I've passed the word on to the mapmakers and clerks as well, and they are working to complete their business today. Is there anything else I can do?"

"Thank you, Captain, but I can't think of anything. How long will it take us to get to Haverhill?"

"Are we in a hurry, Your Highness?"

"Yes, Captain, we are."

"Then three days. The slower wagons can catch up after we camp or find an inn. You may not have your large tent or all your trunks each night, and we may need to buy some additional horses to sustain that pace."

"That's acceptable, thank you." Captain Gregg bowed and left.

After lunch Captain Ben came to see her. He reported he had sent out fourteen small vessels, paying them twenty gold each for a one month search, and offering another twenty gold for word of the dragons or missing nobleman that led to his recovery. Elizabeth thanked him and he left, and once again she had nothing to do but worry.

Parker reported that he had sent a message to Baronet Jeffrey and Mr. Alarsham that they would be traveling to Haverhill and then back to Sothalia, so if any word about the prince came in they could send it on to her as well as to Londinum.

Elizabeth was glad when the day ended. At least for the next few days she would have something else to think about as they traveled. She had trouble falling asleep, and had disturbed dreams when she did, waking her several times during the night. In the last one, Nick merged into the dragon and took control, becoming the dragon and chasing her breathing fire and saying he wanted to eat her. It was ridiculous, of course, but after that she gave up trying to sleep.

The duchess got up and dressed in the riding clothes laid out for her, flustering Sylvie when her maid came in to wake her. Elizabeth had done her own hair in a simple style; she didn't need anything elaborate for riding. After breakfast she helped make sure everything was packed and she had a few essentials in her saddlebags, since the maid didn't ride well and would be behind the main group in the coach until nighttime.

She was ready when the soldiers came and took her trunks out to the waiting wagons, and followed them out. Sylvie got into the carriage, but Parker was on a horse and the duchess suspected he would keep close to her. With no prince to look after, the best he could do was to do what the prince would want him to do, which was make sure Elizabeth was safe.

She was brought up short by the sight of both Goldie and Falcon saddled and ready to ride. She turned to Captain Gregg. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, gesturing at Nick's horse.

"Your Highness, everyone will need a remount. His Highness's animal is fast, has good endurance, and is very steady; a good safe ride. I know you wouldn't want anyone else on him, but he would be a wonderful remount for you."

Parker had ridden over, and said, "It was my idea, Your Highness. We need to keep the Prince's horse in condition for when he returns, don't we?"

Elizabeth blinked a couple of times; she really had to stop tearing up at every thought of Nick. "Yes, we do. Very well, I will use him as my remount, but no one else will ride him, understood?"

"Yes, Your Highness," both men chorused. She mounted and the group move out. She and the captain led, with Parker, two messengers, and a clerk right behind. After them came twenty of the soldiers, the rest of the messengers and clerks, and then the carriages and wagons. The young mapmakers stayed by their father's carriage, and bringing up the rear were the remaining soldiers.

It was a long, tiring ride. They stopped briefly at midday and cold foods were passed out and the horses watered. Elizabeth mounted Falcon in the afternoon. He was both a pretty horse and a well-mannered one, and she knew he was unlikely to shy at anything having been under Nick while he was tossing fire and lightning in battle.

They found an inn just at nightfall. The carriages and wagons arrived nearer to midnight, and by then the duchess had eaten and was fast asleep. They rose again in the pre-dawn light, ate, and rode again. The second night they had to camp and Elizabeth was the only one with a cot and a tent just big enough to hold it. At least she could fold up the cot and let down a flap to have a little privacy when she dressed.

The third day they could see Haverhill in the distance as the sky darkened, and arrived at an inn in the dark. There were a lot of odd smells in the air in the city, not all of them pleasant, but Elizabeth wanted nothing but a meal and a bed. Bathing could wait for morning. She awoke briefly when Sylvie arrived and her trunks were brought in, but slept soundly the rest of the night.

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