Irwens men went to retrieve the equipment and provisions they had left behind. When they returned, they set up camp in the clearing next to the fissure. The wounded, including the young rescued siblings, had their wounds treated and given a hefty meal taken from the bandits own supplies.

Rand noticed that only one prisoner had been taken out of the cavern and it was the strange priest that had been interrogated by Irwen. Seeing him confirmed that Irwens order had been duly obeyed.

Fire was the same end for the men of the Brotherhood that had died in combat. It was Granan who had prepared the pyre and conducted a druid ritual in accordance with an ancient costume of the peoples of the League. Irwen gave a speech, exalting the individual virtues of each man that had fallen, just before setting fire to their bodies.

The rest of that night after the funeral was silent and tranquil. Rand didn take long to fall asleep by the crackling fire and for the first time in days he slept peacefully. When he woke he couldn recall any dreams and felt fresh in body and spirit.

He broke his fast with a dark cake and fruits that had been taken from the cavern. As he ate, he noticed there was movement inside the tent that had been set up for the wounded to be treated in. He saw Irwen making his way there, especially noticing the tired expression which indicated that he had stayed awake all night. Granan walked behind but as he saw Rand he changed direction and strode toward the boy.

Rand was still their captive, but he was no longer tied up nor were there any people keeping watch on him as before. He assumed that Granan was responsible for that.

”Good morning! ” said Granan as he walked up. ”I hope youve woken up feeling rested, yesterday was a tiring day and we will soon be on the road again. ”

”Good morning to you too! ” Rand replied. ”I did sleep well, like I haven slept in a long time. Will we be leaving today? ”

”I don know yet, it depends on how well the wounded recover, ” Granan answered. ”But well soon see. ”

Granan sat with Rand and ate with him. After a while Rand restarted the conversation. ”Yesterday after the skirmish Irwen was very aggravated, like Ive never seen him before. He ordered those men to be burnt alive, something that I hadn expected. ”

Granan didn reply to that right away. He just looked to the side at nothing in particular. Rand was already used to the way the old man seemed to mentally wander before he spoke so he waited until Granan said, ”Its difficult to know what goes on in a leaders mind in a situation like that. It is easy to judge, but hard to know if our actions are the right thing to do. Irwen made the decision to attack the cavern and he knew of the risks, but at the same time he knew that it had to be done and hastily because he didn know about what might have been happening to the prisoners. We could condemn his brash decision for not taking extra time to prepare and now that its all past it is easy to do so. The responsibility lay on him then and he did what he thought was the right thing to do. ”

”Irwen doesn like to place the lives of his men in danger, ” the soldier continued. ”That leaves him feeling edgy in critical situations. Maybe it was for that reason he ended up treating his enemies more harshly than he would normally. And besides, what would we do with dozens of prisoners, many of which were mortally wounded and awaiting death? Especially considering we have fewer men, little food and are in no condition to escort them to the city. ”

”That is why he made the decision and went forward, ” Granan said. ”That is what a leader has to contend with. If he fails, people will condemn him for it, but if hes successful they will forgive his faults. Its how things are. Nobody bothers to stop and think about how difficult some decisions can be in critical moments. ”

This time it was Rand who became silent. He had judged Irwen for his conduct but had not stopped to really think about it. He felt very childish in that instant and Granan, who once again seemed to be reading his thoughts, complemented what he had been saying with ”Son, you are still young and this is the kind of knowledge you gain with experience. Who knows you will become a leader some day and if that day comes, it will do you good to remember these words because then you are bound to face the same problems as Irwen. ”

”You seem to really respect him, have you known each other for a long time? ” inquired Rand.

”Ive known him since you were learning to walk. Irwen has saved my life on so many occasions that Ive lost count. He is a great leader, and those who interact with him learn to naturally respect his leadership. ”

”Since we are on that topic, there is something Ive been meaning to ask you. What is the Brotherhood really about and why did you join? ”

”Yes, well… ” Granan paused when he was interrupted by Marcus who was striding towards them.

”Irwen asked me to summon you. We are to interrogate the siblings now that the boy has finally woken up. ”

”Very well, ” replied Granan.

He then looked at Rand and said, ”We will continue this conversation another time. ”

Rand nodded and watched as the two made for the tent. He thought about getting closer to it to see if he could hear anything, but gave up on that idea when he saw the guards that were stationed around it.


”You can start telling us about what happened. We need to know the details to better understand, ” Irwen said with a hint of anxiousness that Granan picked up on.

”Well…we had left the castle on the ridge a few days before, ” Valerie answered, a little hesitant. ”I do not know exactly when. Father sent an envoy calling us back to the city but did not say why, just that it was urgent. The situation had really frightened us and since the castle is small and not a very good defensive structure we left the following day. We had a few guards with us so being ambushed wasn something we expected. Normally these outlaws attack the smaller and unprotected groups, right? ”

Irwen gave a nod. Granan regarded her brother, who had been quiet ever since he had got there. The boy had the same blue eyes as his sister, but his expression was different; calmer, deeper and lacking in the energetic vivaciousness of hers.

”We rode on the trail for two days, ” Valerie continued. ”We had been travelling for one day when we were approached by a group of men dressed as peasants, trying to sell us cereals and fruit. One of the guards tried to drive them away but as he did so, we fell right into their trap. The peasants revealed themselves as disguised bandits and attacked us from all sides. Most of our caravan guards died in the fight that broke out and then the survivors were taken to the cavern. They didn even bother to bury the bodies… ”

She said this and then some of the strength she had been showing until then dissipated, probably because the recent memories of the attack were still too strong. Granan felt for them both and imagined what could have happened in that cavern, things that they didn have the courage to utter to any or things that they hid from even themselves somewhere at the back of their minds.

”After we were taken to our cells we lost track of time. I can only say they would come down frequently to torture us and take some of the survivors back with them upstairs.

”To torture? But to what end? ” Irwen asked.

The girl was silent and a trace of pain appeared on her face, as if she had remembered something horrible.

The boy astounded everyone when he spoke in her stead, ”They wanted to know about my father, if he was planning something to gain more control of the city and who supported him. If he had some pact with the Brotherhood or spoke much of Duacin and Sulzbach and a bunch of other things we didn know how to answer! ”

Then he frowned and eyed Irwen, his voice becoming steadier as he said, ”They would not believe us and punished us as if we were lying. Every day it was the same. So we eventually did start to lie and make up stories to try and get them to stop. At first they believed we were telling them the truth but then realized that all they were hearing were just wild stories…and that was around when that priest came along and started doing weird things to the dead… ”

”Enough for today, I have heard everything I needed to know, ” Irwen interjected again. ”Now I just need to know if you two are fit to leave in the morning because I need to urgently get to Algin but its important that I don endanger your health.

”Yes, we can leave. The sooner we get there the better, ” replied Valerie.

”It is decided then, rest today and tomorrow early morning we will depart, ” said Irwen just before leaving the tent.


Later that very same day Rand was feeling restless. He had been untied but he had still felt like a captive, after all he wasn free to do much. Rand had heard through the conversations the soldiers held with one another that there was a waterfall nearby and was eager to see it. So he tried to approach Granan all morning to see if he would let him go there but the old soldier had been busy with other business and Rand had not had an opportunity to talk to him.

At lunch Granan sat alone in a corner of the encampment to eat and Rand saw his chance. Without hesitation he asked, ”Granan! Since we will be staying here for another day I wanted to see the nearby waterfall the men have spoken of. May I go there in the afternoon? ”

”Anxious to escape? And especially now that we are beginning to really get along? ” said Granan, his face showing no hints as to whether he was jesting or not.

So Rand responded in all seriousness, ”I am not going to run away! I have already told you that. I am bored and can stop feeling like a captive. ”

”I can let you go on your own much less designate a guard to accompany you, ” the soldier replied.

”Even if I want to go with him? ” asked a feminine voice coming from behind them both.

Both turned and were surprised to see Valerie Aleen and her brother right next to them.

Granan who seemed to have been caught just as unawares as Rand by them asked, ”You two wish to go to the waterfall as well? ”

”Yes, ” replied Valerie. ”We have been stuck in that cavern for so long only to have that replaced by being stuck here too, so it seemed like a good idea when we heard you two talking. You may send some guards along to keep him from running away, ” and she winked at Rand.

”But it is very dangerous, and we can risk your safety like that, ” said Granan.

”I will go and talk to Irwen, we need to entertain ourselves a little as well, ” replied Valerie stubbornly.


And that is how it happened. The next thing Rand knew, he was walking down a trail between pines and fir trees heading towards the waterfall. He was not paying attention to any of that though. He was hypnotized by Valeries presence and how her long brown hair danced about her shoulders as she walked in front of him.

As Rand daydreamed he noticed someone had walked up to him from behind. He turned to see who it was and there stood Valeries brother. Rand had forgotten about him.

To his surprise the boy spoke.

”Hello! We have not been properly acquainted yet. My name is Ephraim, and yours? ”

”My name is Rand, pleased to meet you Ephraim, ” he answered, trying to be nice to the boy because of his sister.

”My sister told me that you were with the men when they rescued us from the cavern and also that you had helped carry me. I wanted to thank you. ”

”There is no need, it was the least that I could do at the time. ”

”You know, I thought it was odd that you were there in the cavern and that you walk freely around the camp. I was told that you are their prisoner. Why is that? ”

That question shocked Rand. The frankness and sagacity of the boy had caught him unprepared and he stuttered slightly when he replied, ”Wuh-well I was captured by them in a war zone and that is why they are taking me to Algin, so that they could decide what to do with me. ”

”You are Gorlandish, are you not? ”

”Yes, I am. How did you know? ”

”Due to the fact that Gorland is currently at war with Montha and your accent doesn resemble a Monthanishs in the slightest. ”

Once again Rand was impressed by that boys savvy intelligence, but before he could ask him yet again how he had known about all that he saw that they reached the rivers margin. They had but to walk a little further to the north to reach the waterfall, which could already be heard from where they were.

They followed the river and soon it came into view. Rand estimated the height of the fall to be near thirty feet and saw at its base a small lake which along the stream turned into the river. At the edge of the lake, many lime covered rocks separated it from the forest. That sight left him in ecstasy. The waterfall itself was impressive, made more so by the small rainbow which was formed in the watery mist around the rock wall where the sunlight shone on it.

To Rands amazement, nobody else seemed to be sharing his awe. The soldiers that had escorted them simply approached the water to wash their faces and drink a bit. Valerie flung herself into a corner in boredom just before dozing off, or at least that had been Rands impression. The only one who looked a bit excited to be there was Ephraim, who undressed and entered the water wearing only his undergarments.

Rand had felt a bit coy to do the same at first because of Valerie, but when he was certain that she really had fallen asleep he put those fears aside and did as her brother had done.

As he entered the water he said, ”I thought your sister wanted to see this place, she had seemed eager to at first. ”

”Oh, don fool yourself; she only did that because I asked. I noticed you were in a tight spot and I wanted to help. Actually we were bored as well, but she is a fickle one. ”

So Ephraim said, ”Hey tell me more about Gorland. Ive never been there but I have read a lot about it. Is it true you celebrate the date of the Leagues formation on a different date from us in Algin? ”

So both talked for hours on end and Rand was very comfortable with his new friend.

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