Chapter no 14

Sword Catcher

Lin had been waiting outside the gates of the Sault for more than an hour by the time Kel arrived. She was grumpy; it had been drizzling, on and

off in bursts. For the first hour, at least, she’d had Mariam’s company; they’d perched on the edge of a stone cistern, with Mariam watching eagerly for a sign of the Marivent carriage. She was delighted at the chance to lay eyes on the Prince’s cousin.

“He’s part Marakandi, isn’t he?” Mariam had asked. She’d had a bag of speculaas—spiced cookies from Gelstaadt—open on her lap and was munching happily. Sugar had been forbidden to the Ashkar in Malgasi, and Mariam had an insatiable sweet tooth.

“Yes.” Lin had answered slowly; she supposed she wasn’t entirely sure.

The Prince had Marakandi blood through his mother; Kel did look very much like him, so she supposed it was possible, even probable. Still. She hated lying to Mariam, even about small things, and she’d been forced to do so repeatedly these past days.

“I remember Marakand,” Mariam said, a bit wistfully. “Such beautiful

fabrics there. Silks and satins and brocades, all woven with these gorgeous patterns. I remember seeing a procession of the Kings once, in Kasavan.

The courtiers were all wearing green brocade edged with saffron silk that looked just like flames—”

The Kings. Marakand had a double throne, currently occupied by two brothers. Queen Lilibet was their sister. If she had not come to Castellane,

Lin wondered, might she have sat on one of those thrones? Or had her chances of queenship been greater here than in her mother country?

Mariam sucked in a breath. Lin looked at her friend, startled, and saw that she had gone bone-white. She was staring at something out in the Ruta Magna. Lin looked, but saw only a tangle of the usual traffic, damp

pedestrians darting under stone arcades to avoid the drizzle. Among them

was a massive dark carriage painted a deep charcoal gray, its lacquer top gleaming with rain. As it passed, Lin caught a glimpse of the blazon on its side: a black-and-gray wolf, teeth bared, ready to pounce.

“Mariam?” She put a hand on her friend’s arm. Felt her shaking.

“The vamberj,” Mariam whispered. She bolted to her feet, spilling her spiced biscuits into a puddle.

“Mariam!” Lin called, but her friend had already fled back into the Sault, leaving Lin torn. She wanted to go after her—she could not imagine what

the shock of seeing a Malgasi carriage, all these years after she had barely escaped the vamberj soldiers, must be like for Mariam—but Lin could not chance missing Kel. He could not enter the Sault to find her, and if he thought she had abandoned him at the gates, he might not help her again.

Her worry over Mariam did nothing for her ill humor, though. By the

time Kel arrived in the Marivent carriage Mariam had so wanted to see, Lin was as irritable as she was damp with rain. She clambered into the carriage, avoiding Kel’s hand, and settled onto the seat opposite him, tucking the lank tendrils of her hair behind her ears.

“I see,” Kel said, offering her a warm cloth from a basket at their feet—it took her a moment to realize it was for drying her face—“that rather than my physician being summoned to my side, I have been summoned to hers.”

“Hmph,” Lin said, scrubbing at her hair with the cloth. It was nice to be dry. “I needed someone to take me to the Maze.”

“The Maze?” Kel looked surprised, but pushed open the window on his side and relayed the information to the driver. The carriage began to move slowly through the cordon of waggons and pushcarts snarling up the Ruta Magna. “Why me?”

“You are the only one of the malbushim I know who owes me a favor.” “Really? Kel settled back into his seat. “I’m the only one? What about

Antonetta Alleyne?”

“Demoselle Alleyne is a respectable young lady,” said Lin. “She’d be horrified if I asked her to take me to the Maze. Whereas I am sure you and the Prince’s other friends spend plenty of time there, engaged in all sorts of unsavory activities. Besides—I rather think I’ve asked enough of her.”

“I was surprised you were able to convince her to sneak you into the Palace,” Kel allowed.

Mariam would have been disappointed in his outfit, Lin thought. He was dressed plainly, in black broadcloth and a white shirt, though the embroidery at his cuffs and collar must have cost more than Lin made in a month.

“It was easy,” said Lin. “She fancies you.”

Kel looked utterly surprised. Men, thought Lin. “She only has eyes for Conor,” he said.

“I saw the way she looks at you,” said Lin.

“She would never dare to even think on it,” said Kel, and there was a new harshness to his voice. “Her mother would disown her.”

Lin, realizing she had touched a nerve, thought it best to change the subject. “Perhaps.” She discarded the now-damp cloth. “But as an Ashkari woman, it would be illegal for me to be in the Maze after sunset.”

“Everything in the Maze is illegal,” Kel pointed out.

“It also wouldn’t be safe. Lawlessness does not protect me, even from unjust laws. Both are bad. Alone, I would be easy prey for a criminal in the Maze. If I am with you, it will be assumed I am like you. Malbushim.

“You said that word before. What does it mean?”

Lin paused. The word was part of the Old Language of Aram, and such a part of her daily vocabulary she had forgotten it would be foreign to Kel. “It means non-Ashkar,” she said. “Well, literally, it means ‘clothes.’ Just clothes, like a jacket or a dress. But we use it to mean empty clothes—no

one wearing them. No one inside.”

“Empty suits,” mused Kel. “No souls inside?”

“Yes,” she said, and blushed a little. “I don’t think it’s true, by the way.

About the souls.”

“Not literally,” he said, in a gently mocking tone. “Speaking of respectability, what is it you want in the Maze?”

“The Ragpicker King asked me to find him a book there,” she said. “In exchange, he will let me use the equipment in the Black Mansion to distill medicines—like the kind I used to treat you.”

“Can you not do that in the Sault?”

“Most of the medical apparatus in the Sault is off limits to women. It was only with great reluctance that they allowed me to become a physician at


“That’s ridiculous,” Kel said firmly. “You are clearly an excellent physician. And I say this as an unbiased observer whose life was not recently saved by your skills. Obviously.”

“Obviously.” Lin smiled. “How do you, Sword Catcher, know the Ragpicker King?”

“He offered me a job,” Kel said. “I told him no, but he’s very persistent.” The carriage jerked to a stop. They had arrived.

An old stone archway, once a monument to a long-past naval battle, marked the entrance to the Maze. They dismounted from the carriage—Kel offered his hand to Lin again, to help her down, and this time she took it— which would wait for them here; the streets of the Maze were too narrow for it to carry them inside.

For the first time, Lin passed through the arch, following Kel, and was inside the Maze. She could still see the glow of the Ruta Magna if she

looked back over her shoulder, but not for long. The narrow, smoky streets swallowed it up.

The city’s lamplighters did not come here, any more than the Vigilants did. Instead, cheap torches—rags soaked in naphtha and wrapped tightly around wooden poles—blazed in metal holders clamped to pockmarked walls, much of whose paint had long been eaten away by salt air. The sense of being pressed down by darkness was profound, with the high warehouse walls and thick, rising smoke blotting out the moon and stars.

The place smelled of old fish, discarded rubbish, and spices. Houses

where many families clearly lived had their doors thrown open; old women sat on the steps, stirring metal pots with long spoons over open cooking fires. Passing sailors carried metal bowls around their necks, and would hand them over, along with a few coins, for a ladle of fish stew.

The fires added their smoke to that of the torches, making Lin’s nose tickle. It was hard to see anything clearly between the smoke and the crowds. Faces loomed up out of the shadows and vanished again, as if they belonged to lively ghosts.

Out of self-preservation, Lin stayed close by Kel’s side. If she mislaid him, she doubted she could make her way back out to the Ruta Magna without becoming hopelessly lost. He walked with confidence, so her teasing had not been entirely misplaced. He did know his way around the Maze.

“Look out.” Kel indicated a puddle of something blackish red, which Lin dutifully stepped around. He gave her the sideways smile she was beginning to realize was habitual—the one that seemed to say I take nothing too seriously—and said, “What do you think? Is the Maze what you expected?”

Lin hesitated. How to say that it was strange to her, because they did not have poverty like this in the Sault? She had been to poor houses as a physician, but this felt different. It was a place that had been left to consume itself without the interference of either charity or Law. She could see, through grimy windows, whole families sleeping on the floors of crowded, narrow houses. Poppy-juice addicts, their heads lolling as they dreamed, sat propped against walls, passersby stepping over them as if they were sleeping dogs. Old women kneeling in doorways shook metal cups, begging for coins.

“It’s crowded, but it feels abandoned,” she said.

He nodded, as if calmly observing the truth of what she’d said. He was awfully calm in general, she thought. She supposed it was the nature of his job, pretending tranquility in situations where he had to lie and lie and smile while he did it.

She wondered if he was lying to her when he smiled.

“I assume whatever book Morettus wants, it is something no reputable bookshop would carry,” he said.

“It is a book about magic.” Lin skirted around a Shenzan sailor sitting in the street, his left sleeve rolled up. A thin man in a Hanseatic soldier’s jacket was carefully applying a tattoo to his arm, using a tray of dye and heated needles. It was a crocodile, its tail looped around the man’s arm, its scales done in brilliant green and gold. “I cannot say anything more.”

“A book about magic,” Kel echoed thoughtfully. “Dangerous stuff, indeed.”

Lin eyed him sideways. Waves of sea air were rolling in, making her shiver, mixing with the spice-and-smoke scent of the Maze. They passed a salesman hawking bottles of a dark liquid he promised would clear up pox scars and “improve the quality of passion.” Lin cast him a disapproving glare. She knew such men; there was no more than colored water in the bottle.

“Do you know what Morettus is planning to do with the book, if you find it?” Kel said.

“I don’t think he wants it for himself, exactly,” Lin said. “I think he wants me to have it. To learn from it how to better mix magic and


“Interesting,” Kel said. “Perhaps he’s ill. Or knows someone who is.” Lin had been too busy thinking about Mariam to consider such a theory.

The Ragpicker King seemed well enough to her eye—too thin, and perhaps too pale, but in a manner that suggested intensity and overwork, not sickness.

Kel smiled—the smile of someone recalling a memory. “There was a game I used to play as a child, at the Orfelinat. If you had magic, what would you do with it? My best friend, Cas, and I used to say we’d use magic to become the most powerful pirate kings of all time. That gold would fly off the decks of other ships and into our coffers.”

Lin could not help but laugh. “You dreamed of becoming a lazy pirate?”

She could not help but picture him as a little boy, before he’d learned that preternatural calm, that sideways smile. A little boy like Josit had been, all skinned knees and messy hair. She liked him, she thought. He was hard not to like—self-deprecating, funny, clever. She could see why Prince Conor had been so desperate for him to live.

They had reached the central part of Arsenal Road, the Maze’s main thoroughfare. Drink and drugs for sale had given way to sex. Scantily dressed young men and women, lips and cheeks rouged with paint, sat in the open doors of brothels, or crowded in front of glassless windows,

calling out to passersby. A man in a blue soldier’s uniform stopped in front of one window. After a lively exchange with a crowd of girls, he crooked

his finger at one—a slim young thing with dark hair and freckles. She came out of the bawdy house and smiled at him, holding out her hand. He counted coins into her palm under the light of a naphtha torch before leading her down a nearby alley.

Lin had thought they would disappear into the shadows, but they were still visible when he stopped and lifted the girl up against a wall. He slid his hands up under her skirt, burying his face against her neck. Her bare legs dangled around his hips as he unbuckled his trousers and thrust into her with a feverish desperation. Lin could not hear them, but the girl seemed to

be patting his shoulder as he moved—an almost motherly gesture, as if to say, There, there.

Lin felt her cheeks flame. Which was what she got, she supposed, for standing and staring; Kel had stepped away for a moment to drop a coin in

the cup of a young boy in a torn jacket several sizes too big. He’d only been gone for a moment, but when he returned, he took a look at Lin’s face, glanced down the alley, and smiled wryly. “That’s what they call ‘a half- crown standup,’” he said. “Cheaper if you don’t pay for a room. And no,”

he added, “I don’t know that from personal experience.”

“It’s just . . . Well, it’s not like the Temple District, is it? The courtesans there have their health checked by physicians regularly. For their own

protection,” she added, knowing she probably sounded extremely prudish, “as it should be.”

“To work in the Temple District is to be a courtesan,” said Kel, sounding uncharacteristically somber. “To work here in the Maze is to be desperate.” He seemed to shake off the seriousness, like a heron shaking water from its feathers. “Come. We’re not far from the market.”

They fell back into step together. Lin said, “You told me the Ragpicker King keeps offering you a job. A job doing what?”

“Spying for him, as far as I can tell. He wants to know what’s going on with the Charter Families. He has some eyes on the Hill, but not in every room.”

“And spying on the Crown Prince, too, I’d imagine. Which seems awfully dangerous.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’d never do it, regardless.” Kel exhaled and looked up at the stars, which were largely invisible behind the torchlight’s glare. “I feel as if everyone keeps asking me why I won’t betray Conor,” he said, and Lin felt a jolt, as she always did when the Prince was referred to so casually. He was Crown Prince Aurelian; surely it was odd for him to have something so simple as a given name. “He isn’t the one who came and got me from the Orfelinat. He isn’t the one who made me a Sword Catcher. And if I hadn’t become a Sword Catcher, I’d likely have ended up here.” He indicated the Maze with a gesture. “When I was twelve, I fell off a horse.

Broke my leg. They were worried I’d limp, that my gait would never match Conor’s after that. They were ready to put me out on the street. Conor said

if I did wind up with a limp, he’d break his own leg with a hammer. In fact, he said he’d do it if they sent me away, regardless.”

Lin found herself staring. “So what happened?” “I healed without a limp.”

So the Prince never had to follow through on his promise, Lin thought, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud. It was an awful story, but Kel had told it as if it were a fond memory. A moment of grace in a strange and brutal life.

“I shouldn’t have told you that,” he said, ruefully. “It’s probably a state secret. But fuck it. You know everything already.”

Lin was too surprised to respond, but it didn’t matter. They had reached their destination. Arsenal Road curved away from the city here, deeper into shadows where warehouses and shops were jumbled together like discarded toys. Here a square opened out, one side backed up against the Key; Lin could glimpse the shine of light on water through narrow gaps between the buildings, and hear the crash of waves.

Lining the inside of the square were tables—some of wood, some of

boxes stacked hastily together, a cloth thrown over them—on which various objects were displayed. Lin hurried to investigate.

Here were things dredged from the bottom of the sea, blasted into the water by the force of mage-fire during the Sundering War. For the first time, Lin saw magical writing that was not gematry. Elegant scrollworked letters, winding around a carved wooden box, stamped on the hilt of a rusted dagger. She drifted over to look as a saleswoman in a Hindish satika snatched up the dagger and brandished it proudly. “It is no ordinary

dagger,” she said, in response to Lin’s curious look, “for it cuts not skin or flesh, but emotions. It can cut through hate or bitterness and end it. It can cut through love and put it to rest.”

“Lovely,” said Kel, materializing out of nowhere, and putting on a rich, distracted merchant’s son, slumming, voice, “but not what we need. Come along, my dear.”

Lin rolled her eyes—my dear indeed—but followed him to another table.

Here were bags of herbs, tied up with ribbons, and handwritten spells, which Lin knew at a glance were nonsense. Cards for fortune-telling, and all sorts of objects—weapons and pendants and even compasses—set with bits of Sunderglass.

Lin’s heart sank into her shoes. She was a fool to have come here. There was no real magic at this market, no forbidden lore. Just a heap of glittery, useless nothing, like the contents of a magpie’s nest. She wanted to smash a window, to scream.

As she turned away, she caught a glimpse of a book with a familiar red- leather cover. She dashed to look at it. It was indeed one of Petrov’s. But her heart fell as she turned it over, and then the next, and the next. Nowhere among them was the book with the rayed sun on its spine. Only a collection of books about interpreting dreams and reading palms, and a few tomes on gematryThe Mysterious Power of Alphabets, one was titled—no doubt forbidden among malbushim, but of no use to her.

“This batch of books interests you, I see?”

Lin looked up to see that the junk dealer had made his way to her. He was a tall man in a brass-buttoned coat, with a reedy voice and a quantity of graying ginger hair.

“I sought one book in particular,” she said. “The work of Qasmuna.” “Oho,” he said. “An expert in the area of grimoires, I see.” Lin bit her

tongue. “There was a Qasmuna volume among these,” he added, with a gesture toward the remaining books. “It was, I fear, snapped up immediately by a discerning individual.”

“Who?” Lin said breathlessly. “Maybe they’d be willing to sell it to me.”

The dealer grinned. He was missing several teeth. “Alas,” he said. “My customers depend on my discretion. Perhaps something else . . .?”

“These books belonged to a friend,” Lin said, abandoning pretense. “His landlady sold them when he died. Have you nothing else that might have belonged to him?”

She felt foolish immediately. There was nothing trustworthy about the dealer; he would surely dig up his worst, most worthless volumes and attempt to exploit her presumed grief to sell them to her. She was about to turn away when he drew something out from beneath the table and said,

“This did not belong to your friend. It does, however, mention Qasmuna. It is a different sort of book—not spells, but history.”

Lin turned back to examine it. It was an old book, bound in pale leather

gone gray with time. tales of the sorcerer-kings was stamped upon the cover in gilt, as was the author’s name: LAOCANTUS AURUS IOVIT.

“A historian’s attempt to explain the Sundering,” said the dealer. “When

the Empire fell, most copies were destroyed. Not all of them, though. A rare item—ten gold crowns.”

“Not worth it,” said Kel, who had appeared at Lin’s side. “I’ve read it. A bit of history, and then a great deal of praising various Emperors for their generosity and wisdom in putting various magicians to death. And we’re off.”

The dealer glared after them as she and Kel walked away. “You didn’t need to insult his book,” Lin said peevishly.

Kel shrugged. “I will send him a letter of apology. I have been very well versed in etiquette.” He looked down at Lin. “I’m sorry he didn’t have what you wanted. Is it very important?”

“Yes, I—” She spoke almost without thinking. “I have a friend. She is dying. I would do anything to heal her. Perhaps there might be something in this book I could learn that would help her.” She looked up at him. “I

suppose that is my state secret.”

“I am sorry,” he said, and suddenly she wanted to cry. But she would not cry in front of him, she told herself fiercely. She liked him, oddly enough, but he was still a malbesh and a stranger—

Something flashed in the corner of her vision. A familiar gesture, a familiar face? She was not sure what it was that had caught her attention, but she turned her head, and when she did, she saw Oren Kandel.

He was moving among the various tables of objects, glancing from one to the next almost indifferently. He wore nothing that would mark him out as Ashkar. His clothes were merchant’s clothes, linen and gray. His mop of dark hair nearly hid his eyes, but at any moment he would look up—and see her, and recognize her.

“I know him,” she whispered, just loud enough for Kel to hear. “He is Ashkar.”

“And he knows you?”

“We all know one another.” She pressed herself back against the wall. “He’ll see me,” she whispered. “He’ll tell the Maharam.”

As if he’d heard her, Oren raised his head. He began to turn—and Lin found herself caught up, her body blocked by Kel’s. His arms were around her. She looked up in surprise and saw the moon reflected in his eyes. “Look at me,” he said, and kissed her.

For all that it was swift and bewildering, it was gentle. His lips captured hers with expert ease, his hands rising to cup her face. She knew he was hiding her, hiding her features from the man who might otherwise recognize her. The touch of his scarred palms was rough and soft at the same time,

like the flick of a cat’s tongue.

She let her head fall back against the cage of his hands. She had been kissed before, at the Goddess Festival. It was the one time of the year one might kiss and not have it be a vow or responsibility—or a shame if it was discovered. But that had been a quick peck on the lips, not like this at all.

He kissed like a noble, she thought. Like someone who had done this many times before because he was allowed to; because he lived in a world where kisses were not promises, where they were as common and bright as magic before the Sundering. There was something expert, if dispassionate, in the way he explored her mouth, sending small sparks rising up along her nerves, like the embers of a disturbed fire scattering brightness. A sort of heat suffused her body; her knees shook, and her hands, too, where she held the lapels of his coat.

When they drew apart, it was to the sound of whistles and catcalls. She glanced around, half dizzy; Oren was gone. Kel acknowledged the attention of the crowd with an imperious nod that reminded Lin, with a dark kind of shiver, of the Prince. Would kissing the Prince be anything like kissing Kel?

She shoved the thought instantly from her mind. The crowd having lost interest, Kel began to draw her around a corner, back toward the wider part of Arsenal Road. “You’re all right?” he murmured. “I’m sorry. It was all I could think of.”

“Really? That was all you could think of?” Lin touched her hand to her mouth. Her lips still tingled. It had been a very forceful sort of kiss.

“It really was.” He sounded rueful. “I apologize if it was terrible.”

He looked sheepish as a puppy who had been caught chewing a slipper. Lin couldn’t help smiling. “It wasn’t terrible. And thank you. If Oren had seen me . . .” She shuddered.

“So,” he said, “do you wish to try to discover who bought this book Andreyen is seeking? You are not wrong that it might be possible to buy it back—”

Lin froze. She had seen a shadow detach itself from a group of other shadows and approach them—a man, face hidden in the dim light.

The man was of medium height, wearing a coat with a multitude of buckles across the front. Most of his face was hidden behind a mask of tarnished metal. From the little she could see, Lin guessed that he was

young, and the thickened scar tissue around his right eye suggested he had been in quite a few fights.

Kel exhaled. “Jerrod,” he said.

“Sorry to interrupt whatever this is,” Jerrod said, indicating Lin in what she felt was an insulting and dismissive manner, “but that appointment you were seeking? It’s now.”

Kel looked annoyed. “I suppose you’ve been following me around?” “Obviously,” said Jerrod, as if Kel were very stupid for asking. Clearly

there was no love lost between the two of them.

“Prosper Beck wants to see me now,” Kel said. He glanced at Lin. “Beck is like the Ragpicker King, but worse.”

“How rude,” said Jerrod.

“Why do you want to talk to someone worse than the Ragpicker King?” Lin asked, puzzled.

“I don’t want to,” said Kel. “I have to.” He turned back to Jerrod. “Can I bring her with me?”

Jerrod shook his head. “No. Only you.”

“I can’t leave my friend here,” said Kel. “Let me bring her back to the— to our carriage, and I’ll return and meet you.”

“No,” said Jerrod. Lin had the feeling he rather enjoyed refusing requests. “Come with me now, or the deal’s off.”

“Then we’re back to where we were in the noodle shop,” said Kel. “I’ll harry you unto death, et cetera, et cetera.”

“Gray hell,” muttered Jerrod. “I should have killed you when I had the chance. Wait here,” he said, and disappeared back into the shadows.

“He seems nice,” Lin said.

Kel, looking harried, half smiled down at her. “He isn’t an easy man to deal with. But he’s my only conduit to Beck.”

“Is he a Crawler?” Lin asked.

Kel looked surprised. “How’d you guess?”

“Chalk dust on his fingers,” Lin said. “I had a patient who was a Crawler once when he was young. He told me they use it for grip.” She hesitated.

“Was he one of the ones who—”

“Attacked me in the alley?” Kel said. “Yes, but I’m working on not holding grudges. Besides, it was a mistake.”

Jerrod returned before Lin could ask what that meant. This time he had a carriage with him—a small, nearly impossibly light-looking vehicle with open sides. A young woman with close-cut dark hair sat in the driver’s seat. She had chalk dust on her fingers, too.

“Prosper Beck offers you the use of a carriage and driver to bring your friend home,” said Jerrod, in a tone that indicated that this was the most generous suggestion anyone had ever made. “Take the offer or leave the Maze.”

Kel’s brow furrowed. He started to protest, but Lin cut him off. “We will take the offer.”

She clambered up into the carriage—easy enough; it was low to the ground, light as if it were intended for racing—and settled back into the seat. Kel leaned in. “Are you sure?”

She nodded. The Qasmuna book was not here. She felt empty and weary and wished only to go home and remake her plans. She would not give up, but she could not bear more of this tonight. There was also a thread of anxiety in her chest, still, about Mariam. Surely it would be best to check in on her.

Kel stepped back. “Take her to the gates of the Sault,” he said to the driver. “Do not stray off course.”

“Indeed, do not,” said Jerrod. “Or he’ll poison you.”

This produced an alarmed look from the driver. She raised the reins, clucking to the horses, as Lin wondered what on earth that meant. She recalled Merren, the pretty boy at the Black Mansion who’d called himself a poisoner. Surely, she thought, as the carriage began to move through the tangle of Arsenal Road, that could not be a coincidence? It was as if every thread led back to the Ragpicker King somehow, like the threads of a web all led to the spider in the center. Was she an observer of the web, she wondered, or was she, too, a fly?



When the last of her people had passed before her, and her Source-Stone could hold no more power, Queen Adassa climbed to the top of the tower of Balal, and there her heart sank, for outside the city walls she could see the massing of the armies of the Sorcerer-Kings. She cried out then for Makabi, saying, “My right hand, you must now leave me. Leave me, and save our people.”

Makabi did not want to leave his Queen, but he did as she commanded. He rallied the people of Aram and told them that their Queen would hold the armies off while they made their escape. “The land of Aram, we must abandon,” he said. “It will be consumed in the fire of war. But the spirit of Aram is the spirit of its people, and it shall live on as we carry it with us.”

With great mourning, the Ashkari people were led by Makabi to the uncharted western lands.

Tales of the Sorcerer-Kings, Laocantus Aurus Iovit III

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