Vera didn't sleep much that night. The boy and satyr rested on the sand, surrounded by the large boulders. They lay huddled in their blankets, for night on the Plain was very cold. The fox sat and watched them a long time, not thinking much of anything. The boy appeared dreamless, almost dead, as he lay on his back, the blanket tucked around his chin, his face turned upwards to the blank sky. The satyr rested on his side, his hindquarters bent at the hips and knees, his back to Derin.
And then the fox's eyes clouded over, she ceased to look at her companions, and she was very far away. She was remembering, sifting though the past as one might walk along the beach, vacantly, stopping now and then to examine something which lies on the sand–a bright washed pebble, a piece of shell, each story distinct from all others, but connected by the great sea which has given it up.
The longest hours of the night stretched before her. In the shifting winds which swept the plain, small pillars of sand rose up in a whirlwind and disappeared. If the bones of her children beneath her could understand, they would want her to rest. And so she lay beside the satyr and the boy and closed her eyes.
* * *
"What do you have to say to me?" the owl asked, his eyes bright with interest. The ancient raven dropped to earth. The owl towered in front of her, but she didn't seem frightened.
"I don't know much at this time," the crone said. "Members of the clan are beginning to talk against you, several in particular. I have heard it said your plan is doomed to fail."
The owl's eyelids lowered as they did when he was thinking. The crone was unaware of the fury behind that thought.
"There are more than one who question me," he said, his voice muffled, as if it were of no concern to him.
"Yes, my lord. I've listened to many conversations since last night, and ravens who do not know each other are saying the same things."
"It will not matter," he said. "I will clamp down so swiftly upon whomever questions me the others will understand they have no choice. And in a few short days nothing anyone could do will make a difference."
There was silence in the clearing. The ancient raven and the owl stared at each other across the distance between them. "The old are either very foolish or very wise," the owl said. "Which are you?"
I am not foolish enough to think myself wise," the crone said, and the owl was pleased with her response.
"You speak well, the owl said. "What did you have in mind?"
"I ask only that you allow me privately to serve you," she said. "I would act as a spy on your behalf."
"Go then," the owl said, almost gently. "Bring me the names of those who speak or act against me. And if you should discover a connection between the three strangers I spoke of earlier and a member of the clan, it would be of special interest to me."
"What will you do about them?" the crone asked.
"I will deal with them, if they get this far," the owl said fiercely. "But before they arrive, I have ways to make their journey more difficult."
"If I may be so bold to ask. . . ."
"You may not."
In the darkness behind them, the sound of the ravens returning from the southern reach began to build in intensity.
"They are coming," the crone said. "I have to go." She hesitated. "My lord, when the new kingdom is established, if there should be a post for me, I would humbly accept it, were you to offer."
"Surely," the owl said, for he had nothing to lose in this. "In the meantime, keep your eyes open. I will await your report."
The crone lowered her head. "My lord," she said, and flew away.
The wind carried the sound of beating wings closer and closer to the owl. "It is done," he said. "The moon is in the southern reach." He thied to experience his pleasure, but every time he began to gloat, the knowledge of his betrayal stuck him in his throat. Unbeknownst to him, a raven had been working–slowly, carefully, with great foresight–against him.
* * *
Who knew part 2 was short, and part 1 extra short? Not me! For I have only read this book once, and do not have perfect memories of how long each part is.