Valun woke the next morning to sunlight coming so sharply through the window that he could see the dust motes hanging in the air. He relaxed in the bed for some minutes, fascinated by the fact of seeing the light appear and make an insubstantial bar across the room. He was just beginning to settle down to the prospect of gaining yet more sleep when the door was rudely thrown open to reveal Richard standing in the breach, helm on head and sword belted at his side, like some vengeful hero of old.
Conan stood at Richard’s side, and John had found a place underneath the Longfurrow’s outstretched right arm, which that boy was using to prevent the door from swinging back on him and his friends from the shock of the blow. “Up, my lord Prince, and take the reins of the day! We were told by your kinsman that it would be an early start, and yet we find you lying abed as you cared nothing for our trouble.”
Shocked to full awareness by this abrupt start to the day, Valun threw back the covers and leapt from the bed sufficiently prepared at once, having rested in the same clothes he had worn into the villa. It was then the work of few moments for him to replace his riding boots upon his legs and his belt and sword around his waist. “I stand ready, my friends. I understand that we are to leave?”
Conan’s tone was frosty. “We should have done so already. The duke’s men have come to him once already to ask when or if we were ever going to start.”
“What is the time now?”
“Four hours after sunrise. The boatmen came for us when the the third had passed. We did not think you would have such need for rest.”
“Well, You have got me up now. Come along then.”
On the ground floor of the house, they met the duke, who showed great relief at the sight of his four guests prepared to depart.
“You had best get yourself down to the dock straightway. My men are impatient to start.”
“Thank you for keeping us under your roof, sir. There is nothing keeping us here and we will be off now, by your leave.”
“You have that without asking. Godspeed be with you and your minds and arms in your exile.”
With that, the boys took their leave. They found their horses prepared and waiting in the courtyard, and all of them mounted without wasting words. Just before they rode through the open gate, duke Tyrone came to his door with some bags in his hands. “You left these. They were just found in your rooms.”
Stopping short, Valun, John, and Conan wheeled about and took their parting gifts from the duke. Richard, who was already wearing the contents of his own sack, waited for them alongside the gate.
When they finally managed to get out of the duke’s villa, they were picked up in moments by men-at-arms who had been standing nearby all night. They were then guided straight to the correct vessel, where they were left to themselves.
Fortunately, there was a man on the lookout for them who lost no time in alerting his fellows, so that the boys were aboard the vessel not ten minutes after they had arrived at it. The boys then saw to their horses security for themselves, and after this was done, went about securing berths for themselves. However, they could find none, as the ship was not intended to hold more than its full complement of men at any point in its normal operation. Having discovered this, Valun subsequently gained an audience with the captain.
“My companions and I have no berths. What is to be done about it?”
Looking up from the inventory of cargo which had been handed to him but a minute prior to Valun’s entrance, the captain said “Nothing can or will be done about it. You were taken on short notice as a favor, onto a vessel that does not have the space for you. We can barely fit your horses. If you want to share their bedding, you may do that. Or you may sleep on the deck. It is all the same to me until I can get you off my boat, which I will do gladly. Name the moment. I have no more time for you. Go.”
Dismissed like a common menial, Valun left, steaming at the captain’s bluntness. When Richard approached, with anxiety evident on his face, Valun brushed him off and moved to the end of the boat. He sat there alone for some time before John approached, looking ready to run away at a sign of trouble. However, by this time Valun was indifferent to to the world. He hardly noticed as the boy came nearer, and offered the same small degree of attention to the words John was saying at him.
“Is it really that hard to give it up? Why should it matter so much that you have to ignore your friends? What is upsetting you, anyway?”
At this sharp question, Valun woke up and said “The man doesn’t care. He thinks we’re only so much baggage and he could care less what happens to us. But we’re nobles! We are not to be ignored, like that!”
“Oh, is that all it is? You live, and someone doesn’t care where, or for how long. There are people yet who don’t know your name. Are you going to hunt them down, shout it in their faces, and then slay them for the crime of not knowing you? I wanted to help, but there is no help in your case.” In one abrupt motion, John rose and moved away.
In the end, the young exiles passed their nights on the deck, wrapped in the cloaks they had brought from their homes. Valun’s worries about the lack of comfort on board were dispelled, as the natural rolling motion of the boat moving down the river worked as well as any sleeping-draught in bringing him to look upon that dark palette where thoughts and dreams are wont to play out before one’s eyes.
They had spent four nights on board before they came within sight of the village of Quage in Ronaiera. True to his word, the captain of the boat wasted no time in coming to shore only as long as it took Valun and his friends to disembark with their animals and baggage. As soon as they were safely off the boat, they found themselves watching helplessly as the vessel moved back into the river without a sign that anyone aboard it cared that some of the lights of Corridane’s future stood alone in a land unknown to them.