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It did his heart good to see her this way. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but she seemed more relaxed than earlier. “Not to worry,” he assured her. ” Markam nodded at Aza, his smile for her gentle, then he strode away, careful to circumvent a troupe of musicians. The singers were belting out a ballad about Tao’s exploits. They were escorted to a table seating hundreds, Xim at the head, Aza at his right and Tao to the left. Down each side were Xim’s loyalists. The banquet commenced, a circus of food and drink, marred by shallow conversation, overly long stories and competition for the king’s favor amongst those retainers already favored enough to be seated in the hall.

The great horse dipped his head, blowing softly. “Being put out to pasture won’t be so bad, Chi,” he told the beast. ” He handed the reins to an aide. His armor was removed by his master-at-arms, Pirelli, his helmet given to yet another officer, his second-in-command, Mandalay. “Sir, it’s been an honor,” Mandalay said, emotion in his eyes. Tao glanced from Mandalay to a clearly moved Pirelli. ” With emotion of his own swelling in his chest, he squared his shoulders. Standing tall, he strode across the drawbridge to the palace steps where the blessing ceremony would take place.

More like cowardly freeloaders. The Kurel accepted the benefits of the peace Tassagons won without being willing to pay. What did they want for that sham? A halo, claiming they were Uhrth’s favored children. Privately, Tao wondered if it were true. After all, the fever that had killed so many in the capital had spared everyone in K-Town, even those who’d sickened. Uhrth rest their souls. He made the circular sign of Uhrth over his armored chest plate in memory of his parents, victims of the plague.

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