Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by P. C. Hodgell. I do not own these characters, nor am I making any money off this story. I am merely borrowing the characters for my own entertainment and to improve my own writing skills.

Author's Note: This is an alternate history story of P. C. Hodgell's Kencyrath series. In "Dark Of The Moon" and "Seeker's Mask", it is stated that Torisen's hands were nearly crippled by infections from when he was tortured by the Karnides at Urakarn as a prisoner of war. In "Seeker's Mask", Torisen looks at his right hand and remembers that he almost lost it to torture. This story is what might have happened if the infections had been more severe.




Cindy Colwell


The sun broke through the clouds in the winter sky as a group of twelve riders approached the keep riding from the haunted lands to the south. Following their black clad leader on his whinno-hir stallion, they came down the last hill, crossed the stone bridge, rode through the main gate and halted in the keep's courtyard. One of the Kendar crossing the courtyard gave the group a startled look as they entered.

The keep door opened and Ganth Gray Lord came down the steps towards them. "It's been a long time since we've had any visitors here," he said as he eyed the group. "All gates and hands are open to you."

"Honor be to you and to your hall," Tori returned the formal greeting with a half bow and dismounted.

Ganth turned to one of his Kender and said, "see to it that these troops are shown to quarters and their mounts taken care of."

Burr dismounted and took the reins of Tori's black whinno-hir and handed the reins of the stallion and his own mount to be taken by one of the ten-command, standing well back so Tori could face his father alone. Burr had recognized Ganth at once. His dark hair had more gray in it than it did nearly twenty-five years ago and he still favored gray clothing. He found it hard to believe that this man was Torisen's father. Granted there was a resemblance, the cheekbones and chin and the silver-gray eyes that were distinctive Knorth features, but there the resemblance ended. Ganth with the slim, yet sturdy, build of a Highborn, was several inches taller than his slightly built and more fragile looking son. And as Burr remembered, although Ganth's hair had been dark, it wasn't Torisen's true black.

The friendly expression on Ganth's face became a scowl of disgust when Tori pushed back the hood of his cloak and Ganth recognized him.

"So you've come crawling back," he growled, "why?"

In answer Tori put his left hand to his mouth and one finger at a time began to pull the glove off with his teeth. One last tug removed the glove which he let fall to the courtyard's paved surface as his badly damaged hand was exposed. The hand was wasted and covered with scars and the fingers more closely resembled claws. He could only rotate the wrist and bend the fingers slowly and with difficulty. He then held up his right arm, which until now had been hidden by the folds of the cloak, to show his father that his right hand no longer existed.

"I can barely dress and feed myself, and my grip is so weak, I can't even use the white knife, the hilt just twists in my hand," Tori told his father. "Drawing a sword is impossible. I'm no longer any threat to you, Sir."

Ganth gave Torisen a hard look before indicating with a jerk of his head to follow him into the keep. Burr scooped up Tori's glove as he followed father and son up the stairs and through the double doors in to the keep's circular great hall. At the head table, the highborn scrollsman Anar waited with the welcome cup of wine. Ganth took the cup from Anar and handed it to Tori. Carefully taking the cup in his crippled hand and securing it with the stump of his right arm, Tori took the required sips of wine before handing the cup back. Ganth sipped from the cup and handed it to Burr.

"You're one of Ardeth's randon aren't you," he asked as Burr drank from the cup. "I remember you. Burr isn't it?"

"Yes, Lord Ardeth assigned me to Torisen when he presented himself to my lord five years ago," Burr responded as he returned the cup to Ganth.

"And the others?"

"Members of Torisen's one-hundred command that survived the dungeons of Urakarn," Burr responded.

"Urakarn's that city in the Southern Wastes, isn't it," he asked Burr, ignoring Tori.

"Yes sir," he replied, casting a worried glance at Tori, who was leaning on the table, exhaustion showing in every line of his body.

"It sounds like there's a story in this somewhere, anyway," Ganth responded. Turning to Tori, "I'm sure you remember where your quarters are. You and Burr go on up. Anar, see to it their gear is brought up." He then turned and strode away with Anar scurrying after him, looking back with a frightened glance over his shoulder as he left the room.

Burr thought, what was that all about, as he took Tori's arm and steadied him on his feet. "Now which way to these quarters of yours?"

Gesturing with his right arm toward the door just off the private dinning room, Tori shook off Burr's helping hand and led the way up the spiral staircase, tiredness making him stumble here and there on the uneven stairs. Once on the second floor, Tori led Burr through the maze of the family living quarters to an outer room with a window that faced the barrier, the black on black darkness that blocked out the stars, keeping Perimal Darkling from advancing on Rathillien. The room was small, and bleak looking; the only light was from the window, and the furnishings were an unmade bed, a table and chair, and a cupboard for clothing. The walls were bare of hangings to keep the drafts out. Nor were there any rugs on the stone floor. The room was very cold. The fixtures of a bathing room could be seen through a half opened door.

Tori slumped on the bed with his face in his hand as Burr completed his survey of the room. Not very imposing quarters for the son of the Highlord even an ex-Highlord, he thought. Lord Ardeth's servants had better quarters than this. "I'd almost think that you'd left without permission from the way you father greeted you," Burr remarked in a puzzled tone.

Tori winced and rolled back on the bed with his arm over his eyes and with his feet on the mattress, his black rhi-sar coat showing where the cloak fell open.

"You didn't," Burr gasped, horrified to the bottom of his soul. "You left without permission!" Burr couldn't believe it, the boy he'd served for the past five years, who had never done a dishonorable thing in that time, but who'd proved time and again to be one of the bravest and most honorable people he'd ever served, had left his father, his lord without permission.

"You don't understand," Tori replied choking back sobs. "You don't know what it was like here five years ago. Father was running mad. He was accusing our Kendar, good Kendar like you, of treason and demanding that they turn their knives on him or on themselves. You know what choice they made, and all for the crime of being my friend. I couldn't stand it. Anar said that it was in Father's mind to make the same demand of me. Anar was able to come up with, he believed, with a way for me to leave with my honor intact."

"And what way was that," Burr asked coldly, not believing there was any way to leave one's lord, even under such circumstances, without permission, with out sacrificing ones honor. The tone of his voice making it clear that he was distancing himself from Tori.

"Anar said that if every Kendar would give permission, their will would override that of their lord. He told me that his brother Ishtier, had tried to get the Kendars' permission, but because he was our priest, they refused, but he left anyway. Poor Anar, he's tried to take Ishtier's place and is going mad because of it. The Kendar practically threw me out. Tig drug me out of bed, Merri had a pack of supplies ready for me and Lon promised to do what he could to delay pursuit."

Burr was astonished at this piece of information. He pulled out the chair and sat down to ponder what his young friend told him. He tried to imagine what conditions would be for him to grant permission to one of Lord Ardeth's kinsman to leave his lord and couldn't. There was something very wrong here and Burr just couldn't figure out what.

A middle aged Kendar woman stepped into the room with a bundle of bed and bath linens which she placed on the table as she caught Burr's eye. "Your quarters are over here sir, and ready for your inspection," she told him.

Burr rose from the chair and followed her a short distance to the door of an inside room. As he entered the room, he thought, now this is a room for a lord's son. The walls were covered with hangings and well lit with candles. The bed was made up and very comfortable looking. There were rugs on the floor and a door leading to a study and another to a bathing room. The vents to the fire timber hall were open and the room was warming up nicely.

"Will this be suitable?" she asked, "if not, just let me know. Also the vents to the fire timber hall will need to be opened in Torisen's room. You're gear is being brought up now."

"This will be fine," Burr answered, not expecting such fine accommodations for a servant.

Just then, other Kendar arrived with Tori's and his gear. Burr directed the baggage to their proper places.

As they turned to go, she told Burr, "Would you please talk Torisen out of staying here? We love him very much and are glad to see him, but it will be very hard for us to watch Lord Knorth kill him by inches."

With that, the other Kendar nodded their agreement and all three left.

Burr returned to Tori's room to find the boy was now lying face down on the bed, apparently asleep. It seemed that there would be no extra effort from the household staff to make Tori's rooms comfortable. Burr covered Tori with a blanket from the items on the table, and set about finding and opening the vents to the fire hall and putting the room into order.

Burr sat down and watched his charge sleep. What kind of mistreatment had Tori experienced that would make his father's sworn Kendar insist that a boy of fifteen, little more than a child, leave his home keep and make the dangerous journey from these accused haunted lands, to the Riverlands where he could be killed just for being Ganth Gray Lord's son. Perhaps it would be better to reserve judgment on the state of Tori's honor until he found out what was going on here.

In the chair, Burr fell into a light doze to be awaked by the sound of a distant bell. He saw Tori; now awake, sitting on the bed watching him. When he saw that Burr was awake, he stood and shrugged off his cloak and tossed it onto the table.

"That bell is the signal for meal times," Tori told Burr as he dug through his gear bag for the glove he wore for meals, the one with the special patches, loops and pockets to make holding the utensils easier for him. "I also imagine that there is going to be an entertainment this evening also," he added bitterly, "Father will do his best to humiliate me in front of everyone. So you're in for a real treat."

Tori led Burr through the maze of the living quarters and down the staircase to the main hall where the tables were set and the keep personal were waiting for their arrival. Burr noticed that the faces of the Kendar lit up with pleasure as Tori entered the hall, but just as quickly were replaced by neutral expressions. Ganth was waiting at the head table two empty places to his right and with the scrollsman Anar to his left and Tori's Ten-Commander, Rowan, next to him.

Tori strode toward his place at his father's right hand, giving his father a half bow as he took his place behind the chair and waited for the signal to be seated.

As Burr turned toward the lower tables to find a seat with Tori's other people, Ganth said, "Burr, please take the seat next to Torisen."

As Burr took his place beside Tori, Ganth nodded and everyone sat. Servers moved around the tables, ladling out soup and filling wine glasses. Two years of practice had made Tori fairly competent with dining utensils using his special glove, which he pulled on with his teeth. Ganth seemed disappointed, until the main course was served. Burr was startled when Tori received the ugliest piece of meat that he'd seen since Urakarn. Mostly bone and gristle, what meat was present, was burnt to a crisp. Tori merely sighed and picked up his knife to have a go at cutting this impossible chunk of meat. As expected, the knife, which also seemed to be very dull, could not even make a start into cutting even a bite from the slice with all the more pressure Tori was able to exert with his crippled fingers. With no way to secure the meat, other than with the stump of his right arm, the meat slid from one side of the plate to the other. Tiring of watching Tori struggle with his meal and finding Ganth's smirk of amusement annoying, Burr picked up his own plate, and scrapped the neatly cut up pieces of his own meat on to Tori's plate and whisked the uneatable slab on to his own plate. Before he could make his own effort at cutting the thing, one of the servers removed it from his plate, replacing it with a better slice. Tori gave him a half smile of thanks, while Ganth looked irritated.

Turning his attention to the other end of the table, Ganth asked Rowan, "Now what's this about Urakarn?"

"The Southern Host was ordered to march against the Karnides and because of poor leadership, it turned into a disaster," Rowan responded crisply between bites. "Several thousand of our troops were killed in the battle and about five thousand of us were taken prisoner."

"Poor leadership indeed," replied Ganth leaning back in his chair and stretching his legs under the table. "Even worse than what I did in the White Hills. Who was the commander?"

"Genjar, Sir," she replied. "Caldane, Lord Caineron's eldest son."

"So Caldane took over from his father," Ganth said with disbelief on his face. "He's the stupidest one of the lot. What happened to Genjar afterwards?"

"I believe he bought back his honor with a white knife," Rowan answered as she finished up her meal and pushed her plate away. "Although I've also heard that it was a very strange way to commit suicide. So it may be possible he had some 'help'."

"Is Urakarn where you got that scar on your face and Torisen lost his hand?"

"Yes Sir, the Karnides are religious fanatics and tried to convert us by torture, for our own good of course, and because we don't have any choice in the matter of faith, most of the Kencyr captives died. Now if you'll excuse me," she said as she stood and left the hall.

"Well then," Ganth said with eyebrows raised in the direction of the now empty seat beside Anar who had been giving the impression he'd rather be somewhere, anywhere else but here. Turning to his right he addressed Burr, "and what did the Karnides do to you and Torisen?"

"For the officers they had a special form of torture," Burr told him as he waved away the server offering more wine, "wire gloves which they heated to red hot and kept hot until the victim recanted belief in the three-faced god or passed out. Torisen held out longer than any of the other officers."

"Is that so," he said, designing to address Tori for the first time since the meal started. "Was it very painful and did you recant or pass out?"

Tori finished mopping up the last of his gravy with a bit of bread and after finishing his wine answered, "I passed out Sir, and it was moderately painful."

Ganth arched his eyebrows at that and asked Burr, "what form of torture did the Karnides use on you?"

"They hadn't worked down the list to me yet, but having to watch was bad enough," he responded. "But then Torisen came up with an escape plan and so the Karnides never got to me."

"Oh, it was Torisen's idea to escape," Ganth said; his voice dripping with sarcasm. "He's really good at that you know."

Now Burr was getting really irritated. Granted he wasn't happy with the thought of Tori's honor being compromised by leaving his father without permission, but still, getting out of the Karnides torture chambers was a feat worthy of praise. "Yes, he is," Burr replied, "even half mad with fever from the infections in his hands, he got us out of Urakarn, and led us across the Dry Salt Sea where we took refuse in the remains of an old boat, then the next morning," he said with wonder in his voice, "somehow we were safe on the northern shore."

"Quite a story," Ganth responded. "From anyone else, I'd believe it to be a singer's tale. As it is, Torisen has to show me something more to in order for me to allow him to live here again.

"Clear the hall," he snarled at his Kendar, who began moving the tables and benches to the walls. "Senethari, give this boy a workout and let me see if he can be of some use to me."

Ganth's Senethari, reluctantly moved into the cleared space of the hall.

"Well boy," Ganth growled at Tori, "get out there and show me what you can do."

Burr put his hand on Tori's arm as the boy rose to comply with his father's demand. Tori gave him a half smile and walked around the table to meet his former teacher. After the ritual bow, the fight commenced. Burr never had a chance to see Tori fight hand-to-hand using the Senethar and was amazed at how good he was. Like the Senethari, Tori's kantirs were of the most elegant Burr had ever seen, stripped down to what was needed and no more. They moved against each other, in the torchlights, weaving patterns between light and shadow, as they demonstrated the full range of the Senethar from fire leaping attacks to wind blowing evasions. Handicapped as he was by not having use of his hands, Tori was able to match the other and avoid attacks that should have ended the fight with creative use of little used earth moving kantirs. But soon the long journey and the lack of sleep began to tell on the boy. The Senethari got him in a water flowing attack, which sent Tori crashing to the stone floor, causing him to be stunned when his head hit the floor.

Burr sighed with relief, the fight was over, but his relief was short lived. As Tori lay on the floor panting, the Senthari pulled his knife from its sheath and knelt by Tori's prone body and placed the knife against the boy's throat.

"Well my Lord," he said looking up at Ganth. "How do you want this fight to end?"

Burr could see that Ganth was stunned. From the lord's white knuckled grip on the table edge, it was obvious that the Kendar was sending him an entirely unexpected message. The Kendar would send Tori to the pyre rather than see him be abused by his father.

As the silence lengthened, with everyone's eyes on him, Ganth took a deep breath, regained his composure and said, "let him up, it seems he can be of some use to me after all."

With a suppressed sigh of relief from the watchers, the Senthari sheathed his knife and helped Tori to his feet. But Ganth wasn't finished with him yet. Certain of Tori's Senthar patterns weren't to Ganth's satisfaction and nothing would suit him until Tori could perform them correctly.

Finally Ganth had enough and dismissed everyone and stalked out of the hall. Burr and the Senthari carried the exhausted Tori to his quarters and dropped him into the chair.

"Now a good long hot soak will be best thing for making sure he's not too stiff for whatever my lord Ganth has in mind for him tomorrow," the Kendar informed Burr. "If you'll just get him undressed, I'll see to the bath."

Burr wondered why the other Kendar went into the bathing room instead of going down to the kitchens where water for bathing and other purposes was heated in other keeps. As he eased Tori out of his rhi-sar coat, he could hear the sounds of water being pumped into a tub. Not wanting to take a chance of Tori getting chilled while waiting for the hot water to be brought up, Burr laid the coat down and went into the bathing room to investigate. He found the Senthari pumping what was obviously very hot water into the tub.

Grinning at Burr as he looked on in amazement, "they still don't have anything like this in the Riverland, do they?"

"No, they don't," Burr, responded, "it would be a lot easier on the servants to have something like this for everyone's use. How does it work?"

"It's really simple, rain water is channeled to a cistern and from there to a tank where a fire timber is used to heat it. It's set up so that tank is always full and only one fire timber is needed to keep it nicely hot, then pumps and pipes to bring the water to where it's needed. It's always nice to warm up with a good soak after a patrol of the barrier during a storm."

"I imagine it would be," Burr responded thoughtfully as he watched the other finish pumping the water and add what he recognized as a liniment to the steaming water.

"Now have Torisen soak in this and then put him to bed and he should be in good shape in the morning," the Kendar advised Burr as he left the bathing room. In the sleeping room he knelt in front of Tori and clasped his crippled hand in both of his, "you did a good job down there against me in the Senthar, I'm very proud of you and want you to know that you're my best pupil ever. Whenever your lord father is looking, we'll have some practice bouts so Ganth will have nothing to criticize you for. Alright?"

"Sure," Tori responded as his old teacher gave his hand a squeeze and left with a smile and a wink.

Burr then helped Tori out of the rest of his clothes and assisted him into the tub.

As Tori slid up to his chin into the hot water, he sighed, "finally a chance to get really warm again."

While Tori soaked, Burr made up the bed and unpacked the boy's gear and laid out his night attire. After helping Tori out of the tub and into his nightclothes, Burr left for his own rooms to have a soak in the bathing room of his own quarters.

The next morning, Burr found Tori nearly dressed. After helping him with his boots, they went down to the hall for breakfast. As they helped themselves to the various offerings, Burr finally realized what was odd about the population of the keep, not counting the Ten-Command, Tori was the only person under sixty years of age. If he remembered correctly, Lord Ganth took into exile from the White Hills, all of his survivors, many of who were younger. What had happened to them? And where was his mother? The barrier keeps were known to be less strict about sequestering their highborn women than those keeps in the Riverland.

As they found a place at the tables, Tori balancing his plate on top of his cup of mulled wine, Burr asked, "what does your mother think of how your father treats you?"

"I don't know," Tori, answered, "she left when we were very small, I hardly even remember her."

"What do you mean she just left," asked Burr in bewilderment, "and who's we?"

Color rose on Tori's face and he became very interested in pushing the food around on his plate. "We are my twin sister Jame and I. Father cursed her and drove her out when we were about ten because she was Shanir. Our mother left years before that. She just walked out of the keep toward the barrier where she disappeared. What's really strange is that she disappeared in the same area where Father found her in the first place."

"Your father found a highborn woman wandering alone in these haunted lands and took her as a consort," Burr asked in amazement.

"Yes," Tori replied, "that's what the Kendar have always told me. She was definitely highborn and pure Knorth at that, but how Father knew, I don't know because they say she never spoke."

Burr wondered what other startling information would come to light about his young friend's past. First the Shanir priest leaving without permission, which would explain Ganth's hatred of the Shanir and the driving out of his young daughter, then his mysterious consort just walking way, and his son finding a way to leave, would tend to cause problems with the most stable of personalities, not to mention someone who was already teetering on the edge of madness. Burr also wondered if Tori thought that all of this was somehow all his fault, the priest and his mother leaving, his twin sister being driven out, his father's madness, even though most of it happened before he was born or when he was too young to understand or do anything about it.

While they ate, many of the keep's Kendar came over and spoke to Tori. The care and concern they expressed, indicated to Burr that Tori was and had always been much loved here, but that love had to be shown out of Ganth's sight. After finishing up their meal, Tori led Burr to the stables to see how Tori's whinno-hir stallion and the warhorse mares he brought along were fairing. The stallion was prancing around a paddock next to the keep's outside wall and the mares were in a larger paddock beyond.

Ganth was leaning against the fence watching the stallion. "What do you intend to do with the mares," he asked as Tori stepped up to the fence beside him. "They appear to be very well bred and trained, and you should be able to get good prices for the foals, especially if they're by that stallion of yours."

"That's just what I was thinking, Sir," he answered. "The mares are all proven warhorses and are in foal for this spring. After they've foaled, I'll breed them back to Beval, keep the fillies for future breeding and sell the trained colts. We met up with one of the hill lords when we were passing north of Tai-Tastigon and he offered to buy whatever I have in four or five years time. And I also imagine that if for some reason he isn't able to buy, there are others who will."

"Then how about you and Burr getting saddled up," Ganth said, "and take your ten-command with us on the regular patrol and let them see what we face up here at the barrier."

A short time later, Tori, Burr, and Ganth joined Rowan, along with the rest of the ten-command and the regular patrol members and started off on the patrol. As they jogged along, Ganth and the regulars told the visitors stories of the strange creatures that regularly came across the barrier. Everyone was on alert as they approached the barrier. Burr, Rowan and the other members of the ten-command had never seen the barrier before, much less this close. The regulars strung their bows and had their arrows close at hand, and made sure their swords were loose in their sheaths. The ten-command followed their example as the patrol's course took them parallel to the barrier. Out of the corner of his eye Burr saw Tori's Beval suddenly come to alert.

"Down there," Tori shouted, pointing with his right arm toward a rock-strewn valley below them where Beval's attention was fixed.

"Where," Ganth demanded as Burr also looked in the direction indicated without seeing anything.

"By that greenish boulder with the red veining," Tori replied. "See them moving? Here they come!"

Soon it became apparent that whatever Tori saw had also seen them and was charging with shrill screams. Ganth held up his hand, holding the patrol back until the number and nature of the attackers could be determined. The archers prepared to shoot while the ten-command drew their swords. As the attackers approached, Burr and the others were stunned at the strange creatures coming at them. Things that they had never seen before or parodies of familiar creatures twisted out of all recognition. The archers took out a few as they came into range, then Ganth ordered the charge. The patrol crashed into the band of creatures, riding them down and slashing at them with swords whenever they came within reach. Tori was in the thick of things, sticking like a leach as his whinno-hir was striking and kicking and taking out as many of the attackers as any of the others. Tori also helped by kicking various attackers into someone's sword range or in front of one of the war trained horses to be trampled. In a few minutes, all of the darkling creatures were dead.

"Good job everyone," Ganth said. "Now we need to get these things piled up and burnt before we can go on. Torisen, you ride out and keep a look out for any others and give a shout if you see any before we're done here."

As Tori rode off, everyone else dismounted and Ganth assigned duties. Even while stacking the dead and dragging in brush to build a pyre, the patrols' hands were never far from their swords or their gaze still as they kept on alert as they worked to dispose of the bodies. As he worked, Burr wondered how Tori managed to see the attackers at the distance he did. Granted Tori's eyes were younger and sharper than everyone else's, but even the warhorses, with the exception of Tori's whinno-hir, didn't react until after the creatures were well into their charge. Burr felt a shiver down his back as he recalled that the whinno-hir had alerted just before Tori pointed out the attackers, suggesting that Tori had seen the creatures using the whinno-hir's keen senses. Tori mind bound to the whinno-hir, was he aware of it? And had Ganth caught the possibility that his son might be a Shanir? And if so what would he do to him?

While Tori rode by every few minutes, everyone else was able to make short work of piling the bodies and collecting brush, and soon a fire was going that would quickly reduce the strange creatures to ashes.

As they rode on, Burr asked Tori, "why do you have to burn the bodies? Why not just let them rot?"

"If they aren't burnt and the ashes scattered," Tori answered, "they'll come back as haunts. Haunts are harder to kill than when they're alive and their bites become infected and make haunts out of their victims if not treated."

Burr nodded with understanding as they rode along. The rest of the patrol was uneventful. As they returned by the pyre, they paused to scatter the ashes. Just as they came into sight of the keep, Tori said, "Burr, Rowan, would you come with me? There's something I want you to see." Tori led them towards the barrier, keeping a sharp lookout as they went. About a furlong from the barrier, Tori stared at it for a minute and said, "Yes, this is the place. Look at the barrier just above that rise and tell me what you see."

Burr and Rowan both looked intently at the area indicated. Burr was wondering what he was supposed to be seeing when Rowan gasped, "I see a huge house on the other side of the barrier."

Burr blinked and then began to see something, at first distant hills and then the outline of an enormous building. "Trinity," he breathed, "is that what I think it is?"

"The master's house," Rowan gasped, "here on Rathillien, within reach of our forces. Why doesn't your father do something about it?"

"Father can't see it, or so he says," Tori replied as he turned and led them back toward the keep. "And then, who in the Riverland would believe him if he were to go back and warn everyone?"

Burr had to agree with that thought as they rode back to the keep. After the horses were taken care of, a more congenial evening meal was enjoyed before everyone headed off for bed. The next several days were a repeat of the first. Ganth would assign a section of the barrier to Tori and his ten-command to patrol while he'd take his own people in the other direction. Sometimes he'd assign someone else to lead the other group and ride with Tori and his patrol. Burr was becoming more and more uneasy about Tori and Beval. From his observations, Tori was mind bound to the whinno-hir and didn't know it. Several times, Tori alerted the patrol to attacks by seeing, hearing, and even smelling what no one else even noticed. Another problem was that Tori was again having nightmares similar to those he had before the debacle at Urakarn. Two days after Burr had awakened Tori from one of these nightmares, Tori directed his patrol in an ambush against the darkling creatures just as if he'd seen the battle before hand. Unfortunately, Ganth's sleep had been disturbed by Tori's nightmares and he was also present for the ambush. From the hard looks he was giving Tori behind the boy's back, Burr wondered if he was coming to the same conclusion he was, that in addition to being mind bound to Beval, Tori was also a Shanir foreseer. Burr considered that such abilities would be of great use up near the barrier, but with his hatred of the Shanir, Ganth was hardly likely to see things that way.

That evening, as he did at the end of every patrol, Tori would go to the place where he took Burr and Rowan and stare at the Master's house on the other side of the barrier. When Burr asked why, Tori answered, "This is the direction Jame went when Father cursed her and drove her out. I keep thinking that she crossed through the barrier and they took her in and I hope some day she'll come back."

From the wistful look on Tori's face and the tone of his voice it was apparent that he loved and missed his twin sister very much. Perhaps that's why he came back to his old home, hoping to find his sister returned or to work up the courage to cross the barrier himself, though to rescue or to join her, Burr couldn't say.

"How do you know she's still alive," he asked Tori as they entered the keep that evening. "I wouldn't give good odds on anyone, alone and on foot, fleeing from being cursed, to survive very long out here."

"I don't know how I know," Tori responded, "I just know she's still alive and being well treated. I guess it true what they say about twins always occupying a corner of each other's soul. I just hope that she thinks of me sometimes and doesn't hate me for not stopping Father from driving her out."

Ganth was in a foul mood that evening and wasn't bothering to hide it. He was finding fault with every thing, especially Tori's successful patrol and ambush that day. From the comments and looks he was giving Tori, Burr was feeling very uneasy. Rowan had been asking when they could leave and would Tori be going with them. She and the others had been hearing stories from the other Kendar of what had been going on between Ganth and Tori five years ago. She told Burr bluntly that she and the ten-command wanted to get Tori out as soon as possible, with or without his father's permission, drugging him if necessary. After hearing these stories, Burr tended to agree with her. He suspected Tori would be better off at East Kenshold or with one of the hill lords than he would be here. Although there were indications that Ganth did care for his son, he still felt threatened by Tori's leadership abilities, abilities that were undiminished by the boy being crippled.

The next few days were uneventful and Ganth's mood seemed to improve, although Burr didn't put much stock into Ganth having a change of heart about his son being Shanir. Burr had long since reconciled himself to the Kendar's giving Tori permission to leave as allowing the boy to keep his honor.

The next day, Ganth assigned his patrol to his second in command and asked Burr to take charge of Tori's people because he had something to discuss with the boy.

Tori wasn't surprised at Ganth's request to stay behind. He'd been expecting to have a discussion over what it would cost him to stay. The offspring of his whinno-hir stallion and the warhorse mares would be very valuable when trained in four years time and his father would want a cut of the proceeds in addition to having his own mares serviced by Beval. In spite of his crippling injuries, Tori still felt confident of his abilities to turn out well-started prospective warhorses. Unlike a full-blooded whinno-hir, which would only accept certain riders, half and quarter bloods would allow anyone to ride them and were much easier to train than a horse without any whinno-hir blood.

The wind picked up as they walked together toward the stabling area. Clouds were building up by the barrier and the scent of snow was on the wind. Tori was taken by surprise when Ganth backhanded him across the face, slamming him against the stonewall, stunning him. Before Tori could gather his wits, Ganth struck him again hard enough that the boy lost consciousness as his head struck the wall. Slowly Tori regained consciousness to find himself stripped to the waist and his wrists bound together and hooked to a chain that was attached to a beam far above his head. Tori's blood ran cold; Ganth had secured him in the pen where the keep's sheep and cattle were slaughtered. The pen was surrounded by windowless stonewalls, walls that were high and thick enough that sound couldn't escape and upset the animals waiting to be slaughtered. Tori came to his feet and tried to pull free when he heard someone approaching. Ganth came up to him, grabbed his hair and slapped him again across the face, causing his nose to bleed.

Twisting his fingers cruelly in Tori's black hair and forcing his head back as he brought his face close, "thought you could come back here and use your damned Shanir tricks to take over now did you?" he snarled.

"W-w-what," Tori stammered as he tried to pull away, "I'm no Shanir, and I'm not trying to take anything away from you. What are you talking about?"

"That whinno-hir of yours, you're mind bound to him, aren't you? Only a Shanir can do that, you use his senses to spot darkling creatures before any of us can. And that ambush, you foresaw that in that dream you had, foreseeing; another Shanir curse. I should have expected it. Your mother was Shanir and both you and your damned sister took after her in more than looks. I thought it was your sister that was causing your nightmares and I tried to break the link between the two of you by casting her out and beating the dreams out of you, but you ran away before I could finish the job. Names of God, you won't leave here until I've done the job properly, do you understand?" Ganth shouted into Tori's face.

He released Tori's hair as he shoved the boy away. Tori barely had time to brace himself as the whip came down on his bare back. Tori was stunned more by his father's revelations than by the thought of the beating he was about to receive. He couldn't possibly be Shanir. But he couldn't allow Ganth's accusations to distract him. He called up the Senthar pain techniques and applied them as the whip came down on his back again and again. Grimly he thought if Ganth expected him to scream or cry out as he did during the beatings years ago, he was going to be disappointed. Rowan and Burr hadn't told Ganth everything that went on in the Karnide dungeons, Ganth could beat Tori into unconsciousness or to death and it wouldn't be as bad as what the Karnides had done to him. Ganth became more and more frustrated at the lack of response from the beating his son was receiving. Even lashes across the boy's chest and stomach or between the legs brought little response other than a grunt and an effort to move away. Finally when Tori's upper body was covered with lash marks and blood, and the boy was clearly unconscious, Ganth threw down the whip and stomped off in a rage, leaving with the only sounds being the quiet drip of blood and the creaking of the chain holding the boy's hanging body. When Tori regained consciousness, he wondered if his father really meant to leave him here indefinitely. He knew Burr and Rowan would be suspicious and search for him. But they wouldn't be returning to the keep for several hours. Tori shivered as snowflakes landed on his fevered skin. Slipping in and out of consciousness, he stood as tall as he could to take the strain off his arms, or hung by his wrists when he could no longer stay conscious.

Burr, Rowan and the rest of Tori's ten-command were glad to be getting back to the keep, although the patrol was uneventful, the weather was getting bad, with snow and sleet showers and indications that more and worse were to come. As the group came through the gate and approached the stabling area, they heard a shriek and the thunder of hoofs. Entering the stabling area, they saw Beval, lathered white and dripping with sweat, running the fence and looking toward a part of the fortress that they were unfamiliar with.

"Something's happened to Tori," Burr growled as the group dismounted and quickly put their mounts into stalls and returned to the courtyard at a run. "I don't think Ganth was planning on talking about warhorses today." Grabbing the first Kendar he saw, "where's Torisen?" he demanded.

"Why, wasn't he out on patrol with you?" she replied, surprised by Burr's question.

"No, Ganth asked him to stay behind, we went out without him," Burr replied. "Tori's whinno-hir is in a state, he's mind bound to Tori."

"Oh, no," the Kendar gasped as she turned pale, well aware that being mind bound meant Shanir, and Ganth hated the Shanir.

"Where would Ganth have taken him," Burr demanded, still clutching the Kendar's arm.

"The whinno-hir was interested in that part of the fortress," Rowan said pointing,

"What's over there?"

Burr didn't think it would be possible for the Kendar to get paler, but she did.

"The slaughter pen," she said as she pulled away from Burr and headed in the direction Rowan indicated. "I saw Ganth coming out of there this morning in an awful temper."

The group followed her at a quick trot to the pen and found the door locked. The biggest Kendar of the ten-command, made short work of making sure the door wouldn't be locked or even used again. The group rushed in to the horrifying sight of Tori strung up by the wrists, half naked and covered with lash marks and blood.

Rowan spotted Tori's clothes and draped the cloak around his shoulders as a Kendar supported the boy and Burr cut him down.

"Is he still alive?" asked the Kendar who led them there.

"But not for much longer if we don't get him warmed up," Burr growled. "I suggest that you find Ganth and see that he doesn't get in our way," he told her as the group, with their swords drawn, the biggest carrying the boy, followed Burr into the keep to Tori's quarters.

"He left the keep shortly after I saw him at the slaughter pen," Ganth's Kendar replied grimly, "and he hasn't returned. We'll see to it that he doesn't get in your way." She then turned and left and they could hear her spreading the word about what Ganth did to Tori and the necessity of distracting Ganth.

Taking charge as he finished undressing Tori, the former Randon assigned duties. One of the command filled the tub, while another started packing Tori's gear and a third was sent to Burr's rooms to pack his gear and bring it to Tori's rooms. With one to stand guard, the rest left to see to the horses and the whinno-hir and to get their own gear ready for a quick departure.

"Get him warmed up and with a few hours of dwar sleep, he should be able to ride if we strap him on," Burr told the group. "We'll stand watch in shifts, so get supplies and everything packed and ready to go, we'll leave at first light."

The bath revived Tori enough that he was able to eat the hot meal that was brought up and then he fell directly into dwar sleep. The ten-command took turns standing watch over Tori's room that night. In the morning he was still groggy and shaky, but able to eat and walk with a little assistance. As Burr and Rowan assisted Tori out of the keep, they found in the courtyard, not only the ten-command with their mounts, pack horses and the warhorse broodmares, but the keep's entire population with the exception of Ganth. It seemed that every Kendar felt the need to say good-by to Tori, who still wasn't quite sure what was going on, but was enjoying the attention.

Spotting Anar off to the side, Burr asked, "Where's Ganth?"

"Asleep," the Highborn scrollsman replied. "He came in very late last night, half frozen and he didn't notice the extra poppy in his wine. He should sleep for several more hours."

"Yes, you should have a good head start if you keep moving," added Lon. "And there is a storm brewing that should cover your tracks if you keep ahead of it."

"I thank you very much, we all thank you for your help," Burr told them, "I wish things could have turned out differently. . ."

"Yes," Anar said, "so do we. We miss Tori and his sister so much. But Please don't let him come back again."

Burr gave him a half smile and turned to see a wilted Tori being helped onto Beval and secured to the saddle. He made his way to his own mount and as the others took the leads of the loose horses, he mounted and led them out through the gatehouse, across the bridge into the haunted lands to begin the journey south ahead of the storm. As the horses picked up the pace, no one, not even Tori, swaying slightly in the saddle, turned around for a last look before the keep was hidden behind the hills.



Finished December 2001