Perian rode quickly down to the estuary, where the Siannen widened to a sluggish width of brown water. It was approaching high tide, and he hailed the flat-bottomed ferry from the far shore. It was quiet here, for across the water was a wild land, a rough road through the hills and along the coast, with only a bit of grazing fit for sheep here and there, or marshes where some hardy souls might go wildfowling. Birds were all about him, swan and oyster-catcher and mallard and the bright shelduck, moving upstream as the mudflats were slowly covered by the encroaching sea. The ferryman greeted him, as he led Mela aboard.

“Going far?”

“As far south as I can get,” Perian asserted.

“Huh! Do better heading west and down the Great South Road, if you ask me.”

“Why so?”

“Trouble with robbers these many years. We petitioned the King’s Grace for a knight or two to clear this way – folks down the coast where ’tis good farmland likes to trade a bit here in Skyrholm as well as Lavrum. Only nought’s done yet, that’s kings for you,” and he spat noisily into the water.

“The king has had his troubles, but perhaps the Prince Athellon, the dragon-slayer, will take this in hand now.”

The ferryman snorted.

“And the Siannen may flow up to the mountains.”


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