In desperation Xianna called to Akatar.
The jemadar halted, turned and grunted. 'I think the pigwiggen wants to ask us something,' he laughed. 'This could be amusing.' He swaggered to Xianna, whose face hung at about the level of his own. The troan’s breath reeked of rancid flesh and other food Xianna tried not to imagine. 'Yes, my little runt, would you like to be first?'
Xianna was direct: 'We have money. If you free us, it's yours. Each of us has forty kuna. Cut us down and we'll give you everything we have.'
The troans gasped. It was an overwhelming sum. Hope animated the children’s faces as they waited expectantly for the response.
'Well, well,' mused Akatar. 'This is our lucky day, Cari.'
'Yeah,' agreed Icarus. 'Forget the silver chiton. Whoever lands a clean shot gets each pigwiggen's money. This is going to be even more fun than I thought.'
Akatar smiled and without thinking gave his friend a comradely slap on the shoulder. Icarus winced, then followed Akatar as they marked off fifty paces.
The children panicked. The money had been their only hope.
'Xianna, do something,' begged Aydyn desperately. 'You can cast magic. You must know a spell that can get us out of here.'
'I can't,' responded her sister. 'They tied up my hands; and I need my hands to cast magic. Besides, I don't know any magic that powerful.' But then an idea occurred to her. 'Kaveh, use your Voice,’ she whispered. ‘Tell them not to shoot us.'
'But I can't,' cried Kaveh. 'I've only ever used my Voice on animals, small rucats and cachalots. Half the time it doesn't even work on Padmin.' Tears welled up in Kaveh’s eyes.
Regour heaved and struggled with all his strength, but he was no match for the ropes that bound him. He swung back and forth like a fateful metronome counting out the last beats of his heart.
In the distance, wolves howled.
On the other side of the clearing, Icarus knocked an arrow on his bow. With loathing in his eyes, he took aim at Regour, stretched the bowstring, and fired.
The arrow raced toward its target. Xianna gasped. Mariah and Kaveh wept. Aydyn froze. In the lucid moments before death, the children's brief lives flashed through their minds as they tried to make sense of what was happening to them….
- 3 -