knew he would be in trouble for being so late and that there would
be questions asked about the rope he carried. With luck, though,
his mother and father would be so relieved to see him that they
would forgive him quickly.
They cannot send me to bed without food, at least, Lief thought
with satisfaction, scuttling across the road and plunging on towards
the forge. They said they wanted to talk to me about something tonight.
Briefly he wondered what that something was, and smiled at the memory
of how serious his parents had looked when they had spoken of it.
He loved them both very much, but no two people could be more ordinary,
timid and quiet than Jarred and Anna of the forge. Jarred had limped
badly ever since he was injured by a falling tree when Lief was
ten. But even before that, he and Anna had kept very much to themselves.
They seemed content to listen to the tales of wandering travelers
who stopped at the forge, rather than seeing life for themselves.
Lief had not been born until after the time of darkness and terror
that had marked the coming of the Shadow Lord. But he knew that
many in the city had fought and died and many others had fled in
Jarred and Anna had done neither of these things. While all around
them confusion and panic reigned, they stayed in their cottage,
obeying every order given to them, doing nothing to attract the
anger of the enemy. And when the panic was ended and dull misery
had taken its place in the city, they re-opened the forge gates
and began work again, struggling only to survive in their new, ruined
It was something that Lief himself could never have done. He could
not understand it. He was convinced that all his parents had ever
wanted in their lives was to stay out of trouble, whatever the cost.
He was certain, absolutely certain, that nothing they had to say
could surprise him.
>So it was only with relief that he ran through the forge gates,
dodged the beggar Barda, who was making his slow way to his shelter
in the corner of the yard, and rushed through the cottage door.
Excuses were ready on his tongue and thoughts of dinner were filling
Little did he know that before another hour had passed everything
was going to change for him. Little did he know that he was about
to receive the shock of his life.
Book Two: The Lake of Tears