“Greyson?” Ayalah gasped.
“The very same,” Gavin confirmed. “He’d made a promise to King Tazar, he said, to return his sister to him unharmed. A trade in exchange for Olekoth joining the war, I think he said. He led us to the Olekian camp and to King Tazar, who welcomed us and thanked us, and then Greyson was racing off. Tazarah was shipped off that night to Olekoth for safety, but I stayed back.
“From there, I could not return home. There were orders out for my arrest, and many loyalists eager to prove their worth to Mathais. So I stayed with the Olekians and helped out as best I could. When word came that Mathais had been defeated, I begged King Tazar to find out what had happened to you… and here I am.”
Ayalah was afraid to ask, but she had to know the answer. “And what of Greyson? Do you know what became of him?”
Gavin hesitated. “There have been three men found who match Greyson’s description, but no confirmation that any is indeed him.”
“Oh,” was all Ayalah could think of to say. She was still so tired; her body felt weighed down as if by bricks. “Oh,” she said again.
“But he may yet be alive, sweetling. Two of the men are dead, but one still lives. When you are well enough, we will ride to see for ourselves which is our friend.”
Ayalah nodded, not allowing herself to feel either hope or despair. “Gavin,” she said softly, stifling a yawn. “I have to tell you something. When I went to Naraloth, after Mathais tried to murder me—I looked for my family.”
A pained expression came over Gavin’s face.
“No, no,” Ayalah said, “it’s good news. I found my mother’s sister. My aunt, Gavin. I have an aunt.”
“You… you had an aunt all this time?”
“Ayalah, if I had known—”
“It’s my own fault, Gavin. Truly, I don’t blame you at all. But I would like you to meet her.”
“I would love to.” He smiled. “But for now, you should sleep. I’ll be here when you wake.”
She nodded and let her eyes close.
Her fever was gone. She woke to the sounds of birds chirping and the feeling of a cool breeze washing over her. She inhaled deeply and opened her eyes.
With great effort she pulled herself upright and swung her legs off the side of the cot.
“Careful,” a voice said, and then Gavin was next to her, supporting her.
Ayalah nodded her thanks. She couldn’t remember Gavin being this nurturing since… well, never. Not to her, anyway, though she’d seen his tender side before with his lovers. Not that he’d never been kind—he’d always been kind to her—but just not in this way.
He helped her get to her feet and then handed her her staff. She sighed: it seemed she was going to have to get used to using this thing to hobble around.
“Ayalah,” he said, “I’m afraid I wasn’t wholly honest with you before.”
Ayalah’s dirty, somewhat tattered uniform was folded nicely in a corner of the room, and Gavin retrieved it and began to help her into it as they spoke. “Well, everything I said before was true, but I left something out. I—” He hesitated. “I’m leaving.”
“What do you mean, leaving?”
“I’m going to Olekoth.”
“Olekoth? But why?”
“It’s time for me to try someplace new.” He shrugged. “And I don’t mean to come back for a long time.”
“But Gavin,” Ayalah said, “why not Naraloth? I could show you around, introduce you to people—”
“I didn’t come here to argue,” Gavin interrupted. “Just to say goodbye.”
She wasn’t sure what to say. Goodbye. Why had she had so many of those recently?
“I couldn’t leave until I knew you were going to be all right,” he said quietly.
“I,” Ayalah tried. She still didn’t know what to say. This was all happening so fast. Gavin? Moving to another continent? She wanted to ask if this had anything to do with Queen Tazarah, but she knew better than to pry into his personal life. She held her tongue and focused on Gavin’s fingers as they laced up her vest.
He clapped her on the back when he finished. “Well, what are you waiting for? There’s a carriage waiting for you outside.” He took a look at her face and laughed. “The healers say you aren’t allowed back on a horse for some time while your leg heals. So be grateful for the carriage, sweetling. Come visit us in Olekoth sometime. Bring your aunt.”
She grinned. “Thank you, Gavin.”
She hobbled out of the tent and into the carriage. Gavin didn’t say anything to her as she left, and he didn’t need to. She knew what the silence meant.