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2
"You were the greatest joy..."

Brand returned to the house after putting his new horse away, to get his fishing pole and collect his thoughts a bit. His parting from Andrahar at the stables had seemed cordial enough on the surface. But Brand knew that his reaction to the captain’s revelation had hurt the man, and he found himself torn between his affection for his guardian and a rather dismaying and guilty revulsion. His revulsion at the idea of Andrahar being a man-lover was quite genuine and the guilt that he should feel such revulsion towards a man who had given him so much was equally strong.

That those gifts might have some other, seductive purpose was an idea he had never wanted to have to entertain. And indeed, he did not give it too much credence. Andrahar had always been honest with him, as this very morning had proved. The captain’s own words aside-“Suffice it to say that I do not sleep with boys and I do not sleep with anyone in the Swan Knights. The first because that is a crime…”-Brand could not imagine his great-uncle Imrahil knowingly pandering for his oath-brother.

But there were also some unanswered questions which had begun to bother Brand over the last year, and the morning’s new information made them all the more pressing. Andrahar’s reluctance to reveal Brand’s parentage to anyone upon his arrival at Dol Amroth had been explained away by the Prince as Andrahar’s desire to keep Brand to himself for a bit before surrendering him to his rightful family. Imrahil had found this perfectly understandable for some reason, though it seemed a bit strange to Brand. He could better understand that reluctance as worry that the claim would be refuted.

And when his Uncle Faramir had arrived to confirm that claim, the entirety of Imrahil’s family had united to convince the Steward that Brand would be better off remaining in Dol Amroth, though surely an uncle’s claim of kinship took precedence over a great-granduncle’s. And it certainly took precedence over the wishes of his father’s old friend! Yet everyone had done their best to convince Faramir to leave Brand in Andrahar’s keeping, and while that had indeed coincided with Brand’s own wishes at the time, looking back now it seemed rather odd.

Admittedly Faramir had been living as a bachelor, with a wedding in the near future, and he probably had appreciated the prospect of having some time alone with his new wife. Becoming guardian to a young boy, on top of all the other adjustments he was having to make in regards to a position he had never thought to inherit, might have indeed been too much of a strain. But all the tales that Brand had ever been told of the Captain-General and his brother had spoken of how close they had been. Having acknowledged Brand’s paternity, why had Faramir surrendered him so easily?

Brand had visited Faramir a couple of times in the last couple of years, once for his wedding, and knew that his uncle liked him well enough. Lady Éowyn had always been most kind and cordial to him as well. She had spoken to him of how she herself had grown up in her uncle’s household, and had made it clear that he was welcome in hers, for the Rohirrim took such family responsibilities very seriously. While he was certainly happy at Dol Amroth, there was no obvious impediment to his living with his uncle.

Brand was beginning to think that there was something else behind all of this, some secret that was not being shared with him. But he could hardly voice such a belief to his uncle or Prince Imrahil, it was too fantastic. And he might be reading too much into the situation: Andrahar had been the one who had discovered him after all, which surely gave the captain a claim of some sort. And the adults in his life might have worried about how Brand would react to being uprooted once more, so soon after leaving his mother.

Also, he remembered how the Swan Knights’ physician Cuilast had spoken to him of how grieved and lonely their commander was. “That is why I was so glad to see him take you under his wing, as it were. I think you might be just the thing to cheer him up.” Brand’s continued presence at Dol Amroth rather than Minas Tirith might very well simply have been a conspiracy done for Andrahar’s benefit.

“Captain, is that you?” came Mistress Alfirin’s voice from the kitchen, where Brand could hear her puttering about.

“No, Mistress, it’s me,” he answered, and she stuck her head out of the door.

“Oh, Brand! Happy birthday, lad! Would you like some lunch?”

“No thank you, it’s a little too early yet. I’m not hungry. I was going to go out fishing for a while.”

“Then would you like me to pack something to take with you?”

Brand allowed that that would be most welcome and appreciated, and Andrahar’s cook-housekeeper set to work. He looked about the main room of the small house in bemusement. It was in a rare state of disorder, for Andrahar was in the process of packing for the journey and what might very well be a prolonged campaign far from his usual suppliers. Armor, weapons and the equipment to maintain them were spread all about the room and on the table. A couple of trunks stood open and one of them was half full of livery and garments.

“It’s a right mess in there, isn’t it?” came Mistress Alfirin’s voice from the kitchen. “I asked if the captain wanted me to help him, but he said that it wasn’t necessary, beyond having my sister ready the laundry. I promise I’ll straighten it right up when he’s done packing.”

“Thank you, mistress,” Brand replied. “but I am going to be living up at the palace while he’s gone. Did you know that?”

“Oh yes, the captain told me all about it. But he said he wants me to come in once a week and give things a going-over so they’ll be tidy against his return. That’s what I usually do when he’s away.”

Brand knew that custom was as much for Mistress Alfirin’s benefit as the house’s. She was the widow of one of the Prince’s sergeants and the money she earned as Andrahar’s housekeeper helped to augment her widow’s stipend very nicely. He moved around the room, idly examining the captain’s belongings while he waited for his lunch. A thick, padded cloth covered the table to protect it and the plate pieces of Andrahar’s harness lay there, though the mail itself was on the armor rack. Some straps with buckles already sewn to them were there as well, an indication that the captain probably intended to replace some while he had the chance. Metalwork was something Andrahar had no gift for, but any Swan Knight could hammer a rivet or stitch a strap and do the basic repair work necessary to keep his own harness in good order.

Brand frowned thoughtfully as he ran a finger over one of the tiny tigers that graced the corners of Andrahar’s vambraces. The miniscule felines were on the greaves as well. Commissioned by the Prince as a gift long ago when Andrahar was first made Commander, the armor was regulation but also unique. He was not alone in such deviations-Captain Peloren’s armor had little running horses all around the edges. Brand wondered if Lady Hethlin would be allowed eagles upon her armor when she won her white belt. Probably not, he decided after pondering the matter for a few moments-such customization was probably a privilege exclusive to officers.

The scents of steel and leather, of saddle soap and oil wafted about him. He looked around at the very obviously masculine display in the room, baffled. As he had told Andrahar earlier, he knew little about lovers of men. But he did know that to say a man was such was an insult of the first order, either here or in Pelargir. It implied that one was womanish, without any of the virtues attached to that gender. And the few men at court whom, it was rumored, were of that persuasion were not very like Andrahar at all. They were all of them minstrels and one in particular had a simpering, girlish air about him that irritated Brand enormously. Somehow Brand could not see Andrahar keeping company with such a man.

No, the man who was one of the two best swords in Gondor, the one the Haradrim called the Tiger of Dol Amroth because of his savage competence on the battlefield, hardly fit the standard image of a mincing, tittering man-lover. Which led to the inevitable conclusion that lovers of men, like lovers of women, might very well be of various sorts, and not always obvious in their preferences. Brand was struggling a bit with that idea. If that were indeed the case, then there might be more of them about than anyone realized!

And as for exactly what Andrahar did with whatever sort of man he fancied, the captain‘s own advice on the matter seemed perfectly sound to his charge. “Go seek out a book in your great-uncle’s library. The Garden of Love is the title. It is quite an education upon all manner of love-making. With pictures. It will explain the matter far better than I could.” Brand was thinking that he could not truly decide how he felt about the captain’s confession until he had more information. But the library could wait until the morrow-today was too beautiful a day for reading and he still too taken aback at the morning‘s events to want to hide in the library. Such was his uncle Faramir’s preferred refuge. When Brand wanted to think, he usually went for a ride or a walk beside the shore.

“I’ll be done with this in a trice, Master Brand,” came the housekeeper’s voice from the kitchen.

“There is no hurry, Mistress,” Brand responded politely. Idly, his hand moved from the armor to a pile of gambesons that lay beside it. A small housewife of sewing supplies was open beside the pile, and a threaded needle was stuck into the sleeve of the topmost quilted garment, awaiting Andrahar’s return. Fingers brushing the breast of the arming coat, he felt a stiffness on what would have been the left side of the wearer’s chest. Curious, he pressed more purposefully and confirmed that there was indeed some sort of reinforcement there. He had not thought that gambesons contained such things, and always eager to learn more about armament, opened the garment to look inside. There he found a pocket holding what looked like a piece of leather.

How odd, he mused. ‘Tis not metal…Any blow strong enough to pierce chain mail would not be stopped by this! Is it meant to protect from a heart-shot? His puzzlement increased when he pulled the leather from out of its sleeve and discovered that it wasn’t one thick piece of hide, but rather a slender wallet. Opening the wallet, Brand discovered that it contained a piece of folded parchment that looked like a letter.

There he paused for a moment, well aware that he was trespassing. But he also thought that he might know what this was. Andrahar had spoken to him now and again about some of the customs among his rather polyglot people. There were sects among the Haradrim who used spoken prayers as greetings and others who actually wore them written down, in little cases on the breast or wrist or within the folds of a turban. This was probably something of the sort, most likely a prayer for protection from wounds or the like. And Brand was curious to know if the Haradric he’d been suffering such pains over for the last two years was up to this challenge.

Surely there’s no harm in a quick look? he told himself. With a quick glance towards the kitchen to make sure Mistress Alfirin could not see, he unfolded the parchment.

And found no prayer, indeed no Haradric at all. Merely a letter in Westron, in a bold, masculine hand, that brought the foundations of his world crashing down around him.

Beloved-

If you are reading this, then you know that things did not go well for me upon my journey to the north. And while I regret having caused you sorrow, I will admit to you that I am selfish enough to be glad that I went first. The days since our parting have worn hard upon me-to have to grieve for you in this way for the rest of my life is indeed a dismaying prospect. To be dead and done with things certainly simplifies matters in that regard. It also leaves the harder part to you-but then, you were always the stronger of the two of us.

You were right to chastise me for refusing to wed-certainly it might have made the discovery of our love more difficult, or perhaps less important, had I made an heir or two. It is even possible that under those circumstances, Father might have left us in peace. But it seemed dishonest and unfair to whatever poor woman I might have settled upon, and unfair to you as well. For I could not have wed without trying to give the lady some crumb of affection, and that would have felt wrong when you were being faithful to me alone. If nothing else my death has spared us, and that other, unknown third, the travesty that a marriage to me would have been.

My constancy, despite your disapproval of it, was the only gift I could ever give you, and it comforted me that you could at least have that when I could not declare my love more openly. Perhaps it was a foolish conceit, but I hope that you will understand and forgive my actions, which probably did hasten my father’s discovery of our love.

Andra, I know that I do not have to tell you to look after Uncle, but I will ask it of you anyway, and hope that he will be able to comfort you as well. And I would have you do what you can to protect Faramir, if you will-with my passing, Father’s eye and ire will undoubtedly fall upon him more often. Perhaps you and Uncle together can find a way to shield him from some of that.

Though I know that you believe we will not ever meet again, I refuse to believe that the One would be so cruel as to part us forever. So, wherever I am, know that I wait in hope that someday you will join me once more and that we may love openly at last.

You were the greatest joy of my life, Andra. May the Valar grant you peace.

Boromir


Blood pounding in his ears, Brand read the words, once, twice, then thrice before, hands shaking, he carefully re-folded the letter, replaced it in the wallet, put it back in its canvas sleeve and closed the gambeson. This was the secret that ran like a riptide, silent and deep, beneath his stay at Dol Amroth!

My father was NOT the Captain’s “dearest friend” at all! He was his LOVER!

“Master Brandmir? I have your lunch ready,” came Mistress Alfirin’s voice, as if from a great distance. Brand looked up to find her actually on the other side of the table, a sack in her hand, looking concerned. He had not heard her approach.

“Are you certain you should be gadding about on the beach? You look a bit peaked, lad, and that’s the truth! Did you get too much sun this morning? T’would be a shame to be sickening on your birthday, with your big dinner tonight and all! Why don’t you have a quiet bit of a nap instead? You’ll feel the better for it, I’m sure-you’re very pale.”

Brand shook his head and accepted the sack with a hand that was still trembling the tiniest bit. The housekeeper saw this and frowned. He hastened to reassure her.

“No, mistress, truly-I am well enough. But thank you for your concern.”

Mistress Alfirin narrowed her eyes. “I wonder about that. I’ve half a mind to fetch the Captain.”

“The Captain is in the audience chamber with the Prince. I don’t think he would thank you for the interruption.” Not to mention that Andrahar was the last person Brand wanted to see at this moment…

“He would not mind in the least if it kept you from going out when you were unwell, and you know it, lad. Now I’ll have your word-are you honestly feeling all right?”

“Yes, mistress.”

“And where was it you were going fishing?”

“About halfway towards the point, I think.”

“That’s an awful long way to walk if you’re sickening, Master Brandmir.” The housekeeper gave him another searching look, then relented. “Very well then, but if you start feeling poorly, you come back here. I’ve got some good herbal teas my grandmother used to swear by and they’ll set you right in no time. And if that doesn‘t work, we’ll send for that healer, snipey fellow that he is.” Mistress Alfirin came from a long line of midwives and she did a little in that line herself-her dislike of Master Cuilast was a matter of professional rivalry. Brand found himself smiling a little, despite his earlier shock, and that was actually the smartest thing he could have done. Reassured, Mistress Alfirin’s concern turned to brisk dismissal.

“Well if you’re all right, you’d best be gone if you want to have any time at all to fish! And if you catch anything, see that you take it up to the castle-I’m to my daughter’s house tonight and I shan’t be here to cook it.”

“Yes, mistress,” Brand said, and fled while he had the chance.

8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8

He went out the back door to the garden shed, where he kept his fishing pole and other equipment, but once he was there, he found that the desire to fish had left him. His discovery had left him with little desire for company, and he would have to go down to the fish market to get some bait-fish before he could go fishing. He had a new-found desire for solitude that made him disinclined to do such dickering.

A long walk along the beach and a picnic on the dunes was much more in keeping with his current mood, and it would give him plenty of opportunity to mull matters over. He needed to do some hard thinking before evening came and he had to confront Andrahar again.

So he set off down through the town towards the ocean, his mind only half on where he was going, thoughts tumbling over themselves like the waves on the shore.

Two portraits and two halves of a cloven horn. A suit of armor which would be Brand’s one day, but which he would probably never wear, even if he grew to fit it, for it bore the arms of the Captain-General of Gondor. Letters to his uncle and to the Prince, which had been shared with him in their entirety by their recipients, and which were hardly enough, given that they were the closest thing to his father’s voice that he would ever have. As of this morning, a dagger. And as of this afternoon, a secret. Though precious little of his father remained to him, Brand felt that he could have done without the last.

Boromir the Fair, Boromir the Brave, Boromir the lost and lamented Warden of the White Tower, the big, powerful man with the flashing white smile in the portrait in the Steward’s house, had been a man-lover! For part of the time at least-Brand’s existence proved that, unlike his Haradrim lover, Boromir had been capable of sleeping with women as well.

So much was now made clear! Andrahar’s claim upon Brand, the claim that the Prince had upheld, had not been a case of prior possession, or even of friendship, but rather because of his intimate relationship with Brand’s late father.

“Boromir’s kin or not, you are the closest thing to a son I am ever like to have, Brandmir,” Andrahar had told him the night before Brand had met Faramir, and he had also told him that he had made him his heir. While a kinless man of means might understandably make the son of his dearest friend his heir, it made even more sense that a man who could never wed a wife would endow the son of the man who had been his lover.

But Brand also had so many questions! Who started it? How? Why? How long had it gone on? Of only one thing was he certain-the letter he had read was not the sort of thing exchanged between two people who were merely lovers for the sport of it. There were pain and grief and love-aplenty in that letter. It poured off the page, and it hinted at a whole world of possibility beyond the prurient jokes about man-lovers. It suggested that two men could love each other as equals, not as a man and a woman-substitute, and that the strength of that love could equal anything the world thought of as a more acceptable relationship.

There were also hints of trouble: “…to have to grieve for you in this way for the rest of my life is indeed a dismaying prospect…had I made an heir or two…It is even possible that Father might have left us in peace…I hope that you will understand and forgive my actions, which probably did hasten my father’s discovery of our love…”

There had been a dearth of information given Brand about his grandfather, the Steward Denethor. Faramir did not speak of him, nor did the Prince, nor Andrahar. From things he had heard in passing from other people, Denethor had died during the siege of Minas Tirith, and the rumor was that death had been a suicide. Brand could certainly understand why Faramir was too uncomfortable to talk about his father if that were the case, but he was curious about his grandfather. And that curiosity was only strengthened by the contents of his father’s letter.

It looked as though the Steward had done something to Boromir and Andrahar, forbidden them to continue seeing each other, perhaps even punished them in some manner. A phrase from his discussion with Andrahar that morning struck him suddenly as significant- “There is no law against it now…”. Had there been such a law when Andrahar had been seeing his father? Had what they been doing actually been illegal as well as socially unacceptable? If that were the case, then why had the Prince, who was the ultimate arbiter of law within his realm, and as a consequence very much a stickler for adherence to the rules, not punished Andrahar? Why had Imrahil instead aided Andrahar in acquiring custody of him? The Prince’s actions implied acceptance, possibly even approval.

An interview with his great uncle was added to the list of things he needed to do before Brand felt he could come to any conclusion about this matter. And definitely his cousins and his Uncle Faramir as well, since Andrahar had said that they had known about his preferences at the very least, if not his relationship with Boromir. He wondered if the King could shed any light upon the matter, since he had been Boromir’s comrade in arms, then wondered further if he would ever be able to find the courage to ask the man about it. And what about Cuilast? The healer was a very insightful man, and he had obviously been very worried about Andrahar when Brand had first met him. Was that because he had some knowledge of what had actually gone on, or had he really taken Andrahar’s grief to be that for an old and dear friend? Was he one of the “senior officers” Andrahar had mentioned?

“Brandmir, what are you doing here, away from your lessons?”

Brand, startled, jerked himself out of his musing to find that his feet, left to their own devices, had by habit taken him down to the dock and warehouse district, rather than upon the shortcut towards the shore. He’d been spending a lot of time with his friend Gellam down in the warehouses of late, and was near to his father’s establishment. In fact, it was Geliran, Gellam’s father, who had addressed him. A disapproving frown was on his face and Brand hastened to explain.

“I was excused them today, sir-it’s my birthday.”

Geliran’s expression lightened immediately. “Is it then? How old are you now, fourteen?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well! A happy birthday to you, then, and may you have many more!”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I know you would probably like to spend some time with Gellam, but I simply can’t release him early from his tutor, Brand,” the merchant said regretfully. “His sums work is still atrocious, and what sort of merchant will he be without them?”

“I understand, sir. Would you tell him I asked about him, please?”

“Of course. Where are you going today?”

Brand shrugged. “I’m not really sure, but somewhere between here and the point. He’s welcome to join me when he’s finished his lessons.” By then, Brand figured, he would be tired of worrying over the matter of Andrahar and his father and ready for company.

Geliran nodded. “I’ll pass your message along. Where’s your fishing pole?” He was well aware of the mutual love of fishing that had initially drawn the two boys together.

“I decided I just wanted to walk and think for a bit.”

“Ah yes, the deep thoughts of fourteen! So much more profound than those of thirteen,” the merchant declared with a smile. Brand suspected that he was being gently made mock of.

“Thank you for telling Gellam, sir. I appreciate it,” he said with all the dignity he could muster.

Geliran relented. “You’re welcome, Brand. By the by-there’s a young boy been missing since yesterday-one of the fisher-folk lads. The thought is that he might have fallen off one of the wharves and drowned. The current runs down by the point, so if you should come upon a lot of gulls, or something that looks like a body, don’t go too close. Just come back and tell the City Guard.”

Brand nodded. “I will, sir. You don’t think it likely that he would end up so far away if he did drown, do you? I would think he would stay in the bay.”

Geliran shrugged. “The sea’s a tricky thing, Brand. Sometimes things stay in the same place for years, sometimes they travel long distances quite swiftly. I don’t think it all that likely myself, but I thought I should warn you, lest you have a nasty surprise.”

Brand, who had seen the results of a bad shipwreck about six months after his arrival at Dol Amroth, could only appreciate that consideration. The image of the pallid, bloating, bluish bodies had remained with him for months afterwards.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll keep my eyes open.”

“And I’ll tell Gellam where to find you when he’s finished his lessons. Enjoy your birthday, lad!”

“Thank you sir,” Brand said again, and resumed his progress through the warehouse district. It would take somewhat longer to reach the beach this way, but he really didn’t mind. The bustle of commerce amongst the docks and warehouses, very much like his old home in Pelargir, had always intrigued him and it served now to distract him from his current dilemma as well as it ever had. Dodging nimbly past heavily burdened porters and lumbering wagons piled high with goods, he made his way down towards the docks. The tops of the tall masts of the sailing vessels could be seen over the warehouse roofs, and the smells of tar, timber, fish and the sea were heavy in the air.

The sailors of Gondor’s navy and of Dol Amroth’s who passed were in their standard uniforms of sable or blue and not particularly interesting to look at, but the crews of the merchant ships of the different countries that docked here were infinite in their variety of dress and ornamentation. All manner of clothing, from all-enveloping robes to clouts that were the minimal nod to decency could be seen, as well as hair and headdresses of every possible sort. Gold earrings and even nose rings were everywhere, and Brand saw one huge man pass whose bare torso was covered with tattoos of swirling dragons in astonishing rainbow colors.

Traffic intensified around the docks themselves. The screech of gulls, the calls of vendors, the pounding of hammers and the shouted orders all created a cacophony unlike any other Brand knew. He walked along, diverted for a time from his troubles by the sights, glad that he’d strayed this way by chance. His eye was caught by a cunning little creature, a mon-keigh he’d heard they were called. Dressed in a vest and a cap, with bright beady eyes and tiny hands like any man’s, the animal was leaping and cavorting for a delighted audience of the children of the sailors and fisher folk and chandlers.

The mon-keigh’s master was Haradric from the hue of his complexion and his dark eyes. The man looked to be little more than a poor sailor, though he wore a flamboyant scarlet sash that matched his pet‘s garments. But he was a canny showman, who kept up a running patter to complement the mon-keigh’s antics. The creature danced and leapt from one child’s shoulder to another. At one point it even rooted through a tow-headed boy’s hair and produced a penny, which it gave to the child to keep. This astonished Brand, who’d never met a busker who was in the habit of giving money away.

The street performer was bringing his show to a close as Brand approached, having the mon-keigh pass his small cap around. Needless to say, the pickings were poor. “But I must go and perform upon another street,” he explained, over the protests of his audience, “where I might find coin. You children are a delightful audience, but delight of itself does not fill the empty belly.” He slipped a light lead onto his pet and started down a narrow alleyway between two warehouses, allowing it to scamper along beside him. Several of the children followed him, and Brand, after a moment’s thought, followed them in as well. He was a child of a big city himself and something about this was setting his instincts on alert. He loosened his father’s knife in his belt.

The alleyway was narrow, though with the sun almost directly overhead, not as shadowed as it might normally be. Nonetheless, it was not a welcoming passage. The busker moved down it without hesitation, moving ever more deeply into the warren of warehouses. The children, torn between a desire for more entertainment and the scary surroundings in which they found themselves, began to drop back and leave the chase, one by one. Eventually only two were left-the tow-headed boy who’d been given the penny and a smaller, light-haired girl who looked to be his sister. The boy seemed intent upon obtaining another coin, but she was protesting, dragging on his sleeve and sniffling. Brand decided that it was time to intervene.

“Come, lad, why don’t I show you and your sister out of here,” he said reassuringly to the boy, moving up from behind to take him by the shoulder. The busker moved on ahead and turned a corner out of sight.

Seeing this, the boy cursed in a manner far better suited to an adult (and that would have undoubtedly gotten his mouth washed out with something unpleasant had an adult been present) and jerked away, turning to glare at Brand. “You, keep your hands off! I want to see the little man again, and get another penny!”

“This is no place for your sister,” Brand said, sighing inwardly and deliberately taking a step back. He couldn‘t fault the lad for his suspicion of strangers, and his self-absorbed greed was certainly typical of a boy of that age, but it did make things difficult. “If you want to see the mon-keigh again, t’would be better to go through the streets in search of him.”

The boy looked around at his intimidating surroundings for what appeared to be the first time, then back at Brand, who was keeping his distance with his hands open. His sister whimpered.

“Celeg, I want to go home!”

He capitulated with ill grace. “Oh, all right, Eiliriel, we’ll get out of here, but I’m still looking for the little man!”

Brand sighed in relief, for there was a prickling between his shoulders that would not cease. He gestured that they should go on ahead of him and turned to go back out. It was then that the prickling turned into outright alarm, but too late. There was a sound of movement from up above. He looked up to see a dark shape plummeting down upon them and even as he opened his mouth to cry a warning he was hit with a smothering weight of smelly hemp that drove him to the ground. Struggling to free himself from the entangling folds of what appeared to be a fishing-net, Brand saw figures running from around the corner of the warehouse.

“GUARD!” he managed to cry just once, and then they were upon him, Haradric sailors they looked to be, pinioning his limbs through the meshes with brutal efficiency, and reaching through the net to cover his mouth. He managed to get his knife drawn and shoved his arm through the net in an effort to stab his attackers, only to have his wrist seized before he could do any damage and his forearm jabbed with what looked to be a dart of some kind. Brand couldn’t understand why his captors would do such an odd thing, until-

The wave was black, and so tall that it blocked out the sun as it rose, towering higher and higher over the green land. Brand could hear the screams of children, swiftly muffled. He struggled to rise so that he could run, even knowing that he could never outrun such a doom, but could not gain his feet. Black as starless night, with the weight of the whole world it fell upon him.

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