A day later, we were still at Mrs. Pemberly’s, arguing over our next move.
“It makes more sense if we follow this road up to Andover and cut across the plains to Scottsby,” I said, for what had to be the hundredth time. It was the route Henry usually took, and I certainly trusted his sense of direction more than North’s. Yet even with the map smoothed out before them, the two men refused to listen. I was beginning to think I was going to have to knock their heads in and drag them to Provincia myself.
“Wiltfordshire Road runs right from Fairwell to Scottsby, straight as an arrow,” Owain protested.
“But you’ll have to cut around the lakes, and that’ll take you – “
“Going to Andover first would be better,” North cut me off as if I hadn’t spoken at all. “You and I can handle Wiltfordshire, but it wouldn’t be safe for Syd.”
I sucked in a sharp
breath. “Why, because I’m a girl? If that’s the case, we’d better stay off all the main roads. There are hundreds of men heading up to the capital, and they’re on every one of them.”
North shook his head. “You may know the names of the roads and where they lead, but you don’t know the kind of people that travel on them. Owain and I will sort this out. Go sit down and weave.”
“That’s rich coming from the wizard who can’t tell east from west, let alone up from down,” I snapped. “We’ll go to Andover, but when it takes us a week and a half to get there, don’t cry to me about it.”
Owain was the one to break the tense silence that followed. “Going to Andover first, eh? I’ve never taken that route before, but I wouldn’t mind trying something new. Never fear the unknown, Mother Bess always says.”
We both turned to look at the fuming wizard.
“Fine,” North said at last. “If we don’t follow her, who knows what kind of trouble she’ll get herself into.”
I shook my head, rolling the map back up and handing it to the wizard.
“Are you sure it’s a good plan to bring the lass with us?” Owain asked quietly as I sat back down in front of my loom.
“If I had my way, neither of you would have anything to do with this war,” North said.
“But then it would be your choosing instead of ours,” Owain said. “And there’s nothing right about that.”
I worked the blue thread through the warp, watching North, who was leaning against the wall, looking out the window. “I should just go alone,” he said.
I was on my feet a moment before an earsplitting clap of thunder and a sudden downpour drowned out his next words. Mrs. Pemberly shrieked in surprise from downstairs, but the biggest crash of all came when Owain fell off the bed.
“How can you even suggest that?” I said. “What good would that possibly do?”
“As if you could ever understand,” North scoffed.
I looked at him. With dark circles framing his eyes, an agitated curve to his spine, that ugly sneer: Who was this person?
Seeing that my words had done absolutely nothing to pull North from whatever depths he was clinging to, Owain did what came naturally. He smacked North upside the head hard enough to send him sprawling into the window. And when it seemed that North would turn around and return the favor, Owain hit him again, harder.
“What put this madness into that head of yours?” Owain asked. “Going alone, without any help, a mad wizard after you – you’ve lost it, lad.”
As if summoned, the rain began once again, and with it thunder that seemed to make the walls of the building quiver.