the time of Luxor's arrival in Immiel, Rorthron the Wise had heard nothing of the Eye of
the Moon and the discovery of its whereabouts for he was abroad in the Icemark, his first
journey there since the war against the Heartstealer.
His purpose was to visit the
Fey of the north and see how they fared now that the land was no longer oppressed.
The Icemark was indeed a
changed place. The land was no longer gripped by bitter cold and was green and fertile. In
the great forests, the trees towered tall, tinged by autumn gold and between the forests
were lush meadows and babbling streams. In the far blue distance, the mountains of the
dwarves could be seen, their peaks white with snow. And when Rorthron at last approached
the City of Imorthorn, it seemed more fair and beautiful than ever and his heart was glad.
There, he was welcomed most
heartily by the Lord of Imorthorn, who had changed little over the passing years.
Imorthorn told him of the peace that had befallen the Icemark after the Empress's demise,
of how giants and dwarves, men and fey had ceased to war with one another and of how the
ice had melted away from the land, year by year, leaving it green and abundant.
But then, Rorthron learnt
stranger news from the Lord of Imorthorn. Before she was slain, Shareth the Heartstealer
had been with child. To save herself the inconvenience of having to carry it within her
womb for months on end - it would be so wearisome, it would ruin her perfect figure and,
after all, she had a war to direct - Shareth had used her witchcraft to spirit the
troublesome burden within her into the womb of another. She knew, of course, that the
unborn child was a boy, which pleased her greatly. She would love him and nurture him and,
in time, teach him all the witching ways but suffer the agonies and indignities of
childbirth, she most certainly would not.
The surrogate was a young
slave-girl, Cirithel, from lands beyond the Icemark, far to the south. She had only
recently been brought to Kahangrorn and was, reputedly, of noble birth. Still better, the
girl was, as yet, unbedded and Shareth thought it would be most amusing if a virgin were
to give birth to her son.
As battle after battle was lost
and the Moonprince thrust closer and closer north towards Kahangrorn, Shareth thought to
save her unborn son and sent Cirithel by secret ways out through the Forest of Fangrorn,
accompanied by three slave-women to tend her and twelve of the Iceguard for their
protection. The girl Cirithel now with child and the weather bitter, they travelled
slowly. After some weeks, news of the Heartstealer's defeat and death overtook them and
the warriors of the Iceguard fled, in fear of their lives. Still the girl and the three
women trudged further and further south, seeking safety and shelter. At length, Cirithel
now heavy with child, they came to the City of Imorthorn.
The Lord of Imorthorn took the
party into his household. Cirithel told him that they were slaves who had escaped from
Kahangrorn before Shareth's defeat but said nothing of the origin of the child within her
and nor did the other women. Imorthorn was concerned for the girl's health after such an
arduous journey, but the birth was an easy one. A beautiful, healthy boy was born,
blue-eyed and golden-haired and Cirithel named him Anderlane meaning, in the words of her
people, unexpected gift. Cirithel loved and nurtured the boy as she would her own. As the
years passed, the longing for home grew in her and, when the boy was but four years old,
Cirithel and Anderlane set forth from Imorthorn for the girl's homeland. The snows had
vanished, the Frozen Wastes around the Icemark had melted away, there was peace now and
the roads south were open and safe. For two years, Imorthorn heard nothing further of
Cirithel and her boy. Then, at last, a travelling merchant delivered a letter to him from
the girl, saying that they had reached her home safely, that Anderlane was well and strong
and thanking him for all his kindness. The three women who had journeyed with her served
in Imorthorn's household for many years but, one by one, age had taken them. A month ago,
the last of them, on her deathbed, had told Imorthorn the full story of their journey form
Kahangrorn, of Shareth being with child, of the spiriting of the child to Cirithel's womb
and of the flight to safety escorted by the Iceguard. And when he asked her who the father
was, she whispered with her last breath, "Morkin, prince of Midnight!"
Imorthorn, much troubled by
this news, sought out others who had been enslaved in Kahangrorn. He found others who had
been handmaidens to the Heartstealer and each confirmed the tale, some adding that the
Empress had been much amused to have Morkin father the child - then the boy would be
unquestioned and rightful heir not just to the Icemark but to Midnight also. Rorthron,
astonished, asked Imorthorn if he knew the child's whereabouts now.
"I know only this, my
friend," said the Lord of Imorthorn, "Cirithel spoke to me many times of her
homeland. Her people were called the Arakai. She had grown up in the Crimson Castle and
her aging father was Lord of the Crimson Mountains. When I said I had not heard of this
place, she explained that it lay in the Last Northing, in a land called the Blood March.
Still no wiser, I asked where the Blood March lay and she told me that it was five or six
hundred leagues south of the Icemark, on the shores of the Great Ocean."
"I know of the Blood March. It lies on the
southeast borders of Midnight," said Rorthron, "And there, I fear, I must
journey and find this boy. So, Luxor has two grandsons now, Morkin another son and Corleth
a brother! I only pray that he has none of the Heartstealer's witching ways in him."
"Rest your worries,
Rorthron," said Imorthorn, "I'll vouch that there was naught but goodness in the
boy! I am a Lord of the Fey and such things cannot hide themselves from me."
"Yes, I'm sure that you
are right, Imorthorn. None are born evil. They are taught it or tricked into it,"
said Rorthron, smiling, "Nevertheless, I leave on the morrow for the Blood March and
the Crimson Mountains. Though I know not what, I have an uneasy feeling that something
deeper turns upon Anderlane of the Arakai than the finding of kin."