They do not stop in another town.
At night they always camp in wild country now, pitching their tents in groves if possible, and set guards at all time.
Till still recites the names of his parents and sister before sleeping—or at least he thinks he does. The fear of forgetting them troubles him no less than before, but his longing for comfort is at least as strong. A voice in his mind that both is and yet somehow is not his own tells him that it is silly to be afraid, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten if it truly matters, and that there is no reason to deny himself the solace he needs.
More and more often, he lies in bed at night staring at the Shard, hoping to glimpse the soothing light in its depths before going to sleep. In the morning he can’t remember if he saw it or not, and the thought haunts him that he fell asleep without thinking of his loved ones, because he can’t remember doing that, either. Then he frantically recites their names over and over in his mind, and he wants to cry and he wishes he could just be rid of the Shard. But he can never bring himself to part with it.
Besides, he is sure that Hargis would know if he threw it away, and be cross with him. He is convinced now that she is connected to the Shard in some way at which he can only guess. Why else would it be that it shone and glittered when she first showed it to him, if not because she willed it to be so? Perhaps even now, when he thinks that the faraway starlight glints once more inside the Shard, it is because she is allowing him to see it; and if that is so, it must mean that she is also aware of him, of his looking into the Shard, and of whatever else he does with it.
What choice does he have then, but to keep it?
His days are spent riding with Lord Osdath alongside Hargis, or sometimes with Ebric, Bodwil, or Frithgar. In the evenings he watches the soldiers spar with their practice weapons, after which he and Osdath have dinner with Hargis in her tent. She’s begun to teach him the language of Hestia, as well as the script used for writing it. The spiky syllables don’t fit comfortably on his tongue, but he enjoys being able to understand more of what people around him are saying when they don’t speak his own language.
Every night when Osdath takes his leave after the meal and Till is left alone with Hargis, he wonders if perhaps she will say something about what she means for him to do once they get to her island. But she never speaks of it, and she still feels no less cold and distant than she appeared to him back at the Sundrance, and he is afraid to ask. He has grown more comfortable with Lord Osdath over the days of their journey together, and sees him almost as a kind of stern uncle; but when Till finally asks him why the Guardian wanted him, Osdath replies only that it is not for him to say, and that the Guardian herself will give him an answer in time.
Sometimes, Till finds himself wishing that they could journey on and on and on without ever reaching their destination. Then he would never have to find out what awaits him at the end.
But young as he is, he knows that life simply isn’t like that.
NEXT: The Gray Forest