They walked along the narrow forest track until towards dusk they came to the edge of the woods and before them lay the walled port city of Eldonas.  Working their way across fields and pastures they reached the main road, which was more crowded than the magician had ever seen it.  As they entered the St. Mark Gate they passed through a large contingent of armed guards, surly and anxious.  The magician quickly worked his way along side streets and alleys until they came to an inn with candles dimly flickering behind small oiled paper windows.  The magician entered while Aithan stayed in the street with the donkey.  After a while, the magician reappeared.

“We can stay here tonight.  They don’t have a room, but we can sleep in the hall by the fire.  It will do until we can find a ship.  Go stable the animal.”  Aithan began to speak but the magician cut him off.  “Much has happened since we have been on the road.”  The boy nodded.

“And don’t draw attention to yourself,” the magician added, in a quiet but commanding tone.

They ate a simple meal while the magician listened to the conversations in the hall.  Aithan saw his features darken, but the food and the warmth of the fire had dulled the boy’s senses, and he was soon asleep at the table.  When he awoke he was laying by the dying fire, and the hall was empty except for the sounds of others sleeping on the floor.  The magician was sitting next to him, staring into the dwindling flames.  The magician noticed that the boy was awake, and leaned over to him.  “Go back to sleep.  We must find a vessel very early in the morning.”  Then he resumed looking into the fire, and Aithan once more fell asleep, secure in the warmth of the great fireplace stones upon his face.


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