1. At the sound of his amusement, her head lifted slightly in surprise, but she held her tongue. “Do not fear speaking to me,” he commented. “I have never owned an animal, much less a slave. Let me make myself clear. I do not know what happened to you in the past, although I suspect it was cruel and abusive. But you have nothing to fear from me. I consider all the labor and time I put into making that sword a total loss. So if you are thinking of running away the moment I fall asleep, I will not be surprised. I will not try and chase you down to bring you back if you do. You are free to go. I only advise that you wait until daylight. As I have said before, there are people out there who might try to attack you, especially being a young woman.”
2. Muam stepped forward, anger also clouding his face. “That is not my sword!” he yelled back. “I place my mark on all my blades at the hilt. There is no mark anywhere on that weapon. And I changed out the grip at your request. That is not the grip I gave you.” He motioned to one of the men in the crowd. “Look at it, Shesher. You know my work. You own two of my swords. You know I always place my mark at the hilt. Do you see a mark?”
3. “We have no choice, my beautiful Gova. We both must die over and over, until we have fulfilled our own prophecy. It is our only chance at happiness. Do you understand? This life, this moment, is all we are given this time, but we will meet again. We will.”
4. He lowered his eyes to the horse, his memories flooding back as he recalled them. There had been one time when he’d been unable to kill her. A time when his love for her had stayed his hand at the last moment. He’d mistakenly believed that if he refused to kill her, they would have some time to spend together before their inevitable demises. Perhaps a day. Maybe two days or longer. But the curse would not allow them even that small blessing. When he’d refused to end her life, she’d met her fate at the hands of another. The emotion he’d felt, watching her die, and unable to hold her in his arms to tell her goodbye, had been torture. It was then he swore no one would ever take that from him again.
5. A dog’s massive head appeared over the edge of the storage area. It reached out with a paw as it struggled to get a foothold on the flooring to hoist itself up. Grabbing a sack, Muam wadded it up and ran at the animal. The dog growled and snapped at the sack as Muam pushed against it, knocking the hound off the ladder. The animal landed on the floor below with a cry of pain, but two more animals were already ascending the ladder.
6. Walking up to him, she placed her cheek on his chest and drew her arms around his waist to hug him tightly. Even though the contact was not as intimate as they would have liked, they accepted it. “I am not afraid this time, my beloved husband. Being here, in this place where we found our love, where I came to you and you accepted me, gives me a sense of peace I have not felt in a very long time. It seems right that we should end up back here after so many years.”