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In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

by Barbara E. Walton
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Page 2

“Milek Vayadin,” he said. “I really didn’t mean to trip you earlier. I just wanted to meet you.”

“Don’t tell me. You’ve heard of my father.”

“Everyone’s heard of your father.” Milek pulled himself up onto a barrel beside Alitza’s. “He did steal half the Unosan treasury.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“But he was also the only one who ever came back from the Quest with a Gorgon’s head, instead of just the signet rings we’re meant to get. And that was his first time out. Did he ever tell you how he did it?”

“Oh, yeah. We chat all the time, Papa and I. Hopes, dreams, life sentences at the Watch… you name it.” She shrugged. “If you’re looking for some kind of sure-shot at one of the apprenticeships—”

“I already have one,” Milek said. “No one else wanted to apprentice to Bero.”

“The Truthfinder?” Alitza asked, thinking of the long, smelly dungeons beneath the Sheriffs’ Hall, where the old man muttered crazily about trace magic and visions. While all Sheriffs could perform simple spells, the Truthfinders knew all of the old magic. They were a relic of a lost time. Of course no one was interested.

“I like that sort of thing,” Milek said. “And I can do a lot of the spells already. Bero said I could apprentice to him, but I have to go through this rigmarole just like everyone else, even though I’m not trying for a Sheriff spot. Well, not a real one. Tradition.” He wrinkled his nose. “So, since I’m not racing anyone for an apprenticeship, I thought I’d try to get a Gorgon. Start off with a bang.”

“And get them all to admire you, so you can become Poziman and filch the other half of the treasury?”

“I don’t want to be Poziman,” Milek said. “I just thought it would be good if they all knew I could have gotten a Sheriff apprenticeship, if I tried.” He shrugged. “Besides, Bero says the venom from the snakes on their heads is really good for rendering out curses from dead bodies.”

Alitza wasn’t sure how to respond to this, so she just turned away. She could see the others now, gathering around the part of the deck where Maren would stand to give the rules in a few moments. They were shooting nasty looks at her. She looked at Milek. “You’re not doing yourself any favors with them by talking to me.”

“Some of them are eighteen and haven’t managed to get an apprenticeship yet. I doubt they’ll be much of a problem.”

“How old are you anyway?”

“Twelve.”

“You talk like you’re eighty.”

“I do?”

“Yeah.”

He shrugged again. “I’ve been on the ships,” he said. “No one to talk to but my father’s Windscryer. He’s not eighty, but he’s old enough.”

Alitza might have questioned him more on this. She’d watched the ship-folk from a lot of different windows over the years, and the thought of sailing out over the lake was fascinating to her, but Maren chose that moment to signal everyone to gather. She slid down off the barrel, Milek coming along beside her, and took a place at the back of the crowd.

“Good morning!” Maren called out across the deck. There were a few half-hearted returns of the greeting. Maren went on. “It’s the time of the Quest again, and this year, Sheriff apprenticeships are thin, as you know. It is our tradition to accept apprentices by testing their native skills. When you stepped onto this ship, your past ceased to matter. Your family connections mean nothing. Do you understand?”


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About the Author

Barbara E. Walton

Barbara E. Walton is a writer and librarian living in New Mexico. Her Amazon page is here.

Story Discussion

Stories by Barbara E. Walton

In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

Alitza scrambled backward until she hit a barrel then pulled herself up on it, trying to keep her feet on the wet and thrashing deck. The serpent caught her movement and turned its head toward her, baring its teeth. Its neck was narrow and writhing, its claws lashing at the ship.

“Alitza!” someone yelled. She couldn’t have responded if she’d wanted to, and didn’t try…

Will Alitza survive? Will she earn one of the coveted Apprenticeships? Find out in this new original fantasy story by Barbara E. Walton, author of Quantum Leap: Odyssey.

Read More

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