“I think so, yes,” Dahlaine replied.

“After Narasan and his army reached Aracia’s temple down there and discovered that ‘Temple City’ was completely indefensible, they tried to persuade our sister that they should determine the invasion route the bug-people would most likely follow and then block it off with their standard fortifications. Holy Bersla violently objected and announced that the temple was the only place in our sister’s Domain that needed protection. As far as he was concerned, the rest of Aracia’s Domain wasn’t at all significant.”

“Is he really that stupid?” Dahlaine asked with a certain astonishment.

“Not anymore, he isn’t,” Zelana replied with a broad grin. “Andar gave him a rather extended lecture on the process of starving to death after Bersla said that he’d always have plenty to eat. He pointed out the fact that if the creatures of the Wasteland managed to occupy the farmland in Aracia’s Domain, they’d eat everything and leave nothing at all for Aracia’s priests. He even managed to raise the possibility of cannibalism. By the time he was done, ‘Holy Bersla’ was in a state of near-panic. Aracia was still ‘forbidding’ Lillabeth to tell us about her Dream, though, but Eleria jerked the ground out from under her.”

“Could you give us the gist of Lillabeth’s Dream?” Dahlaine asked.

“I can do better than that, big brother,” Zelana said with a broad smile. Then she looked at the children who’d been standing nearby. “Why don’t you tell him Lillabeth’s Dream?” she suggested to them.

“I have dreamed,” the children recited, speaking in unison, “and in my Dream the creatures of the Wasteland moved up through a deep valley lined with crystal toward the lands of the far North. Greatly troubled were the people of the North, for there were many signs that some of their friends were no longer loyal to the Elder God who holds dominion in the North. And there was a plague that was not a plague, and many, many in the North died. And for the first time, the servants of the Vlagh bore with them weapons which were not parts of their bodies. But in time, the creatures of the Wasteland that serve the Vlagh were consumed by a fire unlike any fire we have ever seen, and thus was the Dream ended, for victory was once more ours.”

“Any questions, big brother?” Zelana asked with a sly little smile, “or would you prefer to go into an extended oration about assorted impossibilities? What it all boils down to, Dahlaine, is the fact that the Dreamers will do exactly what they’re supposed to do, regardless of how hard any one of us—or all of us put together—might try to stop them.” Then she gave him a broad smile. “Isn’t that neat?” she said with almost childish enthusiasm.

They gathered in the central chamber of Dahlaine’s cave to consider Lillabeth’s Dream. Now that all doubts had been pushed aside, Omago was certain that they’d be able to find solutions, even as they had during the war near the Falls of Vash.

“I was fairly sure that Crystal Gorge would be the route the creatures of the Wasteland would follow when they decided to pay me a call,” Dahlaine said. “There are a few other passes that come up here from the Wasteland, but they’re crooked, and narrow, and very steep. Crystal Gorge isn’t really very wide, but it’s wider than any of the others. If the servants of the Vlagh decide to follow their usual practice of charging in masses, they’ll almost have to come up here through that gorge. I think that one of Narasan’s forts might be the best solution to the problem. We have archers and spearmen who’ll be able to defend that fort, and we’ll have the Malavi horsemen who’ll be able to deal with any invaders who try to sneak around behind us.”

“I think we might just be coming up on ‘lumpy map’ time,” Longbow suggested. “You know exactly what the ground looks like, Dahlaine, so maybe you should share it with the rest of us.”

“Does he always do that, Zelana?” Dahlaine asked his sister in a grouchy tone of voice.

“Almost always, yes. Longbow’s an extremely practical man, and he won’t put up with impracticality. Keep the peace in the family, big brother. Make a lumpy map. Then we’ll all be able to look at it and point out all the mistakes you’ve made.”

“Somehow I knew you’d say something like that, Zelana,” Dahlaine replied sourly.

“Then I haven’t disappointed you, have I? Make a map, Dahlaine. Show us how beautiful your land is, and then we’ll tell you what’s wrong with it.”

“Don’t let all those clever remarks disturb you, Dear Heart,” Ara said quietly to Omago. “In a peculiar sort of way this is how they express their love for each other. It’s a game they’ve been playing for a long, long time. They might grow up someday, but I wouldn’t count on it, if I were you.”

Dahlaine conjured up his “lumpy map” in a large chamber some distance away from the one where he and Ashad spent most of their time, and he borrowed Veltan’s idea and put a balcony around the chamber wall to give the people who were there to help defend his Domain a clearer view of the map. The map was much larger than the one in Veltan’s house, and right at first Omago thought that Veltan’s older brother might have been exaggerating just a bit in the somewhat childish hope that “bigger” might seem more impressive. The more Omago looked at the map, however, the more certain he became that it was fairly close to being an exact representation of Dahlaine’s part of the Land of Dhrall.

“That’s Crystal Gorge right there,” Dahlaine told them, pointing at the representation of the place that had been very significant in Lillabeth’s Dream.

“It looks to me like that might be a good place for one of Narasan’s forts,” Sorgan Hook-Beak suggested. “The one called Gunda is the expert on forts,” he added. “As soon as he gets here with Veltan and the horse-people, we’ll let him decide where we should build it, and then I’ll take my men down there, and we’ll construct a base so that when Narasan arrives, he’ll be able to put his men to work on the fort itself.” Then he looked at Dahlaine. “Can you give us any kind of guess about when the snake-men are likely to show up in that gorge?”

“I think we’ll have enough time, Sorgan,” Dahlaine replied. “It’s a goodly distance from Veltan’s Domain up here to mine, and the Vlagh’s going to have to replace all the servants that were drowned when that river changed direction.”


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