When I surfaced in the muddy shallows, at the feet of a startled waterman, I knew that I had been right to go first to the priests, though I had gone for the wrong reason.
I had gone because I could not conceal their mark much longer, and to reject that mark is the sure sign of a madman. I thought they owed me something for placing it upon me. They thought they owed me something, too, but our views on suitable recompense did not match. I should have expected that.
It would have been easy to trust them, if I had not known the mark had no godly origin. As it was I kept my eyes wide open, and understood quickly that I was more prisoner than guest. They wanted to use me, and the status that I was supposed to have discarded in accepting their cowl. It took me two days to decide that I could not stomach their plans for me, two days more to understand that I could not fight them, and a month to plan my escape.
To be marked is to choose between exile and the priests. I might have chosen exile, and gone with a train of horses and a generous endowment, and found the road hard. Exile had chosen me, and given me, in my muddy hose and borrowed cotte, an easier path. There is no better friend to the exile than a waterman, and there is no better introduction to a waterman than to come to him with the priesthood on your heels, for a waterman distrusts the merchants and fears the riders, but he hates and fears the priesthood to a pitch that the most vehement young rider, with the last oath fresh on his lips, could scarcely match.
I know, I know, I am editing, really, I am … but I had to at least look at the Visdare prompt (and I urge you to go and see what my comrades have made of it), and as soon as I saw the first picture I knew I was looking at Draco Khyran – yes, no mere khyran but a Khyran of Khyre, a man so important that it would be sheer impertinence for me to use his given name – and I’ve been looking for him for a while.