During the last weeks of Dan’s training, Llynar began to change. Dan spent most of his time in the barracks or on the enclosed training field, but he and the other recruits were allowed to visit the rest of Llynar briefly, usually one day out of each week. On those days, Dan noticed a difference.
Dan gathered that Llynar had once been a typical kyrie settlement, home to three or four clans of kyrie, whose ancestors had lived in or around the village for centuries. When Llynar had been threatened by orcs, many of those families had left for the safety of Montfre, but now that the war was nearly over, they were returning. This meant that Llynar was usually alive with noise and bustle as homes were rebuilt and children ran through the streets, laughing.
During the last weeks of his training however, Dan noticed that the streets of Llynar were usually clogged with soldiers, as were the unused barracks. And they weren’t all Vydar’s soldiers either. Most were from Jandar and Ullar, with a smattering from Einar. They never stayed long, the companies only pausing the night to eat and rest, and then moving out early the next morning.
Dan and the other recruits gathered what they could about what was going on. It seemed that Utgar was massing what was left of his forces, and Jandar and Ullar were moving all of their armies south to counter the growing threat. Many of the soldiers passing through were excited, knowing that this could be the final battle of the war.
Despite himself, Dan found their excitement contagious. He didn’t care who won the war, but its end could mean only one thing: he would be reunited with Heleer. He could keep his anger at Vydar in check with that prospect in sight.
Not even being assigned guard duty again could dampen Dan’s spirits. As night fell, he scanned the hills surrounding Llynar eagerly, knowing that he would soon be cresting them on his way back to Montfre, and Heleer. When he could no longer make out the trees on the hills, Dan turned his attention instead to the stars overhead, now the brightest thing in the blackness of the night.
Dan turned. It was Maren. He nodded in reply, but quickly looked back at the stars. He didn’t want to look down at Llynar or at the wall he was on. He squinted at the tiny pinpricks of light above him. Heleer was out there somewhere, on some far distant planet.
Dan wondered if any of the stars he saw were actually planets. One looked suspiciously red, like the Mars some of the humans from Earth had mentioned. Was Heleer there?
“Do you think that’s a planet, Maren?” Dan asked, pointing to it. There was no reply. “Maren?” Dan looked down.
Maren wasn’t looking at the sky, but was rather looking down at Llynar, spread out from the high wall like a highly detailed map. He looked entirely absorbed in something.
“What are you looking at?” Dan asked. He saw nothing out of the ordinary.
“What?” Maren seemed to have only just heard Dan. “Sorry. What were you saying?”
“I was – What were you looking at?” Dan asked.
“Nothing,” Maren said. “Just thinking.”
But something was different. Dan could hear it Maren’s voice. It wasn’t filled with longing like it had been the last time they had spoken. His words weren’t etched with bitter disappointment. Instead, he sounded excited. Dan supposed that made sense. “Excited for the end of the war?” he guessed.
“I suppose,” Marren said absently, looking again at Llynar, his eyes darting from house to house. “It will be good for Valhalla. I won’t return to Joren right away though. I want to stay here for awhile.”
“What?” Dan said before he could stop himself. “I thought you hated it here!”
Maren nodded. “I did,” he said. He turned a grinning countenance to Dan. “Remember how I said I needed to repair the damage I had caused, and convince those I had spoken to that I had been wrong?”
Dan nodded slowly. “You said you didn’t understand why Vydar had put you here, where you were no use to him.”
Maren shook his head, the grin still in place. “I can be of use to him here. That’s why he made me join the war, Dan. It never occured to me that Vydar’s army held so many who had heard my words. His ranks are full of those who are eager to leave or betray him.”
Unsure what to say, Dan remained silent.
“Even here, in Llynar,” Maren said, “there are many who distrust Vydar. I can convince them. I know I can.” He turned to Llynar again, his excited countenance scanning each street, as if hoping willing victims of his words would appear out of the trodden dirt.
Slowly, Dan’s excitement began to slip away. He wouldn’t have called Maren a friend, but they had shared a dislike of the war Vydar had thrust them into. Now that was gone.
“It was Carr,” Marren said, still watching Llynar. “He must have sensed what I was thinking. Or maybe Vydar told him. That must be it! Carr came to me and told me that maybe Vydar drafted me so that I could continue repairing what I had done, not to stop it. He told me there were plenty within Vydar’s army, even here in Llynar, who dislike him, and some who even want to see him lose this war. It’s obvious. How could I have thought I could fix the damage I had caused only from Joren?”
Dan looked away from Maren, back at the endless sky above him. Somehow, he felt more alone than when he had first arrived at Llynar.