The Treasure

By: Iris Johansen


"IT'S NOT AS LARGE as I remembered it." Selene rested her arms on the ship's rail, her gaze fixed eagerly on the castle on the hill. "Isn't that strange? In my thoughts Montdhu loomed gigantic."

"It's large enough." Kadar's arm slipped around her waist. "Or is it? Do you wish a castle of your own?"

"And leave Ware and Thea? Why would I want to do that? And what of the babe? It will need company. Children should not grow up alone. Thea's Niall will make a fine companion and kinsman."

"Heaven help him." He paused. "I wasn't suggesting taking you far away. I just thought a little distance might be a wise course."

"Because of the potion?" A little of her eagerness left her. "You believe it may be dangerous for us to not show signs of age?"

"I believe it's something with which we'll have to contend," he said gently. "We both know that it will come sometime."

"I've been thinking." She didn't look at him. "Who is to say Tarik and Layla are right? Why shouldn't we give more than five vials?"

He shook his head. "There would soon be none left if you give it to the whole glen. I realize how you feel. I feel the same. But Eshe is a responsibility. There have to be limits."

She had known that would be his response, but she still could not consider the limitations of Eshe calmly. It wasn't right. There should be something they could do. "Because of the rarity of the herb that grows along the Nile. Well, surely that herb grows somewhere else. The world is wide. Perhaps wider than we know. We could find it. We must find it."

He threw back his head and laughed. "Good God, I should have known that you'd not meekly accept Tarik and Layla's strictures. Tell me, should we turn the ship around and sail out of the harbor in search of this elusive herb?"

"Don't be ridiculous. We can wait awhile. We've just come home."

Home. A rush of emotion overwhelmed her as she gazed mistily at the distant castle. Soon she would see Thea and Ware. "So solid. So peaceful," she whispered. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Very." Kadar's arm tightened around her. "Home usually is beautiful. I'm glad you're going to allow us to enjoy it for a time."

"You know I'm right about searching for--Oh, look, the gate's opening. They must have caught sight of the ship."

"I'd wager Ware's lookout spotted us some minutes ago."

"Then why--Dear heaven, they're going to attack!" Selene watched in astonishment as soldiers thundered through the gates, with Ware at their head.

"Why are you surprised?" He chuckled. "It's to be expected. This ship is unknown to them, and Ware is a cautious man."

"It's not funny. I did not expect any such thing. We've not come all this way home to be sunk in the harbor by the people we love."

"Then we must make sure they know who we are." He was still laughing as he stepped closer to the rail and waved his arm back and forth, repeating her words, "So solid. So peaceful."

He was right. Montdhu was no more peaceful than any other place, and Selene was not certain she would have it any other way.

Havens were all very well, but they could become boring. When she had made her choice about Eshe, she had rejected her right to hide away from life. She had to go to meet it.

But there was a difference between hiding and putting down roots. She wanted those roots, and by God, she'd find a way to strike a balance and hold what she wanted.

"You're doing this all wrong, Kadar. You look like you're trying to catch a seagull," she said. "You'll have an arrow in your chest before you get his attention. Let me do it." She stepped forward, and her voice rang over the water to her brother-in-law, who had just reined in at the shore. "Ware, you idiot, don't you dare attack us. Are you blind? It's Kadar and Selene. We've come home."

Chapter 1.

AUGUST 4, 1196


"SHE'S BEING VERY FOOLISH." Thea frowned as she watched Selene across the great hall. "I don't like this, Ware."

"Neither does Kadar," Ware said cheerfully as he took a sip of his wine. "I'm rather enjoying it. It's interesting to see our cool Kadar disconcerted."

"Will it also be interesting if Kadar decides to slaughter that poor man at whom she's smiling?" Thea asked tartly. "Or Lord Kenneth, who she partnered in the last country dance?"

"Yes." He smiled teasingly at her. "It's been far too peaceful here for the last few years. I could use a little diversion."

"Blood and war are not diversions except to warriors like you." Her frown deepened. "And I thought you very happy here at Montdhu. You did not complain."