The distance between the Altar of Recompense, where the Troll-Lord Kinevel prepared his apocalyptic sorcery, and Tishara’s cozy cottage, where Yuro warmed her bed, was a journey of one hundred days. Dawn stalked the forest on the twenty-fourth morning, and Tishara rested her cheek on her shield, reluctant to rise.

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Groundling’s Mother had been insistent, persuasive. Her talk of destiny and glory, of a reprieve from disgrace, so inflammable to Tishara’s long depression a month ago, had faded. The stinging Will-o-the-Wisp bites and the festering infection on her shield arm from absorbing the Dreadjiant’s mighty club helped dull the sense of pre-ordained purpose. Seventy-six more days through unforgiving, hostile country to face, alone, a foe capable of felling armies. She scoffed and sat up.

It was a day of decision. If she pressed on, Mother’s prophecy might be fulfilled. Tishara could be a Swordmistress once more. Yet if she turned back, her total travel time would be no greater than even the halfway point on Mother’s suicidal quest. Kinevel might destroy the world, but she would have two months of Yuro’s hot kisses to console her, at least.

She stood and started toward home.