"Let me see it."

"In a minute." He scowled at Silk, who was still laughing. "Will you stop that? Go tell the sailors where we're going."

"Where are we going, father?" Aunt Pol asked him. "Did you find Zedar's trail?"

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"He crossed into Cthol Murgos. Ctuchik was waiting for him."

"And the Orb?"

"Ctuchik's got it now."

"Are we going to be able to cut him off before he gets to Rak Cthol with it?"

"I doubt it. Anyway, we have to go to the Vale first."

"The Vale? Father, you're not making any sense."

"Our Master's summoned us, Pol. He wants us at the Vale, so that's where we're going."

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"What about the Orb?"

"Ctuchik's got it, and I know where to find Ctuchik. He isn't going anyplace. For right now, we're going to the Vale."

"All right, father," she concurred placatingly. "Don't excite yourself." She looked at him closely. "Have you been fighting, father?" she asked dangerously.

"No, I haven't been fighting." He sounded disgusted.

"What happened, then?"

"A tree fell on me."

"What?"

"You heard me."

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Silk exploded into fresh howls of mirth at the old man's grudging confession. From the stern of the ship where Greldik and Barak stood at the tiller, the slow beat of the drum began, and the sailors dug in with their oars. The ship slid through the oily water, moving upstream against the current, with Silk's laughter trailing behind in the ash-laden air.

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