Skantiklar for, one would get you ten they were for no good purpose. There were nine gems to be collected. He had failed to snatch the one from Queen Leone in Tsungfaril. I’d been involved in that affair. Just how many had he? Then, the unhealthy thought occurred to me.
I said: “Was the necklace intact?”
“Strange you should ask. There was one jewel missing. Quite a big one, from the account I heard.”
So the scheming sorcerer had at least one ruby gem of the Skantiklar!
By the time we’d eaten and I was ready to leave I found I’d grown a healthy attachment to these two. What their relationship was outside the teacher student one was not my business. They slept in separate rooms.
Wanlicheng, strongly supported by Xinthe, suggested I stay for a time and study the various Paths to Alternative Magic.
Now, I admit it. I was tempted. If it could be done!
But — there were Tsungfaril, Mevancy, Tarankar, Taranik, Leone, not to mention Kuong and Llodi, down south. There were my immediate concerns, even if returning to Vallia and Valka remained always my ultimate objectives.
I expressed my regrets in such a way that they saw I was genuine. They wished me well on my journey.
And there, of course, was the rub. How was I to contrive transport all those dwaburs south? 
One notion occurred to me, an obvious one. I was too scared to use it. Oh, yes, I, Dray Prescot, Lord of Strombor and Krozair of Zy, was far too conscious of the risks involved even to think of chancing going the other way, going home, and waiting for the Star Lords to seize me up and dump me down in the land of Tsungfaril where my labors were required.
Not, as they say in Clishdrin, not on your nellie!
So, then, how?
And, another little item in the account book before I left the subject of the Everoinye and their clever phantom blue Scorpion — could I trust the thing any more? The gerblish onker had dropped me, hadn’t it? Right in it? Well, then!
“You look, Drajak, as though you have lost a zorca and found a calsany.”
I twisted up my lips in some kind of ferocious smile. “If there was a time to use your Alternative Magic, it’s now. Then I could fly through the air down south.”
“One day, one day,” said Wanlicheng, comfortably.
Between me and my destination lay the jungles of Chem. In those dank depths lurked animal monsters and plant monsters like syatras and slaptras. Probably the jungles were swarming with head-hunting cannibals, waiting for me to provide their daily rations.
Well, if I couldn’t reasonably walk there, couldn’t fly there because there were no vollers, was too frightened to get the Star Lords to shift me, I’d have to go by ship.
As an old sailorman who’d been the First Lieutenant of a Seventy-Four, I anticipated no trouble in finding a berth, particularly as I had commanded swifters on the inner sea of Turismond, the Eye of the World, and swordships in the outer oceans, with particular reference to the Hoboling Islands and Pandahem. To coast down the western seaboard of Loh might be a pleasant experience. It might be ghastly. Either way, that was my path.
They accompanied me down to the levee where a number of river craft were tied up. They offered to pay the fare to the coast; but this I refused, and before long I was fixed up as a deckhand aboard a broad-beamed vessel going down loaded with goods for the towns to the west.
At first I thought I was lucky that the stupid Scorpion had dropped me much closer to the west coast of Loh than to the east. A little reflection made me revise that opinion. The west coast country of Tarankar was, we believed, infested with the Shanks. Their superb ships would patrol the sea approaches. H’mm. It would clearly have been safer, if longer, had I gone east about around Loh.
When we parted, Xinthe suddenly leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. “You’ll come back one day.”
The lines were cast off and the vessel nosed out into the brownish waters. I
Sherwood Smith, Dave Trowbridge