Vanda was very quiet as they walked away from the meeting. Wilom waited for her to speak, but when she remained in brooding silence, he said, “I think they’ll accept the plan.”

“Really?” Vanda asked sullenly.

“I didn’t deserve that.”

Vanda sighed. “Sorry,” she said. “Did you …” she made a finger-wiggling motion near her eyes that Wilom took to mean the Ferryman’s Knowledge.

“Only … well, a little.” Despite his best intentions. “Rytel … she’s desperate enough to say yes. But she doesn’t want to do it immediately, because of Vicdra.”

Vanda pressed her lips together. “Well, she’d better do it sooner rather than later.”

“I’d be a lot happier if they were more worried about making their decision than about fighting amongst themselves,” Wilom said, trying to probe to see if there was anything more to her frustration.

“That, too,” Vanda said.

There was another long silence again. Wilom sighed. “Look, if you don’t want me talking, I won’t talk. But any time you want to tell me what else is bothering you, I promise to listen.”

Vanda gave him a sheepish smile – or perhaps a wince. “Sorry,” she said again. “I’ve just … been thinking recently. About us, and about the Heads, and a bit about the ferryman and the lighthouse keeper.”


Vanda’s words came out in a rush. “And I have been meaning to talk to you about it. There’s just … a lot to talk about, and it’s hard to find the time.”

Wilom nodded. “I understand.” After all, there were a lot of things that he hadn’t really spoken to Vanda about, especially about Cathlin and Marc.

“Do you?” Vanda asked pointedly. “Do you, really?”

Wilom frowned, a little taken aback. “Of course. I mean …  I understand that if you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t want to talk about it. It’s not going to make it any more comfortable for either of us if I try to force you to tell.”

“Even if it involves you?”

“You’d tell me if it was important or urgent, right?”

“Yes? I think? But how do you know?” Vanda spread her hand on the table. “That’s what I mean — you only have my word that I’d do any of this! What if I’m lying? What if I wouldn’t? What if I’ve been lying to you this whole time?”

Wilom didn’t think that very likely, but something was worrying Vanda, so he tried for a comforting response. “I trust you.”

“You’ve known me for all of a few months! I just … dragged you into this.”

Wilom shrugged. “But you’ve also saved my life a few times.  You’ve been forthcoming so far.” He grinned and tried for a joke. “And to be fair, I’ve technically known you for a lot longer than that.”

“Meeting me three times on the River doesn’t count.”

“Where is this going? Are you alright? You know I don’t blame you for anything that’s happened so far. Especially with Peggy.”

“What? No, that’s not what I …” Vanda paused. “That isn’t the point. Alright, well, you trust me. So, do you trust the ferryman?”

Wilom opened his mouth to say that yes, of course he did, but he hesitated. “I … I suppose so. I don’t not trust him.”

Vanda gave him a long look.

“I trust him to tell the truth if I ask it of him. I trust him to always do his job.” He thought about leaving it there, but no — he had to be honest. “And he’s done a lot for me, so I suppose, yes. I trust him.”

“You don’t really,” Vanda said. “At least, not completely. Right?”

Wilom shook his head. “I do. I just think … we want and believe different things. We’re at cross purposes. That’s different to not trusting him.”

“But you know you’re not being told something. You know the lighthouse keeper tipped me off that you’d need some help? That’s how I knew to come looking for you when you were arrested. I didn’t tell you that the other day, either.”

“I … it doesn’t surprise me. Hey – you know … he probably could have given me documents, couldn’t he?”

“I never thought about it. But yes. He could, quite easily.”

“But he didn’t. And then he told you to come and get me.”

“Right. We never really crept away from the ferryman when we ran off that one time, did we?”

Wilom shook his head. “No. He told me so after. Or, at least, he was silent in a very suggestive way.”

“When the lighthouse keeper talked to me after that, he also said a lot of things about you. He kept asking me how I was getting on with you, and whether I was glad that you were still apprenticed when I came past.”

“And you said …?”

“I didn’t understand why he was asking. But then … then he explained a lot about the job, and he told me that he’d let me go all those times because he wanted me to learn a little about the Pathways. But … I don’t think I could be a lighthouse keeper. I like travelling too much, and it …  well, some of the people … they’re even more … I’m just not suited for it. I don’t like it. I won’t do it. I told him as much, and he just shrugged. He just said as long as I never told a mortal about he Pathways or the River, he’d never stop me. I said that was alright, and then we negotiated that he’d teach me the Pathways and help me choose what I did want to do, as long as I did odd jobs for him if he asked.”

Wilom nodded. “You were very scared of that talk, as I recall.”

“I thought … I thought he was going to punish me, or make me cross the River.”

“Well, to be fair, that’s also what I thought he was going to do.”

Vanda paused. “You know, I get the feeling that the ferryman and the lighthouse keeper were friends before they took their jobs. Don’t you?”

“That’s …”

“Suspicious, is what it is. And now the ferryman has been keeping things from you, and it seems like they just … keep trying to get us to meet up.”

“Logical, is what I was going to say. But you’re right. They were trying to force us to meet up.”

“I don’t know why yet. I just think that we’re supposed to figure something out together, and I’m not sure what it is.”

This was very familiar territory for Wilom, but he was starting to get very sick of seeing the ferryman’s hand in things he’d assumed were his own decision. They walked in silence for a moment longer, and then Vanda said, “I’m sick of playing second fiddle to the Heads, too, you know.”

Wilom grinned. “That sounds like the lead-in to one of your plans.”

“Well, if the ferryman and the lighthouse keeper won’t let us have any control over the River stuff … I suppose I just feel like taking over a people-smuggling ring might be a good second-best.”

Wilom puffed out his cheeks and let out a slow breath through pursed lips. “Well, it’s got your ambition all over it.”

“I know,” Vanda said, with none of her customary flippancy. “I know it’s a tall order. But they just … argue and put things off.”

Wilom nodded. “Maybe if we weren’t working for them, we wouldn’t have to hide that we’re using the Pathways and the Knowledge.”

“Right?” Vanda said. “But … can I confess something?”


“It all comes back to them not being us, in the end. Just like Peggy. We can get into — and out of — places they never could. And we have an advantage with the whole death thing. I just feel … wrong putting anyone else in danger.”

Wilom nodded. “I know,” he said. “I get that.”

“I know it sounds ridiculous. But I just … you and I might actually have a chance to end the war. More of a chance than anyone else, at least. After we’ve got everyone safe … maybe we should start thinking about that.”

“You never set goals by half-measures, do you?”

Vanda turned fully to face him, stopped walking and held out her hand. “Well? Partners?”

Wilom grinned, and shook her hand. “Always.”




2 thoughts on “Suspicions and Theories

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