The Unspeller and the Book of Days HTML version

Harlan Returns
The moment his brothers stepped into the Havast Inn they were greeted by everyone there. Old
fishermen hailed them from across the room, halting their betting games and their grousing about the
weather. Some of the salt merchants raised a friendly glass. A few people looked over at Aesa, but their
glances did not linger and their greetings to him were more muted.
Two travel-worn strangers huddled in a corner away from the residents of Turnstone, their heads
down and talking to each other in low voices. Seekers of the book, no doubt, Aesa realized. They were
probably only in Turnstone on their way to somewhere else, or maybe they wanted to see where the battle for
the Book had taken place.
Bethyn, the prettiest girl in Turnstone, flung her arms around Jasper, nearly knocking him over. Her
curly brown hair tumbled around her shoulders as she bounced on her toes.
She included Aesa in her greetings, but her eyes shifted away from him. He flushed, hoping his
brothers didn't notice the uncomfortable moment.
Uncle Roran joined the group and immediately demanded to know how they had distinguished
themselves while apprenticing.
“Loken read every dusty old tome in the library,” Killian offered.
“Impressive, I know…” Loken demurred, laughing a little.
“I'm sure there is more to tell than your list of library deeds,” their uncle said, smiling. “What will
you have tonight, boys?”
“We already had supper, and pie, but you can never have too much of that," Loken answered for
them all, finding a seat.
Uncle Roran slapped Loken's shoulder. “I thought so.” He disappeared into the crowd to go find the
“You're apprenticing next year?” Jasper asked Bethyn, who sat across from him.
“Yes—perhaps you could help me avoid some of the harder teachers,” she answered, her hazel eyes
“He would,” Killian said, “but his hair is so long he can't tell which ones are which.”
“He looks prettier than I do,” she laughed, and reached out to touch his hair.
Jasper grabbed her hand. “So you hate it?”
“If I did would you cut it?”
He didn't answer, holding her gaze and smiling at her.
To Aesa's relief Uncle Roran arrived, interrupting the syrupy banter with a steaming berry pie.
Privately Aesa wondered what had happened to the distraught girl that had delayed Jasper's homecoming.
Apparently Jasper had more than one admirer.
“Ah yes,” Loken exclaimed, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
Aesa took advantage of Loken's hesitation and cut into the deep crust and pulled out a slice for
himself. Putting a generous scoop into his mouth he said to Loken, “You've got to be faster.”
Loken put his fork into Aesa's piece and stole a mouthful. “Is that better?”
“Not bad,” Aesa admitted.
“It's good to see you,” someone said, and Aesa looked up to see an old friend of Loken's who had
finished his apprenticeship last year. The tall Bertram clasped Loken's hand first, who grinned.
“Bertram…how have you been?”
Clasping Killian's hand and then Jasper's, Bertram answered, “Married. I'm working in my father's
shop now, a respectable member of Turnstone.”
“You were always a respectable member of Turnstone,” Loken said, laughing. “You say it like it's
something new.”
“I'm taking it more seriously now…we're expecting our first child in the fall.”