Chapter 2

Their departure is meant to be secret. "Nobody will turn out," he assures Jol. "We'll slip away at zenith. By the time anyone catches on, we'll be aerobraking into Meridian Bay!"

"You're insufferably cocky," Jol says, "and by the time we go, the whole city will know you're up to something."

"They will not."

When they set out for their ship, they find the promenades and galleries aswarm with cheering throngs of Uldren's fans and followers. He waves and waves, turning, grinning, in a better mood than he will maybe ever be again. And if one dark mote burns within him, it is the fear and certainty that these people love him only because he is closest to their Queen. Do they ever ask themselves why he's constantly breaking her rules? Why he always ventures so far from her?

He wants his sister's approval. He knows and accepts that. But he wants her approval for something she did not anticipate, did not plan or foresee, and did not account for: he wants her to thank him with surprise.

If you hurl yourself away from someone to test the length of your chain, you cannot know the chain's length until it draws you short. Does that make sense? Uldren thinks so. Uldren is afraid so. Either he is truly free of his sister—free to choose to stand at her side, to choose of his own free will—or the chain is longer than he has managed to run.