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There he sat on a low wall as darkness fell and the night-blossoms opened in a symphony of cool fragrance. It was beautiful here. Silver stars grew brighter as the sky became black. So peaceful, so far from the sourness that had ruined his life today. A green light burst into being, tiny but clear, and drifted down toward a distant range of hills. As it neared the ground - or appeared to - it shot off horizontally before finally coming to land. This was like nothing he had ever seen or smelled.

Should he waken Father? He opened his mouth, but then an acid question rose inside: who was Father to spread the knowledge of what anyone, especially his son, had seen? The thought accompanied him all the way down to the basement level of the hotel, where the kitchen and pantry were located. No one was around to smell him open a discreet cupboard, filch a thick sack, and fill it with vegetables. This was a time to be practical, ignoring niceties. A nauseating thought: if things got bad, he would have to survive on vegetation in the wild.

Beyond the square, they took a shadowed alleyway. From last year’s visit, he remembered that this was a shortcut to the Forum. He hurried, matching Father’s quickening pace. From a doorway he caught a faint scent, stale and embarrassing: one of the house daughters had illicitly entertained a young warrior here, perhaps one of the City Guard. Father strode on, perhaps not noticing. ~Dad? Are you . . scared? The answering scent was strong and reassuring. ~Everything will be fine. With my son here, how could it not be?

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