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Chapter 1

“Civilization ekes its way slowly in,” said the Baron de Boynton, Royal Governor of New Acton. His companion, Major Pembroke—The Honorable Henry Pembroke, and therefore the only one deemed worthy to greet the baron and fetch him back from his travels—looked at him from under bored eyelids.

“Does it?”

“Perhaps oozes is a better word.” The baron smiled and reined his horse toward the little inn at the side of the road. “I understand they put on a good cut of beef here.”

“We’re not even an hour from Twin Rivers,” said Henry, drawing his mount to a stop, but not following. The two soldiers accompanying them came to a halt as well. The baron’s servant, a silent old man with the air of a whipped dog, followed his master closely.

“They will have dined in Twin Rivers,” said Boynton. “Whatever we get to eat will be old and cold. Come, Pembroke, have a treat! They may be behind the times here in the interior, but they still know how to put on a good hot cut of beef, and a good hot pudding.”

“Yes, hot, I think, is a good description,” said Henry, thinking more about the political atmosphere than the warmth of the dish or the dreadful local spices. He dismounted and joined the baron. “Sir, how long have you been away from the interior?”

“A year. Give or take.”

“Things have changed some....”

“And how long have you been here, Major?”

“Three months, sir.”

“I’ve been governor of this district for more than twelve years. The place changes because it grows. You’ll get used to the ripples after a bit.”

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