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Beyond The Mask
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  Beyond The Mask

“We should not go near the land until we pass the mountain’s bay,” I said to the captain. “Let them think we are passing, or provisioning at most. There is a large stream flowing from the forest beyond the bay where we can get to shore. They expect ships to land there.”

“I thought we wanted them to capture us,” Bran frowned.

I turned to Thief. “What do you think? The bay or the stream trees?”

He thought for a moment. “Stream trees. We do not want them to attack the ship. And it is better for only a few of us to go to Tia.”

“Yes,” Pippa agreed.

The captain grunted. “I cannot take the ship up a stream.”

I nodded. “We do not mean you to. We will need your small boat to row in to the land. I only ask that you wait at the stream trees for one day. If we do not return by then . . . you and your men will have fewer mouths to feed on the way home.”

His bushy eyes narrowed. “And we will have to face an army waiting to take not only our food but our lives as well. Do not mock me, little soldier. I did not come here to leave with my hands empty. An army returns with us or there is no reason to return. Father Bergoin is not one to risk lives lightly. Do your task, and I will do mine.” He swung around and bellowed for the small boat to be brought to the ship’s side. “Helmets and capes,” I said to Thief. “I want the guards in the woods to see us as Spears first. They will have to think before striking.” I took Pippa’s shoulder and leaned close to her. “Now is the time for praying.”

The captain blocked me as I made my way to the ship’s side. “I have a wife. A son.” He lowered his voice. “Do not come back without the help we need to keep them alive, little warrior. You have one day. You and your dreamer. And may God give you everything you need to succeed.”

“We will be back, Captain,” Pippa answered. She stepped around me and laid a hand on his arm. “With an army.”

They held each other’s stare for a moment before he pulled away to issue another order.

“His fear is great,” Father said as the small boat was lowered. “And he speaks for others too, not just himself.”

It was true. The sailors no longer hurried about the decks. Instead, they stared silently, each watching as one by one we disappeared over the side of their boat. Our task, I realized, held their future. I could still feel the captain’s stare as Thief and Father began to heave on the oars of our small boat. As the beat of their rowing rose and fell with the waves, I found myself twisting to look back at the ship, at the figures pressed against the railings.

“How long would it take a troop to get from the village to the stream trees?” I asked Thief.

“Not long. But we should reach the beach before any large patrol arrives.”

As we approached the sand my heart began to race. Would the Spears hold their arrows? It had not been a part of my training to give myself up. There was, I discovered, just as much risk in surrender as there was in escape. When the bow of our boat struck the beach it took all my strength not to draw my sword.

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Excerpted from Beyond The Mask by David Ward. Copyright © 2006 by David Ward. Excerpted by permission of Scholastic Books. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Canadian Edition
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