It had been in the back of Dwyn’s mind to ask his father for help. His father was a powerful man – and an important one. He had resources at his disposal that would make finding the enslaved centaurs easier. He asked Artesius to wait for him in the clearing near the manor while he went inside. He did not expect to see Anderson striding down the steps. He did not expect to see his father following, all smiles.

“Dwyn,” the older man greeted. “Anderson, this is my son, Dwyn. Dwyn, Mister Anderson has just sold us some fine livestock.”

“Indeed, father,” Dwyn said. His voice was tight, as was Gwilym’s hand on his shoulder. “I was stopping by to tell you that I would be away for a few days. I’m traveling to the mountains for a bit of research.”

“Very well, take what supplies you need,” his father said. “Meanwhile, Mister Anderson, shall I show you the gardens?”

“That sounds delightful.” The man followed Dwyn’s father toward the back of the manor, where the ornamental gardens were located.

“I think we’ll need some pack animals for our trip,” Dwyn said. He tugged out of his guardian’s grasp and darted toward the front garden. “See to it,” he shouted back, not even pausing to see if the older man was following his directions.

He felt betrayed. He didn’t care if his father thought his reasons were good. Trafficking in the flesh of intelligent beings was wrong – always; no exceptions. He leaned on an ancient oak tree and fought back tears. The rough bark bit into his palms and forehead. The pain almost felt pleasurable – something to distract him from the internal pain he felt.

A gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder and he looked up to find his guardian. “It’s mostly women and children.”

Dwyn nodded. His father would tell him that he bought them to keep them out of the hands of more disreputable people. It made sense, but it wasn’t right. “Let’s go,” he said softly. “Artesius is waiting. Did you tell them where to find Hesperios?”

“They’re already on their way,” Gwilym replied. “Your father – “

Dwyn held up a hand to forestall him. “I know what you’re going to say and I want to believe it. Let’s just go find the others.”