I got through the dinner and the dancing afterward and was startled by how strong Kyriala’s grip was when the minuet called for us to take hands. I looked at her and felt myself blushing and feeling better because I thought her smile was encouraging. Heartening even. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray,” she said softly as if complementing me on my dancing. “I’m glad you’re all right.”
The music took us apart then and we had to turn and bow and turn again in place. It was harder to do with no other couples on the floor to fill out the pattern. She’s glad? She knows? Of course she knows. Anyone in the building knows what 2nd Amitzas taught me today. “Thank you, Mirror. I...” what can I say to a young lady without shocking or frightening her in the middle of a dance? “I will keep on fighting.”
She smiled at that. We had to turn away and then turn back again, touch forearms, which brought us very close. “I’m praying for you.” And all I could think for a second was When did I get taller than her? “Th..Thank you, Mirror, I don’t deserve it.”
“Nonsense, of course you do!” She said and we paused, forearms touching.
Risa Mahid, the Mirror’s current chaperon, standing beside the harper coughed sharply. The two of us had stayed too close for the required form. “Drat her!” Kyriala said under her breath.
I found myself staring. Had she really said ‘drat her?’ She really wanted to talk to me? After this? After 2nd Amitzas’s lessons? What is she really thinking? I bowed to her properly at the finish of the dance and turned to the Mahid woman. “I desire to ask the Mirror of Divine Radiance for a short stroll around the remnants of the gardens. Is this proper?”
“It is certainly correct to ask, Spark of the Sun’s Ray. But not alone, of course.”
“Certainly not! Mirror of the Divine Radiance, would you care to walk with me?” I offered my elbow as precisely as I could. She has a dimple beside her mouth when she smiles.
“I would, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” Her gloves and sleeves were all of a piece so she could not take them off at all I noticed, not like the men’s or Binshala or Kaita. I supposed that was a sign that she did not need to work. I could feel the warmth of her fingers through all the layers of cloth and suddenly found myself blushing because I remembered some of the lines from the ‘knuckle-suckers’ I’d read.
We walked down the hallway, Gannara following as he was supposed to and on the side out of sight of the Mahid he winked at me, smiling a little. He wanted me to talk to her so he’s just letting me know. Yeolis thinking that women are good to talk to. I was suddenly reminded of Ancherao and wondered how she was doing, whether she had survived and fought all the way to the city. I’d liked talking to her. But she’s a Yeoli, not an Arkan. Surely they are different?
“Ahem.” Oh shen, I sound like Ailadas! “Nice weather we’re having.” Of all the dumb things to say!
“The cold this winter was very hard, Spark, so I am glad of this warmth.” She tilted her head slightly and rolled her eyes back toward the chaperon who paced behind, well within earshot.
I nodded a fraction, just so she could see. It was like talking in code. Are we really on the same side? She can think? Oh, of course she can think. Gannara keeps telling me its just because she’s a girl and isn’t supposed to think... “Perhaps the Mirror would care to pace the bounds of the reflecting pool? It would not be too strenuous?”
“Certainly Spark. I find, since things have grown more ‘different’ since we have been travelling that I seem to be very happy with more exertion. I recall the Coronet’s birthday snowball fight for instance, with a great deal of pleasure.”
She liked that? She did get right in there and had... wow... she had some good ideas. But she’s a girl and girls aren’t supposed to have good ideas. Maybe she’s more like Ancherao than I thought. “That was, indeed strenuous.” I remember her hitting 2nd Amitzas in the face with a snowball with a great deal of fondness. And Inensa... she hit him hard too.
“It is a shame that there are no such diversions for the women in more temperate season.” She raised her closed fan and set it on her bottom lip. I found myself watching it, then my eyes flickered up to hers and she smiled again.
“Oh.” I couldn’t think of a single thing for a lady to do and so walked, tongue-tied. She smells like honey. Gannara had been pointing out some things he saw in Binshala and Kaita and Kyriala. He kept telling me they weren’t as dumb as I thought and that they were pretending to be dumber than they were. And now she was trying to help me, let me know she was praying for me.
“Mirror, there look to be dark roses gone wild by the pool, perhaps you would know if they are? I cannot tell when they are not in bloom.”
With her other hand she snapped open her fan, though it was only barely warm in the sun and waved it idly. “I would love to speculate on what flowers they might be.” She’d stepped a hair too close to me and the Mahid woman coughed again. “Perhaps we can discern the species together.”
“I read once that flowers were once used as a language,” I said, hoping it would interest her. Girls and women liked flowers didn’t they? “But the author said it had died out after a brief vogue in Fifteenth Tatthanas’s court.”
“How interesting.” I handed her onto the stone bench where Ailadas usually sat. Gannara stood off to one side, the chaperon a little way down the path we’d just traversed. Is she really interested? “Oh, are these the flowers you were thinking? They are black roses... see you can see the first buds here but it is far to early for them to open. The blue roses here though....” she indicated an intertwined bush.
“Oh, they are Mahid roses then and the blue... Sky roses?”
“Oh no, those are much too dark to be sky roses, even the leaves are dark. A Shadow rose perhaps.” She indicated an overgrown tangle on the other side. “Would the Spark be so gracious as to pick me a few of those? Five or six of the bright yellow and red ones already blooming over there?”
“Certainly, Mirror.” I went over with the tiny bright flowers in my hands and found that she’d gotten Gannara to pick her a few greens and leaves from the black rosebush. I’d found six flowers on one stem so I’d picked that.
“How appropriate,” she said and bound the lot into a little bouquet smaller than a fist. “For you, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
“Mirror of the Divine Radiance,” the chaperon intoned. “It is time to go in.”
I could see her grimace even hidden behind the fan. Her face went still again. She rose and bent her knee to me. “The Spark was most gracious to walk with me.”
“Perhaps we should add this to our post meal evenings? Especially now that the summer is coming?
“I should like that a great deal, Spark.”
“I shall inquire of my guardian, then. Good night.”
I took the bouquet in with me and Ailadas commented on the bright central flowers. “They are -- ahem -- called Fire Sparks commonly. I shall have to see them when the whole bush is in bloom. And ferns! My mother used to grown ferns because she said they meant faith. A lovely bouquet from the –ahem – Mirror.” I looked down at it again. Six Fire Sparks open and a little bud, next to a Red Shadow flower wrapped around with ferns. All encircled by Mahid rose leaves.
“Ailadas... do Red Shadow flowers mean anything?”
“Hmm? Well – ahem – I’m not certain, ahem – but I believe I’ve heard them referred to as the hope and faith flower. Or commonly -- ahem -- called ‘Keep Hope’ flower.”
Could she have meant this? This is too deliberate. And Mahid know nothing of flowers or languages I’m sure. Selestialis. I told Gannara to put them in water and went to my dreaded evening lesson with 2nd Amitzas with a slightly lighter heart. She’s telling me I’m not alone. Seven of us... Me and her, Gannara and Ailadas, herself and Kaita. Ilesias is the baby, the bud. Seven of us, surrounded by Mahid. Having to keep hope. She is a lot smarter than I thought.