"Good morning, Koren. Shall we go out to sit by the stream, my tutor?" It was a merciful time after Ailadas’s drunken speech. I had decided that I could not be so cruel as to make him think through a hang-over.
"Good morning, ahem, Spark of the Sun's Ray. That would be pleasant." He rose and we went outside into the hot sunshine, settling by the charred spot where our evening fire had been.
I paddled my feet in the water, looking out over the meadow and the clumped horses along the fringe of trees. "Binshala's on her feet again." I nodded at the women across the meadow, sitting in the sun just outside the cavern entrance. "I'm hoping she'll be all right to ride... soon."
"I too, my Spark... ahem... has the First Second informed you of any, ahem, possible intended movements in the near future?"
"It's just Minis during Jitz, Ailadas. No. He's not saying much. He hates these days so much he's mostly sulking down in the dark, I think."
"It is said that Jitzmitthra... is to all people what they deserve it to be. Ahem. Minis, then, as I am Ailadas, not Koren, as you first, ahem, addressed me."
"That was just for the Mahid, in case someone heard. They still need me to be an arrogant piglet and I don't want to disabuse them of that notion."
"Then, most properly, ahem, it is not 'Minis during Jitz' but 'Minis in private during Jitz.' Ahem."
"Ah, yeah. But there is so little privacy... I mean I wanted you to address me by name in private before but there's almost no possibility of it." I ripped up some of the grass I was sitting on and hurled the wisps into the water.
"Well, we are in private now, ahem... Minis."
"Great. And we don't need... what was the quote? These elegant lubrications of the Gods? or something like that." I smiled at him.
"Ohhhhh... I cannot even think about elegant lubrications of the Gods right now, my dear Minis. The fresh slice of Hayel behind my eyes has faded, blessedly, but the matter within the skull remains delicate with the memory."
"Well, I'm glad you're feeling better. You know, I would love just ride away from my own Mahid… To grab horses in the middle of the night and ride away as fast as possible... but that would just be stupid and lead to capture and punishment all around."
"Oh, ahem, a"--he coughed harshly--"ahem, indeed it would be unwise. One must plan such a thing, if one were hypothetically considering it."Ailadas drew out his kerchief, as if in anticipation of more coughing. "You asked me for such a hypothetical scheme, not long ago, and I have been cogitating on it. A most important aspect that the schemer must have in mind: the long-term view. Beyond immediate escape, what is the objective? Where will he go? What will he do, to provide sustenance for himself and whoever else might happen to accompany him? And ultimately, what is his destination... or should I say... destiny?"
"It's not just our hypothetical... um... hero but everyone with him. The girls... oh Hayel... I... um... we... um our hero can't just leave, he has to steal some things from the treasury. A blessing box for one. So that a girl not be left without once she is home. And funds..."
"You, ahem, miss my point entirely, ahem, Minis."
"You mean what am I to do with my life after? I was thinking of becoming fessas. I have a little experience with that. And... I'd love to be a scholar. A writer perhaps. Or if I cannot sell my essays... as a copyist? I would apply to almost any library in the world... It would be a good life. But until then... I feel responsible for a number of people's safety. I want to see people get home safe, wherever home is."
“Hmm. Ahem. A scholar... it is a kindly life, in truth.--"
"-- They normally don't get dragged off into the wilderness!" I broke in, grinning.
Ailadas laughed. "No. Normally, we don't. But... these are not normal times. Home... well, hypothetically speaking about this hypothetical group of hypothetical individuals, I imagine home would be where it was before, and where their, ahem, hypothetical loved ones are. Those who hypothetically survive."
I had to laugh. "Hypothetically speaking, yes. Except for the hypothetical Yeoli slave... and the hypothetical hero. I think a short stint on Haiu Menshir would be good, perhaps necessary for the once slave in question. And a place where Mahid would find it very hard to look for our hero."
"The hypothetical Yeoli slave is the one whose prospects are easiest. He need but return home to his parents, or even to Arko, since Arko is now Yeola-e. The hypothetical hero... such a difficult thing, being a hero. Haiu Menshir... well, if they welcome people of every race, I would think now it is people of every race but the hypothetical race of the hero."
"Yes. But it seems that... as unlikely as it might be... the first point of aim for our fleeing group, would be the city itself."
"A--hem! In, ahem, hypothetically, deed. I think the Mahid would, hypothetically, think that the unlikeliest destination. Or... the likeliest... it is hard to be so hypothetical and predict these things. Still... the larger the city, in a very true sense, the easier, hypothetically, it is to hide one or more hypothetical persons."
"Best to be unpredictable. But that is assuming the group manages to make good its escape in the first place. That is the first step, is it not?"
"Ah yes, let us return to that hypothesis, ahem, indeed," he said. "So our hypothetical escape involves the, ahem, acquisition of several items of value... all of them being?" Ailadas shot a nervous glance all around, checking for errant Mahid who might be too near, as if there could be such a thing as an errant Mahid.
"Well, just steal the treasury itself, fourteen horses and the people in question." I was being flippant but that was what was actually needed. "Scatter the rest of the horses to slow pursuit. Not a problem for a hero. Unfortunately heros are in short supply."
"Well... ahem HEM. Of course in such a situation it would be an excellent idea to scatter the horses. But with respect to stealing people; that is only if they are unwilling. Otherwise they may steal themselves, as it were, or even be persuaded to steal some of the hypothetical non-person items of value, in a collective, ahem, and therefore more efficient, ahem, theft, as it were."
"Hmm. The big problem is that in this hypothesis it requires all of the participants to be aware of the plan... and to be able to do everything necessary to escape."
One of the younger Mahid emerged from the cavern mouth, scanned the meadow and once spotting Ailadas and I sitting by the stream, disappeared back inside. "Would 2nd Amitzas really try to make me work on Jitzmitthra?"
"No matter, ahem, Minis... with me, speaking of hypothetic strategic or tactical matters, you are working, if he should wonder. It does indeed hypothetically require the knowledge of all participants. How else can it be?"
"I think our hypothetical fearless leader would be worried about leaving anyone non-Mahid in Mahid hands. And he does not know how to deal with a horse-litter if one of the party cannot ride... or sit pillion."
"I wonder if we must simply give this hypothetical problem up as impossible, at least the way we currently contemplate the circumstances and the requirements."
"Hmm. I suppose. The situation for the bulk of the group is not unbearable is it?"
"They have all hypothetically borne it thus far."
"And thus may continue." I dug a hole in the turf with my heel, waggling my foot back and forth.
"What I would hypothetically suggest to said hypothetical fearless leader is that he further study the matters of horse-litters, items to be removed, the knowledge of all participants and other thorny matters in this, in case he should ponder this hypothetical scenario in the future."
"Sufficient reconnaissance is the key. Our fearless leader must keep that in the forefront of his mind."
"As fearless leaders must always do."
I had to laugh.
"Of course if this group were escaping from... say a meadow such as this... they would be easily tracked to the nearest major road. But after that the Mahid would have more trouble tracking the group."
"The hypothetical Mahid must then go down one way or the other; or split to cover both. But this does not address the start. Some time ago in our conversation I undertook to have you contemplate it in an orderly way, by starting with a list of what must be removed from the hypothetical camp."
"The people will, again, remove themselves."
"Yes. And will be able to help remove other things. For instance... the slave might be best set to gather horse gear. The so-called leader to aim for the treasury."
"Some part of the treasury. Horse gear. Horses. The venerable scholar and the esteemed nurse would certainly, hypothetically be capable of preparing for a wild flight into the wilderness. The baby's nurse seems competent to prepare both herself and the child. The serina... must surely be capable of riding pillion since she already has. Oh... someone should seize supplies for the party to survive on...hmmm."
"It seems the fearless leader has assigned the roles before fully itemizing the list," he said. "I recall mention of a, ahem, hypothetical blessing box?"
"That is being kept... as far as the fearless leader knows... locked with the treasury, or in the keeping of the First Wife."
"As far as the fearless leader knows? Then he must, hypothetically, find out." I started blushing even contemplating asking Kyriala where it was... but... if there were any time I could ask her, it would be during Jitzmitthra. If I wanted to be forgiven. "Perhaps at the same time the fearless leader hypothetically broaches the topic of, em, absconding, with the female associated with said blessing in said box. One can imagine she might raise the topic herself at that time."
"Oh, yes. So she... the female in question... should be um, consulted. Um... soon." Oh I really didn’t want to talk to Kyriala about that. But… she’d be able to find out where the blasted box was, easier than I could.
"That would all depend on the hypothetical timing of the hypothetical, ahem, disappearance."
"Or the fearless leader should take advantage of the days of free speech so that everyone might consider the hypothetical consequences... and add their ideas to the fanciful notion."
"In, ahem"--he swallowed--"deed." He paused but I could tell he had more to say and so waited. "Of course words, once spoken during Jitzmitthra, cannot be unspoken once Jitzmitthra is over, and in that sense, the timing of the hypothetical consultation with respect to the festival does not matter."
"Ah. That's true. And this... what you and I have spoken of, is a tactical fantasy, a strategic problem with no basis in reality."
"No, ahem, basis in reality whatsoever! Perish the thought."