“Ailadas, do you know how to swim?”
He blinked at me and coughed, of course. “Ahem. Ahem.”
“In all seriousness, I need to know.” He fussed with his books a bit and gave me an arch look under his bushy eyebrows. “Ahem. In my… ahem -- misspent youth -- it might be that I learned how to stay mostly on top of the water rather than under it.”
“Good. That means that three of the possible six ‘scouts’ struggling to escape from enemy territory can take advantage of a possible escape route. Most Arkans would not think of this direction, I think.”
“Ahem. Let us then, ahem establish the scenario where our –ahem-- scouts must flee from, Minis. You know, I am not a tactician by any means… ahem… but for ease of set up we shall use the ground we are currently on, as you –ahem—suggested.”
“I would not leave a dog in some people’s hands,” I said, as if philosophically.
“Ahhh—hem!!!” He coughed with rather more emphasis. “I know the kind. I… ah… -- ahem – wonder…”
“Yes?” I waited.
“...if all of the, em, scouts... are best apprised of, --ahem-- considerations.”
“Yes, Ailadas. The initial three have been apprised… another of the scouts… has been contacted… umm…” As I paused, he continued.
“One may hypothetically whisper with the aforementioned scout while practicing the ballroom art.—ahem –“
“Yes. This has indeed been a means of passing information. The male scout has become suddenly, inexplicably enamoured of the female scout in question and is playing the part of the ‘love-struck, tripping-over-his-tongue-young-fool.”
“Very, ahem wise.”
We were dancing again and I was gazing at Kyriala as if she were the only thing in the world. She was very properly blushing and looking away. This dance allowed us to pass almost touching cheeks but looking the opposite way. “Serina… what would you be willing to do to get away from these Mahid,” I whispered in her ear.
As she turned her head and we changed the direction we danced there was a flash of amazement and terror on her face, instantly suppressed. “Anything I could.”
“I have a way to get us out.” Turn and dance the other direction. “Did I ever tell you, Serina, what lovely eyes you have?”
Turn. She batted her lashes as though she had a hunk of sand stuck in them. “Ohhh pshaw, Spark of the Sun's Ray!”
“Truly! Would the Mirror be willing to sit a while with me after we dance?” Turn. “I want to get everyone out.”
“Everyone? Even Kaita?”
“Everyone not Mahid. I have a way but it will require a lot of… unusual actions on your part.” Turn.
“I'd be.... ah... ah.... ec-STAT-ic to sit a few moments with you, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.... em.... pardon my... impertinence.” She looked down as she turned and we swept through a formal pass back to back.
“I’m sorry I've never told you about your eyes, Serina. Or...” Ahem. “Well, your eyes certainly...”
“My.... EYES?” I wanted to ask if she had a marble stuck in there she was blinking so much.
“And um... well... er...” I looked at her lips, back up to her eyes and then at her lips again and purposely missed a step... "Oh, my apologies, Serina. I'm sorry. My mind is obviously elsewhere.” Somewhere I managed to summon a blush.
“Ah! Indeed, Sun of the --- er--- Ray of the -- er --- Spray of the Sark -- er...” she was blushing as well. It made her amazingly attractive. The Mahid woman chaperoning us coughed pointedly. Kyriala drew back further from me, to the limit of the requirements of the dance, modestly looking downward. I followed suit since she seemed to have a good grasp of what the chaperon wanted.
“My apologies again for stepping on your feet, Serina.”
“Apology modestly accepted, Spark of the Sun's Ray.” We curtsey’ed to each other at the end of the dance. I turned to where 2nd Amitzas was watching us. I thought he was bored and I hoped he was.
“Since I was so clumsy—Ser –“ I said to Ice Eyes. “Perhaps the Serina and I could do one more dance?” I didn’t think I could put puppy-dog longing into my eyes but I tried. “If the Serina is not too fatigued?”
He looked at her, looking away from me, off toward something on the ground, very proper. “One more.” He said. “And that will be all.”
“Thank you, honoured guardian.” My becoming enamored of her was part of the ‘grand plan’ I was sure so he had to support it. I bowed to Kyriala and offered her my elbow. She took it without looking at me. If I did have her as a spy or a scout in an enemy camp I’d be pretty happy. I’d never know from her face or demeanor that she’s capable of the anger I’ve seen or the courage. She looks blank as a child’s doll. Perfect for fooling Mahid.
“Can you get out of your tent, once you ‘have retired’? Can you run in your skirts or do you need to put on boy’s trousers?”
“If I’m very, very quiet. Inensa goes to be with her husband and the chaperone woman sleeps surprisingly soundly. And running? I… I… don’t know. I guess I’d have to. Run, or ride, yes.”
“Would you mind getting wet?”
“WET????” She threw her hand over her mouth.
“It has been very wet lately, Serina. Shhh.”
She took a deep breath. “No...Spark. I – love this dance, Spark of the Sun’s Ray! Don’t you?”
“Yes, especially if the partner is correct.”
“I said I’d do anything I could to get away… but Spark… then what? Where would we go?”
“Serina!” I said this louder and leaned close to whisper in her ear. “I’d see you home to Arko or to your family… whoever is left… somewhere safe. We can think of that after. First things first.”
She cast her eyes down as if bashful. “All right. Anything to get away from these evil murderous—“ The chaperon coughed again and I stepped way looking embarrassed.
“Spark of the Sun’s Ray!” She cried as though I had been improper and I jumped back to a formal distance.
“Serina! I didn't mean... um... I well... no offense meant! Truly!
“Hmph!” She looked away from me indignantly. I made puppy dog eyes at her, lugubrious.
She held me in hard hearted silence for the rest of the dance before sighing, rolling her eyes and saying “I... forgive you.”
“Thank you, Serina. I won't be so boorish again. I swear.”
“I should hope not. So forward.”
She was pretending to still be mortified, happy to be at my arm’s length. I pretended that I was crushed by her hard heartedness and she beautifully played that she did not care.