“Heya, Ilesias!” My little brother was jumping in puddles outside his tent, while Kaita sat under the flap to stay out of the wet.
“Minis, hi! Lookit this!” He was soaked through and I ducked under the tent flap to watch him dancing in the rain without having to stay in it.
“I’m watching. I’ll just stand over here to talk with Kaita. Hey, little brother! That puddle’s almost deep as the pool in the Lesser Baths!” He stopped where he stood and looked at me. Since the water in question was only ankle deep it was an exaggeration. Now why had Kaita gone stiff like that? Had Kyriala said something to her already?
“’tis NOT like the Bath! You can’t swim in this!”
I blinked and Kaita suddenly started talking “—oh, Coronet, of course one would never do something so uncouth as actually swim—“and I interrupted her.
“—but Serina, what if I was trying to find out about that specifically?” Silence except for the patter of rain on the canvas flap over our heads.
She stared at me, one glove over her mouth. None of the Mahid were in earshot. They were off struggling with one of the tents that had collapsed under the weight of the rain. “S..spark?” Ilesias came in under the flap shaking himself like a puppy.
“Kaita, we gonna swim?” I started grinning as I figured out why she was so shocked.
“You don’t need to answer me, Serina -- but Ilesias, swimming is something just not done by Mahid and other high-nosed Aitzas. It is a true shame. Little brother, look over there, is that a rainbow in the sky?” I sent him out into the field looking up into for my mythical rainbow and turned back to her.
“He’s given you away, Serina. If you could swim, how well could you swim?”
“Oh, Spark, if this one could… it is imaginable… the length of the Lesser Bath’s cold pool, should this one ever wish to do such an outré thing. With the baby clinging to this one’s neck. It would never do if he fell in and this one were helpless. But that is all just conjecture, of course.”
“Naturally. I want you to pack one change of clothing for both of you. And possibly his indispensable bear. In case there is a violent rainstorm in the next few days.”
“Few days? Oh, of a certainty. Would the Spark… would the Spark of the Sun’s Ray have any clothing that needs mending by this one? Something about my size?”
“Yes, actually, I do. I understand the Mirror has been asking for such as well. I will send Gannara with the torn things, thank you. Hey, Ilesias, I was wrong. No rainbow. Your nurse was just offering to fix some of my trousers for me.”
He made a face thinking about sewing and wanted to walk me back over to my tent, so the three of us made a little procession. To fetch boy’s clothing, for two girls. To fix. Of course.
I sent Gannara for a wineskin and a waterskin, and when the rain quit for the day I was arbitrary and demanding of both him and the youngest Mahid guarding me, making them haul the log I’d sat on, on the riverbank, fortunately not terribly wet, into a new position along the edge.
I plunked my butt on it afterward and declared myself satisfied and since it was no longer raining I would hear my lessons out here.
“My honoured guardian,” I had an excuse that might let me actually see where he kept the treasury boxes. “Might I accustom myself to the Imperial sword while sparring? Rather than the Mahid steel I have been using?” We stood outside his tent, that backed onto a thicket of windfallen branches. There’s a way underneath that mess that’s surprisingly clear. If I can get through it in my armour I can get through without.
He stared fish-eyed at me for a long moment before turning on his heel and I followed him into the tent. He pulled a treasury box away from the tent wall, shook his head and pulled out the second, unlocked it and took the Imperial Sword off the top of it. I caught a glimpse of gold ribbon and silk. There was Kyriala’s honour, in the box on the left from outside. Right next to the tent wall. Is he even thinking that someone could just cut through the flimsy cloth? No. Someone would have to get through the perimeter guards. And no one would dare disturb him in the middle of the camp. He is feeling as secure as ever a Mahid is, at least concerning the idea that anyone might steal from him.
The box is heavy but small and I could probably carry it by myself. Hmm. Probably Gannara could carry it just as well. Rope. I will need rope.
I bowed to him, deeply, and thanked him absolutely sincerely. “I am most grateful that my guardian entrusts me with this honour. Thank you, ser.”
“Very good, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” He would never show me smug satisfaction but it was there in his tone. He thought I was finally becoming what I needed to be, that killing Binshala was the way to toughen me up and remove her supposed weak influence. I want to draw your guts out through your nose while you are still alive. No. That is what my father would have done. I am not him. I will never be him and give in to such imaginings.
As I went out I considered the sword in my hands. Was I merely inventing this sensation? The sword felt right in my hands, even in the scabbard. I told myself not to be silly it was just a piece of steel with a lot of tradition painted over it.
The two skins that held liquid held air fairly well, especially with the open end twisted shut before using a leather thong to tie it off. Empty they flattened nicely. They were my back-up in case all these people who were claiming they could swim, couldn’t. And I was assuming that Kyriala didn’t know how. The log was my first floatation device and I thought I’d rather have Ilesias on it rather than swimming.
I toyed with the idea of tying him to it but realized it was not well thought out. It rolls over and he’s tied underneath, it hits a rock in the river further down and gets away from us and he’s dragged away to drown… no. Bad idea.
I had the Imperial Book and the sword in my custody now. I needed to steal the treasury, or at least the one box with Kyriala’s blessing box in it. Ailadas and Gannara both had tiny packs of some clothing. Everything else… we would have to buy, once we got away. Several silk sashes for us to not lose each other in the dark… and a sash instead of ropes, to tie to the treasury box.
In the water, balanced out with our small packs on the other side over the trunk, it should float well enough.
Two hard things. One, I needed to kill the guard outside my tent. I planned to get him inside and kill him there, stash his body in my bed. I knew I could do it. My father had begun inuring me to killing, with the Yeoli slave. 2nd Amitzas’s training had further helped me find that cold place inside where I could do what was necessary without stopping myself with emotions.
Then it would be my job to steal the treasury, while Gannara went to fetch Kyriala out of her tent. Kaita said that she would make her own way to the river bank to wait and Ailadas as well. I wished I had someone who I could risk to go cut the horse-string, but that was too dangerous and too complex. I didn’t want to risk having someone caught. Our plan would be ruined and all of us caught.
Now everyone had their things prepared, and we all knew to wait for the next evening storm.