Ahem. Blast this cough of mine. It will be the death of me. This wet will not help. Every one of the young people know that time was of the essence. Everyone also knows that I would be the first here, to the river.
The water had risen a bit and the rain on the surface is loud as gravel falling on a road. There was no way for me to find shelter from this, and no reason. The perimeter guard of the camp, the downstream one, would be the one who we hoped could not see or hear us as we floated by.
The Mahid placed guards on the river only to ‘seal off’ the perimeter as they saw it. No need for a guard here in the middle. My spectacles are completely covered in water, rain sheeting down them, fogged up… I’d thought they would be safest on my nose, firmly tied onto my head under my hair… but… I would see very little either way.
As my sister always said… it was as black as the inside of a cat.
My poor old Pish Pish, in the city. I hope she has found someone to feed her. My braid pulls at my scalp and I tug at it to ease the one or two hairs dragged too tight. It had been so long since I had reason to create a sports plait that I thought I’d forgotten it, yet my old fingers remembered somehow. I sit, soaking wet, waiting for the children to come so we might flee these insane people.
There was no Mahid guard upon my miniscule tent. No need to guard an almost expendable old fart -- as 2nd Amitzas considered me -- so when the downpour started… our agreed-upon signal, I picked up my pack and slipped out and around the corner of my tent and came down to the river.
It is the rain that will cover our retreat more than the thunder and the lightning. Come boys, come girls, the longer we sit here, children, the more likely the rain will stop and we will be caught. Oh come quickly. Ahem.
"You’re very brave, Ilesias. Hold onto my hand, I’ve got you.”
“I’m scared, nursey. I’m scared and cold. The rain hurts.”
“Shh. Yes, I know. Watch out for that rock, it could hurt you. Remember the almost path down the hill to the river? Watch out for the big tree half down here, duck your head. We’re almost there and you’ll be able to sit on my lap for a moment.”
“Keep going or 2nd Amitzas will find us.”
“Yes, dear. Here we are…” – “Oh, Ailadas, oh thank the Gods. We’re here. We’re the first? Ah. So we wait for the boys and Kyriala. We can’t wait long. Who knows how long it will rain."
Kyriala’s out the hole and next to me like an eel through gap. I want to get out. I want out so bad. That Iakobas Mahid… he… he’s dead. Good. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go now!
Slipping and sliding and stumbling. I’ve got her by the elbow, she has hold of my tunic, we’re sliding down the hill mostly by feel… where’s the log… where’s Minis? Where’s everybody…
I gasp in water and air as I grab someone in the dark, oh, thank Kahara, it’s Ailadas. We’re here. Kaita and Ilesias too.
Can’t really hear or see a kyvalin thing…come on… Minis… come on… Leave the shennen box, we’ll survive without the chains. She’ll be all right without that stinkin’ blessing box. Come ON…
“You… would… kill me… in… a… heartbeat, wife,” 2nd Amitzas said, panting, inside the tent. Talking to Inensa. Her moans or screams were the ones I’d heard, muffled by the gag. Oh, that is sickening.
He was… she was… oh, it nearly made me sick. I lay with my hand thrust through the cut tent wall, soaked through as if I were already in the river, appalled at the idea of what was going on. Then I shook my head, almost a shudder rather than a deliberate motion. I had to keep going. I groped as quietly as I could.
“No? No? No?” he said. “Yes, wife. So… sweetly… take every… sweet pain. You will not kill me, you are Mahid. You may hate me but you are Mahid. I am… yours to hate. Given me by the Imperator, rest—He—in—Selestialis!”
I struggled to shut out his snake-hiss enjoyment, her agonized receiving of it. There. The leather handle, the edges harsh on my fingers. I paused as the flow of his hateful words checked. When they resumed, more muffled, I wiggled backward, my fingers locked around the trunk handle. Now the wind was more of a help. If it had been still, the tent would have quivered as I pulled the box through the hole.
It was heavier than I thought and I held my breath as I began easing it slowly, inchingly through the gash in the tent wall.The high roar of raindrops on trees and leaves and puddles diminished for a moment and it sounded like Inensa weeping into the gag. I clenched my teeth together.
The noise rose to a muffled scream and I could hear 2nd Amitza panting harder. Oh, Selestialis, he sounds like he’s killing her… she’s… they’re… another muffled scream. I held down my gorge. That was so vile, so disgusting.
I inched backwards, focusing on the stick gouging into my back as I tried to back up, instead of what was going on inside that tent. At least he’s distracted and will be asleep soon. Ick. Oh, just ick.
It was out. I wanted to just collapse over the fikken box but it was just the start.
It caught on every branch and twig and bump in the ground, every rock poking out of the mud and I wasn’t clear of the deadfall to pick it up yet. I just closed my eyes and worked my way back by feel. It was no good trying to see anything in this mess anyway. There was a deep enough puddle under the last trunk, where I’d slithered in, no problem. Now, before I could get out, I had to hold my breath to get under. Every hollow, every dip in the ground was filling up fast.
I was almost ankle deep as I hefted the box and staggered around the edge of the clearing, past the dining tent, past the huge rock dropped by some annoyed God. My lungs burned in my chest as I ran… or rather call it a falling stumble… partly hidden – Please Sin, no lightning now. I’d stand out like a horse in the middle of Presentation Square…
And finally, finally, down the hill. Thank Selestialis I didn’t have to do this two years ago. I’d have never lifted the blasted thing much less carried it this far. In my nightmares I had fallen down this hill so many times I knew to take my time.
Ancestors, Ancestors, let everyone be there. Let everyone else be there. Let no Mahid have noticed us creeping out. Let 2nd Amitzas still be busy fikking his wife… Ancestors… Sinimas… oh. Thank Selestialis. They’re all here. The rain has eased enough that we can actually hear each other talk. Ailadas had gotten everyone to tie the silk sashes into loops so that we could more easily hold on, in the water, or loop them over the stumps on the log.
Gannara had some kind of knot he could lash in moments and the box and the bags went over the log like they were suspended over the back of a horse, the box on one side the bags on the other. I couldn’t see well, just black shapes against a darker black river, a paler log, but everyone pushed and our one-log raft slid into the water, with Gannara waded out to hold it floating, me anchoring the other end.
I couldn’t hear if anyone complained because with a wild roar the rain, which had eased a little, pounded down again, filling my ears.It was almost no different in the rain, in the river, we were so wet. Splashing out to the one end, Gannara and Ailadas were to look out for each other. Kaita and Ilesias, on the other side of the log from me, where I could help them if they got into trouble. Kyriala on my side of the log just in front of me. I hoped everyone could set themselves and waited before I pushed. Selestialis let everyone be able to keep their heads up. A second of stillness and I could only just hear Gannara yell.
“GO! GO NOW!” It was a midge-whine in the pounding storm. Everyone best be ready. I pushed off hard and the slippery thick mud fell sharply away from my feet. The river snatched us up like a twig and whirled us off downstream, all choices given to the flow of water.