Hello Bear. I hope you don’t mind riding in my donkey’s saddlebag. Do you sleep in there? That would be good. Minis says IN-‘spensible Bear means no one can throw you way. ‘spensible means throw awayable. So you are IN’spensible Bear. You have a nice face. I run my fingers over your eyes. Green eyes. An’ I can talk to you.
You remember, Bear. I have to call Minis, Minakas. You remember too. I keep forgetting and Kaita says shush, shush. If someone hears him called Minis the new Imperator will kill him dead. She says me too.
But he’s happy. An’ me. No more Mahid. Mo Nore Mahid. No more 2nd Amitzas an’ him hurting Minis… Minakas… remember Minakas, Minakas, Minakas… an’ Gan an’ Ky. An’ making ‘Ladas cough so much.
I poke you in the mouth and your mouth pops open to show your teeth an’ I turn you around in front of me so you can growl an’ scare the mean old Imperator -- who’d cut our heads off dead -- away. An’ scare the Mahid hiding in the corners and shadows of the room away. Kaita thinks I’m asleep. But I’m not.
The room we’re in is little. A room for sleeping. We stopped at the inn and it was funny, everybody pretending. Min—akas winked at me when the inn man talked down to him. I nearly said something because nobody should talk down to my brother he’s Spark of the Sun’s Ray and I’m Coronet an’ nobody talks down to us, but I started to shout at him and she put her hand over my mouth.
I wanted to bite her I was so mad. Then she whispered “Hiding. Remember?” in my ear. An’ I closed my mouth. We have to stay here for days and days an’ wait ‘cause it’s Jitzmitthra. There’s no town and we got no costumes.
But we can buy good food from the stopping house. It’s good! ‘N they even have icedmilk cause of snow and ice up high above.
The light from under the door is enough so I can see the shapes of the braid rug on the floor. If I squint they look like snakes moving so I push Bear over the edge of the bed and make him growl at the snakes.
From downstairs I can hear. There’s a bunch of people singing. Arko’s Anthem. That’s good. An’ I’m a big boy an’ don’t pee my pants or my bed anymore. Bear makes sure there’s no snakes or Mahid or mean old Imperators under the bed so I can put my feet out over the edge and use the pot.
It’s nice being in a room. Tents get wet and sometimes worms come on the floor. An’ spiders. An’ ants. Fire ants. Hey, Bear, remember when Joras put up the tent ona ant hill? He got ants up his legs and in his underpants, and sat down rubbing his bum on the grass? That was funny.
I yawn. Downstairs everybody’s singing again. It’s something about a Butcherman. It’s funny. I yawn again. Hey, Bear. When we go inna Tunnel and it’s dark and dark and dark? I’ll leave your mouth popped open so your teeth show so no monsters can sneak up on us, all right? Muunas guard you In’spensible Bear. I’m going to be a strong boy. I’m going to be a good boy. Kaita has my say my right prayer but I want to say my own words Daddy God. Can you hear them if they are just plain words?
I’m going to help Minis an’ Kaita an’ Gan an’ Kyriala an’ Ailadas. Muunas keep ‘em. Daddy Muunas and Mummy Selinae. ‘Night Mummy and Daddy Gods. ‘Night In’spensible Bear.
2nd Amitzas pulled out the note yet again, laid it on his knee as if it were a cherished talisman. “Such a foolish boy, to run away because he believed he did not want a little discipline,” he said to his wife, not expecting her to answer. She continued silently folding his shirts as he spoke.
It was annoying as a nagging tooth, Amitzas thought. He had no doubt in his mind that he would find them all. They were on foot, since the horses had not been disturbed the night they disappeared.
Boras and Matthas had been dispatched the instant it had been realized that not only was the Spark of the Sun’s Ray gone, but his betrothed, his slave, his tutor and the Coronet Regal and his nurse as well.
The Spark had actually struck perfectly, when he had killed his Mahid guard. A testament to his good training. And exactly what a well trained operative in the field would do to escape. Foolish boy. It just meant that he owed a life. And when he found out how hard it was for him to be alone in the world outside and he came crawling back, begging to be properly protected and mentored, he would have to pay it back.
His hand smoothed the paper over his knee. He would loathly put on his ‘Jitzmitthra’ face and ride freely on the road as an Aitzas travelling to an estate or to a property. To the slate cliffs along the Great North River, and the vineyards there.
Even if it was not a ‘slip’ he could not afford to leave the clue untraced, but only if his diligent Mahid had not yet found the bedraggled boy and his raggle-taggle assortment of mis-matched and incompetent followers.
“The river has been dragged for bodies and nothing was found.” 2nd Amitzas had thought it unlikely that anyone had gone into the river. There had been no sign of a footprint in the mud of the bank. No one decent swam and suicide was not the aim for someone leaving such a note, but it was always best to be certain, even the most outlandish options.
“Be prepared for us to ride tomorrow. We will wait for Joras and Matthas to return and make their reports.”