When Ailadas came back from his little talk with the Arkan Sereniteer, Kefas, he looked unsettled. Any stranger wouldn’t know that he was upset, but I did. “Minakas... would you and Ilesias come with me please?”
“Oh, yes ser. If the exalted Ili would be pleased to come?” He giggled, tucked Indispensible Bear under one arm and held up his other hand to me to be lifted up.
He drew us to a garden fountain and sat everyone down, very serious. “What’s wrong?”
“Ili we need to get you another Indispensible Bear and have that one put away for a while.”
I jostled him on my lap and over his yells managed to say, “Why is that, Ailadas? Ili, hush, shhh shhh now. We’ll fix it. Shhh.”
Ili dropped his startled yell a whine instead but at least I could hear Ailadas’s response. “Ahem. Someone figured out who we were, because of the Bear. And instead of turning us in, ahem, the Arkan Sereniteer informed me.”
My heart froze in my chest. “But... he... but they...”
“Will, ahem, be leaving in the morning, after they hand off ‘Aimondas Hiren and his party’, to the First Patrol, to go on to the city itself. I, ahem, took the liberty of offering, ahem, the honourable Sereniteer a... um... ahem...”
“A... reward for his loyalty?” I said as quietly over Ili’s whines and sniffles. He buried his face in my neck and I was all but deafened. “Shh. Shh, Ilesias. Hold on. We have an army problem.”
“Army? Like warriors? I... but... warriors?” I nodded. That distracted him. It was like a child’s version of rainbow weather. Big fat teardrops still on his cheeks but completely diverted from it.
“Your Army of Bears is required to increase. Indispensible Bear has just been promoted from the field and will be required to keep a desk during the day... We need to find a worthy field agent Bear to assist him... one to be ‘outside’ and seen during the day and bring his reports back to Indispensible Bear, in the office of your saddle bag. You’ll have both at night and the Field Bear alone... during the day.”
I could hear Ailadas sigh. Most likely with relief. When he had been hired for me, I had been well past first threshold and past the angels, devils and fairy stories. Perhaps he did not have many young grandchildren. “A lovely idea, Minakas," he said.
“Unless the ser needs me, then, we should see if the toymaker’s shop is still open and we will buy our Clandestine Delegate Bear.”
“Wanna go now! Go now! Go now! ‘n buy ‘nother bear!” Ilesias started singing loudly about buying a bear a bear a bear and I nodded over the noise and headed off. It was just after dinner and likely the man was closed but I was certain if I knocked on the door with a bit of sweetener in my fist and the only grandson distraught because his toy had been damaged I could convince him to open for a guaranteed sale.
And in this town there were likely two toymakers... or a wagon-vendor... if the established shop would not open for us.
The fellow was hard to persuade, even offered a full copper chain for his trouble. “Ser... ‘t ‘young gen’lman finds it hard ta sleep ser, without ‘en his best friend ser, ‘n my master he’s right peeved, ser...”
“Hurm ph.” I could speak equal to equal to the fessas but since I was the supplicant he certainly raised his nose at me. “I suppose I might be persuaded to open after the late meal hours but...” he looked significantly at the copper in my hand. He obviously wanted to squeeze more out of me since I seemed in a desperate strait. I nearly just paid him but it was as though I had Gannara standing by my shoulder whispering... “stop. Normal people don’t have an Heir’s ransom in their boots and a kingdom’s price in a scarf tied around their waists, don’t give in so easily, you idiot!”
“Ili,” I said to Ilesias. “Young ser... did the exalted young ser see a toy vendor cart in the square?”
Even as he bounced up, ready to lead me there at top speed, the toymaker relented. “Of course, of course, young ser.” He deferred to an Ilesias bouncing like a bubble in foaming hot bath, naturally, since I was merely the attendant.
We looked at a dozen Bears, pulled from the shop window. Of course the toymaker would have his best in the window. A blond bear and a mythical ice bear with yellow glass eyes. A black bear with claws drawn from real bears... too real for Ilesias.
He looked at bears of all castes... even a miserable almost bald new-freed slave bear with brown glass eyes. A prince Bear with a coronet he giggled at because of how many ways it was wrong, I knew, but chose not to comment on.
Ilesias looked at the bears spread out in front of him, looked at the toy maker then at me. “They’re not RIGHT.”
“This one has other bears, exalted ser. But none worthy of being held by the young gen’lman.”
“I WANNA SEE!” I blinked my eyes shut, recognizing myself in my little brother. Was I so awful when I was that age? Probably.
“Of course, young ser. At once, this one is at that exalted one’s command!” He brought out a box of lesser toys, mere wool and silk plush rather than real fur. Cotton and linen thread fittings for mouth and eyelashes. To protect my life and my little brother’s life, I am pretending to be a fessas attendant and we are buying a new stuffed bear for him. This was the sort of situation I would attribute to the fessas god, with his sense of humour.
Ilesias picked up a bear from the box. It was plain, very pale fur like the prince bear, but had none of the fancy fittings and a sewn shut mouth. He ran a finger along the smooth satin stitching. “He’s a bear for keeping secrets, isn’t he Minakas?”
“Thet is so, young ser.”
He pointed at the prince bear. “I want his cloak and sword and crown but I want this bear... and...” he pointed at a solas bear with a floppy rain hat. “His hat and his armour.”
“Ser? Would the honourable toymaker consider?...”
“Yes, of course, the young ser may have what he wants. Fer a price ‘o course.”
“Yes. So... the plain bear is how much?”
I did my best to pretend to be Gannara negotiating while Ilesias tried the various pieces of costume on his chosen Field Bear. I believed I did all right. The toymaker looked appropriately deflated as he closed the door behind us.
“So, Ili, what is this bear’s name?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He thought a moment and then said, “He has to have a name for working in the field an’ on the road?”
“Yes indeed, Ili. He does.”
He thought a longer moment and then said decisively. “Kefas.”