“Kyriala, dear,” Auntie Betiri said, an admiring note in her voice. “Wherever did you get such fine thread? And such a colour?”
She looked down at the bed-pillow she was embroidering, the long, whispy strands of gold fine as hair. “It was a fessas on the road, Auntie.” The snick of her scissors as she clipped Minis’s hair short, the heavy hank of hair falling into her glove as she cut.
“Oh. So, you won’t be able to get any more?”
Kyriala smoothed the unicorn she was embroidering on the pillow. It was the colour of a sun-bleached Imperial head…. The woman currently Imperator had hair more golden, and it was curly. The unicorn… A most appropriate image for a young girl’s bedchamber. “No, Auntie. I’m sorry.”
The hank of hair, longer than her arm, carefully tied with a gold ribbon that had been water-soaked, folded into a silk cloth and tenderly laid away in the bottom of a trunk full of the wedding-show pieces she’d been working on when she was an Imperial bride-to-be… Her using a small portion of his hair to work into a pillow she could touch, bare-handed, with no one the wiser, would hardly reduce the swath of it. It would make him seem closer, wherever he might be on the sphere of the earth, under Muunas’s Eye.
A tap on the door. “Seras’? Serina?” The butler brought in a package, holding the black, pink and white silk covered cage by the ring. “This was just delivered by messenger.” He hesitated, then held out the note to Kyriala so she could read it for herself.
“Kyriala! Why, how interesting! The cloth looks like stones!”
“Tunnel stone,” she said absently as she broke open the sealed note. “A little brother to sing and keep you safe,” she read. “It is another gift from my admirer, KB.” The little drawing of the sword-wielding bear was the only signature.
“That secretive, mysterious man! He will be the death of me,” her mother cried. “Why can he not just approach your little brother properly instead of all these gifts?”
Socks roused from the dog pillow under the table and circled, sniffing.
Kyriala smiled and said nothing, drawing the cloth off the white-slatted cage, with the white, blind canary in it. “It really is a Tunnel bird,” she said. The canary ruffled itself as if the removal of the cloth was a signal, and chirped a few times.
“How does it know the cage was uncovered?” Auntie Betiri asked.
“He probably feels the air moving differently, Auntie. They’re very sensitive.” Kyriala sat back and looked at the little bird hopping so confidently from one fixed perch to the next. “It must know exactly where everything is.” She leaned forward and the bird tilted its head back and forth as if listening. "I think I shall call him Sinimas.”
The butler was dispatched to arrange for a hook to be installed, and in the sunlit ladies solar, on the table under the window, the white canary chirped again and then began to sing.
The lanky fessas fellow slung his bag onboard and settled into his place on deck, barely in time, the gangplank taken in almost on his heels.
“I nearly didn’t make it,” he said personably to the fellow next to him. “Lucky I was.”
“Yeha. With this tub, though we’ll be a week getting to Haiu Menshir. I’m Rianas Kahonas, fessas, glass-maker.” A barrel-chested man with lungs to match.
“Nice tah meet yah, Rianas, I’m Joras Meranen, fessas, glassman 's well. You heading there for a job?”
“Yeha. They can allus use another glass-blower with all the vials and such, even Arkan ones along with all their own! How about yourself?”
“Not such a reason… I’m looking to catch up with a young relative, vanished in the war. The family had a rumour and sent me along to see.” Joras’s clear, unearthly blue eyes were cool, even as his manner was warm and personable.
“Ah. Bad business that. Hope you find him, then.” The glass-blower uncorked a jug he’d brought along to supplement the ship food, took a swig and offered it to Joras. The sails fell, unfurling from their yards with a crackle and a boom as the merchanter made ready to catch the wind.
“Thank yeh! Hang on, I have a half-loaf of fresh-baked to go along with the wine.” Joras unlaced his bag, his reaching fingers brushing the onyxine box with its belt-loops, buried deep, pulled back to settle on the loaf above it. “We’d best eat my banets, too, before they go stale,” he said, holding out the bread in exchange for the wine-jug.
“Oh we certainly do, friend. But later p’raps? The sweet won’t go well with the wine.”
The two passengers settled back as the ship caught the wind and heeled to port. “I’ll do my best to find him, Rianas, the head of m’family d’never forgive me if he’s there and I miss him. We look after our own.”
“Ay, that. Sounds like a good family the Meranens.”
“Oh, the best, thank yeh fer sayin’.”
The University library on Haiuroru was as dim as any other I’d ever seen, instead of the wide-open Haian style. I supposed that made sense, after all, one wouldn’t want wind, sun, damp and bird-droppings on the books.
I was trying to write down all I could about touch. Zinchaer and I had knocked something loose in my head and I was writing down everything I could remember. I was trying to research when Arkans had begun wearing gloves all the time. The story was that we always had, from when we fell from the sky, but that could be a story and I thought I would check.
I wasn’t sure if this would help my healing at all, but I had asked Zinchaer if he thought that reading the records of my ancestors might help me. Haian records are sealed, except for the request of the patient in question, or the direct decendants of that patient. So Ili and I were the only people on the earthsphere who could read them.
He’d given me the request form and I found myself back in the safest place I knew. The library… a library anyway. I was going to have a wonderful time in here, I could feel it.