I couldn’t bear sitting next to the Sereniteer, calmly checking little boxes off her search list. Ky and I went to sit on the hill of the folly, the highest point of land in the garden.
“We’ve searched the folly already,” Kyriala said, her fan moving steady as a machine. She actually set her hand upon my elbow and I could feel her hand tremble though it did not show. She didn’t show any of her emotion but I could feel it pouring through her glove, through my forearm. She cared about her brother and Ili fiercely, wildly, and I had to draw breath. I set my own gloved hand over hers and she accepted it. “Twice. There’s only a bare room and a bench that gives one a view over the manor and the wall. It was an affectation that Great Grandfather had, to sit out here and overlook his kingdom, he said. That was after Great Grandmother died…”
“We will find them, Kyriala. They must be all right. They didn’t leave the grounds, none of the guards saw them leave.”
“Yes.” Her fan snapped shut. “How did the truth-drugging interview go?”
“Good. They tried to make Chevenga and I into alesinas or worse and we were both able to say no to that.”
She nodded sharply. “Atzana’s doing really well. She’s going to hire Skala to assist her, with your approval.”
“Certainly. Kyriala… you realize I trust your choices. If you need someone… hire them.” My head turned to Gannara who toiled up the steep hillock to us and flopped down beside us.
“Nothing still. Farasha is checking the grotto behind the kitchen garden again. I thought I’d try and track JiaKlem but the little beast has been cracking snail-shells all over this garden... there’s no clear trail… I’d hoped…” I let go Ky’s hand and reached over to Gannara’s shoulder.
“It’s all right, heartsbrother.” I used the Yeoli term because I liked it better than the Arkan alesinas. The Yeoli phrase didn't have anything sexual about it. “We will find them.”
“They were last seen on this hill and we did search…”
Ky and I both chimed in. “Twice.”
“Welllll….” I said, thoughtfully. “Is there anywhere on this hill but the folly they could have gone?” Nuninibas’s hound, Roar, sat in the middle of the lawn, confused. We sat and thought about it for a time and the dog came slinking up, wagging guilty as if it had done something wrong, whining up to thrust his nose under Ky’s elbow, hiding his head. I wished I could ask the animal where the boys had gone.
“There’s no other building they could be hiding in…” Across the manor garden, shouts of ‘Nuniiiiiiinnibbaaaaassssss!” and “Illleeessssiassss!” echoed off the inner walls of the manor house. How were they not hearing all the uproar and commotion?
When I was their age… what was I doing? Terrorizing the city. Not a helpful thought. I was also finding the secret passages in the Marble Palace and learning play faibalitz with my companions. Hmmm. I had to stop panicking. “Ky… your butler said he saw Ili last asking after something of your brother’s?”
“Yes, it’s his treasure box.”
“What’s in it?”
She fanned herself. “I don’t know, Minis. It’s HIS treasure box. Mama doesn’t even look in there… I mean he showed me once when I came home. It’s nothing important.”
“It might be. What does he keep in it?”
“As I said. His treasures. Feathers, stones, his glass things…marbles… a claw from a stone cat…”
“Hey,” Gannara said. “Marbles you said? Like Minis’s marbles?”
I’d had a set of marbles from some merchant prince in Brahvniki and they were treated like real kraumaks to glow and I’d set up paths in the dark in my chambers with them.
“Yes.” Kyriala snapped her fan shut. “Those kinds of marbles were certainly mixed into his set. Why?”
“Have we checked the basements?” He said. “Maybe the boys went exploring past the lamps, with the lighted marbles?”
We all jumped up, galvanized.
“Have you seen any ways up higher?”
“No… should I?”
“Yeah I think so…”
“I think these are still hooked up to the main drains.”
“Yeah? So what?”
“They’re gonna be washing our street tonight.”
“You mean…” A silence.
“I think these tunnels are all gonna fill up, real soon.”
“Oh.” A longer silence. “Do you know when?”
“No… I don’t know what bead it is… do you?”
“We need to find where we came down, quick I think.”
We all came back to the hill after searching the basements, hound included, just for a breath of air and to re-think. “Nuni wanted his treasure box and didn’t come get it himself. He sent Ili who wouldn’t know where to look for it and would have to ask… why?”
“I don’t know,” Farasha said. She’d joined us half way through the basement search. My heart was pounding and my stomach knotting up. The longer they were missing the worse it was. The stupid dog wandered down the hill, sniffing in the grass, between the little trees that were growing all over the back of the hill. Very artistic I was certain. The gardener probably cut them down if they got too big.
“Has anybody found the box?” Gannara said.
“No,” Kyriala snapped. “We’ve been looking.”
“Sorry… sorry I’m just thinking… Kyriala… sorry…”
She hid her face behind her fan, mortified that she’d lost control. Without looking at her, I patted her shoulder.
“You know…” Farasha said thoughtfully. “Roar has been going back to that same spot on this hill over and over again…”
I twitched upright and stared down the back of the hill to where I could just see the dog’s tail waving. It looked like he was digging and sniffing like he’d been doing all evening. “Well, let’s look,” Gan and I said, both together.
We got up and moved over to the fringe of little saplings where Roar sniffed and whined. “Oh… drat!” Kyriala let herself snap that much. “A rabbit hole! The gardner is going to be upset he has the beginnings of a warren here.”
“It’s pretty big for a rabbit,” Farasha said.
“Hey!” Gannara seized a marble up out of the disturbed turf. “Is this one of Nuni’s?”