“Thank you, Namidipipi,” Kyriala looped the reins around the post in her fancy little Enchian carriage, and nodded gratefully at her groom. He was almost too tall now to be a boy, almost too tall for it to be proper for him to accompany her while she drove.
Minis had owned up to the carriage and the groom and the father and all of it. He’d actually told her all the places he’d found the gifts for her. And little things were starting to show up again. A new harness for the nasty little pony, a new cage for the canary. Other things. A glass version of an Imperator Fly, all red and gold and dangerous looking, but known for it’s acrobatic flight. She had that on her dressing table mirror where its sheen-glass wings winked at her every morning.
Of course Mama wasn’t speculating on anybody else being her admirer, other than Minis. But he was a boy and he’d have to get the Regent to start arrangements, properly. Mama, you have no idea what properly actually means any more. He needs to ask me with his own mouth, with his own lips and tongue, to marry him. Not depend on some adult man to do it for him. He needs to steel himself to do it on his own behalf.
Her fancy little carriage sat to one side at the corner of Grass Lane and Floral Avenue, waiting, with a number of other people. The caravans were due back today, as the Gybir came back to their new home. It was becoming a tradition that the settled parts of the families would wait for them here.
She sat on the high, elegant, spindly little driver’s seat, that in Tor Ench would have been the place for some exotic coachman to be displayed, Namidipipi standing on the step behind the main body of the carriage that had room only for a great Tor Enchian lady and her skirts… and a tiny maid, if she were a child.
Though, since the war, most Tor Enchian ladies had taken to riding rather than driving, once more, as they had generations ago, when the old joke was that the Enchian gentleman saddled up even to go to the outhouse. Riala had told her a dozen different variations of that and they’d giggled over every one, in private of course.
Surreptitiously, she flexed her hands in her delicate kid-skin gloves, with daring cut-work on the cuff, tinted blue. With all the training, all the flying, all the transferring and riding and driving, her hands were, more often than not, sore in a way that needlework didn’t touch.
The wind blew along Grass Lane and brought with it the smells of rain. It was close to winter, and the cool and the wet. Ky pulled her shawl close around her shoulders and smiled at Namidipipi as he handed her a parasol, though it was less against sun and more protection from rain.
It was cool and gray and the water hung in the air, thick as a wool blanket trying to force its way into the lungs and the pony snorted and shook its head, the white mane spraying her with water droplets as if it had been truly raining instead of merely threatening to.
“They should be through the Gate soon, Serina,” the Hyerne boy said quietly.
“They wrote me, saying they hadn’t been delayed. I’ve missed my friends terribly,” she said softly. He smiled wider, teeth white against his dark skin.
“They’re home again. That’s the point.”
Nami and his father had done well for themselves in Arko. They were exotic enough that they were hired by all of Kyriala’s friends on special occasions, to bring a note of foreign mystery to their arrival by carriage, as if driven by spirits or daemon.
Nami had once asked her, bewildered, since she was female and thus he expected her to know things he did not, ‘Do they really think I have horns in my curls? Or a spikey tail in my breeches?’
“No, no. That’s just a story. Namidipipi, they tell themselves stories about you to make themselves look more deadly, more dangerous, to have you driving for them.’
He’d thought about that one for a while and then grinned. “If they really want, I can smell just faintly of sulphur under my perfume.” She’d laughed and told him it would probably make him more popular as a driver.
The sound of the caravans coming through the Main Gate was unmistakeable, since they all came together instead of being stopped and inspected one at a time. The rumble of the sprung wheels flowed down from the unseen Rim wall and up the Avenue of Statuary, the grumble and whinney of mules and horses echoing. Whistles and snatches of songs preceded them, and the watching crowd along their route waved them home.
“How different,” Ky said to Nami. “Once they’d not be let inside the gate unless they were enslaved. Now they are part of the City’s heartbeat.”
“You’d be right, there, Serina. I have a friend coming back with the Gybir and I’ve missed her terribly.”
“Her? You’re risking a girl? Nami.”
She thought he was blushing. “Yes. A girl. She’s nice.”
“I’d like to meet her some day… oh look, look!” The carriage swayed and rocked as she sprang to her feet, Nami braced to catch her should she fall, but she kept her balance without even noticing. “FARA! GAN! Welcome HOME!” Farasha and Gannara and their wagon, like all the Gybir parade, were dressed all in their best for the entrance to the City. The wagons looked either scrubbed or repainted. Even the mules had ribbons on their harnesses and glass bells that tinkled sweetly in counterpoint to the clomp of hooves.
She sat down again, waiting as they waved back from their wagon, ten or so back in the parade. It would take them some time to make the turning onto the street. Ky noticed a Yeoli couple waving at Gannara and Farasha's wagon. “Namidipipi, that Yeoli couple over there… Would you ask them if they are Tisha and Linasika, Gannara’s parents?”
That was a terrible shame. Gan had never introduced her to his Yeoli shadow parents. She’d met Farasha’s before they left for their caravan season but somehow Gan hadn’t managed to really introduce his own, as if he were a little shy of them. She saw him look off to his left at them, and then at her, sit down hard next to Fara who was driving and just start to laugh and laugh and laugh.