The Mahid storage chambers were dark, mostly unlit this time of night. Sofonisba lit the lamp by the correct door with her candle and unlocked it.
“Why do we have to learn how to skate too, Sofonisba?”
“Because it will help you get on the team or place you really well when the Competitions for Imperial Guard start.”
“They're going to call them the Mahid Challenges anyway, even if the winners won't be able to call themselves Mahid.”
“Fine, the Mahid Challenges. We already know that skating is going to be part of them, and if that Monster thought I was good material for his precious Mahid then I'm going to compete! We agreed that we were going to be the best forzak Mahid we could be, didn't we?”
Alaria looked over at Sulatesha and Melforasha standing with their own candles in their hands, lighting this dim corridor. Only because of the diligence of the Marble Palace servants kept it clean and free of dust. Then she looked back at Sofonisba. “Yes, we did.”
“We're going to learn how to skate.” Sofonisba was fierce. “If I can't be one of the Imperatrix's guards then maybe I can learn to play faib.” The lock clicked open harshly. It hadn't been oiled in a while, probably since the Razor Fans had raided it for their skates and padding and practice disks, years ago.
“It takes years of practice to learn faibalitz. They'll never take you.” They followed her in and looked around at the cubby doors.
Sofonisba held up the ring of keys, ignoring Alaria's comment. “Check the boy's cubbies first. The men's skates will all be too big.”
A dozen cubbies already stood empty, unlocked. “My husband was trained,” Sofonisba said. “Surely his training skates will be here.”
“Passed on to other boys, once he grew out of them,” Melforasha said. “Let us just start opening and see.”
It took four cupboards opened before Alaria found a pair that fit her. The wheels didn't spin quite smoothly. “They'll need lubrication, I suppose.” Sofonisba passed the key ring to Sulatesha as she found a pair for herself.
She sat down to lace them onto her feet, alien and heavy, noisy and even a little frightening. She wobbled upright, clinging to the door of the cupboard she'd found them in, astonishingly tall all of a sudden. Then one foot flew out from under her and the other, she lost her grip and sat back down hard on the bench. “Forzak!”
“First Sera would find you terribly emotional, Sofi.”
“Laria... you try it before you...” She stopped and stared as Alaria carefully wobbled down the space between the cupboards and the bench. “Let me guess, your brother.”
“No, my father thought it was funny to show me, on my brother's skates. Our secret. And it was only a few nights.”
“Well, see how well you remember!”
Alaria lost her balance, scrambled to get her feet under her and skidded into the table at the end of the row, clinging to it, half over it. “Not really.”
“Well, I'm glad that our dresses will hide all the bruising!” Sofonisba stood up again after she'd run her feet back and forth a few times under the bench. This time she kept her feet. A smile spread across her face and she slid one foot forward. She bent almost into a lunge as her feet spread, a look of alarm on her face. This time she fell forward and tore a hole in her split dress at the knee. “Ow. I'm not giving up until I can skate all the way around this room!”
Mel and Sula just sat and watched the other two at first. “We should put on the padding so we don't hurt ourselves,” Sula said.
“Good... let's do that and then we can lock up and skate back to our rooms...”
“Sofonisba, you are crazy! There's ramps between here and there!”
When she smiled at Sula there was blood on her teeth where she'd bitten her lip as she fell. “I'm not crazy, Sula. Just Mahid.”