October 26, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
It was a long ride to Lannamer, one that couldn’t be done in a day even if you didn’t stop at all. The first night, they were stopped three times, the road blocked by people that, as Libkazaari muttered, had no right to be doing stops, nor to be looking so full of themselves. Each time, they asked about students and found only Korten and his daughter (Taikie or Kekla), Libkazaari and her son (Riensin), or the two adults, hauling what they said was a load of animal skins up to Lannamer.
The threat of animal skins tended to make the searchers avoid opening the back of the wagon. Once, however, that wasn’t enough. “Animal skins, hunh?” He leered at Enrie, who was napping between Saydrie and Gianci. “Looks like you’re hauling something else entirely.”
“Still not our business,” his friend muttered. “We don’t care if they’re selling kids or salt or island black diamonds, we just want those papers.”
“These kids don’t have no papers. They probably can’t even read.” The man shut the door with a thud. “Half-breeds and border kids, looks like. Not what we’re looking for.”
Enrie hid a snigger in Gianci’s shoulder. Saydrie hadn’t wanted to dye his hair, but she’d run a little powder through hers, making the brown stand out. That and the royal nose made her look very half-breed indeed.
That was the last time they were stopped; when Enrie took her turn up on the front of the wagon, she thought that Korten looked tense and angry.
“Are we in danger?” she asked him, as quietly as she could over the wind and the rattling of the wagon.
“We’ve been in danger since the moment we left the school, and perhaps since the moment Lirnilalie knew you existed.” His answer wasn’t exactly comforting, but he looked over at her with a gentle expression. “Somebody wants those papers you found and they don’t want them to reach anyone that we might want to give them to. Ransacking the school was an easy first step for them, but it’s probably not going to be their last step.”
“Would they…” She trailed off. Someone had killed Instructor Talmizhaab and tried to kill Tairiekie for far less. “They would. But they don’t think too critically, do they? They’re looking for students and we don’t look like students.”
“They – well. We can count our blessings and thank the Three that it’s probably that Associate Governor steering the searches, and her super-bright friend the Reeve, not Lirnilalie herself. Lirnilalie is clever, sneaky. That governor lady is just too full of herself to see straight and that benefits us.”
Enrie smiled crookedly. “What’s the saying? ‘give me slow enemies and unwise ones when my goat is lame?”
“I wouldn’t say your goat is very lame, but you and your friends are young for battle.”
“This…” She wanted to say this isn’t a real battle. “We didn’t mean to get into such a big fight,” she offered weakly. “We just… It found us.”
“That’s the way it happens, sometimes,” he offered. “Sometimes battle just attacks you.”