July 26, 2018 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Use the Right Tool For the Job
They left in a bit of a hurry, not particularly frightened of the Cevati Bitrani but wanting to get some space between them before they recovered from the surprise. Saydrie found himself chuckling as they got far enough away.
“Did you really – with a pipe – really?” he managed after a moment.
Taikie looked rather pleased with herself. “It’s not a weapon. Those aren’t allowed outside of the War House classes. But I’d say that it’s a very nice piece of equipment. Besides. You’re our friend, and they were attacking you. It looked messy.”
Saydrie’s good mood evaporated. “I wasn’t putting up with them talking about my friends,” he muttered. “They think that means I’m abandoning my faith.”
“As far as I can tell,” Enrie mused, “people like that think anything that isn’t doing exactly as they say is abandoning your faith.”
“They should be – they should actually have faith,” Saydrie muttered. “We’re supposed to be the faithful ones.”
“Well,” she countered, as she took a left turn and then pulled them down a side hall, “the royals are supposed to be the clever, strong ones, and look how well that’s working out.”
“But,” Taikie countered, “we’re all supposed to be the smartest, and we’re doing pretty well at that.”
“Well, us,” Enrie allowed. “I think we’re being followed. Let’s go down this way and see if they stay behind us.”
Not again. Saydrie followed her lead, ducking down a set of stairs to a basement level and then sneaking around a corner. They peeked out just enough to see someone in the hall looking around, then hurried back up another set of stairs and down a hall to another classroom building. Saydie’s heart was pointing.
“That wasn’t Lirnilalie,” he muttered. “And wasn’t Lady Ilonilarrona arrested?”
“It wasn’t them.” Enrie frowned. “She looked familiar, but I can’t place her. She was dressed like a royal, but not overdone – speaking of royals, clever or not. And she wasn’t – we should move on.”
They walked like they belonged there – it was a classroom building; in a real sense they did belong there – while Enrie whispered more details. “She had brown hair, tree-brown hair, and there was a lot of green in her dress. No markings of rank, but you don’t really wear those casually unless you’re…” She gestured with both hands. “Oh, no.” Her gestured turned into grabbing them both and tugging them down a hall.
They hurried then, up a set of stairs and another until they could dart along the roofline between buildings, and then, when they saw the green-and-yellow dress and the hair Enrie had called tree-brown popping up from the doorway they’d come out of, they darted downstairs and out into the courtyard.
They picked a classroom building at random and went in there, but as they thought they had found a quiet spot, there was that green-and-yellow again. This time, the woman got close enough that Saydrie could see the embroidery on one of her sleeves.
He was grumbling as they darted away again, almost forgetting they were trying to look inconspicuous as they slipped through the Engineering rooms where Taikie had nearly been killed.
“Down this way. I remember…” Taikie paused, staring at the floor. “Seems like their ought to still be blood here,” she muttered.
“But there’s not, and you’ve been put back together.” Enrie, apparently over her momentary urge to grab people, made shooing gestures.
“You make me sound like a Device,” Taikie complained.
“Some days,” Saydrie teased gently, “I think you might be half-Device.” He paused as he got his own glimpse of someone walking by their hall – the clothing was definitely regal and definitely green and yellow. He could see at least five layers just glancing over. The hair was a pale brown, lighter than either Taikie’s black hair or Enrie’s chestnut hair by quite a bit.
He broke all protocol and took each girl’s arm in a hand, steering them quickly into a side corridor before the person came back. They were definitely being followed. The question was: why? Was this another follower of Lirnilalie? Had they upset some other royal family member in their adventures?
Saydrie had a momentary ill-will for members of the royal family that could be upset by the truth. That, however, would not help with the current situation, so he tried to focus on the matter at hand – not being found.
He grabbed a doorknob that looked different from the rest and opened a door. They all piled in, closing the door behind them, only to find it was a broom closet.
Saydrie was undismayed. Quickly, he ran his hands over the walls, looking for the thing that seemed out of place. There, behind the brooms, there was a strange hook. He pulled it. Soundlessly, a door swung away from them.
This time, the stairs – barely visible from the thin line of light coming in under the door – went downwards. Saydrie hurried down, not surprised when a hand landed on his shoulder.
The door closed behind them. They went down a stairway in pitch darkness.
Saydrie felt his way along. Some of the older stairways in the school were built with different angles, and this one felt like it had been made of whatever stone they had at hand. “Careful,” he whispered, once when the stone seemed to angle sharply to the left, and a second time when it seemed to be half-missing.
It seemed to take forever. But the door did not open behind them, and they heard nobody calling for them. They heard nothing at all except their own breath and their own steps on the stairs.
When they got to the bottom, Saydrie ran his hands along the walls. The space was not big; wider than his outstretched arms, but not so wide he couldn’t cross it in five steps. The floor was stone; the walls were stone block.
He found, on the right-hand wall and covered in spiderwebs, a lantern. He pulled it down, noticing as it did that it still sloshed. “Taikie? Do you have that fire-lighter that your mother gave you?”
“Always. You never know when you might want to set something to boil.” There was the sound of cloth swishing, and a moment later a very small flame appeared. Saydrie used the light of the little flame to open the lantern and check the wick. “Here, please.”
A moment later, they had a very nice glow coming from the reflectors in the back of the lantern, illuminating a room that was bigger than their normal stable hide-out.
It had very little in the way of furnishings – a second lantern, a table, and a very old map of Calenta and the Reiassan continent, along with a few stools, one of which was broken – but it did have a second door and, possibly more importantly, it was secret and private, and it was big enough for all three of them.
Taikie was turning around in a slow circle. “This is perfect. This is wonderful. Saydrie, you’re brilliant.”
She did not give higher praise than that, he knew. Saydrie smiled and bowed to her. At least something today had gone right.