(chapter continued from previous post)
There were a number of responses she could think of, but they’d probably lead ultimately to violence, and that would probably cause trouble—though her lack of fear of personal injury had little to do with her blue-white blood. She’d discovered, once they got outside the culture she knew where all women learned to dance as children, that there was a very peculiar and widespread view of dancers as delicate and fluttery and weak. She couldn’t, for the life of her, imagine how anyone had come up with that.
It wasn’t as though he’d listen anyway, even if she took his words and actions apart in small pieces to point out that the only thing he was going to gain was the admiration of similarly single men.
So, she rolled her eyes, shrugged, and stepped past them. They threw more insults back and forth, the volume increasing to be certain she heard, but she simply stopped listening.
Somehow, there were always more like this, and Kaveri had told her resignedly that they were nearly everywhere—they were just more common, and the behaviour more accepted, in some cultures than in others.
Still, there were women watching, and children of no obvious gender. Maybe one woman could set an example.
And if not, well, there was nothing she could do about it, and she did have a list of things to buy, about half of them the result of Narcissa taking stock of what she’d been selling recently.
Too bad she can’t come up with a cure for being obnoxious, stupid, and self-absorbed. That would help all of us.
She wandered around the market, looking for places that offered what she needed, and deciding which stalls looked the most promising. One had jars of honeycomb; she licked her lips, making note of that one.
The proprieter of a stall offering fresh eggs and cheese and several sorts of heavily preserved meats seemed about to speak several times while Lysandra was going through the list. Finally, she said, “You’re the dancer from the show, aren’t you?”
“Yes.” Twice in one day, I’ve been recognized with no makeup and in everyday clothes. I suppose that happens when you’re visibly a foreigner. “Why?”
“My husband and I went yesterday to see it. And he went back, for the late one.”
Oh dear, I hope she’s not about to throw a jealous fit…
The woman grinned. “When he got home, he, well… we’ve been married for over thirty years, and things can get a bit routine. I’m grateful, let’s leave it at that. Whatever you need, I promise you’ll have at a good price.”
Lysandra’s dark eyebrows rose, but she returned the grin. “I’m glad to hear it. More often I get wives angry at me.”
“Better a bit of daydreamin’ watchin’ you than watchin’ women he sees every day and who might watch back or worse. And worth it to add some fuel to a fading fire.”
That whole exchange put her in a much better mood for the rest of her shopping and her walk back.
Everyone else was busy with other jobs. Madoc was looking after the donkeys and mule while Mirren and Tyrel carefully arranged boxes of Narcissa’s gear and medicines, bound bundles of hay and a sack or two of grain, a small barrel they kept filled with fresh water for between sources, Narcissa’s black fortune-telling tent, baskets and sacks with food that would travel well, and other bulky items on the cart. Kieran, in human form, was going over the harnesses inch by inch, sitting crosslegged on the grass. She couldn’t see Narcissa or Kaveri, but the wagon door was open and she could hear voices inside, and the bedding and rugs were all draped over the propped-up shafts and anything else in range to air out. More wood had already been added to the fire, though it wasn’t lit yet, and the largest pot, the one big enough to make soup or stew for all of them, waited near it.
They were careful to keep the wagon as neat as possible, and the harness was checked frequently, but they’d chosen to linger an extra day so they could make certain everything was as it should be. Kieran guessed that they had, at most, another ten days of travel ahead of them at their current speed, and they could cover it the most easily if they didn’t have any surprises on the way. The plan was to leave early tomorrow—the sun was strong, but not much danger when they could ride inside the wagon or in the shade of the canvas cover on the cart, and they could stop at midday to let the donkeys and mule rest.
She climbed the steps into the wagon, and found her sister and Kaveri cleaning the half-empty interior. When they’d first bought it, every fingertip of space inside had been obsessively decorated with gold leaf, primary colours, densely patterned fabrics, glass and mirrors. In Enodia, realism and balance ruled: an ideal composition was largely simple, drawing attention to limited areas in which more was going on. The decor had given both Lysandra and Narcissa a headache. With much of the magpie-nest shiny stuff removed, with the colours now solids or simple textures, mostly in moonlight shades with sporadic night colours for contrast, it felt far more welcoming now. Compared to the palace that had been their childhood home and the houses they’d lived in as adults, it was tiny, but it was theirs, and it was surprisingly comfortable. It was a home they could take with them in this new life out in the greater world, unlike the home they’d had to leave behind. If that meant there’d be some inconvenience now and then, it was worth it.
If, ten years before, sharing a house with Narcissa and their small household of staff, working mostly on the early plans for Enodia’s hospital system, she’d been told even by one of Aithre’s Oracles where her path was going to lead… she’d never have believed it possible. But then, she wouldn’t have believed there was any way for her body to truly match what her mind knew was real, either. Or that she’d actually be enjoying this life, now that she was getting used to it. It did still involve masks, but pretending to be human felt much less oppressive than pretending to be a man, and it completely lacked the sorts of masks that highly visible royalty had to develop.
“Delivery,” she said cheerfully. “I got everything on the list.” And two substantial, tightly-sealed jars of comb honey, as well.
“Good,” Narcissa said, taking the basket. “Some of it is for supper, and if it’s to cook properly we’d better put it on soon. It’ll be a nice change to have a meal together with everyone human.” She lifted one of the honey jars, identified the contents by the design painted on the outside, and smiled. “And I see we have provisions for the alternative, too. Here, find a safe place for it, and I’ll go start on supper.”
That’s it for travel stories. Next up: a new adventure! Thanks for reading! ~~Steph