(chapter continued from previous post)
Clytie made a sound that might have been an inelegant snort of disgust instead of more sniffling. “She didn’t mention you even once, milady. By either name.”
“People forgetting me isn’t that unusual. When they remember me, it’s normally because they want something from me or because they disapprove of me. Feel better?”
“Y-yes, milady, but I almost…”
“Almost, but didn’t,” Lysandra said firmly. “Do you know what we need to do now?”
“We need to wake Hermia up and we need to go tell her and Narcissa and Madoc about this.”
“If there are still people out there who mean anyone in this household harm, then they need to know about this. Why don’t you get yourself cleaned up a bit, while I get Hermia, and then we’ll go up on the roof?”
Clytie sighed. “Yes, milady.”
“It’s going to be all right. You haven’t done anything. And it’s important information. Up you get.”
Clytie scrambled to her feet. Lysandra sighed to herself: since Clytie had been without female relatives to teach her to dance since she was very young, and Megaira had lost hers not long before coming to them, she’d personally taken over teaching both girls to dance. Megaira was good enough that if she chose to marry someday, she’d do as well as most women, but Clytie… well, it was just as well that she was unlikely to want to marry. Though apparently she did better with the lessons the four guards gave her, so she should probably just consider it another example of people being different.
Lysandra rose more smoothly, and left Clytie to find water to wash her face and to have time to compose herself.
Hermia came to her door immediately when Lysandra tapped on it and called her name, though she was naked and tousle-haired so presumably had been asleep.
“Something happened today,” Lysandra said. “You and Narcissa and Madoc all need to know and I don’t think it should wait until breakfast. I’m sorry to wake you.”
“It’s all right, I’ll live.” Hermia stepped back into her room to catch up her tunic and pull it on, then the belt that supported her long knife.
“We need to wait for Clytie.”
“Clytie? Is she…?”
“She’s not hurt, just very upset. Someone who knows too much approached her today with an extremely enticing offer.”
“She wouldn’t betray us.”
“Agreed. But she feels bad about being tempted.”
Hermia sighed, tying her hair back with a leather thong into a rather messy tail. “That girl. She expects too much of herself.”
Clytie joined them, much subdued. Before anyone could get into any further discussion, Lysandra shooed them both up two flights of stairs to the roof.
“Madoc, wake up,” she said. “Cissa, we need you too.”
Narcissa hastily abandoned her current scroll and strode over to them. “What’s wrong?” In another part of the roof, Madoc stretched and yawned hugely, and got up from the couch he’d been napping on.
“Something happened today,” Lysandra repeated. She drew Clytie down beside her on one of the couches, but kept ahold of her hand; the others quickly dropped onto seats around them. “Tell them about the woman you met today.”
Uncertainly, eyes low, Clytie repeated her story. She stumbled badly over the bit about how Hermia would see her.
“I already think you’re brave and clever,” Hermia chided, though she sounded more exasperated than angry. “I wouldn’t waste the time on teaching you otherwise.”
Lysandra caught Hermia’s eye and shook her head; Hermia sighed but let it go at that, so Clytie could finish.
“This woman,” Madoc said. “Was she Enodian?”
“I don’t know,” Clytie said doubtfully. “She speaks Enodian perfectly with no accent, not a foreign one I mean, she sounded like she’s from around the capital and not from the south. But her skin was really dark, like the people from the western islands. Even darker than Iole’s.”
“Second- and third-generation immigrants aren’t uncommon,” Narcissa said to Madoc. “They have full Enodian citizenship.”
“Or,” Madoc said, “she’s older than she looks and has been in Enodia long enough to sound like a native. I’m not saying that’s the most likely, but it is a possibility. Did she say anything about blood or healing fast?”
Clytie nodded. “She wanted to know if I knew anything about the wolf with yellow blood that disappeared after the fight, and whether I was sure it was protecting milady Narcissa. I thought that was a stupid question, since it stopped a bear from reaching her and milady Lysandra. And she said she’d heard that one foreigner had been killed and one got hurt, but she’d been asking around and found out about four foreigners who matched the same description, with a big dog of some wolfish breed, renting rooms in the city for a few days before, and did I know why there are still four only with no dog.”
Madoc muttered something unfamiliar, but it didn’t sound pleasant. “These aren’t good questions. Covering our tracks after something that public is bad enough, without trying to hide not only from a lot of people who can see things others can’t and from people who are like us in at least the most basic sense. Kieran lost someone important once, because someone saw her change and the whole community came after them.”
“Enodia is accustomed to the gods taking a direct role in matters,” Narcissa said. “It doesn’t occur every day, only in large matters, but it does occur. More often, a statue moves to turn away from or towards something, in a different pose and with many witnesses, or something of the sort that sends an unmistakable message, but it is common knowledge that the gods have other methods and messengers. The presence of people who are not human is less likely to cause fear or horror than it is to cause intense debate over which god and what they want and to what degree that conflicts with what other gods clearly or possibly want.”
“I suppose that’s better.” Madoc didn’t sound entirely certain of that. “At least we know for sure that they haven’t given up, and there are at least two other than the archer even if the archer is one of her ‘friends’. Tyrel’s better at plans than I am, and Kieran will be back soon, so I don’t think we should do anything hasty, but it’s good reason to stay alert.”
“We should warn the rest of the staff,” Hermia said. “Make sure they know that someone may try to use them to get inside the house. And that they lie.”
“I rather doubt,” Lysandra said, “that once inside, they’d restrain themselves in who they attack. And I’m certain Cissa and I would be the real primary targets.”
Madoc nodded. “I think you’re right.”
“Clytie,” Narcissa said gravely. “Thank you for trusting my judgement and having the good sense to stay out of a honey-baited trap and the courage and honesty to tell us what happened. If you would rather stay out of the market for a few days, I’m sure we can arrange something.”
“I’ll go myself,” Hermia said. “Or go with you. Let anyone try against both of us, hm?”
Lysandra kept her smile to herself as Clytie finally raised her eyes to Hermia’s. “You don’t… you don’t think I did something bad?” the girl said tentatively.
“Gods, no. I agree absolutely with Narcissa.” The guard looked at Lysandra, then Narcissa. “If there’s nothing else for tonight, suppose I take Clytie back down to bed?”
Madoc nodded. “I don’t think there’s anything we can actively do, other than warning the rest in the morning.”
“Go ahead,” Narcissa said to Hermia and Clytie.
Lysandra let go of Clytie’s hand after a last squeeze. “Get some sleep. We’ll tell Pherusa and Acantha that you can sleep as long as you need to.”
“I need to be up to work,” Clytie protested, though she let Hermia usher her off towards the stairs.
“The house will function without you for one morning,” Narcissa said firmly.
“That,” Madoc sighed, running the fingers of one hand through his hair, once the pair were gone, “was the kind of attack that we should’ve been expecting, given the little we know about them. I wonder how much they’ve been using tactics like that to get other things they want.”
“I wonder,” Narcissa said icily, “how much suffering and hardship they’ve inflicted on our people that way. I want them out of Enodia the way I would want poison out of the body of a patient.”
“Kieran’s back tomorrow night, thank the moonladies, and maybe we can come up with a plan then. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to wait for prey to break cover before you pounce.”
“Well, I’m going to get the drink I was after,” Lysandra said, rising. “And I believe I’m tired. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Sweet dreams,” Narcissa said.
Lysandra bit down on her first reply, wishing her the same, and settled for, “I hope so.”