Turn 9

Gathering on the roof was becoming a familiar routine—in the shade until the sun was below the horizon, then out in the open.

With the entire household in on the secret, there was little concern about interruptions; it also meant that the meals appearing were now adjusted, only truly ‘meals’ for Madoc and Mirren, with Sanur heading rapidly towards dark, and for the humans of the household. There were, however, a few treats for Narcissa and Tyrel and Kaveri to nibble on, and of course the best wine comfortably watered.

Thaleia, with deep gouges in shoulder and arm where she’d been raked by the eagle’s claws, and Phaidra, who had suffered several broken ribs, a broken arm and ankle, a mild concussion, and a lot of deep bruises when the bear threw her down the marble steps, were home in their own rooms. Narcissa checked on them regularly, and the household staff collectively were pampering them shamelessly. Iole especially was grateful to have Phaidra back.

While Lysandra took a break from dancing to eat, Kaveri demonstrated some of the more diverting, less aggressive things she could do with her weighted cord. It was a subtle-enough weapon that she’d been teaching both Lysandra and Narcissa how to use it, having given Narcissa her old fancy one with the stone-cored weights and Lysandra the new one she’d just made with lead weights, keeping her plainer lead one with the chain core for herself. She preferred three weights for a bola to throw, but that was less likely to simply pass as a decorative belt, and she had to admit, there were things she could do with two that would have been impossible with three. Tyrel and Narcissa, both likewise overflowing with full moon energy, were currently doing another lesson in self-defence; Mirren and Madoc were perfectly content right now to just sit with Lysandra and watch Kaveri while they ate.

With Kieran back tonight, there’d be no prowling and poking into dark corners in their other forms. Catching up was going to take a while, and while Talir’s and Lirit’s children didn’t need any sleep at all right now, Sanur’s and Lysandra certainly did.

“Some dancers,” Lysandra said speculatively, “use a small scarf in each hand. Obviously the ends need to have weight for proper motion and control, but with something like a scarf fastened to each end, or a ribbon or several ribbons, the effect could be quite striking. Whether done as part of a dance or as a demonstration of its own.”

“We’ve seen an entertainer do tricks,” Mirren said, “with a set that had very brightly coloured cord and the weights were coloured glass balls. He and Kaveri traded some moves. Once, we saw someone do it at night with balls that were on fire, which was impressive, but…” she trailed off.

“We have a rather ambivalent relationship with fire,” Madoc said wryly. “It has its uses, but fewer of them, and it’s also something that could kill us for real.”

“No more easily than it could kill anyone else,” Lysandra pointed out.

“Maybe it’s in stronger contrast for us. With so many things that can’t, we’re more aware of the things that can. We’re mostly not fond of travel by water, either.”

Lysandra, Kaveri observed, even just relaxing in a fairly conventional pale blue dress with deeper indigo spiral woven borders, was more self-assured and more at ease than Evander ever was anywhere. What was wrong with civilized cultures, that Evander’s grey existence was preferable to recognition of Lysandra, all based on a bit of anatomy that civilization insisted remain modestly concealed at all times anyway? When a change of clothing and body language and being accepted as she was made such a difference in confidence and happiness? Certainly one of those things she was sure she’d never grasp and wasn’t sure she wanted to. She was glad Lysandra had taken her at her word and stopped pretending at home.

“It might change the dynamics a little,” Kaveri said thoughtfully. “The scarves or ribbons would catch the air. I don’t think it would be a major change, though. If that’s the purpose, I think it would be possible to make one with a lighter cord and smaller weights that would distract less from the fluttery bits. That could be interesting to try, to draw attention and make it flashier. Having a way to pick up a few coins when we wander into a town is always useful, and performing is frequently a good way.”

“We’ve also had ‘Rel show off throwing knives,” Mirren chuckled. “With ‘Veri or I standing against a wall, and ‘Rel throwing knives so they just barely touch us without hurting us.”

“And the consequences of missing would be dire,” Lysandra said dryly.

“They could be,” Madoc said. “Some people aren’t very happy when they find out we aren’t human. At the very least, we usually have to move on fairly quickly. There is some risk, it just isn’t exactly the risk it seems to be.”

“Noted. Have Cissa brew up something that looks and smells and tastes dramatic that you can sell as a universal cure, and soon you’ll be able to set yourselves up as a travelling show.”

“We could use a good dancer,” Kaveri said mischievously, reasonably sure by now that, unlike Evander, Lysandra would take it only as teasing, not as pressure.

Sure enough, Lysandra just smiled, and took another delicate bite of cheese. “Yes, you could.”

Tyrel and Narcissa joined them, Tyrel simply dropping into an empty chair and Narcissa, even in her short tunic, settling herself more gracefully.

“Talir will be up any time,” Tyrel said.

“And she’ll return your friend here with us?” Narcissa asked, as Kaveri caught the swinging weights and sat down next to her.

“They know exactly where we are. They generally send us back with the rest of the family. The only time I can think of they didn’t, having me reappear a short distance away—confused, I might add, since coming back is always a bit disorienting even under ideal conditions—meant that I wasn’t captured like the others and could help them escape along with some other prisoners.”

“Knowing Talir would be full in only a couple of days,” Mirren added, “we waited before doing anything. Not a fun couple of days, though.”

“Once,” Madoc said, “we begged and pleaded and prayed a lot, and then deliberately all killed ourselves and each other. There was a city under siege and even Kaveri couldn’t get inside any other way. Sanur very kindly dropped Mirren and I inside, and by the time the others joined us, we had the defenders convinced that we were on their side. We had some information about their attackers that made a major difference, and by that point, every body strong enough to still hold weapons was important.”

“Sorry, that one too,” Tyrel said. He glanced to the east, and smiled. “There she is.”

“So outside of extraordinary circumstances,” Narcissa said, “they’ll reunite us.”

“Yes,” Kaveri agreed. “We really could have used a healer during that siege. I know a bit, and Kieran spent ten years in the temple of a healing god, but it was a mess.”

“We go towards plagues, not away from them, when we hear about them,” Madoc said. “We can’t get sick, after all. But mostly we just try to help keep people comfortable and clean and fed. None of us have the skills to try to find a cure.”

Narcissa picked up a handful of grapes and bit into one thoughtfully. “Those who have studied plagues and tried to find cures have usually fallen victim to them before finding a solution, even documenting their own symptoms and progression as long as possible. Being able to fight an enemy like that, while it can’t attack in turn, could mean…” She trailed off, violet-lit eyes gazing at something other than the roof and her companions.

“Could mean,” Kaveri said, “being able to discover whether it’s one disease or ten or a hundred, and how to stop it from destroying whole communities.”

“That’s a wider realm than Neaira’s,” Lysandra said, “but it’s certainly in harmony with your oath to her. It’s only more ambitious.”

Yellow light spilled over the top of the vine-covered lattice.

Tyrel turned in his chair to face towards it, eyes closing. The intoxicating rush that the moonlight always offered was many times more powerful on the full moon. To go inside, or even into the shade, out of the light of the full moon, felt like a terrible stomach-dropping wrenching, and they all avoided doing so as much as they possibly could.

Knowing that, they all tried their best to help each other get into the light of their own full moons to celebrate them.

“There,” Madoc said, as the yellow light in one spot began to coalesce and darken into a familiar four-footed shape.

Which, only a moment later, was a living amarog, who shook himself heavily and paused for a lazy stretch before changing back to human, in the Enodian-style tunic he’d been wearing before the battle.

He surveyed the gathering measuringly. “Obviously I missed something important. I know I killed the bear,” he said, in his own native language. “The eagle?”

“Dead,” Tyrel said. “Kaveri and I got it.”

“Good.” That was a growl, with an undercurrent that reminded Kaveri of his snarl when he’d caught the bear’s scent. “I’m only sorry it was fast. Thank you. I’m extremely grateful she didn’t get away again.”

“You’re welcome?” Tyrel sounded puzzled. Kaveri felt much the same: that was very unlike Kieran. “Why?”

“Because that eagle was the one who held me while her master used the threat to me to force my mother to surrender herself, and who helped torture her.” The anger wasn’t entirely under the surface any longer.

“Oh,” Kaveri said. Suddenly, a lot made more sense.

“Are there more?”

“Yes,” Tyrel said.

“Major points only?”

Tyrel pointed to Narcissa. “Princess.” He pointed to Lysandra. “Princess’ cousin and assistant. Bear and eagle are sacred animals of two local gods and making it look like those gods killed these two would have had very bad consequences for a lot of people. We had an accident while we were being heroes and Narcissa,” he gestured again, “joined the family and Lysandra might so they can stay together. Bear and eagle are both dead, but there was also an archer and he got away. A woman who knows too much approached one of the maids in the market and tried to manipulate her into letting this woman and her friends into the house at night. We’ve been acting as bodyguards because two of Narcissa’s got hurt badly and we can deal with different threats. We don’t know how many more of them are around.”

Narcissa gave Kaveri an arch look, understanding none of that other than probably catching names.

“Very fast summary of the situation,” Kaveri said.

Kieran nodded. “I’m sorry,” he said in Enodian. “Even after many times, coming back involves re-orientation and adjustment, like waking from deep sleep. To me, moments ago I was fighting.”

“The others explained,” Narcissa assured him. “You saved our lives. Thank you.”

“And complicated them,” Kaveri murmured.

“That was an accident. Hush.”

“You’re very welcome,” Kieran said, choosing an empty chair, “but I didn’t attack them for your sake. I would have, but I have personal reasons to hate that line. That eagle is second only to one other.”

“We explained,” Tyrel said. “We’ve had a third of Talir’s cycle, we’ve covered a lot. What we don’t have is a plan.”

“What I know of them is only second-hand, things I remember my mother saying or that Hickory or Valeyan told me she said. But I suppose that’s more than available otherwise, so let’s see what we can work out.”

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