Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 16

By: Bluedragon

I returned to duty the following morn weary in body but gladdened in my soul. The personal half of my quest, though unlooked for, was accomplished. My duty to my tribe and the Jilhsaed remained. I could not reconcile the difference of the two. It occurred to me I was not required to reconcile them. They were separate and distinct duties. One was my life, the other kept me breathing. I resolved to keep the difference in my mind.

The only occurrence during Morning Court was unnoticeable to all save me. Salenia took her position behind Soliumant's chair. We were placed together in duty once more. It gave me cause for concern. I knew if Siveruian's words proved true, we would see more attempts on the Jilhsaed's life. Salenia's duties came with risk as did mine. It was our duty for we were kirgeurs. I knew it to be truth, though it made me uneasy. I was required to guard and protect my faelida and my shehala. I knew not where my duties would lead if an attempt were made.

After morning court, we took our meal with our companions. Iolaine was charged with making another servant disappear. Tre and Lyliane were to journey to market. We were in need of scrolls. My sister filled them in haste with her tales and thoughts. We charged Reinea with Sevianth's well being. She was to see to him. It was a sound plan.

Though the mediacio restricted Sal's duties, she felt able to translate Soliumant's words to Kierian. I allowed it, though in truth I doubted not her ability to set her own course. I had realized my shehala was as headstrong as a new foal. It was a good pairing for in truth, so was I. I knew then our household could readily be a field of battle. I could not find fault in it. I took pleasure in challenges. I knew Salenia did as well. It was a mark of the kirgeur.

Evening court was uneventful. The Jilhsaed did not stay long. He returned to his chambers within two hours of court. He wished to dine alone with a member of his harem. It let me free for the night. I was grateful. It would be the second night of stealing servants. I wished to end my quest before Soliumant took Kierian as his bride. We had not time to waste.

"How went the day, Iolaine?" I asked as we sat to the evening meal.

"It went well, Torienne. Lyliane and Tre purchased those they were sent after." He added a wink to his grin. He had performed his role well.

"Aight, Torienne. I think your sister bought all the scrolls the poor merchant had to sell." Lyliane commented. Tre reddened.

"Scribing has always fit my sister well. It was coinage well spent if it gladdens her heart to transcribe our journey."

"It does, sister. My gratitude for the opportunity. I think I shall not have much chance for scribing when we return to the village." Tre knew her position well. Though my father allowed and encouraged Tre's scribing, the village elders would not. When she joined with Dalin, she would vow to serve only him. It would break custom for her to continue her studies, though Dalin would not disprove of them.

"Aight. We shall return as heroes, missed and welcomed, but not believed. Nor shall we be allowed the freedom to which we have become accustomed." Sal spoke truth. Though we were kirgeurs and were allowed equal ranking with the men of our tribe, our companions would not be granted such privilege. As servants, they obeyed only our wishes. As members of a village, they would be answerable to the village elders. It was something I had pondered long at night. I knew not the answer.

Salenia pronounced herself healed after the evening meal. I sent Iolaine to fetch the mediacio. I wished verification before allowing her accompany me. I knew not to tempt wounds of the head. Regardless, her wounds had healed. The mediacio pronounced her fit. It was a relief as well as a concern. By her own skills, she would be required more rest. Our healers were well trained, but lacked the innate abilities of the mediacios.

We sent our companions to entertain themselves at the festivities. Reinea pledged to return Sevianth to the chambers when the festivities outgrew his years. I wished him to remain as innocent as possible. I did not wish him to mature beyond his years. It would only cause him harm.

"Shall we attend the festivities in the city?"

"Aight. I think we should. Have we a target?" Sal asked.

"We have. Tre has marked Tilithia, a companion of her youth. She is bound to an abusive faelida." I answered. It felt strange to speak of my sister as an oldster. We had not yet come of age. I was elder by three seasons, being nine and ten. Tre was only six and ten. I had six more anniversaries of my birth to pass before I would come of age according to custom. Salenia had seven. Until then, we were still considered in our youth and would be treated as such, kirgeur or not.

"Have you a plan beyond this quest?"

"Nothen. Have you?" I was curious to see what thoughts were in her mind.

"Aight. I have given much thought on the matter. Come, I shall tell you as we scout the city."

"Agreed. We need to find our chambers and trade this attire for our other." I reminded her.

"Then let us depart."

As we walked through the city, Salenia told me of her plan. She wished for us to settle beyond the borders of my village and build a homestead. We would raise horses, babes, an inn and perhaps a school. She wished Lyliane and Iolaine to care for the inn as we cared for the horses. It seemed a good plan. For a moment, I allowed myself to think on it. I could foresee the possibilities. We would remain kirgeurs, though we would have the freedom of being our own village. She had given the matter much consideration. I could find no fault in her wishes.

Julaniant was waiting for us when we entered our quarters. Beladico and Urikiane had made the quarters habitable. They had cleansed the flooring and created pallets in preparation for others. Iolaine had provided them food and other necessities. They were forbidden from leaving once they arrived. It was a way to ensure our safety and theirs. It would be harmful to our quest and our lives if they were to wander the city.

We attired ourselves in our black clothing and attempted to find our mark. The city was full of revelers. We had no need of covering our faces with cloth. Iolaine had secured masks of a stiff parchment. It would not seem suspicious for many wore such attire. They were curious masks in the shape of animals. Iolaine chose with care. They were in the shape of tirgeaurs. I believed it amused him to imagine us attired as such.

Tre had informed us Tilithia's faelida often visited a certain private bathing house in the city. Though it catered to the needs of the cordermers and merchants with coinage, he bid his servants attend and perhaps participate. It was an establishment that catered to dark desires on a grand scale. I had no wish to visit such a place. Duty required me to enter.

We had no plan. Neither of us had been in such surroundings. We knew not what to expect. Tilithia's faelida was languishing in a pool for bathing. He was joined by many females. I wished to avoid the scenes I was required to observe. I would be long in remembering them. If not for his cruelty, I would have loathed the faelida regardless. Such acts were crimes in my tribe. I wished to remove his soul from his body. He was removing Tilithia's innocence without concern or care.

The baderema did not hear us approach. We slipped silently into the chamber. The women who accompanied the man in the pool watched closely but made no sound of warning. Reining in my desires for the man's life, I used the hilt of my dagger and rendered him to sudden dreaming. Salenia did the same with the lone guard. The guard seemed more concerned with the watching of such acts than the guarding of his faelida.

Tilithia was in a state near to dreaming as Sal and I pulled her from the water. Our faces were covered and we looked neither male nor female. Our attire concealed our sex. I had no concern the women of the place would attack us or remember our features. Sal gathered Tilithia's garments and I slung the young woman over my shoulder. I could not resist the swift kick to her faelida's ribs as we exited the chamber. I was in awe that no one arrived to assist the man. The women in the pool merely watched as we departed.

We crept along the shadows of the city, intent of moving with as much stealth as we were able. Tilithia did not stir as we journeyed back to our hiding place. Those who saw us paid us no heed. It made me wonder if such sights were common during festivities. Regardless of our confidence in our skills, we took an ambling, indirect trail to our hired quarters. It was designed to bore any in pursuit. We had no need of discovery.

I carried Tilithia to the chambers. Beladico hastened to assist. Between the efforts of Sal and Beladico, Tilithia stirred. She was frightened by her surroundings and our appearance. We appeared as if we were night spirits set upon her by Necimius to drag her soul to hetdeil. I could not fault her fears, though I could fault her screams.

"Dagthen, keytheda, can you not silence her?" I asked. Tilithia screamed until she had not the voice to scream again. Julaniant and I readied ourselves for company. We were fortunate. None were stirred to assist by her screams.

"She is silent now. I know not if her mind can cope with the use of herself." Sal stood and approached me. "She is not well, Torienne."

"Dagthen." I cursed again. "Can you assist her any?" The girl's cries tore at my heart, though the kirgeur in me wished her silent. I had compassion for her plight, though I lacked the patience to tend to her tears.

"Perhaps. See you to her as I ready a drink for her. Iolaine delivered herbs for healing purposes this day. I shall prepare them. Perhaps it will assist her in calming." Sal remained beside me until I moved my feet in Tilithia's direction.

"Til." I knelt in front of her. "It is Torienne." I removed the tirgeaur mask from my face. "You are safe. We shall not harm you."

"Torienne?" She spoke in a low voice. "Why am I here? Where is my faelida? I wish to return home."

"You are here because we brought you here. We shall return you to the village as we are able." I did not answer her other question. "We have need of you to assist us before we can return you home."

"What need you?" She appeared frightened by the thought. Tilithia had been reared in shelter. Her parents guarded her as if she were a precious treasure. I knew not how she would react to her situation. I feared she had suffered more than she could bear. I knew not if she could cope with her use and her loss.

"We require you to remain within these walls until we can return you to the village. You need be silent and take care to remain unseen."

"We are returning?"

"Aight. Though we shall not return for at least a moon. Can you assist us in that manner for so long?"

"I have no desire to leave these surroundings until I am to return home." She sounded as if she were still in her youth and had not begun her lessoning.

"Then for that you have my gratitude. Salenia shall tend to your wounds. Do as she bids." I counseled as Sal took my place before Tilithia. I did not stay near. I had no wish to view the results of her faelida's attentions.

Julaniant and I conversed on many topics as Sal and Beladico tended to Tilithia. Urikiane sat in silence. He seemed intent on his carving. Julaniant assured me Urikiane was worth my trust in him. He was merely reserved in speech and deed upon first meeting. In that, he brought Luiciak to my mind. Lu had been similar in demeanor.

Salenia ensured Tilithia would rest through the night hours. She illustrated for Beladico the proper mixture of herbs Tilithia required. She would be long in healing. Beladico assured us she would assist in the healing of the young woman's mind. It would be the harder though the more important.

We donned again our normal attire before departing. We instructed them to remain in the quarters and assured them we would send supplies as we were able. Iolaine had delivered much in the ways of food and drink that day. It would hold them for many days if we proved unable to return.

"Torienne, shall we attend the festivities? I am not in haste to return to our chambers."

"If you wish, we shall." In truth, I was not in haste to return either. I knew Salenia to be the more sensitive. I knew as well that the images we had witnessed would touch her deeply. She wished as I did, to push them from her thoughts. The festivities seemed to possess such qualities.

We journeyed to the palace steps. The greater of the festivities took place within view of the guards and cordermers. Had we chambers near the face of the palace, we would be in view of them. I had no wish to trade. I knew those who inhabited chambers near the streets would wish otherwise. The noise would break their dream paths with ease.

We witnessed many acts of skill and daring. One man attempted to consume his sword while another lit items on fire and danced over them. I knew not how they accomplished such feats. They seemed to have great tolerance for pain. More tamed snakes, made birds fly at will through the gathering of people or danced to strange music. The display we enjoyed greatly was of several men and two women. They wore strange garments and enacted battles, tales of might and courage, and humorous legends of their people. They were greatly skilled. We did not regret our watching of their performance. We donated coinage as asked before we departed.

As we were about to enter the palace, a movement caught my eye. For a brief moment I thought Iolaine had dressed for the quest and departed. The figure was all in black and clung to the shadows. Wordlessly, I indicated to Salenia we should follow. She indicated her agreement.

We followed the figure for several leagues. We entered a section of the city opposite the one where we hid our stolen servants. It seemed to be the same manner of section. It was impoverished and ill lit. It made the tracking difficult. We soon lost sight of the dark figure. Unsuccessful, we returned to the palace.

Our companions were walking their dream paths when we returned to the chambers. Though I was greatly tired, I had no wish to join them. I poured two mugs of viniare and handed one to Sal.

"Perhaps we should make use of the balcony." I suggested.

"Perhaps we should." She agreed. "I feel for Tilithia."

"I do as well. It is fortunate we rescued her." The balcony had no seats. We were required to stand.

"I wish we had done so before." She seemed saddened.

"Keytheda, we rescued her when able. We should be content with that. I confess it does not help much. I wish I had parted the baderema's soul from his body." I was angered at him. Tilithia and Tre were companions in their youth, though their friendship had waned as Tre began her studies. I could imagine my sister, my cousins or the daughter I did not then have in such a situation with ease. I knew Sal could as well.

"It would have done much harm." She assured me. "We need continue our watch for the other thieves."

"We shall. We have need of locating my cousins as well. We shall not be able to return to the village until we have rescued them." I drained my mug of viniare. "Perhaps you shall now be able to dream?"

"Perhaps. I am tired though not sufficiently so." She grinned.

"I shall search my mind for ways to exhaust you."

"I shall be grateful."

That night after we exhausted our bodies, I held my keytheda in my arms. She dreamed uneasily. I knew she suffered from night terrors. She woke once in tears and cried the soreness of her heart on my shoulder. I felt grateful for my strength when she accepted it. I knew not the words to comfort her, though I knew she needed only my presence. I did not dream much that night. I did not regret the lack.

We were fortunate the following morning. Tilithia's faelida was not of sufficient rank to enter the Jilhsaed's chambers prior to court. He was required to voice his grievances during court. It was difficult to maintain a demeanor of disinterest as he imparted his tale. To salvage his pride, several armed men had beaten him and stolen his servant. Sal was hard pressed to muffle her laughter.

The man's tale, erroneous as it was, caused the cordermers of the court to panic. Never before had such deeds been performed. For five seasons, servants and slaves had been stolen. No attack had been made on a cordermer during the thefts. It frightened them. The man was pleased to regain his pride. Had he but known it had been two women who rendered him into a dream state; he would have lost his status.

The result of our attack upon him, and the untruths he imparted of it, called for a meeting of advisors, councilors, Soliumant, the ranking guards and the Jilhsaed. Evening court was forgotten in the uproar. Protocol was forgotten as well. We consumed our meal together, regardless of the Jilhsaed's presence.

Many hours were wasted as they discussed courses of action. Had they but known the culprits were in the chambers with them, a solution would still not have been found. They talked much of war and plans, but to little effect. Sal and I were asked no questions. It was fortunate. I doubted my ability to speak untruths to the Jilhsaed. I knew not what Salenia would answer if she were required to speak.

They parted at the evening meal. The Jilhsaed assured those of his court he would see to the matter. The palace guards were required to lengthen their time of duty and more servants were to be trained as guards if they so desired. I had the duty of training them, as did a brother to Soliumant, Tominent. It was the Jilhsaed's command.

We returned to our chambers weary of body. As guards, it had been our duty to stand behind the Jilhsaed and Soliumant. We were not permitted to sit in their presence unless commanded. Only Soliumant would breach protocol when permitted and when unaccompanied by those of rank.

Our companions had held the meal for us. They had heard of the occurrence through the natural round of news possessed by the servants. None held secrets for long in the palace unless they guarded them well. A close relationship with the servants assisted in keeping discussions and deeds private. We were fortunate to have our companions pretend to be our servants.

"We heard tales of many men attacking a cordermer last night." Iolaine informed us as we took our places at the table. "It is said they stole his servant."

"We guarded during a council session on the matter." I said in answer. "Servants are now offered the chance to train as guards. The Jilhsaed wishes to increase security. The cordermers are panicked. If you wish to train, you may."

"Perhaps." He shrugged his shoulders. "I shall think on the matter."

"Sevianth. How went lessonings?" I redirected the conversation.

"They went well, Torienne. A man from the festivities entertained us. He taught a snake to dance with an instrument." His description confused me.

"He used the instrument to make the snake dance?" Sal asked for clarification.

"He did. He told us how snakes mature and are vicious unless trained properly."

"Have you still a desire for one?" I asked.

"I have not. The man showed us the marks on him from snakes that would not be trained. It looked painful." I was gladdened by the news. I had no fear of snakes though I had no wish to share chambers with one. "He is to entertain the court this evening. May we watch?"

"You may if Tre and Reinea wish to escort you." I gave permission readily. There was much I wished to discuss with Iolaine and Lyliane.

"I would wish to view them. In truth, I have yet to tire of watching the feats." Tre confided.

"I shall accompany them if you desire it so." Reinea sounded resigned to her fate. She did not seem to enjoy the festivities. She had been in service to the palace before Lyliane.

"You would have my gratitude." I told her. "I wish none to wander alone."

"I shall accompany them." She stood. "Shall we?"

"My gratitude, Reinea." Sevianth smiled broadly.

"We shall return when the activities turn more adult." Tre assured us. I believed viewing such activities shamed her. She had not lost the innocence of her youth.

"Enjoy your viewing." Sal called as they departed. "Sister, what know you of the cordermers here?"

"I know but little. Why ask you?"

"One or two of the cordermers acted in strange manners. Perhaps we should inquire discreetly if they have suffered from stolen servants." I answered. Sal and I had received the same impression during the council.

"I shall inquire of others." Lyliane promised.

"As shall I. I will speak of it to Julaniant on the morrow. Perhaps he would know such things." Iolaine pledged his support of this new quest.

"We need to discover if the other thieves are help or hindrance. We must also learn of their identities without letting them know of us." I counseled.

"I know of one other from your village, Torienne. I know not of the others." Lyliane informed me.

"There are but two still missing. Both are cousins to Tre and I. I have not seen either since Soliumant chose Kierian."

"Perhaps to keep from appearing suspicious, we should steal another before we liberate your cousins." Sal had given the matter much thought. "If one were to think of our whereabouts last eve and the one taken, we would seem obvious choices."

"Aight. Have you a target?" I asked my companions. I knew of none. In truth, I dealt little with servants in my duties.

"Nothen." Sal and Lyliane shook their heads in time with Iolaine's answer.

"Dagthen. We shall scout a suitable target on the morrow. We shall now either take rest or attend the festivities."

"I believe I should enjoy the watching of the festivities if you would accompany me." Iolaine turned to his companion.

"I shall be pleased to accompany you." With reddened cheeks, Lyliane accepted his hand.

"We shall not wait for your return. Enjoy your time together." Sal bid them farewell. "It is a good pairing."

"Aight. It is. Perhaps when we return they shall be joined."

"I would think that a marvelous occurrence. What plans have you for this eve?"

"I have none. What do you wish?"

"I wish to swim. Wish you to accompany me to the river?" Sal rose.

"Aight. I shall follow willingly." I was not ready to seek my dream paths. In truth, I enjoyed the time we shared. It was rare our duties allowed us time together to relax.

"Then let us depart. Perhaps we shall not be interrupted by duty this night."

"If we are fortunate, we shall not be required to attend our duties before the sun rises." I agreed.

We were fortunate. The bells were silent as we walked near to the river. Though Salenia had expressed a desire for a swim, we did not enter the water. The night was cool and the moon was hidden. We had no wish to meet watery deaths. We contented ourselves with walking the length of the walls before sitting on the bank of the river.

We talked of many things in those hours. We spoke with hushed voices. The night was too still for loud thoughts, no matter the tongue in which they were given voice. The guards paid us scant heed. Our attire was well known and marked our identities with ease. Few guards journeying to their duty halted for conversation. We exchanged pleasantries and were not required to explain our presence by the river. Many of our station sought its comfort when not attending duties. It was a quiet place that enabled reflection of one's soul. It was also an ideal location for assignations.

Instead of amorous physical exertion, Sal and I practiced our sword dances. We had no wish to lose our skills to disuse. We were panting before half way through a normal bout. We resolved to make such practice a daily occurrence. Both of us feared for the other's safety though we did not speak of such matters.

We were aware of the sword edge we traversed. It made moments of uncomplicated companionship sweeter. We knew not what the next day would bring. We were content to think on the future and enjoy each moment, as we were able. The confidence we portrayed to all including one another was forced. In all our lessoning, none had ever told us the wearing away of patience we were experiencing. We were eager to end our quest, though we knew we were unable. We could not hasten the ending anymore than we could have predicted its beginning two moons prior.

"Tell me, Torienne, shall you miss this when we return?"

"Aight. There are many things here I shall miss." I paused for thought. "I shall not miss the dryness of the air nor the answering to a faelida. However, I shall miss the wondrous sights we have seen."

"I believe I shall as well. It seems so like a tale at times, yet it is as real as our villages."

"Wish you to return? We know not what awaits us." I had not given thought to remaining in the realm of the Jilhsaed, though I knew if she wished it so, we would make homes there.

"I know not what is fate and what is of our own design. I have a wish to return to our homeland. There is much I wish to speak of to Kayla and Chelstea. I wish as well to take some of what we have learned here and implement them in our village."

"Aight. I have had similar thoughts. I wish we had more time to learn than our duties permits. I have a desire to return. I need to escort my kin to their families."

"Do you not mean to your family?"

"Nothen. You and Sevianth, Lyliane and Iolaine are my family. I shall reside where you choose."

"If I wished to remain here, you would be content?" She seemed surprised.

"Aight. I would. Perhaps we could speak to Soliumant of breeding horses." I jested. "Have you a desire to remain?"

"Nothen. I have no desire to remain, though I had thought you did." She smiled. "It is good we spoke of the matter."

"I am comfortable here, in truth. My duty belongs to those of our homeland, not to the realm of the Jilhsaed." I felt a pull on my soul to return to my village. I knew there was something I was required to do there, some service I was required to perform. I knew not what, I only knew I had to return.

"As am I, in truth. I feel as you. We have some unknown duty to perform for our tribe that goes beyond this quest. I feel this quest is but a small part of it." She echoed my thoughts. "I have had enough philosophy for one night. Perhaps we should return and hear Sevianth's tales of the festivities?"

"Perhaps it is a good idea." I offered her my hand to assist her to her feet. "He shall be greatly envied."

"Aight. How many have such a skilled kirgeur for a parent?"

"Two skilled kirgeurs." I corrected. "Though I referred to the stories and adventures he shall tell when we return. There are not many who have seen as much as he."

"In truth. It is good your sister is scribing the tales. None should believe us otherwise." She laughed. "Come, let's go hear our heir."

"That is a good plan." I followed her willing to the palace.

The hour was later than we had thought. Tre, Reinea and Sevianth were walking their dream paths when we entered. Lyliane and Iolaine were not in the chambers.

"Should we wait until they return?" Sal asked. She did not appear concerned, merely cautious.

"If you wish, we shall. I wish a bath. Perhaps after we have bathed they will have returned." I suggested. I had no wish to seek my dreams before cleansing myself of our practice.

"I think we are the cleanest of all kirgeurs." Sal jested.

"Nothen. We were taught the importance of bathing. We are merely accustomed to it." I reminded her. "If all kirgeurs had such bathing chambers, no duty would be performed." I thought of our instructors.

"Aight. Kayla and Chelstea would never leave the pool unless they sought their bed. They are still much in love."

"They are. It gives me glimpses to our future, shehala. Come, let us bath then seek our dreaming."

"That is a good plan." She smiled. "I doubt we need wait for my sister. She knows the way to the chambers."

"Aight. Iolaine is capable of seeing her safely returned."

"Lead on, keytheda. I shall follow."

Salenia was walking her dreams when Iolaine and Lyliane returned to the chambers. Silently, and with great shyness, they sought their beds. I watched as they shared a slight embrace before parting. It gladdened my heart and placed a smile on my face. My dreams were peaceful and the paths smooth after.

For three days we watched and waited for a target to appear. In those three days, two more servants disappeared. We knew not the identity of the other thieves. Sal and I watched the cordermers at court closely while our companions used stealth and cunning to spy among the servants.

We completed our task with grace. I had few servants to train as guards. The Jilhsaed requested more from his cordermers. He offered the freedom of being a guard to any servant, male or female who wished it. I was not surprised when Graneima volunteered. Of the five servants turned guards Tominent and I had charge of, only Graneima showed skill with steel. It made for long sessions of training.

On the eve of the third day, Iolaine reported a target. Stealing the servant he suggested would require little skill but much cunning. Sal and I leapt at the challenge. We had been long without proving certain skills. We were gladdened by the opportunity.

After the meal on that day, Sal and I ventured from the palace as we had the previous two nights. On those nights we had merely viewed the festivities and carried food to our stolen ones. We scouted the city well, and kept watch for the other thieves. We saw no sign of them. We had wondered if they were wise to our charade or our skills. It made no difference. We knew we would discover them before we returned to our village.

The servant Iolaine had marked often escorted his faelida through the city during the festivities. The faelida was aged, mean of spirit, and ill of health. He traveled with several servants though only one was trained as a guard.

The moon was dark. It had turned its face from the orb for its rest. We did not need to change our attire. We purchased only masks and followed our mark with only our faces covered. We were no different from several attending the festivities. It was common for revelers to hide their faces. We knew not the reasoning behind such a custom, though we were grateful for it.

We trailed our mark for hours before an opportunity arose. The faelida halted his progress to view a performance of dancers. The crowd around the platform was great in number and eager in enthusiasm. With no sound, we crept behind the chosen servant, placed a mask over his head, and pulled him from the area into an alley behind the crowd. None paid us heed as all were focused on the platform.

The man struggled slightly. I used my dagger to render him to his dreams. Both of us pulled an arm over a shoulder. We assisted him through the streets of Marlkina as if he were intoxicated by ale. The ruse was well performed. He feet dragged uselessly behind him. We staggered with his weight and our illusion. We received only knowing looks and calls of sympathy.

"Is he harmed?" Julaniant inquired as we entered the chambers.

"He is not harmed. My shehala did not measure her strength. He shall waken before dawn." Sal assured him.

"We shall see to him." He pledged.

"Is Tilithia well?" I asked when I did not notice her.

"She is better, though she is not fully recovered." Beladico answered. "She is resting." I was able to see the slim form on the pallet after it was indicated.

"It is well that she is better. I wish her fully healed before we depart this land." Sal seemed concerned. "Perhaps she will not recover fully. Some do not who have been so greatly used."

"Aight. She was greatly sheltered as a youth." I agreed. "We should return before we are missed. Guard yourselves well."

"We shall. We are in your debt and shall do all you require to repay." Julaniant pledged.

"Nothen. We are grateful for your assistance." Sal assured him. "Come, we need to return."

"I believe I said that but a moment ago."

"You did. I merely echoed it." I could not see her smile beneath her mask, though I knew she wore one. "Come, keytheda."

"Aight." We departed and began our journey to the palace.

"I shall render them to their dreams if we have the need again."

"I shall allow you." I laughed. "I had not meant to strike him hard."

"He shall be well. You did not harm him." She assured me. "We should discard our masks."

"We should." I uncovered my face when we neared the palace. We placed the masks in a bin for refuse.

We did not hasten our journey to our chambers. We enjoyed a slow walk through the festivities. Tominent greeted us as we stood on the palace steps to watch another performance from the tale telling troupe. Again they were performing legends instead of merely relating them.

"Greet the evening, Torienne. This must be Salenia." He smiled broadly as he approached.

"Tominent, how goes the night?" I asked. "Salenia, this is Tominent. He is guard to the Jilhsaed and brother to Soliumant."

"Well met, Tominent." Sal extended her hand. He grasped her wrist according to custom.

"I have heard much of your skill from your partner and Soliumant. They both speak highly of you."

"It was petty flattery." Sal denied the compliment.

"Nothen. It was truth." I objected. "We were amusing ourselves watching the festivities. It makes a nice change."

"It does indeed." He laughed. "I am not at duty. I was wandering the city in search of companionship and entertainment as well. Perhaps you would care to accompany me? I wish to have an ale at an inn near to the palace. Several guards frequent it."

"I am grateful for the invitation." Tominent seemed a potential ally. He was a good warrior and a decent man. He also had the feel of the cylinge about him. "Shall we?"

"Aight. We shall." Salenia accepted.

"Gladdened am I to hear it. I had feared I would spend the evening alone. It is early and I have no wish for my dreams yet." He clasped my shoulder. "Come I shall buy the first round of ale."

"For that, I am grateful." I told him.

We followed his lengthy gait through the city. He led us in a different direction than the ones we had previously journeyed. It was the trade center of Marlkina. The entire street was filled with inns and taverns. The street itself was center for more festivities. These were of less animal acts and more legend telling. They catered to the merchants, travelers and guards who frequented the area.

Continue to part 17

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