Kalamite, Keefer Papa of the Runman Order
The two token holden barred Kalamite’s way. And had he expected something other? “I need to speak with the Lafard-Legere. It is urgent.”
“You have an appointment?” asked the senior holde.
“If I had an appointment would I be pressing? And if I had time for an appointment it would not be urgent. Drip-headed jerts! Just tell him I have vital information. His life hangs upon it.”
The holde looked to his companion. “Do you reckon he’s making a threat, here?”
“What, like a threat to the Lafard-Legere? Aye. Aye, it could be so.”
“Reckon a night in the cell might amend him?”
The younger holde chuckled. “Three nights might be better yet—or are they days? With these eclipses, who can tell.”
“It is all so confusing, I agree. What say you we make it three nights and three days? That should cover it.”
“Rate yourselves scary, do you?” Kalamite sneered. “As if you can act without the Lafard-Legere. Now call someone to take me to him.”
“Yikes, where have you been?” the senior holde said, finally receiving a hefty whiff. “Have you been washing? You smell remarkably sweet.”
“He’s been splashing horse piss behind his ears.”
“A great improvement on his usual stench.”
“Enough!” Kalamite snapped. “Send someone to tell Breken Lafard that I am here and I need to speak with him. Urgently.”
The holden pulled wry faces at each other across their crossed pikes.
Aiya, were they men or infants? His anger was rising, he could feel it reddening his face—which these two jerts would take as embarrassment when it most certainly wasn’t.
“When I finally get this requested audience with Breken Lafard I shall report you lorel-heads to him.”
They laughed. “That’s not hardly encouragement to do your bidding, that’s not, is it?” Yet the senior holde did call into the darkness behind him. “Hiwi!”
Hiwi answered. The holde relayed Kalamite’s request.
But then they kept him waiting another half hour in the cold and the dark and with a rising wind severely whipping around him. Aiya!
Hiwi returned and motioned him in.
Ha! Now Dizpeter walked alongside him, warming him with his purple glow. Of course, Murag would have done the job better, but Murag right now was favouring the Boddy Twin.
“Ere, have you been sleeping with hogs?” Hiwi asked once into the core chamber. “His sweetness, the Lafard-Legere, won’t be pleased. And you’re to wait here.”
Kalamite waited. Impatient, he drubbed a boot-beat on the cold marble floor—but stopped when he heard the duum-duum, duum-duum and click-click-click of someone with a stick descending the stairs. Beside the first, he heard a heavier set. He was reluctant to turn to see who it was. No need. He cursed: May the tarnished explosion soon wither and die. It was that blighted lafard-awis, he who had released the first Boddy—even though, by then, he’d been only a corpse.
Stiff from his nights in hedgerows, stables and pig-sties, it hurt to bow low. Yet here was Breken Lafard-Legere and it would be his head if he didn’t offer token respect. Aiya, the pain! It couldn’t have been more had he spread his limbs full upon the floor. Breken sniffed and grimaced and becked Kalamite up—which sign he’d not have seen if he’d not been peeping.
“And now what is it?” Breken asked in wearied tone. “Is Heli about to fall on our heads?”
“With respects, Hadd Leef, this is no time to jest. I am freshly returned from following that Eshe-woman.” He ignored that both Breken and Mikel rolled their eyes. “I espied her meeting with your brother, Trefan Lafard. Hadd Leef. Indeed, they spent the night together—at your own manse. I am surprised you have not heard of it from your bachelor—what’s his name . . . ”
“Kunnadi,” Breken answered as if Kalamite intended the question. “And, aye, he has told me. He also told me that although my brother first left the manse, not to be compromised, he then returned because of the cold. He shared Kunnadi’s chamber that night. But I thank you the same for your concern.”
“But—” It was a lie, it couldn’t be true.
“But nothing, Runman. Now, if that is all you’ve to say, you may go.”
“Nix! I have news of the Lubanthan usurper, as well. He has a twin! Aiya, you’d not believe it. And he’s acting now as the Varlet Verth’s own hand. You must arrest him. He intends to kill you.”
Breken Lafard laughed. Outright, mockingly laughed. “Take this stench away.”
“Or do you want to spend the night in a cell? Legal this time; we have the Lafard-awis here. Holde, take him out. I want him and his stench no place near me.”
“But, Hadd Leef, I have—” The spike of a long pike jabbed into his back. He had no choice but to move. “You’ll rue the day,” he called back to Breken Lafard.
Their laughter trailed behind him.
~ ~ ~
Kalamite’s eyes held longingly onto Wood Tower, glistening in the yellow light of the otherwise dark. Nix! Still there were other things he must attend.
As soon as into Runman House—what warmth, what welcome—he sent Honning to fetch that hobbling old holde Matikkas. When Matikkas arrived he took him down to his cubby. “I know it is late in the season now,” he prefaced his instructions, “but likely that makes it easier. I need a bank-bear.”
“I have five, back at Dormir House,” Matikkas told him. “They sleep some in the coldest weeks. But even asleep, Papa Hadd, they make decent bed-warmers.”
“I’m not interested in bed-warmers.”
‘As you say,’ said Matikkas, unmoved by Kalamite’s snap.
Kalamite held up a key. “See this?”
“Though old, Papa Hadd, I am not blind,” said Matikkas.
“It’s a key.”
“As I can see, Papa Hadd.”
“It’s the key to the Warison Path,” Kalamite said.
Matikkas, retired aged holde, grinned. “You want me to sneak into the stew-house with it?”
“Nix! I want you to sneak into Two Boars House.”
Kalamite had expected at least a query; he received not as much as a surprise-lifted brow.
“And my reward?” asked Matikkas.
Kalamite leaned towards him, elbows resting upon the dust-coated desk. “You have been asking about our red berry-beads?”
Matikkas nodded. “I hear they do things to a body, better than beer and a stew together.”
Kalamite sniffed. “That Ffika told you?”
Matikkas shook his scraggy head. “Nay. Was Scheren.”
Kalamite brushed it aside. For now. “Well it’s true. And you shall have your beads—one for now to give you the taste; three more later when you return with the job done. Now . . .” Kalamite held up the small red bead. Aiya, he did not want to part with it, so precious to him. But it was a price worth it.
Eshe Parlan, Femella
After a night of not sleeping Eshe had finally made a life-changing decision, the first she ever had made.
Perhaps it was the notion of Boddy, so loving Disa that he would turn his life upside down for her . . .
Or maybe it was remembering Jonesi’s story . . .
But just as likely—perhaps more so—it was what Trefan had said to her.
She laughed at herself. For all her twenty-blurb years, she actually felt truly a grown-up adult now. These other things, of fleeing the bandits and seeking lodgings and escaping Kalamite, they weren’t decisions, they’d been forced upon her, essential actions to keep her alive and complete the task her father had set her. But this, this was even against what Judge Madir wanted for her.
She said nothing to Disa and Jonesi. Why speak, when as yet it might not prove possible. So many ifs before she could say, Hey, this is what I shall do. If the Rothi ways would allow it. If Mikel Awis would accept her. If she had sufficient knowledge. If Boddy didn’t fail and they all were slammed into the Warison cells pending group execution. So, first to speak with Mikel Awis.
She left Jonesi and Disa again heads together. They paid her no heed. She stopped by the mirrored tiles as she passed them.
Regarding herself, she suddenly thought: Ought she to take the ‘Leisan disguise’? Would that be safer with venturing out? Yet if she delayed, Disa and Jonesi might notice. And if they realised her intent they might try to stop her—at least to insist she waited until this multi-eclipse was passed and the tattagoose exploded.
No one knew yet how Kalamite would react. Would he attack Boddy’s lights and tubing? Would Boddy and the naskies then have to attack him? One man, though a maniac, against Boddy’s ‘many’. But, gods, no, in truth she didn’t know how many. Besides, wouldn’t Kalamite ramp after Mathon and Gowen: Mathon for providing the lights; Gowen for flooding his prayer place? The two companionable grey-heads were waiting together in Greystone House. Eshe chuckled; perhaps, truth be known, the tattagoose at this very moment was sitting on the flooded floor and sobbing.
She slipped out of Shore House. No sign of Rokke to ask after her going.
Outside, she shivered, but it wasn’t the shock of the wind that howled in from the sea. It was that peculiar night-in-day light, made worse by the acidic-yellow cast by the Mathon-lamps. The citadel close felt eerie, closed in—like the tombs the Rothi reputedly built in the basements of their citadel houses.
She mused about minever cloaks. Though their makings disgusted her, yet if she were to spend the winter here how many cloaks and clothes might she need. She could imagine her bed piled high with furs and jasckte-wool blankets. But no, if she stayed here through the winter it would be with a warm body nuzzling beside her. And then maybe Mathon would invent that heat-shining contraption Boddy spoke of; Mathon seemed good at such things.
But it wasn’t only the cold and the eerie light. It was the quiet of the close that spooked her most. No cattle lowing. Yet she’d heard them every day while touring the hamlets. Even at the tailor’s house there’d been goats to bleat, and chickens clucking. Now here all was quiet, not even a bird to chirp or a child to play. No women quarrelling. No men fighting. No drunkards singing. In such otherwise silence every incidental noise sounded loud—such as those booted feet now throwing off echoes from every wall. Those would be the holden patrolling.
One pair of feet separated out, walked faster, sounded . . . closer. Was it a holde trying to catch her, perhaps to advise her to go back inside?
There, too, was a smell. It wafted strong, assailing the back of her throat. Stale urine, she thought, such as the tanners and dyers used. But how could that be? No animals were kept in the close, and the naskies emptied the pots and latrines some place outside it. Did it come from the sea? The smell, perhaps, of marine amphibs that were dying? Was it lethal to inhale in such quantity? But no, it couldn’t be that, for the smell came from behind her.
She was almost beside the Green Tower before she realised the truth of the feet and the smell. Rams House was within haling distance. Gods, she could almost spit and hit it.
If she was quick, if she ran . . .
If she banged on the door . . .
Too late she realised, she shouldn’t have walked out without saying anything.
~ ~ ~