Chapter 10

Sep. 7th, 2009 08:01 am
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For once, Loukas was glad to have risen at dawn; the sun washed the sands first with purple and blue and then crimson and gold. The night had been cold, and Loukas kept his mantle close about him until the sunlight began to heat his shoulders and the back of his head.

He'd forgone his veil the past few days; they hadn't met any travelers, and even Poppy hadn't objected to the immodesty. But now he donned it willingly, the light cotton a welcome protection against the increasingly brutal sun. Poppy had outfitted himself in a voluminous tunic and a wide-brimmed straw hat.

“What, no parasol?” Loukas teased. “Must you protect your delicate complexion?” Poppy's scowl, coupled with his floppy hat was so comical that Loukas laughed aloud.

By mid-afternoon, the Katros rose abrupt against the landscape, a mountain of sandstone and granite, dwarfing the tents pitched at its base. The sun backlit the monolith, catching the umber and orange; it looked as though it burned. Loukas shaded his eyes, his mouth falling open.

“Impressive, isn't it?” Nika said, her smiling fiercely.

“Yes,” was all Loukas could manage in reply.

“There are rumors of even greater mountains deeper in the desert, wonders that no Edessan has ever seen.”

Loukas tried to imagine it and failed.

They could hear and smell the horses a long way off. A city of test had sprung up around the mountain; the brightly-dyed and angular tents of the Edessans stood out among the earth-colored Djaani tents.

Loukas pulled his veil more firmly about him as they approached, letting it shadow his eyes and face. A modesty which was appropriate, but more importantly, which allowed him to stare at the strange people without risking offense.

The Djaani wore pantaloons gathered at the knee or ankle and long lose tunics in muted browns and blacks. At first Loukas wondered if their wives were in seclusion somewhere, and then, feeling deeply disconcerted, he realized that Djaan wives dressed and acted in the same manner as their husbands.

After a brief discussion with a Djaan man, Iereus directed the their small herd to a long series of make-shift corrals. An old woman stood by, muttering to herself and counting as the horses were led in.

“She keeps the accounts and assigns each horse to its auction,” Nika whispered to him, as they shooed the last of the yearlings in. “I don't know how she keeps it all in her head.”

Loukas refrained from asking what happened if the woman died before the end of the fair, which, considering her liver-spotted hands and wrinkled face, seemed likely.

Staking their own mounts out on the picket line, they pitched their tents on one of the long avenues. A slave raised several pennants, the blue and white of House Iereus snapping in the breeze. Loukas wanted to explore the camp, but night was falling.

“The Djaan been known to take Edessans,” Iereus said, warning Loukas not to wander alone. “Not often, and they're a hospitable people. But let's not test that hospitality.” He clapped Loukas on the shoulder. “I'll show you around tomorrow, if you'd like.”

---

Iereus proved as good as his word and shortly after breakfast the following morning, he took Loukas on a tour. The camp had grown even bigger since they'd arrived the day before. It smelled of cooking fires and horses and, when the winds changed, of the latrine pits. Loukas counted dozens of the lesser houses, who didn't mind sullying themselves with trade.

Loukas admired the light desert horses, with their elegant head and delicate feet. The Djanni decorated their saddles and tack with beading and tassels, lavishing on their horses all the adornments they denied themselves. Merchants of all kinds sold their goods under large, open tents -- jewelry, leather work, pottery. A table of weaponry in particular caught Loukas's eye. He lingered over the blades as Iereus tested the weight of a short sword.

“We'll have to be careful on the way back,” Iereus said, sighting down the blade and then returning it to the blanket with the others, waving off the solicitous merchant. Loukas's fingers itched to pick up a wicked-looking knife, its curved blade etched with maledictions. “Bandits find the fat purses making their way home to be easy targets. It can be quite dangerous; perhaps you should pick out a weapon, should you need to defend yourself against ruffians.” Loukas tore his gaze from the knives. Iereus wasn't quite smiling as he said, “Though I hope it doesn't come to that.”

“A sound suggestion, Husband,” Loukas agreed quickly. “I don't think Poppy would be much good against bandits.”

He picked up every blade on display twice, finally settling on a long knife. The blade was a long as his forearm, its hilt wrapped in red leather. He'd been tempted to choose something bigger, but good sense had won out -- whatever he chose, he would be stuck carrying. Besides, only children destined for the navy or Civic Guard learned to use blades, and Loukas could only handle the hunting spear or bow.

A little desert fox design was incised on the leather of the matching scabbard, the animal chasing its own tail. Well-pleased with his choice, he had Poppy help him fit it on his belt as Iereus settled with the dealer.

Iereus also needed new tack, so they went to see the leather workers. The tooled saddles and bridles were beautiful, but interested Loukas considerably less. Iereus selected a bridle and the merchant named an outrageous price. Iereus refused it and feigned interest in another merchant's wares, only to have the first knock five coins off his price. Loukas grew bored as Iereus made a new, slightly higher offer. Realizing they might take the better part of an hora before they finished, Loukas wandered a short way over to one of the small corrals. Most of the horses at the fair were picketed together or kept in a corral, but this one was alone. Loukas quickly realized why; it was a stallion, one of the biggest he'd seen. It made Kardax look like an ill-bred gelding. It's coat shone a glossy black and he snorted a warning as Loukas approached.

“That horse looks evil,” Poppy said. “Best to keep your distance.”

“Horses can't be evil,” Loukas chided, stopping just short of the rails. “Evil is solely the provenance of humans.”

Loukas didn't have any sweets with which to tempt the great horse, but he held very still as it pawed the ground and lay its ears back. Loukas made shushing noises, partly for the horse, and partly for Poppy, who huffed something about death by trampling.

The stallion relaxed slowly, its nostrils flared as it scented Loukas. It closed the distance between them and nudged Loukas's outstretch had. Loukas took this as an invitation and lightly scratched the horse's nose and up its broad forehead.

“It's not every day Azdh makes a new friend,” a woman said, ducking out of one of the Djaani tents.

Loukas started guiltily and snatched his hand back. “I'm sorry, I was just admiring.”

She shrugged, the red and turquoise beads of her many necklaces rattling a little. Her face was dark and weather beaten, but the twinkle in her eye suggested a much younger woman. “He enjoys the attention, the vain thing.”

Loukas leaned against the rail with both elbows. “Theros is the mightiest of the war gods in Edessa. He takes the shape of a black stallion. I think this might be him.”

The woman laughed. “Not a god, just a horse. He likes you, which says something about you, though I'm not sure what.”

Loukas smiled ruefully at her teasing tone. “I just like horses.”

“What's your name, boy?”

“He is Arist Loukas Kommenon Iereus, wife of Archon Iereus,” Poppy answered stiffly, disliking the woman's over-familiarity.

“A wife of the fine Archon Iereus,” she repeated mockingly, though Loukas thought her contempt was more for Poppy than himself. “And you are his keeper, I take it.” She looked him up and down; Poppy bristled under her scrutiny. “Is puffing yourself up in the service of your masters worth the price the extracted from you, little half-man?”

Poppy flushed and sputtered, but the woman's attention had already returned to Loukas.

“Your accent is excellent,” Loukas observed, curious where she might have had the chance to practice.

She smiled enigmatically. “I've spent time behind Edessa's walls.” She reached out to the stallion, which deigned to be scratched under the chin. “I have a daughter about your age. A fine girl. Smart as her mother and twice as pretty. But I'm having trouble finding her a husband.” She eyed him, her expression speculative, as though she estimated his weight.

“Come, master,” Poppy said, taking a hold of Loukas's elbow, to forcibly pull him away. “I think Archon Iereus is done with his bargaining.”

“Farewell,” Loukas said over his shoulder, taking in one last glance at the remarkable woman and her remarkable horse.

“If you ever find yourself among the Djaan again, ask for Shasta,” she called, waving good-bye.

---

Loukas was allowed to explore the camp while Iereus saw to the sale of the horses, so long as Poppy was always with him. The Djaani people considered the horse fairs to be a sacred trust, one of the few times a year when tribal disputes were set aside. Any who broke the peace would be harshly dealt with.

The city of tents quickly felt permanent to Loukas, as though it had stood for a hundred years instead of a few days. He accompanied Nika when she required it. She'd adopted the dress of a desert woman, with the addition of a veil, though Loukas thought she looked a bit strange.

“A rider's horse is as precious to them as their own children,” she said, watching as a woman cooed to her mare, an infant carried in a sling on her back. “Possibly more important. They travel by horse and consider them sacred.”

“Oh,” Loukas said, trying to imagine packing everything he owned on Rayna's back.

“They don't tolerate weakness,” Nika continued.

“Edessans aren't too keen on it, either,” Loukas objected, feeling a bit defensive.

Nika waved a hand airily, dismissing his point. “Yes, but in Edessa, the weak are dedicated to a church or married off. In the desert? They are left behind.”

Loukas was horrified but Nika's face reflected a fierce sort of admiration.

“How have you learned so much of the language?” Loukas asked after she'd bought them both a bit of dried fruit from a Djaan vendor.

“I don't know so very much. Every time I've made the trip, I pick up a few words here and there. Iereus's library has a few books on the Djaani people -- traveler accounts, mostly, but one of the them is a on the grammar. Great Mother, it's dry reading, but I study it when I can.”

Loukas shuddered. “A lot of work just to trade, especially since so many of them already know our language.”

“You suffer from a serious lack of intellectual curiosity.” She looked over at him and sighed. “I do it because I want to.”

“All right,” Loukas said, still disbelieving that a grammar text could ever be entertaining.

They came to an open arena where the horses could be exercised within the camp. A string of the little mares waited, and Loukas marveled that such small horses could cover ground in the desert at speeds that would kill an Edessan horse and with half the water ration.

Nika said something to a boy tending them and he nodded an affirmation. She smiled and approached the horses. A few stamped or whickered, but she spoke soothingly in the Djaan tongue and they settled. She held out the last of her candied fruits and a sorrel mare lipped it from her palm, letting Nika stroke her nose. Loukas followed more cautiously, the Djaan could be touchy about their animals. The boy watched him curiously, but didn't seem perturbed.

“Do you see anything you like?” Loukas spun to find a man wearing the loose trousers and coat of the Djaani.

“Uh, they are all fine animals.”

The man nodded graciously. “You are too kind.” He clearly knew the worth of his animals and that Loukas wasn't really shopping.

“I'm just waiting for Nika,” Loukas explained apologetically, hoping to convey he was hoping to move it along as soon as possible.

The man tilted his head and said, “Nika?” His accent put the stress on the second syllable, making the name strange.

Loukas turned to point her out, but she'd disappeared. Loukas scanned for her and then saw her sandaled feet among the horses' hooves. She emerged, her hands tracing the flanks of the sorrel mare, half inspection, half caress.

“There,” Loukas said. “She admires your animals very much.” Loukas nearly missed the expression that flickered over the man's face, a strange look quickly covered with a mask of cheerful indulgence. It took less than a blink of an eye, but Loukas felt certain that this merchant knew Nika.

“Ah, arist,” the merchant said to Nika, forgetting Loukas entirely. Nika finished her inspection, patting the mare fondly. “Do my animals meet with your approval?”

Nika swept her veil over her shoulder and smiled serenely. “Not bad, but not as good as last year's selection, but not bad.”

The man pursed his lips regretfully. “I'm sorry I am unable to find something to please you.” He gestured to the boy, who brought out a wineskin and plain horn drinking cups. The man poured a measure of wine into each cup; Nika took one and he offered the other to Loukas, who accepted it reluctantly. He took a polite sip and kept from wrinkling his nose at the warm vaguely leathery taste.

“Who is your charming companion?” the man asked Nika, who didn't seem taken aback by his question.

“Yes, sorry -- I forgot introductions in the face of all the beautiful horses.” She gestured back at the picket line with her wine cup and then to Loukas. “This is my husband's newest wife. Arist Loukas Kommenon Iereus.” His husband's name still sounded strange attached to his own. “Loukas, Khuzaymah Hadir is one of the Djaani's finest breeders.”

“It is always an honor to meet a friend of a friend.” Hadir bowed gracefully, which Loukas tried to mimicked, unsure if it was a custom of the Djaani or just Hadir. “Though it seems like greed for one man to posses two such jewels.”

Loukas's jaw dropped at Hadir's audacity, but Nika just laughed. “Hush, I know you think our ways unnatural, but we find yours just as strange.”

“I meant it only as a compliment, Arist Nika,” Hadir protested.

“Hm, of course you did. Your flattery is as fine as your animals. Perhaps that is why I keep returning to your picket line.”

Hadir looked pleased. “I merely state the truth.”

“Loukas,” Nika said to him, but her eyes remained on Hadir, “why don't you see if the tanners have and blue-dyed buckskin? I told Myrrine I would bring her some.”

Loukas looked at her, nonplussed. “I imagine they do, being tanners.” She shooed him away.

“I need to speak with Hadir to see if he's interested in the yearlings we've brought in.”

Hadir nodded and said smoothly, “I've heard that you have a particularly fine bay I'd like to see.”

From the set of Nika's jaw, Loukas knew protesting would get him nothing but a slap. “Of course, Nika, but I'm afraid I didn't bring coin with me....”

“Yes, yes, here.” She pulled a purse from the neck of her tunic and pressed it into his hand. “But don't spend it all, and make sure the leather is good -- none of that stiff, half-cured stuff. Understand?”

“I shall be most discerning.” He nodded, hesitating, and could see her agitation growing. Suppressing a grin to have been an irritation, he departed. Poppy followed close on his heels and Loukas didn't have to turn to say, “So what do you think that was about?”

“I couldn't say.”

“You could speculate.”

“I'm sure it's innocent.”

“But there's an 'it' there, right?” Loukas pressed.

“Perhaps,” Poppy said, which Loukas took as a confirmation. “There may be. Better not to know, so you may plead ignorance later.”

Loukas chewed his lip as they wandered down to the merchants' row, considering. “Hypocrite, you're the worst gossip I know.”

Poppy didn't answer that, and Loukas smirked. They looked over the leathers on offer and Loukas selected a fine butter-soft piece in a deep blue that Myrrine was sure to love, but he let Poppy do the actual haggling. A good thing too -- Loukas was so distracted that he would have been cheated three times over.

He tried to hurry back, to Hadir's picket, but Poppy was being obstinate, deliberately slowing his steps.

“If you don't step a little faster, I really will leave you behind,” Loukas threatened; Poppy sped up a little, though not enough for Loukas's liking.

But when they'd returned both the horses and their master were gone. Loukas stopped and cursed loudly.

“Hey, boy,” he said, catching the shoulder of a small child. “Do you know where Khyzaymah Hadir has gone?”

The child looked up at him, wiping his nose on the back of his hand.

“I don't think he understands you,” Poppy said.

“Khuzaymah Hadir,” Loukas repeated, shading his eyes with his hand and pantomiming looking around. The child's eyes widened and he nodded vigorously. “Well, go on.” Loukas gestured for the child to lead, but the boy didn't move.

“Now what?” Loukas sighed.

“I think he wants coin,” Poppy suggested.

Loukas fished out a small copper coin and held it out to the boy, who looked expectantly from it to Loukas and back again. “Thieves, the lot of them,” Loukas muttered and added another coin to the first. This the boy accepted and took off, Loukas and Poppy trailing after. He led them though the maze of tents; Loukas was panting sweat dripping down his face when they arrived. The boy pointed to a large tent, its trappings all drawn closed, and darted off again, disappearing back into the crowd. The tent dwarfed the others in the row, twice Loukas's height at its highest point. The dark canvas and animal skins of its side had been painted with an abstract pattern. An old dog was staked out in front, its head on its paws, fast asleep. Loukas ambled past Hadir's tent, as though merely out for a walk. After he'd cleared it, he turned to Poppy. He'd heard nothing, seen nothing, but that just increased his curiosity.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“That you're being conspicuous,” Poppy replied. Loukas opened his mouth to retort, but Poppy glanced over his shoulder and prodded him on. “Walk.”

Loukas obeyed, catching sight of someone exiting Hadir's tent. His heart jumped and he recognized the thick figure of Nika's eunuch. “I'm not done ...” he complained, twisting to get a better look, but Poppy caught his elbow and propelled him on. “There's something going on.”

“And you're not going to learn what it is skulking about like that.” Loukas let himself be hurried, not keen to be caught by Nika's eunuch. As they came to the end of the row of tents, Poppy guided him around the corner so they were moving back up the parallel street -- the entire camp had been lid out on a grid, two rows of tents back to back with streets between each row.

“I'd prefer you not be dressed quite so ... cheerfully,” Poppy said, eyeing Loukas's saffron veil and light blue tunic. “But I suppose there's nothing to be done about it now.”

“What are we doing?” Loukas asked.

“We could question Hadir's slaves, but they would report it back and Nika would hear of it.” Loukas shook his head vigorously; Nika's retribution would be swift and terrifying. “But if she's with him now perhaps we can overhear.”

Loukas's heart thudded in his chest and he swallowed. “Yes.” Though now he wasn't at all sure that was what he wanted.

“Best not to go right up to the front then.” They were close to Hadir's tent now; Loukas could see its ridge from over the row of tents. “Right, now down this alley and around the back. Don't make any noise.”

“Yes, that's really excellent advice,” Loukas snapped. The narrow gap between tents was a crisscross of anchoring ropes and stakes. “Aren't you coming?”

Poppy shrugged. “It's easier for one, and you're the one so keen to know the truth. ... Unless you don't want to anymore. We could always go home. Maybe buy sweet cheese.”

“No,” Loukas said. “We've made it this far.”

“Go on then. The coast's as clear as it's going to get.” He made a sweeping hand gesture, urging Loukas on.

“Thanks,” Loukas snapped, stepping gingerly into the gap. He was careful to keep from rushing the canvas on either side. He nearly tripped over a stake, stubbing his toe sharply. Breathing harshly, he it tongue to keep from cursing while tears came to his eyes. He half-crept, half-limped the narrow space between the rows. In either direction the corridor of cloth stretched out, like tapestries hanging in a long hall.

Hadir's tent was to his left. Loukas moved carefully, drawing in the ends of his veil so they wouldn't catch. Sandwiched between the two tents, he crouched, his ear almost touching the canvas. At first he heard nothing but his own ragged heart-beat, and he thought the tent was empty, that he'd misjudged the situation entirely. But then he caught the low rumble of a man's voice to quiet to make out the words. Hadir laughed and a woman responded, her voice carrying clearly through the tent wall. Nika.

“I rather doubt it, he's not a very bright thing,” she said, sounding more cheerful than Loukas had ever heard her. “But he's pretty enough and Iereus likes him -- just his preference, you know.” They were talking about him, Loukas realized. Not very bright, indeed.

“Not mine, though,” Hadir replied, and Loukas could practically see the man's smirk.

“Oh, yes? And what is your preference, exactly?” Nika inquired sweetly. Hadir didn't respond -- at least, not in words, but a moment later Loukas heard Nika gasp and giggle. He flushed hotly, embarrassed despite himself.

“I should get back,” Nika said. There was a muffled reply. “No, no -- I really should. Maybe.”

Loukas started, he had to beat her back or risk more questions than he carried to answer. He didn't pick his way back but ran, hopping over and around the lines. Poppy saw him coming and gestured for him to stop. Loukas did so, waiting as Poppy nodded companionably to a couple of passing traders. When it was again clear, he nodded to Loukas who burst out of the alleyway.

“She's in there.” He jerked his chin to indicate Hadir's tent, his breath coming so fast he nearly panted.

“Yes?” Poppy said, confused by Loukas's urgency. “Are we surprised?”

Loukas was, actually. Suspecting Nika of secret meetings had seemed natural, but Loukas had also suspected her of kicking puppies and eating babies for breakfast. Knowing she was committing adultery -- and with a Djaan man!--had taken Loukas quite by surprise.

“And she's leaving. Now.”

Poppy nodded and said, “Then let's take the back way home. We cannot risk meeting her.”

Loukas let Poppy choose the route back, taking them along the edge of the camp before they doubled back around to come to Iereus' tent.

Their haste proved unnecessary, however -- Nika still hadn't returned as they reached camp, and she should have if she'd taken the direct route. Iereus was also absent, only a slave watched the horses.

“I can't believe it,” Loukas said, throwing himself onto his pallet. “She knows the penalty if she is caught.”

Poppy shrugged and it irritated Loukas that he didn't share Loukas's outrage. “People do foolish things.”

“Should I tell Iereus?”

“Do you want to see her beaten or killed?”

The idea was not entirely without its merits, but Loukas hesitated. “I don't want it to be my fault.”

“Ah.”

“I hate when you do that. I can never tell what you mean. If you mean anything at all.”

“It means I have no opinion,” Poppy replied. “But if you are going to tell Iereus, do it quickly. Delay and you become complicit.”

Loukas stowed the leather away, fumbling with it, his fingers clumsy. “How ironic -- to serve justice, but draw a noose around my own throat.”

“Justice is an illusion.”

Loukas snorted. “At least I know that means nothing.”

Loukas waited for Iereus and Nika to return, sharpening his new knife to a fine edge. Poppy made tea and they both sat sipping it as the sun worked its way towards the western horizon.

Nika arrived first, looking composed, her hair arranged and her veil neatly draped.

“Does Hadir want to buy the filly?” Loukas asked as she settled beside him.

“I think he merely wanted to know what sort of price we are expecting. He has horses of similar caliber,” she sounded natural, though Loukas watched for nervous ticks or stuttering. Anything to give away her guilt. “Did you get that leather?”

He showed it to her, and she inspected it, feeling the softness and luster. “This is good quality -- how much?” He told her and she nodded approvingly. “Good job. I'm glad to see you are capable of some tasks -- or at least your eunuch is.”

Loukas looked to Poppy, who rolled his eyes behind Nika's back. Loukas clenched his jaw, his hands curling to fists, but when Iereus returned, he said nothing.

---

Loukas spent the next day tense, the knowledge of Nika's sin weighing on him. The day after they would ride for home. The last evening was a feast to celebrate the ending of the fair. Whole mutton turned on spits, flat bread with honey and figs. Musicians played drums and cymbals which somehow came together to weave delicate melodies. After night fell and the wine flowed freely, there was dancing as well. The dancers first followed careful steps, but as they refreshed themselves with even more wine the dance became wild and frenzied. Loukas thought he saw Hadir dancing, a dark form whirling amongst the others, but when he looked he couldn't find him.

---

They set out early the next morning, the slaves dismantling tents and packing them away. The camp melted away like a puddle in the sun as the caravans departed.

The journey back proved even more tedious. Now the scenery was no longer novel and Loukas felt fatigued, ready to be home. It startled him to realize that's how he thought of Iereus's estate now. He shifted in his saddle, adjusting his veil to keep the sun from his eyes. Rayna looked over her shoulder at him, perhaps sensing his discomfiture or maybe annoyed by his fidgeting.

Loukas wasn't the only one worn down; the slaves no longer laughed or swapped stories amongst themselves.

“Keep that nag out of my way,” Nika snapped, kicking her gelding sharply so it cut in front of Rayna. Loukas sighed and pulled further back, closer to Poppy's even-tempered mule.

Though they no longer had the herd to deal with, they all knew that the traders returning from the fair were especially tempting targets for bandits. When a small group of riders appeared on the horizon, a murmur ran through the slaves and one began to pray aloud, an idol gripped in her fingers. The riders, dark figures on small desert horses, didn't approach, but rode abreast of them for a while. Iereus urged the party on, but he watched the riders.

Either they weren't raiders after all or they'd decided Iereus's party was too big a number to attack, for they veered off, heading further west.

Loukas was only too grateful to see the small town of Ridoun when it appeared on the horizon. Its dusty buildings seemed as inviting as the marble of the palace to Loukas's exhausted mind.

A single horseman rode out to meet them, and Iereus's hand went to his sword, before he relaxed -- the man wore the livery of the Royal House Amira.

“Hail, Archon!” he called as soon as he was in ear-shot. “Peace to your House.”

“And to yours,” Iereus returned, though he still sounded wary.

“Are you Archon Falkon Iereus?” The messenger pulled up his horse. The man's face was flushed and damp.

“I am. What news have you that you must push your horse so hard?”

“The emperor is dead, Archon.”

Loukas heard Nika gasp a little, but Iereus showed no surprise, though he bowed his head as a sign of grief.

“How did he die?”

“In his sleep, two days past.”

“There were no ... circumstances?” Iereus's was asking if the emperor had been poisoned. The messenger shook his head vigorously.

“His health had been poorly for some weeks, but even he did not suspect treachery. And his food was tasted before he touched it.” The messenger paused. “It was just his time.”

“Indeed,” Iereus agreed.

“You and all the Councilors are summoned to Edessa. A new ruler I to be confirmed within the next few days.”

Iereus nodded again. “We will stay the night here and then ride directly to Edessa in the morning.”

Loukas glanced to Nika, her veil shadowed her eyes and he could read nothing.

The messenger muttered a quick farewell and spurred his horse on. They made camp quickly and Loukas settled in front of the small fire to wait for the water to boil, almost too tired to eat.

“I would rather not bring you to the city in high summer,” Iereus said, staring into the fire. “But I fear I have no choice. I cannot spare the escort to see you home safely and I cannot spare the time to take you there myself.”

Nika shrugged and said, “So we go to Edessa.”

“Myrrine is sure to be jealous,” Loukas said, “if it means we get to see the coronation and she does not. She hates to miss a party.”


On to chapter 11.
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Date: 2009-10-26 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
i hope Nika is not cheating with others. That would be sad.

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