1626, Earth Season, Death Week, Clayday afternoon
When Varanis stalks into the baths, Mellia is in one of the warm pools, soaking. “Hello, dearly beloved cousin of mine! Want me to scrub your back?”
Varanis has already stripped down and is wearing a loose linen robe. “Hello Mellia! You’re up early given last night’s events.” She drapes the robe over a bench and steps into the pool with a contented sigh.
“Ow,” comments Mellia, “do I want to know how you got those bruises? Do you want them healed?”
“Nothing to worry about.” Varanis shrugs. “Save your energy.” The Vingan’s hair has been piled in a loose knot of the top of her head. She leans back against the side of the pool and sighs happily. “This is the best part of Nochet.”
“It is,” Mellia agrees. Her expression shifts to sympathetic and apologetic. “It’s going to be one of those days, I fear. The news got me out of bed.”
“Oh? What’s going on?” Varanis opens her eyes to peer at Mellia with concern.
“The really bad part is that Xenofos is dueling someone who duels for fun sometime today. I need to find him and stop it.”
“What?!” Sleepy Vingan has shifted to startled Vingan and then furious Vingan in a matter of seconds. “He’s doing what?”
Mellia says, “That’s what I thought. I don’t know what pretext this Lord Horfrai of House Deleos used to get Xenofos to duel and I don’t much care. Accidents happen.”
Varanis is already climbing out of the pool before Mellia has finished her explanation. She doesn’t bother drying as she jerks on her robe. “Who is his second?” she snaps.
“I wish I knew,” Mellia answers, beginning to get out herself. “Probably not Captain Serzeen, although I hear she spoke to him this morning. I hope it’s Berra or Yamia.”
“I’m going to find him. Now.” She stalks out of the bathhouse trailing water behind her.
Mellia actually dries off and throws on a healer’s robe before following Varanis, so Mellia will have to run. “Varanis, wait for me! There’s something else you should know!”
Varanis hauls up short. “What?”
“There’s a pile of presents in the courtyard. It’s not clear who they are for. Venlar thinks it may be a sneaky plot to make Grandmother look like an idiot.”
“What? Mellia, what does that have to do with Xenofos? He’s fighting a duel. He could die! I don’t give a rat’s ass about gifts right now!” Varanis is practically yelling. Her hair has tumbled from its knot to hang around her shoulders.
“Good,” replies Mellia. “Let’s go find him.”
Varanis starts down the corridors in the direction of Xenofos’ room. The servants in the hall are wise enough to clear a path, so her way is unhindered.
Mellia follows Varanis, silently praying to the White Lady along the way.
To be continued…
- 1The consequences of a busy morning. See Marrows And Honour.