For two months Boddy’s inspiration had flowed. Wowzah, natzo, it had gushed. He now had plays prepared for Royan’s and Sharma’s and Eire’s feasts and hymnal songs for Royan, Sharma, Eire and for Ulrich. True, he had yet to rehearse the chorus and there were dances to choreograph yet. But he’d never been this far ahead before. And it was thanks to her with her everyday hogging the Minutes, not allowing him even a peep. Count Slemba had said to keep a watch on her. What else could he do, as an excuse to be in the Records Hall with her? But now she was leaving. Natzo, he didn’t like this.
He waited until they were out of the Hall and down the stairs and were crossing the courtyard (he wanted to hold her hand but in these two months he’d grown no bolder) before he asked her where she was going.
“To the next townstead. Fokstad, did Kachinnar say?”
“Yeah, Fokstad is due west. But Rokestad is as near, to northwest, and Agrawlstad to the southwest. But unless you’re travelling by boat you’ll need to take the Horse Gate out – that’s the north gate.” Why was he being so mucking helpful?
“North by Tiszkin Gord?” she asked. “Where you pasture your horse?”
Wowzah! She knew that? “Close by it, yeah. Then once over the Nah there’s the tram-road. But be advised, the sledges have priority there.”
“Ay, your tram-roads. I’ve heard of them but . . . what are they?”
“You don’t know? Heyzo! They’re wood-made—wood-grass, yey-size.” He held his hands yey-much apart, then realised the tram-road’s real width was closer to treble it. “With grooves cut along either edge. Then in those grooves sit yey-big steel balls – they’re produced in one of the Ghats’ towns. The balls turning in the grooves whizzes the sledges along. So beware, zuum and they’re gone. You’ll find them delivering from the Ghats towns right up to the Hubs in every townstead. Excepting this one. We laugh and say they ran out of wood.”
“Ay la, a much needed warning. My thanks. We’ll pay heed and watch for our heels.”
“But you’re leaving . . . Did you not find your ancestor here?” Yeah zo, but he couldn’t hide his plaintive tone. He had the whimsy idea of tying her up and keeping her hidden, maybe in one of those caves that Eshe was always exploring. He expected to hear Roo saying again of moons, but the little god stayed quiet.
“My ancestor?” she said. “Nah, he’s not mine. Just an ancient Rothi adventurer. The study was set by my master. I did say.”
Yeah, fine, great, and he was supposed to remember that? He’d been entranced. He still was entranced. And now she was leaving.
“I wish you could stay.” Ghats, that just slipped out. And now she would mock him.
“I wish that too, Boddy Rookeri. But I cannot remain longer.”
She wished . . .? Wowzah, O Stayer and Maker! But now he couldn’t find what to say. The many times he had thought of this moment, had practised the words in his head, but, Ghats and rats, he’d never thought she’d say ‘She wished . . .’
And now she’d said it when they were cutting across the green. Slap in the middle of everywhere public. Was this the Avatar watching over him, arranging it so he didn’t do anything noleless? He wanted to grab her and kiss her and . . . But his thoughts had never progress past that. And anyway, as if she’d allow it. What was he thinking? The double, treble noleless dole. The Destroyer took great delight in wedging everything between them: that she was Rothi and he was Lubanthan; that she was leaving while he must stay; that she was a lafdi no matter how she denied it while he wasn’t a noble no matter what she might say. But she was a scholar and he a poet, and they’d both lost their parents to death while young. And he loved fattening plants and she knew of them and . . . still he was crying for the moon.
“Say, is it forbidden for you to drink—in the tavern, I mean; of course you must drink.”
“Not forbidden, no. though I have kept to my room. I thought it not wise, a Rothi in your tavern.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” he admitted. “Yet we often have Rothi supping there.”
“Ay,” she said and flashed a sad smile. “Rothi men.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Peddlers – well, mostly Otian. Hey, do you know Otian?”
She laughed and shook her head at him. And he was lost in thoughts of twining his fingers and burying his nose and losing his face in that blood-red silk that swirled about her. He pushed the fantasy away. He never would do it, for now she was leaving.
“You know how enormous is Rothi?” she said. “And you ask if I know your friend? To the Eshqua in the north, to the Yemure and Sarak seas at the east, and the High Mountains to the west, ay Rothi is trebly as large as your Luban.”
“You say, yeah? Yet I know people who say different.” He just had to challenge. Yet she didn’t respond.
They walked on in silence, her hand occasionally knocking his as if, if he should walk just that little bit closer . . . Oh how he wanted to clasp that hand. Yet he moved further away – enough to allow his blood to cool. Ghats, those tormenting moon-formed fantasies; he pushed those away, too. But she had said she was sad at leaving. Yeah but did she mean sad at leaving Raselstad, and her research? Or sad at leaving him?
They had turned off the Hub and were within a spit and a hop of the Gardens and still she’d not spoken.
“So will you come back this way?” And that was a noleless question when there were but three passes, and no one sane went by the High Mountains.
“Ay. This, else by the Poner Pass.”
“Through the Abysses?” That labyrinth of sheer-sided chasms? He bit on his reply, that only the Fair-Folk passed there.
“So will you, um come find me—if you do pass this way, I mean?” Did that sound as desperate as he felt?
“Boddy, I cannot promise, I cannot say.”
He didn’t suppose that she could. And now what to say? And he wasn’t so sure, now, of that farewell drink. It would be a quiet affair, with her being equally mute. Was it possible, could it be, that she was feeling as stupored as he? She’d be gone in the morning, forever out of his life. There must be something he could do about that. Yeah, like nail her feet to the floor. Abduct her and hold her captive in one of the caves. He could just ask her if she would stay.
Her hand slipped into his. Hey, it just happened, just as they reached the tavern door. Hay-la! Yeah-zo! Ghats and rats! Hey, Roo, how about that! And it felt the exact opposite of a lethal kobbran bite – not that he’d ever been bitten but he’d heard the reports.
“Disa, my family called me Disa,” she said in a rush.
Disa, his lips wordlessly said the name. Disa, her family called her. And now he was allowed to call her, too. He swallowed. “And that’s Disa as in F-f-fadise?”
She laughed at his attempt to say Ffadise. “Ay, you remembered.”
Ay he remembered. He remembered everything she ever had said. But not even a Hero in one of his plays would say such a thing to his Sweetheart. His Sweetheart? But his Sweetheart was leaving.
“Disa,” he sighed rather than said it. “Gods, Disa, I don’t know what to say to you now.”
‘Say nothing. You know, Boddy, what we want we never can have. And so we share this drink and say goodbye. Yeah?”
Did she say, ‘what we want’? Yeah zo! She did say it, she did. She wanted the same thing as him. He feasted on that and was glad the tavern was dark. Less chance to see him tremble, though that darkness was broken by the sparkles from the tens of thousands of tiny tin tiles.
“Ah-ha, young Boddy Felagi!” Jonesi greeted him. “The Avatar loves you this day, supping with the lovely red lafdi.” He bowed low to Sifadis, like a hindling knowing his place.
“Boddy Felagi?” she questioned.
Hadn’t she heard that of him before? “Yeah, Jonesi always calls me that, since I was a pippin yey-high.”
“But felagi?” She gave him a curious look, and another to Jonesi. “Felagi, ‘my fellow’, ‘my companion’? It suggests a joint venture. Are you his chorus-partner?”
‘Partner, it surely does mean, red scholar from Rothi. And so it will be, one day,” Jonesi answered, and ignored the rest of her question. “And what’s the red lafdi from Rothi to drink? Boddy Felagi I know will have his usual ginger mead.”
He watched her with Jonesi. Yeah, he ought to introduce him properly as the friend that he was, not the hired help he appeared to be. But what if she scorned the friend who was all but his father? Natzo, that would cut like blade. Yet he saw no upturned nose, no looking away. She laughed with his friend, she laughed. And after some discussion of what Kachinnar kept in his stores, she ordered Sap, a green Rothi wine.
“Green Sap for red lafdi and spiced mead for Felagi,” Jonesi repeated several times over as he disappeared through the store’s open door.
Sifadis smiled, watching him go.
But, Ghats and rats, he still didn’t know what to say and he found himself knocking his knuckles together. So, yeah, he may as well broach the subject that had so haunted him these past few weeks.
“So tell me, those Minutes; did you find any mention of Royanth? I mean, why the change to Rookeri?”
She shook her head, her red silken hair flowing around her. That was enough to distract him. He almost ignored the crackle of possibly paper held in her pocket.
“Hey, I hope you’re not stealing our precious mace-paper,” he laughed. Yeah zo, but her face flushed red. “Hey, I was only jesting.”
“Some notes, is all.” She looked down and didn’t see his frown.
“Ho-hum,” he forced out, the suspicions of eight weeks ago re-arising. “So, tomorrow I start burrowing through them again.”
He nodded. Gods, what now could he say? She had chatted more freely with Jonesi than she now did with him. Was she hiding something, something other than those notes?
Jonesi returned with the drinks, hers in a green-glass goblet, his in a glazed earthenware pot.
“Don’t sup it too quickly, red Rothi lafdi,” Jonesi told her. “Some folks go gaga on that.”
She smiled at him.
Boddy looked from Jonesi to Sifadis, stabbed with jealousy at how she watched his friend walk away. She no longer looked at him.
Then after a couple of sips she suddenly said, “Would you ever leave Raselstad?”
“You mean more than my weeks serving the Dragons?”
“Yezzzah.” He gave an emphatic nod.
She looked at him, a visual prompt for expansion.
“I tell you, if I had my own flower-house, yeah zo! I’d be off to the Daab and gathering plants, the way my father did – though the Avatar ought to strike me dead, too, when he provided plenty of herbs and flowers. My father was killed by lightning, see.” Why had he said that? He ought to slam shut his mouth. Yet in answer to her questioning look he further added, “My father and brother both. They were gathering plants across the Luant, in the Daab.” He hadn’t intended to tell her any of that.
“And that’s where he found the robinti in my room?”
“Yeah. But that was before I was born. You like it?” he asked.
“Ay me, the smell. And the flowers, all airy-light. Most native plants are yikes, all bristly and squabby and squat.”
Boddy laughed. “Yeah, I suppose that they are. But, hey, you know more of these plants than me.”
“My master has many. He tends them like they’re potted rascals.”
‘So would you like that one in your room?’ he asked.
“Hay-la-la, would I! But, Boddy, it belongs to your uncle.”
“Natzo, they’re mine,” Boddy claimed. “The Council took only the buildings and land. I’m allowed to keep my fingers dirty with them.” He held up his hands and waggled his fingers. “But you tell me you like it so that one is yours.”
Such a smile lit her face, he almost could taste it. “I like it. But do you mean it?”
“Yezzzah. And I’m not offering gold, just a plant. To help you remember me, yeah. And, zups, you might like to wipe those eyes.” He couldn’t believe it, she was shedding a tear – was that for the plant or because she was leaving? And those kicky-things were at it inside him again, urging him to reach out, hold her close, not let her go, not ever.
“You!” She feigned a sneer, changing her tears to mock anger.
“Yeah?” he challenged, chin out.
“You noleless Javanese son of a bisonian packsaddle!”
“Oh, that’s a good one.” He laughed, glad of the excuse to squash the tears he’d then felt rising in him. “A smooth mix of Lubanthan and Rothi insults, that.”
She, too, laughed for a moment. But then her face straightened and she was serious again. “You know, I didn’t mean of the plants when I asked of you leaving Luban.”
“Yeah, Disa, I know. But you’ve already said.”
~ ~ ~
Boddy sighed. Great, yeah, fine, a romantic image: Stheino and Euryale rising together, their pink and blue bodies bound as one as they travelled the sky together. But their lunar romance didn’t touch him. He turned his back on the high window and stared instead into the thick honey-hued head of his mead.
“Alas, young Boddy Felagi, you think drinking mead will ease the aching? It is no remedy for what the red Rothi lafdi has taken.”
Boddy looked up as Jonesi sat down beside him. He hadn’t even heard his approach. “Jonesi . . . “
“Oh, a deep ache, hey? But, Boteras Felagi, it is only the feeling of the heart broken.”
“Natzo, Jonesi, it’s not . . .” Boddy sighed yet again. He wanted to tell Jonesi. But would he then have to say to others? And if he spoke out, what then of her? He didn’t know for certain her guilt. “Jonesi, that red Rothi lafdi has taken more than you know.”
Jonesi eyed him now in different manner, head cocked. The question wasn’t in words but, yeah zo, it was there. So Boddy told it.
“I’d thought—to get her out of my thoughts—I’d bury my head in this thing I had found of Rookeri Gord.”
Again, Jonesi cocked his head, again that quizzical look. Yet now it was different.
“You’re right, yeah, I’ve not told you yet. Long ago, Rookeri Gord was called Royanth, but . . . “ He waved it aside; the full story wasn’t important. “So I’m thumbing through the Council Minutes trying to find where I’d found it before. Like, here is Royanth, there is Rookeri. But, Jonesi, those Minutes are missing. Why did she take them? Why?”
“You want to know why the change, Royanth to Rookeri?” Jonesi asked, which, yeah, he did, but it wasn’t the relevant question now.
“I thought somewhere in those Minutes there’d be some explanation. But the rattling clinker, she’s only gone and lifted them.”
“Oh, Boddy Felagi, when with two feet you jump – whoosh and wallop! And gone is your balance. So who says the red lafdi took them?”
“I asked the Hall-keeper.” And how carefully that was worded, not to imply. “And she’d issued those Minutes to no one but Disa. And last night, yeah, something was crackling inside her coat. I joked of it and her face flushed red. I remember it, the awkward moment. Jonesi, she had those Minutes secreted about her. Why? Why did she take them?”
“Well, why did your father take plants from the Daab?” Jonesi asked, unstirred by Boddy’s brimming commotion.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear what you’re saying, that she’s fascinated with Raselstad history. Or does she want them as a memento? Jonesi, she took the very entries I sought. Before the missing pages it is all Royanth Gord, thereafter it changes to Rookeri. How could she? The accursed war-song! She knew I wanted them; I’d asked her to keep a watch for them. The very pages, Jonesi, the very same pages. Why?”
“You think it was to thwart you?”
“I asked her if she’d seen the relevant entry for when it changes, and she said ‘Nah,’ – all ulfen hadd, you know how they do it. But, Jonesi, I don’t understand. And I ought to report it but . . .” He shook his head. Natzo, he couldn’t do that.
And now he had spilled it all to Jonesi and he couldn’t be still. Agitated, his fingers tapping, knees constantly jiddering though without a rhythm. The wood of the bench annoyed him too, unbending and seeming against him. Natzo, everything was against him, even Disa. How could she do this to him? He felt a total mess, both inside and out, his hair left loose and now wind-knotted and, yeah, he’d been scratching and tugging at it, frustrated. It was like his head didn’t want to think.
Hey, Boteras Felagi, quieten a minute and ask yourself, What are you running from, from what are you hiding? Could it be the truth, Boteras Felagi?
Go away, Roo!
He again sighed. So many sighs. And Jonesi looked on, he had to see it; the tavern was so quiet, Jonesi with no other work.
“She was seeking an ancestor, you said?” Jonesi said.
Boddy snorted a yeah, overblown sullen.
“Then, foodeloo, young Boteras Felagi, happens red lafdi found him, hey.”
“Yeah, fine, great. And he just happened to be on the same page.”
“Sometimes two and two are three,” Jonesi said.
“Yeah zo.” Boddy looked away. “You’re full of riddles today.” Yet slowly he was settling. He even managed a sup of his mead – though some he spilled.
Jonesi reached over and mopped up the spill with his cloth. “Young Boteras Felagi, you never before mentioned of this Royanth-Rookeri.”
“Fine, huh, yeah and great. Now you’re upset that I didn’t share it with you? You wouldn’t know of it; you’re not a Raselstad man.”
“And neither is your red Rothi lafdi,” Jonesi said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, more riddles, Jonesi. You speak nothing but riddles.”
“And you have nothing but cloth ears that do not hear. What dates had these pages?”
Boddy rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. He slammed it on the table, spilling more mead from his pot. It settled into a puddle for Jonesi to mop with his cloth.
“Year 223, Items 976-8. Year 226, Items 1005-9. That’s what’s missing.”
Jonesi finished mopping the table and stood. “Come with me, Boddy Felagi. And bring your mead.”
Boddy followed, a scowl on his face. Where was Jonesi taking him, deep into the gloom of the tavern? To Uncle Kachinnar’s storeroom?
“Hey, Jonesi, you know he doesn’t allow me in there.”
Jonesi nodded excessively. “Oh, I am sure for this one he’ll allow. Come. Hurry. Before the workers start hollering for black beer.”
Boddy acted a shudder. Jonesi chuckled.
Boddy had never been in the storeroom before without Uncle Kachinnar to breathe down his back. Casks, taller than him, lined one wall. Casks, smaller, lined another. The third wall was a honeycomb-trellis, bottles of wine stuffed in each cell. But Jonesi had headed to the far end of the room where he turned and beckoned Boddy over. There was a door, from ceiling to floor, a desk beside it.
“When your uncle was having the Gardens converted, he came upon this closet. He opened it, saw what it held, and sharply closed it again. He couldn’t abide to see it. You know what’s in there? Your father’s journals – his maps, his plans, his contacts across in the Daab. They ought to have been given to you long ago—and don’t blame you uncle; I believe he prefers to forget them. I browsed, in the early days, when I’d a chance, but I always felt I was intruding. I know what’s in there, so I’m as guilty as Kachinnar of holding them from you. You’ll find the journals are dated. They begin two hundred years before the Accord. But watch they don’t fall on you when you open the door.” Jonesi stood aside.
Boddy looked from Jonesi to the door, several times, lost for words.
Afraid to look, Boteras Felagi?
Natzo, Roo. But, Ghats and rats, yea.
He had to tug on the latch to free the door, long gummed up with dust and damp. Then the smell of mace-spice was overwhelming. The top shelf was, as Jonesi said, a mess of maps and notebooks. But the lower shelves held journals, neatly stacked, dates ‘scribed in ink on their spines. Tomorrow, or the day after, he would hoop and laugh. But today he was awe-slapped into silence. Six, nearly seven hundred years of Rookeri history, all contained here. He couldn’t be angry he’d been kept from these. They now were his to read.
He teased out with care the journal marked for the relevant years and laid it upon the desk. Jonesi brought over a cols-oil lamp. The journal wasn’t bound in the way of the Council Minutes. It had sturdy covers back and front, and between them mace-paper threaded onto thin silk ribbons. The silk was tied, inside, in a bow. Boddy’s hands shook as he tried to untie it and ease the paper along, enough to turn pages.
“You’d best keep an eye out for Uncle Kachinnar, yeah?” His voice shook as much as his hands.
Jonesi nodded, though he remained by his side.
He wanted to read every entry made from the very beginning. Yet he turned the pages, seeking the month of August in the Year of the Accord 226. He followed the days. The first, the second, the third . . .
Femella Jalinti is large with child. The goblins are troublesome, two pippins were taken. She fears for the baby. Someone has told her they are attracted to foetal-blood, they smell it.
Tenth day of August:
Femella Jalinti now two days in labour; Patri Keril fears for her.
Eleventh day of August:
Birth of a son. They have named him Semesh. My first grandchild.
Boddy looked up at Jonesi.
“Keep going. The end of the month.”
Boddy turned the pages.
Twenty-ninth day of August:
The Council agreed the petition. Henceforth Royanth Gord will be known as Rookeri.
Biddy looked up. “That’s what she stole from the Council Minutes? But why?”
“Best put that away,” Jonesi said, “and see that other, the big book at the top there.”
“What is it? Hey, it’s the Good Book! Is this Rookeri’s very own copy?” That in itself delighted him. But then as he put it down on the desk he could see it wasn’t. “It says here ‘Holy Book’. But that’s . . . “ That’s Rothi he said to himself as he opened the book at random.
Amazon: female warrior of warlike nation of women in Scythia; the Gks, in accounting for the name, said . . .
“It is a Rothi book. The Geeks? But . . . Oh, now I’m confused. Jonesi, how did it get to be here?”
“Open it to the last five pages. But take care, it’s old.”
“Yezzzah, I’ll say it’s old.” He closed the book the better to open it again at the back. “A family tree. But whose? It’s not Royanth’s.”
“Why ask me, Boddy Rookeri, when you have the eyes to see.”
Yeah, but these names were nothing to him. He’d never found these in the plays and the records, not even the oldest. Then he came to a note recording a marriage:
Keril of East Rothi to Jalinti, femella of Royanth Gord.
The next entry was the birth of Semesh.
He turned back a page. And again. He had to read it several times over.
Keril-og, son born to Lillis Lafard of Shore House
Ffadise, daughter born to Lillis (as above)
Rorah, second son born to Lillis (as above)
A previous entry gave the marriage of Lillis Lafard. The entry before that was for the birth of Lillis.
Boddy’s eyes returned again to ‘Ffadise, daughter born to Lillis’.
“Keril-og is the ancestor she sought? And he’s my own ancestor?”
“Follow it through,” Jonesi told him. “The line is unbroken to you.”
“Natzo! Not now. My head has a bad case of indigestion. Disa, my cousin?”
Jonesi laughed. “Somewhat removed.”
Boddy wasn’t amused. “She took those pages to hide this from me. Why? And she hasn’t gone now to Fokstad or Rokestad or any other ‘stad, because she has what she came for. Though, Jonesi, it defeats me of why. But, clear as day she’s now headed to Rothi – East Rothi; same as Eshe. Jonesi, guide me, help me. What am I supposed to do?”
~ ~ ~