Sifadis, Shore House Heiress
Sifadis seethed. The audacity of the sogged-out wreck. As if it weren’t sufficient offence to abduct her, gagged, blinded and bound, and tuck away in that hole as if she were a basket of grain to be stored! But then to believe she ever would wed him. Och! That Mallen was a . . . he was a . . . She shuddered: a noble, the word wouldn’t bruise her lips. But Boddy had found her.
You have me to thank. That was my doing, Ffadise, her ancestress, said.
Is that so? Sifadis said, no attempt to blunt her edge.
Believe as you will. Sifadis almost could hear the ghost’s eyebrow rising. Yet he came for you.
She would have laughed but . . . Ay, he came for me. And then wrangled over whether I loved him. Without that delay I’d have been out that pit long before the explosion threw him.
Crud and crusts, the dust and rocks, everywhere. And the stench! Like . . . ay, like the stench from the pits where the citadel Houses dumped their rubbish. Nah, worse. And she had called and called but he didn’t answer. Had he knocked his head? Had the rocks fallen on him?
Was he dead?
Ay, she’d been frantic. Stup and Dizpeter, was she to die down there?
“Boddy,” she’d called, “Boddy, don’t leave me, don’t die. I love you.”
Och, had she said that? Ay, she had. Easy to say once he was dead and she was lost, alone in the pit, the provided food dust-coated around her and everything, everything, now a disaster. She had cried—of course she had cried. How was she ever to get out of there? Left to wait upon Mallen’s perversity.
Something, a sound, had made her look up.
“You knobless Javanese hound!” she shouted. Giving her such a fright like that.
“Hey, Javanese I’ll admit to. And hound I might be. But knobless, Disa? I am certainly not – as you will find out as soon as we’re wed. Now, have you injuries? No? Then here, catch the rope.”
The way he’d hugged her once out of the pit felt hautingly good. Ay, Ulfan or what! But then out of the cave and out of the quarry, with him fussing of the heedless destruction around them, and then away from the Ridge and back onto the track, she now had a bellyful of worms. Had she agreed to this?
Ay, she admitted, was her who’d proposed it. But she didn’t want to think of it: the shouting and contentions and, ay, the War Games that must ultimately follow. She pushed those thoughts away, not wanting to spoil the moment. He held her hand and, cruds and crusts, that felt good. His warmth spread through her – though, ay, he now was fussing of Jonesi. But how could she grudge him that.
She, too, was concerned for Jonesi though she barely knew him. But he wouldn’t have joined Mallen’s band, he would not. It seemed most unlikely. But Boddy would brood. He now was mulling on how to rescue his friend. Why wouldn’t he listen to her? He had tangled with the bandit once, and survived it. To do it again, he would get himself killed for certain. And then what of her, left alone for Mallen to take.
Euryale rose, two days past full, silvering the grass and the hills and the land around them. She helped Boddy set camp by the turn to the Pass. He insisted a fire: he said because of the amphibs. But, as she argued, a fire would be a beacon to Mallen.
“Yeah, fine, I know,” he said. “So I’ll keep watch. Hey, don’t worry now, I’m used to it. Angels don’t sleep.”
She sighed, fretful, wistful. “If only we didn’t have to return to Lecheni.” Ay lah, the troubled times that waited them there. They could be walking direct to their deaths. She ought at least to warn him of the eclipse.
“We could go back to Raselstad,” he teased. “I could work for my uncle – knuckle down as he says and be a gord-hand. And I’m sure you wouldn’t mind scrubbing the laundry.”
“As long as we are together,” she said, though she couldn’t imagine such a life, to be a low hina, not even a napmaid.
“Yeah right,” Boddy said, “and between scrubbing the sheets you could study the Good Book – the original version.”
“I know that you tease, Boddy. But, truly, I do not want to go back to Lecheni.”
“Then what’s your suggestion? We run away?”
She laughed half-hearted. “Like the lovers in the troubadours’ songs.”
“Yeah, great, fine. So I’m often accused of being a dreamer. Hey!” he said as the thought hit him. “We could go to the Daab. You’ve the boats to take us. And we could hunt plants together. Hand in hand. Now wouldn’t that be perfect?”
She grinned. She would like that. “And we could give them to Gowen on our return.” But that only reminded her of the problems. “Boddy, our return will not be easy. You know Gowen Hadd is my ward-holder and he must approve you,. So, too, must Breken Lafard-Legere. He must give consent on behalf of the citadel Houses. If I were not the heiress . . . but you are a stranger, come into our heart. You understand?”
Why do you not tell him the rest?
He has no need yet to know it, Sifadis refused her.
He has the right. Tell him it all, including of the legere-chair.
Sifadis gave a short shake of her head. Stop pressing
Och, if only Breken Lafard would meekly step aside. But nah, as soon as he knows who Boddy is . . . would he even consent to their wedding? Boddy’s idea of Daab was, again, appealing.
“I regret not seeing those tram-roads you said of,” she said hoping to turn aside their talk.
“Well who knows, hey, we might yet return. As two foot-sore peddlers with ourali for sale.”
She swung round, full face to him. “How do you know of ourali trade?” It couldn’t have been Mallen told him. Shore House had only ventured into that trade shortly before her father’s death. It was that had killed him, stung and immobilised while in the water.
“Zups,” Boddy laughed. “Is it a secret? Ryal told me.”
“So he is in Raselstad.”
“Yeah,” Boddy said. “In hiding, waiting on Eshe’s return. Her report will hopefully make him a citizen. He said he’d seen Lorken and Kullt snooping around and feared they were looking for him.“
“Nah, they were assigned to guard me, nothing more.”
“He says they’re spies,” Boddy said as nonchalant as saying the weather.
She stared at him.
“Apparently, all the holden know it,” he said.
Spies? Och, but she’d not known it. And, ay, that would answer why Lorken had discovered so much about Raselstad. Ay and why he wanted to attend the Council meeting with her. But spies in whose pay? Fy la, in Breken Lafard’s, it must be. He had taken Kalamite’s warning seriously, then, and not trusted to her ability. If that, then she was deeply offended and on her return he would answer her on it. But there could be another reason. He could have known what she sought, and known what her success would mean for him. She still couldn’t even silently say it. She certainly couldn’t say it aloud. It would mean his overthrow. Probably his death. Killed by an Angel.
“Here,” Boddy said and tugged on her hand to pull her in closer.
She could feel tears welling, tears of anger at Breken. Ay and would he give consent for her to wed Boddy? He must. So much depended upon it.
Boddy, unaware of her thoughts, wrapped his strong arms around her. For a brief moment she resisted, suddenly away of the stink of her jasckte-wool coat, soaked through and then dried on her. But he seemed not to notice, pulling her down to lie on the tight-tufted grasses, pressing their bodies intimately close. And he gazed upon her while she for eternity gazed into his eyes. And what wonderful things she saw there. She might have sighed. Then his lips were on hers and kissing.
Fy la! No one had warned her of this. Was it normal? Her body was suddenly alive and wanting his touch in every possible place of her. She didn’t want for their lips ever to part. She was climbing upon him, greedy for more.
~ ~ ~
Yezzzah! Just think of it, wed. Some wedding night that’s gonna be—and she so eager. Hey, man, maybe there’s something to be said for wealth after all. Means neither must relinquish the other to pursue separate jobs. Oh, the Maker-Creator! To lie curled together all day and all night. She can forget about books and study for at least the next year.
Ghats and rats, were she a Lubanthan woman he wouldn’t now hesitate to unbutton her coat and loosen her brecks. But a Rothi. An heiress. He couldn’t do that. And, hey, man why should he? Another two weeks they’d be in Lecheni and married. He allowed the arousal to suffuse his body. There was pleasure in not pursuing it further, just the acknowledgement, the anticipation.
He drew away, coming up for air. How long can a kiss last. She laughed. He rolled her over. And that’s when consciousness left him.
~ ~ ~
Was that Jonesi’s voice, fading in and out of his hearing? Where was he? Natzo! Mallen had taken him. And Disa? He had to move, had to find her. He tried to sit but the world spun around him, and Stup and Dizpeter, his head hurt.
“Foodeloo, foodelai, Boteras Felagi is wakening.”
Boddy groaned. “Jonesi, that is your worst rhyme. And why does my head feel like it’s cracked?”
“Boddy’s head is cracked cos it had a hard whack.”
Boddy winced – at the rhyme and his head — as he again tried to sit. This wasn’t good, he now felt sick. But at least he could look around him – if he moved only his shoulders. He saw the fire, neglected while he and Disa had—
“Where is she, where’s Disa?” Rising panic clutching sharp in his guts. “What’s happened, Jonesi? Please, don’t tell me Mallen has taken her? Ghats! And I suppose you, the traitor, have come to gloat.”
“Hey, Boddy Felagi, the thanks I get for chasing the hounds you were facing.”
“Stop riddling, man and tell me what’s happened? Where’s Disa? With Mallen?”
“Not a tittle or whittle of it,” Jonesi said, compassion licking his voice. He sat himself cross-legged beside Boddy. “Stolen from you by Lorken and Kullt, she is. She screamed—oh, Boddy, Boddy, she kicked, scratched and bit them. She didn’t go easy. But I alone . . . Boddy Felagi, I’m sorry. I couldn’t leave your body, not at this season, with the amphibs returning.”
What could Boddy say. He hung his head. He wanted to say, great, yeah, fine, that he understood how it was. But if Jonesi hadn’t deserted to go flirt with Mallen . . .
“If you hadn’t been clinching . . . ” Jonesi said. “I didn’t want to, you know, halt proceedings. Things were looking, boom-boom-a-bang hot. Guess Lorken was lurking and saw it too and thought maybe you were . . . you know. She’s Rothi, Boddy, an heiress, their lafdi.”
“So you stood back while they bashed my head?” He gingerly felt for the cause of pain and found it. A lump the size of a scrample ball.
“I was too far away,” Jonesi said. “Boddy Felagi, I couldn’t stop them.”
“And now they’ve got Disa,” Boddy said, voice gone flat.
“Better they have her, than Mallen, hey?”
Boddy considered that. Then, though it hurt, he slowly nodded his head. “They’re taking her back to Lecheni, yeah?”
“That’s what they said.”
“Great, yeah, fine.” He brightened, he even clapped his hands. “So they’ll protect her virtue until we are wed.”
“Is that a laugh, Boddy Felagi? A laugh for the twice-abducted red-Rothi lafdi?”
“I guess,” Boddy said, and fought not to shrug. It would hurt. “Yeah, Jonesi, I’m trying to make light of it. So now that’s sorted, you can tell me what the Creator-Stayer-Maker you were doing with Mallen.”
Jonesi sucked in a squeaky breath through his lips and teeth. Was that squirm? Boddy wasn’t sure he wanted to hear this.
“Ah that, yeah. My plans there went astray-wobbly. Thought if I joined him I might be able to stir up a stroke. Instead, I discovered a reason for you not to be sitting here longer—that’s if you can walk, if you’re now feeling stronger.”
“Stronger, longer? That’s smoother, Jonesi, not so obviously strained.” Boddy stood, head held erect lest he upset the steel balls let loose inside it. And still the world was revolving around him. He grabbed onto Jonesi. Jonesi steadied him. “Yeah, man, I’m steady. Now get this rhyme: I’m strong, so will you now tell me what’s wrong.”
“Mallen was paid to kill your lafdi.”
“Yeah, Jonesi, I know.” Was that it? He was disappointed. “His henchman Leal told me of it.”
“Did he tell you, too, they were paid to kill Lorken as well?”
“Oh, spew on it, man! Lorken has Disa. We need to get moving, and fast.”
~ ~ ~