Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy
Boddy had already spat every –at word he could trawl—Ghats and rats and shats and splats!—but it wasn’t enough. No words, no chinking words would ever be enough. Just what in the name of every Founder was happening here? Threatened with death, just for intruding? No! Never! So where was the warning? Where did it say KEEP OUT, TRESPASSERS KILLED? And he hadn’t wilfully intruded. He had called up the stairs but there’d been no reply. No one had said, “Go away or we’ll kill you.” And who in all of creation was this Gowen Sivator Hadd to issue such a final sentence for some unintentional blindly done misdemeanour? And who was this malodorous wretch that kept pointing at him, shouting ‘death to intruders’? And where had they taken him?
The holde-men had finally stopped jabbing him—that was an improvement. And the lunatic no longer ranted. Hay-la! So now he could take in his surroundings.
What place was this? If there’d been less of a commotion around him he might have worked it out from the signature paintings as they brought him in through the doors. All he’d caught was a glimpse of two beasts facing off. Yet it wasn’t the Law Court. He’d seen that just before he’d taken that noleless step into the tower. He had briefly mistaken the Law Court for Shore House—its painted panels displayed aquatic creatures. Then he’d remembered what Ryal had said, that the Law Court was circular. Though this ‘aquatic’ House wasn’t circular, it did have a circular entrance that gave onto a most intriguing circular courtyard. So if that was the Law Court, this place they’d now hauled him into was what?
He was led through the core chamber (all light with marble), and into another (dark—the sun was strained through green and blue glazing set high in the wall). It was a cavernous chamber, excessively long, with the ceiling extravagantly high. He couldn’t imagine finding its like in Luban. Not even the brick-built Council Houses could equal it. At the cavern’s far end—
His face slammed into the carpeted floor as the holde-men dropped him. Yet in that instant he had briefly seen . . . a chair. The Chair. The legere-chair. Low and round and deeply padded, overhung by a circular canopy.
So that’s where he was. Two Boars House. He knew it by what Disa had said. He was in the great chamber of Breken Lafard-Legere. He groaned. Yeah, great. The outlook was looking increasingly grim.
When that maniacal malodorous manservant had first confronted him he had thought, yeah, fine, they’d a slight problem here, a misunderstanding, but given the chance, he could talk his way out. Even when the holde-men, with their pikes, had arrested him, he’d thought, confusing, yeah, but, fine, he’d straighten it. Then that death-like red-stained goble started spouting on about death to intruders, like some chanting corpse.
Put a bow in his hand or even a stiletto and he’d willingly fight and die—for a cause. Yeah, like his life, that was a good cause. But not to die and have no chance and all for a lily-loo whimsical charge. This wasn’t right.
He tried to raise his head, enough to take a look about him. But some leather-flapper in very hard boots knocked it back down. He could taste the blood. Something in his nose or his mouth had broken. “Be sensible, Boddy,” he muttered to himself, “be content to look at the carpet.” Jasckte-wool, hardwearing, it didn’t take the paler dyes. He couldn’t quite figure its colour, only that it needed a scrub. It wouldn’t hurt, either, to lift it and take it outside for a thorough beating. He almost chuckled, hearing Gammer Haspra voice in his words.
Yeah zo! Listen to him. These could be his last moments alive and he was being picky about the carpet. Yeah, right, but rather that than to think about Disa. How distressed she must be. Had Jonesi yet found her? Did Jonesi know where he was? Could Disa maybe free him? After all, wasn’t it into her ward-holder’s House that he’d been accused of intruding? Accused? Natzo, by the way he’d been treated, he’d say he’d already been found guilty. But he was guilty, he couldn’t deny it. But, Ghats and rats, where was the sign to say KEEP OUT?
Roo, he said, can you magic me out of this?
Alas, Boteras Felagi, this isn’t one of your plays.
~ ~ ~
Sifadis, Shore House Heiress
Sifadis lifted the tawny brocaded-silk kirtle, only to trip on the amber silk under-shift. Och, and here she’d been wanting to fly down the stairs—to straddle the balustrade as she had when a child. How troublesome were these woman’s dresses after the freedom of wearing the brecks. But she must hurry: Seleman Rokke had said it was urgent.
“Urgent, I’d say, Bel Hade—though, in truth, the little black man was that agitated it was not easy to understand him. He said his name was . . . Jonesi? That you would know him? But, Bel Hade, he seems not to be Rothi.”
“Ay, Rokke, he is not Rothi. But he is safe to be left alone with me. You need not attend.”
Sifadis could see him, now. She expected him to be pacing. Most people impatient paced while waiting, but Jonesi did not. Nor yet was he impeccably still. His movements were altogether erratic. Then she realised what he was doing. He was following the black and blue swirls on the otherwise white floor. He looked up as she swept into view, announced by her shoes’ soft whisper on the bare marble stairs.
“Sifadis, Bel Hade Femella.” He bowed respectfully deep before spilling the news. “It’s Boddy, it’s terrible.”
“Boddy?” Her hand went to her mouth while still clutching her kirtle. “Nay! Please, Jonesi, don’t say he is dead.” Her hand moved from her mouth to her heart, trying to still it. “Tell me, Jonesi, he is alive?”
“Yea, alive five minutes ago, Bel Hade Femella. But I don’t know for how much longer. One of those Runman men—he was the one who called for arrest—he’s ranting, ‘death to the intruder’. If he were Lubanthan we’d say him possessed.”
“Kalamite,” Sifadis said immediately weary. “Ay, you could say he’s possessed—with the notion that your Sturan Elect intends to attack our citadel. But what are you saying of Boddy? He’s been arrested? Why?—Other than I know that Kalamite wants him dead.”
Jonesi held out his arms in a loose shrug and waggled his head. “I’m not Rothi, I don’t understand. I know only that they arrested Boddy in one of the towers.”
Sifadis groaned. “Och, don’t tell me that, Jonesi, don’t. To be caught in a tower is certain death. But what, Jonesi, what was he doing there?”
Jonesi held up his hands and again waggled his head. “If I had answers I would give them, Bel Hade Femella. I tried to discover—at your neighbour’s there, the one with the big silver bird in the yard? That’s where they’ve taken him. But, hey, I’m a stranger here and they turned a deaf ear. It’s like I’m not here, I have just disappeared. Please, Femella Bel Hade, Sifadis Lafdi, they’ll answer you—you’re a lafdi and heiress and . . . and all.”
“Of course I will go, Jonesi, you’ve no need to plea—as if I would not. But, cruds, Boddy, what has he done?”
She cursed the tears, beyond her control. She wasn’t a weak woman, she couldn’t cry now. Boddy needed for her to be strong. But though she tried to brush them away, to stem their flow, still they came. Och, and now she was shaking, too. Och! What a state. But why was Boddy in the runmen’s tower? It made no sense. It wasn’t a place one could mistakenly wander to. All four towers were always locked.
It wouldn’t have happened if they’d waited for Boddy like she had wanted. But that brutal Lorken – how she hated him – had threatened to kill Boddy if he came any place near her. Bah, nix! Why accuse him, it was her own fault. If her thoughts hadn’t been rambling ahead to a blossoming tree, she’d have sent her own people to look out for Boddy as soon as she returned here. Had she really thought he’d turn around and return to Raselstad? But, dah! these accusations now were useless. Whatever he’d done, and whosoever the fault, it was left now for her to rescue him.
She called for her woman Ember to fetch her cloak. Jonesi tried to hide it, but she saw how he stared, his eyes fair popping. He had tried not to look, too, at the garnished straps of her kirtle—and her belt, more ornate at the back where he couldn’t see it—and her head-shawl, dripping with garnet-and-gold (and if he thought that overly tift, he ought to see her ceremonial headdress!) If she hadn’t been to Luban and seen how they dressed, simply though colourfully, she would have been puzzled by his reaction. After all, weren’t her clothes fashioned from the same Lubanthan textiles? But she knew their opinion of wealth, and her cloak displayed it to excess, the black-coffee silk heavy with gold, embroidered in knots and sprays and floristic festoons, and clusters of topaz, garnets and citrines, then lined with ginger minever.
He shook his head slowly. “Bel Hade Femella, if you want not to frighten our Boddy Felagi, I would say to bring him slowly to these.”
“He already knows,” she said—and crud and crusts, the tears were starting again. “We have talked of my wealth—and willingly I’d wear the scholar’s coat if it so pleases him. But first we must keep him alive, and scholars’ drab will not do it. But, please, will you accompany me?”
Jonesi looked at his own clothes – trousers of some indistinct colour, dark, much dirtied and torn with the travel, and a cotton shirt too thin and threadbare now to be warm. Yet both the shirt and his body looked that morning freshly washed, and his hair had been combed and tied in a tail.
“That pack,” she said, looking at it still dangling from his hand, “it might be safer to leave it here.”
He laughed, self-deriding. “As if I’ve anything worth the stealing. Food is all, and some herbs for healing.” Yet now she’d mentioned it he clutched at it fiercely, as if it were worth the world.
She called Seleman Rokke to her. “I will have my chair—the double,” she ordered. It might be best that the citadel’s tongues didn’t see her yet in the company of Jonesi. Not that she was ashamed of him. It just was best till she had sorted this thing with Boddy. If she could sort it. By the gods, what had be been doing in the towers? He couldn’t have mistakenly managed to venture in there.
~ ~ ~
Jonesi thought the chair-ride a great treat, at least he was laughing and hey-ho-humming. For Sifadis, though they’d not far to go, the berenan-pair who carried the chair weren’t trotting half fast enough. They set the chair down at Two Boars House with her side door opening onto the steps of the official entrance. The keefer berenan offered his hand. Sifadis accepted. Loh, only the one day returned to Rothi life and look at her.
She was still arranging the drape of her cloak when she saw Gowen Hadd stride into the courtyard. She called to him and gave a discreet wave of her hand. He ignored her, not even a smile. Then she saw who accompanied him: Lorken and Kullt, one either side of him. She couldn’t believe it. They were her ward-holder’s spies? Had he betrayed her so entirely? She stepped away from the chair and stood in his path.
“Bel Hade, Sifadis Lafdi.” He dipped his head respectfully. “I am pleased to see you safely returned. I have been hearing of your adventures. Breken Lafard will require your report, but this is not a good time for it. Please, turn around, go home. I will visit you later.”
“Nay, Gowen Hadd. I am needed here, in the Legere-Chair’s House. This charge of Kalamite’s against the intruder is pure lanterloo. I know the man and, though Luban, he is no danger. Yet you know Kalamite, he’ll want the man killed.” It was true, Boddy had trespassed, but that was a trespass against Runman House. What had that to do with Breken Lafard—unless Kalamite was pointing at Boddy, accusing him of a planned attack?
Gowen rested an avuncular hand on her shoulder, and moved to be between her and the holden guarding at the House.
“Peace, Disa, peace,” he said quietly. “This is no place for it. Go home as I said. I shall visit you later. You can tell me everything then.”
“Nix! Listen!” She clutched at his cold bony hand. “Hadd Leef, you must tell them. There is no plot to attack the citadel. And none to kill Breken Lafard—of that, I do swear. The man they’ve arrested, Boddy Rookeri, is innocent. There is no such interest in Luban. None! Not in any town, and certainly not in Raselstad—as Lorken can tell them. And besides that, I want to see him. I’m here to see Boddy.”
“Disa, sweet child, they will not allow it,” he said. “It is a closed court. I am here only because I was summoned. Now go back to Shore House before they arrest you, and your companion.”
~ ~ ~