This week has been one long nightmare, what with my son’s dreadful experience on the road, way, way out in rural Arizona with his dog:
Back in Town
Home at Last
While my poor son has been wrestling with what may yet have a sad outcome, I’ve been virtually catatonic with worry: unable to go up to help him in the small town where he’s been stuck, because two people could not drive two vehicles and nurse the desperately damaged and sick Charley all the way down the Mogollon Rim.
I’ve found myself unable to work. Fortunately no paying jobs were in house. But I had planned to scribble another chapter in the time-killing entertainment that is the current novel. Instead, every time I sat down to work on it, I found myself killing time, all right: on Internet games!
But nevertheless I also passed a fair amount of time — mostly while driving around — imagining what my characters were getting up to and how they would interact and react.
And once again these people — these wholly imaginary people (where do they come from?) — surprise me.
Our heroine Rysha and her friends, all young and restless aristocrats of an interplanetary empire far far away and (etc.), are planning some mischief. To pull it off, they have to weasel Rysha out of the control of the team of bodyguards whose job is to keep an eye on her every living, breathing moment. In specific, they must evade the attention of the redoubtable Merren, who did not get to be head of her father’s security team by putting up with any shenanigans.
Parked before the mirror while Dita arranged her hair in one of the less elaborate configurations that marked a high-born woman’s status, Rysha did a quiet calculation.
This evening Merren would be standing guard outside her father’s suite. The Snowman, as Treykhan had dubbed the Michaian creature, would be with him. So: two of them out of her face. Bis was assigned to the front gate, leaving Essio and Nehdo to watch her or to take a few hours off, at Merren’s pleasure. She had asked for Nehdo and, to her mild surprise, gotten her wish. Merren had his own ideas about what the guard would do, and about half the time he’d gainsay her.
Nehdo was a good choice for this evening’s get-together. Pliable and a shade on the lazy side, he was easy to deflect.
“Ouch! Dita!” Her scalp stung where Dita’s comb snagged on a braid.
“I’m sorry, my lady.”
“Be a little more careful, will you, please?”
They would need to dispense with Nehdo for the evening if they were to lay plans for the Great Night on the Town. Of the five members of the Kai’s guard, Neddy would be the simplest to dispense with. If any part of the plan got back to Merren or—Goddesses forfend!—to Ella, she’d never hear the end of it. And if her father found out, none of the young lordlings and ladies would ever escape the dog house.
Ella, grandmother to the world. It had become a standing joke: almost nothing got past the woman.
A whisper of a smile crossed her face as she thought of Ella and watched the ebony hair sculpture take shape. It was good that Ella had been there after her mother passed. Though she surely was no aristocrat and had little understanding of the challenges Rysha would face in preparing to step in as kaïna, Ella had done a lot of mothering for her over the past few years. It wasn’t until recently that Rysha learned Ella, like Dorin, was trained in psychology and social work. That seemed obvious to her now, given their position as overseers. Even though it wasn’t advertised, she wondered why she’d not known it sooner.
Whatever. If it had helped her deal with a motherless girl, so much the better.
Dita applied a layer of shining lacquer to the last coil of braid and pinned it in place.
“That looks very good, dear,” Rysha said.
Dita glanced up at her in the mirror. “Thank you, madame.” She smiled modestly.
“You don’t need to wait up for me tonight. It’ll likely be late by the time we get back. And I’m sure I can get this down enough to sleep on.”
Dita looked pleased to be relieved of after-hours duty. “Yes, ma’am,” she replied. “There’s just three clips you need to undo.” She tapped each of the hidden snaps with a fingernail to show where they were. “I’ll take the braids apart and wash your hair in the morning, as you please.”
“Good,” Rysha replied with some finality. “If you’ll hand me my tunic, you can go for the rest of the evening. And tell Merren to have Nehdo meet me downstairs, if you will.”
“I will, madame.” She bowed her head briefly at the dismissal. “Have a good time tonight.”
“Thank you, sweet.” Tonight’s get-together would be routine enough. But the next time the friends met, she expected, would be fun.
§ next scene is really draftig §
PachiLu’s doorman showed Rysha into his lord’s sitting room, where a half-dozen friends were chatting and drinking. Those who weren’t already standing rose to their feet when the young kaïna entered.
Well, here’s our lady,” the young lord Pachi exclaimed. Emarr’, heiress-in-waiting to the title of Lady [name], embraced Rysha in a welcoming hug, and Lord Naretal’s son Treykhan offered her a favorite drink.
Cheerfully lit, between the ubiquitous glowalls and bright though redundant sconces perched between night-black windows, the clubbish room with its deep burgundy flooring and vast hide chairs and ottomans always seemed dark and heavy to Rysha. Some of the tables, she knew, had been built by one of her father’s people, the carpenter woman whose woodwork graced rooms at Skyhill, too. Others were pieces that had been in Pachi’s family for a time, some for a long time. It was hard to guess which were new, which were old, and which were older.
None of the company was old, though. The cherub-faced PachiLu; Treykhan, blocky as her father but barely a year older than Rysha; smokey-eyed [name], beautiful with a panache beyond her years. Here, too, was [name], a honey-haired thing rather too obviously intoxicated by a crush on Pachi. Ghemmeh and Tand, brother and sister handsome in the classic dark Varn manner, had in tow Eestom and Dade…were those two attached to the siblings or to each other? In her secret heart, Rysha wondered.
But she made no sign of it. She sipped the tart-sweet liquor and then raised the glass in greeting to her friends.
Nehdo discreetly took up a position by the door. Pachi’s valet passed a tray of finger foods and shortly retrieved from the dumbwaiter several bowls of snacks and sweets, which he placed on tables around the room. Then he took up a position next to Nehdo. [ADD music in the background!!]
“Thank you, [name].” Pachi didn’t make the man wait long. “You can go now. I’ll call you if we need you.”
[Name] bowed subtly and turned to leave.
“Nehdo, would you like to join him?” Pachi added.
Nehdo glanced hopefully at his mistress. Perfect: he hadn’t a clue. She shot a mildly surprised look at Pachi. “I think that would be all right,” she said, “as long as he doesn’t leave the house. Will you be in the kitchen or downstairs lounge?”
“My lady,” [name] nodded affirmatively.
“All right,” she said to Nehdo. “You’d better come back up here at curfew time.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Nehdo visibly tried not to look unduly enthusiastic.”
[more to come]
Getting rid of that one was pretty easy. Now to see what kind of trouble this bunch can cook up…