"This is my judgement then. Let no one dream of change lest it changes us."
Queen Eathaine Ti-Alous in the Year of the Assumption. Uttered at the trial of the Silver Ban.
They’d had to stop for the horses. They could only go so far and so fast even dosed up on Garrady’s tonic. He’d seen to their needs and settled them but Eree was over there with them, petting them, whispering to them. Maybe she liked to be with them because they were the only things close to her size. The huge, white slabs of her hands touched their backs, brushed their manes so gently; the same hands that split the leather on the drums one night in two. Nat shivered and moved closer to the fire where Garrady was stirring the pot. A wonderful smell was coming out of it and Nat heard his stomach growl and hoped it would be dinner-time soon.
To distract himself he picked up the guitar and started to pluck idly. Not like there was anything else to do and Ferran would soon notice if he didn’t practice and start beating on him again. Ferran said playing a dud note was like spitting in the face of the Goddess. When Nat played a dud note Ferran had spit in his face. Nat tired hard not to play a dud note. But he’d made up a song about Ferran. He played it now, muttering the words under his breath.
Oh, the slugs will eat his brains-oh
Flies will shit on his remains-oh
The birds will pick him clean-oh
Because he is so mean-oh
Maya came out of the wagon and sat down next to Ferran, who was going through the props box, mending things. He had a crown on his lap and was fixing new glass jewels into it where the old ones had fallen out. She spoke to him and Nat played a bit quieter, listening.
“She’s still sleeping.”
“Good,” Ferran said and nodded. “You should go back Maya. When she wakes so will those dozy farmboys at Wahleiss.”
“I know, I’ll go back. But she’s twitchy. She might dream.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. Garrady, what do you say?” he called across to the old man.
“She’s not ready yet,” Garrady said, tasting a bit of the stew on his spoon.
“Not the dinner you fool, the girl.”
“Call me a fool boy? I meant the girl. So she dreams. It doesn’t mean anything yet. She’s not ready. She’s not linked properly with it.”
“And you know so much about it!” Maya said. She laughed and held her hands out to the fire to warm them.
“Do you doubt me?” Garrady asked.
“Why does it matter if she dreams?” Nat said.
“Shut up,” Ferran said.
“I’m just saying...”
“Well, don’t. When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it. Expect a long wait. Keep practicing there boy. I want to see those fingers bleed before dinner.”
Nat thought of making a rude gesture and settled for a hard stare. His fingers wouldn’t bleed anyhow. He had calluses on each and every last one of them. Ferran and Maya started whispering together, Garrady putting in a word or two occasionally. Nat heard enough to guess they were discussing the Resistance. In their very real guise of traveling players they delivered plenty of messages and packages. Nat thought the girl must be just another kind of package, on route from this place to that.
In the silent darkness of the wagon, under a quilt of many hues, Modesty opened her silver lips and dreamed.