Night passed uneventfully, I was caught awkwardly in a place between utter exhaustion and restless dreams. I slept heavily but miserably. I was more tired and worn out when I woke than before I’d slept. But the cold had faded. I saddled my horse next to Electron.
“Where to?” I asked.
Electron paid extra special attention to buckling her pack. She’d known this question was coming and was loathed to answer it. When she continued her buckling, I covered the buckle with my hand. She looked up rather crossly at me.
“Dear hunter haven’t you already conceived some idea to ‘where to’?”
“I’m bad at directions.” I lied.
“Romania.” Lady Electron said at last.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why should I tell you?!”
“I saved your life.”
“Far from it.”
I frowned; I thought we were over this, what was she doing this?
“Are you like this to everyone or just me? No wonder Dmitry left you!”
“You really want to know why I’m keeping you blind. Because you’re the Emperors eyes and you are his ears!”
“You insult me, I’m no bodies anything! I do as I please--”
“And he’s pleased with what you do!”
That was it. I hardly understood why I’d followed her in the first place.
“Lady Electron, I’m finished with you, with Russia, I will go now and this time you will not see before the curtain falls on your life.” I said stepping back from her. I was tired of all these squabbles and all these fights, it was pointless and the royals had them all the time, and every time death would ensue but not my death.
“Wait!” Electron gasped. “I may still need your help.”
“You’d trust Saber’s dog?” I demanded.
“You’re a dog but I don’t believe your Saber’s.” She sighed.
“There is only so much I can tell you, there is only so much I know. Dmitry and his father they are fighting.”
“That’s no secret. The whole of Russia knows that, it has been that way since Dmitry was a young boy.”
“Look, I know you don’t care about any of this hunter, to you its just crazy stuff but Dmitry is my fiancé, this is my life.”
“No, it will be your life, I say leave it while you still can.”
“No, it’s too late I’m already bound to him.”
“He found me in Romania and while he was there he had business and I think it is that business that made Saber want to kill him.”
“You knew about the assassins?!”
“I heard Saber hiring them, so I sent a hawk ahead to warn Dmitry. I know in my gut that he received my message but he hasn’t returned it. I was hoping you’d be able to find him. I need to know what happened.”
“My lady, if what you say is true the castle is not a safe place for you and if you chose to return there I will not join you. But I will take you to Dmitry, though for the life of me I cannot explain why.”
She smiled and my stomach churned miserably for reasons I couldn’t explain.
Crossing the marsh was slow and careful work, most days were silent and when we did talk we carefully avoided sensitive issues. When we finally got across the marsh it was apparent where the ambush of gypsies had come from. We almost immediately found ourselves in little village of gypsies.
“We’re going to need a disguise.” I stated the obvious as we hid in the little cover allowed my marsh plants outside the village.
“Give me your bag and all you valuables.” I said. She obeyed. I took all I wished to keep, mostly just money, a couple of tools but the rest was expendable. I put the items in Electrons pack, balled it up as best I could and wrapped it in a blanket.
“Here,” I held out the odd ball to Electron. “Slip that under your dress.” I instructed.
Electron laughed, figuring out my plan. She put the bundle under her dress and pushed it up to her stomach. I had to loosen the strings fastening on the back of her dress in order for the bundle to fit. Once it was in place I secured it with a length of cloth.
I tied her hair in a messy knot I’d seen many of peasant women wear. But her still looked out of place. Her skin was too white and would draw too much attention.
I dung in my pack and pulled out a series of spices I had. They arranged in colors from gold to black. Gold I used the most to make Saber his precious wolf. I mixed a couple of spices together until they were the color of my skin or a little darker.
“Close your eyes.” I told Electron, catching the mixture on my fingers and raising it to her face.
She closed her eyes and I began to apply it to her face.
Her skin was warm and soft but seamlessly smooth like a fresh stone sculpture. I’d never felt anything this smooth before. She must’ve incited so much jealousy in girls growing up…if she hadn’t been cursed to sleep.
I dropped the remaining powder in Electrons hands and she rubbed the powder over her pale skin all the way up to her elbows.
“You look like a proper gypsy now.” I said.
Electron laughed, revealing a mouth of good, white teeth, the illusion was gone.
“Try not to do that.” I said.
“What about you, wolfman?” she asked pulling her cloak over her shoulder.
“Yes.” I dug in my pack and pulled out my blue bird mask, I only wore this when I wanted to amiable or when I was at parties.
Turning my back to Electron I took off my wolf mask, I let my shoulder length hair free of its ribbon and pulled on the blue bird mask.
“Are we players again?” She asked, when I turned to face her.
“I’m a storyteller, you’re my wife.” I said, slipping off one of my rings. I rolled it in the dirt to cover the gold and silver before handing it to Electron.
“I thinking storytelling is a horrible profession.” She said slipping into character. “How are we to raise child on the road?”
“It is the only reason I can give for our constant travel, and we need the shelter.” Hiding all evidence of my wolf mask, robes, and bow and quiver in the dirty snow I pulled on my near empty pack. Hiding a dagger at my hip, I wrapped my feet in spare cloth.
“Ready?” I asked Electron.
She nodded, taking on a tired look and cupping her false belly in one arm she reached out to me. I let her slide her arm over my shoulder and we walked clumsily out of the cover and continued to the village. It was more of a gathering of tents and horses than an actual village.