Levande [17 Hispis 4261]
I didn't recognize the Rassimel woman, who was scratching nervously at the door as I answered it. I had never met her before -- I had, once, been invited to a soiree where I surely would have met her, but I somehow wound up swimming-and-flying with Strenata instead. Which, I must say, was absolutely the right choice; but it did leave me unprepared for this afternoon. Fortunately, she was unprepared as well.
She knocked on the door herself. She had obviously ridden some distance in some hurry, for her horse was panting behind her and looking more eagerly at the public fountain than at the flowering bushes and shrubberies beside the front door of our apartment. The horse was unexceptional: Strenata may ride a charger, but the Rassimel woman rode a swifthorse of blatantly undistinctive pedigree, mottled patches of purple and brown on its fur, and riding-gear that had been quite fine and well-made ten years ago, and was now quite shabby and well-made.
She was rather on the shabby-and-well-made side herself. She was, perhaps, three or four years older than me -- surely no more than that. She had never starved a day in her life, and showed every sign of many good meals. The rings on her tail were broad and a bit off-balance, and her mask was coarse and blurry-edged. No Rassimel beauty, she. Nor did her clothes help a bit: battered riding leathers, distinctly unfashionable vest, a distinctly ugly hat.
There was no doubt about where she came from, though. The ornament on her distinctly ugly hat was Countess Gloun's. A bit cockeyed, though.
There was no doubt that she was a person of some power. The dagger at her hip was achy to look at, full of some hideous Destroc Locador Corpador enchantment. A cat's-headed copper ring on her left hand was a potent fire-caster; a miniature ivory chalice hung around her neck would heal her several times. And she had another half-dozen lesser enchantments, and about as many bound spells. Kaim-Su wanders around the city equipped like that, and Rhedwy almost as much, but ordinary people do not.
So I naturally took her for the Countess Gloun's bodyguard, or in any case one of her household adventurers.
Digression: Household Adventurers Every greater noble must keep some household adventurers, or personal bodyguard, or some such. One of the duties of the greater nobility, in particular, is to defend the lands they administer. Some are competant to do so alone -- indeed, most greater noble houses were started when some substantial hero defended a region well enough to get official status as its defender. Most greater nobles, especially after the second or third generation, are content to hire well-trained people to take care of the matter.
Now, there are only a few reasons that I could think of why one of the Countess Gloun's bodyguards would ride in such a hurry to my apartment. All these reasons involve Thery.
I peered out of the window at the adventuress. "Forgive me, but I cannot open the front door myself. I shall acquire Dustweed, who shall open it." She blinked at me, but I flew back to our room.
Digression: Opening the Door In a reasonable home, the door would be sufficiently oiled and balanced for me to open. Ours is not, currently, reasonable. I cannot open the front door, or not without considerable effort or a spell. This does not impede me particularly: I generally come and go through the window in any case, and would even if the front door were in excellent shape. When I want to have someone walk through the front door, though, I generally unbar it, if we have somehow chosen to bar it, and have the someone open it. (Strenata has taken to flying through the window with me, if she's been flying, but that is Strenata.)
On the way to acquire Dustweed, I sat one of the ugly warped leaky wooden salad bowls that had been Thery's when she lived here, and which she had left behind because they were ugly, warped, and leaky, and which we had not used much because they were ugly, warped, and leaky. This provided me an arcane connection to Thery. I improvised a nimble wind to whisper to Thery, A bodyguard or adventuress from Gloun has come here in a great hurry, presumably seeking you. I fear the worst. I shall stall her as best I can, but be prepared as best you can..
Then I did get Dustweed to open the door, and we invited the Rassimel woman in. She introduced herself -- as Levande --
-- And we were most polite to her, most very polite, but wholly incompetant and wholly too polite to let poor Levande say more than two words. "Can I bring you water, or wine? Or perhaps brandy? I know -- I shall brew tea for you; we have an excellent tisane of limegrass and slaenflowers ... No, no, we shall give you tisane, then you shall speak, for you are clearly parched, Levande"
And Dustweed helped out. "Perhaps you would like a few moments for grooming yourself? Feel free to use that bathroom there -- the Rassimel grooming implements are Dubaille's, and I am sure he would have no problem... actually, if I were you, I wouldn't want to use that brush. Let me rinse it off for you... Oh! I have spilt this basin of water! Now I must go find towels..."
We managed to delay her for a third of an hour, or more.
Tethezai ruined our delay, though. She came in the front door without scratching, as if she lived there -- which she more or less did -- and blinked thrice, and said, "Countess Gloun! I was not expecting to see you here! What brings you to visit my Herethroy lover?"
Dustweed and I looked at each other. "Countess?"
Levande curled the tip of her tail. "Well, yes, I'm Countess Gloun. What I've been trying to ask for two-thirds of an hour is, Is Thery at home, pray tell, and if not, when could I expect her to return?"