Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith



The Investment Party

I will admit that it is a bit strange to piece together a book from the fragmentary record of God's dealings with people you barely know and may be struggling to care about, but it has been done before. Maddening though this book may be to people expecting a novel, I do have a bit of precedence for using a style that focuses on people's encounters with the divine. In case you aren't catching on, something akin to this style is used in a rather obscure text called the Holy Bible. As a money-making venture, I am personally quite heartened with the fact that no other book has sold as many copies so voluntarily to so many as the scripture of Jew and Christian. If this book performs even fractionally as well as the Bible, I will feel extremely vindicated as an author.

Others who also have opportunity for vindication will shortly include our friends Mullicynda and Daavor, who are even now preparing for the ultimate event in a young woman's life: her investment as a Lady. Mulls is putting on a very nice dress, obviously purchased without the input of the Baroness of Herring. This pulls over the top of a much more comfortable camisole and silken capris, right in front of her former conspirator and now supposed consort Daavor. This would be indecent in most cultures, especially among Ladies of the Convocation, but I remind you that she is already fully covered before pulling on the fine gown, as if she is planning to do something on short notice that is incompatible with a dress. You fine readers and I will just have to wait and see what "short notice" plans justify such foundation garments.

If you readers are feeling infuriated yet again because you think I am intentionally keeping information from you that the characters in the story are privy to, one would be feeling upset for no good reason. Mulls may appear to have some plan because she is wearing more useful clothes under her formal dress, but I assure you that she is simply following a bit of a hunch. As a person with some experience dealing with God, I can further assure you that divinity enjoys testing faith by having his servants do things that don't immediately make much sense, such as wearing pants under a skirt at a fancy occasion. All Mullicynda knows is that this is the impression that has come to her and she has learned over time that such impressions are wise to follow. As for the rest, she must trust that further inspiration will arrive as she needs it.

The occasion of Mullicynda's sixteenth birthday and ascension into the ranks of the Ladies is a good cause for a traditional celebration, complete with feasting, wine-sipping, and the giving of gifts. It is the one moment in the life of a Convocation Lady when a young woman can feel like a princess without first having bested a field of competitors. She can just stand in the glory of her best dress, be presented her school graduation certificate, and receive her accolades, but only this once.

An investment party is a big deal, not just in the life of one sixteen-year-old girl, but for everyone involved. It is at these parties that Ladies have their best chance of sizing up their competition away from actual contests. A Lady can get so wrapped up in her beauty regime, spend entire days memorizing clever poetry and speeches on one subject or another, or practice her runway walk so fervently that she never even comes up for air during the entire contest season. It ends up being at some girl's investment party that the other Ladies get a comparatively stress-free opportunity to focus on the shortcomings of others rather than their own.

So, in a rented ballroom, the tables are spread to overflowing with food enough to feed an army, a crowd of dresses and jewels wandering around them like so many grazing cattle, each eyeing everyone else with alternating looks of disgust and disdain while saying kindly things with their lips. As the new Lady Mullicynda enters the hall, glowing in a shimmering silver dress, the assemblage quiets in traditional homage, but also some loathing of the new and very imposing competitor.

Others are wandering about as well in sections of the hall designated for those that attend the Ladies. One large area is marked for Matrons and dames, who wear dresses just as elegantly as the Ladies but work their part of the hall with much more practical purpose. As the Ladies are sizing each other up as competitors, The Matrons are assembled into clusters, speaking in serious tones among themselves about the larger issues of managing the affairs of the Convocation. Occasionally, one or two are called away to attend to the petty desires of their assigned Ladies, but these matters are quickly parceled out to underling dames or to the line of men that lean against the west or "masculine" wall. Ladies are also occasionally beckoning to their consorts to show them off to their envious friends and/or rivals. It is all a very convivial and somewhat noisy affair but generally goodnatured and festive ... at least to a point.

The hall quiets for a moment as a herald announces the entry of the honored guest, Lady Mullicynda, escorted by her consort, Daavor. It is obvious that the man is uncomfortable in his party clothes, which includes tight stockings on the legs, a wide ruffle of collar at the neck, and puffy fabric covering his privates and his arms. He looks absolutely ridiculous, but is heartened by the fact that every other Lady's man in the hall looks just as ridiculous as he does. As is customary, Daavor kisses his Lady's hand and moves quickly to the masculine wall where he will be looked down upon by the other consorts and Ladies alike. The only comforting thing he could manage to find was a piece of chicken to gnaw upon while averting his eyes from everyone else.

The Lady Mullicynda was stunning. Compared to the colors and shapes around her, she was a glittering diamond set against cut glass. No one in the hall had any problem picking her out from the crowd, which she moved into gracefully, doing her duty as the evening's starlet. The other Ladies thinly veiled their feelings of hatred and envy with pretty smiles and pleasant chit-chat, hugs of greeting and curtsies of mock honor. However, no amount of decorum could silence the whispering that followed behind the new Lady like ripples. This was a frightening opponent to be sure and quiet discussion of how to destroy her was already beginning even in the first movements of the brilliant star through the hall. Any other new Lady would be just as busy sizing up the other women in the hall, but if we have learned anything about Mullicynda in the time that we have known her, she has other things on her mind. Of course, her own grace demanded that she be the perfect model of a Lady, even though her thoughts were wandering very far away.

In a particularly large cluster of Matrons, Symantha was holding a bit of a meeting. A few moments before, she drew great satisfaction from the obvious stir that Mulls' entry had caused. She also noted that her gift to the new Lady, the scrawny Daavor, was properly attired and filling his role, hopefully in more than just escorting his Lady into the hall. She was not shy in letting the others around her of the high Matrons know that this girl and her man were creatures of her creation and that this fact, among many others, should vault her to the position of Matriarch. Although there were a number of obvious descenters who were loyal to the present Matriarch, a slightly larger number of the high Matrons seemed very impressed with the things that Symantha was reporting. Her "show" smile was augmented by her exultation that this would be the night that a few of her carefully laid plans, worked over years of posturing and positioning, would come to fruition.

This was the prelude to the coming ceremony of the Investment itself. Groups of women and men, about their private and not-too-private purposes, from winning the next beauty contest, to plotting toward positions of power, to glutting oneself at the feasting tables. It seems that this last purpose is how Coryn was dealing with her own disappointments. Once the lithe and hopeful future Lady, she now looked to be working hard to become the stereo-typically portly and disgruntled dame of which every household seemed to have at least twenty. She would look often enough at the luminous Mullicynda and mumble some dark comment as she shoved something else in her mouth. No word had come that Coryn would be Mulls' Matron, which plan would have surely been worked out before the Investment, so now the manipulated friendship they had enjoyed previously had soured to a festering hatred of being jilted. While Coryn still wore a very nice dress, she no longer looked or behaved nicely while wearing it and people were avoiding her.

Fashionably late as she was ever expected to be, the Queen and her entourage finally entered through the great doors at the south end of the hall. All the men dropped to their knees and bowed low to the floor, all the Matrons and Dames knelt, spreading their hems wide and bowing their heads, and all the Ladies curtsied respectfully as royalty entered the room and made its way slowly to the stage at the north end. First came two artfully dressed young girls, chosen for this honor from the Convocation school, spreading rose petals for the royal to walk upon. Then, the young Queen herself, escorted by the tall and handsome former consort of the Grand Duchess, and followed by four ornamented men that carried her train.

Under normal circumstances, the Grand Duchess would have followed close behind the Queen, but everyone knows that the poor girl had recently died in the birthing of a sickly girl. As if to highlight the vacancy in the royal entourage, the traditional two thrones on the dais were present, though one would sit empty for these proceeding. This meant that the hall was especially filled this night, as every Lady on Firsthome was in attendance to see if the Queen would announce the date of the contest that would fill the empty throne beside where she was settling herself. The room fairly buzzed with talk on the whole situation and who were the best contenders.

Following the Queen, the stern-faced and elderly Matriarch marched with a regalness fitting of those ahead of her in the procession. Behind her were the households of the Queen and the absent Grand Duchess, arranged by their ranks and stations. It was noteworthy that as the fallen royal's Matron, Symantha was anticipated to be just behind the Matriarch in the parade, which she managed to step into from her early campaigning in a bit of a breach of protocol. The mere fact that she felt confident enough with herself to violate social etiquette was another factor in impressing the other high Matrons when the moment came to challenge the Queen's Matriarch directly. The group moved forward to arrange itself appropriately around the two thrones on the dais and finally, at a signal from the Queen, everyone on the dais was seated and the formal ceremony began.

The first half of the Investment almost seems like some sort of trial, where notable people from the past of the new Lady give evidence of her fitness to join the Convocation. In another way, it is like a funeral, because everyone is expected to say wonderful things about the girl in question, even if she was a rotten scoundrel. In this case, there were a handful of instructors at the school that gave glowing reports of Mulls' studiousness and scholastic ability, although at the time the girl was attending their classes, most had vague resignations about permitting her to proceed, mostly on the basis that she just didn't seem to fit in properly. Of course, none of that matters now, especially when the pressure of Symantha's machinations kept her progressing onward through school and to this very moment. There was the testimony of two Ladies to which Mulls had been lent during her school years for customary apprenticeships, which, according to their glowing words, she handled with strength of character and uncommon grace. In both cases, she actually spent the bulk of her time in her quarters, reading from her "Mariner's Log" book in secret, and getting all "dreamy" as Daavor came to call it, but truth really has no place in such things as Investment ceremonies. The last witness of all was the Baroness of Herring, who did a much better job of speaking in glowing terms of Mulls as if they had known each other for years than she did at interior decorating. It sounded as if the two weeks of ignoring that Mulls had spent in her household was more like sixteen years of watching a girl grow up and molding her into the vision that she was this day. One would expect the Baroness' speech from a mother or close kin, but since the Convocation didn't keep children with their mothers, it was an accepted role that the last Lady to which a girl was apprenticed should stand in the place of a loving mentor and, sadly, foot the bill for this entire affair. It is a status symbol that Symantha herself, through many hands and contrivances, is using to influence the Baroness among others. No price is too high, it seems, to pull Mullicynda permanently into the world of the Convocation Ladies and, more importantly, into her life of bearing the "super" Ladies of the future.

Even now, the high Matron is examining the honored girl most closely. It is expected that most girls are already pregnant when attending their own Investment party, which is the point of bringing a Miss together with her first consort during that crucial last apprenticeship. It would be too early for Mulls to actually be "showing" her delicate state as yet, but it appeared that she had a few of the "tell-tale" signs, such as looking a little bulkier than usual during that initial "eating-for-two" phase. Of course, that would actually be those extra clothes under the dress, but Symantha can draw whatever conclusions she likes. Also, the girl is looking a bit out-of-sorts, which is normal for someone coming to grips with losing all control of their body in pregnancy, but which is also very consistent with a person who has given up some control of her immediate circumstances and is putting things in God's hands. Again, if Symantha is supposing that all signs point to a triumphant birth in the near future, as opposed to being thwarted by a supreme being, that is her affair, all appearances aside.

With the formalities now done, Mullicynda herself is kneeling before the Queen, who is now saying the words that she traditionally says while placing a thin and rather plain silver coronet on the girl's brow. The words spoken are meaningless to mention here and the coronet itself is of so little consequence that many of them are melted down into commemorative coins or simply sold off to defer expenses. The tiara nicely matches Mulls' dress, which was very considerate of the Queen to accommodate for, as her own preference is for gold jewelry. With the formal ceremony over, the Queen and her retinue have vacated the stage, leaving only the new Lady, her anxious consort, and her red-haired Matron who was presented to her by the Baroness of Herring. There they will have to stand for the next few hours as a stream of posturing households present themselves and certain gifts to Mullicynda's new household.

Well, to call what Mullicynda will have after this is all over a "household" is a bit of a stretch. She and her few servants will continue on at the house of the Baroness of Herring until Mulls has won a contest for which one of the prizes is a manor. Therefore, it becomes very important to the status of a Lady to win a title quickly so that she may actually have her own house. Along with the household misnomer, the entire idea of a "gift" is something more than just a stretch and can imply something given with several very weighty strings attached to it.

Most of the "gifts" being given are just trinkets stolen off someone's mantle. Each lady in attendance at an Investment party is expected to provide at least one gift to the honored girl, though there are no rules on how tacky the gift can be. I believe the record for the worst Investment gift ever given was a mounted ram's rack that was presented to a girl whose best friend was trampled by a herd of crazed sheep just a week earlier. The sad part of it in the eyes of other Ladies was that it was just simply a stupid and thoughtless gift, as opposed to one meant to increase the girl's sense of loss just before a contest the giver hopes the receiving girl will lose. The giver in that case got no "bonus points" for being a conniving competitor, for only the densest Lady would give a gift without an agenda.

Now, there are the better gifts that have a deeper purpose, either to impress a rising star or to buy a new Lady's affection. For instance, now that the household of the departed Grand Duchess are before Mulls, attentive Ladies are somewhat taken aback by the gift being given: a finely carved golden plate with the royal Convocation seal at its center. It was an expensive gift by any standard and Symnatha, who had chosen it, simply acted very, very innocent. Surely favors would be required later for such an offering, though Mulls' could only fathom what they might be, except that it was something Symantha would definitely twist to her purposes. It seemed like everyone within any distance of Symantha owed her something and knew prudence always anticipated the day when this large group would be doing things at Symantha's bidding. Although there were plenty of Ladies and their gifts who wanted Mullicynda to simply know their name and speak well of them when Mulls' prospects rose, this "gift" from Symantha's departed Lady was probably designed to buy the young Lady's loyalty to the Matron running the palace.

It is an indication of Symantha's misunderstanding of her creature that Mulls felt absolutely no desire to give her allegiance to anyone, particularly any Lady or Matron in the hall that evening.

Besides the junk gifts and the ones intended to serve their givers, the bulk of the gifts followed the tradition of being of the housewarming and expectant mother varieties. There were an inordinate number of spoons to be found in the growing pile behind Mulls, along with a nice selection of lingerie for the seventh month of pregnancy that the new Lady cooed over and accepted with a hug. In fact, the piles of gifts of all sorts traditionally became so sizable that hired men were already at work stowing it aboard a "treasure boat" as such was often called, moored on a river quay just to the west of the hall. All of this gift-giving is somewhat of a show, for if quiet custom stands, the Baroness that will be housing Mulls and her tiny entourage will be selling most of these things back to the gift merchants to recompense herself for her troubles in hosting the Investment party in the first place. Some of these gifts have seen dozens of Investment parties and will see dozens more, bringing real pleasure only to the handful of households that specialize in the Investment gift trade. If it sounds like something of a racket, I can assure you that most things in life end up being this way, both upon Firsthome and in our world.

The hours pass and Mullicynda is getting sore in uncomfortable places with all the accepting and shuffling of gifts and hugging, Daavor has become bored and is helping the hired hands move the gifts to the treasure boat, and everyone is beginning to look a little weary of the whole thing. The better placed Ladies and their households have long since left the hall and now only the most pathetic Ladies with gifts too embarrassing to bring out in front of a crowd are making their way toward the dais. Mullicynda has even caught herself yawning once or twice, but is hard work to be kind and gracious, even to the lowliest of her new sisters of the Convocation. A bowl of plastic fruit. A painting of a solitary flower in a pot. A collection of fruity-smelling soaps. A conglomeration of latex that probably is meant to assist in a dangerous activity of perversion. All are accepted with a gentle smile and a gracious hug. On and on and on. But then...

"You witch!"

Everyone froze at the exclamation, which was so out of character here. I mean, a lot of women thought such things at Investment parties, but they had the foresight to keep it to themselves. The somewhat plump Lady trying to present her gift was just as surprised as Mulls and turned to the source of the outburst. The gifting Lady's Matron was wide-eyed as well at this outrage. One of the junior dames of this household, bursting out of her old school dress, had nothing but venom in her eyes as she spoke again. "You don't deserve a gift, you cheat!"

There was a gasp among the dame's household and it moved quickly throughout the people still left in the hall. "Coryn," Mullicynda breathed out.

"You promised that I would be your Matron!" She gave a nasty look and accusing finger at the red-headed and now red-faced young woman to Mulls' left. "Is this what you dumped me for?"

The new Lady tried to say something in response. "I couldn't find you. The Baroness suggested..."

Coryn, not bothering to listen, had a crazed look. "You lied to me! You aren't fit to be a Lady!" Instead of leaping at Mulls, which would have probably gotten the wayward dame euthanize like an animal, she sprung at the red-haired Matron with nails flying.

The Matron over Coryn had the presence of mind to motion in a couple of men to restrain her atrocious dame before serious damage could be done. The Lady was already making apologies for the conduct of her staff in the midst of Mulls' pleading to her old friend. "I am sorry! I really was trying!" Coryn's only response was to behave like a stung wildcat between the two men that struggled to drag her away.

The gift was temporarily forgotten as the giver Lady and her Matron whispered quickly over the fate of Coryn. Mulls turned to the care and consolation of her own Matron that wasn't expecting to be noticed, much less attacked. Everyone soon gained back composure and the gift was finally given, a cheap chafing dish. As before, this was gratefully accepted with a hug, though the faint ravings of Coryn could still be heard from two blocks away. Though Symantha herself was long since gone from the hall, her Canary was still grazing liberally at what food was left on the tables and witnessed the whole encounter.

Fortunately, this was the only outburst that would darken the mood of the hall for the rest of the waning party.

At long last, the gift-giving was over and it was social hour again and the refreshment tables were replenished. Several Ladies who had left the hall earlier were now returning, especially ones that were basically here for the food and sadly looked it. In defense of the Convocation, I will report that it does vaguely sponsor contests and prizes for the more-rotund Ladies who have succumbed to party feasts and therefore have little chance of winning the more traditional contests. Such kindness is tempered though, as the prizes are small at best and the titles are quite derogatory, as you would not normally expect from beauty queens.

Mulls was engaged in a very uninteresting conversation with a Lady a few years her senior that talked incessantly of the tedious reptile trade that her household was trying to fashion into a larger market. It was not a sign of respectability to engage in business best left to Matrons and dames, but what is a Lady to do that has lost her last six contests? The poor woman was about to say as much, but the new Lady was suddenly gone. The peculiar Lady looked around a bit, as many people wander away from her conversations, hoping to find Mulls and pick things back up, but it looked as if the girl had completely vanished. She only shrugged and confronted another Lady that looked as if she had little prospect of escaping and began the snake talk yet again.

Outside, Daavor was moving a particularly large table around on the deck of the treasure boat, trying to find the right place so that it would not force the boat to list to one side or the other. He had called over another man with a rope to make the furniture fast for the journey across the estuary to the house of the Baroness on the far side. Suddenly, a female voice called out from the quay. "Where is your Lady?"

The other man looked first and averted his eyes, hitting Daavor and pointing the woman out. It was hard to determine how a man should respond to any woman in a nice dress, so one defaulted to treating her well. He managed a bow. "Were you talking to me, Lady?"

Symantha ignored the mistake. "Of course I am talking to you!" she snapped. "I am looking for your Lady Mullicynda. You are her consort, yes?"

The whole concept of actually being a consort was still strange to Daavor and he still didn't feel like one, as Mulls had not permitted him to share her bed as of yet. "Uh, yeah. I mean, yes, my Lady."

"You will fetch her straight-away." She turned and looked back at the hall, knowing that to engage too much with a Lady's consort in public would be uncouth and raise questions.

Daavor immediately left the tying down of the table and began to make his way to the gangplank in search of Mulls, as he had been nominally trained to obey all women. If he would have had any presence of mind, the man would have remembered how bizarre it was for a woman attached to a different albeit royal household to be ordering him about, instead of working through a lower Matron or dame of his own household as was proper. If he had known that his Lady was being summoned by a Matron, it would have seemed even more unbelievable, but the poor man had no clue and Symantha was growing too anxious and suspicious to bother with protocol.

On his way to the gangplank, however, another voice came to his ears. "Don't leave the boat." It was a familiar voice, more familiar than Symantha's, but also female. "Tell the others that Lady Mullicynda has their pay in the hall and make sure everyone is off." She would be obeyed just as readily as any other woman who was likely in charge of things on the treasure boat.

Daavor nodded and moved off to the others on the boat, relaying the message of the last woman he heard.

"What is this?" Symantha had glanced back to see if her order was being carried out and saw the consort about other things. "Did you not understand me?"

The voice of a common-looking woman under a cloak and hood called out a response as she walked along with a gifted painting between herself and Symantha. "Someone else has 'ready been sent to the 'all to find 'er Ladyship for ye." She remembered herself and added with a small curtsy, "beg pardon, Lady."

Symantha was perturbed and looked it. She accosted a man moving toward the hall to get his paycheck and sent him to look for Mulls as well. She had come to the quay to insure that her new creature was properly installed in her new station and would not be misplaced again. "Are you certain she has not been this way?" This she called back to the woman on the boat.

"I canna say, Lady. I've been loadin' the boat for awhile. Didna see her about."

There was an exasperated sigh from the Matron but she wasn't moving off. The commoner put the painting she was carrying down, gave it a look as if it just didn't fit among the surrounding things, took it back up, and moved toward the bow and out of Symantha's vision.

It seemed that Daavor was now the only man left on the boat. With all of his nautical experience, he could feel that something was wrong here. The fore end was moving slowly away from the quay and the gangplank was moving around amidships. The boat was not moored. The fisherman instinct took over and the man ran to the aft tie-down and saw that the stern was moving away from the quay as well. What he did not see was the common woman, who had spoken with Symantha, pushing the boat away from the quay with an oar.

"Wait!" Symantha called out. "You idiot!" This was to Daavor, which was quite accustomed to being called that by women. "You are leaving some of your Lady's gifts behind!"

The rope that should have been secured to the tie-down was hanging loose, attached to nothing, which was very odd. The man took it up and prepared to pull on it and bring the boat back to the quay, but another female voice intervened. "Cast off!" The voice called out again but was somewhat obscured by the sound of the gangplank falling into the water as the distance between quay and craft increased. Daavor stood there, the rope that was the last connection to the quay slipping out through his confused hands, not knowing which voice of command to follow.

"Get back here, you silly man!" Symantha was shouting and running as best she could along the quay as the receding tide began to drag the boat toward the sea. "Your Lady will be very angry!" At this, Daavor clenched onto the line and the movement of the water pivoted the boat back into the direction of the quay.

The other female voice came again and it was running fast to the conflicted man. "No, Daavor! Let go of the rope!" The cape and hood were gone and it was the plain-dressed Mullicynda on the deck with him. "It is time to leave!" She didn't bother mentioning the rising of the hairs on the back of her neck and other indications that the timing of the tide, the efforts of God, and other factors that were wanting to put them out to sea.

Symantha suddenly realized what was happening. "You little strumpet!" Suddenly, she turned frantically back to Daavor as a crowd of women and men began to come out of the hall and see the commotion. "Daavor, haul that boat in and you will be in a Ducal bed within a week! I can make it happen!"

The man with the rope in his hand got a stunned look. Just weeks ago, he was the lowliest of fisherman, only lunatics willing to be his crew. Now, he was being offered one of the highest positions a man can have in the Convocation and the offer was coming from the one Matron that could pull it off. It was impossibly tempting.

Just then, Mulls reached him and grabbed his arm. If she didn't get away now, Symantha would never let her out of sight again and the girl would be some Matron's lab rat forever. "Don't listen to her, Daavor," she breathed into his ear. The boat was swinging closer to the quay and men were already waiting to catch it, sealing her doom. She didn't know what to say to turn his attention from the ultimate lure of the Convocation.

Honestly, what would you readers do in this situation? Would you appeal to the man's desire for freedom from an oppressive life? Or perhaps you could point out that Symantha would be very likely not to keep her word once she got what she wanted. Finally, I went to the ultimate authority short of God for the answer: my wonderful wife. And it just so happens that she came up with exactly the same solution that God put into Mullicynda's head. I always knew I had married an inspired woman.

There was a very loud ringing sound, a muffled thud, a cry of "No!" and then the boat began to drift back out into the estuary and toward the sea.

It was Symantha calling out "No!", not just once but over and over again as she ran as best she could on her heels further down the quay. She was even picking up the odd dropped gift and flinging them at the receding vessel, which neither aswaged her anger nor forced the boat back to the shore, thus making her actions worthless on the whole.

Mullicynda simply looked back to the group now assembling on the quay and waved. She did not wave so much with her hand as she did with a golden plate that she grasped, a plate that was now slightly bent but still bore the insignia of the royal house. Mulls didn't appear particularly gleeful at the high Matron's misfortune, but she did call out a final statement to her. "Thanks for the plate!"

Daavor was not really involved in any of this, as his unconscious body was splayed out on the deck of the boat not far from Mulls. The rope that he had been previously gripping had fallen from his hands and was now just about played out into the water. He now sported a fine swelling knot on his head that his new Lady had just administered, not far from another now fading knot that had been provided a few weeks ago by the minions of Symantha. If the man ever recovered his full faculties, perhaps he would have grounds to sue any number of people, provided they didn't bash him in the head again when he tried.

The boat was now out in the river's current and moving faster toward the sea. Mullicynda dropped her plate, jerked a rope free that unfurled the sail, ran to the stern of the boat, and snatched up the tiller, just in time before the boat twisted itself to enter the open channel broadside. She could still faintly hear shouting from behind and glanced back to see the Queen's Matriarch laugh at her rival's troubles. The breeding experiment, at least as it concerned Mulls, had just ended and Symantha's failure would not bring the boost of support that her power grab depended upon. It was a sad thing, but Mullicynda was not going to let anything get her down on her sixteenth birthday.

The girl, who would not make much of a Lady after all, pondered how long she should wait until reviving her "consort". Although she didn't know it yet, it was Daavor who knew what course to sail, now that they had a boat of their own and provisioning and most importantly of all, he knew where to find the monument that bore the symbol of The Mariner's Log and the community of Waykeep beyond it. He would recover presently enough and Mulls figured that there was plenty of time to beg her best friend's apology for forcing him into another one of her hair-raising intrigues.

And if he has any problems with receiving that apology, he can always take it up with God.

Next Chapter...

Copyright, Jason Nemrow. All rights reserved.