Mourning of Doves

   
"But -" Ruve's protest was half-hearted at best, since at his words she discovered the sudden and powerful need to go to the bathroom. "Just let me make a note here," she said quickly, and scribbled a reminder to herself. "Now - garg!" as she turned, a waft of something foul made itself apparent and she gagged. "You win. I should clean, or something. Or clean myself. Or both."

Jasper's fingers lingered on Ruve's arm a few seconds after she yielded, then he released her and nodded in satisfaction. "Aye, that you should. Otherwise, the Lady n' her damn minions will sniff 'round here, trying to find where ya stashed the corpses. Not that they'll say two things about it, mind. Probably just try and figure out how you did it, n' be all impressed like." He rolled his eyes and scooted over to where he could glance at the paper filled with her scrawls. He'd tried before to get her to tell him what she was researching, but either she told him to bugger off (talking meant she wasn't reading, usually at least), or got excited and slipped into a language he didn't know without being aware of it.

"Actually, we'd first ensure it wasn't one of ours," the Lady said from the doorway, her golden eyes watching Jasper like a hawk. He swallowed and took a small step, which eased Ruve between himself and her. If the Lady noticed the smell, she didn't show any indication of it. Instead, she gestured to the journals. "I see you're making good progress. I believe you've advanced far enough for us to talk. Can you spare a minute?"

~*~

"It isn't the first time I've had your blood on me,"
Elenna said with a sniff. "Nor will it be the last. Do change, you know how Randale gets faint at the smell of blood." This time, a smirk played on her lips. She produced a white cloth, cleaned her blade efficiently, and tossed the cloth on his soiled shirt. "Now, if you'll excuse me, my stint as messenger girl has come to an end." Flicking a wave, she left them in the room.

Though Cady and Braiden's ways would part, their paths did take them down the hall a ways together before it did. Turning the corner, they were just in time to see two figures dash across the hallway. The boy was unmistakable - Toby was wearing his faded and ripped clothes that he seemed to favor. His eyes were bright and excited, cheeks flushed just slightly.

Just ahead of him was a girl whose hair had been shoved up underneath a cap, her cheeks brushed with a bit of soot. She wore the lower clothes of a peasant, but her trousers had been rolled up, exposing dirty knees and lanky legs. And, though there was no possible explanation for it, Braiden could have sworn that it was Amanda.

Cady stopped at she saw the two children run past, a look of surprise stamped on her face. That look was quickly replaced by one of anger. "Oh, no you don't..." she muttered and grabbed Braiden's hand. "C'mon!" She started after the two. Braiden's shirt, in her opinion, could wait.

"'Manda?" Braiden got yanked unexpectedly, but it only took him a moment to recover and start running with Cady, absolutely baffled. And then his brain kicked in. "Guards," he bellowed ahead, "stop those two kids!" If it was actually Amanda, he wasn't sure the guards would be able to really stop her, slippery little scamp that she was, but they would definitely limit her options. That would make her easier for him to catch.

Sure, she knew all the best places to hide and get lost in the palace. Because he showed them to her.

Cady and Braiden rounded the corner in time to see Toby hesitate, glancing over his shoulder. "Wha?"

"Get going!" Amanda shouted - and it certainly was here, the look in her wide blue eyes was the same kind that she always got when she was into mischief - and slammed into him, pushing him into another hallway. A pair of guards looked startled, but gave pursuit.

The hallway, Braiden knew, could either lead out to the gardens, up to the armory tower, across an elevated walk to the mage's area, or through the kitchens. And, of course, he knew a dozen hid-a-holes around each of those locations.

That was an interesting reaction. Braiden lifted an eyebrow. Which way would she take him? They didn't look really dressed for the cold so much, so probably not the gardens. Going to the mages, she'd have to dump the disguise, which seemed like something she didn't want to do. The other kid (What was his name? He remembered that kid from someplace.) would stand out like a sore thumb there, too. There would be plenty of people in the kitchen, and that would leave a lot of witnesses, plus the Head Cook would be there at this hour, and he was not kindly when it came to disrupting his staff.

One did not cross the Head Cook without a damned good reason, unless one wanted to find all sorts of interesting things in their food for the next week. Lesson learned and passed on.

"They're going to the armory, I'll bet," he told Cady. "The tower with the ugly tapestries." She'd know which one that was, since he'd made a point of relating his opinion of those very 'artworks' when he'd shown her around. Why anyone ever decided that letting the armsmaster choose what to adorn the walls with was a good idea, he would never understand.

Ruve shot a glance at Jasper and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He always said the most inappropriate things at exactly the wrong time...

Then she returned her mind to the matter at hand and cleared her throat, looking at the Lady a trifle warily. "I'm not sure what you mean by that, er...madam." She really preferred keeping formality between them, perhaps as a sort of defense, but it was rather difficult when the Lady had no set form of address.

She sighed and rubbed at her neck. "If we need to talk privately about something, can it be somewhere other than here?" She began gathering her journals and notes in preparation for this end. The smell, now that she'd noticed it, was fast becoming intolerable.

"Yes, of course," the Lady said smoothly, her nose not so much as twitching. "As far as privately goes, you may bring Jasper along if he amuses you. I have no doubt that he'll ferret out what we discuss, either by sneaking around or by careful questions while you're distracted. I wouldn't employ him if he didn't." She turned, letting them out into the hallway, which was quite a bit more fresh.

"I ain't in your employ," Jasper dared say, stubborn on this point only because Ruve was around. And because of what had happened to Conner, the disgusting man. "We've got an arrangement, is all."

"As you say,"
she said passively. "Is suits me, well enough. As it seems it does you."

Cady nodded and kept pace. I never should've played along that morning, she thought as they raced along. I should've outted the scamp immediately. This wouldn't be happening if I had...

She grit her teeth and pushed herself to run faster. This wasn't the time for should-haves. It was time to catch up and set things straight. Cady skid to a halt and began tying a knot. Just before she finished, she grabbed Braiden's hand and vanished, leaving Sage to trail after the guards and the children, barking merrily all the way.

The armory was as it was the last time Cady had visited. The decor left much to be desired and, after the demonic attack, many objects were missing. It was the first room of many and the solid door that led into it was shut and locked solidly, proving that they had beat the pair there. The light was dim - perfect for lurking.

It was long before they heard soft scratching on the other side of the door, then the whispered hush of voices. "Just tell me why we're runnin'," Toby hissed. "I ain't afraid of Cady, or that dumb stuffed prince o' hers. I'd'a told them what's what."

"I just didn't want to deal with them,"
Amanda said, the door cracking open. She slipped inside, pulling Toby in, both their backs facing the door. "Just leave it to me, right?"




 

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