“Maybe I shouldn’t have done it in the meal room,” thought Morganzer. She was now facing a ring of expectant old faces. She could probably refuse to say anything. Especially right away. Everyone knew that scrying took it out of you.
No. They were all dying to know. She couldn’t stand not knowing, herself, and couldn’t torment anyone else by withholding.
“We could see some of the things, but they moved so fast it was hard to keep up with them.”
“Could you all see?” Morganzer’s voice showed her resentment more than a little. Did aunts keep everything from the children they raised?
“Yes. People don’t keep well down here if they’re not good at scrying. They tend to move on to other places.”
“Farside is one place. There are others, beyond it.”
“I’m sure I’ll find out more later.”
“I’m sure you will.”
There was a pause. It felt respectful. Morganzer gathered her thoughts.
“The aunts topside are going to have to lie to the Skend.”
No comment or change in the faces. This was familiar ground.
“The lie is that Daffak had a dream that said that his grandfather is dying and he has to go on a quest to find him before he dies. He has to sacrifice a wolf cub at his grandfather’s feet.”
Frowns. “Why?” “What would that accomplish?” “They’d believe it?”
“They will believe it and will not question why or what the benefit is. It’s a dream and it’s a fatherline thing. They’ll just accept that the boy has to go. And I’ll have to go with my only male protector.”
There were titters at that. She frowned.
“It’s not that we don’t believe you, child, it’s just that it’s hard for us to think of an underage younger brother as a protector.”
A rueful half-smile.
“Yeah. I have trouble with it, too. It’s going to irritate me the whole way. But it’s fits their ideas. It will work. Someone else is going to come, too. We’re going to say that she’s going along to die. That part doesn’t make sense to me.”
“We can understand that part,” said Kholack. “If you’re looking for a wolf cub, you might need someone for the wolves to eat, to let you get away with the cub.”
“We won’t need to get a cub. Daffak already has it. And the Skend need to know he has it.”
The faces showed polite interest. Morganzer explained.
“One of the reasons we kept dying in the scenes that everyone called up is that Daffak is getting difficult and is likely to start a fight over something stupid. If we say he’s my protector, he’ll try to be sensible, but he doesn’t really believe that I need all that much help. He knows the cub is going to die if he can’t get it out of the valley. He’s really protecting it. He’ll be more sensible. (And, besides, he likes the cub more than he likes me – she thought.)
Also the older men will respect the dream and the quest. He’ll be impressed with their respect. The young Skend will be impressed with the respect, too, and won’t push as much as they would have otherwise.”
There was another pause. It felt like thinking.
“We know who’s going to go. We know why she’ll go. I’m not sure how we’ll fit it into the story, but if you’ve seen it work, there’s a way. We’ll pass the word to Topside. They know the nemen better than we do.”
“Thanks. I think that should do it. Now we need to pack. That journey I saw started tomorrow afternoon. We only go as far as the end of the valley the first day. Maybe we get more food at the last house.”
Nods and murmurs of assent. Morganzer let the suggestions of what to take wash over her. She was tired and starting to feel grumpy again. She’d be traveling with Daffak soon and he always set her off.
“Would you like to have a bath, child?”
Morganzer didn’t hear which aunt said the words, but she sure heard the import. Did they really mean it? Children never got real, soaking baths. They got to soap up with warm water and sluice off with cold. Baths were for nemen, when they were there, and for aunts when they weren’t. Maybe she should ask what kind of bath they really meant.
No. She was Downside. She was adult.
“Yes I would.”