When the message had come Topside, Lillibell had said she’d go get the boy. Anyone with a bowl could see where he was. It would be half a days walk, but she’d be there by nightfall. He could lead them both back. She should have known that the other aunts wouldn’t let it be that simple. Everyone wanted to Look into it. Someone had sent word ahead (which was a tricky thing to do with a bowl) and the boy was already penned, with his knife out.
“Did you think this through?” she asked the others. “Or did you just Look?”
When that got no answer besides a smug look that said that Looking was better than thinking: “Did you look to the trail ahead? Did you look to his sister needing his cooperation as she traveled? Did you look to the prophecy?
Or did you just look to the end of the day? To how easily and quickly you could slip him out of the valley?”
The smugness abated, but did not clear.
“She said that the men would be proud. That means he must go back to the bath house.”
“The men are of no consequence.” One mouth said it, but many minds believed it.
“The boy is of great consequence,” said Lillibell. “And you are lying to yourselves if you think that the men are of no consequence. We’re dancing on the edge of a knife. It’s stupid to say that the knife is of no consequence.
Now get out your bowls and this time ask how you can support her Vision the best. None of you are the two-scry, no matter how good you think you are. She might be.
Go on. Get to it.”
Sullen faces got to it. Stiff bodies went to the pen. Lillibell went along.
“Put the knife away and bring the cub,” the sullen faces told the boy in the dark pen.
“Why should I?”
“Because if you don’t, “ said Lillibell, sighing, “you will die. Your sister will die. I will die. . .” a hand gesture, barely seen in the dark, brought her up short. It must be something they’d seen. Lillibell stopped. Irritating as most scryers were, these had been given a specific starting point and probably had a pretty good idea of how the near future was going to unravel. She’d go along.
“You will travel to the girl’s house, to meet your sister. She will decide about the cub.” The voice in the night was ponderous, but probably right. If little Fern was the one to save the cub, in his eyes, he’d cooperate with her a little better. It made sense.
That was something that scryers didn’t always bother to ask when they were Looking, whether something made sense. It was something that a weak scryer learned well. If you put garbage into the bowl, you got garbage out. It didn’t matter how sightful you were or how many times you repeated for quality control. A bad starting premise gave you bad results every time.
“You can lead me back. The cub will be safe as we go along. Where did you get it?” Lillibell lapsed into genial friendliness out of habit.
“It’s not a cub. It’s a puppy.”
“Were did you get the puppy, then?”
“Drift side. Upslope.”
He sounded like he wanted to say a lot more but could only bite off a bit at a time. Lillibell waited.
“It’s different from the others. It came out to me.”
“Ah. It loves you.”
Daffak hugged his shirt, which had a lump in the front. He looked into the dark for sarcasm, but half of him really didn’t expect it from Lillibell. He wished she wasn’t here. The others he could fight. They were wrong and stupid besides. But Lillibell was reasonable and friendly. It was hard to be mad at her.
“I’m not giving her up.”
“We’ll let the men decide that.”
Daffak blinked. Aunts never let men decide anything.
“We’re going to tell the men a story. Your sister will tell you about it. If your Father approves, you and your sister will go off and be safe for awhile.
Mind you, it doesn’t stay safe for long. Something big is happening. The aunts can’t see exactly what it is, but it’s dangerous. They think that the problem with you and your sister is clouding their sight and that as soon as you’re gone, they’ll be able to get on with puzzling the problem away.
But I think it’s more likely that we’ll be walking right into it.”
“I’m going, too, somehow. I’ll die if I stay. Besides, someone has to keep you two from arguing.”
Daffak made a sour face. Lillibell couldn’t see it, but knew it had to be there.
“No, I don’t think it’s likely, either. Let’s get some torches.”