Shell Game

Shell Game

Part One:
(A couple of blocks away from the gates of House Víkpe, Harthuk and Ganjan walk at the back of the group.)

“Okay, Ganjan, they’re ready and waiting. Captain Ejihn of the Devah’s Grace awaits and knows to expect all eleven of us.”

“Make that ten, Harthuk.”

“What?”

“Vikram stayed behind.”

“…”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, what by the Mother’s pretty pink pouch is he thinking?”

“Something about the clarity of law and justice prevailing and a righteous Jánah having nothing to fear.”

“Did anyone explain that the guards are being sent because of lawless Jánah who want to see us dead?”

“Yep. We even told him he’d be missing out on the lost city and everything. He got stubborn about it and we don’t have a lot of time so we took off without him rather than wait to be arrested when as far as I care the real criminal should have died in the arena.”

“But he’s of the House, we can’t leave him, we took oaths.”

“And we can’t let the other sir’hibasi travel without escort.”

“Couldn’t we have drugged his tea and gotten a large carpet to carry him in?”

“NO!”

“Dang… I really wanted to see the lost city.”

“And I really wanted to see the rest of… never mind. My destiny isn’t written within these walls.”

“… Ganjan?”

“Yeah.”

“Just make sure the Hardaz gets out of here. Remember, Ejihn of the Devayani, north end of the docks. As far as you need to know I went ahead and I’ll be waiting on the ship or I’ll be right behind you. I’ll make sure Vikram has all he needs to get himself out and the Devah willing we’ll catch up later. May Mujíbh keep you safe.”

“And may the Mother bring you home. Be careful, you’re a wanted mouse.”

“Heh. Let them look. They’ll find nothing but hide and hair.”

“Speaking of, does that look like a rhino up ahead?”

“Sure does, and there’s a snake to our tail side…”


Part Two:
(At the gate of House Víkpe. Harthuk, limping slightly, approaches and nods to the head of security.)

“Inakali, sir, I apologize for disturbing the dust on the doorstep of House Vikpe once again, but I’m given to know that the sir’hibas Vikram has remained.”

“It is so. Will you be waiting to be arrested as well?”

“Uh, no. And if you don’t mind, I’d prefer you not mention my presence. I would beg one or two final favors if I could.”

“One of your sires must have been a shadow, dark child.”

“Well, at least that’s not a ‘No’. First, is the crippled beggar still in my old room for the night? And second, may I borrow a small fast soft-footed chinti from the stables? I swear by the Mother’s teat and by Mujibh’s tail that I will honor our agreement. I will keep you informed and act the proper servant of House Vikpe for your trust in this.”

“I notice you didn’t invoke the Father.”

“When you have uncles like mine you never do, too dangerous.”

“I also noticed you’re wounded.”

“Can’t get much past you, can I, sir? It’s nothing, a mere scratch. I’ll be fine. And before you ask, they all made it to the ship, but I need to make sure I’m not missed and they don’t come back for me as well as the Summoner.”

“Fine, wake the beggar, if you can. I’ll have a chinti prepared.”


Part Three:
(Harthuk’s old room at House Vikpe. Ishaisa the mouse is sleeping better than she has for months, the nest of blankets much softer than the stone steps of the temple.)

There’s enough early morning light coming in through the shutters for Harthuk to see, enough for her to see as well, but he brings the glow worm cage anyway and places it on the night stand.

“Good morning, sister Ishaisa, and my apologies.”

“Huh? Smreh, whu, wha? Whadyawan?”

“You were a sky ship sailor once, correct?”

“Hmmm, rah, yeah, sure. Sure’mmm puh. Canigobaksleenow…?”

“Do you miss sky ships? Climbing the rigging to the watch nest. Seeing the heavens and the stars from up close. Reaching out and grabbing a handful of cloud. Seeing all of Dardunah beneath you as Kiráh the Majestic does.”

There’s a long pause as she curls up a little more towards the wall before she rolls over and faces Harthuk with her good right eye wide open.

“By the Devah. Yes.”

Harthuk places a small bag of dalan in her palm.

“Isha, how would you like to go on a little adventure?”


Part Four:
(Harthuk is quickly scrawling a note after trading clothes with Ishaisa who already sits upon the riding chinti, a soft-footed Gruda the size of a small pony or a large dog. A good omen as far as Harthuk is concerned.)

To the gracious Captain Ejihn of the Devayani,

Sorry to impose on your good will, there was no time for re-negotiations. I hope you will still honor the agreement of passage for one mouse, even if it isn’t the mouse you expected.

Please accept cousin Ishaisa as a passenger in my stead and not as stowaway. You may even find her to be of some notable skill and experience.

May the Devah grant you ten thousand blessings and Kiráh speed your way,

Harthuk,
Lt Asn, Apt Ttr, Hs Arryam

Harthuk seals the note and pauses, removing one last item from the shoulder of the vest Isha now wears, and hands it to Inakali.

“Should there be any doubt of my sincerity. My tassel, sir, until I return.”

“You are full of surprises, dark one. I don’t like surprises, but I am getting to appreciate them.”


Part Five:
(As Harthuk and Ishaisa ride quickly along side streets towards the docks.)

“Isha, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting aboard if you keep your hood up and your head down. We all look alike to them and you’re wearing my clothes and cloak which have my scent all over them. When you get discovered, probably when Kailua tries to take a look at my wounded leg, hand her the note for Captain Ejihn.”

“Don’t tell me how to do my job. This ain’t my first time swimmin’ with the hippos, y’know.”

“I know, just be careful.”

“Oh, sure, like you’re being careful. You’re playing it too high profile and you’ll end up with more than just an arrow to the knee one day.”

“Yeah, likely I’ll wind up with my tail in the fire and my head up the chimney, but if I’m fated for it then let Mujibh’s curse as well as his blessings fall upon me.”

“Bang yer aunts and leave a litter, Harthuk, you’re a bigger fool than I thought. You really think He watches over you?”

“Yeah-no. I dunno. I think he leaves breadcrumbs in my path before the smell of fresh bread fades away. Either way I always find the nearest oven.”

“Yeah-huh, just as long as you don’t find yourself IN the oven. Been there, done that. Not worth it.”

“Yes it is, cos’, yes it is. Besides, it helps when you’ve made friends with the baker. Now belt up, that’s the ship at the end.”

“Quack-a-nack, that’s all they’ve got? I thought they’d have a big ship, not some skipping rock.”

“Hob-yer-gob, they’re trusted and likely to go unnoticed.”

“Hey, Harthuk.”

“Yeh?”

“Thanks for this anyway… and keep your tail out of the fire until Sahásya, a’ight?”

“Wh’st, you too.”

Shell Game

Why Do You Wander? Chickenhat