Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 4

The entourage that had accompanied the Egyptian merchant to Susa spread itself throughout the taverns and accommodations of the city.  The many drinking spots were filled to capacity, and the alcohol ran freely for the travellers deprived during the difficult trek across the desert.

Amurdad’s Bounty lay at the South Gate of Susa, and was the most popular tavern for those with refined tastes.  The street had a slow trickle of people through it.  A trio of cloaked figures stood against a wall facing at the front door of the tavern, which was guarded by large stonework griffins to each side and a Faravahar above.  The outer figures had their hoods half-way back, showing their faces.  The one in the centre hid their face, the hood turning to look between the carved animals and nodding at the impeccable skill of their creators.

The central figure stepped forward, and then turned to face the other two.  The soft yet commanding voice that came forth was rough, yet unmistakably feminine.

“So, Heydar and Kadir.  You both have your orders.  Tell me what they are.”

The man to her left spoke first.  “Yes, Lady Sayeh…”

“Do not use that name, Heydar! The name is known, and we will not escape should it be heard.”  Sayeh cleared her throat, and the voice that came forth was masculine.  “I am Sayyid, one of the apprentices in your more recent deliveries.”

Heydar shook his head with a bemused look.  “I have always wondered how you learned to change your voice so convincingly.  The only other complete change of voice I know of is Kadir’s after too many fine wines.”

The other man’s right arm lashed out, punching Heydar in the shoulder.  “And yet I still beat you within an inch of your worthless life every time you make that joke.  Do not think the change of location will excuse you.”

Before he could register the movement, Sayeh was directly in front of Kadir with a dagger placed across his throat.  “If your idiocy costs us dearly, the tortures I will exact upon you will make you wish your father never had dirty thoughts involving your mother.  You will do as you have been ordered.  Am I clear?”

Kadir’s wide eyes looked under the hood of the cloak, trying to see the expression on her face.  The deepness of the cloak’s hood ensured it could not be seen.  He nodded quickly, as much as the blade allowed him.  A quick flick of her wrist shaved some skin from the spot, enough to make it red and tender but not bleed.

The blade disappeared up her sleeve.  “Now, what are your orders?”

Heydar spoke.  “We are to keep our wits about us, and our ears open.  There are three men here who are part of Babafemi’s most trusted guard, under the watch of the team’s senior members.

The hood of Sayeh’s cloak nodded, and turned to regard the other man.  “And what else, Kadir?”

The sullen man scratched at the grazed area of his throat.  “We are to endear ourselves to them as much as possible, and try to join the caravan on its ride back to Alexandria.”

Their leader nodded again.  “I will spend some time in the next few days seeking some worthwhile goods to convince them of our story.  You will mention the errands you will have me running to collect your wares, so suspicion will be lessened.  They may drop some hints on good suppliers if they are drunk enough.”

The two men laughed as they looked to each other, though they glared slightly at each other.  The pair sparred often, both verbally and physically, with a level of animosity that bordered on unhealthy.  Sayeh had always been able to keep them in check, using her own ability to humble them in combat.

Kadir considered his leader.  “I doubt you will be able to keep your hood up while you are in here, Sayyid.”

“You are right.”  Sayeh reached inside her cloak, pulling out a thin wooden mask.  Delicately carved symbols ran around its edges.  She placed it under her hood, and softly spoke some words not audible to the two men.  After several seconds, she removed her empty hand from under the hood.

Heydar looked to the other man, shaking his head.  “You know of our lady’s magic mask, Kadir.  You are not that forgetful.”

Sayeh reached up to throw back the hood.  As it fell, the two men looked upon the face of an unremarkable man.  Her hair had been braided up into a shorter ponytail, in order to not look feminine enough to attract suspicious looks.

Kadir’s eyes boggled again.  “You have a truly amazing artifact.  They would be very useful.”

She reached inside her cloak again, and showed the top edges of two more.  “You will not need yours yet.  Until you do, I shall keep them safe.”

The two men looked disappointed at not being able to receive their own masks, but shrugged it off quickly.  They threw back their own hoods completely.  The pair looked less like a bunch of ruffians, having cleaned up their hair and beards earlier in the day to ensure they would be presentable at an upstanding establishment.

The non-descript man looked to Heydar and Kadir.  “Well, boys.  Let’s go and talk our way into a caravan to Alexandria.”

Kadir nodded.  “Yes, my lady.”

Sayeh rolled her eyes at the slip of his tongue, and cuffed the side of his head. They composed themselves, and then pushed open the doors of the tavern.

– X –

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Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 3

The Karawa Great Hall was filled to overflowing.

A large contingent of servants moved about the room, dodging between tables and moving guests.  The walls were covered in the finest drapery and art that Behnam and Shadi owned; an uncommon sight to those who knew the man’s modest tastes.  Bathed in the orange light provided by the many wall-mounted torches, the servants carried ceramic jugs of wine and platters of food for placement at the centre of the long wood tables.  The noise made it almost impossible to hear, highlighted by people speaking into each other’s ears with barely a fingernail’s space between them.

The raised table was occupied by the Lady Zia and Yafeu, who spoke together amiably.  Shadi and Behnam sat either side of them respectively, speaking with guests who had made their way to the dais to offer their congratulations and well-wishes.  After shaking hands with the man he had been speaking to, Behman motioned for a servant to come and refill the glasses on the table.  Once done, he spoke in their ear and gestured to the other servants moving throughout the room.

As the servant moved off to complete his orders, Behnam rose to his feet.  His robe was a deep burgundy, and adorned only with a solid gold belt.  He raised his glass in his left hand, and held up the palm of his right hand.  The people below gradually turned to see his gesture, shushing others until a hush had fallen over the hall.

“On behalf of Shadi and I, we would like to thank you all for making the time and travel to attend this gathering.”  His voice carried easily throughout the hall, commanding the attention of the audience.  “As you will have heard, a dear friend of our family for many years has asked for our daughter’s hand in marriage.”  He turned to Zia and Yafeu, with a look of fatherly pride on his face.  “Zia has happily accepted the offer.”

Zia, blushing brightly, lowered her face as the crowd cheered.  After several moments, Behnam raised his hands again to quiet them.  Once the room was quiet again, he continued.

“My wife and I have known Yafeu and his family for many years, through the threads of fate that have been benevolently woven throughout my life.  Yafeu’s father, Hormazd rest his soul, returned my beloved wife to me when she became lost in the Arabian Desert.  Those days were torment for me, especially knowing how Shadi was late into her pregnancy at the time.”

He lowered his head for a moment, the rush of the memory bringing tears to his eyes and a crack to his voice.  “News of the unprecedented sandstorm that had swept the Desert had left me certain of my beloved’s death, and also of the treasured child she and I had prayed so many years for.”

He turned to look at his wife and daughter, who eyes were also rimmed with tears.  “In the depths of my despair, a messenger came to me one day to tell me that a merchant I must meet with had come to Susa.  I met the merchant in this very Hall, who named himself Eoeri Babafemi.  He stood at those doors, and gestured a cloaked figure to enter before him.  The figure removed their hood, revealing my beloved wife, returned to me from the tainted grasps of Ahriman.  As I ran to embrace her, something moved under her cloak.  Moving the cloak aside, I saw Zia for the first time.”

He looked to Yafeu, and placed a hand on his shoulder.  “The joy I felt at seeing the two most important people in my life safely returned to me, I thought it impossible that it could ever be equalled.  However, when Yafeu sent me word of his intention to ask for Zia’s hand, the joy I felt was the closest I have ever come to that day.”

He gave his future stepson a beaming smile.  “Our families have been tightly bound by fate through the years, and that Hormazd has seen fit to strengthen our bond further is the greatest gift I could receive.”  Turning back to the crowd, he raised his glass.  “Let us raise our glasses to Zia and Yafeu, and the many happy years they have ahead of them.”

A sea of glasses rose into the air, which rolled as they clinked with those around them.  Yafeu rose to his feet, grasping forearms with Behnam before giving him a brief embrace.  As Behnam seated himself, the Egyptian man awaited the calming of the crowd, his icy eyes taking in the view of the seated guests.   His dress was much more opulent than his prospective father-in-law.  His sleeveless robe kept the same alternating blue and yellow pattern of the silk vest worn earlier in the day, and his forearms were encircled by solid gold snakes whose heads ended at the back of his hands.

As he spoke, his voice commanded the attention of the crowd.  “As Behnam has already said, I would also like to express my gratitude for your attendance tonight.  It has proven my trek from Alexandria is indeed a fruitful one.”  He turned to look upon Zia, who saw that unsettling gleam in the kohl-circled eyes.  “The history between our families is a blessed one, with Hormazd favouring the Karawas and Bes protecting the Babafemis.  With such gods watching over us in favour, our union cannot be anything but blessed.”

He returned his gaze to the crowd, and raised his own glass.  “To the Karawa family, and the families of all our honoured guests.  May the gods of both Persia and Egypt protect you, and bestow prosperity upon you all.”

The crowd cheered, and the clinking of glasses again filled the room.  Yafeu sat down and turned to Zia, taking her hand in his.  She gave the warmest smile she could, still feeling unsettled by that look in his eye.  He returned the smile, holding her hand in a way that felt like he never wanted to let go.

“I look forward to our days travelling to Pasargadae.  To be in your presence is like bathing in the light of the Gods.”

Zia cringed inwardly at his fawning ways and his insatiable eyes, but was comforted by the fact that his overwhelming attention was better than the alternative.

– X –

Reading Thoughts, and Visiting an (Extremely Possessive) Old Friend!

READING NOW

‘The Gathering Storm’ by Brandon Sanderson (Book 12 of the ‘Wheel of Time’ series)

ONGOING THOUGHTS

The one thing that was regularly levelled at the series was how it seemed to get too involved in the micro-management of the characters.  Yes, the evil is seeping is back into the world, we understand that is affecting everyone.  The cast of central characters is large, without even looking at the first- and second-level supporting characters.

It is still there, but Brandon is doing a wonderful job in balancing the scale.  There are still the first- and second-level characters, but putting them into scenes together instead of giving them their own sections does not make it seem so much like padding.

Enjoying it so far, but there is still over three quarters of the book to go (200 of 824).  Brandon is proving that his choice to complete the WoT series was a very good one =)

– X –

I admit that, due to other tasks having been set, my ‘Big Project’ has been sorely neglected.  Efforts to find a readable and study-worthy copy of Avicenna or Galen’s medical manuals have been fruitless, and caused the complete stall of Chapter 4.

The purpose of my short stories was to give a break from a stalled project, and hopefully connect the neurons through another outlet.  ‘Mune and Mura’ helped to a degree, as ti got me through ‘Big Project’ Chapter 3 and up into Chapter 4.  OVCC#9 got started, and was going great guns until ‘Sayeh and Zia’ popped into my head once Chapter 2 was completed.

And now that OVCC#9 and S&Z are being juggled, the brain has (somewhat) unconsciously returned my focus to the ‘Big Project’.  The weather data tracking is now up to Book 6, and the brain is doing everything it can to keep me focused on getting all the locale weather data up to date RIGHT NOW!

This was a slightly long-winded way of apologising again for my Muse trying to throw many balls at me to juggle.  The data tracking will be completed tonight, in time for the Easter long weekend.  Four whole days!  My solemn vow is that there will be a scene from both OVCC#9 and S&Z posted by the end of this long weekend, and I will do my utmost to get some scenes ahead so my stalled brain does not cause lacking posts.

– X –

Post 146.  Five more to go…

Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 2

The Karawa family compound buzzed with activity and excitement.

Guests and family members had been arriving for much of the day.  The gardens were filled with people.  There were distant family members catching up on the events of each other’s lives, and guests using the event to increase their network of contacts in promising new markets.  The host family’s servants were busily moving around the garden, ensuring that the guests’ needs were being well covered.

In the kitchen, Shadi and Zia were keeping a close eye on the comings and goings of the serving staff.  The platters being served that were being consumed quicker than others were given higher priority than the slower-moving foods, with the cooks allocated accordingly to a section of the kitchen.  The variety of drinks was maintained, with juices and water regularly delivered alongside the fine Shirazi wine from the renowned viticultural southern city.  The ladies knew that the wines were always popular, yet wanted to avoid guests making too much of a scene in an alcohol-induced stupor.

The ladies stepped out of the kitchen’s back door, into a small walled terrace.  An elaborate sun clock stood in its middle, surrounded by a variety of short flowers.  Shadi walked over to assess the time of day.

Zia watched her mother with amusement.  “Father and Yafeu will arrive soon enough.  To leave the presence of the Susashah before time does not keep one in his favour for long.”

Her mother sighed as she turned to her daughter, the lines of worry evident.  “It is not every day that a day of entertainment revolves around the giving away of one’s daughter.”

The amusement quickly faded from Zia’s deep brown eyes, as did the curls at the side of her lips.  Her mother saw this, and walked over to provide a comforting embrace.

“Do not worry, my dear.  All ladies are worried when the time comes to be married.  Our own hearts are a lesser consideration, but our welfare is not completely ignored.”

Zia lowered her eyes.  “I understand that, Mother.  I knew the time for marriage would come eventually, but I fear that a streak of independence will not bode well with Yafeu.  He has always seemed to be controlling.”

“It is an unfortunate effect of being in the merchant trade.  There is no end to the number of people willing to take advantage of you.  Those in the city will steal your goods, and whether they kill you or not to do so means little to them.  Those in desert locations are little better, and sometimes are worse due to the harsh climate they live in.  Yafeu has to deal with both, as has your father.”

A sad smile crossed Zia’s face.  “A son-in-law who has so much in common with him.  It is no wonder that Father was eager for the marriage.”

“That was an unexpected benefit, my dear.  All your father wants is to ensure the family name continues past his own lifetime.  The years of devotion he has poured into his work to see the Karawa name recognised as the foremost merchant family of Susa is renowned.  For the family’s business reputation to dying with him is his greatest fear.”

Her daughter nodded.  “And he sees Yafeu Babafemi as the most likely chance to ensure that does not happen?”

“Exactly.  We’ve all known Yafeu’s family for many years, and they are a merchant family also.  Did I ever tell you how our families met?”

Zia rolled her eyes.  “Yes, many times.  I am sure it will be an interesting story to tell, should you be called to say something tonight.”

A clearing of the throat drew the pair’s attention to the kitchen door.  A messenger was standing there, the sweat on his forehead and his chest’s fast movements showing the effort of his travels.

“I apologise for the interruption, my ladies.  Behnam and Yafeu have just left the Susashah’s palace, and they will be arriving here within the hour.”

Shadi looked back to the sun clock.  “That gives us two or so hours to make sure everything is prepared.”  She looked back to the messenger.  “Thank you for letting me know.  Please take some food for yourself on your way out.”

The messenger bowed.  “You are most gracious.”  He turned to Zia.  “I hope everything goes well for you, my lady.”

Zia gave a slight bow.  “Thank you.  I hope so too.” The messenger turned and headed back into the busy kitchen.

“Father has done well by me, Mother.  Yafeu and I are to have plenty of time to get to know each other once more, as we travel to the other well-known merchant cities of Persia.  Seeing how he deals with his customers and suppliers in Pasargadae and Istakhr will let me witness first-hand how he has grown as a person.  The rumours may not all be true.”

Shadi gave her daughter a sly look.  “Istakhr?  I see you do not fall into your father’s habit of giving the city its old name.”

Zia smiled.  “Knowing it was previously Persepolis is Father’s favourite piece of historical knowledge.  I allow him the enjoyment he gets of using the old name.”

“How gracious of you,” Shadi said sarcastically as she gave her daughter another hug.  “Come.  We better make sure everything is ready for when the pair arrive.  I hope they did not take full advantage of the Susashah’s hospitality, as it could leave no room for the feast tonight.”

“Father fears your temper, so I am sure he warned Yafeu that they needed to behave.”

The pair laughed as they moved back into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.  The staff moved with extra enthusiasm at the news of the long-awaited guest’s impending arrival.

– X –

Reading Thoughts, Ongoing Research, and Writing Self-Analysis

JUST FINISHED

‘Siege of Darkness’ by R.A.  Salvatore (Book 9 of the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series)

VERDICT

Now THAT is how you do an epic war scene!  70 pages and completely enthralling.  That’s what I love about Salvatore’s writing; the fight scenes are awesome whether large or small.

READING NOW

‘The Gathering Storm’ by Brandon Sanderson (Book 12 of the ‘Wheel of Time’ series)

– X –

The up to date data assembly for the seven locales in my first two ‘Path of’ books have just been completed.  It may seem a small thing, but it helps decide how the character outfits are going to adapt over the course of the series.  It is comforting that some wardrobe changes that were to occur much later in the series (Book 5) can actually begin earlier, and it can feed into one aspect of the wider story to push logically towards the half-way ‘Game Changer’.

– X –

Reading the blogs of my followers, it seems that a common area of pain is the much-maligned proof-reading portion of writing.  Spending all that time listening to the narrator in your head, and only finding out later that its word assembly and thought process can be very illogical and hard to read, is a humbling thing…

Hmm, grammar check did not like that last sentence.

Proof-reading must be done, and it must NOT be done in the wee hours of the morning when you need to be ready for work the next day.

– X –

The last week and a bit were comparatively unproductive writing-wise.  I think there was one lesson learned:  trying to be too faithful to scene setting when it is based on a more recent real-world locale is setting oneself up for procrastination and the emergence of the inner negative voice.  Writing a fantasy novel, however, gives one leeway when the locale is an ancient one and no longer standing as it once did.  Being too close to the real world shuts down your word flow, while a greater degree of freedom makes them flow that much more easily.

– X –

Post 144…

Reading Thoughts, and the Chronologising of Short Stories

JUST FINISHED

‘Wolf of the Plains’ by Conn Iggulden (Book 1 of the ‘Khan’ series)

VERDICT

Very enjoyable read.  It is hard to treat the protagonist as the good guy, since very few people have not heard of Genghis Khan, and fewer still consider him a ‘good guy’.  The story gives him the ‘shade of grey’ required to treat him as more of an anti-hero, a person hard done by in their early years who triumphs through will and determination.  Luckily, the antagonists of the story are easily considered as such with their condescending attitude and questionable actions.

READING NOW

‘Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves’ by Matthew Reilly

THOUGHTS

Why I love Matthew’s writing:  You can read 50 pages in a sitting, and be thoroughly entertained the whole time.  And how I missed the exclamation marks showing even he is enjoying the story he’s spinning.  I found it annoying originally, as it pulled you out of the story by force of the narrator’s excitement.  After getting used to it, I find it somewhat cute =)

Just checked my book list, and SatAoT is my twelfth book read so far this year.  The record of 26 books read back in 2009 looks to be in serious jeopardy =)

– X –

Looking at the list of eighteen short story folders on my thumb drive, I have found a curious pattern that may be worth pursuing.  The historical fiction and fantasy stories each draw their inspirations from true history, or the myths built from the stories of the past.

‘Mune and Mura’ was primarily based in the late 1500’s AD, tipping into the 1600’s for the final chapter.  My current story is drawing its inspiration from the Egypt and Persia of 400 AD, as alluded to by the split Roman Empire and the revolving door of Praetorian Prefects in the Eastern Empire.

My forthcoming historical fictions are inspired by 1100’s AD, 900’s AD, 100’s BC and 400’s BC respectively.

The fantasy inspirations are from 1800’s AD, 700’s AD, 1000’s AD, 800’s AD and 1200’s AD.

My list may need to be arranged by the century it is inspired by, to help guide my future writings.  But, having 15 stories waiting in the wings before the ‘Big Project’ is even mentioned, maybe it is getting too far ahead…

The science fiction stories speak for themselves, though one particular story is based in an increasingly popular subgenre of Victorian era fiction.  Science Fiction seems to function better when a set date is not placed, since the date always seems to mock you when it finally arrives.  Two years from now, there should be hover boards, but it looks highly unlikely =(

– X –

Post #141.  Nine left…  It does not look like OVCC#9 and S&Z will conclude in time.

– X –

Sayeh and Zia: Chapter 2 Scene 1

Susa, Persia

The arrival of Yafeu Babafemi in Susa was announced with great fanfare.

The entourage accompanying the famous merchant from Alexandria numbered at one hundred, with each robe-clad person escorting two camels.  Each camel was loaded with goods, the means with which Yafeu hoped to woo the Lady Zia.  He rode upon a white horse, encased in a white robe and headscarf that had protected him from the desert’s attacks.  The stallion was impeccably kept, even after an almost two month trek across the unforgiving desert.

An honour guard awaited the guests at Susa’s West Gate, with Behnam standing at the gate itself.  The procession was made up of his personal force, along with men of the Susashah.  To everyone’s great surprise, the Shahanshah himself, Yazdegard the First, had dispatched a contingent of his own personal guard from Ctesiphon some weeks earlier, with the men taking ten days to reach Susa.  The show of support from both the regional ruler and the ruler of Persia was meant to assure the Egyptian merchant that all levels of power looked upon this prospective union with great favour.

Yafeu rode his horse towards the gate, stopping to dismount before entering the honour guard.  Turning to his closest subordinate, his message to halt the train of camels was passed along his entourage that still stretched into the distance.  With a flourish, he removed his robe and headscarf.  He wore a silk vest that had wide alternating strips of yellow and blue cutting diagonally to the centre, towards the buttons of sapphire and gold.  His darkly tanned skin accentuated the muscles of his arms, as well as the visible portion of his chest.  His trousers were of loose-fitting black silk, with a decorative sword attached to a leather belt.

He slowly began to walk between the guard, taking in the grandeur with the air of one used to such things.  Seeing his potential father-in-law standing at the gates of the great city, he held his arms out wide in greeting.  Behnam returned the gesture, and he began to walk out.  As the pair reached each other, they embraced warmly before gripping forearms.

Yafeu bowed to his host.  “You honour me far too greatly with such a guard.”

Behnam grinned.  “Both our own Shah and the Shahanshah felt it was only fitting that you and your entourage should be greeted so.”

The younger man’s smile of perfect teeth lit up his face.  His blue eyes were surrounded by the black eyeliner typical of the Egyptians, and he had a modest vandyke beard growing from his chin.  His black hair was close cut, with no visible sideburns.  The leader of the Karawa rejoiced inwardly that such a handsome man had chosen his daughter, sure that many happy years and many grandchildren were in his and Shadi’s future.

Yafeu began to look around.  “Is the Lady Zia not here with you?  Knowing that she would greet me has been my motivation during such a difficult trek.”

Behnam shook his head.  “She insisted on helping her mother prepare our family home for your arrival.  Anticipating your weariness from travel, she is ensuring that a worthy feast awaits you.”

The powerful merchants walked into the city, with the honour guard flanking their sides and rear.  The grand visual drew the eyes of the citizens they passed, though many did not understand the greater meaning of the Egyptian’s visit.  The utmost rule of the merchant was to remain tight-lipped on their activities, lest a loose tongue cause loss of goods and loss of their customers’ trust.

Yafeu’s eyes drank in the sight of the city, comparing it to his childhood and teenage memories.  The city had been considered a jewel of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, being one of the four capitals favoured by generations of Shahanshahs.  The city had suffered during Alexander’s conquest of Persia seven hundred years prior, before reviving as the second most important city of the Seleucid Empire that rose from the ashes of the Macedonian’s path of domination.  The city was later ceded to the ascendant Parthian Empire, where it was the preferred residence of the Shahanshah when Ctesiphon was either being attacked or the winter proved too bitter.  It briefly became the easternmost point of the united Roman Empire.  It was quickly regained by the Parthians, before they were overthrown by the Sassanids.

Turning back to the roads in front, a well-dressed messenger was seen running towards the pair.  He bowed to the two men when he reached them.

“My master, the Susashah, has requested your presence over his afternoon meal.”

Yafeu looked to Behnam.  “Zia and her mother would appreciate the extra time to prepare, as long as we do not indulge with the Shah.”

The leader of the Karawa family laughed.  “That is so.  The ladies have fiery tempers, which I do not wish to face often.”  Behnam turned to the messenger.  “Please return with our grateful acceptance to him.  I am sure Yafeu’s news of the Roman Empire’s woes will entertain him greatly.”

The messenger bowed again before running back the way he had come.

Yafeu raised an eyebrow.  “You have heard of the goings on?”

Behnam laughed again.  “Come now, my boy.  News of puppet rulers do not stay secret long.  I know of the boy ruler Arcadius, who is half a decade younger than you, and his constantly changing guardian.  I heard that Caesarius is angling for a second run in the role of Praetorian prefect, after Eutychianus got ousted again.”

The younger man nodded.  “And the Western Roman Empire is little better.  After the many sackings of Ctesiphon, you are absolutely correct to presume its woes will be of much amusement.”

“Indeed.  Let us hurry, as the Susashah does not like to be kept waiting.  And I do not want to risk the wrath of both of wife and daughter.”

The pair laughed as they quickened their pace, headed to the palace at the centre of the city.

– X –