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Chapter Five

Neezadoreanna unbraided her hair slowly, running her fingers down the curls to untangle them. It was not strictly necessary but she could feel Kielparie beside her and continued as though she was alone in her hut. She folded the veil neatly, put it away in her box, sat down and smoothed out a wrinkle in the arm of the body stocking she wore. Then, she looked directly into his eyes as he unshielded beside her. He was never quite undetectable and she found the fact that he tried, to be quaint. She smiled at his obvious discomfort. He tried to avoid looking at her directly and so she gently lifted his chin so that their eyes met again.

“My Lady,” he said.

“Where is our escort, Kielparie?” she scolded, but without any genuine anger.

He shuffled nervously. He did not want any witnesses, even the boy. Especially the boy. He was after all a Survivor and even Kielparie had to admit to himself that he could not be fully trusted. Yet Stemi had bonded with him instantly and he was family now. Still, it was wise to be cautious under the circumstances; the Canie could not know what had happened. If the boy returned to them, he decided, there was a chance he would tell them.

He looked worried for a moment until he saw her smile, “Forgive me, My Lady, the breach in custom… Stemi has had an interesting day. He is asleep… I did not want to wake him,”

“I see,” she smiled, stroking his bare arm.

He explained what he had seen and what had transpired since her arrival, watching her small gloved finger trace swirls as he did so.

“The Felehan; They must be from the Rim. How did they get here?”

He flexed his fingers dismissively. “They are not… from Anaprevande… I saw… it looked like a ship heading for the Dreen nest. Their clothing… Wisukats did not make their uniforms. I believe they are… Rather, I think they are not from Dimnai,” he said, waiting for her to mock him.

She did not. Instead, she carefully closed the curtain and sat back down beside him. He was not sure what surprised him more. The fact that she believed him or that she was alone with him and not at all worried by the breech of protocol. He should feel overcome by her and yet he felt nothing. Yet she had chosen him. He had no idea why.

“They could be from Wisukat-Felehan, I suppose. But why come here? There is nothing for them here.” she mused. “The Canie would never allow it anyway. No… they must be from the Rim or the Lowlands. I heard there was a settlement there. Of course, it is madness to settle in the Lowlands but the Felehan keep trying. They prefer the climate, it seems. They like to be… independent and as far from the Canie as possible. Did you know they are trying to tame their own Kalto… from wild stock? Amazing! What are your thoughts?”

She spoke to him like an equal. He had never understood this and it made him even more nervous around her. She wanted to know what he thought. Why would a woman care? Kielparie wondered if it was a test. Perhaps she wanted to know how far he would deviate from what was expected. There was nothing artful in her manner and so he concluded that she genuinely wanted to know. This was more disturbing to him than the idea that she was trying to deceive him. He wanted to behave appropriately but he told her anyway because she had asked.

“I don’t believe they are from either colony. Why would you land a craft in a Dreen nest unless you wanted it to disappear? There is another… possibility.” He measured his words carefully, “I… could you, perhaps, help me get them to your brother? He will be able to protect them if we can get them inside the City. They are unknown to us.”

Her shock was obvious.

“They have no identity? You are certain of this? How did they get here with no identity?” she enquired.

These were not questions he could answer and so he maintained a respectful silence. It was pointless to speculate and she would not appreciate it if he was wrong.

“What you are suggesting… you are asking a great deal of me.”

She seemed genuinely concerned. This too surprised him. He looked briefly into her violet eyes, and then looked away. He could not look at her for long. She sighed almost impatiently and he managed a weak smile to appease her.

“I am asking nothing. I will take them through the Wall.”

His confidence amazed her but she doubted he could actually achieve it. It was impossible for her to guess his intentions beyond what he chose to reveal. Yet she could not shake the feeling that there was something more in his suggestion.

Neezad had not expected him to be difficult. The slender man she had been quietly introduced to had behaved exactly as he should. He was clearly pleased to meet her and was every inch the Quironie he should be. Only a few months had passed since and yet he was altered somehow; his manner was guarded and cold. She assumed as many did, that her brother had more than a little responsibility for Kielparie’s current reticence around her. They had conversed, albeit briefly when Kielparie arrived on Dimnai and Neezad had not been part of the meeting. Whatever was said, she assumed, had given him cause to feel threatened. That was, she decided, not surprising but if he was to stand beside her, he had to be stronger than that. He simply needed time, she decided, to realise his place.

“It is not something you have to do alone. Stemi may be able to take them,” Neezad said, trying to gauge his reaction.

“I will not have the boy implicated. They cannot stay here and the Primol-an will be months away. They will never survive here alone,” Kielparie replied.

“But, Kielparie, consider this carefully. Don’t do anything rash. Stemi is more than capable of taking the woman through. Ask him. That is not a request. It is what must be,” she said, concerned. “I will not allow you to take such a risk. I will try to conceal the man. Stemi can take the woman. But if I fail, you must not intervene. You can leave now.”

He seemed almost relieved.

He paused on the way out and said, “Why did you choose me? I am nothing.”

He did not look back. If she was angry, he did not want to see it. He had spoken to her directly after she asked him to leave and he wondered how she would react. She shielded her feelings so well it was impossible to tell exactly what she felt unless she chose to reveal it but etiquette dictated that she should be offended by his impertinence.

Instead of dismissing him, she replied, “I am a widow; I can choose.”

It was not the answer he was looking for and she knew it.

Neezad continued, “You are my third husband. The others have made the last journey. Still, I have no children. My family chose well for me but perhaps too well. People have enemies Kielparie, even here. You are of no value to the people and so you have no enemies.”

A sensible choice then, he thought. “I am expendable and of no value?”

She stood beside him and turned him round gently. Carefully she undid the glove covering her hand and gently stroked his cheek.

“Therefore, you are of infinite value to me. Do not cross the Canie, I beg you,” she pleaded.

He removed her hand slowly and closed the glove. She looked searchingly into his eyes, frowning. Kielparie held her hand and she smiled slightly.

He decided to be bold, “What will you do… if the Canie take him?”

Neezad did not reply.

“You have no intention of allowing the Canie to have him?” Kielparie continued undeterred.

Neezad let go of his hand. “If I can, I will take him through. It does not concern you, Kielparie. Please leave.”

“My Lady,” he said.

Neezad watched him go sadly. She remembered Behani. He would not have been so hesitant and had she been so forward with him, he would not have left the hut so readily. Kielparie could not wait to get away. It was a puzzle she had to solve and given their circumstances, she mused, not unexpected. Neezad imagined Kielparie was waiting for what he considered to be inevitable; her husbands died and she supposed he assumed it was to be expected.

Then there was Dario.

Next Chapter: Chapter Six