Previously: Nadec and Kridec manage to get Blackie inside of the building, but it has consequences. Nadec almost drown and gets showered with dragon’s vomit. She has to remove her dress or stink up her room. That makes it very tight in time for Kridec to leave the city and Nadec to close the gate before the guard wake and return.
Read all the previous chapters here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kitty jumped off Nadec’s shoulders as she stumbled from appearing halfway on and off the bed. She picked herself up from the floor at the same time Melia came though the side door—a door giving access to Nadec’s room from the tiny attached servant’s hole. Nadec felt disgusted at it. She’d suggested paying for a full room further down the hallway. Everyone who heard had regarded her with shock.
‘Mistress? Are you all right?’
Mumbling that she was, she asked Melia to get a bath filled. When the tall woman said she wasn’t certain if it was possible in the middle of the night, Nadec implored her to take a deep breath. When Melia stopped gagging, Nadec told her to wake other servants if she must, and make sure to pay them sufficiently for their troubles.
When Melia left, Nadec pace the small open space she had. Her legs yearned to sit, but she didn’t want her bed sheets to reek of vomit. The oddity of having a bath drawn in the middle of the night would give her a reputation of being odd and demanding. Fine, she thought, that’s the role I’ll play. She hadn’t been certain how to act as a noblewoman. They’d decided to forego the wealthy merchant ruse, and instead do a visiting noblewoman act. It required no merchanting skill, which was good because Nadec had none of that.
‘You lucky little thing,’ she mumbled towards Kitty, who’d curled up on the bed to sleep. Nadec resumed her pacing. At least one question had been answered now. If she’d Skip somewhere and misaimed—say, in the middle of a wall—she wouldn’t materialise inside of it. The knowledge made her feel more at ease with the magic.
About half an hour later, Melia walked in to announce the bath was ready for her. Nadec walked to the door, but the tall woman stayed standing in the doorway.
‘Mistress? You’re naked. You can’t go out like that?’
‘Of course I can. I doubt there’s anyone awake to see me. Come on, move aside. Make sure to close the door. Where do I go?
‘Down the hallway. But mistress—’
Not completely insensitive to walking through a public hallway in the nude, Nadec picked up her pace. Ajar doors, with dancing flames and shadows behind them, peeking eyes and whispers, proved her wrong. Plenty of people were awake. Struggling inwardly, she kept a straight back. Merely adding to my weird reputation. The thought made it easier to maintain perfect composure.
The sigh of relief upon entering the bathing chamber, was not only caused by the wonderfully hot steam rising from the tub. She eased into the water, sinking in chin deep. The tub was large enough to have her whole body submerged. It bespoke of the inn’s wealthiness.
Her muscles relaxed one by one. She loved showers, but taking a bath was on a completely different level. Her eyes closed. Her mind drifted. This was the first time in more than two weeks she allowed herself to relax completely. Not counting the week she’d been in the Blackie-induced sleep.
So much had happened. Almost, she’d spilled everything to Patat when they first met.
Water splashed over the sides of the tub as she sat upright. Patat. Where was he? He hasn’t been in her room when she returned.
‘Melia,’ she barked, ‘where is Patat?’
The tall servant woman cringed where she stood, a meter away from the tub. She fidgeted her fingers as she spoke with hesitation.
‘I apologise mistress, I do, I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t keep him back. It. Her. Them.’ She choked on her words, trying to come up with a proper pronoun for the mythical creature.
‘What happened, where did he go?’
‘I… I don’t know mistress. He said he’d been locked up long enough, he wasn’t going to stay locked up again. When I refused to open the door, his voice changed. It became so very sweet. He said he merely wanted to look around the city to see what had changed. He promised me he’d stay out of sight. No one would see him. And then I,’ she faltered and lowered her eyes. She continued in a whisper. ‘I moved away from the door and opened the window. He flew out. I don’t know where to. ‘
The news brought new tension in Nadec’s muscles, too much for the hot water to relieve. There wasn’t anything she could do about Patat at that point, she thought, so she tried to enjoy the rest of her bath time. She couldn’t. She left the water before it cooled down. Melia offered her a bathing gown to wear for the walk through the hallway. This time, Nadec accepted. It had been a little bit too uncomfortable before.
Back in the room, she unhooked the oil lamp from beside the door and used it to light the one sitting on the small desk in the corner. With that light on, she saw the spread out pages. Kitty jumped on Nadec’s lap the moment she sat down. Nadec glanced at Melia, who’d put the door lamp back.
‘Extinguish it and then you can go to bed. I won’t need you anymore. You should get some rest. And, I’m sorry for barking at you earlier. It would’ve been better if you’d told me about Patat earlier but I understand. It’s probably my fault, with my demands for a bath.’ She wasn’t actually sorry for asking for a bath; she knew she’d needed it. But sometimes the reality doesn’t matter when apologising.
‘Mistress, it’s all right. You should never apologise to me, that is not how a noblewoman treats a servant. Besides, you truly were in need of a clean. At least there was no mud this time.’
Nadec snorted. ‘You should’ve seen my carpets. I also wasn’t kidding when I said it felt as if I had mud everywhere. Days later, mud would still appear in areas I was sure I’d washed thoroughly before.’
‘Yes, I know what you mean.’ Melia chuckled. ‘Madame Ichau wasn’t impressed when she found flakes of mud on her slice of bread.’
That made Nadec laugh out loud. She’d forgotten how well she’d gotten along with this woman, even though they hadn’t spend much time together. About a week perhaps, a longer time than Nadec had expected the rescue to take.
She wanted to ask Melia—Fluetza—what had happened after that, why she’d stayed with Kridec and Stetem. And as a servant nonetheless. Nadec knew she hadn’t been a servant before, not at all. But she also knew this wasn’t the time nor the place for such a conversation. There were other matters to concern herself with. Patat, what trouble are you getting yourself into?
It didn’t feel as if Patat would take the risk of discovery for no reason. Not merely to go sightseeing. Nadec hesitated. What did she really know about him? He was an old and mythical creature, he should have common sense. Was he old? Nadec doubted herself. What had Kridec said? Fifty-something years since her brother had put Patat in the tree? So Patat was at least that age, but how old was he before that, and most importantly, what is considered old for a gorwak? For all Nadec knew, he could be nearing the end of his life, or he could still be a teenager.
Sometime during Nadec’s musings, Melia bid her goodnight. It prompted Nadec enough to snap out of it and have a look at what was spread out on the desk. The contents of her parents’ boxes. She had been so keen to open them when entering the city. But by the time they’d found the inn and had settled in their room, Nadec hadn’t wanted to deal with it. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.
That was something her mom had told her, half in jest, half serious. She’d said it wasn’t hopeless, there were ways to push through the apathy invoked by the task ahead. She’d even had invented a ten-step process to conquer the need to procrastinate. Oh mom, Nadec stroked Kitty, getting comfort out of the ritual, you always went above and beyond to help me, even if I was being a lazy piece of shit.
So Nadec pushed through the will to go to bed, and examined the sheets of paper on the desk. Patat seemed to have been busy ordering them. In what way, Nadec couldn’t say yet. From what she could see, most of them were written by her mom. She had a terrible handwriting. Nadec and she often joked about how it was a secret script only they could read. Nadec wondered whether it was intended as such. Occasionally, she could see her dad’s flowing, beautiful script. It befitted a king, Nadec could see that now.
What was that? One of the sheets stood out. The type of paper differed from the others, the text on it short and obviously scribbled in a hurry.
Dear Nady, this is a quick extra note. We do not know if it has any significance, but I insisted we put it in the box. Oh, how I hope you will never have to learn of these boxes. We have discovered something almost unbelievable. I shall not tell my sister yet, not until we are certain (I have already piled enough burden on poor Kridec, I do not want her to worry for no reason). Somewhere in these notes I talk about our brother and his death. We now have strong suspicions, incredible as it sounds, that he is still alive. Jodec is alive. Possibly. We will investigate more and when we are certain, we will update the box officially and notify my sister, your aunt. May you never see this note. We love you with all our hearts.
Stunned, Nadec sat back. Jodec, her uncle, could still be alive. That must’ve been the reason Patat flew out. But, where to? Oh no. Turning in her seat while cradling Kitty, she looked out of the window. There, in the far right corner, she could see the outline of the massive outside walls of the massive building on the hill. It made the most sense. The castle. That’s where Patat went.