When one of the servants told me the Tarien had ran off again rather than meet her tutor, it took me every ounce of will not to roll my eyes to the sky and ask the Gods to witness her audacity. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she did it to annoy me, but as it was, I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to go. For the past months her tutor had been drilling her to keep up with her studies. Hours upon hours she had spent in a stuffy room, cramming all kinds of information in her head. She had had to what with her test coming up.
I wouldn’t want to be her.
It was my job, however, to look after her, and she had given me the slip, which meant I had to retrieve her. As I felt my lips curl up into a grin, I decided I’d give her a few more minutes before we would go after her. After all, what would the fun be if we caught her before she even got to enjoy what little time she had outside?
“Tal, you’ve got that look,” Xaresh observed drily, watching me with an arched brow. “Aren’t we going after her?”
“Then why are we still standing here?”
I clapped him on the shoulder, my grin widening. “Give the girl a break, mahnèh. She can look after herself.”
Xaresh snorted. “It’s not her I’m worried about.”
It was his turn to roll his eyes. “You know how the Tari gets when she learns her daughter has run off again. Would you like to explain why we didn’t go after her straight away?”
“Sure,” I replied with a shrug, and nodded ahead of us, “we were waiting for Elara to show up.”
Hearing her name, Elara’s head snapped up, steely eyes narrowing as they settled on me.
“What did I do?” she asked, wriggling one hand into her bracer.
“We were waiting for you,” I replied, opening my hands to offer her help.
She conceded with a sigh as she allowed me to tug the bracers into place and fasten them. As Arathrien it was our duty to protect the Tarien at any time of the day, which meant that we worked in shifts and never walked around unarmed. We didn’t quite sleep in our armour, although I had to admit it had happened to me on more than one occasion.
“Where are we going?” Elara asked, pulling her sleeves up, no doubt to make it more comfortable underneath her armour.
“Fetch the Tarien.” A grin spread across my lips as I watched her.
Elara groaned and turned away with a heavy eye roll.
“That’s why you were waiting for me?” she muttered, adding both her hands to her hips as she regarded me. “Grissin.”
She swathed my arm. I laughed. It earned me a reproachful look from her, and a tsk of disapproval from Xaresh.
“Come on, let’s go get her home.”
Without waiting for them, I started walking out of the palace, through the courtyard and into the main street. It was market day so naturally everyone who was someone had business outside, clogging the streets. My eyes settled on a lone figure up on the ramparts above the main gate. From this distance, it was nothing but a dark speck against the blue sky, but I knew without a doubt it was her.
I’d always find her.
“Did we miss a holiday or something?” Elara muttered from the side. “Why is it so nohro busy?”
“Not everyone has the luxury of having a meal provided for them three times a day,” Xaresh said, ever the pragmatist.
Elara just stared at him. Xaresh returned a smile.
“Market days have always been busy,” I commented. “Now more so that trade with Therondia and Kyrintha has picked up.”
It reminded me of something father had once said to me – how a rebellion had nearly destroyed Ilvanna and everything we held dear. He’d never divulged any details, but from the look in his eyes I had gathered it had been something serious. No matter how much I pressured him into telling me, he never relented. I had tried to find information about this rebellion. According to history, there had been enough of them before Tari Arayda ascended the throne, yet none of the books mentioned something as dire as what father had mentioned.
I’d never thought about it again until now.
“…are you listening?” Xaresh’ voice cut through my reverie.
Xaresh smirked at me, then nodded in the direction of the main gate. My eyes followed and I smiled.
She was no longer a speck in the distance.
“She looks so peaceful up there,” Elara remarked, a hint of endearment in her voice.
“Can we give her a few more minutes?” Xaresh asked.
I nodded, running a hand through my hair, my eyes still on her. She seldom looked so tranquil – so at ease with who she was. The only time it showed was on the training fields. Every other time, she looked sorely out of place. If only she could see her the way we did – strong and more than capable.
“Alright,” I said with a heavy sigh. “Time to go get her. Elara?”
She flashed me a grin and motioned Xaresh to follow her. He looked less than amused at the idea of the upcoming chase, but even he couldn’t deny it was good practise for all of us, even though I tended to cheat as much as I could.
“There she is!”
Elara’s voice carried. I watched as the Tarien startled up, amused at the annoyed look crossing her features. My eyes followed her as she dropped off the ledge, drew the hood over her head and dashed into the crowd.
Here we go.