The woman studied Raizel. “You have skills I don’t?”
“Well, I can’t design a building,” Raizel admitted, “or build one. But in the last two days I’ve been dusted by a pixie, blessed by a spectre, and kissed by what might have been a goddess.” Also by two whores, but she didn’t think that counted. “Also, I grew up on a mountain side, and I have on occasion bound wild goats, a catamount, and once a small wyvern that was getting into the garden. I might be able to help you.”
“If you could, I could start building on time. I can’t pay much – I’m not that rich of an architect yet – but I will put your name on the building. Do you think you can do it?”
“Tie up a wizard? I’m willing to try. The carriage stops in Esteronzerai anyway, doesn’t it?”
“That’s where it turns off to go north,” the woman nodded. “His name is – well, the thing that he calls himself is the Diamond Raven.”
“…something about me and birds on this trip. He’s not an evil idol, is he?”
The woman looked at Raizel a little oddly. “Not that I know of. He’s a man, a wizard, as I said, of the Yederya school of magic. He’s rather skilled, but he prefers squatting and making his daily bread from begging or doing tricks, rather than doing something useful.”
“I’ve met the sort,” Raizel agreed. “I’ll do what I can. And if I succeed, my name is Raizel ry’oya Ennizaba of Grey Mountain.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Raizel ry’oya Ennizaba of Grey Mountain.” The architect’s bow nearly made up for the sniff of the well-dressed woman in the other seat. “Are you headed to Buscontra to pay your taxes, then?”
“It’s the Census,” Raizel agreed. “My family sent me as the oldest child free to do so. It’s been an interesting trip so far.”
“From the sounds of things, I can’t imagine it would be anything else. A pixie?” The woman squinted. “Yes, I can see it in your cheekbones. And the touch on your forehead, that’s got to be the potential goddess. Perhaps you should pay taxes more often.” The architect’s smile was playful, but there was something around the edges of it that made Raizel uncertain. “Nothing like that ever happens to me.”
“I think I looked like I would agree with – well, anything,” Raizel sighed. “Which is not particularly nice, but it ended up being quite interesting so far. Now, though, I’d just like to get to the capitol. There’s a lot to do back home.” And there were people waiting who might not wait all that long, especially not for a daughter of a mountain family with more children than money and no formal apprenticeship or prospects.
“I can understand that. Well, I wish I could help you more, but perhaps, if you can rope the Diamond Raven, he’ll find himself willing to help. And I – well I am Nadya po’renz Ettera of Esteronzerai-and-Ettereteret. And now that we have said our hellos and made our deal – “
“Perhaps we should rest,” Raizel agreed. Tie up a wizard! The next thing she knew, she would find herself wrapping up presents and delivering them on Dark-night or blessing all the crops on Bright-day.
As long as she made it to pay the taxes first. She leaned against the window and looked out it, seeing not the passing hills and trees but her lasso.
She hadn’t brought her proper rope with her, but it was easy enough to imagine the motions. There was a swirl and a drop, all in the shoulders and the wrists. Swirl, drop. She’d used that once on one of her younger brothers and saved him from falling off a cliff.
Swirl, drop, tug, circle fast, tie off. She wondered what a wizard looked like. She’d seen a mage, once, who had wandered through their town looking for an apprentice, but mountain folk, as a whole, were not all that magical and were not all that interested in crafts like mage-hood or wizard-dom, which tended to take one far away from home.
People back home, as a rule, did not leave home much. And here they were, Raizel and Amos and how many others, trekking across the length of their country.
They should have gone together. But Amos’ family couldn’t spare him for long,any more than Raizel’s family could, and their friends were already on the road and probably on their way back by now.
Swirl, drop, tug. Her name would be carved on a building somewhere. Maybe the next innkeeper to meet one of her kin going to the census wouldn’t sneer Ennizaba child, mountain child with such disdain.
“Why doesn’t this Diamond Raven want to leave?”