They made it to the bathhouse without further incident. Raizel had never been inside a place like this, but she’d heard the stories and descriptions from people in the town that went down into the flatter lands: There were rainfall devices where you soaped off, and then big drinking-trough tubs to soak in and bathhouse boys and girls to wash your back and your hair.
She left her things in the locked box she could see from her tub, the key around her wrist, and stood under the lukewarm falling water scrubbing herself with a bar of soap her trei had bought them. Next to her, the Diamond Raven, clad in nothing but a golden rope around his neck, did the same.
Raizel took a moment to let her gaze travel over him before turning back to the cleaning at hand. For someone who had been described to her as a wastrel who preferred to beg for his food rather than do honest work, he had a very toned body, and there were old scars on his back she did not think he’d gotten from something as simple as sitting around a temple – or apprenticing to be a wizard, although she didn’t know how violent or dangerous that could be.
The kitten, who the bathhouse had been uncertain about until Raizel had paid for its fee, too, forwent the shower for a quick and careful bath in a foot-soak tub, delivered by a bath-house boy who had put ON clothes for this particular duty. Once cleaned, she was put in a deep box by Raizel’s tub, where she could put all of her fur back into place, one hair at a time.
Raizel sank deeper into the tub, content and comfortable. She couldn’t stay long, of course, but for a few minutes, it was nice to think of nothing except the way the bath-house boy’s fingers felt massaging the oil into her scalp.
“Are you Raizel of the mountains?”
She opened her eyes to find herself staring at a man in the uniform of a guard. “Who’s asking?”
“The Honorable Judge Peor Lytanzya. Are you Raizel of the mountains?”
“You’re not a judge, and I’m not wearing any pants.”
“The Honorable Judge wishes to see you at your earliest convenience.”
“Where can we go find him, when it’s convenient?” The fingers massaging her scalp had not stopped, and she had no wish to leave the comfort of this bath.
“I will take you to him. Now.”
“Oh, come on, the kitten isn’t even dry yet.” Raizel was having far too much fun being petty. Soon, that was going to bite her, and likely quite hard, but for the moment, it was entertaining.
The man considered her. “I can wait for ten minutes. It can have taken me that long to have found you.”
“Ten…” she considered bribing him and decided she wanted the remaining trei for herself. “Ten. . Thank you. You, ah, .. Timotea. Please tell me when five minutes have passed.”
“Yes, miss.” The bathhouse boy went back to massaging her scalp and shoulders. When he finally said, dutifully, “it’s been five minutes, miss,” she had no problem at all slipping him what she hoped was a generous-enough tip for the area.
She dressed in the last clean clothing she had in her bag while the bathhouse boy toweled off the kitten and made a little sling for it out of an old towel. She wore the kitten under her vest, close to her chest, and didn’t mind the lump it made in her shirt.
The Diamond Raven looked particularly dapper. Someone had tidied up his clothes — or maybe h’d sent someone out for clothes for him — and he looked a gentleman and not a beggar. He bowed to her when he caught her looking.
She bowed back. “The judge has summoned us. Um. The right honorable someone—”
“The Honorable Judge Peor Lytanzya,” the guard repeated.
“The Honorable Judge Peor Lytanzya,” she parroted dutifully. “He wants to see us.”
“I doubt we could have gotten in trouble already – even about the – ” The Raven shook his head. “All right. If it’s another quest, though, I reserve the right to run screaming.”
“As long as you’re running away from Esteronzerai, I won’t complain. Too much.” She bowed at the guard. “We’re ready.”
The courthouse was not all that far from the bath-house, but it was up a steep hill and two very long sets of marble steps. The kitten mewed twice in complaint, probably because it was still damp. Raizel gave it a finger to chew on and hoped that sufficed to quiet it.
They walked through an antechamber, past two more guards and a very cute attendant, and into an office dominated by a huge desk and a tall, narrow man
“Ah, and you are the Raizel of the mountains that we have been hearing so much about.” He gestured at the chairs in front of his desk. “I have a task for you.”