Raizel watched the conversations move around in circles. They were trying to be deferential, but she was a kid by their reckoning (and they weren’t far off), and she wasn’t firm or authoritative enough to make it easy for them.
Raven got up after a bit and went wandering, came back, and murmured in Cailing’s ear. She flushed an interesting color and, after a few hissed exchanges, got up and went with the Raven.
Raizel fought down an irrational surge of irritation. It wasn’t like he could go back home, not on a train heading towards the capital. And what was Cailing going to do?
Her mind provided her with several images of what Cailing might do. She reminded herself firmly of Amos and Emma back home. Amos. Emma. Not the Diamond Raven, not a lovely girl she happened to own, not…
“Psst. No, don’t turn around, just stay like you are.”
Raizel froze, then relaxed slowly. “Who are you,” she murmured under the sound of the conversation. The whisper had come from right behind her…
“Nobody, not anymore. If you lose your – anyway. I’m nobody, but you are known. Your name is spoken.”
“So I’m noticing.” She’d wanted to be known, hadn’t she? She’d wanted to be famous enough that Amos and Emma would be able to convince their families that the three of them should be wed.
She’d wanted to be rich enough to have it not be an issue of her family’s money – such as it was – and their families’ money.
She hadn’t quite gotten rich enough yet, although for a moment she wondered what all these slaves would be worth, if she sold them to the highest bidder.
- No, she would find a-
“Hold still and keep looking lost in thought. Just stay there.” The voice brought her back to the world in front of her, the slowly rattling train. “I know you are looking for answers.”
“And that is an answer, too. I know how you can find those answers. All of them.”
“I only have one question left,” she protested.
“That is only one way to get answers. If you truly wish to know why you, why you have been singled out, and everything that is going on that has touched you, you need to look for the right answers. And you’re not looking in the right places.”
“I’m not even looking for answers! I’m just trying to get to the capital and pay my taxes!”
It didn’t feel true coming out of her mouth. She wondered when she’d stopped thinking of this as a trip to pay her family’s taxes and get home as soon as possible.
“You don’t want to know why you’ve been singled out?”
“I look like the sort of person people can take advantage of, so they do.” Just because she hated it didn’t mean it wasn’t true.
“You’re many things. You’re just barely not a child. You are on a quest that will benefit many people. You are responsible You want love. You want recognition. All of these things make you a target. And all of these things lead in to the answers you don’t have.”
“And you know how I can get the answers, I suppose.” She twisted to turn around, but something pushed her head towards the front again.
“Not if you look. If you look, I can’t help you at all. Keep your eyes up there. And what you need to do to is easy. You don’t even have to leave the train. Just go to the last car behind you, and find the missing Bear. It’s not an animal, I can assure you of that. Find the missing Bear, and cast an entanglement spell on her.”
“I -what? I don’t have any spells.”
“The woman who has faced down spectres and pixies says she has no magic.” The whispering voice scoffed. Nobody else seemed to notice that she was talking to someone. They were all in their own whispered conversations. “Of course you do. Now listen to me, this is what you will say to the Bear when you find her. On-paritet, on-jerimem, on-feckeron, on-paritet.”
“Hssst, no, not here. On-paritet, on-jerimem, on-feckeron, on-paritet. Say that to the Bear. And then you will have the answers to all of your questions.”
“All of my questions?” She thought about Amos and Emma. “Or just the ones that concern you.”
“All of your questions. Now, will you do it?”
The Raven was busy. Her slaves didn’t seem interested in her. “I suppose I will.”
“Good.” There was a brief breeze and the whisper spoke no more. A moment later, Raizel turned. There was a figure moving towards the back of the car, its gait strange, its shoulders hunched over so that it fit at all in the train.
Had that been what was talking to her? She suppressed a shudder. And she would have to go by it to get to the back.
To cast a spell on the Lost Bear.
She steeled herself and stood up.