After her meeting with Tanmar the night before, Risa hadn’t been able to sleep at all. His words kept rolling around in her head like a mountain echo that wouldn’t die off; and so when that magical light began to fill her room again like a silent messenger of the coming morning, she sat up with a sigh and slid quietly out of bed.
She padded down the hallway, pausing at the top of the stairs to peer down into the darkness of the lower floor. She wondered just how long it would be until they woke again; perhaps now would be a good time for her to go and explore her new ‘home’. (After all, she didn’t want to see them if she didn’t have to; so what better time would she have than this?)
She crept down the stairs, looking around cautiously when she reached the bottom step. Nothing stirred in the darkness except her own figure as she stepped out into a second hall, scanning her surroundings; and she felt as though the sound of her heartbeat could wake them all. She could see into Tanmar’s room, which was empty; so only Thali and Channa were home, and quite obviously sleeping. But since the person she feared to wake more than any of the others was gone, she shuffled her way to the closest door, careful not to be heard.
The second she reached Thali’s room, a warning sounded in her mind, as though it had been spoken aloud. “Remember my room?” it echoed. “If the door is closed, don’t enter it. Ever.”
Seeing as how she did not want to get kicked out of the only place that would take her in now that she had been disgraced by the Yonshu of Kalpar, she moved on.
The only rooms (other than Tanmar’s and Thali’s) were the second guest room (which Risa found to be a library of sorts, filled with all kinds of dusty books) and Channa’s room.
Risa had spent most of night contemplating everything Tanmar had told her about the woman instead of sleeping; and so she couldn’t help but think of it she stood in front of her room, feeling the insistent tug of her endless curiosity pulling her closer and closer towards it. She felt an odd sort of connection to the woman, almost as though she understood her without having met her; and she felt quite certain that if she ever did get to talk with her, she would find in her a kindred spirit.
Risa crept up to the doorway, careful not to make a noise. She was tempted to push the door open and take a peek into the room, but she didn’t dare to, not after Thali’s comment the other day.
She had only meant to listen for a little while, to see if Channa was awake or not; but just as she was straightening to leave, her knee siezed and cramped and she gasped and fell, her head banging smartly on the wall next to the doorway. Her eyes widened and she froze; and she gripped her leg as though it was all she had left in the world, her head spinning wildly though she willed it not to.
The door flew back with a bang and a person emerged, her steps on the floor beside Risa resounding powerful and angry. She had a proud tilt to her head also, and her harsh black eyes shone fierce as the sun.
She took startlingly quick notice of Risa, who flinched under her gaze; and in the briefest of moment she had swooped down over the girl, her face mere inches away.
“Ane fadya you!” she screamed, her voice hoarse from a lack of sleep. There was a venomous fire in her eyes; it contrasted fiercely with her long dark hair, which swept its way past her shoulders and down around her waist.
“Ane fadya you!” she repeated, spluttering with agitation. “You kjera, you tantir me anu I was lannar! Has eitah kyoje raj Tanmar stolen you ne Djan’kera ki? You are na dyari worth, I kara ana he kept you. He is ki kyoje je teilami.”
Thali appeared then at the top of the stairs, yawning and stretching; but her eyes widened with sudden horror as she took in the sight of her mother towering over the Justice. The girl was cowering on the floor in front of her, her white hands gripping her leg; she looked positively terrified.
“Ona!” she gasped.
“Tajim, Thali!” Channa roared. “I am feir her, dyar you.”
“She is Raiheem’yin!” Thali persisted, rushing down the stairs. “She does dyar anahta ano you say ke her!”
“Oh?” Channa laughed. “De I can say ano I want!”
“Ona, djaila,” Thali begged.
Channa paused. “Ji my taram, eitana,” she said reluctantly, backing away from the Justice. She began running her delicate fingers through her hair, sweeping it all to one side. “I must shara today, I won’t kana ke Kalpar ji awhile. Tell Tanmar, re he jahna. Yn keep eitu kyar out na my lera, I do dyar want her hanantra my tana.”
“Ku, Ona,” Thali said calmly, grabbing Risa by the arm and roughly helping her up.
“Teila,” Channa said with a firm and sharp nod. And with that, she sauntered out of the hall and out the door to the Niche.
Thali tightened her grip on Risa’s arm. “Come,” she said firmly, pulling her into her room.
Risa blinked back the color. She didn’t know what to expect; was Thali angry with her? “What were you doing at the top of the stairs?” she asked, hoping to deter her. “I thought this was your room.
“It is,” Thali said quickly, closing the door. “But Papa asked me to sleep in the room next to yours last night so I could catch you in case you tried to sneak out again.”
“Which I couldn’t do even if I wanted to,” Risa muttered, wincing at the pain that had been growing in her knee since the fall. Thali looked down at it guiltily.
“I’m sorry about that, I’ll try to fix it up today.”
“I don’t want your help,” Risa snarled.
“Nobody seems to!” Thali exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. “But that's just too bad, because you’ve got it anyway. Listen, I don’t know what happened this morning, but you’ve got to start watching your attitude around Mama.”
“I tripped in front of her door!” Risa cried, exasperated.
“And woke her. I heard every word she said--rather, screamed,” Thali said sarcastically. “I’m sorry she treated you that way, even when it wasn’t your fault, and I’m sorry that she called you those names, but--”
“What names?” Risa interrupted.
Thali’s eyes hardened. “I’m not going to repeat them if I don’t have to.”
Risa remained silent; was that a hint of shame she heard in the Kalpan’s voice?
“Now I know you’re not going to want to,” Thali said, “but we have chores to do, and Papa’s expecting them to be finished before nightfall.”
“Chores?” Risa echoed, mortified. Had she really escaped Hime just to do more chores?
“Yes, chores,” Thali repeated, grinning at Risa’s expression, which only served to irritate the girl further. “So long as you’re here, you might as well take a share in the work. And heaven knows I could use the help around here, with Mama leaving all the time.”
“But I can’t!” Risa cried, motioning toward her knee. “And besides that,” she added, pulling her shoulders back and tilting her chin in the air as she had seen Hime do many times before, “I am a princess, and princesses do not do manual labor. That is what the desideria is for.”
The irony of the situation was almost amusing; here she was, having finally escaped Maura (albeit not in the way she originally intended), and being told that she had to go to work again--Risa would've found it funny, had she not already been so irritated.
“Oh, stop your complaining. I offered you my help, but you refused it. And I won’t give you anything too terribly difficult to accomplish, so you shouldn’t even worry. I mean, why would I? You’d probably just end up messing it up anyways, and then I’d have to do it myself.”
Risa stood there, glaring at Thali; but the girl’s eyes were just as fierce and challenging as her own, so she eventually dropped her gaze, disbelieving the situation she was in. “What do you want me to do,” she finally said, not bothering to hide the disgust in her voice.
Thali grinned. “Change the lights.”
“Yes; you should’ve noticed them by now. They float in the corners of the house, suspended by a string; they are magicked to the walls, so we can have some sort of light in case Land-Light dims (highly unlikely, but there’s no risk in being safe). There’s one in your room too, above the flowers.” She paused when she saw the look on the Justice’s face. “You...are a magic-user, aren’t you? Because of your Law?”
The words caught in Risa’s throat, and she appeared to be quite unsure of what to say; and Thali, who hadn’t been expecting it, took sudden and careful note of it, catching the subtle hints of fear now shining in the proud girl’s eyes. Her eyebrows tweaked upward. Of what was she afraid?
“I won’t do it,” Risa said firmly. If she was afraid, Thali couldn’t hear it in her voice.
“Why not?” she asked innocently.
“Well,” Risa replied, absentmindedly fidgeting with the hem of her sleeve, “Ever since I left...Maura, I haven’t been able to use my magic. At all.” Her face flushed. “But if I had, not even your father would’ve been able to stand against me; of that much I am certain.”
So she was ashamed of her sudden loss of power? Thali thought. The Justice doesn’t like feeling weak. Understandable, as she was (at one time) an authority figure among her people. “A battle magic? Similar to the kind Papa uses? Is that what you control?”
Risa sneered, but it didn’t hold any power to it. “Why should I tell you?”
Thali paused, unsure of what to say next. There were so many thoughts in her mind now that she couldn’t pin them down, and she felt that she had pressed the matter enough. “Well,” she said after a while, “I suppose you could sweep--for now.”
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