The last part of the conversation in the keep went past Lotye in a haze. The two elves rather talked about, than with her anyway, but that wasn’t the reason she sat numbly on the cot. Release …We’ll have you out of here … There was the chance she had not really allowed herself to hope for. She would have to do something for it, something she wasn’t even sure she could accomplish, but that that didn’t matter right in this moment. I’ll be free. She was too shocked of this thought to really be happy, much more so to show it, but for the first time in two days, she did not doubt that she would be able to walk under the open sky again.
The night went by fast, too. Not long after Aeto Arrowwise and Lord Nightwise had left her, she fell into a restless sleep full of strange dreams, all of which she had already forgotten when she woke up. But this time, the dreams didn’t leave a sour after-taste behind, they were more hopeful in their outlook.
When she stood up the next morning, she felt as if she had been asleep only for a few minutes at the very most. But the cheap breakfast already awaited her and not long after she was escorted out of her cell and finally out of the building. The promptness with which the lawyer and the magus had been able to achieve her release still surprised her. There really has to be something of great interest at stake for the fine wizard, if he uses his power like this. For a last time Lotye cursed the guardians under breath and then entered the goat carriage together with her lawyer.
During the ride through the city Lotye had her first chance to actually think about the sudden change in her situation. While she silently sat in the carriage, looking out at the sights of Sesus without any real interest, she realised what had happened for the first time. She was out of prison, only the bracelet around her wrist preventing her from calling herself free. If there had been no bracelet, she probably would have jumped out of the vessel already, never to be seen again. So was she still a prisoner?
She guessed so. In comparison to her old cell, this one would probably have way better conditions and most importantly, no walls. Instead of a jailer who treated her as if she wasn’t even worth looking at her, she now would have a polite one who looked at her as if she was a rare specimen that had to be closely examined and dissected. But she still was far from being free. Deeply in thoughts, she noticed belatedly that the carriage had entered the better quarters of the city.
Of course she had to use the back door of the embassy. No matter how powerful the Grand Navigators were, they still couldn’t allow a lowly criminal to be seen entering their embassy. But this raised no hard feeling in Lotye. Under any other circumstances, she would not even have come close to the building, much less, enter it. Inside, walking through the tastefully decorated corridors, Lotye felt the itch to steal a small golden trinket here or a little piece of art there. Everything in the building spoke of the wealth of the nation that owned and a bit of that wealth in her pocket surely wouldn’t hurt anybody. But she actively suppressed that thought, she couldn’t steal from the people who were willing to help her. The other important reason was that there were no items small enough to simply slip into her pockets unnoticed.
A small boy opened the door of a room for them. Lotye couldn’t believe it. Lord Jeneyeru Nightwise, State Magus of the Grand Navigators, was the most powerful man she had ever met. Exactly that man now lay in front of her on a couch, in clothes she wouldn’t have expected a man in his position to wear for an audience, clothes that rather looked as if he had risen from his bed only moments ago. Nevertheless, Lotye replied to his greetings with a stiff little curtsey, but without saying anything. She didn’t really know how to address the nobleman anyway and didn’t want to humiliate herself in front of him. Then she sat down on the couch, feeling like she was sinking into the cushions.
The breakfast on the table was more than she had had for breakfast most of her life and definitely more to eat than she had ate at all for the last few days. He had told them to help themselves, yet she hesitated for some time. But her hunger, barely satisfied by the meagre meal in the keep, was victorious in the end. At first Lotye only picked out a few crumbs here and there, as if she was expecting to be reprimanded for eating from the same table as a high lord. But not much later, she had grown more confident. Like the mouse in front of a cat. But I’m a mouse hungry enough to still go for the cheese. While the two other persons at the table spoke about the cards, she first poured down a cup of tea and then bit into a orange so juicy that it ran down her chin. The more she ate, the more she realised that she had not eaten that well in a long time, and that she probably wouldn’t that soon again either. So she took what she was able to take.
Lotye still listened to what Lord Jeneyeru had to say, even though she seemed more than occupied with eating, but most of it sort of went over her head anyway. She had seen the cards, she had felt and seen what they were able to do. But powerful magic artefacts from another world that did not belong here? That was far above her ability to understand and care. She always had cared about herself first and foremost and then about those very few ones close to her, not about the fate of whole nations and worlds.
From another world and not belonging here? I’ve heard that before, from the other children when I was a child back home. They were talking about me back then …, was the one thought that crossed her mind in a fraction of a second, disappearing again immediately. Another one was wondering what the power of those cards meant for her when even a powerful wizard like Jeneyeru Nightwise seemed to be afraid of them.
It was only when the wizard looked at her with a hint of disgust that she looked down herself as well. Of course that’s the same dress. When should I have changed, you snobbish knut? But he was right, she really was rather dirty and actually would have taken the bet that her smell of sweat, hay and cell was poisoning the air in the room. The only part of her appearance she had even rudimentarily been able to care for was once again her hair. The thought of a bath was very appealing to her in this moment, it even brought a small smile to her face. Bathing was a pleasure she rarely had and bathing in a luxurious place like this was one she had never had before.
“Thank you.”, she broke her silence, trying to sit a bit more upright on the soft cushion, “And yes, I’ve got a question. If those cards are so special, from another world even, how can it be I have been able to use them so easily? Could anybody do that? Summon those ghosts, I mean. And if they are that dangerous, can I be sure that this incident had no negative side effects for me? Other than landing in prison, of course.”
The last sentence wasn’t intended as a joke, but when she thought about how it sounded, it broadened her small, orange-juice-smeared grin a little bit more, no matter how serious the topic at hand was.