A gloating smile appeared on Lotye’s face as the sailor hit the water and stayed there until her feet touched solid ground again. She tried to hide it by pressing her lips together when Prince Starhand looked at her, but the corners of her mouth pointing upwards betrayed her badly. It wasn’t even because she felt personally wronged by the man. Her first outburst mostly had been out of surprise and shock, the second one and the glee following the splashing water, though, there was no excuse for it other than blowing off steam and being happy to once not be on the receiving end.
Of course she realised that his excuse was of surprising similarity to what had happened to her and what she had consequently done. A good bit of hypocrisy there … But that didn’t earn the man any sympathy from her side. In fact, some part of her, somehow, had already decided that she didn’t like this man. Yes, what he had done did not warrant such an attitude by itself, he had apologised and his charming, if a bit thick laid on, smile was all over his face. But that didn’t mean anything to her. It were his eyes. They didn’t smile like the rest of his face. On her travels, she had seen enough of people like this for a lifetime. Some were just driven, determined to reach their goal, whatever the cost, but some of them were dangerous, criminals without remorse. Lotye was a criminal, she knew. But what she did, she did to get through, to live, although sometimes also because of a delight in the forbidden. For those people, it was more than just a delight, it was their whole existence, their reason for being.
For all these reasons, she didn’t feel the least bit sorry for the man thrown overboard and the smile didn’t leave her face until she saw the familiar flocks of doves. The Lord Magus had shown her how to use the compass. Lotye had never used a device like this before and had answered his question truthfully in this regard. Now, the bronze compass lay in her hands, heavy and cold, as she stepped onto the dock.
The Plaza of Dovecotes in front of her was a familiar sight. Even though she had just stayed here for three days, it felt a little bit like home to her. The colourful tents, the caravans, the music and the people, this was where she belonged. She nearly expected to see her own cart and the old horse in the shadows of the buildings at the other end of the square, but of course her things all were confiscated by the guardians. All that was left was a gap between two other caravans, life continuing around it as if nothing had ever happened.
Lotye wondered how big the gap she had left really was. Those people, travellers like her, the people she had drunk and celebrated with only a few days ago, did they care about her fate at all? Would they still recognise her, let her in after what she had done? Of course, nobody recognised her now, in her new clothes, with her new mask. But what if she just took her chance? Maybe I should simply run for it, I’ve still got friends here, I could hide. This compass surely has to be worth something. Apart of from her wishful thinking of being able to run away from all her problems like she had always done though, she knew that her chances were bad. Too bad to take.
Instead she looked down at the compass in her hands again. She would do what was best for her, and for now that meant cooperating with the people who had gotten her out of prison and into fine clothes. At least got to show a bit of gratitude, don’t I?
“Let’s see how this works out”, she said loudly, to confirm herself, before she murmured, still in the common language of Lyrion: “Mirror, mirror, in my hand, guide me, guide me o’er the land”
Then she opened the case of the compass, looked at the spinning dials and little mirror inside it and finally repeated the words in Atul. Her knowledge of the magic language had never been far advanced and she was out of practice, but after a bit of thinking, the right words rolled of her tongue. The needle began to spin faster, uncontrolled, pointing here and there. It didn’t take her longer than a second to realise that it wasn’t out of control, but guided by her memory. At first it pointed at the centre of the Plaza, where she had sat and danced with the other players, then at the space of her caravan, where she had accidentally summoned the ghosts of the card, and lastly, back at the dockside behind them, where she had run and jumped.
She had to focus. It took some effort to exile all the other thoughts and memories out of her head, but soon, the needle stopped moving, put in only one direction. Lotye tried to memorise as much as possible, the place, the two man, every little detail she could remember. Maybe it wasn’t much, but the magic compass seemed to be content with what it got. It led them straight away from the Plaza of Dovecotes and into the labyrinth of streets beyond.
Once the needle strayed, pointing towards a fruit stand at the side of the street. Walking by, Lotye skilfully picked a lusciously gleaming green apple from the display without being noticed by the busy shopkeeper, took a big bite after a few more steps and the needle returned to its destination. A few more times, the compass seemed to lead them into blind ends and sometimes Lotye thought to remember some of the places and buildings. But when they reached a bigger square again, surrounded by high buildings with elegant arches, she didn’t need the compass any longer. Closing the case, she turned to the others:
“I know where to go from here. Follow me, it’s right over there.”
Her hand pointed towards a gap between two buildings. The familiar place together with her focus on the compass had jogged her memory. The gap opened up to a nearly equally narrow side street, where the sun hardly reached the dirty ground. Still, there were vendors with push carts even here, celebrating the festival of commerce. Yes, this is where it all begun. The street had certainly changed quite a bit since the last time she had been there, but she was sure.
“This is it. I think, over there, this is where I found the cards.” Found them in a purse, hanging from a man’s belt. Of course she didn’t say that, not with all these people around her, as she waved her hand in a vague direction a bit further in the street. “Or maybe it was a little bit more over there, next to the kiosk selling the grilled fish.”