109: Simkit

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She had two priorities. Three, if she counted her personal survival, but she chose to place two priorities above that.

Above all, she needed to insure the safety of the three aristocrats in the party and of her junior disciple Meadhbh.

Next priority, she needed to insure the safety of the Earther whom Husband had entrusted to her.

Husband would certainly forgive her if she failed these, and he would surely chide her gently at her grave if she lost her life in the process, but she would never forgive herself. The problem was, she now must somehow accomplish the second of these while the individual in question had become a severe liability.

No, that was unfair, she corrected herself. The liability was the clumsy Thamadin woman who allowed herself to become wounded. With the wound having worn her down, she could no longer carry the man.

She turned to him and stated, “These beings are clearly waiting for us to come forward. I am going to negotiate, but I do not want you with me when I do so.”

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He frowned. “I don’t think splitting up is a good idea.”

“I am not enthusiastic about it myself, but I think being captured or killed together is a worse tactic. Guardsman, turn your back to me. I am going to place a special formation on you.”

Still frowning, he complied, and she laid her left hand between his shoulder blades.

She sought within her base, the spiritual organ she had built after she first mastered all her gates, whose establishment had marked her entry into the Second Realm. She summoned from there the pattern she needed, a stealth form capable of maintaining itself independently for hours, to be placed upon a selected target.

The seal of her left hand gate contained a form that gave her the ability to inscribe patterns without any implement, in the fashion of a Tei-incha’e, an Elder Artist who specializes in creating temporary flux patterns on the fly as they use them. She wrought the stealth pattern on the guardsman’s back now, and began the flux-flow that powered it.

His head jerked as he felt it start. She told him, “Be at ease. With this pattern, I have hidden you from them.”

“They’ve already seen me, though.”

“Perhaps. Do not assume they possess your level of sense, as very few do. It’s possible they’ve only seen the vague image of a something in this spot, and they don’t know how many individuals are here. They observed the arrival of something here as a single unit. It does not matter. I am requesting that you travel back toward the camp while I go to meet the Gireidil warbeasts ahead of us.”

“Why are we doing this?” he demanded, lowering his brow.

She frowned, then reminded herself this was not a soldier under her command. Any assumption that he would obey her order automatically was unwarranted.

“You are an unknown to them. You are an alien with no connection to this world, and therefore an unknown risk. I have no idea what their attitude toward you will be. It will be wiser to assume your safety lies in avoiding contact with them.”

“That goes the same for you though,” he stated.

“Not true, Guardsman. The Thamad were allies to the Gireid during the war. My grandmother served Sir Rogan’s clan on this world, back when the fall of Chald happened. My mother was born on this world, and was one of the children evacuated, just like Sir Rogan and Lady Tatoan. I am gambling that these Gireidil soldiers will recognize me as a rightful resident of this place, or at the very least, a non-enemy.”

He looked like he wanted to argue, so she plowed onward. “With you present, they may not give me the same benefit of the doubt. So while I distract them, you shall return. You can sense the camp from here passively, I suspect.”

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His lip twisted, but he nodded and pointed in a direction not far off from one of the entities in the dark ahead of them. It was roughly the direction she had been placing the camp.

“Start walking now,” she directed. “I will advance a minute later, to parley.”

Instead of obeying, he told her, “I want you to answer a question first.”

It was annoying, but she said, “Go ahead.”

“Are you really able to make it back on your own, if they let you pass?”

She snorted. “Guardsman, are you possibly thinking you could carry me if I can’t?”

She had the mass of a saddle horse. Carrying her would take a whole squad of Osri stretcher bearers, should she be unable to walk. A single Osrin could only abandon her, in the end.

“I could guard you and wait for help,” he stated.

“Better for you to let them know that I need it, Guardsman. Start walking.”

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