10 ~ Miranda

Miranda checked behind her once again. She was sure no one had followed her, but her father had always taught her to be cautious. Her last mistake had cost her his esteem, and warranted his severe punishment. She shuddered at the memory. She’d been more careful since then.

She was just out of listening range of the bellica and major, but they weren’t saying anything. The bellica had waked up a quarter of an hour ago and had promptly fallen off her horse and vomited by the side of the road in a narrow alleyway. Miranda was disgusted. This was the Empress’ best bellica? A drunken slob who, after destroying property in a tavern with her drunken friend, went and soiled the streets of Atherton with her filth? Pathetic.

With a jolt, Miranda realised she had let her mind wander and had missed whatever the bellica had said. Cursing her incompetence, she hurried to get within earshot of the officers.

“How many things did Jules and I destroy?” the bellica was saying.

“Not many,” the major lied to her. Miranda had to prevent herself from making a disgusted sound. Her father had better manners than this slovenly wreck of a human being―and that was saying something.

“I’ll have to pay Kasandra for the damages,” Bellica Yarrow said blurrily.

The major shook his head in reply. “No,” he said. “I took care of it.”

“Ngh,” she said, shaking her head. “You’re always taking care of me.”

The man laughed softly. “Someone has to.”

The bellica made a ‘hmph’ sound and the two rode in silence for a while, Miranda scrambling to stay quiet and close. As they moved on the bellica straightened from her hunched position and reached back and started to do her hair in the thick braid she usually wore, but had abandoned tonight for whatever reason. When she was done she sighed and reined in her horse.

“Caelum,” she said, turning in her saddle a bit. The major stopped his own horse and turned to look at her, earnest expectation on his face. Miranda paused in a shadow, holding her breath. This was it―she could sense it. Something big was about to be said. Her mistress would be pleased. “I need to tell you something.”

“You can tell me anything, Yarrow. You know that.” He smiled, but it seemed forced even to Miranda’s young eye.

The bellica sighed again. “You’re not going to like this. I…I murdered Seigneur Timor, Caelum.”

The major gave her a patient look. “Those were your orders.”

“To use poison?” Yarrow shot back. Miranda nearly gasped with delight. This was exactly what her mistress sought! Something to undermine the Great Yarrow’s reputation!

Caelum didn’t seem surprised. “You used poison?” he asked, as though it seemed only a matter of course.

Yarrow let out an explosive breath and punched the horn of her saddle, making her stallion snort and do a dancing sidestep. Automatically she soothed the beast. “I must be mad, because I don’t remember doing so. But there was terrabane on my sword.” There was a pause; Miranda nearly jumped up and down with glee. “And Jules saw me.”

Dear God, this is solid copper!

That was it. Having gathered all she needed, Miranda turned and fled down the nearest alleyway, heading back to where she’d tied the pony from the castle, just down the street from the tavern. There was no way she would be kept in the hospitalis after a copper piece like this! The empreena would have to re-assign her.

She was moving up in the world. Her father would be proud. She knew it.

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