Andreas Xenakis was hiding in a barn somewhere in southern in Sachsen. The Terrencians and their allies might think that the Hellenic Great War, launched to give the Hellenes their fair share of Europe after centuries under the yoke of the satrapies, was over but here he was in one of the Terrencian central provinces ready to continue hostilities. Just as soon as he could meet up with his unit and find out what their orders were for after they infiltrated the province. The Myrmidon Division, of which he was a lowly ypodekaneas, had refused to surrender and was now infiltrating enemy territory in order to continue the war. Ypodekaneas Xenakis was on his way to a rendezvous and had chosen a hiding place off the road when last night had proved to be rather fuller of official activity than he’d liked. Now he was stuck in a barn with a door that opened in full view of the farmhouse and an impromptu back entrance that was now guarded by the parents of a newly hatched clutch of goslings.
A pair of grey-barred wild geese that had created an uproar when he’d tried to sneak out into the early morning mist to be on his way. He’d ducked back into cover when he’d realised that he couldn’t get past them without warning the farmers that it wasn’t an animal predator that was upsetting the birds, and on consideration his best chance of getting out again was waiting until after dark.
Frankly, the barn was some of the most comfortable shelter he’d had for months even if he dare not light a fire for hot drink and food.
Despite his best efforts, he was dozing lightly when the barn door opened around mid-morning. The footsteps that followed were quick and efficient, and Xenakis could visualise the movements of the person who was quartering the barn. Hiding wasn’t going to help anymore, so he moved to intercept the farmer. He’d assumed a man about his own age, but instead it was a blonde, raw-boned woman in calf length skirts and farm boots and he froze. Which was how he wound up with a shortened shotgun aimed at his midriff at close range but not close enough to tussle for it, not if he didn’t want to risk being shot by something that could actually kill him outright despite his physical enhancements.
Andreas raised his hands.
“You’re afraid of the geese and you’re afraid of me.” The blonde was a big boned girl who should have been plumper. “Good, you’re a smart one then. Can you understand me?” Given that she was speaking Terrencian this was a sensible question.
Andreas nodded. He may have only had the physical enhancements and not the intellectual ones as well, but he was good with languages and she didn’t have to know how good.
“You’ll come into the house and listen to the radio news because there are things you need to hear,” she told him. “Not that the war is over because you know that already, but things that happened near here last night. Then we’ll decide, my father and me, what we’ll do with you next.”
“Do with me?” He had visions of some of the nastier stories that had circulated about what had happened to Hellenic soldiers who’d fallen into the hands of Terrencian peasantry.
She smiled. “If you’re agreeable, we might find something better for you than a military prison. Now, into the house with you, and you might like to remember that my name is Elke.”
Andreas complied, because something about her eyes told him that she dealt with chickens for the baking dish, and probably pigs for sausages, herself. He didn’t want to find out what else she could deal with doing herself if she had to.
I found it slightly disorienting to wake up on the floor of a room that was bare except for my suitcases, my bedding and me. I was in the front uppermost western room of the main house and I was rapidly concluding that whatever the airspace between me and the house next door, it was probably not enough. I was quite happy to get up, dress and go in search of breakfast. I found Master Que in a room next to the main house’s kitchen dishing up rice from a rice cooker. Sambal and pickled vegetables sat in serving bowls on the table.( Read more...Collapse )
Rensa was staring grumpily at her breakfast tea. She had just about had enough of being pregnant. It was eight days past her due date and, although she’d had an afternoon of false contractions a few days earlier, the baby showed no signs that Rensa could discern of leaving its current lodgings. Her lower back ached, she couldn’t get comfortable in bed unless she lay on her side using multiple supporting pillows, and people were clucking over her.
Mirren, her assigned companion, cousin by marriage and now friend, had been pregnant right alongside her, although a few weeks in front, and her son had arrived neatly on time to the day, even deigning to emerge into the world during the timeslot that had been scheduled for his mother’s next check-up. He had wispy blond hair, looked like a chubby-cheeked version of his father, and was adorable.
Even if he was making his parents redefine sleeping through the night.
Naturally, Mirren didn’t want company all the time, even if sometimes she desperately needed it, and consequently part of Rensa’s problem was that she had nothing to occupy herself with. The palace had a domestic staff who took care of everything, Rensa wasn’t allowed near a working ledger no matter how interested she was in the new accounts system, and for the first time in her life she saw the need for a hobby. Just when she had zero oomph to learn something new and couldn’t get comfortable to learn anything anyway. This morning she couldn’t even get comfortable in her chair at the breakfast table.
Yannic looked up from the reader he’d been handed by one of his staff when he’d come in to breakfast from the gym, because apparently Emperors weren’t allowed to wait until after they ate to start their working day, and remarked, “You do realise that you’ve been fidgeting about once every three minutes, don’t you?”
Rensa looked at him. “I have? I just can’t get comfortable in my chair this morning….” She trailed off and felt ridiculous for not noticing the timing herself. “Perhaps I should go off to the hospital wing, in case.”
“I’ll come with you,” said Yannic, turning off the reader and putting it down.
“You’re working,” protested Rensa. “I can do this on my own.”
“I’m sure you can,” Yannic smiled at her, “but you shouldn’t have to, and I want to be there.” He smiled wryly, “I may not be any use, but I want to try.”
“You were the captain of the Ojijrukar,” said the tall woman with the flawless skin and broad, handsome nose of the Geremnen, “but now you’re not. Yes, I agree that you remain responsible for your crew, and that’s why you are going to order them into these lifeboats I am providing for them and you.” Her tone said that she was being eminently reasonable, regardless of anyone else’s opinion of the matter.( Read more...Collapse )