things over, without distraction, and it seemed she needed that time more and
more lately. Life had become unbearably complicated.
Her position on the King’s Council was a source of endless trouble. Although the nobles were forced to offer her civility in front of their monarch, she wasn’t truly welcome. She was a fake, a usurper, and she was always saying and doing exactly the wrong things. She was inappropriately attired. She spoke out of turn. She didn’t understand the rules of decorum at all, and she wasn’t quick to learn them. She was stubborn, brusque, and cantankerous, and the worst part was that she wasn’t willing to change. Enaya liked herself exactly as she was. Mostly.
Her circuitous path took her through an alleyway and out into one of the hundreds of small courtyards tucked back inside Abriad’s city blocks. Washing flapped on lines stretched between upper-floor windows. A rangy dog chased someone’s well-fed cat across the road in front of her. Through open doorways, Enaya could hear people chatter and scold their children. She paused a moment to catch her breath.
Enaya felt rather than saw the small hand reaching for her coin purse. She whipped around, catching the little fist in her own. The startled pickpocket tried to yank his captured hand back but Enaya gave it a twist.
“Bad luck, mate,” she said, her eyes glinting. “I’m no soft, silly priestess with fluff for brains. You’ll have to move quicker than that to pilfer me.”
“I weren’t tryin’ t’ do that— that— whatever it was, priestess!” He stammered out. “I’s just walkin’ here! Honest!”
“Honest is a serious word,” she said. “It’s a sort of vow, all on its own.” She conjured up just a puff of breeze, letting his hand go as it hit him. It blew him on to his backside with a thump. “Will you let a few coins, no real fortune truly, turn you into a liar?”
The urchin was torn. He could admit to the attempted thievery, the penalty for which was a day in the stocks, or he could lie to the Goddess’s Own priestess and risk Her curses. Enaya waited him out.
“I— I did mean t’ take the purse, milady…” His quick eyes darted to her signet ring, the constant symbol of her nobility. She curled her fist to hide it. “But just ‘cause I’m hungry an’ all. I knew it weren’t much in there.”
“It’s good of you to tell the truth,” she told him gravely. His dirty face was anxious. “And the Goddess thanks you for it. If you will vow there’ll be no more thieving, we’ll have an end to it here.”
The urchin boy’s mouth dropped open. Trying to pickpocket a noble, and no stocks at all? He nodded his head so fast she feared for his neck. “Yes’m, milady!” He said. “No more thievin’, I swear it!”
“You take that vow serious,” she wagged a finger at him. “Vows aren’t for playing with.”
“Yes, milady, dead-serious, milady!” He said. He hopped to his feet and dropped a bow so deep his forehead neared the dirt. She nodded back to him and he took off at a run the other way.
“Didja seal it?” The question came from Enaya’s left side; the voice was unhurried and low. Enaya turned and caught sight of a long gray habit with a broad hood. The face inside it was young and striking in its austerity, with thin black brows and caramel-colored skin. Enaya had never met a priestess of the Grandmother before. She bowed low.
“Did you?” The priestess repeated. “Seal th’ oath?”
“No, of course not,” Enaya replied. “He was only a child.”
“You didn’t tell ‘im you didn’t,” she stated flatly.
“Well, no,” Enaya said. A frown settled in between her eyebrows and tugged at the corners of her mouth. “But that’s rather the point isn’t it?”
“I s’pose…” The priestess agreed. “An’ the sealing’s kind of a fuss.”
Her voice was still dry, but there was a glitter in the priestess’s gaze which seemed familiar to Enaya. Enaya’s eyes narrowed. “Do I know you, priestess?” She asked.
“No.” the priestess replied shortly. “But I know you. Leastwises, I feel I do.”
Enaya’s dimples deepened as the edges of her mouth titled upward again. “Are you, by any chance, Verity Furrow? Sister of Amity Furrow?”
“Auntie of Maeve and disreputable acquaintance of th’ Duke Apparent of
Quintmeed. Aye, that’s me.”