Chapter 22: Shelter

The Crystal Spheres Techniques are for training mages. Organized around the ten spheres of skill, they teach control and power for all levels of talent. — Primer on Crystal Sphere Techniques

Night came quickly, but Kanéko and Maris didn’t stop until they reached the Boar Hunt Inn. Coming from the south, they avoided the roads and crept through trees behind the building. Every few minutes, Kanéko froze and listened for the wind, but she couldn’t hear it rising up behind her. She only dreaded that Damagar would find them in a different way, one that she couldn’t plan for.

Maris, with her better sense of smell, led the way while Kanéko held Ruben tightly. Their approach was masked by the sound of insects buzzing in the air. When she first heard a mosquito, Kanéko almost gasped for joy. Somehow hearing the smallest of creatures alive gave her hope that Damagar wasn’t near.

In her arms, Ruben moaned softly, and Kanéko held his head. “Hush.”

Then, a whisper in Kanéko’s ear startled her. “I’m not a newborn infant, if you recall.”

Kanéko stopped. Kneeling down, she lowered Ruben while whispering loudly for Maris.

Ruben smacked his lips together a few times, and Maris spun around. Gasping, she ran over and tackled Ruben, hugging him tightly. “Rub! I thought you—”

“Quiet!” hissed Kanéko.

Maris continued in a loud whisper, “—wouldn’t ever wake up, Rub.”

Ruben rubbed his hair and smiled. “Sorry, I tried to contain myself and it caused my mind to…” The pause went on longer than Kanéko ever heard Ruben hesitate. He shook his head. “Forgive me, I believe I have reinforced that which Damagar is afraid of. I should be able to avoid seizures in the future.”

Kanéko felt a sense of relief. “Are you sure? Do you know if he is close?”

“No, but I’ll find out when Damagar comes within two leagues.” Ruben gave her a sudden smile. “You know, Kanéko, you are competent at telepathic reception. You possess a sizable foundation of memories, an analytic view of the world, and a highly adaptable mind.”

Kanéko blushed then gave him a mock glare. “Just keep your thoughts to yourself… except for emergencies, all right?”

“Acknowledged. I regret being a burden. To both of you.”

Kanéko cleared her throat. “Ruben.” They both looked at her. She spoke softly to avoid attracting attention. “Do you know where we are?”

His eyes glittered, and then he looked around him impassively.

With his height, Kanéko didn’t think he could see anything. He had been unconscious for the last hour.

“Approximately eleven chains, one rod south of the Boar Hunt Inn.”

Kanéko stopped, startled by the specificity of his response. “H-How did you know?”

He gave a slight smile and pointed to the trees above them. “That was planted ninety-three years ago. And that,” he pointed in the opposite direction, “was planted a year later. There are twelve cabins,” he pointed into the shadows, “three rods, two feet in that direction.”

Kanéko gestured to the darkness. “Have you been here before?”

Maris giggled and held Ruben tightly. “Rub remembers things. He knows it from before he was born. And he knows history. And lessons. And everything.”

Kanéko looked at Ruben who glared back at Maris.

Ruben spoke sharply, “I told you that, canine, because you promised you wouldn’t speak about it to anyone.”

Maris bowed her head. “Sorry.”

Ruben sighed and dragged his fingers through the shadowed grass. “She would figure it out sooner or later.” He looked up and his blue eyes glittered in the dim light. “Kanéko Lurkuklan is quite astute. In fact, I suspect she might already know why.”

Kanéko started to shake her head, and then stopped. Her mind spun for a second, and then she cocked her head. “It has to do with you being a telepath, right? You read someone’s mind before you answered?”

Ruben shrugged. “Partially correct. But, the mind was my own. Children of Vo have access to a shared memory; it is called the votim. But, my access to the votim, and therefore my memories, ceased eighteen years, four months, and twenty-one days ago.”

“What happened then?”

“I was born.”

Kanéko had no way to respond to his answer. She stared at the blue eyes for a moment, and then looked away. She turned toward the cabins that Ruben identified and she remembered the night on the balcony. “I have an idea. Virsian has a cabin there. I could hide there, and you could send food if it’s safe?”

Ruben shrugged. “That seems a reasonable plan.”

Kanéko stood up to get a better view. “Any idea which cabin is Virsian’s?”

“I cannot. That decision was made after I lost access to my memories.”

Maris spoke up from where she tugged petals from a flower. “She’s in the furthest cabin from the inn.”

Kanéko stared at her. “How do you know?”

Maris smiled bashfully. “Garèo was late this morning. And I sniffed him out.”

“Oh,” Kanéko said, “that makes sense.”

“And he was fucking Virsian at the time.”

Kanéko gaped at Maris as the dalpre bounced and grinned. “Maris!”

“Well, they did. At least three times. They were both really loud.”

Maris didn’t seem shocked at all, but Kanéko didn’t want to know about Garèo having sex with anyone. She held up her hands. She felt a blush burning on her cheeks and was glad for the darkness, “Look, point me toward the right cabin. And I hope Virsian is with us and not looking for a quick crown.”

Together, the three teenagers sneaked their way to the cabins. Maris led them to the far one. When Kanéko tried the door, she found it locked.

“Sands.” She turned to Ruben. “Any chance you know how to unlock it?”

Ruben shrugged. “Procure a key?”

Kanéko rolled her eyes and looked down at the lock. She remembered a part in one of her Nash novels where he picked it, but after the fiasco trying to escape in the river, Kanéko’s trust in stories had plummeted. She also didn’t have tools to use. “Maris, how about—”

She couldn’t see Maris. Turning around, she peered in the darkness around them. “Where is she?”

On the far side of the cabin, the sound of breaking glass echoed out from the darkness. Kanéko winced, covering her ears as if it would stop anyone else from hearing it. She saw Ruben smirking at her and pulled her hands back, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.

“Maris is breaking a window in the back,” supplied Ruben.

Kanéko turned away to hide her blush. “Thanks, I figured that out on my own.”

“You do possess an incredible sense of perception.”

The door shuddered then creaked open. Maris stood inside, her ears flat on her head and her tail down between her legs. “I, um, opened the door.”

Kanéko stared in shock, and then started to laugh. “That is one way of getting through the lock. I’m sure Virsian will forgive us… I hope.”

“And you aren’t angry?”

Kanéko shook her head.

Maris squealed and hugged her tightly. “And I like you!”

Kanéko hurriedly quieted her. “All right, I know. Now, go find out if Falkin or Virsian is trying to get the reward or if they will help us. Here…” She pulled her wallet out of her pocket and handed it to Maris. “It was ruined in the river, but Falkin might recognize it and give you credit.”

Maris nodded confidently. “Don’t worry, Rub will know if they are lying. He knows things like that.”

Kanéko’s stomach rumbled. “And, get me some food, please?”

Maris giggled and stepped out of cabin. She grabbed Ruben by the arm and dragged him toward the light of the inn.

Kanéko entered the cabin and locked the door behind her. She found a candle and lit it using a bit of flint. The flickering light almost blinded to her dark-adjusted eyes. She quickly drew the curtains to hide her presence.

Virsian’s cabin was not what Kanéko had expected. She thought it would look like the Royal Suite, but it looked closer to her parent’s bedroom. Mismatched furniture lined the walls; some of it was bleached wood while other had the same dark tones as the stuff from the Royal suite. The entire one-room cabin smelled of incense and perfume, but it was a light scent that permeated everything.

She amused herself for a few minutes peeking through Virsian’s possessions, but she didn’t want to pry too much. Kanéko sat on the bed and felt a brief shiver of revulsion knowing that Garèo and Virsian had sex on it. But, the trip left her exhausted and the mattress was warm and smooth underneath her hands. With a yawn, Kanéko laid down and promised that she would just close her eyes to rest.