"Every day is followed by every night."
The first bit was easy enough. The little mnemonic phrase unlocked Maralda's spell. She felt the words whirl around her. They altered the air. They bent light around Maralda's body.
The tingling of the Invisibility spell always tingled her mind a bit. Maybe it was the change in light around her. Either way. Maralda now could move hidden from view.
Not by sound or scent. Sound she could handle.
"Hopefully my perfume won't set off those Gnolls." She muttered. Then Maralda cursed herself for saying her thought out loud.
She moved quick. Her best friend, Lahm, had a few horrible habits. Being a skulking burglar, he had rubbed off on her a bit. Maralda was glad the sneaking had rubbed off, not Lahm's continual dalliances. He could not say no to a nice looking man.
I'm not jealous at all, Maralda told herself. An inner part of herself didn't believe her.
Maralda took short light steps to get back to the barge. The Janissaries marching up and down it at guard proved awkward to dodge around. Biting her lip, Maralda mixed minor magic chicanery with some acrobatics.
Throwing her voice through one spell, she bounced from one foot to the other. Her deft feet danced around one group of janissaries, then the next.
It took Maralda five times as long as to sneak into the barge as it had been to be escorted out. She took a leap toward the barge. Almost falling into the water, she clutched tight onto part of the canvas tent. It covered the Spice Khan's barge, thick enough she could grasp it without pulling it down.
"Ack." Maralda sputtered, pulling herself up.
How did Lahm do this all the time? Maralda's heart felt like it was about to explode. She clutched tight to the side of the barge. She had jumped to avoid being in the entrance way to the tent. She bit her lower lip, uncertain how to proceed.
If she moved the canvas too much, she'd been given away. How would she explain that away? She couldn't. Of course, she could've just asked to go back for her notebook.
But what if they refused her? Or worse, they found it and read it? Both of those thoughts unnerved her.
Maralda knelt down, beginning to feel around. Maybe if she crawled, she could get to a place where she could see the notebook. She crawled around. She stopped when the big voice of the Spice Khan spoke.
"Excuse me?" The Spice Khan's voice thundered in Malic.
Maralda succeeded at not screaming out. She remembered her other spell, the one translating Malic for her.
"She isn't speaking to me." Maralda chided herself. "Idiot, focus on getting the notebook."
"Child, you should speak with more respect to a representative of Your Shah." A deeper voice. Maralda didn't recognize it, but it spoke in a different version of Malic.
He didn't quite sound as big as the Spice Khan. But he acted like he was speaking to someone beneath him. Maralda's ears perked up.
"You continue to disrespect me." The Spice Khan retorted. "Worse, you think I should let a Vizier-"
"I carry Shah Venomfang's full authority. His Gloriousness acknowledges your concerns about the Revolution. The Shah continues to turn down your requests. Maliph will not follow the folly of the North."
"I heard you say those words." The Spice Khan's tone sounded incredulous. "But you choose to not communicate to me the reasons why."
"Why is obvious. You are a whelp. You have yet to even prove yourself to be worthy of your title."
"I am the Khan of Nephkha. My father-"
"Died." The arrogant voice interrupted. "And you know inheritance means nothing to a true Maliphi. You've spent too long with the Scarless."
"I know better than you." She growled.
"Mayhap. But you also are from a tiny land. You think because you pay the highest tribute that earns what the rest pay for in blood. You still have fewer scars than the rest of us."
"You think because I'm younger than you that I lack the foresight to see what is coming? Slavery is going to boil into something we can't contain. Ith has shown ways to navigate, a future."
"They have their own servants, the Unsorcerous." The Vizier or whoever he was, let out an annoyed sigh. "Your choice to pay attention to these people speaks of your own weaknesses."
Maralda remembered why she was there. Not as an observer. She hurried about some more, although paying attention to the conversation. The Bard and Writer didn't stop listening to what sounded like intriguing details.
"I spent two decades of my life here in Crux. Perhaps you should pay attention to it yourself. Learn something rather than nod your wrinkled brow to whatever Karim says."
"Our diversity is our strength. And unlike the other major powers, we aren't going to fall apart to rebellion. The last thing we will do is listen to them or whatever mad ideas they have."
"Don't listen to me, then, Vizier. When the mob comes to you, remember my warnings. They'll tear us apart."
"If they do, it'll just be another pain."
Canvas shifted around Maralda. She guessed that whoever he was, he had left. The barge shifted in weight as Maralda heard the Spice Khan grumble.
"Life is pain," cursed the Spice Khan.
Maralda felt the familiar texture of the leather bound notebook. She picked it up, smelling the rich vellum of it. She'd found it. Great. Now for her to get out of here.
Maralda maneuvered herself, trying to find purchase on her way out. She resisted the urge to just jump into the water and swim. The water in the docks would be cold this time of year. Worse, given the tide, probably as much dead fish and garbage as water.
The Bard found her way, crawling until she could line up a leap back to the planks of the dock. She braced herself. Maralda took in a deep breath.
"I hope you understand my position. I love this city, but my people think me tainted by it. Kind of like being a vampyre's daughter, isn't?"
Maralda made the jump across. Then she ran as fast as possible, scared out of her wits at the Spice Khan's words. She didn't know how, but she was certain the Spice Khan had arranged that. How or why didn't matter, it still worried her that she hadn't seen it coming at all.
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