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Manas joined them at that point. “You don’t what, my dark scholar?”
“She doesn’t regret leaving her home, in spite of your secrets and her new curse,” Theda said.
“Preester, it’s my secret to keep,” Manas said.
“That is something we need to discuss after we set up camp,” Theda said. She gave Manas a look Lilavati couldn’t identify. “Great Lord, this conversation must be held at your tent.”
“Preester, that’s not something I’m willing to do,” Manas said.
“Then this union isn’t going to work and you shouldn’t have brought the Great Lady out of the Southlands,” Theda said.
“Why do you say such things of your Great Lord?” Lilavati asked.
“I call him Great Lord because I’m attached to his household,” Theda said. “We actually hold an equal rank to each other, and those above me in the temples outrank him. Only the High King holds equal power to the Archpriest, but that’s something for another day.” She fixed Manas with a stern look. “Great Lord, I know you think you’re doing this to protect her, but keeping her in ignorance is most likely one of the reasons she’s so susceptible to an assassin.” She paused. “Great Lady, I would ask that – when we get into the discussion – you tell the Great Lord what you remember of your mother’s tales of your facial markings.”
“I will do my best,” Lilavati said. “I must see what I can draw up into the front of my mind.”
“Great Lord, this isn’t a request. We will be having this conversation at your tent,” Theda said.
Manas glared at her but finally bowed his head. “It will be as you say, Preester.” He turned and rode off.
“He is angry,” Lilavati said.
“Of course he is. I challenged his authority and reminded him that while his comes to him through inheritance and secular power, mine comes from the Twelve,” Theda said. “It may not seem like much to you, Great Lady; not with your disdain for your own religion. But for us? This means a lot, and to defy me when I pull what I just did is to argue with the Twelve. That’s dangerous and could lead to so much more trouble for him.”
Ludger called a stop a short while later and Lilavati watched as the camp was laid out. Sieglinde found her talking to Theda, their horses having already been claimed. “Forgive me, Preester, but I need the Great Lady so we can set up her tent,” the golden haired servant said.
“You can set it up yourself, Sieglinde,” Theda said. “The Great Lady and I will be meeting with the Great Lord shortly at his tent.” Sieglinde’s eyes widened. “Yes, he knows we’re coming. Make sure everything is set up for her, and make her something to calm her nerves. She’s most likely going to need it.”
“Yes Preester.” Sieglinde gave what Lilavati thought must be the typical obeisance to a religious leader and scurried off.
“We’ll wait a little longer. Things need to be more settled,” Theda said. She glanced at the sky. “We have several hours yet before we need to worry. Let us hope he doesn’t try to draw it out so we don’t have to discuss all that’s necessary.”
“Manas does not seem to be a man who would delay a situation to avoid it,” Lilavati said.
Theda snorted. “He’s very good at that, Great Lady. It’s one of the many reasons he’s lasted as long as he has at Phiri Hu.”
Manas came up to them a short while later. “Let’s go to my tent,” he said, scowling. “I dislike being forced into things, Preester.”
“So my predecessor told me,” Theda said, looking completely calm. “To the Twelve, what a mortal likes has no meaning. It’s what is necessary for the safety and well being for the whole group that matters.”
“And this conversation will be vital for everyone?” Manas asked, gesturing to the entire band of soldiers and servants as they walked away from the main body.
“It is for you and the Great Lady, and that is the gathering I’m concerned with right now,” Theda said. “I’m already irritated with you right now, Great Lord. I told you not to give the potion to anyone without dire need.”
“I felt it was a dire need. She wouldn’t have stayed in her saddle otherwise, and she brought up a very valid point,” Manas said.
“Which was?” Theda asked.
“That being an outsider was bad enough. If I were to insist she ride in a cart, what little respect my people were giving her would be gone. They would no longer be as diligent in serving and protecting her because she’d be seen as a burden,” Manas said.
“Is this what you saw, Great Lady?” Theda asked, turning to her.
“It is,” Lilavati said. She frowned when they stopped. “Is this where we are going?”
Manas sighed and sat down on one of the large rocks. “Yes, my dark scholar. It is.”
to be continued…