Ch 23: We Must Strategize

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[then]

Tova had never felt so alone. She didn't know what was happening, or understand what had happened, so she couldn't have really told anyone about it. And when you're a fifty-year-old spinster, no one's really interested in you love life anyway.

One day one of her co-workers casually asked how Sam was and Tova had just said "Okay" and that had ended that conversation.

Her Aunt Sarah had been slightly more interested. Tova had phoned her on the Friday night, like she always did, to wish her "good Shabbos" in the old-fashioned way.

"How's it going with Sam?" Sarah had asked.

"Not so good."

"Well, just forget about him," had been her aunt's fervent advice. "He's not important."

Tova had no reply for that. She was old enough to have learned that there was no point in trying to make someone understand how you felt. You had to walk the lonesome valley by yourself.

"You still there, cupcake?" Sarah had asked after Tova's silence continued for a moment longer. "Why don't I take you out for lunch on your next day off? When are you off?"

"Tomorrow."

"Then how about a nice Shabbos brunch? You come up here, we'll go to the deli and I'll get you those latkes you like so much. With sour cream and apple sauce."

Tova had accepted the invitation. At least there was one person who loved her and wanted to be with her.

She had sat a moment more after she hung up the phone, staring at the red and green ring she still wore. After Sam had ditched her at the restaurant, and even after he'd dismissed her phone call, Tova had continued wearing his ring.

She probably shouldn't be wearing it now, she thought, but it was hard to make the decisive move and take it off. Was it really over between her and Sam? Should she know? because she didn't.

Should she just assume it was done and let it go?

She couldn't meet her aunt wearing the ring, not now. So she took the ring off and dropped it in the bottom of her mother's jewellery box. What else was she to do? And who did she think she was, anyway?

But Sarah had been wrong. Sam was important, and Tova couldn't just forget about him.

*
[Crane]

"Very impressive," Shira said as Crane deflected another of Ayelet's killer arrows with his sword. "Let us rejoice that Lero and Crane are with us; if we meet archers they will not trouble us. But let us not be like children playing at slings and arrows. We must strategize based on every known and imagined possibility. For instance, let us consider what we are to do when we meet one of the poisonous mists that Merwa is famous for."

"My sword can dispel any mist, whether created by nature or by sorcery," Crane stated boldly.

"My rat can run below the level of the fog, where the air is fresh, and bring back intelligence of our enemy," Ayelet added.

"You know my hearing is preternaturally keen," Lero put in, when the others had finished. "I can tell you where to throw your axes to disable an enemy even in the most impenetrable conditions."

"And my bird's great wings can clear the air before us, giving us safe passage," Shira concluded. "It is well. And what if the enemy are mounted on horses or camels?"

"Lero's donkey can move among them, confusing the beasts or even inciting them to rebellion," Ayelet declared proudly.

"Surely Lady Ayelet can fire her arrow in such a way as to frighten the beasts, making them rear up and dislodge their riders," Crane suggested.

"According to legend," Shira said, looking at him appraisingly, "you have bested armies single-handedly. Can you do it without unnecessary casualties?"

"Why do we not teach him," Lero murmured, "the way in which one can wound an adversary so they think they are much more gravely injured than is truly the case?"

"I should also like to learn more of the exercises I saw performed yesterday, outside the Guard's quarters," Crane said respectfully.

The women regarded each other, as if in silent communication.

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