Chapter Eleven

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It began to rain as Distya and Rinnet passed through the outer gates of the city. The weather livened Distya's spirits; it reminded her of the old capital by the western sea, where it rained so much everyone had joked that the sun must be a myth. That was before Coreti first attacked Hatawa, before Irya rose as chief commander and declared Minyavo the capital to be closer to the fighting, before there was any need for that. Before war. The rain reminded Distya of peace and of home.

She could tell the Coretian did not share her sentiments. Rinnet hunched in the saddle in front of Distya, clutching a cloak around her shoulders and swatting at the creases when water built up. In spite of the situation, Distya found the image amusing. She wondered why the rain, of all things, would make Yurovin's tame captive so irritable.

It would be a long trip if they dwelled in such a charged silence, so she brought it up. "Forgive me for asking, but what is it about the rain that angers you?"

Rinnet looked back with wide eyes, shaded under her hood. Beneath it she wore a Tevarian helmet like that from the ambush to disguise her identity as a Coretian. "Is it that obvious?"

"It's hard to ignore when you're sitting right in front of me like this."

"None of the Coretians I know like it much. It doesn't rain often in King's Helm, and when it does, the water can collect and flood the village. I've seen houses destroyed by it. People killed, too — none of us know how to swim."

"You can't swim?"

Rinnet shook her head. "Why should I? The only water in the village comes from deep, deep wells. There's nowhere to swim, and I wouldn't want to even if I could."

Distya was amazed, and pleased. She was already learned valuable information to take back to Irya. If she couldn't make it across the border without attracting a fight, she would learn all she could from the Coretian about the lifestyle.

The first thing she learned before they left was that Rinnet was carrying knives. Irya mentioned it offhand as if it didn't matter, since they were only farming knives and she'd had them returned on a sentimental basis. But Irya didn't even have to tell her — Rinnet revealed them right away. She said she didn't want to hide anything or appear as a threat to her escort. Distya immediately made the Coretian hand them over to her. To her credit, Rinnet did so without complaint.

Distya wore them on a belt strapped high on her waist and rotated to her back so Rinnet could not get to them from the saddle. It seemed like an extreme measure, but she would take no chances. She was alone on this trip. There would be no Tevarian to help her if something happened over enemy lines.

That, too, drew Distya's suspicion, but she tried not to think about it. Irya chose her for this mission for a reason — she did nothing at random. She had her explanations for why Distya was the right soldier to go, and why she should go by herself, but it made for an odd set of specific circumstances. But she agreed to go and that was what mattered. Distya could bring her own purpose to the mission now that she was away from Minyavo. If Irya had any hidden intentions, they would become evident in their own time.

"How long will this take?" Rinnet asked. "I was kind of disoriented the last time I came this way."

"Longer than you might remember. We pushed the horses hard when we..." Distya paused to think of the right words. "...returned from Goldsriff. It will be a few days."

"How do you know where to go?"

"There's a road most of the way south. There's a small river that runs along the border, and a spring where we turned east to cross into Coreti."

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