No one takes baths during the middle of the day. Well, fewer people do so than at night—especially at a merc company where people were out and about. Using that knowledge, I booked our hall’s bath for the whole middle of the day today. The last few days had seen Taava get antsy and me get anxious. Seyari was the worst, however; being “in reserve” just didn’t sit right with her. We all understood how it made sense for us to lay low for now, but that knowledge really didn’t help much.
Salvador was a saint, well and truly. He’d gotten nearly everything I’d asked for and not even snickered. He had, however, talked me out of acquiring flower petals to scatter around. Something about personal experience. Probably for the best, especially considering the bathing room was more or less a big closet with a large oval-shaped wooden tub. I’d complained about its size the first time I used it and was informed that before Firalex was promoted, the baths were a stand-in-a-bucket-and-wash-yourself sort of affair. I thanked them later; in person and with no context, of course. We’d talked for a while and one thing led to another and, well, I was excited.
Excited because tonight this bathroom was going to be the best place in the whole damn compound, maybe the city. I had oils and soaps and a lovely shampoo and all of it was coming out of the first paycheck that I was increasingly worried would instead be a debt slip.
Most importantly, I had Seyari.
“I don’t see the point of trying to squeeze into that tiny tub together,” my girlfriend grumbled as we walked down the hall together.
I shifted my basket of goodies that I had under one arm. “Oh? I think it’s plenty big enough. And we won’t have to drag up buckets of heated water, either.”
“Hmm, sure. Just don’t boil me, okay?”
“Aren’t you at least excited for what I’ve got in the basket.” I gave her my winningest smile.
Seyari’s lips turned up at the corners as we reached the bathroom door. “A little. I just know it won’t be as good as the bath back in Sandmeadow.”
“You’re right,” I tugged on the handle and pulled the door open, “it’ll be better.”
Inside the door, the tub had been upgraded. It… wasn’t nearly as nice as what Lilly and Isidore had, but it was (barely) big enough for me now, and certainly deep enough. I started pumping, and soon enough, water began to flow. The building didn’t have the fancy piping nobility had, but at least I could pump directly into a bath rather than go hiking up and down stairs.
“This looks bigger than I remember.” Seyari traced a finger along the rim of the tub. “Is this your doing?”
“Fira’s, too,” I answered. Pumping with one hand was awkward, so I shifted out of my human form and got a second hand on it. My other arms started to unload oils and soaps. The window wasn’t transparent, so there was no risk of being scene, and the bar across the door made doubly sure of that. “Pick the ones you want to use. The first one’s my pick for an oil.”
“You didn’t need to get a variety,” Seyari groused, but walked over and started to look through the bottles and tinctures nonetheless. She opened a few and sniffed, deciding (somewhat to my surprise) on the same bottle I’d picked out.
“Well, I’m hoping we’ll stop losing all our possessions every week starting now. Fira said we can store stuff here and even get it transported between cities. I don’t have to worry about losing my dress!” I pumped a little too hard and I heard metal start to bend, so I slowed down.
Soon, the sweet scent of a lavender-oiled bath filled the room. Along with it, steam. While I pumped, I dipped my tail in and used it like a hot rock, heating the water until steam started to rise. I couldn’t tell if it was too hot, so Seyari cautiously tested it when the tub was mostly full. Her hand healed quickly and the rest of the water from the pump went in cold.
The newly-constructed shelf was wonderful for holding all our oils and, with clothes on another shelf and towels on the rack, I slipped inside the tub and sank down, letting out a sigh of contentment that turned into a moan of pleasure.
“And how am I supposed to fit in there?” Seyari asked. She stood naked to one side, hands on her hips. I wasn’t sure where to rest my eyes, but the implicit permission she gave when her own gaze drifted lower gave me permission to indulge. Funny that I still had such inhibitions when we were definitely an active couple.
After a single very long moment, her gaze snapped up to my own and she gestured at the tub with a questioning look and a half-expectant smile. I was more than aware that I took up just about the whole bottom of the tub laying down; my shoulders were out of the water and my clawed toes tapped the other end. I blew her a kiss and patted my lap.
Seyari blushed lightly, but her smile widened and her golden eyes glowed more brightly. “I like it when you’re forwar—eep!”
My girlfriend squeaked as my tail grabbed her around the waist and pulled her in with a splash.
“Jerk!” She leaned up and kissed me, then snuggled down against my chest, silver hair splaying out into the water.
My reply rumbled into our deepening kiss, and held her close with all four hands.
Out little escapade ended up taking all the time I’d booked the bath for and then some. I nearly forgot to shift back to human form afterward, and I had to make an awkward apology to the person waiting outside. She grumbled at me, but perked up when I said the soaps and oils in there were for everyone’s use.
“Renna?” Seyari asked as we walked back, her eyes and face bright with fading afterglow.
“Yeah?” I fiddled with a still-wet strand of hair, my own cheeks still burning wonderfully.
We reached our room, but Seyari’s hand paused on the doorhandle. “Weren’t you going to talk to Taava about how she ran off on her own and got hurt?”
“I was, yeah.” I frowned as the mood took a hit. “I didn’t want to bring it up right after she confessed to lying to us. How badly was she hurt?” I put my hand on Seyari’s and we opened the door, stepping inside.
My partner closed the door behind us and sat down on the bed. With a practiced flick her wrist, she formed up a quick wind spell that dried our hair and swirled around the room, muffling our voices. “Her legs were paralyzed,” Seyari replied, “and she was covered in barely-healed burns. Someone had saved her life, but probably only just.”
I cursed under my breath and flopped onto the bed next to her. “Next time I’m going with her.”
“Tell her that, not me.”
“I will.” My thoughts bounced to Paula, then Fira, then my conversation with my now-boss, and finally the bracelet Erik had with another sovereign’s symbol on it. “Does Taava have the broken dagger, or do we?” Wow, it felt good to say “we.”
Seyari pushed herself up on her elbows and looked over at me. “We do, why?”
“I found something.” With the comforting fuzz of the bath and our activities still around me, I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I glanced at our closed shutters and unfurled my tail, snaking it down the side of the bed until I felt my bag. I wrapped around it and hoisted it up next to me. I used a third hand to reach around inside and pulled out the bracelet. “This,” I said, handing it to Seyari, “I think might have the same symbol we saw on that dagger.”
Seyari, suddenly alert, snatched the bracelet, tilting over on one elbow to face me. “Who had this?”
“Erik. The guy who summoned the demon back in, uh, I never actually got the town’s name.” I scratched at a horn before I remembered I probably shouldn’t have those right now and shifted back to looking human.
“Why, though?” Seyari, apparently far less incapacitated than myself, hopped up off the bed and darted over to her things. “This shouldn’t…” she trailed off when she held the blade next to the bracelet. “Fuck.”
“Do you think we should tell Fira and Rodrik?”
Seyari bit her lower lip. “We probably should, yeah. If the assassins had these, Garvin might be tied up in it too.”
“Do you think he’ll try something?” I asked, a hint of nervousness in my voice.
Seyari walked back to the bed and pushed my knees apart. She sat down between them and leaned back against me, closing her eyes in thought. “Didn’t Officer Lorton say something about missing people lately the other day? It was an offhand comment but…”
“It could be unrelated, or it could be Garvin or someone else is planning something?” I finished her thought and looked down at her looking up at me. The pressure of her weight was comforting. “You think they’d do demon stuff at the same time as the counterfeit job?”
Seyari sighed sharply. “Maybe. From what Fira told me the other day, Erik knew nothing about summoning rituals, right?”
I wrapped my two arms around her and shivered involuntarily at the memory of that night. “Yeah, that’s right.”
“Then this operation might be a whole lot more dangerous than any of us realize.” Seyari wriggled up higher in my arms, relaxing against me.
“And another Sovereign is planning something big enough to involve themselves in both Ordia and Raavia, unless the assassins received the dagger here in Ordia.” I hugged Seyari tighter.
“Though, they didn’t summon a demon, to the best of our knowledge.” Seyari tapped me on the arm. “Looser, please.”
“Sorry!” I let up the pressure. “Whatever’s going on is related to a single entity, and it’s a safe bet there’s more than these two incidents.”
She nodded. “But the operation’s not tonight, so I’m going to take a minute to lay here and you’re not allowed to get up until I do. I’ll go talk to Fira about this soon.”
I smiled. “I’ll go talk to Taava and see if I can’t learn more when you let me go. It’ll be your fault if the city burns down.”
Seyari leaned up and kissed me. “Terrible taste for a joke.”
Taava answered her door quickly when I knocked. “Oh, look who’s positively glowin’. Why the long face? Didn’t’cha have fun?”
“Oh, it was fantastic,” I replied with an honest smile that quickly turned into a frown. “But I’m not here to talk about my sex life.”
Taava’s eyes went from bright to terrified and she quickly ushered me in and closed the door. “Uh, this isn’t about me, y’know…”
“It’s about you running off on your own without even considering letting any of us so much as wait nearby.” I sat down in the room’s one chair and heard a nail squeak loose. “I should’ve followed you anyway, but the fault’s not all my own.”
Taava plopped down on her bed. “I’m kinda surprised it’s not about me, y’know,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “killing people.” The former assassin picked up the volume again and put an arm across her forehead. “I know Seyari said she’d sic ya on me, but I kinda thought—”
“Sic me on you?” I asked.
“Yeah, ‘cause you’re good at moralizin’ and givin’ lectures.” Taava sat up and flicked an ear.
“I am?” I tilted my head in confusion.
Taava tilted her head right back and leaned over toward me at a perilous angle. “Ya ain’t possibly that dense.”
I blinked slowly and sighed. “I suppose not. I do tend toward long-winded idealism, I guess.” I pointed a finger at Taava and she shrunk away. “And you’re not going to distract me from the talk.”
She shrugged. “Worth tryin’!”
I sighed loudly. “Before I talk your ear off, though, I did want to ask you about Garvin. Do you think he’d be messed up with the same kind of demon stuff the assassins got into—if that was an option?”
“Could it give him power? Then sure. But Garvin ain’t some stupid kid like that Erik guy. And I’d know ‘cause Fira told me about him after ya decided not ta turn me in for ya-know-what. Garvin’d do his research, get it right, and make it work for him.”
“What if he got it wrong?”
Taava shook her head, ears flat. “Never seen him get his shit wrong, but I guess it’s possible. More’n likely he’d just avoid it if he wasn’t dead sure.”
I leaned back in the chair and the back snapped clean off. Whoops.
I flushed red. “Not. A. Word. Chair was cracked or something.”
“Sure. Cracked.” She giggled louder.
“Anyway,” I resumed from my newly-promoted stool, “do you have any tip-offs that something like that might be going on?”
Taava closed her eyes and rocked back and forth, kicking her legs off the side of the bed. “Hmmmm. Not really? He was wearin’ a fancy suit—fancier’n usual—last time, but that’s about it. Coulda been for any number a reasons.”
“We’ll need to have the others look into it then.” I frowned.
“Hope my info’s good.” Taava smiled. “It was nice talkin’ to ya!” She bounced up and offered me a hand off my stool.
“Hold it!” I took her hand in my very unbreakable grip. “I need to talk to you a bit about letting other people help you.”
Taava’s face paled.
Sovereign of I'm Not Angry I'm Just Disappointed
Isn't that Pearl's father's line ?
Wrath can come in many forms. Lectures can be one of those forms