29 Storis, 1138
“I hate being out alone,” I sang under my breath, trying to find the tune, though that was exactly what I was doing, standing in the falling slush under near-black skies, and trying to clear my head of used passion-flower smoke and brandy fumes. “I hate the cold. I hate ice storms. I hate mud and snow and I hate Zara’s evil brother.”
It had a tune somewhere, but elusive, and I don’t write poetry, except on a bet, and even then don’t expect much. My list of hates lacked meter and rhymes.
“I hate being late, I hate getting stuck anywhere, I hate lads who smoke their brains dead and muck with my friends. Someday I’ll stand by his pyre and happily warm my bones.”
No, the tune wouldn’t come without my viol. I started whistling instead, the Foreti hymn. I wrote it at the end of my first year in the Uplands, and it’s almost too complex to whistle, but the challenge kept me from going inside and beating up that wretch.
I shivered in the small, walled garden just off my room on the ground floor of Telia’s inn, the one she gives me so I can come and go without bothering the doorman. There are advantages to being old friends with the owners, and I’ve known Pols and Telia for half my life. I was a weedy, gingery fourteen year old village brat, away from his family and in a city for the first time when I met Pols. He was a decade my senior, the rogue of the Royal Arts Academy, and another of Lady Ethene’s household musicians. First, he took me under his wing, then into his bed, then we became partners in justified crimes against traditional music. Together, we appalled about half of our tutors and enthralled the rest while laying the foundations for a new music. His success delights me and when we parted, we parted friends. Since then, I’ve witnessed dozens of his conquests.
Pols had gone to perform at some merchant’s party, leaving me to watch Ranem while Pols was away. That liaison wouldn’t last. Ranem would leave once he realized Pols wouldn’t marry him nor give him half of his share of the Belleview, and when Ranem left, Pols would be devastated. I doubt Pols will ever marry, but if he does, he’ll have his sister’s blessing, and Telia merely tolerated Ranem for Pols’ sake. The way she tolerates most of the foundlings he brings home from his annual tours. Ranem was half Pols’ age, but already hard as diamond and far too fond of white brandy and smoking passion flower.
But if I say anything, Pols will just defend Ranem and that’ll make the break all the harder when it comes. I’ve seen the pattern a dozen times.
What’s worse is having to watch it for another day at least. Quin’s no weatherwitch, I thought as I trilled arpeggios and tapped the rhythm on my waterproof — ha, yet another lie — coat. It won’t snow, he said. It never snows this time of year. Just one quick trip. We need snare wire and to pick up those contracts and while you’re there, will you get the broadsheets? It wasn’t snowing, true, but sheets of ice are no improvement.
We didn’t need snare wire, and if we did, we could have bought it in Valanding or Reva. Our Advocate could have sent the contracts by post; she was good about that. No need to go all the way to Celestan, but he wanted the papers and damn me if I wasn’t curious enough to go. That, and his moods were worsening. At least rotation came while I was gone. Quin can be as irritable as he pleases in solitary splendor for the next quarter year. He might freeze while he does it, and I’ll be one cooked duck rooming with Daval, but I needn’t listen to Quin gnash his teeth while he doesn’t sleep.
I have to drag him out to Hazel Spring when I get home. This unceasing irritability and gloom has got to be fought out, or otherwise handled.
Not first thing, though. As deep as I was in my own snarls, I’d make everything worse. Plus, I’d already be late, and if I detoured over to Fanik as planned, I’d be more so. That wasn’t worth a tenday of Quin’s Don’t do that again.
Normally, I would have gone to ‘Zara after I was done with the Advocate, but that miserable bastard she’s saddled with should be there for the autumn Prava recess, and some things, he’s not to know. Like the fact that I exist. Instead, I had an enormous, comfortable bed to myself and a front-row seat for a most uncomfortable debacle.
We need a weatherwitch to tell me when the weather’s going to go from warm and sunny to soggy and freezing.
The Foreti Hymn’s a song of praise and should have lightened my mood, but didn’t improve my thoughts. Half the people I love are driving themselves mad, and the other half are already there. They’re all going to drag me down with them, too. I don’t need a weatherwitch, I need an emotional weatherwitch, to tell me when these storms are all going pass. Then again, considering how accurate weatherwitches usually are, it’s probably good I don’t have one. She’d raise my hopes.
I was just thinking I should go inside and console myself with honey brandy and the new composition I had in mind, when my musician’s ears caught something in the rain’s splats and chimes, the wind’s sighs and the human din from the hall.