Gemma returned to us just in time for our trip to Anglecynn. We were, for the first time in a long time, constrained in terms of transportation, as we couldn’t use the Egress for fear that it would violate airspace in a detectable way, and the teleportation key only allowed five at a time. We would have just gone through the teleportation network, but there was no touchstone at Poran, which would have meant a fair bit of travel just to get to one, in addition to the cost. Furthermore, travel by teleportation would have meant that it wouldn’t have made sense to bring everyone that we wanted to, because cost scaled with the number of travelers. Instead, we ended up chartering a flying ship.
It was less ridiculous than it sounded. Teleportation keys were great, and there were a lot of them, but there were other travel entads as well, some of which were suitable for exploitation in the open market. Obviously any entity hoping to do travel like that had to deal with various bureaucratic juggernauts, including both the Empire and the Draconic Confederacy, and given the costs involved and the economies of scale, a relatively small network had been created to handle the collective of entads, all those things that wouldn’t make sense for independent contractors. As a whole, the system was referred to as the Warrens.
As an example, if you needed to go from Cidium to Five Spires, you might be shunted through a magical doorway for the first leg of the trip, travel on foot down the road to the closest tree with a diameter of more than a meter for the second leg, and then step out of a corresponding tree five hundred miles in the wrong direction from your destination, whereupon you would need to take a raft down the river to a rusted car whose driver could deliver you to your destination in an eyeblink along one of the pathways that his car could follow. The Warrens were slower than a teleportation key, and required a lot of advanced planning, which usually involved meeting the restrictions of all of the entads involved, as well as someone with a complete knowledge of the Warrens figuring out the most efficient route. For all that trouble, you would spend quite a bit less time in transit than if you took a train, with less cost than for teleportation keys, especially if you were transporting a lot of people. It was especially effective if one or both ends of your destination were off the beaten path, which was decidedly the case with the Isle of Poran.
We weren’t doing anything so exotic or complicated. Amaryllis had put forward our requirements to the World-Ranging Navigation Society, and gotten a package of options back the same day, with one clear winner among them: an airship that was in the neighborhood could take our whole party, along with a select group of the tuung, for a ‘reasonable’ price, putting us in Caledwich within two days. After a bit of back and forth, the airship was scheduled, and it showed up half a day after it was ordered.
It came down from the sky with a flourish, spinning more than I thought was probably necessary as it landed in the field. Back on Earth, I’d had a book called The Colonial Schooner, a book for model-makers and history enthusiasts which gave detailed measurements, histories, and crew complements for a small handful of British schooners. It had been my go-to for pretty much every ship-based campaign we’d done, since I could just pull numbers from it when needed, and I was about 90% sure that this flying ship was a clone of the Sultana, though with four spinning propellers set within wooden rings fore and aft, like a quadcopter. I’d gone with the Sultana a number of times, mostly because of its small size, and I was eager to see what was probably a recreation up close. The name on the side declared it The Underline.
“Sorry you’re not getting the true Warrens experience,” said the captain as we went aboard. She was dressed in something that resembled, but probably wasn’t, a uniform, with navy blues and a tricorn hat. We were packing light, in the sense that we didn’t have any luggage, and heavy, in the sense that Amaryllis was wearing Sable. Along with us were ten of the tuung, half of them assistants and general help with whatever we needed, the other half a fireteam that called themselves (sigh) the Battletoads, a name they had apparently chosen without any understanding of Earth culture.
“The true Warrens experience is in running frantically to your next connection,” continued the captain as we boarded, “Not really sure that you’re going to find the right bird, or a metal loop that’s been placed in the middle of the woods, or some other random thing. Sometimes you’ve got a contractor in play, and they’re going on descriptions that are weeks or years out of date, or there are substitutions that aren’t planned — and really, it’s a beautiful mess, so I’m sorry to deprive you of that. Name’s Bonny, but you can call me captain Bonny.”
“I’ve been through the Warrens before,” said Raven.
“Oh?” asked our captain, tilting up her tricorn. “The application indicated that you were all new.”
“I decided on brevity,” said Amaryllis.
“You understand that I’m renacim, right?” asked Pallida as she went up the staircase that had been lowered down. The ship itself was just barely touching its hull to the ground, with the propellers spinning lazily around, not generating lift in any conventional manner. “You think I haven’t been through the Warrens?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what renacim means,” replied our captain. She didn’t seem at all sorry to me.
“Well, no mind,” replied Pallida. “But I’ve probably been through the Warrens more times than I can count.”
“Probably?” I asked.
“Memory is a funny thing,” replied Pallida with a smile.
“Anything else that was left off the official communication?” asked the captain as the last of us, Solace, stepped aboard. The captain gave her a side-eye, but said nothing.
“Nothing that I can think of,” said Amaryllis. “I did give an accurate accounting of ages and species for the trips, along with relevant entads for travel. What I didn’t get back were many specifics on the mechanisms of travel, or why our entads might be a problem.” There was one little detail that she was leaving out, which was that she was traveling under a pseudonym, but her pseudonym was actually one of her legal names within our little homegrown country.
“It’s standard operating procedure,” said Raven. “Entad interactions, especially with regard to extradimensional spaces, strict definitions, warping effects, and things like that.”
“I’d still like to know the magical function of this ship,” said Amaryllis, folding her arms.
“Reactionless thrust from the propellers, transmitted directly to the hull,” said the captain. She gestured to the masts, which were pulled up and tied down. “When we’re in transit, we can unfurl the sails and capture some wind, using the thrust to compensate for how we get moved around and maybe go a little faster, could shave up to half a day off. It’s dead simple, as far as travel entads go, nothing to worry about.”
“And you have a flight plan filed with the Draconic Confederacy?” asked Amaryllis. “That was also not made clear in the letters I got.”
“No need to,” said the captain. “We stay below their legal limits, with a bit of a buffer. That’s where the name comes from, actually. It means that we have to sometimes go around tall obstacles, but it doesn’t slow us down too much. We’ve got warning systems in place, it’s nothing to worry about.”
“I would advise against using phrasing like that for the duration of this trip,” said Amaryllis.
“Sure,” said the captain, raising an eyebrow. “Anyway, if you’re all set, I’m going to be getting us off the ground. We have two stewards to help with meals and making sure that you’re taken care of. That’s as much of a speech as I plan on giving.”
We left the ground not too long after that, and I held on for dear life, even though I was the person who needed it least, given that my still magic was strong enough to stop the entire ship in mid-air if I wanted to. I wasn’t really afraid of heights, certainly not after Mome Rath, but there was something about the movement of the ship that was making me uncomfortable.
“I actually created the Warrens,” said Raven. She was standing beside me, looking perfectly calm, a look accentuated by her mobile cape, which was hanging down as though there was no wind, which was definitely not the case. I looked away from her and down below, where we were leaving the Isle of Poran behind.
“Really?” I asked. “How, why, and when?”
“I spent a lot of time looking for Uther,” said Raven. “I went all over Aerb when he disappeared, back and forth. We were only rarely constrained on travel after the first few years, unless it was interplanar travel or somewhere exotic, but after Uther was gone, all his best entads more or less went with him, given to his children. I wrote up a proposal for cooperation between people who held travel entads during a very, very long trip by carriage, when I had little else to do. I’ll grant that I didn’t do a lot of the work in setting things up. Mostly, I just mailed letters and made introductions.”
“Still,” I said. “For some people, that would be what they were known for.”
“I’m known for being Uther’s Knight,” said Raven.
We were flying along two hundred feet above the ground, confirmed via the Range Finder virtue, at a pace that would have been rather sedate in a car, no more than forty miles an hour. The ship would carry on through the night, thanks to one of the crew members, who had proper night vision and could steer the ship. The crew consisted of eight people (far fewer than the Sultana, which had twenty-five crew), enough that flight could be more or less non-stop, crossing two thousand miles in two days. I was anxious about the Anglecynn trip, we all were, but I was hoping that this would be a nice, calm trip where I could get a few things done, in a better environment than if we’d have tried to take a big bus or something (an option which had been discussed).
“Let’s say that you get to start your life over,” I said. “We solve all the imminent problems of Aerb forever, there’s no longer a need to continuously stay one step ahead of the various apocalypses, and Uther is … not here, but also not needed. What would you want to be known for? What would you want your new life to be, if you weren’t so desperately needed?”
Raven stared out at the landscape moving beneath us. “I have no idea what I would do if we fixed everything,” said Raven. “No idea at all. Amaryllis and I talked about it, once. Neither of us are really built for leisure.”
“You could take up a hobby,” I said. “Hobbies aren’t always leisure. You could do … I don’t know, bonsai.”
“Which is?” asked Raven.
“Miniature trees,” I replied.
“Like the microforests of Beshai?” asked Raven.
“Er,” I replied. “Less magical than that. These are full trees that are cultivated to be miniature scale.”
“And that’s a thing that people do on Earth?” asked Raven. “Something you think that I would enjoy?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It’s a form of art that I thought might appeal to you, since it’s very precise, but with a lot of room for expression. Mostly I think of you using your time talking to people. Restarting the Society of Letters for a new age, cataloging and collating for the love of knowing things?”
“Amaryllis is of the opinion that truly, actually winning would mean that everyone could know everything instantly, if they wanted,” said Raven.
“Maybe,” I replied. “Immediately putting the entirety of all knowledge into the brains of everyone doesn’t really seem like such a great idea to me.”
“And you would be the one in charge,” said Raven. She was watching me.
“That’s not really clear,” I replied. “I don’t know if I’ll just be handed the keys to the kingdom, or whether I’ll just ascend by virtue of rules interactions, or what. If it’s possible at all, if I don’t die first.”
“I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Raven. “As for my retirement, I’ll figure it out when we get there.”
Toward the end of our first day in the sky, as the sun was fading, we caught a glimpse of gold in the sky. The captain stared at it, then pulled out a spyglass to look, and finally lowered it, swearing softly.
“It’s a dragon,” she said. “We’re well under the height limit, and we’re legal travelers through the Kingdom of Berscol right now, but seeing a dragon is never a good sign.” She turned to the men on the rigging and called out to them, “Steady as she goes!” The sails had been unfurled since we’d left Poran, given that the wind was squarely at our back. That wasn’t coincidence, just me practicing water magic.
“It’s probably Tommul,” I said, squinting. The squint didn’t do much good.
“Tommul?” asked the captain, staring at me.
“He’s a gold dragon, collects either statues or sculptures,” I replied. “He’s kind of got it out for us.”
“Well I’ll be godsfucked,” said the captain. “Got it out for you, in the sense that he’s going to attack us?”
“No,” I replied. “We’re in hock to the dragons. I’m pretty sure this is just intimidation.”
“Well it’s fucking working,” said the captain. “I’ve half a mind to set this ship down and let you find your own way. Not sure that the Warrens would fault me for it.”
“I’m confident that he won’t attack,” I replied. “He’s had better opportunities than this. And if he does attack, I’ll do my best to protect this ship and its passengers.”
“Against a fucking dragon?” the captain asked. “I’d say you don’t know a thing about them, but apparently you’re in hock, so maybe you know more than I do. I’ve only ever been near dragons twice before, and never very close.” She paused, then looked at me. “You know, it’s customary to give hazard pay in situations like this.”
“We’ll pay half again your fee,” I replied.
“Joon,” said Amaryllis, and though I wasn’t looking at her, I could feel the frown in her voice.
“That’s fair,” I replied, turning toward her.
“It is,” said the captain. She was smiling.
“It’s above normal rates for hazard pay,” said Amaryllis. “And we don’t have to deal with inclement weather on this trip, among other problems.”
“We’ve gotten lucky on the weather, but that in no way makes up for a fucking dragon, surely you realize that,” replied the captain.
“Traditional hazard pay is twenty percent,” said Amaryllis. “And the good weather isn’t a result of luck, it’s because we’ve been using a water mage to make sure that our path is clear.”
“Forty percent then,” said the captain. “That’s a good compromise. The other option is that I ground this ship and eat the loss of income, and leave you to go on your way.”
“You don’t just eat the loss of income,” said Amaryllis. “You risk losing continued contracts with the Warrens, which is how you make the majority of your money, aside from the smuggling that you engage in.”
“Now hang on —” the captain began.
“I don’t care about the smuggling,” said Amaryllis. “My companion found your compartments within five minutes of stepping foot on this ship, I just thought that I should mention it because it factors into your decision to ground this ship, and I want you to know that I know.”
“Thirty percent,” said our captain. “That’s an extra ten because you should have told us.”
Amaryllis wavered, then finally nodded. “Thirty percent, because I should have told you.”
“Good,” said the captain with a nod. “I’ll keep her steady and well out of the dragon’s airspace, you do your part, whatever that is.”
When the captain left, Amaryllis let out a breath.
“Sorry if I overstepped,” I said.
“You did,” said Amaryllis. “But I understepped. I should have told you what I knew about the smuggling, I was just trying to handle it all myself. And we should have mentioned the dragons, she’s right about that.”
“It’s good to know that Tommul is keeping an eye on us,” I said. “That helps to justify doing the trip this way, rather than taking a risk with the Egress. What do you think are the odds he attacks us?”
“I don’t have a measure of him,” said Amaryllis. “Dragons are famously individual. Valencia might have been able to tell us, if she were here. It seems unlikely that he’s going to attack now though, but that’s a reading from narrative, not from some complex understanding of his motives or personality.”
“You think this is what, foreshadowing?” I asked.
Amaryllis nodded. “I don’t take that as gospel, obviously, but for lack of anything else to go off of, it’s what I would say.” She looked me over. “You’re muting this conversation, right? It feels like you are, but it’s hard to tell.”
“I am,” I replied. “I’ve been keeping the whole ship in a bubble of silence since we took off.”
“Good,” said Amaryllis.
“What does this ship smuggle, out of curiosity?” I asked. “I’d assume something that can’t be teleported?”
“From what we can tell, some kind of contraband creatures,” said Amaryllis. “They probably don’t make too much money from it in the normal course of things, and there are none onboard at the moment. There’s a chance that I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“Maybe,” I replied. “Good to take away some leverage, I guess.”
“I guess,” replied Amaryllis.
“Worried about Anglecynn?” I asked.
“Obviously,” she replied. She began to tuck a stray strand of hair back behind her ear, but then frowned in concentration for a moment, and I saw the hair move back into place on its own. I didn’t actually know how she’d done that, but my guess was that she was making a point of practicing passion magic.
“Let me know if I need to punch anyone in the face,” I said. “I’ve been reading through the family histories that you suggested —”
“You have?” asked Amaryllis.
“I have,” I replied. “Not sleeping makes everything easier. Plus it’s pretty interesting reading when I come across some names that you’ve mentioned in the past, or those that I’ve met. I didn’t really have that big of a family growing up.”
“I’m worried about how many of them we might have to kill, if we can’t get out of this without just the sterilization and forfeiture of material possessions,” said Amaryllis. “And if we have to kill some of them, I’m worried about the consequences for us.”
“I’ll refrain from violence for as long as possible,” I said. “Let them take the first shot.”
“I don’t think that’s wise,” said Amaryllis. “Waiting until you’re sure that diplomacy has been exhausted allows the enemy too much leverage and superior positioning.”
“Okay,” I replied. “Then I’ll wait until the point when the expected costs of maintaining diplomacy rise too high as compared to the expected benefits of moving first in conflict.”
“Good,” said Amaryllis.
It was, maybe, the time to ask about her approach to the tuung, and how she’d dealt with them, but there was a glint of light as Tommul shifted his position, and I went back to being on alert, waiting for an attack that, as it happened, wouldn’t end up coming.
Tommul peeled off from us just before we crossed the border into Anglecynn. It was a thinly defended border, such as it was, but it was more than we’d had to do crossing over dozens of other borders along the way, which was thanks in part to Anglecynn’s special status among the Empire of Common Cause, to wit, their insistence on standing as much apart from the collective as they possibly could. We set down at a government-run way station, where our captain lowered the stairs and gave us some pointed advice on dealing with the border police.
“Answer all their questions as honestly as you can,” said our captain. “They’re just here to make sure you’re not taking anything across the border you shouldn’t, and getting you into their systems so that they can catalog and track everyone they come across, it’s nothing to worry about, so long as you’re not dumb enough to have an outstanding warrant in Anglecynn.”
“I’ve been assured that the warrants for our arrest have been canceled,” said Amaryllis.
The captain stared at her. “I’m really hoping that’s a joke.”
“It’s not,” I said. “We have papers to show who we are and that we’ve been legally granted a stay for the duration of our trip to Anglecynn.”
“Fucking hells,” our captain spat. “And you didn’t think to tell us that?”
“We thought to tell you that,” replied Amaryllis. “There are almost certainly spies on this ship though.”
“Like hells there are!” said the captain. “These are my crew, personally vetted by me, if there are spies on this ship, then you’re the ones who brought them aboard.”
“Calm down,” I said. “We’ll answer the border guards questions, then be on our way. We certainly didn’t mean to impugn your honor or professionalism.”
The captain grumbled, but said no more about that, though she did lash out at one of the stewards and told him to clean up and make sure that the ship was spick and span, not that there was much point.
There were three members of the border guard, one of them with a warder’s monocle, all three dressed in a powder blue uniform. They looked over the passenger manifest, then talked with the captain for a bit about where we were going, what we were doing, and things like that. Finally, they came over to me and Amaryllis. We were both in our armor with weapons out, as we’d been for the whole of the trip so far.
“Names?” asked one of the border guards as he approached us.
“Juniper Smith,” I said. “I have papers. I’m a citizen of Anglecynn, but it’s somewhat complicated. One of our first stops when we get to Caledwich will be to get the citizenry stuff dealt with.”
“Citizenry stuff,” said the border guard, frowning.
“It has to do with the Host and the Lost King’s Court,” I said.
“I see,” replied the guard. He took my papers, which I’d had ready, and looked them over, blanching somewhat as he saw the signatures on them. He handed them back to me as though they were toxic.
“Name?” he asked Amaryllis.
“Amaryllis Penndraig,” she replied.
He stared at her for a moment, then wordlessly held out his hand, which she placed her papers into. He read them without saying anything, but as he went through them, I saw something rather unexpected: a smile began to spread across his face.
“Jodi!” he called, to where the other guard was asking questions of the tuung. When she turned to look, he waved her over.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Guess who this is,” he said, pointing at Amaryllis.
“How am I supposed to do that?” she asked, giving him an exasperated look.
“It’s Amaryllis Penndraig,” he replied with a grin.
The other guard stared at her. “Papers?” she asked. Her co-worker handed them over, and she leafed through them quickly, apparently just to check what they said. When she was finished, she handed them back to the other guard. “How — how much of it is true?”
“I apologize,” replied Amaryllis. “Whatever you’ve heard about me, I’m not immediately familiar with the source, so I wouldn’t be able to say whether or not it was true.”
“There was the article,” said Jodi. “And then the book that was published, oh, just last week. The radio was asking whether or not you knew about it, whether it was okay with you. It’s very raw.”
“Do you listen to Kaitlin and Eric?” asked the other guard.
“That’s a radio show?” asked Amaryllis, who was apparently faster on the uptake than I was.
“It is,” replied Jodi. “They’re out of Caledwich, very good. They’ve been talking about you a lot.”
“I see,” replied Amaryllis. She gave them a gentle smile that I was sure had to be faked. “I haven’t been in Anglecynn for a few months, you have to understand. Maybe it’s time for me to set the record straight. If I can trouble either of you for a copy of the book, if you have it? I’d be willing to sign it, if you’d like.”
Jodi was nodding even before Amaryllis was done, and she rushed off to get a copy while the other guard went over to the other people on the ship. Raven was using a fake name, though it was one that she’d legally registered in Anglecynn in order to be able to pass through without drawing a lot of attention to herself. The warder looked us over, making notes on a sheet of paper. I was thankful that Anglecynn didn’t have computers, because that information wasn’t going into a database, it was going down onto paper, to be copied and sent to the home office, where it might end up in an entad that gathered and stored information for fast retrieval, but that was still a far cry from the governmental information systems that I had left behind on Earth.
Eventually, Jodi came back, book in hand. Amaryllis took it gingerly and looked it over, and I was peering over he shoulder, wondering what was going on. The cover was of a young girl in a conservative blue dress, facing away from the cover, looking out a window with lace curtains around it. Her face was obscured by long red hair. I was pretty sure that it was supposed to be Amaryllis, but the artist had clearly missed a few things, even if he was taking artistic liberties. The title was in curlicue, The Princess Diaries, but just below that, printed more plainly, it said, ‘from the private accounts of Amaryllis Penndraig’.
Amaryllis stared at the fairly slender book for a moment, taking in the cover, then began leafing through it.
“Do you have a pen?” she finally asked, looking up. Her face betrayed no true emotion, just a calm, pleasant demeanor. She signed the front cover with a flourish, then handed the book back.
“We’ll get you going right as soon as we can,” said Jodi. “We’re happy to have you back in Anglecynn.”
“Before you go, can I have my colleague take a look at the book?” asked Amaryllis. “She has an interest in publishing, and this is the first physical copy that we’ve seen.”
“Certainly,” replied Jodi with a nod, and a few seconds later, Raven had come over, handling the book and taking a surreptitious copy of it using her entad brace.
We were off into the sky not long after, with the inspection having passed, and new worries about what was waiting for us in Anglecynn.
“It’s Rosemallow’s work,” said Amaryllis.
“A fake diary to make you look sympathetic?” I asked.
“It’s a real diary,” said Amaryllis.
“Really?” I asked. “You kept a diary? That seems like a liability.”
“There was nothing compromising,” said Amaryllis. “It wasn’t fake per se, but I didn’t include anything that would have been useful for blackmail or which would have implicated me as a criminal. Not sanitized, by no means, but still written with public consumption in mind.”
“Going back how far?” asked Pallida.
“Since I was ten,” said Amaryllis. “Some sections were rewritten on reflection, or redacted.”
“Well that’s sociopathic,” said Pallida. She was smiling at Amaryllis. “When you were ten you decided that you were going to keep a diary that would exonerate you?”
“I had reason to believe that the help couldn’t be trusted,” said Amaryllis. “I thought that presenting a proper picture of a young girl might come in handy at some point in the future. Obviously it couldn’t be used as evidence at a trial, but in terms of shaping opinions … well, that’s what it seems like it’s being used for now.”
“By your aunt,” said Grak.
“It’s likely,” said Amaryllis. “It takes a long time to get a book out, so the project would have had to be started almost immediately after I was sentenced.”
“We’d be talking about a timeline of a few months,” said Raven. “That’s incredibly fast by publishing standards, but not unheard of. Depending on who ordered the publication of the diaries, they might have been able to rush it, but reading through, correcting for errors, removing any material that they didn’t want leaked, adding in any information they wanted to spread, getting the book to print, then distributing it, would all have to be done on a compressed timeline, though not one that would require magic. From what I know of Anglecynn’s current publishing technology and practices, which is a lot, I would imagine that this was put into motion shortly after your time in Barren Jewel.”
“You have to wonder about what the point of it is though,” I replied. “To make for a welcoming public? To endear people to Amaryllis?”
“We’re not a democracy,” said Amaryllis, shaking her head. “Public opinion means next to nothing. You don’t get a seat on a council because people feel sorry for you.”
“There aren’t like, strikes or public protests?” I asked.
“There are,” said Amaryllis. “But no one is going to organize a strike because they read a diary. If these border guards are at all representative of public opinion, that just means that the opposition hasn’t started working yet, and there are things that they’re sure to pull out that won’t reflect well on me.” She pursed her lips. “I don’t understand the play that Rosemallow is making.”
“Assuming that it is Rosemallow, maybe she’s a bigger believer in the will of the people?” I asked. “At any rate, I guess we’ll find out soon enough. We’re a few hours from Caledwich.”
“I don’t like going in not knowing what all the players want,” said Amaryllis. “Rosemallow wants to use me, it’s all she ever wanted from me, but I don’t know how. And Hyacinth has to be planning something more than just having me surrender my entads, not because that’s reasonable, but because it could never be that easy.”
“We should meet her and her people first, if that’s possible,” I said.
“I unfortunately agree,” replied Amaryllis. “We’re on uncertain ground once we land in Anglecynn, legally speaking, but if I take this as a gesture of goodwill from Rosemallow, or probably more accurately, as an indication that she has some unnamed use for me, then she should be able to shield us from overt legal action.”
“It doesn’t bode well for the terms of your agreement with Hyacinth,” said Raven.
“No, it doesn’t,” replied Amaryllis with a sigh.
“Her word was worth basically nothing anyway,” I replied.
“Should we land this craft?” asked Grak. “We could spend a day sending letters.”
“No,” I replied. “In theory, yes, but the border guard will report that we’ve crossed in, and if we’re worried about legal status … well, I would rather not .”
Amaryllis pinched the bridge of her nose. “I would really, really rather do the deal with Hyacinth, renounce my claims, and undergo sterilization, then leave.” She let out a breath, then lowered her head and clasped her hands together. “Lord, let me take this sinful world as it is, rather than as I would have it be. Amen.”
I wasn’t really sure how seriously she was taking the whole religion thing, but it had been a long, long time since I had seen someone sincerely stop what they were doing to make a prayer. If I thought of it as a form of meditation or emotion modulation, maybe that made it more sensible, but it was still weird to me. Still, for her, it might have been necessary, or helpful, and I wasn’t going to challenge her on it, not when we were so close to meeting her family.