We’re at the stern of the Flying Fish, a yacht Chypa has rented for our trip back to Auspulia. When I suggested that we take a less conspicuous means of transportation, Chypa shook her head. “I’ve traveled the world. I’ve long since got tired of cramped cabins and salted pork.”
“So you don’t know what we’re getting into, you don’t have a plan, and the person you think is in control is the person you’re most afraid of. Does that about sum it up, Tollon?” This is Chypa, on the second day of our voyage.
“I am not afraid of Vorana,” I reply, not entirely truthfully.
“Well, you should be,” is Chypa’s reply. “She traumatized you once, she could easily do it again. And it’s not as if we’re going to surprise her.”
“I said we should have taken a more inconspicuous ship.” I point out.
“Not the issue, Tollon. Remember, Vorana was Sarton’s second wife, while I was his third. We crossed paths. I couldn’t get within a country league of her without her knowing it, nor she me.” Chypa turns to stare out at the sea. “Besides, I want her to know we’re coming.”
I can tell when I’m being prodded to ask for an explanation. “Why?”
“Time for negotiations. Why fight if we can talk it out? Vorana’s a simple creature. She’s not really interested in power as such, just in satisfying her wants. If she has taken control of Auspulia, she had some motivation that can probably be satisfied by something a good deal less troublesome.” Chypa sighs. “I spent enough years running the government of Tanifisay to save it from a bad prince. It’s not something one should do unless one wants to.” She turns to look at me again. “I suppose I should thank you. If you two hadn’t blundered into the court, I’d still be there.”
I don’t bother replying. For someone who never actually blames me for anything, Chypa manages to make me feel at fault all the time. It’s beginning to burn me up.
At least one mystery has been cleared up. Why is she called Chypa the Stranger? Because she normally allows her appearance to change a little bit every day. Her skin has gone from almost white to light green in two days, she’s grown about two inches in height, and her figure has become a bit more voluptuous. She told me the five years she didn’t let it change while she was Mistress of the Robes is the longest she’s ever looked the same.
Chypa offers me a small smile. “You’re probably worried about Sarton.”
She shrugs. “Not really. We separated because we couldn’t stand each other anymore. It was the sort of breakup that leaves both parties hoping they never see each other again. It’s one reason I went off traveling. I knew Sarton would never leave Auspulia.”
I chew on that. “If you don’t care about Sarton, then why are you coming with us?”
Chypa looks out to sea again. It’s a while before she answers. “Really? Because I was tired of Tanifisay. Because it’s an adventure. Because Vorana’s a destructive force. Because Sarton’s a holy fool. Because I like your Inacha.” She turns and gives me a searching look. “Because you’re still wet behind the ears and playing in a game way above your abilities. That’s not your fault. Magicians need time to grow and mature. People need time to grow and mature. Getting killed before they get that chance is a tragedy.” She looks back out to sea again.
What Chypa said reminds me of something. “I learned when my sister Jallia died that being a hero isn’t the point.”
“And what are you trying to be now, Tollon?”
I admit it. “A hero.”
Still looking out to sea, Chypa nods. “Then maybe you haven’t made up your mind about the hero business yet.”