Previously at the Thorny Rose...
“Come on.” Ben got quietly out of his seat, and with the others closely grouped, slunk away from their table. Once outside, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“Are they all mad?” Claire asked.
“Does it matter? They’re mercenaries. They’ll fight for any kingdom; they’re not even from Orin. The Citadel is in Airadi,” Ben answered.
“I don’t think they’re all mad, Claire,” said Rendy, his eyebrows pursed together. “Maybe only the ones struck by Beyl.” They glanced surreptitiously at the red moon and made a warding sign against bad luck.
“What happens to the girls, you think, the ones struck by Beyl?” asked Claire.
The group looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. You don’t hear about many women being struck,” said Rendy.
“Not by Beyl, anyway,” said Ben. “Maybe they become Red Sisters? . . .” Claire slapped him on the back of the head.
“Owe. What was that for?” Ben rubbed the back of his head.
“For being stupid.”
“Remember when my family went to the capital last year, we were gone all summer?” said Reia. The others nodded. “I met a Red Sister. She was beautiful,” Reia said softly, her eyes distant. “Girls go to the sisterhood to be educated. When they’re old enough, the smartest and prettiest are given the option to enter training to become a sister. I talked to her, she said I wasn’t too old and I might be able to enter.”
“Why would you want to do that? They’re just whores, Reia?” Ben said. Reia looked away blushing.
Claire slapped him on the back of the head again, harder this time. “They’re educated and beautiful. They’re not whores; they’re companions of noblemen and kings. They are paid well for their time and tithe back to the Citadel.” Claire walked up the Reia and took her arm, “Come on Reia, let’s go home.” Claire glared at Ben behind Reia’s back.
Ben watched them go, mystified. “I don’t understand? What’d I say?” He looked at Rendy, wide eyed.
Rendy shook his head, “You really need to pay better attention, baker boy. Knock the flour out of your ears now and then.”
“What?” Ben spread his hands.
“Reia’s parents applied to the Citadel, to the Red Sisters, for her. She was accepted on the recommendation of the sister they met at the capital. If she passes training, Reia will be a Red Sister.”
“Oh.” He knew Reia’s parents needed money, but a Red Sister? And he had just insulted her. His heart sank. “I need to go find her and apologize. Come on Ren.”
It was full dark. Ben walked quickly through moonlight and shadow. Goose bumps raised the hair on his arms and his neck. He stopped startled and looked around, then up.
“I know. That may be ill-met before Revel is over,” send Rendy, also looking skyward at the twin circles of Rella and Beyl.Ben hated when Rella was full. The blue light made his skin itch; sometimes at night, whispering woke him, but no one was ever there. He shivered and set off toward Reia’s house running from shadow to shadow, avoiding the light.