The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: July 12, 2016
Ch. 1111

“I’m not an idiot,” he said. “My intelligence just happens to be different from yours.”
“Good God,” she said. “You’re unbelievable. Could you please just gather some news? I can’t formulate a plan to rescue Karen until I have intel on the enemy troop formations, so to speak.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just snoop around and listen to what people are saying, and maybe ask a question or two, like ‘What’s the latest out of Sest?’ Unless that’s too complicated for you, of course.”
“Why can’t you just speak plainly in the first place? It would save a lot of arguing.”
“Help me off this blasted beast, and I’ll circle around the town and meet you on the other side. Plain enough for you?”
He gave her a hand down, and she stalked off into the woods.
As Tommy rode into town, a king’s man stopped him and asked whether he’d seen a blonde-haired white girl on the road. Tommy lied, trying to remain calm. Tommy hoped he hadn’t raised any suspicions—everyone always told Tommy he was a bad liar.
Tommy once again considered leaving Clare behind, but he knew he could never bring himself to do it.
He gathered the news in town, which mainly consisted of the king’s ride through town. The people seemed to think Karen was some sort of celebrity, and the tales of her beating up the king’s guard had grown. One man claimed she’d fought off three disgruntled guards who’d attacked the king.
On the other side of town, Tommy picked Clare up and gave her the news. She admitted the news hadn’t helped her, yet she insisted he continue gathering news in every town they came to.
The following morning was largely the same: Tommy gathering useless news, king’s men questioning him, and Clare arguing with him.
In the afternoon, Tommy gave her the news that Count Sorfan Crawley had been arrested by the king, and the count’s brother was rumored to be considering rebelling against the king.
“Now that’s the kind of news that might prove useful,” Clare said. “Keep doing whatever you did to find that out.”
“I did the same thing I always do, Your Highness. Is there anything else I can do for you, Madam? Some tea, perhaps?”
She didn’t answer.
“Pray tell me, Your Highness. Does this news of Count Crawley help you formulate a plan?”
“It might help later, but I don’t know how, yet. We’ll just have to continue gathering news.”
“How about this plan, Your Highness? We just go to the palace and ask for Karen. Surely, the guards would obey a simple request from Your Highness?”
“You don’t even realize the irony in that statement.”
“And of course Your Highness can’t stoop to explaining anything to a mere mortal like myself.”
She didn’t answer.
At the next town, Tommy gathered the news and rode out to meet Clare on the other side of town, but she was nowhere to be seen. He rode back and forth on the road for a couple hours, but she didn’t pop out of the woods. At dusk, he rode back to town, but he didn’t hear any news of a strange girl being found. He rode back to the outskirts of town, but she didn’t appear.
Searching for her in the dark would be difficult, and if he were caught snooping around, he might end up in jail. So finally, well after dark, he made camp in the woods, hoping against hope to find her in the morning.

Tommy woke in the middle of the night. Someone was shaking him, and there was a hand over his mouth. He grabbed the person and started to wrestle with him, but then he realized it was a her.
He released her.
She held her finger to her mouth, and whispered in his ear. “Someone was following you on horseback. I saw him from a hilltop while waiting for you. He snuck into the woods while you rode back and forth, and then, when you went to town, he waited for you to come back. I’m not sure where he is now, but this might be our only chance to lose him.”
He saddled Lightning and led her on foot through the woods, away from the road, with Clare following him. They circled wide for about an hour, then headed at an angle back to the road. They rode until dawn and then camped in the woods to get some sleep.
They slept until about noon and then rode cross-country, roughly paralleling the road. Late in the afternoon, they skirted halfway around a town, but then stopped in a secluded spot. Clare again insisted that Tommy gather news, and he relented—it was better than listening to her raspy whining for the rest of the day. Tommy walked to town while Clare stayed with Lightning.
Tommy made as discrete an entrance to town as he could and tried not to do anything in town to attract attention. It didn’t take him long to gather a juicy bit of news that seemed to be on every tongue. After hearing it, he headed straight back to Clare and gave her the news.
Her jaw dropped. “Prince Rigel is getting married in two days?”
He nodded.
“Oh, my God!” she said.
“What is it?”
“It’s true! Incest does reign in Sest! Quite literally!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Prince Rigel is going to marry Karen!”
“That’s completely ridiculous.”
She sighed. “You’re right. I’m just exaggerating a bit. Forget I said anything.”
He shook his head. Clare was the oddest creature he’d ever met.
“According to the map, this is the last town before we reach Sest,” she said. “I need you to go back to town and buy paper and pen. It’s really important. I think I know how to rescue Karen.”
He sighed. Risking town again just to buy pen and paper was beyond stupid, but he didn’t argue. He was thoroughly sick of arguing with her and equally sick of losing every argument.
He bought pen and paper, and they continued cross-country toward Sest City. She took every opportunity to write things down, filling several sheets, though she wouldn’t tell him what she was writing.
They arrived in Sest City just after dark. Tommy was flabbergasted at the size of the city, which seemed at least three times as big as Silver City. Oil streetlamps lined either side of the street, something he hadn’t seen in Silver City, and most of the buildings were at least ten stories tall, twice as tall as anything he’d remembered in Silver city. Nearly as surprising was the fact that white folk were all over the place, almost as plentiful as brownies.

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