"I think two weeks will be enough time," Kyros said.
"Plus the three days to ride back, of course," Sophos said.
I nodded. My mouth had gone very dry.
"Go make sure Zhade is settled, take care of any other last-minute errands, and return to my office after dark," Kyros said. "We'll transfer you to Sophos's entourage then."
Before visiting Zhade, I decided to visit the Temple of Athena. I wasn't particularly devout, but I made occasional visits anyway, mostly out of a vague feeling that it couldn't hurt and might even help. The temple was near the center of town, a newer building, very pretty. The street outside was crammed full of vendors selling honey and other items to offer up. Alexander's Temple was around the corner, so I could hear the din of animals being sold for sacrifice quite close by. I bought a jar of honey and carried it in, laying it down in front of the altar.
It was a busy afternoon, with other supplicants and wors.h.i.+ppers going in and out. Most were female-men tended to wors.h.i.+p Alexander. I paused to meditate for a few minutes and articulate my request. Let my mission be successful. No, best to be specific: Let me accomplish my mission and return in triumph. And then, my vague, nagging worry: Let me accomplish my mission and return alive and unhurt.
As I gazed absently at the altar, I saw a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye and swung around to see an acolyte stomping on something. "Sorry," she whispered apologetically when she saw that she'd disturbed me. "Spider."
I nodded. I could see why she was so disturbed.
The Alas.h.i.+ wors.h.i.+pped Arachne, the spider-G.o.ddess, who had been cursed by Athena herself for her false pride in her weaving. They also wors.h.i.+pped Prometheus, the fire-bringer, but at least he didn't send his avatars to creep into Alexander's Temple... I tried to focus on the altar again, but my prayer was done; I went back out into the street.
I spent the rest of the day with Zhade, first taking her out to the hills for a gallop, then bringing her back to the stable to feed and groom her. The stable girl was there, quietly grooming one of the ponies. She was even dirtier than usual, and she shrank even farther into the shadows when she realized that I was looking at her. I turned self-consciously back to Zhade.
"Lauria!" It was Myron, coming in to get his own horse. "I heard a rumor you'd be leaving for a while."
"Yeah." I looked up, resting my brush on Zhade, trying to make it clear that he'd interrupted me in the middle of something.
But Myron just leaned back against a stable box, oblivious to my irritation. "So! Where's the old man sending you?"
"You'd better ask Kyros if you really want to know." I wasn't sure how much Myron knew about my mission, but I couldn't imagine the details were public.
"Oh, Lauria. You're the best of all of us, you know?" He capped that with a patronizi
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