For her the fence made for an easy escape to the waterfront, the beach and the woods. She had also discovered secret passages within the walls and had explored. These hidden ways had allowed her to spy on the wizards.
She pulled on wide legged trousers and sat to tuck them into her boots. After pulling a tunic over her head, she laughed. She refused to wear the shapeless chiton worn by the women, slaves and breeders alike. She braided her hair and let the plait hang down her back. Though her hair was the same icy blonde as the wizards, hers had streaks of the colors of the fyrestones, red, orange, yellow and blue. Though she had never seen a blue stone. Her green eyes, unlike the frosted gray of the wizards spoke of her less than pure blood.
Cerene sat on the bed and spilled the contents of a leather pouch on the blanket. Metal chains, metal cages either empty or holding fyrestones and a single red stone. She lifted three chains and watched the caged stones flare to life. The yellow shed a ray of light, the orange a tongue of flame and the red brought her a sense of wellbeing. She hung the necklaces around her neck and tucked them beneath her tunic. She scooped the remaining treasures into the pouch and slid them into a small nook between the stones of the wall.
The second bell rang. “Cerene, get out here now.” Malda, the Hag Mother, shouted.
With brisk steps, Cerene entered the main room of the hareem. A dozen slave women, two breeders and six girls stood in a row while Malda inspected them.
The aged woman turned to Cerene. “Serve the porridge and break your own fast. You will escort the women to the garden to harvest root vegetables. Fall is upon us and the tubers must be stored for the winter. Send the girls into the woods to gather kindling.”
“Yes, Hag Mother.” Cerene bowed her head so Malda wouldn’t catch a hint of rebellious plans for the day.
“The wizards have a confab after breaking their fast. I will see to them.” The old woman wheeled and at the door turned. “Make sure the women and girls remain outside until the meeting ends.”
Cerene went to the cooking hearth and swung the huge kettle from the flames. She ladled cooked grains into bowls. The two breeders carried toe food to the long table. When Cerene scraped the kettle clean, she filled the vessel with water, added grain and swung the kettle over the lowest area of flames. Then she prepared food for Malda and herself.
Malda returned and scowled at the plates Cerene set on the table. She filled a cup with herbal tea. “There is no sweetener but honey. No fine ground flour for bread. We must eat this.” She grasped a piece of flatbread made from crudely ground meal. “The fruit remaining on the vines is for the wizards.” She scooped the eggs onto her plate leaving none for Cerene.
Cerene cut goat cheese to spread on her bread. When she finished eating, she escorted the women to the garden and instructed them to pull the tubers and load the wheelbarrows. Then she escorted the girls to the woods. Once they were occupied, she scurried away.
So the wizards meet. She would hear their plans.
With stealth she found the spot in the wooden fence where she had loosened boards. She slid them aside and slipped into the yard. When she reached the rear entrance, she stepped into the narrow hall. A smile curved her mouth. Once inside the passage, ten steps would take her to the place where she could see and hear the wizards.
Her fingers found the pattern on the stone. Silently the wall parted revealing a wide area that became a narrow passage. She entered and paused to allow her eyes to adjust to the dim light. Walking into the passage, she counted her steps and took care not to raise dust to make her sneeze. Her first visit to these passages had nearly revealed her presence. She’d removed the cobwebs and swept most of the accumulated dust.
At the tenth step, she halted and pressed her face to the wall where a pair of holes allowed her to view the happenings. She saw the conference table and the eight remaining wizards. Since their exile here on the isle where they had once lived had begun, most of the wizards from the captured Citadel had died. Of the nine, only two were first level.
Cemon, chief wizard and her father entered the room. He raised his ironwood tipped wand. The white stone on the tip remained unlit. He rapped the table. “We are gathered here to find a solution to our problems. Our supply of white fyrestones dwindles. Soon there will be none.”
Zondo, her father’s second snorted. “All such stones are
found on the
Her father nodded. “For the present we must learn ways to keep the ones we have active.”