Sartore and Maisero learn more about Balto and Anastasia's organizing.
|Sartore could sense something twisting in Maisero’s face as Anastasia spoke. He didn’t quite understand it. Part of him wanted Anastasia to stop talking, just to stop that ugly transformation, and Maisero’s accompanying fidgeting and restlessness.
“When they gather, you will not speak, you will not complain, you will stand still and say nothing unless prompted. Understood?”
“Why is that?” Maisero asked. “Do I not have the right to speak for myself?”
“Not for them, no. This isn’t some sanctioned play we’re putting on. You won’t have the chance to martyr yourself if things go poorly for you. Understood?”
Maisero whispered something under his breath, gritted his teeth together and clenched his fists while he stared down at the dirt under his shoes, but he stayed quiet. But that churning in his expression was still there; it had grown so chaotic that Sartore could feel something dark, like a shadow, cast from maisero’s body.
“And where is this meeting to be held?” Maisero asked.
“In the courtyard at the center of the city.”
“What? In public? What kind of organization is this? No secrecy?”
“How would secrecy help us? You think trying to defend against the Sacredate would be best done in private? So that the everybody else who lives here has no idea what’s going on?”
“So does the Sacredate, no? His spies will see everything.”
“Like his spies have ever changed anything, or a little bit of secrecy at that. He’ll know whatever we’re doing regardless of if his spies catch us doing it. He doesn’t need them. They’re more of a show than anything else.”
“When is everybody gathering?” Sartore spoke, head tilted up and squinting through the glare of sunlight. Suddenly Anastasia’ expression grew softer and more relaxed.
“Now,” Anastasia replied, and after a moment of silence, turned and began walking down the length of the barrier that she had stopped at. Sartore began to follow, but Maisero stayed still.
“Wait, child,” Maisero said. Sartore turned around, but only for a second before he instinctively shot his head back at Anastasia’s shrinking figure, making sure not to let her out of his sight for too long, just in case she disappeared. Sartore wasn’t moving, so Maisero walked up to him instead and kneeled down in the dirt.
“I believe, child, that you and I have found ourselves in similar circumstances. Wouldn’t you agree?” Sartore nodded, although his eyes still followed Anastasia.
“Pay attention, child. You and I, we are being carried blindly and without hesitation into a trap. I’m sure of it, beyond any shadow of a doubt. This will not end well for the two of us if we follow her, I promise you. Balto brought us here to be leveraged and bartered over. Anastasia is moving us towards this meeting of hers, which is cloaked in many strange rituals that beggar belief, which makes me certain that there is nothing genuine or legitimate in it. This is the unfortunate truth, child: we’ve been lied to since we stepped onto the boat.
“So what do you say? I suggest we make our escape now, run down the coast, make a getaway via the nearest boat, and we can make due with what we have, can’t we? Does that sound agreeable enough to you, child?”
Sartore blinked back at him. Then he was reminded of Anastasia, and snapped his head back to her, beginning to run in that direction, but Maisero grabbed his head and body, repositioning it towards himself like a child plays with a doll.
“I need your answer now, child. Don’t be concerned with such things, and give me an answer.” Now Sartore was concerned. He thought Maisero might reach out, grow some fangs in the process, and bite him.
“I don’t think so . . .” Sartore began, but he didn’t need to finish the thought.
“Hurry up,” Anastasia shouted. “I don’t know what you two are discussing over there, Maisero, but I expect that you will stop whatever it is and come along already.” Sartore slipped out of Maisero grasp and ran towards her. Maisero sat there for a minute, then followed.