Janaya paced quickly among the tents, then swung into a trail through the woods around the camp. Miranda walked a step behind. She kept her eyes down while they were among the tents, but once the trees surrounded them, she felt free to look around. She could glimpse the tents through the trees, and she saw women everywhere. She couldn’t see a single man, nor could she see any sign of laziness. Every woman seemed to be engaged in some industrious activity. Even the ones outside the tent marked ‘Medical’ were knitting while they stood in line.
How would she ever find out what she needed to? Perhaps she would fail Christalos. She felt like crying at the thought of coming so far, only to fail. She followed Janaya automatically, hardly watching where they were going. She nearly bumped into Janaya when the woman stopped and turned to her accusingly.
“Who are you? You aren’t even watching where we are going, yet you don’t stumble, you don’t crack sticks, and you only almost bumped into me because I stopped without a reason. I think you are really a trained spy. I should turn you in.”
“Oh, no, mira. I’m not a spy. I just want to learn more about the Great Lady and be part of this amazing enterprise.”
“Don’t give me that. I saw you at first, before you realized how deferential The Lady likes us to be. Who are you?”
Mira looked at her and realized that evasions would be useless. Yet what could she give except evasions?
“I haven’t been trained. Not formally. My uncle is the chief hunter for our village, and I used to go out with him to track game. He taught me the importance of moving silently in the forest, and how to move without sound while watching the game. If I lack deference, it is because I am unused to it. My father is the village chief, and I am used to receiving deference, not giving it. I am doing my best to learn this new way needed here.”
Janaya watched Miranda doubtfully. Miranda could see the conflicting thoughts cross her face.
“I don’t believe you,” she finally said, “but I can’t prove it. I’ll be watching you. One mistake, and I’ll be there with a knife. Got it?”
Janaya turned back to the path through the woods.