“Do you think it’s safe yet?” Kana asked her sister. Safara didn’t respond at first, and when she did, she obviously had been ignoring her.
“Let’s go South this time and climb the wall.” Safara turned toward her sister, blonde curls bouncing with her excitement. “We can drop down into the Dogleg Forest. No one would think we’d go that way.”
Kana made a noncommittal noise as she looked nervously out of the second-floor window. She fidgeted with the ribbons she had tied in her hair, blonde like her twin sister though they weren’t identical. Kana was taller and had straight, straw-colored hair while Safara looked more like their mom with her delicate stature and golden curls.
“Alright,” Safara stood with a glitter in her eye, “You ready?”
Kana smiled in response and the two of them started out, out the door to the balcony and down the spiral staircase to the patio. From there, Kana walked boldly in the open with an air of confidence that, coupled with her tall stature, sometimes fooled people into mistaking her for a lady of the house, rather than a child barely old enough to be served wine at banquets.
Today, however, there was no one around to fool. Kana turned and beckoned to her sister, who bounced up beside her. They began walking from shadow to shadow, between buildings and through dark gardens, avoiding the lit walkways until they came to a small, well lit outbuilding that stood near the wall.
Safara gave Kana a questioning look that told Kana that there was no way to avoid the light from the small building. After a moment of thought, Kana’s expression settled and she started walking around to the left side of the building. Her skirts whispered against her boots as she worked to keep her steps quiet. Safara hurried to catch up, noticeably louder as the practiced sway of her hips rattled the silver coins tied there.
Just as Safara sidled up to Kana, and the two of them were about to pass the building, there was a thunk and hushed voices raised to shouting within. The two teens paused at the same time, eyes wide and heads craning toward the noise. Glancing at each other, suddenly their plans for the night were far less interesting than that outbuilding and whatever was happening inside.
It was a short walk to the other side of the building, where they could slide near to the window, pressed against the wall. They could still hear the voices inside, and Safara saw that the window was unlocked, so she took a risk to push in the side of the window using two fingers, so that the other side would open a crack. After shifting toward the open side, the voices were far more clear, though not yet distinct enough to follow the conversation.
Footsteps clicked angrily toward the window, and they thought for sure that they’d been caught. Safara put her head down and shrunk against the wall before the window thunked shut. When Safara looked up, however, Kana was looking into the the window with a shocked look on her face that swiftly settled into confusion, then grim determination. When Kana stood, Safara understood what her goal might be, but not her reasoning, and tried to grab at her arm.
Kana shook her off, reached for the door to the outbuilding and threw it open. Inside, two figures turned toward the open door. One, a Beastman slave. The other, a slender woman in a night dress. Kana strode in, facing her mother, who leaned to the side a little and closed a small book. After recovering from the surprise, the Beastman ducked his head and excused himself.
“Kana!” Chaura admonished her daughter, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“What is going on here? Why was a slave shouting at you?” Kana stood to her full height, already taller than her mother by an inch. Safara’s guilty form appeared behind her, looking appropriately chagrined.
“He wasn’t. It was I shouting at him.” Chaura Rosornos’ expression hardened as she seemed to realize what had happened. “You were sneaking out again.”
The girls wilted.
“Do I need to post a guard for you two?” Chaura continued. She stormed toward them, scooping up the book she had closed when they had appeared, and charged down on Safara, who was still cringing behind Kara.
“You’re sleeping in my room tonight.” Chaura announced, after a terrifying silence that caused even Kana to shift uncomfortably, “And those dresses. That’s the price.”
As they followed their mother back to the residence hall, Kana and Safara shared a look that promised future enterprises uncovering this new mystery.