A Bandit Accountant
Chapter Three Quarters of Twelve
Scene Five: Nearly at Liberty
Pecunia towered over him. By that, Denario knew that he must be sitting down. Spiritually, she was immense. Physically she was only a few fingers taller. Now she wore a high, lace collar and an urgent expression. Her delicate brow knotted. She leaned closer.
“Where are they?” she demanded.
The scene behind Pecunia shifted. A door opened. He could see the sky and a wispy cloud. With no effort at all, he rose. He strode out the door with this beautiful woman by his side. Her collar had changed. Now it was green. Her whole dress was green. It went with her golden hair. He tried to tell her that. His fingers rose up as he prepared to speak.
“Where are the boys?” she asked.
Suddenly he knew. Guilder, Kroner, Mark, Shekel, and Buck were far away. He needed to find them. He turned, searching. He saw blue sky, tall grass, and distant forest all around. There was nothing else. He needed to find his boys.
“Home,” he breathed. “Aren't they? But which way should I go?”
He stopped moving. Pecunia circled around him. She kept studying his clothes, his shoes, his face. On her second pass behind him, her appearance began to change. Her hair darkened. Her skin turned a luxurious brown, almost like his own but with a golden undertone. Her hair straightened as much as his. She kept walking. She got shorter. She got wider. He saw she was gaining weight. Her dress changed into a plain smock.
“Find the boys,” she insisted.
Her pace picked up. She circled around him and made his head swivel. Her hair curled. Was she turning back into herself? No. Yet she was becoming lighter again. Her clothes were growing more ornate. Her dress bunched up. It looked too big, better than the smock but it was nothing like her usual high fashion. She gave him a determined smile.
When she did that, she looked up at him. She had become almost child-sized.
“Where are you?” she said.
“I don't know,” he replied. “I'm lost.”
“Hurry,” she whispered. “Hurry.”
She turned her back on him. He watched her spiral away. She was moving in an arc even though she appeared to be walking straight. What's the mathematics of the arc? he wondered. It looked like the classic one, in which the radius was equal to a constant plus another constant multiplied by the angle of departure. He estimated the angle at thirty degrees. Beautiful. But she was keeping her back to him and barely glancing over her shoulder. Her hair was growing golden. Her skin was brightening. She was returning to her usual self.
“The boys,” she said. Her voice sounded very distant.
He turned away from her. It was hard to do. His arms stretched out as he searched for his apprentices. He could feel the land. It was in the air between his fingertips. It was slipping by. It was passing through him.
The boys were too far away to reach. But he could feel their footfalls. They were marching, running, skipping, jumping, or just ambling along. They were in motion. He tried to embrace them, to catch them by the sound of their feet, a sensation so tangible he wondered if he could pull it out of the air. Each set of feet was a clump of spider silk. He thought he could smell rice pudding for a moment, as if one of the girls next door was trying to lure Buck to them with food and he'd caught the scent. But as he tried to gather all the perfumes and noises in his hands, he lost them all.
He couldn't feel the boys. He started to run in the direction of the last group of wind-blown sensations. Nothing, just a girl's laughter.
Denario woke with his feet kicking his blanket. He wiped his face. It dripped with his sweat and the early morning dew. He shivered and pulled himself closer to the fire.
Next: Chapter Nine, Scene Six
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