Chapter Twice Eight
Scene One: Rehearsal“What are you doing?” Valentina said as Denario ducked behind a shrine. She hid behind the ivy at his side. Hermann joined. The taller two had to crouch to avoid being seen from the road.
The accountant dropped his weapons. He knew that he needed them for later. There was a lot of land to travel, no matter what the Oggli troops thought of him striding armed through their re-claimed territories. But he to carry his equipment while looking harmless. The spear already appeared to be a transit because that's mostly what it was. He couldn't disguise the sword so he'd have to bluff his way with that. Maybe it wouldn't seem so odd to the soldiers to find an accountant carrying weapons out here in the wilds. He could tell them the bow was for hunting.
He untied the straps on the front of his brass-studded, oxhide jerkin. One arm slipped free. He turned and let the armor fall to the ground.
“My gods, I feel twenty pounds lighter without that!” he exclaimed.
“You need protection,” said Hermann. He had his sword drawn and he pointed with the tip of it to the discarded jerkin. “Especially now.”
“No, I don't. First, I've got chain mail between my shirts. Second, I'm an accountant.” Denario set down his traveling packs. He laid his accounting bag next to them. He'd need to rummage through.
“So I'm dressing as an accountant to save my life.” His arm sunk into his pack up to the elbow. He'd stored his vest at the top of it to act as a cushion. That was weeks ago. He hadn't worn it since and, what with one task and another, he'd used nearly everything else. Now the vest had fallen to the bottom.
“What about our lives?” Valentina asked rather reasonably. Fortunately, Denario had a plan. As he tried to give voice to it, he encountered self-doubts. Maybe the Mundredi couldn't pull it off. But he didn't see any other way. They'd have to try.
“You ... you're my servants. Got it? You're here to help me with my map-making for the Marquis de Oggli.” He stopped what he was doing, grabbed a roll of maps from his bag, and waggled it at them. Then he slipped it back in. “My other servants died. So I hired you. Understand?”
“Not really.” Hermann scratched his head.
“Yes,” said Valentina. She smacked her fist. “But will they believe it?”
Denario rose with the vest in his hands. He slipped it on and started fastening the buttons.
“If I look like a snob and a pansy ... and just generally like a big spender ... and you look like greedy cowards, well, it could work.” His fingers still knew the vest perfectly, every thread. In a few seconds, he finished. He only needed his cap to complete the outfit.
“You're going to look like a flower?” asked Hermann. He stared at the bright red accountant's vest for the first time. The gold brocade on it must have seemed a bit loud. His eyes widened.
“Not a flower, a pansy. Oh, right, a pansy is a flower ... what's the word I want? Rich. I want to look rich and a bit lazy.”
“I've got some goose grease. And a comb.” Valentina reached into her pack. A moment later, a black pouch and a fishbone carding tool appeared in her hands.
“What for?” Denario stepped back. “Oh, right. My hair.”
“You might not have looked in a mirror lately. We do have them, you know,” she said reproachfully.
He submitted to a bit of grooming while he had Hermann dig into his accounting bag. It didn't take long for the man to find his red-and-gold cap. Then Hermann pulled a brush from his supplies to knock off some of the trail dirt from Denario's clothes. He and his wife worked together like they were married. They traded tools without a spoken word. Valentina put the cap on the accountant's head. Hermann tied a lace on Denario's boots.
“You need to hide the coin.” Valentina's fingers pulled his collar wide. She tucked the blue symbol of royalty next to the necklace from Pecunia.
“Is that necessary?” he asked, temporarily worried that she would see the gold pendant. “Those men won't know what it means.”
“Do you want to take that chance?”
He grunted. There was no use arguing with her when she was right. Probably there would have been no use arguing if she were wrong.
“Servants,” he said as he pushed them back gently. He tried to act like the most pompous of the court accountants. He picked up his bags. “How do I look?”
“You're not doing it right,” said Valentina. “You shouldn't be carrying all that.”
“If we're your servants, we should carry almost everything.”
Hermann stared at his wife like she'd grown an extra nose.
“Damn it, you're right.” Denario saw that she had a good point. He handed his two heaviest travel bags to Hermann. Best to laden the man down, he thought, and make him look as harmless as possible. “What else am I forgetting?”
“Your maps should stick out, I think.”
“Sounds good.” He lifted the roll of maps so that it hung out of the front a bit.
“Your accent is sounding funny now, a bit like a knight's man.” Hermann looked puzzled.
“Is that how Oggli natives speak?” wondered Valentina. “What about the women? How should I act?”
“You don't look Oggli. Just treat me like royalty.”
“You mean with suspicion?”
“No! Do you really? Well, yes, I suppose you do. Just act like I'm brilliant and you're humble, okay? Think humble.”
“I've never been good at that,” said Valentina.
“Then concentrate on being ignorant.”
“I can do that, easy,” Hermann assured him.
“Wonderful,” said Denario. He hitched his accounting bag up to his shoulder with his roll of maps sticking out the front. “Well, they probably saw us when we noticed them. So let's go greet them like we're not worried, just ignorant fools tramping through the wilderness.”
“I thought we were going to put on an act instead,” grumbled Hermann.
Next: Chapter Sixteen, Scene Two