‘Sshh, they’ll hear,’ Shala hissed.
‘Sorry.’ It had seemed like a good idea back in the Inn, as do many such ideas. But the ropes and the planks were awkward to carry.
‘Are you sure this is wise?’ Shala looked worried now. I could see the doubt in her eyes in the moonlight.
The moonlight got brighter, and then it wasn’t moonlight any longer.
‘Oh shi… Dad… Father… my lord.’ I would have dropped to my knees, but the planks were in the way. I managed to pick up the rope I’d dropped though.
‘What’s going on, boy?’ He looked stern like the images in the temple showing him smiting the unbelievers.
‘I… we…’ I looked at Shala, who was looking from him to me and back again as if she was working out a particularly tricky bar bill in the Inn. I shrugged.
‘Are you up to your old tricks again?’ He folded his arms. I had a feeling that under his robes his foot was tapping impatiently.
‘I just thought-’
‘I doubt it.’ He looked down at the planks and rope I was carrying. ‘I keep telling your mother that thinking is not your strong suit, but she keeps insisting about bringing you into the business.’ He looked around as if assessing his creation. ‘Hmmm,’ he muttered under his breath. He turned to Shala. ‘Who is this?’
‘Shala. She is the barmaid… at the Inn.’
‘Hello, sire, sir… your majesty.’ She curtsied.
‘Your majesty?’ He gave her one of those looks.
Luckily, she wasn’t a bush or she’d be on fire. Her face looked red enough – even in the moonlight – to spontaneously combust anyway.
I leant over to her. ‘My lord is usually considered proper.’
‘I’m sorry, my lord.’ She leant back towards me. I could smell the wine on her breath. ‘Is he-‘
‘And he is your-‘
‘So, you’re the son of-‘
‘Shit.’ She dropped to her knees, but not in the way she had back in the barn.
‘There’s no need for that.’ I took her by the elbow and lifter her to her feet. I could see she was thinking about the last time she’d been on her knees in front of me too. He tongue licked around the inside of her mouth. ‘It… it… He won’t do… anything to me, will He?’
I shook my head, hoping she would not elaborate. I could see my father was growing impatient. He doesn’t like spending time on his creation. I think he may be worried about complaints from his followers.
‘Anyway,’ he said, unnecessarily straightening his perfectly draped robe. ‘Your mother was wondering where you were. So I came to find you.’ He nodded to the planks and rope again. ‘You weren’t thinking about doing that thing in the crop fields with the circles and so on, were you?’
‘You remember what happened last time?’
‘Last time?’ Shala gave me one of those looks women give men. ‘You’ve done this before?’
My father turned back to her. ‘You’ve heard of the War of the Great Grain Fields in the time of Emperor Mankact?’
‘Yes, but that was hundreds of years ago.’ Shala stared at me – eyes wide.
‘Yes, that was him. He started it.’ He took my arm as I let the planks and rope drop to the ground. ‘Come on, you, time to go.’
‘Wait for me. I’ll be back,’ I yelled to Shala as the light engulfed us and we began to rise, but I’m not sure if she heard me.
‘She seemed like a nice girl,’ my father said.
I just nodded, not knowing what to say.
‘Too good for you.’
I knew he was right. He always is.