For [livejournal.com profile] mini_nanowrimo.

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Turnspit walked to the opposite side of the garden and through the archway onto another landing with stairs going down. He cautiously approached the railing and looked down

Gardens and shining buildings cascaded from the plateau, going down and down until Turnspit couldn’t see for dizziness.

He swallowed hard and walked back into the garden where Iros paced. The fountain was a cool place to sit; he trailed a hand in the water, watching his clockwork flow up and down his skin.

He wasn't sure how long he'd been staring through the water, watching the play of light on his skin and clockwork, and down to the mosaic tiling lining the fountain. He only noticed Iros when the aughisky came over and sat down.

"Are you well, my Dog?"

Turnspit smiled ruefully. "My head aches – the memory stone, I think, and the Stormbringer's presence. What were you thinking, throwing your power at her? She could stomp you like a mouse."

"She won't. And she's deliberately being rude. You're my Dog. No one can take you from me." Iros stopped, his eyes drawing down in concern. "Unless you chose to go…"

"Are you insane? She'd stomp me like a mouse, too!"

Iros blinked, then smiled. "She's very powerful. You could live very well as a Dog to such a Lord, instead of running after a Rider who has barely anything to his name. What property I have is only because I was the only adult at Windsprint's funeral."

"She would stomp me like a mouse. And you are my aughisky."

Iros laughed and wrapped his hand around Turnspit's neck, bringing their heads together. "I like you too, Turnspit."

They sat like that a moment, breathing the air together, just being.

"Your head better?"

"Not really." Turnspit sighed, "You and the Stormbringer, it felt like a fight. My clockwork is still clicking. Though I think that might be the memory stone – see?" He held out his hands. The clockwork spiral up over the back of his hand, then down again.

"Come." Iros stood and drew Turnspit back up the stairs. They went up the landing, but instead of going into the Stormbringer's hall, Iros led around a corner.

Turnspit pulled away from Iros, out of his hands, shocked. "This isn't memory stone!"

Iros looked up at the carved wall. "It is so."

"It doesn't look anything like the memory stone we saw!" Turnspit was bewildered. This was high relief sculpture. The fine details were lost to time, but the central figure was as obvious as a portrait. A woman, her hair streaming down her body, and rays spiraling from her head, smiled down at them. She was standing beside a curule chair, and her hands were upraised like a blessing. There were smaller figures around her, carrying platters of meat and bread, playing flutes and drums, racing, dancing, living.

"So? It sings just the same." Iros brushed a hand over the stone, humming.

"But… how? This is so different."

"That was made by the Dog People, back in the Before-time. They didn't carve figures in relief like this; they chipped pictures into the rock face."

Turnspit stepped closer. "Then who made this? And what does it tell you?"

Iros' face turned dreamy as his hand played over the dancing figures, over the forested borders of beasts and mounted hunters. "The ones who lived here in the Before-time made this. I don't know who they were; that part of the recitation doesn't mean anything to me. But here," he caressed a horse and rider, "here is my kind. Hunting for the Queen, the way we did back in the Before-time."

Turnspit wanted to touch the stone, feel the singing that Iros could hear, but didn't. The last time he's touch memory stone, his clockwork had run mad, and it had taken Iros hitting him free before the pain stopped.

He was stopped from doing something foolish when something small and dark ran in front of him and latched onto Iros' leg with a squeal of glee.

"What—"

Iros laughed and leaned down to pick up the toddling infant who was grinning up at him toothily. "Hello, squeaker. Where did you come from?"

"Oh no," came a cry from behind them. "I'm sorry, Honorable Rider, Honorable Dog. She got away from me."

Turnspit looked towards the voice, blanched, and then looked down immediately. The girl hurrying up to them was plump, somewhat pretty, and well endowed. He was quite sure of that, because her clothes were immodest in the extreme – a long skirt slit up to her thighs, a white mantle wrapped around her waist, and a tight jacket that lifted her breasts up, but did not cover them at all. He had seen her nipples, God's mercy.

He could look at Iros, who had noticed his fluster and was grinning to match the tot. His aughisky inclined his head, and said, "It is no matter. She's very friendly. Is she yours?"

The girl was standing beside him now, and Turnspit could see her small bare feet shuffle as he kept his eyes averted.

"Oh no, Honorable Rider," the girl said, stepping forward and retrieving the infant from Iros' arms. "This is Lord Stormbringer's youngest. I'm just the nurse. Hickory, from Bluefoot Farm."

"They grow indigo there, don't they?"

"Yes, my mother is a dyer." She stopped, then asked, "Is your Dog all right? He's awfully… red."

Iros laughed. "He's just shy. And embarrassed. Right, Turnspit?"

Turnspit snapped his head up to glare at Iros. "I'm modest, and have manners, you idiot." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the girl's eyes go wide.

Iros turned to the girl, and bent his head as if imparting a secret. "He's just upset that he's seen your teats, Hickory. He's very shy, you see."

"Oh!" the girl said, and hurriedly pulled up the mantle wrapped around her waist. Tucking it over her shoulders while the tot 'helped', she asked, "Is this better?"

Turnspit risked looking at her directly, and nodded. It wasn't much better, as her mantle was open lacework and thus even where it was doubled over, Turnspit could see the warm nut color of her skin.

"I am sorry that we interrupted you, Honorable Rider. Were you listening to the memory stone?"

"A bit. More I was showing it to Turnspit. He's only seen one other example."

"Oh, there's many more pieces, further down in the gardens!" Hickory chirped, her free hand flying out to encompass all the stairs down.

"I know. I was born on this Holding."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply..."

"It's all right. I'm with Magpie's Slew now, and have a farm that I won at a funeral."

"Oh. That's good. Stop that, Brighteyes," she said, as the child in her arms grabbed at Iros' braids.

"'Brighteyes'? The Stormbringer hasn't changed; still tagging her infants with that." Iros chuckled, but the tone was bitter to Turnspit's ears.

Hickory turned to look at Iros. "Don't you think she has bright eyes? They're very pretty." She leaned forward a bit, confiding, "The Lord Stormbringer finally found a good sire for her children."

"Really?" Iros asked.

Turnspit sighed. Iros was obviously in a gossipy mood, which meant he was going to spend a long time listening to chatter about people he didn't know and places he'd never been until Iros decided he was hungry and took them off to look for a meal.

"Oh yes," Hickory smiled. Then her face clouded over. "You do know about her problem...?"

"That she has only one child born aughisky? Oh, yes, that's common knowledge, as is the fact that she's sired many get that reached their novitiates."

"Well, that child was sired by a Selkie man." Hickory shivered, "But you know how Selkies are—"

"Loud, vicious, and annoying," Iros said, apparently for Turnspit's benefit, because he winked over Hickory's head at him.

"Right. And never around when you need them, Lord Stormbringer says. But one of the Slews brought back a half-blood male a few years ago. He's tall and broad and has these lovely, lovely ox eyes," at this, Hickory grinned and rubbed noses with her tiny charge, "and so, here's little Brighteyes. She was born with teeth!"

Turnspit froze, processing Hickory's burble of gossip. Sealchild, you howling hypocrite!

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