Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.
Dela and the Six Nobleborns
"What - exactly - are you here to - investigate - for Liege Vrel?" Dela puffed, as Vras dragged her along.
"A dispute," Vras answered, letting go of her hand. "There's been a complaint. And we're here to respond."
Dela relaxed, glad of the confirmation it was early in the process, and trying to remember how many of the six nobleborns behind them had been women. A Demish prince wouldn't sleep with an inferior who might lay claim to status through a bastard's blood, but the Vrellish were so casual about these things, and she was haunted by the way Vras had kissed and fondled Rilt on their arrival although she felt quite certain they were not close.
'Oh, what am I doing here!' She thought. 'Amel was right. He'll not only break my heart, he'll drive me mad, wondering how!'
People boiled out of doors, hatches and passages as they passed. People dressed in bright clothes, some of them with and some without dueling swords. A festive air thickened, concocted of station gin, bright scarves and hawkers selling finger food. There were children, too. Clean, but half naked, with no evidence of house braid to help identify whose were whose. Dela was ashamed of herself for looking, but even the children's groins did not help much with gender because what clothes they did wear tended to be shifts or loose pants. Most disorienting of all, Dela could not tell if they were highborn, nobleborn or even the children of commoners, presuming there were servants of some sort on board.
Or were these Vrellish peasants?
She swallowed a yip as Sert's deep voice rumbled at her, "Keep up, fluff."
Dela was forced to skip and hop to keep up with Vras. His gait was faster, and instead of accommodating hers like a Demish Prince would, he simply towed her after him or let go and expected her to keep up. When she did, though, he was always ready to let her reclaim his hand. Once, she noticed Sert was walking hand in hand with Harn, too.
As the crowd thickened, it began to obstruct their path. People shouted things, some of them directed at Dela. A child threw a sticky sweet taken from his mouth. Ears burning, Dela hung back. Vras let go of her, but an iron grip upon her elbow kept her moving along. She swallowed a yip as Sert's deep voice rumbled at her, "Keep up, fluff."
The six nobleborns went on ahead to beat clear the crowd with drawn swords. Dela gasped at the sudden red of blood as someone was slashed across an arm. It didn't make a deep wound. Vras had told her, once, that dueling swords were not sharp enough on the edges to do 'real harm' and the Vrellish sometimes used them for crowd control. Such charming things he talked to her in bed about!