Several hours later, I was sitting on the steps of my wagon, drinking a glass of wine, when Hanu flew up."Hanu! I had an idea."
He landed in front of me. "Young Mistress, I have a message for both you and Young Master. I... apologize, Abigail. It is to be delivered to both you and Young Master."
Maya muttered behind him, "Masha!" and I laughed. "Then I suppose we better find him."
Hanu blanched at Maya's words. I sat, studying him for a moment. Why did he say... "Wait...Who's it from?"
"A relative. Nero Eaton of the family Eaton."
I knew it! "A relative? And...how exactly did it get delivered?"
"By Master Eaton himself to me."
I studied him for a little while longer, "Well, let's go find Magras."
Hanu nodded, and we started to look for Magras. It wasn't too hard to find him, and he greeted me fondly. "Hello sister."
"Brother. Many thanks for the gifts. I think his name will be...Huey."
"Huey? And what characteristic does this name carry?"
The most important one of all. "I like the way it sounds. Abby and Huey."
"Clever. Where did Hanu run off to?"
I saw him approaching. "Ah. Here he is."
"I checked the first half with no lu- Oh. Greetings, Young Master."
"Hanu. We don't often receive messengers here, you've made me curious."
"It wasn't here the messenger greeted me. More specifically, he allowed me to come to him."
This would make Magras even more curious. "Especially messages from relatives."
"Nero Eaton of the family Eaton requested for me to find those of the High Borne Blood to meet at a sanctuary of the Family Donaghues. When Master Eaton was informed of my pledge for your safety, he informed me it was a refuge and that those of the blood must mass and fight side by side."
"Oh, lovely." I thought that might be his reaction. "I wonder what trap he's laying down for us?"
"I trust his message. For if he were to try and deceive us I would not be able to accept his task."
I stood, watching the two of them and considering their words. Magras spoke up, "Sounds like a fool's errand to me. Do tell me how it goes. I have business to attend to if you'll excuse me."
Hanu was speechless, opening his mouth briefly, but then closing it again before saying another word. I wanted to go, but wasn't going to publicly announce my intentions to my brother. "Brother...will you keep my chest for me, for the moment?"
Hanu finally found his voice. "Understood, Young Master."
"Of course Abby."
"I want to think on this...meeting." I smiled and kissed him affectionately on the forehead. "Let me know when we get to Neptune." I then turned to Hanu, "Come on, Hanu...if you're finished with your task."
Magras had parting words of wisdom, "Everything is political with our family Hanu. Be safe."
"Thank you, Young Master." He nodded to me. "I have... mostly, but not quite completely finished my task, Young Mistress."
"Well, come with me and tell me what you still have to do." I started off towards the wagon, and after bowing to Magras, Hanu followed me. Once we were inside, I started getting my things together.
"I...," Hanu smiled, "I risk repeating myself, Abigail. My task is to take High Borne to the refuge of the Family Donaghue."
I had a solution for that. "So, if you take one, then you're in the clear, or do you have to find more?"
"Technically, I was told to find those of the blood and take them to The Donaghues' sanctuary. However, and this is an odd request. If I were to be contracted to guard one of the blood, who I had taken to the Sanctuary, I believe that would suffice."
I hadn't considered that side of it before. "So, how does that whole thing work?"
"Grotesquely. Honestly, I had been thinking of one since my speaking to Master Eaton. I don't suspect I will receive a warm welcome in the Sanctuary."
"Well, if one wanted to contract you to guard one of the blood, who was going to go to the Sanctuary, how would one do so.? Well, if they want me to come, then they can just deal."
"You would issue a task, the length it would last (be it instances or time length) and request the price. Granted, there is more, but that's for dealing with those of my ilk that don't just want to get this over with."
"So, can the task be open ended? Like, guard me until I die?"
"Though it is bad form for me to administer the task, I have thought of one. Guard you until you are in a completely safe haven, for no less than 10 years of service, in exchange for the ability to appear in your presense, to speak, and to speak freely. Trust me, the last two are kind of big."
Those were interesting terms to be specified, but the time seemed a little short, considering how long he said he had searched for me. "10 years?"
"With an option for renewal."
I nodded. "Agreed."
"Arbitrary number I just came up with. Agreed."
Oh...one more thing. "Wait...what happens if I die?"
"Then I will enter a period of mourning and guard your resting spot for the remainder of my term. And, personally, feel bad and guilty."
"You will also dispose of my remains in a way that I would agree with." I'm not really sure what that would be, but I know he'd make it good.
"The latter is more of a personal issue, Abigail."
I smiled. "Ok. Do I have to sign something?"
"No, verbal is okay. The blood is a contract."
"Then we're agreed. Let's get going."
Maya flittered up and turned into a giant winged serpent. "Maya, Abigail, Let's Ride!"
I hate to ruin his fun. "Actually...I wanted to use a different method."
"If you don't mind. If we use the chest, I can always come back."
"So, we use that...then ride!"
"Good, I'm not sure Maya knew the way."
"Neither do I. But getting there is half the adventure." I did a last minute check, and opened the chest.
"Can your... uh.. chest take you to a person?"
"It kinda takes me wherever it wants to. Thus the ride part."
"Oh. All right."
I don't want to get separated. "Do you think we could *all* fit?" I commanded the manticore to shrink as small as it could.
"If you give me a moment... and some privacy." I turned my back on him, and when he was ready, he was a lot smaller. "We should eat when we get there." He turned into a cat. I opened the box, and everyone got in. "Mistress.... of... beasts..." he purred.
And we were off.