dart in to unload but they never stayed tied to the wharf a moment longer than necessary there were a few signs of damage down there but nothing too extensive so far as she could see only yes one of the ten watchtowers had fallen leaving a gap in the walls high up on the mountainside she shivered in the cold wind on her bare flesh time to get dressed if she delayed much longer the whole palace would be awake and shed be caught in another day of ritual observances somehow this day seemed made for more than that she had to get out talk to someone see fresh things

the trouble was all her clothes were made for the palace tight bodiced gowns that left the arms and breasts bare sweeping down to the floor in clotted folds she had a cloak though and an old athletic tunic left over from the days when shed been allowed to exercise out on the fields with the boys shrugging it over her shoulders she thanked her stars her hair had been cut short a few days before all her long locks cut off and burnt before the goddess a sacrifice they called it but it had left her looking like a boy

out in the street the day had already begun pedlars were selling spiced meats on skewers they smelt so good for a moment she regretted her breakfast waiting for her back in the palace but then shed have missed this sense of bustling purpose these thousands of faces clustering together gossiping trading insults the lively tangle of a hundred alleys

it had been surprisingly easy to sneak out of the palace perhaps it was because the whole complex was designed to keep people out all the guard towers and arrow slits faced outwards and shed known for years there was a hidden exit from the garden some of the servants used it when they had secret errands to run it was guarded of course but that just meant waiting till the guards attention was distracted in this case by some of the servant girls splashing and giggling naked as needles in the shallows of the fountain

where should she go her original plan had extended only as far as getting out of the palace out from under her uncle and his schemes shed thought perhaps of checking out the earthquake damage looking at the damaged tower but now she began to realise that that was where all eyes would soon be turned better to go anywhere else if she was keen on not getting caught the steep streets sloped down to the harbour so that was the way her feet had instinctively been taking her perhaps after all that was the best way to proceed

unutterable toad – clotted or fresh – the best way to proceed

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