Spy for a Demon
Written in Collaboration with Dragonflight
Approaching the room where Zu waited for her report was much more
difficult than usual, today. Never had she carried such a poor report of a
mission to her employer-- not that it was her fault, but the idea of
enduring Janunir being punished was almost as bad as the idea of being punished,
herself. Being bonded had its downsides, after all, and dealing with Zu was
definitely one of them.
So, it was with unusual apprehension that Sun Soul opened the door to where Zu waited. Her employer probably didn't know about the mild disaster yet, but she wasn't looking forward to telling her. Especially, she thought dismally as she took in Zu's already unhappy expression, if said employer was already in a foul mood. She didn't even get a "good morning", just an expectant stare. At least she hadn't brought Janunir with her....
Better go the whole way, if she wanted to get out of this without losing half her skin or winding up bondless and quite likely insane-- she'd heard what happened to many people who lost bonds, no matter how useful they were or how well they got along with them. She came in directly, didn't bother sitting on her usual chair, and got down on her knees in front of the half-dragon, looking at her clawed feet instead of up at her face. "The mission has been completed," she said, trying to sound unhappy-- which she was-- but calm-- which she wasn't-- and only a little guilty, "with unexpected complications." She took a quick breath and added, "The daughter of Rhanyss Tasschal is dead."
Even without looking up, Sun Soul could feel Zu's hard gaze on her. "Explain," she said shortly. "Now."
Sun Soul launched right into her report, starting with her arrival. Things had gone well for the first day of her intended three-day stay, but on the second Janunir had gotten... impatient. "She had an opportunity, when the girl left with a few friends for the nearest source of water, so she took it," Sun Soul said in an emotionless voice. "They saw her, but thought her a beast. I was the stranger, so I was the first suspect to be her master. The tribe's shaman dispelled Kjolir's invisibility, which cemented it, and we had to flee before they killed me in retribution. We had to leave everything behind. It's still possible that they will blame their rival tribe-- we managed to fake my own death at Janunir's claws-- but I cannot be certain."
Zu actually growled, audibly and animally. Sun Soul closed her eyes against it, and was unsurprised to hear, "It saddens me to think that one of my best has been reduced to this, because of a mongrel beast." Just what being a mixed race had to do with anything, Sun Soul didn't know, but four months since bonding proved that was one of Zu's chief complaints about the two.
Sun Soul looked up at last, offering something of a suggestion. "She wishes to help and be of use, but my line of work isn't suited to her." That was something of a lie; Janunir didn't want to help, exactly, not for Zu's goals, but she was bored and angry that Kjolir was more useful than she was. But it amounted to the same thing: Janunir needed work that kept her busy and not ruining her work.
Zu's lip curled. "Then you should get rid of her."
"With all due respect, it isn't that easy," Sun Soul pointed out with a small, apologetic smile. "She is bonded to me, and I've heard nasty things about broken bonds." And dealing with Janunir spurned would be difficult at best, if there wasn't death involved. "She isn't unintelligent, or lazy-- she's just bored. Maybe if you had someone else who she could work with, someone who isn't undercover the way I am, she could actually be an asset."
"Her lack of subtlety makes that very difficult. Messy."
Privately, Sun Soul agreed. But there had to be something.... She didn't want Janunir to die just because she was bored with spy-work, but trying to get her to stay behind-- in this complex with someone who obviously couldn't stand her, while she felt useless and discarded-- would be even more trouble. She was silent for a moment, then looked down again and said quietly, "Please. I don't ask for much, but I have to ask for this. Just try to find something she might be better suited for.... I want to do my work, and I need her to be distracted with something else so that I can."
There was a pause, and then Zu sighed-- an unusual, almost uncharacteristic sound from the half-dragon-- and shook her head briefly, as if clearing it, or maybe in regret that "one of her best" was standing up for someone so apparently worthless. "Very well," she said, sounding disappointed but still giving in. "I'll see what can be done."
"Thank you, my lady," Sun Soul sighed, too, only with relief. She would look forward to being able to work without Janunir's complaints-- unworded or not-- and interference-- well-meaning, or not. "If she continues to be difficult in something else, let me know. I'll... think of something else then, if necessary." And she fervently hoped it wouldn't be necessary.
Zu nodded. "And as for your assignment, I'll keep an eye on it... just in case."
"Thank you, my lady," Sun Soul said, relieved again. "I might suggest spreading a few rumors about tahrim in the pay of other tribes, but otherwise...." She shrugged. "Hope they believed our ruse. Kjolir came up with the way to make it work. At least one of them made themselves useful," she grumbled.
"So it seems," Zu agreed grudgingly, for the first time admitting that Kjolir might not be entirely worthless, after all. Sun Soul smiled a bit to herself, thinking about how much more smug the little beast would be if he knew, then let the matter of bonds and usefulness drop. Her first report had been brief, and now that the worst of the bad news was out and dealt with, she could give what useful detail's she'd picked up-- which made the trip something less than a total failure, she thought.
Just a little less, anyway. Maybe it could make up for leaving her entire disguise behind-- and all the expensive spices that disguise had been peddling-- at least. After a discussion of how best to mitigate the damage Janunir had caused, both she and, she thought, Zu herself felt a little better about it all. A few well-placed rumors could go a long way, as long as no one had seen through her false death. Sun Soul left feeling a lot less apprehensive about it all than she'd come in-- and positively light-hearted that Janunir would no longer be her problem, at least when it came to her job.
All she had to do was find a good way to explain things to the beast, a way that made her feel as if she was being valued for her actual talents and not punished or cast aside for the talents she did not possess, and life would be just fine. It would take some careful wording, but that was one of the things she did best, after all. Maybe this would make it easier for her to teach Kjolir the trade, sinc he seemed both taken with it and proficient at it. With both her bonds settling down into something more suited to them, perhaps life would be easier.
No, it would be easier. She'd make sure it would work out, and she could get back to work.