"You haven't even met the boy. How do you know-"
"I happen to like working for Kyros. Brasidas is the son of a carpet weaver. I'm sure a carpet weaver would not be happy to have a wife who goes off for months at a time carrying messages..."
"He is three years younger than I am. He used to pick his nose and try to wipe his hands off on the other kids."
"That was years ago! He's grown up into a perfectly nice young man-"
"-and you had some nasty enough habits as a child!"
"I'm leaving in four days," I said.
"For how long?"
"I don't know, exactly. A long time."
Something in my tone of voice made her sink back down in her chair. "Where is Kyros sending you now?" Her voice was shaking.
I sat down quietly beside her. "I'm going to infiltrate the bandits," I said. "Kyros is going to have me pose as a slave of one of his friends and pretend to escape."
"But-you're half Greek!"
"So are a good quarter of the slaves in the cities. Apparently the Alas.h.i.+ don't care."
"Lauria, this sounds dangerous!"
"My job is always dangerous," I said, exasperated.
"This was all Kyros's idea?"
"No," I said. "I think the idea might have been suggested by a sorceress." At my mother's look of alarm, I hastily added, "Kyros wouldn't send me off to certain doom! The Alas.h.i.+ are going to have no idea that I'm anything but an escaped slave."
"But to pose as a slave..." My mother looked oddly distant for a moment, then examined me with a critical eye. "You carry yourself as a free woman, not someone who fears being beaten. You don't have the reserve, the shyness, the slyness. Anyone looking at you would know you weren't a slave."
I laughed. "Mother, the guards at the Elpisia gate stop me every time I leave the city! Clearly not everyone knows I'm a free woman. They look at me and see my Danibeki mother, not my Greek father."
"The Greeks see that. A slave would know. Any slave would know."
"It's not really Sophos's slaves I have to fool, is it? It's the Alas.h.i.+. Staying with Sophos is just to give me a cover story, somewhere to escape from."
My mother shook her head, still horrified. "You're really set on doing this?"
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, I'm really 'set' on doing this."
"Well, a slave wouldn't stand like you're standing."
"How am I standing?"
My mother stood up, then sighed as she looked me over. "Imagine a point at the center of your body, and try to disappear into it." She nudged my back, my shoulders, my hips. Then she demonstrated: "Like this." Her arms were pressed to her sides, her head slightly bent. "You don't want to be noticed. Being noticed means that you'll probably just get into trouble."
"Did getting noticed get you in trouble? I thought you were freed because your master's wife 'noticed'
My mother's eyes narrowed. "Fine," she said. "If you don't want my advice, you don't ha
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