Sem Partoldi smiled knowingly up at me and cunningly, too, I perceived and narrowed my eyes considering again what I could of her complex nature. She rested her fat hands together on her great round belly and rested her massive head comfortably as she greeted me. "You have returned, Friend Ince. And betimes. What luck for all Eoeun."
        "Mayhap for all save 1."
        Sem Partoldi chuckled at the lusciousness of my humor.
        "Betimes? For what?"

        "Why, the race, of course. We want to enter the Ghordaq race. We were betting as well as hoping that you would return in time. We want none but you to ride our carc."
        "Not mentioning the fact that I have the carc."
        Sem Partoldi laughed deep in her throat wiggling her ears. She moved a hand. "Yes, that too, Friend Ince, that too. We cannot race in a carc race without a carc. Even Eoeun understand this. But," Sem Partoldi wriggled her brows, "I might have purchased another."
        "But not 1 so fine."
        "Possibly, probably."
        "Or ridden by me."


        Sem Partoldi's green eyes glittered. "Have you been away into densers and bright  swift lands so long you have forgotten what you discovered about Eoeun?"
        "What did I discover?" I asked sharply, grown suspicious in an instant.
        "Ah! You are too vast and vicious in a game you think we are playing, Friend Ince. It was only a comment, in general. We know that if you are not here, you cannot ride our carc."

          "I don't know that you ever comment, in general. Don't we always play a game, Sem? Aren't we always? Haven't we been?"
        "We did."
        "Are we?" What coiled low, hard, insistent in my voice Sem Partoldi heard.
        It made her pause however briefly and consider her approach. And my possible reactions as well I did not doubt since I possessed far more of agility and considerable strength and persistence. "Shall we go to the inn where I may buy you a welcoming meal and all can toast you and sing?"
        "You never buy a meal at Bartholomea's and if we were to go there now we would leave it in ruins."
        "We would?" The eyebrows were marks of pure innocence of my meaning. The eyes beneath them were ancient as the planet and as knowing.