"How do you ever get anywhere?" cried Corin in frustration. "You spend so much time packing, it's a wonder the trip isn't over before you're even ready to leave!" Logic, Aravis mused, was not his strongest round in the tourney.
At seventeen, Corin was even more impatient and impetuous than ever – which probably explained why Cor had gravitated to the opposite spectrum, and had become almost alarmingly serious of late. Aravis and Corin had therefore plotted to kidnap the crown prince for a spur-of-the-moment trip through the mountains, in an attempt to restore Cor's sense of fun and spontaneity - which he seemed to have packed away for a rainy day. Their plans went sadly and predictably awry, however, when Cor insisted on overseeing the packing for himself.
Two pack horses, four bedrolls (one extra, in case of damage or rain or unexpected guest), one groaning picnic basket and an even dozen saddlebags later, Aravis had had enough. "By the lion and the light of my eyes!" she shouted, mixing her idioms as she always did when she was flustered. "If you don't get on that horse, I'll stuff you in my bedroll myself and be done with it!"
As Cor and Corin gaped at her with identical expressions of stupefaction, it dawned on Aravis that her phrasing did not quite carry her intended meaning.
It did, however, have the desired effect in galvanizing the young prince to hurry up and mount his horse.
Corin's second diplomatic trip to Calormen fell short of a complete disaster in the same way that a lost and unhorsed soldier in the desert would at least not be swept away by floodwaters. It was not Corin's fault by word, deed or inaction, but the brunt of the misfortune had nonetheless fallen upon his head.
Aravis had not seen him so cheerful in years.
She and Cor extracted the tale in short bursts while Corin unpacked what was left of his bags. He held up item after item of torn garments, broken knickknacks and unidentifiable detritus.
"See this scarf? Lasaraleen wrapped it around my head when she made me up to look like a woman to smuggle me out of the Tisroc's palace, may he eat hay forever."
"Oh, here's the ticket from the fishmonger. He was very generous – he even let me keep the heads. They came in handy as a distraction, threw the dogs right off the scent."
"I wouldn't eat those dates. The monkeys got into the bag, and the Lion only knows what they might have left in there as a return gift."
"That's some of the black-market currency I was telling you about. I meant to ask you, Aravis, is that the Trickster's symbol?"
When Aravis reached into his tattered bedroll and wordlessly held up a gauzy pink stocking, Corin turned red. "I didn't know that was in there," he stammered.
Aravis looked at Cor, who nodded sagely. " Where is she hiding – the stables? I'll have the steward make up a spare room. Aravis, have you any suitable clothes for her?"
Aravis kept her face straight, but it was a near thing. "Oh yes. I keep an extra trunk packed. Just in case."