"Keep her safe," Buri’s mother had told her when she sent her away with Thayet, away from the palace and the capital and Kalasim’s body. "Do what she says, but first keep her safe. Don’t stop until you get to the Mother’s temple."
"Take the little ones and go," Thayet hissed between gritted teeth. The young women stood side by side at the foot of a path between two steep hills, just narrow enough to be held by a single skilled warrior. The children they’d picked up in the last couple days - two girls and a bouncing baby boy - crouched in fear several yards behind. The baby was silent in the older girl’s arms (thank every god ever) but the younger girl was crying as the armed men approached the path.
"Not a chance," Buri retorted. She stepped forward to stand in front of the princess and planted her feet, staring coldly at the men. They might once have been soldiers - one wore Wilima colors - but it was clear from their ragged shirts and mismatched gear that they had long-since turned to banditry. As had half the countryside, these days. The other half was just dying.
"Buri" Thayet commanded, shouldering her aside. "Run. I’ll follow in a minute.”
Buri bared her teeth, at the bandits as much as Thayet. Not that the men were intimidated - two seventeen-year-old girls, even if one was an armed K’mir? They probably looked like free truffles to a pig.
Not that Thayet was intimidated either. “Buri,” she repeated, and for a moment sounded so much like Kalasim that the young K’mir blinked. The illusion wasn’t particularly broken by Thayet digging her elbow pointedly into Buri’s side - Kalasim could be quite forceful. Used to be.
But then, so…had Buri’s mother.
"No," Buri said with equal firmness. She didn’t turn her body from the coming fight, because she wasn’t stupid, but for a moment she put her short sword in her left hand so she could grab her princess by the arm, pull her close, and kiss her on the lips. Then she pushed her back up the path. "You go, and I’ll be behind you as soon as I have these pigs’ balls on my belt."