Story for the Day: The Mystery of the Caiques

Throughout Danaco, Rannig, and Bartleby's adventures in Sesterna, two caiques have been following them around. and while they've been in the marketplace for sometime, no one knows who trained them to dance or why-- until now.

Manochei at his stall, by Twisk

Manochei took his pen from his apron pocket and began writing a small message, merely to inform Prince Lamir that contact with Lord Danaco had been established and to relay Danaco’s tatti-pratti and screening himself with the shade from the broad palm leaves above him.
message, and Calepei stood by, eating his
“Do Sesternese caiques usually dance?” Calepei asked, canting his head.
“Not that I know of,” Manochei replied, finishing his letter. “Why?”
“Because those two birds are dancing.”
Manochei looked up, and hopping along an upper bough of the broad palm were two caiques, both seemingly in raptures over something, kicking up their feet, flapping their wings, and raising their beaks to the sky. “That’s a strange thing,” he observed, folding his arm and watching the birds scuttle back and forth.
“Do you think they’ve been trained to do that?”
“It’s possible, but who would go through all the trouble of training them?”
“Me,” said a familiar voice.
Manochei and Calepei turned toward the square, and coming up from the adjoining lane was the old clothier, who was just returning from her business with the moneylenders in the merchant’s row.
Calepei righted himself, standing at his full impressive height, and he glanced at Manochei from the corner of his eye.
“Don’t worry,” said Manochei. “She’s the one who helped me get Lord Danaco’s attention.”
“And you’re sure she can be trusted?” said Calepei charily.
Here was a conscious smile. “I’m sure.”
Manochei bowed to the old woman as she neared, and though Calepei was still suspicious, he followed his friend’s conduct.
“So,” said the clothier, with subrisive looks, “got what you wanted?”
“Yes,” said Manochei. “You did your job perfectly.”
“Always do,” the woman humphed. She held out her hand and cleared her throat.
“Of course,” said Manochei, taking a few coins from his pocket.
He placed two silver marks in her palm, and the old woman beamed and cooed.
“That’s more than we agreed on,” said she, smiling.
“It is, but His Highness always rewards those who serve him well. We hope your people will remember that when His Highness calls upon them for assistance.”
A low bow followed, and Calepei, confused and apprehensive, stared at the old woman with severe misgiving.
“Your people?” he repeated, looking to Manochei for an explanation. “What do you mean your people? Who is this woman, Manochei?”
Manochei smiled in surprise. “Who is she? Can’t you tell?”
Calepei looked and looked again, trying to descry something that would give him an idea, but the faded hues of age and disuse shrouded her heritage, and Calepei had not the smallest idea who she was.
“Look closer,” the woman beckoned, curling a finger to draw him in.
Calepei leaned down, and two blue eyes peered out from under a heavy brow. He stared for a moment, allowing his mind to conjecture and acknowledge what Manochei already knew, and once it struck him, Calepei started and bowed low.
“We are honoured to have your family allied with us, my lady,” said Calepei, in a fevered hush.
“Ha! My Lady!” the old woman rasped. “No one’s my ladied me in a long time.”
Calepei looked askance. “If you would prefer we don’t—“
The woman quieted him with a dismissive wave. “It’s been so long since I was last in the palace, I doubt anyone would believe you.”
“Do you think Lord Danaco knows?” Manochei asked.
The woman humphed. “Of course he does.”
“Does anyone else know?”
“My son, of course, but he’s in Livanon, finishing the work I started in the lower quarter. If you’re worried that anyone visiting from the Livanese court would recognize me, I can’t say they would.” She tucked her grey hair under her headdress and rearranged her robes. “I don’t exactly look like a consort anymore. The Livanese nobility don’t notice anyone who resembles a heap of rags.”
“I wouldn’t call yourself that, my lady,” said Calepei anxiously.
“I would,” the old woman chuffed. “I do it purposely, to keep anyone in Livanon from finding out where I went.”
“But surely, my lady, the Grand Prince knows where you are,” said Manochei.
The old woman shrugged. “I write to him once in a while. He’s a grown man and knows what he needs to do. He doesn’t need me anymore.”
“Excuse me, my lady,” said Calepei, with a grave expression, “but sons will always need their mothers.”
Calepei coloured and hemmed, and Manochei thought his friend never looked more endearing in his life.
“You’re a nice boy,” said the old woman, reaching up to give Calepei’s arm an affectionate rub, “but mothers, as much as we love our children, need to let our children to get on with things. I spent a long time being locked away at the palace. I’m free now.” She held out her hand, and the two caiques flittered down from the high bough, perching themselves along her forearm. “General Telnis was always a good friend,” said she, nuzzling her birds. “My son will make sure that the Butheanas support Lamir’s ascent.”
“And the caiques, my lady?” asked Calepei.
“Mine from the royal menagerie.” She crooned to the two caiques, telling them what pretty creatures they were and what a nice dinner they should have, until she felt the stares of subdued hilarity upon her. “What? I like them, and so what that I taught them to dance. That’s more than most people do.”
“I cannot argue with you,” said Manochei, suppressing a laugh.
“Better not,” said the old woman, with a bold look. She took a copper coin from her pocket and gave it to Manochei. “I’ll take one,”  nodding toward the tatti-pratti. “Smelling that pepper you gave me made want one of those.”
Manochei arched a brow. “Are you sure, my lady? Once you have one, you will be at my stall every day.”
The old lady was quite pleased with that prospect, and once her birds had shifted their perch to her shoulder, she crambled over to the stall, to watch Manochei at his wares, and to sample the flavours of Lucentia that Calepei and the captain had been so ardent to defend.