Things are definitely heating up in the neighborhood.
"Well what about Hampton Yount?"
"Oh," Katsa said, nodding. "Yeah. Yeah, Yount was great."
"Em-pleeeh," Ivy repeated.
"What are you muttering about?" the Arcanist asked brightly.
"My breasts are trying to communicate with me."
Val chortled. "Did they send you a mammogram?"
"No," Ivy said distractedly. "Em-pleh."
"C'mon," Val said, brushing her hand on Katsa's shoulder, but Katsa continued to stare in muted jealousy at the Bard's scarcely-covered cleavage. "Mammogram. You didn't think that was funny?"
Katsa merely grunted.
The big Orc shook her head. "Nobody gets my humor."
"Maybe it's 'Emple H'?"
The little blonde tilted her head. "How exactly did your breasts talk to you?"
Ivy removed her towel, cupped her pendulous breasts in her hands, and spread them. "It was written between them," she said, looking down. "Right there."
Katsa's right eye twitched furiously.
"E-M-P-L-E-H?" Val said, spelling them out. "That's 'help me' backwards."
Ivy gasped. "Do you think they're in trouble?"
"Not them," the Orc said, shaking her head. "Ayen."
"There's no way," Katsa stated definitively.
Ivy screwed her face in thought. "I mean, he did push a pen down into my cleavage, but he's always done that. Like literally every day." After a moment, she added, "Plus he wrote it backwards."
"Did you read it in a mirror?" Val asked, one eyebrow arched high.
Ivy nodded slowly as understanding dawned on her. "Yeah. Yeah."
"I knew it was weird that he didn't try to signal us at all."
"Could you please put those things away?" Katsa asked.
"His mother probably threatened him before we came in," Ivy said, scratching her chin with the tip of her nail.
Val's jaw dropped. "You mean, like, his Stepmother?"
"No no," Ivy said. "Birth mother and everything."
The big Orc made a sound in her throat that has no transliteral equivalent in English.
"Queen Lisbet was married to his father. Technically, she's the Regent right now."
"So she's... what? Attaching herself to him to stay in power?"
"Could you please put those things away?" Katsa repeated.
"I think so," Ivy said.
"That is..." Val's expression turned sickly, and she shook her head.
"Incest is extremely common among royal families," the Bard said knowingly. "They do it to keep their bloodlines pure."
"Yeah but..." The Orc groaned distastefully. "She changed his diapers."
"Judge not," Ivy said wisely, "lest ye be judged."
Val rolled her eyes. "Okay. So we're back where we started. We need to rescue him."
"There were a lot of guards," Ivy said slowly. "Where do we start?"
"Maybe by putting some fucking clothes on," Katsa screamed.
Ivy nodded, feeling truly blessed to have someone in her life who looked out for her as vigorously as Katsa did. "I will, my friend," she said, taking Katsa's hand in both of hers and squeezing. "I will."
Katsa stormed from the room in a huff. Val rolled her eyes again, and then put her index finger under Mathilda's nose to double check that the Dwarf was still breathing.
Without Ayen to lead them, the three-woman subset of Katsa, Ivy, and Val were markedly less effective at subterfuge, scurrying, or skulking. They were lucky to get over the outer wall undiscovered, and their ability to remain undetected pretty much ended there. Fortunately, before they'd left, Ivy had divided the contents of each of her smoke bombs in half after finding her original formula a bit overpowering.
Every time a guard found them Ivy squeaked and threw a smoke bomb, enshrouding the guard in billowing smoke and causing them to descend into a horrific coughing fit.