“Have you ever wondered why I travel so much?” Aunt Gill asked in a low voice as we worked side-by-side at the sink.
I sensed her eyes on me. “I thought it was because you found it enlightening and enjoyable.” Glancing at her out of the corner of my eye, I rolled up my sleeves, but they were already wet with soap suds.
“Well, it is that, surely. But I don't travel only for pleasure.” She paused as if unsure how to say something. “I'm sent by the Council.”
“The High Council?” My voice squeaked in surprise. They'd ruled the land since democracy replaced the monarchy in our country more than a hundred years before. “What can you do for them?”
“Oh, a bit of this and a bit of that.” She waved a hand vaguely.
I waited to see whether she'd say more, and eventually she did. “Often I act as a courier, carrying letters that cannot go through official channels.”
“Oh!” That sounded infinitely more exciting than traveling only to see the sights. “I bet you've met the most interesting people!”
“Yes, yes, I have.” She hesitated. What had she chosen to leave out?
“Go on.” I forgot I had two dirty knives in my hands and stared at her.
She studied my face before she continued. “There are times when my task is more dangerous.” She said the next slowly, perhaps to be certain I understood the gravity. “I'm sent to obtain information our government needs. Or explore a place we've never visited before. Sometimes to establish a relationship with their government.” I must have looked stricken because she added, “I've been well-trained for my work, as you will be.”
“Me?” The knives clattered as they fell into the basin.
Aunt Gill sighed. “I'm not getting any younger. It's time to prepare my successor. I've proposed you to the council as my replacement.”
I shook my head. “What do I know about these things? I've never been farther away from home than Romik except the two times we went to the seashore at Cobend. I...I grow vegetables and tend to animals.”
She nodded. “And so you must be trained. You'll return with me to the capital, and we'll begin your education.”