Mixed images flitted in front of my mind's eye, screams, blood, a large sky stretched infinitely above me, a bright blue flower trodden under foot. The gardener said something although his words eluded me. When I looked at him, his face may as well have been carved from stone as he looked past me and made a crusty bow.
I’d have to keep an eye on him to make sure the viceroy didn’t wake up dead one morning, no, not viceroy, ambassador.
I turned slowly and felt the gardener's revulsion at the figure walking down the steps. Enemy. I sidestepped away from him and looked up at the sky, irritated by the fabric that kept me from feeling the breeze on my skin. When I realized I was muttering I pressed my lips in a prim line before the Barbarian came close enough to make out the words.
“Viceroy. Excellent timing. I was admiring the make of your boots. Are they this century Barbarian? I seem to recall a similar model back in…” my voice trailed off as he stared over my shoulder, a look of absolute boredom on his face.
"Ambassador," he replied.
I stood for a moment, embarrassment at my mistake warring with shock.
"Are you ready for your Convotion with the High Precept, Ambassador?"
"On my feet the finest leather await the Precept's majesty."
I stared at him. I couldn't remember Barbarian humor sliding towards ludicrous, but they had made me his guide. Perhaps he was trying to adapt to circumstances.
"Indeed. And on my feet..." I trailed off as I realized a smear of dried herbs was all that coated my foot. I shrugged. "Excellent. Shall we go by water or by stone?"
"Water?" he asked with a glint that spoke of a spy assessing the lay of the land.
"You'll be happy to know that a web of waterways connect the river to the High Palace. They are too shallow for a ship of any size, but make transporting supplies very feasible."
"You are too informative," the Barbarian said.
I smiled blandly at the spy. "Not at all."
"By stone," the Barbarian said, shifting to cross black gloves over his chest.
I nodded my agreement and turned to lead him out of the courtyard. Behind me the Barbarian followed shadowed by the gardener where he could keep an eye on both of us.