I am thankful for my wonderful readers and friends who make writing a bit less isolated.
I felt awkward, standing at attention while my ankle throbbed. I disliked the way the Head Precept had separated me from my charge, gesturing with overlarge movements with his voice keyed up in barely checked excitement.
“How’s the ankle,” the gardener asked me, leaning close, only a breath but I could feel his concern.
I shrugged and focused on the conversation before me.
The Barbarian spoke in smooth High Elven with barely a trace of accent. “High City is as beautiful as it was fabled to be, which I hadn’t thought possible. I haven’t had chance to foray much, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t more beautiful architecture populated by a lovelier people.” He kept a smile on his mouth as he spoke. I’d expected more grunting.
“I admit that it has a certain grandeur, which is to be expected when the rich heritage of our people spans millennia, but of course, it lacks charm of simplicity, as well as the wonder of modern architectural feats. From what I hear the Emperor has changed the face of his city dramatically.”
The Viceroy shrugged. “I haven’t been to the Emperor’s city for years. From what I hear the improvements have made it one of the cleanest, safest places known to man.”
“Very good. How do you like the wine?”
The conversation went on, Head Precept asking questions the Viceroy answered as perfectly and diplomatically as anyone could, while the rest of those on the dais grew bored. Eventually they left to dance, leaving me standing with the gardener feeling like everyone had forgotten me. It was strange that I hadn’t forgotten me too. I watched the Viceroy through the haze of gauze and felt irritated at the fabric for clouding my vision.
As I watched his face, it didn’t seem to shift much, nothing was revealed besides a politely bored expression that bothered me. Surely if I could see better I could catch twitches of emotion as they crossed his face.
“I find the relish from the south sea lands preferable to incubated duck eggs of Salaam,” on second though, there might be a reason he sounded bored. Apparently sheer magnificence and otherworldly beauty wasn’t interesting to the Viceroy.
At that moment some people brought out trays and torches. Good. Fire dancing would entertain even an old jaded man like the Viceroy. Dolores had abandoned her mint confection of a dress to take part with a small thread of fire that she made grow into a shimmering rose, flames chasing around the edges of the petals. She spun, throwing her flower into the air, twisting into a flip as the flower exploded in a bright pink puff. When the gardener took a turn brandishing flames, I stepped a little closer to the dais. He and Delores began juggling flaming balls to each other that came quite close to the Viceroy and the Head Precept.
The Viceroy remained impassive. Though he smiled and nodded at appropriate places he appeared less than impressed. Perhaps the hardened warrior in him made him immune to explosions. He would have seen all kinds of fire; the Emperor loved explosives.
I watched him watch the fire dancers, feeling like an observer, not a part of either insider or outsider, not a part of anything at all, until my hat caught on fire.