The first thing I did was to call Janam Isal. I felt him finish what he was doing first –good!– but when he arrived, he was much more deferential than before the Iss-Peranian delegation was here. It seems to rub off that they treat me so much like a king: everybody is doing it now, even the people who used to be more relaxed. I’m not sure that I like it.
I told him what Dayati (well, Timoine) had said and he glowed with pleasure. He had already been talking to Ysella about medicines, so he didn’t need a court messenger after all. But when I asked him whether he’d heard of the government of Aumen Síth in exile, he clammed up completely. I could see that he had indeed heard of it, and he thought it would be out of place to talk about it. If I’d really wanted to know I could perhaps have forced him to say, but, gods, he’s not my enemy! So I thanked him and let him go, bowing all the time– him, of course, not me.
Someone had been so attentive as to set wine and food out for the meeting. It looked like Síthi food all right, little morsels of vegetables prepared in interesting ways. I must talk to my sister so I know who to compliment for that. I was nibbling at it absently –it did look irresistible– when the delegation was announced.
They were a handful of middle-aged and old men and women. Their clothes had once been rich but now they looked as if they’d been dragged through seawater, then mud, then the streets of Valdis. Even though they looked so poor that they seemed about to starve, they wouldn’t touch the food and drank only a little of the wine.
I realised suddenly what these people were: the imperial government in exile. We ought to have served them the sow that had walked over me and Vurian, not delicate tidbits without any meat.
One of the men, a little younger than the rest, turned out to be the closest living relative of the emperor who had been, er, lost at sea: Prince Long Convoluted Name (but fortunately they left their complete lineage, written in exquisite handwriting on the cheapest paper from the market). What they wanted was clear enough: for me to conquer Aumen Síth back from the Khas and set the prince on the throne as king-under-me.
I couldn’t say yes or no, of course. I did tell them that I had joined an alliance with kings from Iss-Peran to keep the seas and coasts safe, and that I would keep them in mind when it came to fighting for Aumen Síth, but that was all I could do for them at the moment. They seemed pleased, perhaps not entirely satisfied, and promised to keep in touch.
There was hardly any time to talk to Raisse, who had tried –without much success– to convince the delegation from Ildis that a school in Valdis wouldn’t be any threat to the Academy, because someone came and dragged me to the court session that I’d forgotten completely. I stumbled through the easy cases –bless Lydan for preparing everything– and would have botched the harder ones completely without Lydan and Raisse to rescue me.
After that it was refreshing to sit with the military people, even Vurian who arrived all bandaged up –no miracles from Timoine for him, or for Lyse either– to plan sending troops to Lenyas. I took Vurian aside afterwards to ask him to be my regent when I’m away to the South. Ayneth will be there too, of course, and if –the gods forbid– anything happens to us she’ll be for it anyway. They can do the job together if it’s necessary, or simply more convenient; I trust them each as much as the other, as much as Raisse or myself.
If there’s even half an hour left today –I just remembered that tonight we’re having the entertainment in the square where Moyri lives– I want to get out my lute and make sure that my left hand works properly again. Perhaps it’s not kingly to want to make music, but for once I don’t care.