“Ser Menden. Did your one piece on the Yeola-e war… the one about Lakans outside Vae Arahi being where they should not be… did it get you into any trouble? I would have thought it would.”
He sipped a little deeper before answering me. “Spark of the Sun’s Ray... um… this one… received a – gentle warning that Arko’s brilliant Generals were sacrosanct.”
“Oh, I agree entirely.” He shrank a little at that, bracing himself. “But I think Larianas is hardly likely to make elementary, or bone-headed mistakes. It depends on what constitutes a brilliant general.” He blinked as though some expected missile had just skimmed over his head, ruffling his hair. “I have some experience with the Kallen clan. I banished one of theirs from my companions – did you hear?”
“Um. This one certainly heard – something --, Spark of the Sun’s Ray, but this one has learned to give no credence to the Pages of the lip.”
“Wise. But Ilian… Ilian Kallen… misunderstood his role among my companions and thought that I had invited him to my bed. It certainly is a shame when someone with that kind of mental acuity attempts to think.”
Wonder of wonders, I actually surprised a snort out of him. I grinned at him. “I’ve met raw vegetables,” I continued. “With more deft understanding.” That got a smothered grin that he hid behind a raised glove. “Would you like another glass of that, Ser Menden, or would you prefer something else? Saekrberk, or nakiti of some kind?”
“Oh, no. This is wonderful stuff, Spark of the Sun’s Ray!” He said and held up his glass for Antras to top up.
Antras winked at me as he turned away from the writer. He’d certainly figured out what I was trying to do. There was only the slightest hint of the affect of all the alcohol in Menden’s speech.
“I understand, Ser Menden, that you might be petitioning your editor to continue your coverage of the Yeola-e war?”
My question sobered him up, or seemed to. I could see him wondering how in Hayel I had heard that. “Ah, yes, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
I took a deep breath. I didn’t know how to do this. But I had to try. “Hmm. In the unlikely event that you are called back to do the Yeola-e war front, might you consider… writing a series of articles for a patron… in addition to your regular Pages work, of course?”
“A series of articles? Spark of the Sun’s Ray…this one is unsure…” Behind the press writer’s head Antras caught my eye and made a very obvious ‘money-chain’ sign at his neck, before covering his motion by leaning over to adjust a bit of tableware that really didn’t need adjusting… and drawing back. I knew. I knew but was glad he was there to remind me… Since I’d never done this before.
“Of course, even though the articles in question would never be printed… for one person’s eyes only, in effect… they would be paid for at double the Pages rate.”
“Of course, this would only be in the event that you would be sent back to that particular front…”
“Oh. Oh, um… of course. Um… and the exalted… er… said… one person’s eyes only?”
“Yes. And then confessed to the flames if necessary.”
I sipped at my own glass. “Of course this conversation takes place as though it were behind the garderobe door…” He blinked a little at the colloquialism. “… of course no one can even safely suggest that you be sent back to that particular front.” I looked up at him from under my brows. “Can they?” As he thought of how to answer me I added “Without… putting anyone in danger.”
“Er… um… of course.”
I sat back. “Well, do keep that in mind should you find yourself on the Yeola-e front.” I couldn’t push any harder than that. I couldn’t even suggest to the high Pages editor that I wanted Sinimas on the front. Forzak it. It would be too dangerous to suggest it to him. He might just go straight to Father with it. After all, he didn’t like me much.
“Would you like to see my new gallery? I found a wonderful artist, just up and coming, he works in white marble.”
“Um… of course.”
I took my glass with me, kicking at the tiles as I went. I was so frustrated. I couldn’t just say “I want him on that front, oblige me.” I could get him killed and I didn’t want that. It was more dangerous even than Inthilin and Ancherao and a thousand unwanted presents.
I finished the evening by gifting him with a statue. Not a big one, but one that could be kept in a fessas household should he decide to keep it. I saw him out and told Antras to have it delivered.
Then I went into my bedroom and pounded on my bed for a while because it was so hard. I just wanted to know. I just wanted to know things. I could see myself trapped inside this bubble of unknowing and no one dared tell me what was really going on.