“When they find the intruder I’ll make Him pay for frightening you, my minimal! My minimal! An alarm near your rooms! How dare someone threaten my son! How dare they threaten the Empire like that!” I translated that into ‘how dare anyone threaten ME.’
“Why would anyone try and hurt me, Father?” I tried to make my eyes big and round and innocently frightened. He patted me on the head and I blinked as he did. Stretching my eyes like that made them water. Something to remember if I needed it, later.
“Son, you are stronger than that!” He wheeled around and I stood straighter, threw my chest out as though he’d braced me up. I put my chin up to meet his gaze.
“I’m not afraid, Divine Sire!” All true. All lies. I wasn’t the slightest bit scared of the ‘intruder’. What I was most afraid of was that they would find the secret passageway. All my contraband things wouldn’t be touched or noticed. They were looking for an assassin.
“Good! Good, the sword lessons are standing you in good stead, my son. Be strong! Don’t show an enemy that anything disturbs you. Your upset is his victory.”
I nodded, as intent on him as if what He was saying was original instead of straight out of Itzanas Nirem’s ‘Philosophy of Struggle’. “Oh, yes ser.”
“In the face of the attack on you, I shall allow you to skate again, my boy. You might need to move quickly, if people are assaulting us! It’s the Yeolis again! I’m certain of it. He’s out to get me! And you! He is my enemy and is struggling to strike at the heart of the greatest Empire!”
I didn’t need to ask who the ‘He’ was that Father was talking about. My stomach clenched. “Thank you, ser. I will be most circumspect with them, and not wear them in the city if the Divine One wishes.”
“No, no... I am become convinced that both you and your brother must be proficient in skating... hmm. If someone were to breach security in the city the two of you should be able to move very fast.” He was gazing into the middle distance, probably imagining Himself heroically saving our lives, cutting down faceless, dark curly haired enemies in droves as we fled.
“Thank you, ser. You are our safety and our shield-arm.”
He threw an arm around my shoulders, hugged me hard. It was the sort of compliment He loved best. Then He let me go and seized up a goblet of wine from a kneeling servant and drank it down as if He had been fighting. Sweat poured down his face and forehead and body as he alternately paled and then went flush again as he thought of this mythical last stand.
The Mahid came in and flung himself on his face before Father, who waved an impatient hand. “Gehit! Report!”
“The Imperial Heir’s rooms are secure, You Whose Strength is the Protection of the World. No intruder has been found. No illicit access to the Marble Palace has been found, though Mahid seekers will continue to attempt to find if a lost passageway is present. The search is spreading throughout the rest of the Palace.”
“Good. Make sure it is thorough. I do not care if the ladies complain of the disarrangement of their flowers and sewing. I want the Marble Palace safe!” He turned to Meras.
“How could someone get so close to us? To Me? Meras, I want your patrols shifted to reflect where this threat came from... from inside the city itself. I will re-arrange your patrols myself.”
Meras looked as though he’d swallowed a wasp and couldn’t cough it up. “Of course, You Whose Intelligence Surpasses All. This one will bring every patrol record at once.”
Father hesitated a moment as he considered. He didn’t want to give up his evening doing this. He dusted his hands together. “Very well, Meras. Bring them. I shall be generous and share my unique perspective and intelligence with you.”
I imagined the chaos in the Marble Palace security that was about to ensue and closed my eyes. “Divinely Inspired Sire, the Mahid said my rooms were secure. With your gracious permission.” I looked at Him then, because He didn’t like to be addressed without careful surveillance. He had this look on His face now as He contemplated His vision for our security. He was considering how to best display His brilliance.
“Of course, my addendum. Meras. Return the Spark’s faibalitz skates to him.”
“As He Whose Wisdom is the World’s commands.”