There were fireflies in the trees all around twinkling. and Nuninibas and Ili were just launching the final floating candles onto the ponds. JiaKlem was supposedly safe in his tank in Ili’s room. I’d slipped in to weight down the lid of the tank with a water-filled stone vase, myself. Cicadas buzzed loud and the trilling tree frogs drowned out a lot of city background noise. “And a Jitzmithra falisas upon a green lawn... barefoot,” I whispered.
Sera Liren smiled serenely and said quietly “You were very naughty, Serin, to dance my daughter outside!”
A proper Arkan matriarch ordered statues of bulls and satyrs and men with erect members to fill the pools? I had no idea....
“Skorsas was gracious enough to assist me with our party,” Kyriala said. Take over, she meant. “And I hired the food people from a favourite place of mine… and yours I believe. Skorsas was even good enough to pass on names of various musicians to play in various areas of the garden.”
“Do my eyes deceive me?” I smiled at her. “Are those waiters ready to serve from the Fig? And the waiters on faib skates... from the Figgish Gourmand?”
“Well yes, of course. I recalled with a great deal of fondness when you introduced me to the Puckered Fig.” She hid her smile behind her fan. Her mother just smiled, a little confused. The bottom of a table during the beginnings of a riot at the Fig.... right...
“Indeed, Serina. Sera, Serina, excuse me, please I should be at the bottom of the stairs to receive.” Kall was already there and I went to stand beside him. Nuninibas was there, as master of the house, his silver presentation comb already in his hand. In this new Arko, even a first threshold boy might stand for his household if he were the eldest male.
I noticed that quite a few Aitzas men made a point of formally introducing their unmarried daughters to both Kallijas and me. If we won, we would be the two most eligible bachelors in the Empire. The idea made me queasy but I hid that and smiled and touched comb to comb, tilting my head attentively, over and over; touching cheeks to Aitzas from the Fifty.
Kallijas had just excused himself for a moment, asking his secretary to step in to receive for him. In a few moments I would so so myself. Let all these Aitzas deal with touching comb to fan for a change. Atzana wouldn’t turn a hair.
"Ah! Ah? Aan? Oh yes... I knew your brother... surly boy... Minis is it? Yes... ah... yes... I remember the day you were born... Muunas damned hot it was..."
He would have come in early and been brought around to the garden. I was merely keeping up the fiction that he was still strong enough to come down the stairs. The hollow, thin-haired man with a wrap and whisps of white carefully combed over it, smiled at me. He still had several of his teeth. Astonishing for a man his age.
“My personal greetings to you. Might I introduce you to one of my former companions in the Marble Palace? A young fellow just terribly enthusiastic to hear ever one of your stories.”
I paced slowly beside him as he clung to the collar of a large fluffy. A curly haired white dog capable of pulling the old man, with red and silver patches dyed into its fur. It was attached to his chair by a harness and towed him easily, tongue lolling.
The Hyerne chef juggled her knives. The two braziers on either side of the expensive ceramic sheet blazed, throwing up a gateway of sparks on either side of her, fire glowing on her dark skin and even darker nipples, surrounded by fascinated/appalled party guests.
I eased up behind Ilian where he stared and said. "Ah, there you are, Kallen. You know the most senior Puriren. Ser Puriren, this is the young man I told you of." The old man let go the dog's collar and latched onto Kallen's sleeve in a grip that looked like it would take three strong solas to pry off, and there I left them. Kallen gaped, already tangled in the hundreds of generations of the Fortunate Fifty, drowning in the morass of who married whom and why and social events that had been important fifty years before he was born.
He wouldn't be able to get a word in edgewise with a block wedge and a hammer. The old man talked to a completely captive and appalled Kallen, while I excused myself to resume my receiving duties.
I smiled as I walked away, floating... flying away on the flow of endless family connections and an elder's physical problems.