“Is this not for the First of the Mahid to deal with?” Inensa’s voice was calm.
“The honourable Sera’s father has been called to the Highest Office and has been there for more than a bead.” That was alarming. Her son needed to speak to his grandfather for that long? There was something not right going on.
“Then I shall certainly see what I can do to resolve this Mahid problem. Bring them to Risae’s Garden room, if you would. I’ll receive them there.” She rose and Dau, who had Tesha on her lap at the moment said. “I’ll keep her, she’ll be fine with us.”
“Thank you, Daurama,” she ran gloved fingers over her daughter’s head, making her squirm.
“Be good for Auntie Dau, all right?”
“Yes, Mama. I’m always good!”
“That is sometimes debatable but I agree with you right now.” It was hard, sometimes, to not just smile at her little girl’s nonsense and her lips twitched with amusement as she turned to follow Erlas.
Risae’s Garden room was a tiny space on the Honorakia level, where the Imperial women’s quarters met the Serulean stairs up from the Mahid level. Inensa paused to let her servants remove her skates and replace them with soft blue kidskin shoes. It was still hard to look down at herself and see colour in her clothing. Her gown -- really a split trouser gown, that shockingly daring fabrication by the Imperatrix’s designer -- was mostly black lace, a dusty black, almost a charcoal colour rather than true onyxine, the lace over a shockingly bright blue. Blue shoes. She accepted her blue and black feather fan as she rose to climb up the enormous pink marble staircase, to her meeting.
It would be in one of the five Goddess garden rooms in the women’s halls, full of the sun-loving plants cherished by Risae in Her aspect of surgeon and vivisectionist.
Just as her father tended his menagerie of flamboyantly coloured toxic flowers and insects and animals, she had taken up tending the sun-loving poisonous plants. The enormous datura with its white flowers as large across as her hand, the tiny blood-red berries of the boringly named Flat-leaf, the various Arkanherb trees, trained to a ‘weeping’ form so that the frosted buds swayed in the breeze from the open windows, filling the garden with their musky green scent.
She settled into her favourite woven chair, and waited. She had an idea who these women might be and when the four were shown in, with chairs for them, and followed by a servant with the afternoon kaf service on it, she was only mildly surprised.
The four women were dressed in black, though no one made onyxine any longer, black and formal Mahid as she used to be. For a moment she felt a pang of loss for that uniform anonymity.
The eldest sank into a credible curtsy and the other three followed suit, despite all of them carrying toddlers. They were some of the young women who had been married into the Mahid... right at the end of their running loose, by Second Amitzas in anticipation of regaining control of Minis. Anticipation that the Eclipse Court would need to breed more Mahid.
“Sofonisba,” Inensa said. “Alaria. Melforasha. And young Sulatesha. Alaria, as I recall you attacked me last time we saw one another, for making you be a Mahid. It seems that your freedom is something you four have reconsidered, perhaps?”