The Whip and the Cudgel both ceremoniously put down their jeweled instruments and the Speaker rose for the closing of this session of Assembly. Minis sat, thoughtfully, nodding to the various Assembly men and women who were chatting as their clerks and secretaries secured their papers and pens, closed up lap desks.
He had another inspection tour of the city's waterworks scheduled for this evening, this time upstream. Since the Yeoli conquest things had shifted and some of the cleansing rituals had been mandated as redundant or useless, but if this illness was waterborne then every ritual had to be reinstated to try and stop it.
Kyriala and Gannara were at the annual street fair for the glassworkers of Arko and Farasha was at a small festival of booksellers and library caravaneers. Bella and Doof were both waiting for him at the end of the glass bridge.
The parrot fluttered off the stand and landed on his outstretched arm. He'd learned to block the head landing. Minis smiled and let her nibble on his fingers around the seal. He turned and found his way blocked by both his grandfather and Akminchaer. “Um, gentlemen?”
They didn't even glance at each other. How weird is it that my grandfather and a Haian are working together so well? “Grandson.”
Akminchaer took over as if they'd rehearsed it. “You may be fit and only in your twenties, Imperator...” Why do I hear the 'but'? “But in a crisis you need to be more careful of yourself, rather than less.”
His stomach growled right then and even Amitzas smiled slightly. “I will be more careful, Akminchaer, Grandsire.”
“May I suggest that we report to you over luncheon?”
“All right.” He had changed things in the Marble Palace routines about meals just so his chamberlain didn't tear all the rest of his hair out, trying to schedule court meals around him. I'd insisted that the court sit to eat three meals a day, not six and that they didn't have to wait for me to show up to eat. But the private kitchen for the Imperator always seemed ready to feed me. I should commend their diligence.
He turned to Atzana who, as always, seemed to materialize at his elbow the moment he stepped out of the Assembly chamber. “A note, please, Atzana. A commendation to the private kitchen, for diligence and excellence.”
They all trouped over to the Imperial Chambers and through, out to the balcony, where a wheeled cart with covered dishes was just being delivered, along with the food taster, Amas.
As he sat down to wait for his taster's go ahead the room filled up with the family coming in. Ili and his friends blasted through on their skates, Bella lumbering up to chase after the young rowdies, but only for a step or two and a bark more like a burp than anything else.
Doof fluttered over to hang upside down from the perch and poke the hook of her beak into a pinkfruit and dribble juice into the sandbox below.
Amitzas summoned in a young man that Minis didn't know, who dropped the sketchbook he had clutched to his chest as he did the prostration. “Gehit.”
Inensa came in, accompanied by another Mahid girl who was apparently acting as her welcomist and secretary. Minis thought he knew all the Mahid left but didn't recognize this one.
Amas, who had inherited his position after his father died in the infamous poison oysters attack on Shefenkas, nodded to him and smiled a bit, before he withdrew. So Minis loaded a plate for himself as everyone settled in chairs around the sitting area. The chef had outdone himself. There was a variation of beef skewers normally sold as street food in Arko, but with a garlic, rosemary and oil dipping sauce that made the water run together in his mouth. There was fresh Hyerne flatbread and a fillet of bluefish, tail curled crisp, divided into individual mouthfuls so each could be lifted and eaten without getting a single drop of sauce on the hands.
There was a rice dish with apricots and threads of saffron, with bite sized pieces of perfectly cooked lamb, and puff pastry stuffed with greens and cheese before being slathered with butter and baked. And to finish there was a sweetened yellowfruit ice set in an ornamental ice bowl, melting slowly, even in the heat.
Everyone took their time settling down, getting kaf from the service table, mostly to give him time to eat something. Minis let his eye settle on the young man he didn't know, then looked to his grandfather who was, as usual, not letting anything slip. He shrugged to himself and assumed he'd find out in the course of this meeting.
“I am hoping that everyone has good news for me that I will be able to implement, or pass on to Assembly when everyone comes back, or both. This... thing... cannot spread out of Arko.”
“Yes, Grandson.” Amitzas stood up slowly and everyone turned to him. “I must report, I regret to say, I have no creature in any of my very specialized menageries that can produce an effect like this. I have gone back into the records of the Imperial Pharmacists since before the Boy Plague and I have no evidence of anything like this, in any of them. Daughter?”
“I have similar unfortunate results to report, for every garden that I have charge of. I began testing combinations of all our toxins but so far everything I have attempted has resulted in merely lethal compounds.”
Minis raised an eyebrow. “You mean you are testing every one of your poisonous compounds in combination now?”
She nodded. “I am beginning with combinations of two. So far I have a lot of dead rodents, rather than ones incapable of breeding.”