The evening sweet chef, Toniafas, had out-done himself. Inensa nodded to the food taster, as she and Sukala sat down in the Radiant Mirror’s Parlor, on the women’s side of the Great Baths. The food taster for the Imperatrix was of the same family as the Imperator’s, though they hadn’t had one of the family doing the work for almost a generation, since Seventeenth Kurkas had never raised a Mirror of the Ineffable Light and Niku Wahunai had never called for a woman to take up the post. Rafas and Idiesas had been united in requiring it, especially since this Unomas had been revealed to be the missing Matthas Mahid.
The sweet tray was an assortment of shokolade and fanillas truffles scattered around the base of a gilded orange tree. The fruit on that tree were coated white and several lay ‘broken open’ as if they had fallen. Whole sweet oranges had been taken apart and every segment had the white skin taken off, then each had been dipped in layers of various flavours and colours of shokolade, dark kaf, white cream, milky pehaka cream, then the whole thing had been re-assembled and coated in white cream shokolade before being dusted with gold and hung on the golden tree. “Toniafas remembered your last visit and made most of these without the gold dust,” Inensa said, taking up her embroidery basket.
“Pish, he needn’t,” Sukala said and broke open one of the confections licking the juice running down the sides of her wrists. “These are so amazing I’m going to go down later and tell him so!”
“Good,” Minis said as he came in, overhearing. He had a courier packet broken open in his hands. “You brought him so much notoriety last time that he wants to get you to do it again.”
“You look worried, my son.” Inensa said.
“It looks like this infertility has spread out of Arko,” Minis said somberly. “Reknarja just let me know that it has spread to several coastal towns of Tor Ench. Kranaj has quarantined them.”
There was a long silence before Sukala asked quietly, “The Haians haven’t found a way of stopping it?”
“Once it shows in the population,” Minis said. “No. They’ve succeeded in keeping the women from being infected, if they take the remedies beforehand.”
“So that’s a cure, isn’t it?” The covering on another orange broke open with a soft crackle.
“Not really,” Inensa said. “Once it manifests in the men it spreads to unprotected women. Haiu Menshir is fighting what it sees as an epidemic.”
Farasha came in, saying “Toniafas made truffles in honour of Sukala’s visit, Ky,” over her shoulder.
Sukala looked up and smiled at the two women as they came in and headed for the table. “But there’s some good news,” she said. “When are you women due?”