Inensa came back into the dining hall with the acknowledging dip of her knee, watching the animated, though somewhat stilted conversation between the Zak dancer and the Fehinnan, through Matthas’s careful ‘translation’. She had no idea where he’d learned Zak, but he was doing an equitable job.
This was some kind of game that her son had set up, she was sure of it, but had no idea what it might be. She settled calmly, decorously, on the other side of the Ambassador.
He smelled of patchouli, mostly, and the callus on his hands showed her he was no stranger to weapons work. That was one thing that Arkan gloves concealed nicely. She caught the flicker of his gaze over her son’s obvious security, and was startled by his attention to Kyriala, Farasha, and even herself. He is considering how careful he needs to be with us. Not for physical threat but he does not discount us as trivial.
At the beginning of the dinner she’d caught that his cough into his handkerchief was a toxin check. The fabric of his handkerchief was the same as her gloves, but his was openly visible while hers was obscured by the embroidery and gems across the backs of her gloves. Not that we would go to all this trouble to poison him. He’s careful.
The Fehinnan spoke to his own assistant, a young man sitting across from him who answered, both in Fehinnan. The Zak didn’t react. I wonder if that is what Minis is about.
“Minis-my-brother! Please-excuse-my-interruption-but-I-want-to-ask.” Ili had bounced up, made his bow and begun talking almost with one move and one breath.
Minis held up his hand to interrupt his excited little brother. “Please, Ili, a little less impetuosity! Take a breath! You will disturb our honoured guest.”
“I want to give the Sera a present, a gift for doing so well!”
“Yes, you may.”
He pulled his comb out of his belt, a silver and crystal confection and unclipped it. “Ili!” Inensa called, scandalized.
He stopped and looked at it then at her.
“It’s not like I’m proposing marriage!” He said, pouting. “It’s just something close to me!”
“I will allow it, young man,” she said, frowning. Ili tugged the comb through the end of his braid and proffered it to the Zak, who was watching intently and tilting her head to get Matthas’s murmured translation in her ear.
She smiled and accepted it with a bow and a liquid flood of Zak.
“Is it appropriate to gift a performance?” the Ambassador asked.
“A personal token,” Minis said. “That way it won’t imply that I am not paying her enough.” He turned to accept another goblet from his food taster.
Another long bit of Fehinnan from the young aide and the Ambassador smiled. He reached up to unhook one of his earrings, a pearl drop on loop that hung over his ear. “This has been a prized possession of mahn for many years. I would not wish to insult mah host.”
He offered it to her directly, just as Ili had given up his comb.
Matthas spoke up as she bowed deeply. “This one is greatly honoured by the munificence of her host and the generosity of His guests.”
“Should I ever plan a sufficiently large party, and you are available, I shall certainly wish to speak to the Imperator about having you perform!”
“Matthas…” Minis managed a snotty drawl. “This is terribly boring, hmmm?”
“Of course, Imperator.” He rose and twitched at the Zak’s elbow and they made their obeisance, with a parting flash of glitter.
“Ambassador, would you care for another type of entertainment? A choral perhaps? Or another kind of musical performance?”
“Anything you would find entertaining, Imperator.” The man flashed white teeth and picked up his cup. “The sweet cake that looked like a fang-lion was delicious!”