The Prahbrindrah Drah turned slowly before a mirror, admiring himself. “What do you think?”
The Radisha eyed his tailored dress, bright silk, and jewels. He cut a handsome figure. “When did you turn into a peacock?”
He half drew a sword he’d had forged as a symbol of the state. “Nice?”
It was as fine a weapon as could be produced by Taglian craftsmen, hilt and pommel a work of art incorporating gold, silver, rubies, and emeralds in a symbolic intertwining of the emblems of Taglian faiths. The blade was strong, sharp, practical, but its hilt was overweight and clumsy. Still, it was not a combat weapon, just a trapping of office.
“Gorgeous. And you’re trying to make a fool of yourself.”
“Maybe. But I’m having fun doing it. And you’d be having fun making a fool of you if Mather was here. Eh?”
The Radisha eyed him narrowly. He was not as open as he had been before Lady caught his eye. He was up to something and for the first time in their lives he was not sharing. That worried her. But she said only, “You’re wasting your time. It’s raining. Nobody goes to the gardens when it’s raining.”
“It won’t last.”
That was true. It was just a brief rain. They always were, this time of year. The real rains were more than a month away. But still... She felt he should avoid the gardens tonight, with no rational basis for her feeling.
“You’re investing too much in it. Slow down. Make her work harder.”
He grinned. Give the woman that. Murderess she might be but she did put a smile on his face. “Don’t count me so smitten I’ll give away the palace.”
“I wasn’t thinking that. But she’s changed since she came back. It concerns me.”
“I appreciate it. But I’m in control. Taglios is my first love. And hers is the Company. If she’s up to anything it’s trying to make sure we don’t go back on our bargain.”
“That could be enough.” Regarding the Black Company she still hovered over the abyss between his position and Smoke’s.
“How’s Smoke?” he asked.
“Hasn’t come to yet. They say he lacks the will to recover.”
“Tell those leeches that for their sakes he’d better. I want to know what happened. I want to know what that thing was. I want to know why it wanted to kill him. Our Smoke has been up to something. It could get us destroyed.”
They had discussed that again and again. There were implications in Smoke’s behavior which boded evil. Till they learned the truth, they suspected, a sword hung over their heads.
“You haven’t said what you think.”
“I think everyone who sees you will think you look like a prince of the blood instead of a vegetable peddler someone threw ill-fitting clothing on and called a prince.”
He chuckled. “You’re right. In your sarcastic way. I never cared what I looked like. Wasn’t anyone I wanted to impress. Time to go.”
“Suppose I go along, this once?” A facetious suggestion, to see how he wriggled.
“Why not? Get ready. It ought to be amusing, seeing her response.”
And instructive? The Radisha’s estimate of her brother rose. He was not completely smitten. “I won’t be long.”
She was not. It took her longer to pass instructions to Smoke’s attendants than to prepare to go out.