Sudi Boulos maintained a pleasant smile on his face as the Lord sitting beside him continued to talk about… shipments? New policies? Everything in the banquet hall had turned into the persistent buzz of a fly long ago. Frustratingly annoying but impossible to squish without making oneself look like a fool.
He made an agreeing sound in his throat while looking towards one of the guards lurking in a corner near the doors. He had been making an effort throughout the evening of not looking in Sudi’s direction. So much for having an escape for tonight. He didn’t even bother looking interested in his food.
“Apologies, my Lord,” he said. “I did not hear you.”
“Your brother,” the Lord said, whipping the tips of his fingers with an embroidered napkin. “He’s getting a new position. In the spice trade?”
Sudi blinked. Small talk was not his strong point. What was this Lord’s name again? “Indeed.”
“Does he know much about spices?”
“Some.” Short answers were best–keep smiling.
“How wonderful for him. Does he have any leadership in place yet?”
“Not that he’s told me.” Sudi absently cracked his fingers and tried not the focus on the nauseating smell of the leftover food on the table.
“Mmm. My son, you remember him, has many potentials, and what he lacks in discipline, he more than makes up for in resourcefulness. I think he would do well in trade.”
“I suggest you bring that up with my brother next time you see him.” A bit sharper than it needed to be, but he didn’t have much patience left.
Honestly, there were plenty of people at the table he would prefer to be sitting beside. He reeked of a scent Sudi could describe as decaying flowers and, for reasons he didn’t want to contemplate, freshly cut grass. Sudi had been worried the first moment he had met his eyes by the glazed over look and thousand-mile stare. He couldn’t have been all that important if that was the kind of condition he came to the dinner party.
The Lord’s wife leaned forward in her chair. “Enough about all of this trading nonsense, my love. I’m curious about what he has to say about the explosion that happened in the Third Ring.”
He met her eyes instead of responding.
“Everyone suspects that it was a magic-user that caused it, but no one knows who it was. It’s been a week, and no one has said anything about it.”
Not enough to silence everyone, it would seem.
Sudi ran his thumb along the scar at the bottom of his chin. “There’s nothing specific about the explosion that says it was a magic-user. There could have been many reasons why such a thing would happen, especially so close to the docks. Any one of the sailors could have had malicious intent towards the city. I’ve heard that the east has come up with a new kind of explosive material.”
She gave him a somewhat condescending grim. “Fascinating. But no matter who was responsible, it was still the City Guards’ job to stop it from happening. And they’ve caught no one.”
Honestly, he was surprised that he had taken some minor Lord’s wife to bring it out into the open finally. “I assure you, my lady, my guards are doing everything they possibly can to track down who we suspect is responsible.”
“Who exactly do you suspect is responsible? I heard one of the minor Lord’s daughters was involved.”
“Is that so. I find most rumours are like sand–persistent and irritating but with very little weight.”
This particular rumour just happened to be true.
Sudi was aware of the Lord’s daughter. He had met her shortly after she had been captured. A desperate girl who was crying out for her brother. Except that her brother was one of the most dangerous people he’d ever met.
His thumb went to his scarred chin again. But not the most dangerous.
He let his gaze wander around the Great Hall, seeing if anyone was overhearing this conversation. At least the ones that were trying to had the decency to look as if they weren’t. It was one of those expected polite behaviours that people adhere to in public functions. Sudi had never been very good at it since he was hopeless at hiding how he felt, although Sudi didn’t try very hard if he was honest with himself.
Sudi raised a cup of water to his lips and took a long tentative drink.
The Lord beside him had a tight, fake smile on his lips.
None of it mattered anyway. It wasn’t Sudi’s job to be sitting at some dinner, making these lords happy. He should be out looking for this magic-user who had blown up part of the city. He had been bullied into coming to this dinner in the first place, being told that he was meant to make nice and be seen as relaxed to reassure the city’s people that nothing was amiss.
What a sham.
The city was so concerned with keeping up the appearance of being strong and capable that they were completely ignoring their weaknesses.
The city built itself on the idea there wasn’t anything to be feared, that everything within the walls was safe and secure. Even with the economic struggles that hit even the innermost Rings, they have been able to rely on the idea of complete and utter security. With this new wave of magic users in the streets, it became harder to control the populations’ anger and frustration.
At least seeing the diplomats squirm under public scrutiny was amusing.
So it fell into his hands to fix all the problems even as he struggled to understand how he was supposed to accomplish it with so little information. It didn’t help that public functions took up so much of Sudi’s time.
For years, magic-users have been talked about, but no one had ever been as powerful as this one. None of them had been able to take out a large chunk of the city in a matter of seconds.
Except maybe one.
It had been years since they had last seen each other–only children trying to understand their place. A little boy who could reduce anything to dust with nothing but the palms of his hands…
A goblet was slammed down on the wood table, causing the cutlery to shake. His instincts kicked in, and he reached for the small knife that he has been using to cut his food, holding it in a relaxed but firm grip and tracked his gaze around the room. The Lords flinched, looking alarmed and scared by his quick and lethal reaction.
The Lord across from Sudi, his hand still on his goblet, smirked.
More games. More time wasted on the bored and idle.
He didn’t bother to shrink away.
Instead, he tossed the knife onto the table and left the room, not bothering to look at his parents as he passed them.
They were wasting his time.
He has a prisoner to interrogate.