Sesus, in the Embassy of the Grand Navigators…
“Ah, there you are,” said Peino Starhand as Lafitte made his entrance. “Milord Ceula, permit me to present one who needs no introduction because he provides his own — as stated, Captain Jean Lafitte of the privateer, The Dancer Calinda.”
Speaking quickly, Peino rendered the name of Lafitte’s airship in the Common Elvish, the strange personal name coming out something like “calendar” in his accent. He knew the airship’s nameplate was in a strange, blocky alphabet he did not recognize, one of the many details about Jean Lafitte that had sparked certain suspicions in the selkie’s mind, but viewing it through a Dragon’s Eye lens, that is how it came out in Common – The Dancer Calinda, probably referring to a particular woman. In any event, that is how he had recorded it in his log account of the incident off the Hammer of Arelaan.
“Captain Lafitte, may I present,” he continued, “His Lordship Ceula Bladewing Turali Ereonis, Baron of the Lyres, Lord Ambassador of the Grand Navigators to the Floating Throne.”
“Your servant, sir.” The ambassador swept his gold-braided tricorn hat off his head with a flourish and bowed gracefully to Lafitte. “It is my pleasure to make the acquaintance of the man who came to the aid of our noble prince against the spriggan ruffians. My card.” Ceula whipped a small, cream-colored square from his embroidered waistcoat pocket and handed it to the eorman. There followed an awkward pause as Lafitte did not return a card of his own, interrupted by Peino clearing his throat.
“Erm, yes,” he said, answering Ambassador Ceula’s raised eyebrow with an almost imperceptible shake of his head, “Good news, Lafitte. My brother has anticipated us. He is here now. Come and meet him. Milord,” he added to the ambassador, “you will see to the matter we discussed?”
“At once, Your Highness.”
“Very good. My thanks.”
The two aristocratic selkies bowed once more to each other, and a handful of others standing about the embassy lobby, who had seemed to have nothing to do with the conversation, suddenly also bowed. Some of these discreet attendants went off in one direction with Lord Ceula, while the rest picked up Peino’s baggage and followed him.
Bidding Lafitte to follow as well, he trotted up the curving marble stairs to the upper floors of the embassy palace. Guards snapped to attention and officials bowed as the prince and the privateer passed them, all the way up to the carved and gilded doors of the apartment reserved for the ruling family.
“I hope any questions you may have are ready on your tongue, milord Lafitte,” Peino said as he first knocked and then opened the door. “Wizards, you know. You don’t want to give them any openings.”
He winked at the eorman and led Lafitte and the embassy porters into the salon just in time to hear a blue-robed member of the Guild of Law say to a young eorman woman, both seated on one of the couches, “Oh my, you look nice. Feeling better?”
“Better than what?” said Peino.
The women looked up at the two seafarers, their surprise bordering on confusion at the sight of the two mariners in their rough clothing and the porters laying down the bags and touching their foreheads as they left.
“Master Nightwise,” said the lawyer, “are we ready to proceed?”
“You mistake me, milady. I am Starhand, not Nightwise.”
“Oh… Oh!” The lawyer shot to her feet. Her hand jerked towards the woolcap lying on the cushion but instead ended up snapping hurriedly at the girl on the other side of the wig, signaling her to rise as well.
“Your Highness,” said the lawyer, bowing. “I am Aeto Arrowwise Lalraas of the House of Lalra.” She waggled her hand impatiently at the eorman girl some more. “Look you, Mistress, this is His Serene Highness, the Sovereign Prince of the Grand Navigators. Your Highness, are you just arrived in Sesus?”
“I am,” said Peino, returning the bow and turning his attention to the young woman looking fresh and clean in fashionably casual clothing. “Was the lady unwell?”
“Hm? Oh, my client, Your Highness, Mistress Lotye O’Tulvar of Farind. She has been, um, refreshed by Master Nightwise’s gracious hospitality.”
“Indeed?” Peino smiled warmly at the girl. “Well done, Master Nightwise.”
“Peino!” Lord Jeneyeru entered from his bedroom, followed by the still aged Thimble, and carrying the dire black box under his arm. “Brother, welcome.”
“Jeney, it is good to see you.”
The others in the room may at that point have been struck by the sight of the two lords, identical to each other in every physical way, looking like mirror opposites. Jeneyeru with his mass of arcane braids and his suit of iridescent lavender silk, the shimmering color glowing against his dark skin, and Peino with his long straight hair tied back simply in the sailor’s tradition, dressed in basic seal skin and linen, looked as if they existed in different worlds as they embraced.
“My word, Pei,” said Jeneyeru, “you stink of bilge water and pitch. Can you not even put on a decent coat when you come into town? You are a scandal, I swear upon it– oh.” The wizard’s eyes fell upon Lafitte. “What’s this you’ve brought me?”
“Ah, yes, Captain Lafitte.” Peino performed the introductions again and said, “The captain has an interest in the cards as well. I brought him especially to speak with you about them.”
“Did you now? Such foresight.” Jeneyeru smiled and exchanged the usual courtesies with the tall eorman, but suddenly added to Peino, “But you have two cards for me, yes?”
“Yes.” Peino pulled the ward-wrapped packet from his inner coat pocket and handed them carefully to Jeneyeru who held it carefully between his hands, both brothers showing a flash of gravity.
“Ah,” said Jeneyeru, as if feeling a heavy weight in the thin packet. “When is your audience with the king?”
“Good. That gives us time to address this state of affairs. There is much news and a deal to discuss — but in the meantime, Pei, I beg you, equip yourself properly. Thimble, wait upon the prince.”
“Yes, my lord,” said the false old man.
“And Captain… Lafitte? Would you care to refresh yourself as well? Or perhaps you would take some tea while my brother dresses and explain to me your interest in this matter?”
“That may be as polished as the gentleman gets,” remarked Peino. Jeneyeru shot him a disapproving glance and returned to smiling at Lafitte as if he didn’t believe it. With a wry grin, Peino left Lafitte to his decision.
“Ladies, gentlemen, I shall be but a few minutes.” And he left the salon, followed by Thimble carrying his sea-bag.