“And the Four struck the heavens at the four corners of the Earth. The seasons were thrown into chaos and they looked on and said, ‘it is good, for man will now have to work hard for his food and the floods might still sweep their hard work away.’” (Provenience 11:1)
Patre tried to hide his contempt but he wasn’t sure he was succeeding. Marθia was standing across from him in the Templar’s Room. She was chatting with one of the diplomats from Avanna, Daniar Zunig. He was young and healthy. His parents must work in the Federal Assembly, Patre concluded. He didn’t understand why Avanna’s diplomats were always young. It was a recipe for disaster. And the way Marθia ingratiated herself to him. She had no scruples. The young ones never did anymore.
Wendy North was addressing the delegation from the various districts but the hall was mostly empty. The Templar’s Keep had been under heavy security and most of the delegations’ entourage — unnecessary personnel — were ordered to stay indoors. Wendy addressed the murder of her brother by Tempist insurrectionists. She informed the room that the attacker was dead. However, they were not certain if there were more attackers. The state of heightened security would continue at least until the elections were held.
Patre shifted his gaze to Wendy. She certainly had grown into a beautiful woman. It was hard to believe that the skinny little girl who would hide in his room from her governess was sitting on the Indigo Bench. She was full-bodied and exuding determination. Her gown covered every inch of her body except her face. It was sapphire colored with Indigo’s animal, the alligatoridae, woven delicately into the right side of the coat. It was also her House’s morning color. The left side was smooth without design or pretense. Wendy was finishing her speech. The election would be postponed until the fog dissipated. Everyone knew, at this point, the election was a symbolic gesture. The time for someone else to enter the race had passed. Anyway, people would vote overwhelmingly for Wendy North.
Wendy ended her speech and people were allowed to approach Wendy North on an individual basis. The rest of the attendees mingled. Patre allowed the crowd to move forward. He fell into them and kept mostly to himself. He gravitated towards Marθia and Daniar.
“The weather used to be very predictable,” Daniar was saying as he pressed on Marθia’s arm flirtatiously.
“Really?” Marθia giggled.
“Yes, according to the scientific community.”
Marθia pushed him away incredulously, “you don’t listen to those idiots, do you? I thought you were speaking from the Sacred Gatherings.” Marθia feigned disbelief.
“I keep an open mind. You have to listen to both sides of the story,” Daniar said. He was handsome; a tan olive complexion with dark eyes under dark bushy eyebrows.
Patre wondered about Marθia’s end game. His eyes shifted from them and up to Wendy. She was speaking with another member of the Avanna delegation, a young woman by the name of Ilianna Kortez. Wendy’s eyes broke away from the young woman in boredom and scanned the room.
She found Patre. Their eyes met and he tilted his head towards Marθia. Wendy’s eye followed the direction of his tilt and caught sight of Marθia and Daniar. Her eyes returned to Patre. She nodded ever so slightly. Patre nodded back fully.
Patre walked towards the two and said, “Marθia, I had not seen you till now, how are you holding up after the attack?”
For a second Marθia could not hide her annoyance, but she quickly covered it up with a wide smile. She had pretty teeth — sharp — Patre noted.
“Oh Patre, I’ve had better days. I keep waking up in the middle of the night and hearing the steps of that menace.” She covered her eyes as if to blot the image of her ex-lover away.
Daniar moved closer to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Thank you,” Marθia said and then did a little gasp, “how rude, I’ve forgotten to introduce my new acquaintance Daniar Zunig, have you met?”
Daniar turned to Patre and extended his hand saying in a deep voice, “No, I have seen you around but have never been properly introduced.”
Patre took the younger man’s hand and shook it softly where the young man shook it a bit too effusively. Patre simply said, “it is a pleasure and an honor to meet you formally; however unfortunate the circumstances.”
Daniar took the bait, “ah yes, we did work closely with Josse North and I take it from Marθia,” he paused, “I’m sorry, Miss Atunez.”
Marθia waved the impropriety away and said, “Marθia is fine.”
Daniar nodded and continued, “Marθia, was just explaining that the both of you were personal confidants of her Ladyship Wendy North. I deeply regret that my delegation had not had the opportunity of speaking with her Ladyship as extensively as we had the opportunity to court Josse North.”
Patre looked at the boy, for really, he was just a boy. The diplomacy was immaculate but Patre could not help himself, “our deceased acting Premier Josse North,” he stressed the title, “had a strong magnetism. I could see how your delegation was attracted to him.” Patre was letting him know that the Avanna delegation had all but endorsed Josse North and he — and therefore Wendy North — considered it inappropriate.
Daniar was gracious. He smiled and said, “and now we are attracted to his sister in the same manner and but with ever more respect. Her reputation for impartiality and efficiency precedes her in Avanna.”
Marθia smiled and wondered at Patre’s ways. She said, “we will convey those regards to our Ladyship.” She pressed on his hand and they smiled at each other.
Daniar eyes broke away from Marθia as he noticed Ilianna Kortez walked down the steps from the Indigo Bench. He did not like the look on her face.
Daniar turned to Marθia and then Patre and said, “I’m sorry, but I must take my leave.” Patre and Marθia nodded and watched him walk over to Iliana Kortez and then walk out of the room together.
Marθia looked at Patre and shook her head. She said, “there is diplomacy and there is diplomacy.”
Patre said through pursed lips, “your diplomacy often fails.”
Marθia smile broadened, “that, my dear Patre, is often the point.” She mockingly touched his shoulder and let her fingertips dance across his arm as she turned to move on to her next mark. Patre couldn’t help but be jealous. What a waste, he thought.
Outside, the fog continued in its dark and a strange eclipse. It darkened the day and the night. The continued to empty out and fell silent under the eerie darkness of the fog. Patre moved to the nearest guard and instructed her to call extra guards into the Keep. He went up to Wendy North, who had stood up, and walked behind the Indigo bench to open the drapes covering the windows. The fog rolled into the room catching the red of the flames coming from the Indigo Bench, but, beyond the window, the yellow glow of the sun had disappeared.
“Close that window, Patre. There is no point,” Wendy North said and walked away.