Dukir handed off his reins to the girl at the new inn in Viltaria, hitched his swordbelt into place, stepped back and waited for his Emir-al to dismount. The girl took hold of the guide reins of their whole pack-train, rapped the lead-bird on his beak with a bronze stick and led the lot of them into the stables, by herself.
“These Milari are tough!” Raghnall grinned at his Amir. “I can’t think of a single Lainz inn-servant who would even try to control a whole train of warbirds!
“Ah, Emir-al, the instant we couldn’t see, there were a dozen stable hands to take control, I stake my rank on’t.”
He laughed. “They save face and are practical all at the same time! Watch my back, Amir.”
“Of course, Emir-al.”
They wandered the wedding celebration, looking for the boy they had come so far to find. Dukir had a wooden platter of roast herbal moa in one hand and a stein full of high potency wine in the other when he found Raghnall again.
The lad, to his credit, had wetted his lips and had a bite but hadn’t indulged enough to get drunk. “Naser,” Dukir said. “Any sign of the boy we’re looking for?”
“No, Amir. Everyone is celebrating. There is no one in any of the offices.”
“I spoke to one of the cooks, Naser, and he was a Lainz expatriate.”
Raghnall raised both eyebrows. “Trust you to find a Lainz, my Amir.” He nibbled on the savory bird-meat on a spit in his one hand. “I quite like the Milari idea of a celebration. They seem to like feeding anyone.”
“Ay, Naser.” Dukir took a sip of his tankard and a bite of his pig. He knew that it was unlikely they would find their boy in the midst of the celebration. “Perhaps we should ask tomorrow?”
“Amir! The Emperor said this was important!” He sighed. "We can do this tomorrow..."
“Yes, Naser.” Dukir watched the Emir-al forge back into the celebrating crowd. Ah, lad. Trying to find a boy in the middle of a partying crowd... Ye’ve never had to try and talk ta the drunks and the happy folk.
He took a bite of the moa and a hasty swig from the tankard to cool the spice flames in his mouth. It was so good. He had another sip and another bite and ended up sitting in a Milari woman’s lap who thought he and his uniform and veil were intriguingly exotic.
The taste of her lips when he raised his veil to kiss her was spice and wine, as he remembered. “Nasera, you are incredible.” He said, more drunkenly than he truly was. “I was here and I should have stayed here.”
She laughed and stretched up to kiss him back. “Yes. You should have stayed last time!” He put a flat hand against the fascinating silks over the woman’s breasts, then manfully resisted and looked for his Emir-al. Ragnall had a glass of mead and was holding forth to a circle of listeners, not fighting off sexual advances. Not that he particularly wanted to fight off this woman. She wasn’t young but not old either. She had a knowing twist to her coral lips against exotically pale skin; a waterfall of wavy brown hair.
Technically I'm off duty. He threw one last glance at Shaidan and caught the ‘go on’ wave out of the corner of his eye as the woman leaned forward to raise his veil and kiss him. Well. One day, we can make up, once we find the boy. Once I figure out if he’s worthy of being trained up to be Emperor.
He knocked back the last drops of dry, pale mead and someone re-filled the cup for him. I shouldn’t do this. The drunken spymaster is a dead spymaster. But I don’t want to find the boy is horrible and have to kill him to protect the Empire. I want the best for the Empire, for my friend. I hope... I hope he’s a
good boy. I don’t want to kill him. He smiled and kissed the woman again and she spilled her wine on his veil and lips and smiled as he un-hooked the sheer fabric and licked his lips. Tomorrow’s problem. I hope he’s a good boy, he thought and then slotted that thought into tomorrow’s box in his mind.