The young man seated at the heavy old desk sighed and let a sheaf of papers drop to the desk’s cluttered surface. It was a report on the Human Purity movement and its leader, Admirable Silverstones, the Countygold of Upper Hills. Its contents gathered his forehead into a frown.
The light was fading, and the stone-floored room, always chilly, edged toward cold. He reached over and touched the sigil on the base of the brass desk lamp, which released its cool illumination into the room as he muttered the Dwarvish word for light. Then he spoke the spell which adjusted the tall black iron warming columns set on either side of his chair. Like most of the other furniture in the room, they were old. He smelled the scent of toasting linen from his shirtsleeve, and adjusted them back down again. His feet resumed freezing, despite two pairs of socks.
Concentrating on the devices, he barely heard a tentative tap at the door.
“Yes, Reliable?” he called out.
His secretary, Reliable Chandler, poked his rabbitlike face around the door.
“Your pardon, Realmgold,” he said, addressing his master by his title. “Did you intend to join your Provincegolds in their quarterly meeting tonight?”
“Have I been invited this time?”
The secretary dropped his eyes, and coloured. “Ah, not as such, Realmgold. But as it is being held here in Lakeside Koslin this quarter…”
“Quite. When is it?”
“According to the minutes of the last meeting,” said the secretary, advancing into the room with a piece of paper, “at the twelfth deep bell.” He placed the paper on the desk, his finger indicating the information at the bottom.
The young Realmgold, whose given name was Determined, narrowed his eyes when he noticed that the last, and uncompleted, item on the previous agenda was the Human Purity movement. He glanced at the elaborate dwarfmade clock in the corner. “That gives me time to read these minutes, then.” He flipped the paper over to begin on the first side.
The secretary coughed. “And might I suggest a fresh shirt, Realmgold?”
Determined glanced down at his ruffled cuffs, marked with ink-splatters and dust. “You may. Have one brought down. And my green coat. If it’s this cold inside, I hate to think what it’s like in the street.”
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