“It’s a tricky thing, reputation. It’s difficult to get and harder to maintain, and having one can cause no end of frustration, but on occasion, the idea of who you might be will accomplish a great deal more for you than who you actually are will.”The Personal Diaries of Ardin Neraad
“And listen well, father! I will not be ignored any longer!”
A subtle inhalation spread through the seated crowd, all watching the stage with rapt attention, and Cerith crossed quietly around the back of the grand theatre to a spiral staircase. Seeing her coming, the guard turned to unclasp the velvet rope, greeting her with a smile she reciprocated, before she began to climb the narrow stairway.
“You would not speak to me thus, my son, if you had seen the world as I had! Oh, the folly of youth!”
Cerith pulled back the copper curtain of the viewing box silently, slipping inside. Framed against the light drifting up from the stage she saw the silhouette of a heavy scalar, hunched forward regarding the spectacle below, the outline of his wide shoulders broken by a fur collar. She crossed to take her seat beside the iakim, easing slowly into the plush seat.
Nari held up a plump finger as she did so, the light glinting off the jewelled rings adorning it. His gaze remaining fixed on the stage below. “Shh, this is the best part,” he whispered. A gasp spread across the crowd as the two actors on the stage drew their weapons. The two onlookers sat in silence for a moment.
“You know not what you do…”
“I know exactly what I do!”
Nari bent his head to the side to whisper in Cerith’s ear. “Have you seen this one before?”
Cerith shook her head.
“Ah. It won’t make much sense, I’d imagine. We’re at the climax.”
“What’s it about?”
Nari turned and flashed a wide grin, eyes wide. “Allegory.” The iakim had a notably wide mouth, and when he smiled like this, Cerith had always thought he resembled a shark. Others might have made that comparison with other qualities of his instead.
“For what?” she asked.
Nari just tapped his nose. “I wasn’t expecting you,” he whispered after a moment. The battle on stage was in full force now and he leant back in his chair, his attention on Cerith rather than the play.
Cerith shrugged. “I haven’t seen you for a while.”
Nari raised one brow in doubt. Cerith blinked twice, slowly, then sighed.
“I was hoping to get some time in Belath.”
Nari nodded and waved a hand idly. “Of course. When?”
“When’s it free?”
Nari rested his chin in one hand as he thought. “I’ve an elven artist staying there until next Fire’s Day, I’m trying to woo her for an exhibition while I still might be able to.”
“I think that window’s narrowing. Have you heard today’s news?”
Nari looked at her expectantly.
“There’s some…rumours. Two ships sailed in from the mainland a few days ago. Snuck in with false papers.”
Nari was watching with rapt attention.
“Apparently there’s some evidence it’s the two Markex from the mainland.”
Nari stroked his chin. “I see.”
“And what do you think of these rumours?”
“Just rumours, probably.”
“All rumours have at least a kernel of truth to them, my dear.”
The pair sat in silence for a moment, before Cerith whispered again. “So I can go next week?”
Nari nodded, watching as the scene on stage changed to show two drakes in flight across the ocean. “I’ll clear the schedule. Take your brother with you.”