Nisrioch looked over the account books on the desk before him, nodding fitfully. “Very well done, Cei.”
The Dev bowed. “I live to serve, Your Excellency.”
“Oh, please,” stated Nisrioch, pouring himself a cup of tea. “That would be a very dull life. I’d say you live to make me aware of how incredibly useful you are.”
“If that is how His Excellency wishes to put it,” answered Cei, “who am I to argue?” He shrugged, causing his wings to flutter slightly.
Nisrioch sighed as he added a bit of lemon juice to his tea. “My niece’s seneschal.” He sipped, and gave a nod. “So--no problems from Kaf?”
“No--extraordinary problems,” said Cei.
Nisrioch turned to the seneschal, his rainbow-hued eyes sparkling strangely. “Define ‘extraordinary’,” he stated.
Cei raised a hand and began counting things off. “Lord Belberith has not sent any assassins to kill our tax collectors, nor has he sponsored bandits to disrupt our trade for nearly two years now. His ambassador spies on us, but has not attempted any destructive acts of espionage--secret leagues, hidden bonds, or the like--there have been no explo--”
“Understood, understood,” noted Nisrioch, massaging his temples. “So he’s simply being his usual unpleasant self.” He shivered. “Marvelous. Simply marvelous. The wolf is at the door, and the fox is at the shed. Hurrah for the Plains of Dread.” He frowned. “By the Lady, I thought I’d be more prepared for this. I have the Sight, I should be--but time and time again the future proves more powerful than my imagining of it…” The peal of a horn rang throughout the chamber. Nisrioch’s eyes went wide. “Is that… the Oliphant?”
Cei coughed. “I could tell you otherwise, sir, but I would be lying.”
Nisrioch took a deep breath. “Well, at least it’s only a minor emissary…” A second peal rang out. “Major emissary. A major emissary may be important but it’s not a…” A third peal of the Oliphant was heard. “State visit,” muttered Nisrioch. “It’s a state visit. That’s why I didn’t See this.” He stood up and looked to the heavens. “Oh, Alse, Alse, why do you wound me so?”
“Well, sir, I would say…” began Cei.
“I was speaking rhetorically,” declared Nisrioch. He bit his lip and glanced around. “Cei, go make the Albraccans… welcome. And inform them I am indisposed for the nonce. Possibly two nonces. Maybe even three. I make no guarantees.”
Cei bowed. “Very well, sir. With your permission, I shall make the number of nonces--indefinite.”
“Very good, very good,” declared Nisrioch. “Yes, exceptionally wise.” His fingers began to idly tap the table. “And… have the servants get me some ginger water.”
Cei nodded and left the room. When he was gone, Nisrioch sat back down, and stared at he papers before him glumly for a long while. Eventually, he picked up his tea, and took another sip. He set the cup down, and fiddled idly with the papers. He opened a drawer, and produced a small mirror, and regarded himself in it, from a variety of angles. He then returned it to the drawer, and ran his hands through his hair. Then he picked up his tea again, and stared at it for a moment.
Finally, he drank it down in a single gulp.