Excerpt "Two thousand bags of kelaph grain, five hundred bushels of hymacyth and eighty bolts of silk."
A late afternoon breeze blew through the wide windows, bringing with it the promise of night's cool winds. The heavy silk tapestries, his father's seal and lineage worked in by his mother's hand, barely moved. The wind, frustrated in its attempts to affect the thick pottery strewn about, instead tickled Surial's papers. They fluttered on the heavy desk, butterflies caught in a twilight meadow.
"The Seika Vorani, my Helan. The silk is raw, to be dyed purple." Rowan's voice was sure, confident. "The man is marrying off his third daughter after the autumn monsoon and the girl believes the color reduces the ruddiness of her skin."
Surial nodded over with a grin. "Perfect, as always. Is the girl marrying a local?"
"No, my Helan. There is a Seika from Begida who seeks a wife. His first was lured away by a desert witch and he needs someone to sit and rule over his harem." His personal Rowani was standing, deceptively relaxed, by the door, his traditional myklos, the asp's fangs, hanging curved upon each thigh. Rowan blended into the tapestries -- bald head, traditional Rowani browns. Even the steel tipped whip draped around his arm seemed simply a part of the background. "The wedding promises to be a huge event, not unlike your brother Yulial's -- except the vows will not be said upon our blessed cliffs."
Surial sighed, unaccountably annoyed -- whether by the sight of those weapons, the reminder of their homeland, or the fact that Rowan had, yet again, uncovered the best gossip faster than he could, he couldn't say. "I don't need to be guarded in my own home, Rowan. I'm perfectly safe."
"Yes, my Helan, but allow your Rowan his duty."
Smoothing the edge of stacked parchments, making sure they were flat, Surial leaned forward, resting his chin in his hands. "I get tired of hearing those words from you, Rowan."
Dark eyes twinkled at him, for a moment as young and carefree as when they had played together upon Sandide's cliffs. "I believe they were the first words I ever learned, Helan."
"Really? I distinctly remember your mother telling me your first words were 'in the water, mam'. There has never been a man who loved the water more than you, Chedar."
"Rowan, Helan. Chedar died when he gave his hair and his name and his status to serve the Banshinaree line."
"Yes, yes. I know." Surial forced his attention back to business. Only a few more to sign and then he would be caught up, seeing that each bag of grain or finely wrought necklace was inventoried and accounted for. There would be another batch to sign tomorrow, and the day after that and so on and so on; it really was the most tedious way to spend one's time. Almost as tedious as answering one of his father's missives, silver crest across the seal, seeming heavy with disappointment.
He popped the seal, reading quickly, knowing that Rowan's eyes rested heavy on him, desperate for any news of home. Rowan hated it here, far more even than he himself did -- hated the unending heat, the filth, the sand, the constant strain of being an outsider. The loneliness.
"Father says your mother is well. The summer festivals are beginning and the lamps are being hung to honor the dead. My mother's will be green and... oh. Armsmaster Penoc's will be blue."
Rowan's eyes met his, shocked and sad. "Penoc? No, Surial, say it is not so."
Surial nodded, as much as he hated swords, he had loved the scarred old man and to Rowan he had been as father. Surial's father had insisted he and his brothers learn to defend themselves, even though each of them would have a Rowani of their own. He could still remember the first time Asulial had drawn blood from the swordmaster. Surial had been horrified. He'd brought the man a bandage, stockinged feet slipping on the tile.
The gruff man had just chuckled at him, long hair brushing the hem of the heavily embroidered jacket. "Not the first nick I've had, won't be the last -- in a couple of years it'll be you nicking me, young Helan."
And he had, lest Penoc be punished for Surial's cowardice. His father didn't play fair, the old man never had.
"I am sorry, Rowan. He was a good man." Surial bowed his head. "Would you... I would send you back home, back to our people. It is not you who was banished."
"My Helan. You carry no sword and have not since yours sank into the ocean as we left the cliffs." Rowan smiled, the look sad. "I have given my name, my place for you. I belong at your side." Thick, strong fingers stroked over the whip on his shoulder, made from part of the long black hair, the symbol of his status that he had sacrificed to become Rowan. "One day we will return home."
"Yes." He could not make himself look any more, speak any more. Surial read the next document and planned his evening. Drinks and dinner at his club, perhaps a game or two of cards or a spot of betting on the dog races before he moved on to the playhouse. A new season was starting and he was looking forward to the diversion of new acts, new plays and new scandals. Some pleasant diversions were sure to present themselves after the play; Lady Motring's nephew had just joined her household and the boy was quite lovely, all pale slender limbs and dark ringlets. Surial had caught his smoky gaze more than once in the past week. There was also the promise of new players having joined the troupe that made Azize their home every summer. More than one comely young actor had caught his eye in the past. They were a vapid lot, but often so pretty and eager to please.
He signed the last document and pulled the rope that would bring Argent, not meeting his Rowani's eyes. Argent arrived shortly, graying hair cut short and neat against his scalp, white pants and shirt smooth and unlined though it was the end of the day. The Banshinaree colors were woven into the tunic, light blue and rose threads making subtle patterns along the edges of the garment.
"These are ready to be delivered. Have a bath drawn and evening clothes laid out. I'll dine at the club, but I'll take some of whatever sweet that Madrise is baking. The smell's been taunting me all day."
"Very good, sir. Was there anything else?"
"No." Surial waved his fingers dismissively, barely noticing Argent's bow, and made his way over to the window.
The house overlooked a wide, open street. It was far enough away from those across the avenue that he could see past them to the sea beyond the worn stone walls that marked the edges of Azize. The blue-green waves were relentless, eternally throwing themselves on the sand with abandon, only to be sent back the way they came.
He often felt like those waves, endlessly beating himself upon the sands of life.