Chapter Eighteen:

Navihm lead the small group up to a set of metal doors.

“The solium is right through here,” he said. “We should probably speak to Rei Amias before we do anything else.”
Rose marveled at the expense of the pressed metal. Back home this much steel wouldn’t have been wasted on a door, certainly not an interior one. The other side of the door was just as impressive. The room was not overly large and clearly designed to be functional but the abundance of silk on the furniture and curtains, coupled with the large sheet of copper intricately engraved with a scene of a battle made a striking impression. It was not wealth that was shown off through jewels and finery, meant to make an impression, it was wealth displayed casually and somehow that made it all the more imposing. Not many lowland kings would use silk and such so liberally.

The King, or Rei, Rose supposed he was called here, was seated on a comfortable looking chair situated at the end of the room directly opposite the door. He was huge with broad shoulders and a broader smile. It was hard to tell with him slouched comfortably on his chair, but Rose thought that he might even be taller than Navihm. He was talking to a portly man with skin like leather from years working in the sun.

Rose also noticed what appeared to be a staircase descending down the left wall, originating somewhere above where they were standing at the entrance to the room. Oddly the stairs stuck straight out of the wall with no supports and gaps between each stair. There was also a freestanding banister that wound along the right-hand side of the stair and anchored itself in the floor.

Rei Amais rose to meet the group, seeing him rise, the leathery man also turned to face them, revealing a rounded, flushed face and quick grin.

“Ah, Navihm,” he said in the common tongue, shrewdly eyeing the foreigners. “I was wondering why Healanie was in such good spirits these last few days, especially with all that is going on.”

“Good morning, Mishka.” Navihm grinned back at the ridiculously coloured man. He then turned to the Rei, taking one knee respectfully.

“Meu Rei,” he greeted him, placing one fist on the ground, the other hand resting on his knee. The other people of the tribes copied this posture, bowing their heads and murmuring “O Rei”. Rose opted to curtsy.

The Rei’s booming laugh echoed throughout the solium. He was a good-natured looking man, his braids streaked with a small bit of grey and his eyes crinkling up in such a way it suggested that he spent years laughing and smiling as he did now.

“Navihm? What the devil are you doing here? Rise, my boy,” said the still laughing man. “Come let me look at you.” Navihm did as he was told and allowed himself to be grasped by the shoulders and studied.

“You’ve grown.” Rose watched in amazement as the King pulled Navihm into an enthusiastic hug, almost lifting him off his feet. Navihm responded just as fiercely, embracing the older man ardently. Rose really should be used to royalty reacting strangely to Navihm, she supposed. It had happened enough times.

Navihm took a step back, regaining his usual polite posture but retaining a happy grin.

“I’ve missed you, Meu Rei” Navihm bowed his head deferentially.

Footsteps clinked softly with a metallic ring as someone descended the stairs. Rose looked away from the slightly bewildering scene in front of her to see who approached. A native girl about her age was gracefully making her way down the stairs, one hand resting delicately on the banister. She was dark skinned, as most of the people of the tribes tended to be, but her skin was a dusky almost ash-brown rather than the colour of tanned leather. As she turned her head slightly, Rose spied a flash of gold and blue entwined in her chocolate brown hair. Her eyes were trained on the steps in front of her, but even so Rose could see the brilliant blue-green of them.

She was beautiful.

“Good morning father,” the girl said, not looking up.

Navihm smiled even more broadly as he watched Kaia make her way down from the family rooms on the floor above. She always hated walking down those stairs. When they were younger she would convince him to carry her down them on his back, not yet confident enough to make it down without falling, but perfectly willing to entrust her safety to him. Even now, she could never walk down those steps without looking at where she put her feet. He listened to the slight rasp of her ringed fingers against the metal of the banister and the soft clink of her beaded braids as they swung together.

He drank in the sight of her.

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  • Australia


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