I found myself pushed into the lavish interior. Several foremen sprawled in elegant pine chairs, facing each other as though they had just been talking, though at Harris’s words they had all turned round to stare. I glared back at them. Would there be no end of stares today? I was used to being just enough of an outsider to have no one to speak to, to being just enough part of the crowd to attract no stares.
The walls, floor, and ceiling were not made of pine: they were made of some dark wood I had no name for. Off to my right, a fire crackled in the hearth, and tapestries hung every few feet. One even lay on the floor, as though they had run out of space for all the tapestries.
I didn’t have the chance to absorb much more than this, as Harris was still propelling me along at a brisk pace, although he was now accompanied by the man who had answered the door.
One of the men, who evidently hadn’t heard Harris’s introduction of me, winked and called out, “Hey, girl! What didja do to get taken to the rooms of the Head Foreman hisself?”
I didn’t even have time to throw him a glare before I was thrust into the Head Foreman’s office, the door clunking shut behind me.
The Head Foreman, the one who had answered the door, took a seat behind the sizeable desk, made of the same material as the walls and cluttered with paper, candles, and ink pots.
He picked up a long smoking pipe and tapped it on the edge of the desk. “What’s your name?”
“Rin,” I said. “Why am I here?”
His eyes hardened. “You know why you’re here, if you’ve got a piece of the Auriye.”
“I haven’t got a piece of the Auriye!” I insisted. “It’s just a … scab.” I realized I wasn’t quite sure what to call it.
He raised his eyebrows, thin little lines that looked painted on. “A scab. May I see it?”
This last bit was directed toward Harris, who complied. The Head Foreman examined it closely, keeping his hands well away from it. He turned to me, humour gone from his expression.
“Where did you get this?”