“How many of you are there?” she asked, curious.
He thought for a moment. “I don’t know the exact number but it was about two thousand and fifty last year.”
“That’s a lot.”
He shook his head. “Considering the city of Sta Lera, the one we just passed through, is home to about ten million people, it’s not many at all. Certainly not enough for war.”
“You don’t seem to approve of this war.”
“I don’t like battle. Small skirmishes are one thing, but war... I dread to think how many will have died by the time it is over.”
Beth fell silent, thinking about this. After a while, Daniel and Isabella came back, laughing. Lucius rolled his eyes but said nothing.
They eventually reached a large wall that seemed to go around a city. Lucius trotted up to the gates, which opened before him. As they passed through, he turned and watched them shut, concentrating. He led them over to what seemed to be a stable.
Beth looked up at the huge stone building. It was larger than any castle she’d seen on Earth. Lucius dismounted the Sarmiine he had been riding and led it over to a stall. As the others got down and placed their mounts in the empty stalls, Lucius came over and helped Beth down.
She thanked him quietly and put her Sarmiine in the remaining stall. She smiled at it and placed her hand on its nose. It let out a breath, pressing against her palm. She turned away at the sound of her name.
“This way,” Lucius said.
He walked out of the stables, expecting them to follow. Beth trailed after him, a short distance behind. He stopped her outside the large doors.
touched his forefinger to her head and carried on.
“What was that for?” she asked.
“The little my mother has taught you will not be enough for you to get by here,” he said in Tan’ganta, though Beth understood it perfectly.
“You mean that you allowed me to understand Tan’ganta?” she asked, confused.
“And speak it,” he grinned. “Come on.”
He opened one of the large doors, allowing the others to go through first. He shut the door behind them.
“My lord, sir!” came a shrill cry and a clatter. “I didn’t... I’m sorry, I didn’t... No one’s up, I thought—”
“Don’t worry, Mara,” Lucius said with a smile. “Just calm down. You know I don’t mind.”
Mara took a deep breath and smiled. Lucius leant down to pick up the mop and cleaning supplies she’d dropped.
“I don’t think anyone’s up for prayers yet, my lord. I thought everyone was still in bed,” Mara explained.
“Don’t worry,” Lucius said again. “If you see my father before I do, will you tell him I’d like to speak with him?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Oh, and will you tell Adler that our guests have arrived?”
“Of course,” she said again. “Now, I really must be getting on my jobs, my lord.”
Lucius nodded and Mara hurried off. Isabella was looking around the large entrance hall. There were corridors and doors that led away from the hall, but the main feature was the large central staircase that went up two flights of stairs. The ceiling only stopped at the very top of the third floor, meaning there were corridors on every floor that overlooked the hall.