I had lost them and it was all the Katha's fault. He had stopped me, most rudely, as I was making my way down a street after the two women, and asked to see my papers. He wanted to know if I had been at the hall this morning. I told him I had and that I had business to attend to so if he wouldn't mind getting out of my way...
I had been thrown across the street in a bolt to the chest, sprawling in the dirt at the other end. The other Katha were laughing, patting the man on the back. I stood, willing to explain the situation, but was swiftly shot back down, my legs taken from underneath me by another spell. I felt a rare anger spread across me like wildfire and tingle the ends of my fingers. Before I could calm myself the two Katha's were up in the air and crashing back in to a pile of crates left outside a shop. The owner appeared, looking indignant, until he realised what was going on and hurried silently back inside.
"How did Durma scum learn to do that?" One of the guards hissed, approaching menacingly. "I wonder, could this be one of the so called resistance members?"
"Not at all. I happen to be Avan Drogniev, Grandmaster for the Selvite council."
I had no choice but to throw off my disguise. The Katha guards backed off immediately, apologetically, but it was too late. I could see no sign of the women as I stared down the street. I could only hope they had not witnessed the scene, because it was far too obvious that I had been following them.
"No matter." I hushed their continued apologies. "Escort me back to the halls. We will say no more of it." They fell in to formation and began marching towards the halls. Occasionally I glanced behind me, wondering if I had been seen by any member of the resistance and was in turn being followed, but no one face was the same in those that walked behind us. None even looked at us, which was normal behaviour. A shame. I should have liked to have had one thing out of this quest. Next time I followed anyone I would have to have my contact lenses, and keep away from any Katha that approached. I would have to act more like the Durma that I followed. If there was ever to be a next time, that is.
"And what did your efforts bring?" Kristiana asked once we were alone.
"The soldier's stopped me before I could get to their destination. I have a vague idea of the area they were heading and a name. I can look to the city records for a match but I am afraid that they would not have been heading directly to a high member of the resistance, if indeed that is where they were heading. I believe we will get more information from the Durma we found in the hall earlier than we would from trying to find where two young women were heading."
"Never the less Avan dear, I expect you to follow up on it. Do not allow anyone but me to know of your mission or what information you may learn along the way. We shall keep this quiet. They may have spies here."
"That seems likely."
"Thank you, just a small glass."
Kristiana Lamira poured a small glass for me and a slightly larger one for herself.
"Avan, one day I believe I will see you take my seat."
"What?" I stopped, the glass half raised to my lips. This was not what I had expected to hear.
"You are the only other Selvite I have met who truly believes that everyone is equal as a person, just maybe not in their abilities. Everyone else believes that they are one in the same. I think I may request that you be thought of as my successor."
"But then you would not see me take your seat at all. And besides, there are plenty of years before that would happen anyway."
"Maybe not as many as we think. I have a feeling that these deaths have been caused by rogue Durma and I can only imagine that one day, they will get to the high council."
I thought back to Kashi's statement earlier that day about servants and food.
"Perhaps. But a move that drastic..."
"Would cause huge stirs in the class system. Just what a rebellion needs. I am well aware that I will be a target. As will you I am sure. But your attitude to the people may save you. I on the other hand have only shown a hard face to the lower classes. They know nothing of how I really feel because all I do is express the mass wish of the council. I fear very much that I shall die before this is all solved, and before I can make the changes that I wish... but no, it is too soon for that. Drink boy!" I drank, filled with questions, from the glass. Kristiana looked reflective, and I did not want to spoil her thoughts. Finally she spoke again. "I believe that if I had been younger, I would have wanted you for a husband just as all the young women do now." I almost choked the wine down my throat, instead of swallowing.
"Oh for goodness sake Avan I'm not making a move. I'm far too old for that now. Besides, I've had my fair share of young men..." That made me choke even more. "Don't choke the good wine. Anyway, your Celeste will make a good partner, although her attitude towards her family makes you differ. You said the girl you followed was her sister...?"
"One of them yes."
"Then perhaps you may use this to get closer to the girl. Tell Celeste you think you should announce the engagement to her family face to face."
"She won't go for that."
"I'm sure if you give her that special smile." She winked. "Well, I must go to bed. But remember, get close to the girl. Find out what she knows."
Yes councillor." I stood and bowed, then turned to leave.
"And Avan?" I turned back.
"Call me Kristiana." She winked, chuckled, and then removed herself from the room and in to her bedroom, which lay through another door. I gulped and left. I had not anticipated that Kristiana would begin to tease me, although as I stood in the doorway taking in fresh air, the thought made me smile.
She had a touch more humanity in her than I had thought.