Isiore is already there when I arrive. His mouth is practically tied up, terse as it is at the corners. My stomach drops a bit, out of curiosity and uncomfortable circumstances, no fear. I don’t even know what he will tell me. I am not Koso, after all.
“Hello,” he says, looking past me, “is Koso coming back soon?’
“No,” I say, shaking my head, “only me. I’m here to talk to you, though, about the Speaker.”
He is not happy, and is fast becoming helpless in a way that makes him more frightening. He has the eyes of a cornered dog, whose options have just been cut.
“Does this Koso not understand how important this is? He was supposed to be the only one to know, there was a reason for that.” Isiore hisses, in a whisper, as if the waves of the ocean will give him away.
“Why don’t we talk inside?”
We make our places in the front room, seated across from each other on too-comfortable couches. Neither of us has thus far been pleased at how this has gone, so I try again to make conversation. My lies and slowly seeping guilt are worth nothing if Isiore will not speak to me.
“Why do you want only Koso?”
Isiore is silent still. He will not look at me. I am obviously a fool.
I sit back, thinking. Isiore is one of Ilene’s people, from Her very soil. He must be Gifted. Why would he stay here longer than a day? And Koso, what does he have that they would want? White hair, old memories, a dead friendship with my brother the almost-prince. A sister who writes letters.
“What do you know about Arezzo and Ithan?”
Isiore’s eyes snap up to mine. I have hit something, and he glares at me with the eyes of a dog who has been bitten for his own negligence.
“Shut up, boy,” he growls, the polite tone of yesterday’s fatherly merchant gone. His eyes swing up and down me. “You are the spitting image of your stupid brother.”
Everything in me tenses, but I wait. I have no idea which Gift this man has. Though I would have guessed Water simply for his profession, I can all but rule that out now. I cannot go hand-fighting with a man so unknown.
“I am all you have, likeness or not,” I force out, my teeth gritted. “Koso is not coming, so tell me about the Speaker.”
At this, some fire goes out in the man, though his eyes don’t lose their hardness.
“I do not trust you,” he says to me.
“I do not trust you,” I return.
I remember Benson’s words, that Koso and I are cowards, never speaking up to one another. That cannot happen here. There is something unknown at stake, too large to give up.
“What should I do to gain your trust?” I ask, already weary. Isiore looks at me with brilliant, watchful eyes, then shakes his head.
“You cannot earn my trust. I must tell you, though, if I cannot tell your superior.”
I desperately want to rebuke this man on all of his wrong counts, but curiosity drives me to silence.
“The Speaker’s name is Nadia,” Isiore begins, “did you know this?”
“Then you do now. Remember it. Nadia is coming to this place, soon, to talk with the leaders of the town. Changes must be made.”
I am seething, but put emotion on the backburner.
“Where will she be?” I ask, my first question. “She cannot come to the market circle. She cannot be seen by the townspeople.”
“She will come here, to this building.”
I nod, though I cannot endorse his free claim of this place. It is not worth the fight. The Speaker would have to come here via ship, and this is the closest of everything to shore.
“A week from now, or close.”
I bite my lip. I will have to tell Koso now, tell him everything. This involves his Porthouse, his life, his people. Yet, I cannot imagine him reacting well to the news of the visiting Speaker. I will think on it after, when I regain my senses and emotions.
“What else is there?”
These cannot be the only details, thirteen year old Nicola could have told me these things. There are opinions somewhere, or warnings or truths.
“My family and I will be staying in this town for awhile, to oversee the progress and growth of the place. My children should be welcome, you will welcome them. Come prepared for the Speaker’s night. There will be others there, but they have been told by now. Do not worry yourself with them. Goodbye Tomas, brother of Ithan.”
He leaves, without waiting for another word from me.