Beyond the council entrance to the chamber was a hall lined with the governors’ private studies. Streaks of glass decorating driftwood pillars in the walls caught the light, refracting a dappled rainbow across the corridor.
Xander, weed-scrolls under each arm, left his office long after the hum from the audience chamber had thinned out. Crane was in the hallway, admiring the sandmasonry. He said a distracted hello.
“Something on your mind, High Governor?” Xander laid his scrolls down.
“No need to be so stiff.” Crane put a claw on Xander’s shoulder. “You sound like your father. It was years before I could get him to stop calling me ‘my lord.’”
While Xander tried to figure out whether to laugh, Crane inclined his head toward the high-terrace exit. “Will you walk with me?”
The two governors emerged in the rooftop coral garden, with the Eye spread out before them. The view never failed to give Xander pause. The Whites were far enough away to appreciate their architecture without having to smell it, and the gardens and channels of the Iris sparkled in the sun. He could see convoys hauling cargo in the desert, smaller than centipedes. The Star Moon was rising opposite the eastern sunset, as though the whole celestial sphere were glorifying the Eye.
Crane bent to examine a bed of aqua-colored coral. “Xander, I am troubled by a voice.”
“A shrimp you’d like removed?”
“No. The voice of that final speaker, Staever.”
“Was there something distinctive about it?” Xander asked. “I can’t tell those Whites folk apart. There are so many, and they all want the same things.”
“You’ve got to observe them more closely. It’s the individuals that are dangerous.” Crane moved on to the next bed. “Just now, in my office, I heard a testimony from the captain of a small glass-hauler.”
“One of ours?”
“One of mine.” All the governors employed private glass ships. “The captain had a hole in his shell, a recent injury. I summoned him to audience to give me his version of what transpired on the highway. By a lucky coincidence, he arrived at the same time as the lobster who robbed him, a lobster with a voice he recognized.”
Cold rage rose in Xander as the implications slid into place. “Do you mean to tell me this council heard a petition from a common thief?”
“Not at all. He’d need to be an uncommon thief to ambush this hauler. The guards were armed to the teeth with red clay, and this captain was a brawler himself. I recruited him from the arena dungeons personally.” Crane moved in close and dropped his voice. “Staever showed his face in the chamber two hightides after hijacking my hauler. He has brazen seditious intent. Worse, he has talent.”
A gust of wind stirred the beds of kelp, and the coral glowed brighter as dusk fell over them. A smile spread slowly across Xander’s face. “I’ll need a few days’ leave. And for the Guard to declare another crusade against corruption in the Whites.”
Crane clapped Xander on the back. “With you around, Xander, I never worry about the future of this council.” He turned away from the balcony. “Staever doesn’t fear us. Convince him to. I don’t want to hear from him again.”
“High Governor. Graphus was quiet during Staever’s petition. You don’t think…?”
“Say what you mean, Xander.” Crane chuckled. “You’ll find nothing but sympathy here.”
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