Furtively studying the reclining pair of recondite monarchs, Umin is disquietingly reminded of Otts’ great dramatic tragedy, the Under Sublime.
Of the mercurial goddess Sho and her unceasingly rapacious husband Shiil, engaged in amicable philosophical banter.
Even as they idle away at carving the bones of wailing mortals into hollow, keening pipes for the purpose of filling the turgid lips of their infernal chorale.
The Marquess, her features so fine that one might think she was composed of nothing more ponderous than bird-bones and delicate alabaster.
Her Innulian blood starkly evident in the yellow-yolk bright tint of her irises, wherein flecks of cerulean drift.
She reclines, cradled like a sheltering bird in a nest of plush pillow-forms and wine-hued quilts.
Her gown is starkly modest in manufacture, of splendidly woven adumbral spider silk.
The Marquis, is a startling contrast to his wife.
Like a great knot of tightly twisted hemp, or the robustness of mountain foundations.
As though he were a creature ever perfectly present. Inevitable as the foothills.
His robes are voluminous, cinder-dark and slate threaded drapery.
More the mourning-garb of moths than the garishness of monarchs.
“And I will quote...”
As one should always be generating. For industry. Child, coin or tapestry.
The Marquis reads from the slim folio between his fingers, held like a hand-glass, as the Marquess purses lips and pulls thoughtfully from her willowy clay-pipe.
“These poet-philosophers of the Sunlands.
“That to them everything should be a machine. A merchant’s loom.”
She murmurs between puffs.
“Only Igrit, your grace.
“His obsessive clockworks.
“Cruel desires. Wringing every efficiency from his family’s sorry slave-holds.
The Marquis sets his slim folio aside and rises easily to greet his seneschal.
Smile wide and open with the gleam of perfect ivories.
The Marquess draws long again from her smouldering sweet-spice clay-pipe. Leaning deeper into luxurious quilt-piles, expression insouciant.
Pettiwren again sweeps the wood-grain with another broad bow.
“This, Guildsman Umin and-”
The Marquis interjects. His smile is disarmingly warm.
“Pyna, where is your father?”
Pyna answers the Marquis, at first with a pregnant pause.
Only her wide unsettling eyes mirroring his grin.
Father is everywhere
“As untameable as a tunnel-wind. I suppose...”
There is an ounce of ruefulness in Meshmin’s tone.
Turning then a subtly flinty eye upon Umin.
“Good then, by the oldest statutes you are one of mine.
“Whether you steal from the Above or the Below. ”
Umin mimics Pettiwren’s obeisance with a practiced ease.
His heart’s burden dividing and tumbling away.
At last, having come to this well desired destination.
“Your Graces. I am at your service.
“It has been a long and winding way.
“I have come to beg a-”
The Marquess, from where she reclines huffs, and exhales a perfect, flowing ring of airy smoke.
Which roils, mockingly by Umin’s imaginings, in his direction. His nose suddenly stinging from the burnt sweetness of it.
The Marquess’ unexpected intervention abbreviating his intended oration.
“With their ambassador’s tongues and Burning ambitions.
“We are well aware.”
The Marquis grimaces on the edge of imperceptibility.
“As Her Grace informs.
“We are already acquainted with your problem - now woefully our own - and your petitions, Guildsman.
“Your fellow - this Ure - his criminality has stretched beyond the sufferable.
“He is now well and thoroughly destined for the Hook.
“You will find him for us.”