Let me know what you think :D Keep or leave out?
He smiled a tight-lipped smile. “What did I say about that? I just was going to ask if you'd join me for a glass of wine.” He lifted two glasses from a shelf behind his desk, and a wine bottle. “Could you...” he nodded at his desk, “Bottom drawer on the right.” He stepped to the side letting her open the drawer.
Two cushions, too large for a chair, with a wooden base rested inside the drawer. They were red, edged in gold and ivory. She caught her breath, and looked up at him, but only saw the rigid outline of his back. Tentatively she retrieved the cushion-seats, and placed them by the fire.
He sat and poured her glass, and then his own. He seemed to be watching her the entire time. She thought her hands would start to shake. He passed her a glass and she accepted with a soft thanks, and sipped. She watched him over the rim. For once, he wasn't watching her. Then he looked up and for an instant she thought she saw more green in his eyes than gray.
“It has been just two weeks,” he said as he corked the bottle once more, “but I am curious how you are finding your stay.” He took a sip, signaling for her to respond.
“I... am well,” she replied hesitantly. “I enjoy these evening with Aloysia.”
“I know you meant to spend your meals with your brother and not Roniv and me. Have you seen much of Teshen?”
Kyr leaned forward, just a bit, and she could see laughter in his gray-green eyes. “I suppose he is curious about those dinners, yes?”
Wait. Gray-green? Yesterday they were storm gray. “He is. But there is little for me to say.”
“Have I seemed a tyrant to you? Does my reputation suit me?”
“It has only been two weeks!” she protested. “What can I tell in two weeks?”
“That's what I'd like to know.” He lifted his glass again. “What can you tell?”
“I don't think you are a tyrant. No, not at all.” She all but gulped the rest of the wine, and set it down. Yes, now her hands were shaking. She closed her eyes and tried to still her shaking. “You mean well, for your people. But there is more there, something more complicated. You are hiding something, and I can't tell who around you is in on the secret and who isn't.”
“That is a very astute observation. How have I seemed to be... keeping a secret... ?”
“You are too perfect,” Gellayna pushed her glass forward and he poured another glass, chuckling. Gellayna continued, “Ever since I walked into the hall, your dress, appearance—everything was perfectly consistent with your reputation.” She lifted the wine glass to her lips again, but her hands were still shaking for all her effort to stop them. “Except,” she lingered over the rim, “your reputation feels like half the picture, rather than the whole of it. The taxes. Yes, you tax highly, but you reinvest it in walls and graineries,” She sipped for a minute. “In Dyvecor, it is customary for the local village to come up with the funds to store grain. The lord does not provide for the people. We must attend to such things ourselves.”
“Are maintained by the Smugglers. They need them, after all. But you... try to serve your people.”
She watched him swallow the last of his glass and set in one stone in front of his knees. “And what does that say about me?”
“That you might well be a good man.”
He did not look up at her, as he poured himself another glass. “Oh, I'm not so sure of that.”
“Then, Kyr Ednin,” she said in slight exasperation, “Tell me why you are not so good a man as you seem upon examination—mind that wasn't my first impression.”
He laughed, again, now soft at first but building. “Where do I start?”
Gellayna scowled, setting her glass down with a decided clink. “You permitted your sister to marry Vynnek Rijnic, and it is widely said she loved him.”
“And he loved her, too,” said Kyr. “I wouldn't have allowed it, otherwise. But it cost the life of my cousin, Sedrinna, though she was dear to me.”
“How does that relate--”
“Koarv wanted Jira,” Kyr met her eyes, and his flashed steel-gray. “Sedrinna looked much like Jira... but more delicate.”
More delicate? Jira was reputed to be very delicate for a Kordic woman, fine features...how could Sedrinna have been “more delicate?” “She is gone?”
“Two years ago. Lord Koarv... is not a kind man. Sedrinna.... I think she was too soft for his world of poisons and intrigue. She bore him a son, I think that's all that mattered to him.”
“I sealed her death when I arranged that marriage. Did I do the same for Jira? Am I, truly, a good man, Gellayna?” The intensity in his gray eyes made her hide behind the glass. “Or am I something more monstrous?” He shifted his gaze to the fire.
“I have no answer to that.” She sipped her wine, and studied his profile. She kept seeing two faces, rather than one. It was as if she could not decide what she was seeing, if his chin was more square or pointed, if his cheekbones were just a bit higher than common, and his face a little longer. “But it seems, perhaps, that your grief for both of them might lead you to think of yourself so. But it isn't you fault they died.”
“Unless... the Emperor has derived the answer you are in search of. From Sedrinna... to Jira... and I would be next.” He returned his gaze to her. “If the Imperial guard come for me, Gellayna, would you take Aloysia away from here? And don't let Aydi remain here, either. She could go to family, but... that family is quite isolated. Aloysia needs other children about her... she doesn't even have that here.”
“Kyr?! She has you...”
“And if she doesn't?” He leaned forward, and gently took her hand. “Promise me. Take Aydi and Aloysia to Kurukai. Keep them with you. Away from the places the Emperor would recognize them.”
“The Emperor would recognize your cook?”
She searched his face, trying to understand this. Was it because there was Rextian blood somewhere along the line? Or because the Rextians didn't warrant notice or concern? “Yes, Kyr. I'll take them to Kurukai.”
He sighed, as if some great weight were lifted from his shoulders and squeezed her hand briefly before letting it go. She was deeply unnerved, this did not seem to be the man she dined with. “My inquiry... into your secrets... it could kill you?”
“You couldn't. I can't believe you could. But you also know just how powerful knowledge can be.” He drained his glass, watched the fire again. Just now, right here, it seemed as if she were speaking to a man caught, trapped. But trapped in what?
The wine would only serve to weaken her. What was he after?
“But what you find...what you think... I want you to tell me.”
Her fingers closed about the stem of the wine glass, her nails dug into her palm. “Why? If I'm--”
“Gellayna,” he pulled the wine bottle in front of him again. “I've been wondering, if you can find out what I don't want people to know...t hen who else has already done so?” He poured himself another glass.
“No thank you.” She said, soft.
“Could you... tell me of Kurukai?” he asked.
“Certainly,” she was grateful that the subject changed to something more agreeable. She told him of the shops, of her home. She described the seasons of Kosa Dyvecor, the festivals. She told him of her friends, Ehjin and his wife Shaella, She recounted memories of Ehjin's daughters, some even made Kyr laugh. Gellayna began to wonder what was him, and what was the wine. She had lost count of his glasses somewhere along the way.
“It is different here,” he said. “I can't believe you'd leave a town like that for this.”
“I will do what I must for my people, or what I feel I must.” She fought a yawn then, “May I...?
“Of course,” said Kyr, “Sorry to keep you so late.”
She unwound her legs, stood and slippied from the room.