Atop the south-facing stone wall of the Ruby Garden castle, a long and resounding flare of horns brought Leo’s attention to the sixth moon as its passage over the night sky began.
In a few more hours, the first Silverflow Council’s daily meeting would begin.
The city’s constitutional body, the Silverflow Council, held these daily meetings to deliberate contemporary issues. Councilors would bring issues to the council. The council would then debate on proposed solutions and vote to accept these solutions as the council’s collective motion.
Of the thirty-two votes in the council, twenty-two abstains and approves were needed to pass any motion. There were sixteen masters in the council, each holding one vote. These masters were highly regarded scholars and artisans of sixteen professions in Ironheart and they represented the people. The remaining sixteen votes were split among the church and the royal family whose representatives held varying numbers of votes depending on the factions’ internal rules.
Among the fifteen members of the current council, the inventor who held four master titles in Medicine, Linguistic, Architecture, and Philosophy, was the second most famous.
There was one councilor more famous than the inventor, the monster who guarded eight votes in the Silverflow council, the throne of the Ruby Garden, the third seat in the church, and also the person who had just walked into Brown’s Boulder tavern as the inventor was deciding on his order: crown princess Lilia Silverflow.
Leo glanced at the Silverflow princess in white cassock, which was open at the front and revealed a veil-thin robe of fancy white-and-orange design underneath. On her pearly white neck lay a decorated pectoral cross with a large crimson gem at its heart.
“Geez! Why bother with the dressing code, princess? You and I have better things to do than donning half a dozen mismatched accessories every time we go out. But certainly, yours takes the cake. I would sooner kill myself if I had to wear something that humiliating in public,” he said with a sardonic chuckle.
The princess cringed when she saw the man sitting at the counter. Unhesitatingly, she pinched her nose and retorted.
“Hmm, something smells awful in here. Oh, I see! It’s the loser who has no woman, pet, or even a horse, in linen rags suitable only for a slave’s funeral. I heard you blew your budget on white papers and scrap metals again. Be careful, inventor. Winter is here and burning thin papers won’t keep your rundown shack warm for long.”
The inventor put down the ale he was drinking and turned around to face the princess directly. He showed the princess a bag of coins and juggled it in his hands.
“I’m sorry, but do you need money to buy a proper robe? That skimpy outfit of yours makes my rags look like king’s robes,” he said.
The bartender sighed and cut in. His thick West Rufus’s accent prevented him from pronouncing “Your” properly; it came out as something akin to “Yer” instead.
“Please ignore him, Yo—uh…Yer Highness. How may I be of assistance tonight?” he greeted.
Princess Lilia, albeit visibly agitated, tightened her white cassock to hide the revealing white-and-orange robe underneath and sat down.
“I need to speak to Count D’Amore, is he here?” she asked.
So she was looking for Alexander D’Amore.
The young count had a knack for scandals. His very birth was an unfathomable scandal; the union of Lady D’Amore, a noblewoman in the time the queens of Silverflow still had absolute rule over Ironheart, and a centaur. Centaurs were not real but facts had never stopped D’Amore from bragging the size of his male junk in bars everywhere.
He was a regular at this tavern though no sane man would want to be publicly associated with him; not the bartender named Brown whose business had taken on a fair bit of infamy from the scandals D’Amore brought.
“I beg yer pardon. What makes ye think I would know his whereabouts when twice a dozen men didn’t?” the bartender shrugged.
“That sounds like a terri-lot of enraged husbands. Business must be booming,” Leo remarked.
“Ye say like he paid to use my stable, Leo. I kid ye not, he had an orgy in my stable with somebody’s daughter and granny the other day. The guy came over with an axe the next moon, I told him I knew jack. I told him I splashed cold water at them and they ran off naked like pigs!”
A small bell chimed from a kitchen behind the counter. The bartender took a short pause to deliver Leo’s order and turned to the princess. She only ordered a glass of water. Brown did not say anything but he seemed a bit disappointed that he could only get a single braum out of a royal patron.
“Do you know who else I can ask? I need…” she gestured Brown to the other end of the counter and whispered something to him.
Wide chin lifted up in a grin, the bartender turned toward Leo and boomed:
“Hey, Leo, she wants yer help.”
The inventor almost choked on white bread.
“She wants what!?—” he gasped after a fit of coughing.
“—back-channel information, that means ye,” Brown casually said.
“My tie to the back channels is not for you to toss around in public!” Leo snapped.
“It’s yer chance to make a killing, ye know? She obviously does not want anybody to find out and she’s desperate enough to ask,” the bartender whispered.
Leo had to admit that was a good point.
The princess frowned. Leo could tell she too was not too keen on the idea, given the verbal exchange they had just minutes ago. He had expected her to dismiss the idea right there and then but she did not. Instead, she bit her lips and elaborated on what she wanted…