And if you still want to curse me, you're welcome to do so.
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And here is a tease from the opening of Sovereignty.
Ducat Mark kept his eyes down as he approached the dais. Something urgent brought him here rather than taking time in the baths and meeting her tomorrow. Vanto Nancy had graciously abbreviated her report to give him the floor.
“What brings you home early?” Eve asked.
“I bring a message from Yvonne of Thalla.” He paused and licked his dark brown lips. Nervousness showed in his darting black eyes and the sweat he wiped from his palms.
The High One pursed her lips. She had a suspicion she knew what the message was. “Go on, Highness.”
“We will not conduct trade with a...” He trailed off and ran his hand through his black curls.
“A servant,” Eve finished for him. “I am not ashamed of who I am or where I came from, Highness. If our trade partners cannot accept that, we will do more business with those who will.”
“Yes, High One,” he murmured, bowing his head again. His shame at delivering the message was obvious.
Eve drummed her nails on the wooden arm of the chair. It was the same one Mother used. The plainness wasn't meant to reflect her lowly origins, only be comfortable. She looked to the table on her right where her Second should sit. Louis, however, was not present. He had attended her morning meeting, but they agreed his time was well spent in the lab.
Looking to her left, she found her secretary, Ernst Alexander. “Please make a note, Honored. I will write a letter to Thalla, thanking them for their direct and forward message.”
Ducat Mark looked up, eyes wide.
“Don't worry, Mark, I will not ask you to deliver it. I will have one of the Ernst or common messengers do so. They don't deserve the respect of one of our higher elite.” She pushed up from her chair and walked toward the Ducat. “Come, let me walk you to the baths. You have had a long trip and should rest. If you wish, you needn't come to dinner tonight.”
“I won't miss it, High One,” Mark assured her, opening the door to the humidity of the baths. Eve spied her former roommate and friend, Pearl, among the servants heating water and holding towels for elite as they finished in the tubs. The woman didn't look toward the High One, however, keeping her attention on her task.
With a hand on his shoulder, a sign of good service for those lower than him, Eve turned to go.
Mark looked at her. “High One?” he asked, confused.
She shook her head. Elite rarely touched one another. “I only wanted to thank you for all your hard work. I meant no slight.”
“None taken, High One,” he said with a broader smile. “It is an honor to represent Fontive. I only hope we have another neighbor who would welcome me.”
Eve's smile fell slightly. There likely wasn't. Mark would need a new portfolio, probably dealing with internal matters. She brightened again. “Or perhaps you can help the Second in the lab. He is powering more devices all the time and we need people to explore what is on them.”
“I would like that. Thank you, High One.”
This time, rather than disgrace him with her first response, she used the appropriate reply. She bent her knees slightly and bowed her head. “Thank you.”