Ruling Sikthand: Chapter 29

“What have we learned?” Sikthand asked the Guild.

He tried not to let his gaze drift to Sophia sitting on one of the benches running along the back wall of the Guild chamber and failed. He didn’t like her sitting back there where the Guild subordinates scribbled notes and exchanged gossip. She should be up here, next to him.

The throne room was Bavo and Besith’s first priority. The Master of money and the Speaker of the people had deemed it appropriate to remodel the throne room before they tore apart the Guild chamber to build her a seat of her own. The public weren’t allowed in the Guild chamber. It made sense to start with the throne room, but Sikthand was impatient.

The Summit was in four weeks, and his wedding would be soon after. Unease should’ve coursed through him at the mere thought, but he found himself swelling with warmth every time he imagined it. The warmth was what made his mouth go dry.

“Zommah the metalsmith was found dead.” Sikthand’s gaze flicked to Lady Lindri. He didn’t enjoy the fact that she’d thought to investigate her metalworkers in lowcity after seeing some old pieces of warped armor strewn about his room. He’d pummeled his suit the night after he’d cut Sophia to pieces with his marriage proposal. Embarrassment at his lack of self-control had moved him to covertly drop off the salvageable bits of armor for repair. Just another way in which his human bride muddled his mind.

The fact that Lindri had conveniently found Zommah dead made his tail twitch with suspicion. Who better to plan an execution via failed armor than the Lady of Metalsmiths herself?

He’d had one of his spies begin tailing her the minute Roldroth had relayed the discovery of Zommah to him.

“We’re still searching for his missing apprentice. We’re hoping the young male may know something,” Lindri announced.

“Secure his family. Lock them up, and they’ll say where the boy went,” Besith drawled.

Sikthand’s instinct was to agree, but he caught sight of Sophia’s stricken expression and found his resolve wavering.

He sighed inwardly. She made him weak. He’d already released those with access to the royal wing far sooner than he would have otherwise. Seeing her pained expression when she’d asked after Alno had made his skin itch. With one word, he could free the male and bring a smile to her face. How could he not do it?

Knowing that his bride had been the one to lock Alno away in the first place, despite their friendship, made the decision easier. She’d put Sikthand’s safety before the comfort of her companion. It may be a small thing to some, but to him, it was everything.

“That seems a bit harsh.” Madam Kalos glared at Besith. “Whoever did this, didn’t work alone. The culprit had access to the king’s mount and had enough resources to take advantage of an unforeseen opportunity to corrupt Zommah with an impressive swiftness. Someone like that would cover their tracks. I’m positive the boy is dead somewhere. We just haven’t found him. Jailing his family would be piling cruelty on top of their heartache.”

“What do you suggest, Sophia?” Sikthand almost glanced around before realizing it was he who’d spoken. The king didn’t ask for opinions. He heard opinions if his Guild was bursting to share them, but he didn’t seek them.

Sophia jerked in her seat, eyes widening. She stood slowly, glancing around at the Guild. “I think we should keep a close eye on his family and his house but do so covertly. If I were him, I’d hide until the coast was clear. But you said he’s…” She peered down at her notes, and her brows knit with sadness. “He’s only sixteen. If he’s alive, it’ll be only a matter of time before he tries to go back home.”

“I agree,” Lindri chimed in.

Sikthand nodded, trying to ignore Sophia’s downcast eyes. “Speaker Besith, Commander Roldroth, arrange your people thusly. Stay stealthy.”

They moved on to other topics, and he was relieved to see Sophia shake off some of her sadness. She was a resilient thing. And determined too. She sat quietly, taking notes, her brows furrowing on occasion as she listened to the Guild spout their opinions.

Madam Kalos complained once again about the trade agreements with Mithrandir. The formidable Swadaeth queen was offering cascades of money for an increase in delicate scuhowin metal. It was a tricky metal to mine as it lay beneath thick layers of askait.

A heated argument arose between Madam Kalos and Speaker Besith. Lady Lindri had all but given up fighting Kalos at this point, and Sikthand was surprised to see Besith take up the mantle.

“The safety of our people seems to be incidental to you, Madam.”

“Think what we could build with that money,” she insisted. “We could commission a secondary reservoir.”

“And you could have a new accomplishment to boast about to your friends in Tremanta,” Magistrate Yalmi grumbled, exposing her fangs in her irritation.

Madam Kalos puffed out her chest like a ruffled bird. “Well, why not? Why should Tremanta be praised and lauded as the most impressive city? If we devoted our time and resources to a space elevator or the Oasis—”

“Not this again.” Roldroth groaned. “This is our city. We are proud not to be reliant on the technology the rest of the world obsesses over. We will not build a secondary city out in the desert where our malginash refuse to nest.”

The bickering continued, but Sikthand occupied himself with watching Sophia. When her eyes rolled, his mouth twitched. When she sucked her lip into her mouth while thinking, other parts of him twitched. And when she yawned, he found himself cutting off Madam Kalos’ vicious critique of Master Bavo’s fund distributions and calling a close to the meeting.

Bavo corralled him while everyone shuffled to leave. Sophia glanced toward Sikthand. He could see the moment she decided to leave the males to speak, and he wanted to throw Bavo out of the Guild chamber by his tail. She sent him a small smile before slipping into the hall.


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