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Kaerithas initial impression of Sir Altharn had been misleading. Her first impression of Lord Trisu, unfortunately, and despite his promise to overcome it, had not.

It wasnt that there was anything wrong with Trisus brain; it was simply that he chose not to use it where certain opinions and preconceptions were concerned. Kaeritha could see only too well why Yalith and the war maids found it so difficult to work with him. However determined one might be to be diplomatic and reasonable, it must be hard to remember ones intention when all one wanted to do was to strangle the stiff-necked, obstinate, bigoted, prejudiced, quintessential young Sothoii reactionary on the other side of the conference table.

His obvious native intelligence never challenged his opinions and prejudices because it was enlisted in their support, instead. That might not prevent him from being an excellent administrator, as was obvious from the condition of his lands and the people living on them. But it was a serious handicap when he was forced to deal with people or events he couldnt hammer into submission to his own biases.

On the other hand, perhaps its time someone jerked him up short, she thought as she settled into her place at his right hand at the high table in Thalar Keeps great hall.

I fear Thalars hospitality must appear somewhat modest compared to that of Balthar. Trisus words were courteous enough, as was their tone, but there was a challenging glint in his eyes. Or perhaps there wasnt. It was always possible, Kaeritha reminded herself conscientiously, that her own prejudices were unfairly ascribing false attitudes and motives to him.

Balthar is considerably larger than Thalar, Milord, she replied, after a moment. But its been my experience that simple size has less to do with hospitality and the gracious treatment of guests than the graciousness of the host. Certainly no attention to my own comfort has been omitted here in Thalar.

She hid an inner wince at the stiltedness of her own turn of phrase. Trisu seemed to have that effect on her. But what shed said had been only the truth, at least in physical terms. The fact that Trisus retainers and servants took their lead from their lords own attitudes probably explained why there had been a certain lack of genuine welcome behind their courteous attentiveness, but good manners forbade her from mentioning that.

Im pleased to hear it, Trisu said, looking out across the crowded tables below them as serving women began bringing in the food. Then he returned his attention fully to Kaeritha.

Ive read Baron Tellians letters, Dame Kaeritha, he said. And I will, of course, comply with his wishes and instructions. His smile was thin, and his gray eyes glittered. Lorham stands ready to assist you in any way we may.

I appreciate that, she replied, forbearing to observe that it was marvelous that it appeared to have taken him no more than the better part of seven hours to work his way through all two of the letters Tellian had sent along.

Yes. But thats for tomorrow. For tonight, allow my cooks to demonstrate their skill for you. A serving maid deposited a stuffed, roasted fowl before him, and he reached for a carving knife. Would you prefer light meat, or dark, Milady? he inquired.


Chapter Twenty-Eight | Wind Rider's Oath | Chapter Twenty-Nine