Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Thirty-Two



The Sheriff and I walked to a suite of rooms I was unfamiliar with.  Looking around at the furnishings I said, "These were closed up since before my husband became Guardian.  I had no idea they were even still livable."

"They weren't when I chose them ... which was mostly to tweak Father for calling me home from the Guards.  He promised me that I would have the same position here as I had had in the field but then I found out he'd have to demote a man for me to take his place and it wasn't warranted."  He snorted.  "He'd done it on purpose knowing I wouldn't let him take a man's commission and status away just so I could have a pretty title."

"What was his reasoning if I may ask?"

"Father and I ... we butted heads quite often over the fact that I had chosen the Guards over the position he had wanted for me which was some blathering idiocy being an assistant to an assistant for some undersecretary or other in the GC.  I tolerate politics, I admit I may even be capable of utilizing the concepts and methods for my own ends, but it is not the only thing I want written on my tombstone.  Here lies Daren Linder, politician.  Not pleasing to my ears in the least."

"Does your current position fill the longing for your old one?"

He shrugged.  "I've been so busy since all the mysteries began to reveal themselves that I haven't had time to worry about it much.  I had to give up my commission to become the Sheriff, there isn't really any going back at this point."

"That isn't what I asked."

He glanced at me as we entered a brightly lit alcove with chairs and a table whereupon sat a covered tray.  He removed the cover and snorted.  "Two cups.  Tomas is maneuvering."

"I am not sure I wish to know what that means.  When a Linder starts maneuvering ..."  I gave a shudder.

A cynical chuckle was my answer as well as, "Keep that in mind and none of us will be able to hurt you ... at least not much.  Care to pour?"

"If you wish."  The aroma was dark and spicy.  I took a sip and it was unlike what I remembered from the banquet yet similar. Ever curious where food is concerned I asked, "What are the ingredients?  Surely this isn't just cocoa."

He shook his head.  "No it's something Wendolyn says her father learned to drink on his long voyages to the jungles of the Southerlands.  Said the recipe is ancient, from centuries before the Days of Destructions even.  Said something called an Aztec created the beverage.  Wendolyn and Tomas both enjoy a cup of the brew on a regular basis but Tomas admits that if he drinks too often and then has to give it up he gets a headache."

"Caffeine.  Like a strong yaupon tea."

"Ah yes, very similar.  Gwendolyn adds milk and sweetening to her cocoa but Tomas says that to him that is too close to drinking a confection for his preference.  This Aztec brew is merely the cocoa and chilies boiled together and then you strain out the bits from the peppers.  It is strong but does create the desired effect.  Is it too harsh?  I can probably scare up some sweetening someplace."

"No, it is actually quite nice as it is.  I prefer my teas strong ... stronger than many like them.  Nat and I both do.  Some people consider them bitter but it is more that we like to concentrate the benefit where possible.  I will occasionally add honey during cold spells but that is usually for its medicinal affect rather than for taste."

"What do you normally drink?"

"I know you might consider them common - and certainly they are compared to this costly fare - but during warm seasons I like a lemon verbena tisane and during the colder times of year I greatly enjoy warm drinks that use rose hips as their base ... a spicy rose hip tea can take the chill off even during the worst of winter storms and additionally helps prevent colds and other annoying ailments that tend to occur that time of year."

"Actually I'm fond of both of those myself."  I looked at him to see whether he was being strange again and he said, "No really, I do.  I went into the Guard younger than most, ran away from home - with Dwen's help - and learned quickly that what I was used to at Father's holdings was not what I would be experiencing in what I came to understand was the real world.  Father, Tomas, and Gerald overprotected us younger ones ... started mostly after the girls were abducted I suppose.  Then they tried to order our lives for us even more.  Well-intentioned but ... certainly not something easy to swallow, especially as I was just as much a Linder man as my brothers though with a tall helping of the stubbornness from my mother's side to go with it."

"As if I hadn't figured that last part out," I said as dryly as my mouth could make it.

He laughed and I realized the incipient headache I had been experiencing was gone.  I looked at my empty cup in regret and said, "This ... this has been pleasurable Sheriff."

"But you need to hurry off to your next list making project."

I groaned.  "Yes.  I had no idea what I was agreeing to."

"Are you sorry you came?"

I gave my response careful thought before offering it.  "No.  No I am not."

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