“It has been a rather long time since we’ve had visitors with Imperial letters of introduction in Rajaka,” said Lady Termina. “Longer still since they weren’t here to speak with me.”

“Do you object?” Scimoc said. “When I was dealing with Lady Annika in Jalav, she took offense to my merely passing through.”

“That does sound like her, the stuck-up and spoilt daughter of a stuck-up and spoilt duchess,” Termina laughed. “But no, not at all. Most of the official business I deal with is suitors.”

“Oh, ah, of course,” Scimoc said. He did suppose that Lady Termina was exceptionally fine-featured. If one cared about that sort of thing, naturally. “I assure you, I have no such intentions.”

“Clearly,” said Termina with a wry look. “So to what do I owe the pleasure then, Dr. Scimoc? You needn’t have called on me if you simply meant to resupply at Rajaka.”

“Ah. Yes. Well, my expedition is seeking elven ruins in Ysoait, and according to the information available to me, Rajaka is founded on the site of an old elven village, and your family has distant elven ancestry.”

A rather icy change came over Termina’s features. “Ah yes, of course,” she said. “My line is noted for its beauty, which is proof positive that we once consorted with inhuman creatures, naturally.”

Scimoc immediately sensed his error. “My lady, I surely did not mean any offense-”

“Oh, and there is no offense taken,” Lady Termina said, in a very offended tone. “Let me tell you, Dr. Scimoc, that your sources are quite right about one thing: this fortress is built upon elven ruins. I’ll be happy to let you inspect the part of the castle that incorporates them.”

“Of course! I would be delighted for the opportunity.”

Termina snapped her finger twice, and one of her guards came huffing. “See Dr. Scimoc and his companions to the dungeon,” she said. “So they can see the elven ruins that undergird this fortress, naturally. Once they’ve had ample time for study, see that they make it out of Rajaka…and that they never return.”

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