He had his ears tilted back to listen to them. "A little, perhaps. But it's no trouble at all to carry you, master enchanter." They felt the vibration of his speech almost better than they heard his words, warm with sincerity. "And everyone at Courthall is eager for your arrival and end to the pests. We prefer the remarks about 'vermin at Courthall' to be more metaphorical."
Smoke laughed. "Is Courthall as bad as that metaphor makes it sound?"
"No, no, not at all. The politicians are actually quite kind. Not nearly as divisive as you'd think."
"'Kind'?" Smoke tried to imagine it. The national government of Lightshel was a guided republic. Representatives elected by popular vote made the laws and confirmed all major bureaucratic appointments, under the guidance of the hereditary nobility. The nobility had no voting power, but they ran the committees and made most procedural decisions. Smoke supposed that perhaps the nobles could afford to be kind; their positions were secure. But the elections were always full of bitter rancor.
"Truly! The venom is only over matters of policy. In personal matters, they are respectful and generous." Blackwood related varous anecdotes in support of this contention. One was about Representative Willow, who'd been incapacitated by a brain injury that left her unable to comprehend speech properly. The other representatives had protected her seat until a telepath could be found to act as liaison and speak for her. Other stories were less serious: Representative Sky, an elf enby, was renowned for their over-the-top absurd pranks, like organizing a 25th anniversary party for Lady Flax, who had never been married and was only thirty-two at the time. "They provided her with a husband for the occasion, and an irate mistress for additional flavor."
"Oh dear. Was Lady Flax very upset?"
"Not at all! She was delighted. Started courting her faux-mistress afterwards, in fact."
Based on his conversation, Blackwood's favorite person in Courthall is the master of ceremonies, Corydalis.. Another draka, Corydalis managed the staff of Courthall and was ultimately responsible for all the day-to-day operations as well as social events.
The flight passed quickly -- closed to three hours and than four, in fact. Before Smoke knew it, Blackwood had landed in the beautifully landscaped park at the heart of Courthall. Tall government buildings surrounded them on all sides, from the General Chambers where lawmakers met in committee and full assembly, to the private offices in buildings flanking it on either side, to the museums and the famous Diplomatic House opposite. Blackwood helped Smoke down from his back, then shifted back to his humanlike form. He escorted them to the House of Chambers and procured a visitor's pass for them. "There, now you shan't be bothered while you inspect the grounds and our wards. I'll let Master Corydalis know you've arrived, master enchanter."
"Please, call me Smoke. I'm just here to serve the government as you do, good messenger." Smoke swiveled their ears, feeling unaccountably nervous.
Blackwood's ears flushed, and he bowed. "As you wish, m -- Smoke. Please, call me Blackwood. Would you like me to find you a guide?"
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