Before he said anything, Smoke asked, "Has there been anything else strange going on at Courthall, apart from the influx of vermin?"
Corydalis chuckled. "I imagine that depends on what counts as 'strange'." At the tilt of her head, he added, "Most people find the machinations of representatives and nobles are often a little ... arcane. Perhaps even more arcane than actual arcana."
Smoke giggled. "Enchanting is a straightforward matter of applying the correct forces in the correct fashion. It is not easy, mind you. But when you know the art, it's perfectly logical."
"I daresay the same might be said for the art of politics. But the motivations of the players and their causes are always changing, and that means the nature of the game changes as well." He paused to consider her question in more detail. The cause of Rep. Meadowlark's complaints of this morning might qualify as a strange event, but discussing that struck him as too much like gossip. Another event did come to mind, however. "We did have something of a locked-room mystery."
"A locked-room mystery?" Smoke blinked at him.
"Nothing serious, mind," Corydalis added. "Just strange." He paused as the waiter returned to take their order. This story was a trifle gossipy too, but it was also common knowledge at Courthall. When the waiter had left again, the draka continued, "Several days ago, Lord Sky met with two representatives in the morning to discuss a proposed bill. They took a break at lunch, and Lord Sky locked the meeting room with their notes inside. When they returned, their notes were gone. Lord Sky locked the door again, and all three of them, with Sky's secretary in tow, came to cry murder and thievery at me. I accompanied them back to the meeting room. Lord Sky unlocked it -- and all their notes were on the table."
"What? Where they'd left them in the first place?" Smoke asked.
"To all appearances," Corydalis said. "Although Lord Sky's secretary, Mr. Hawthorne, thought they'd been rearranged from where he'd left them before lunch. Mr. Hawthorne was the one who'd been taking notes. But all four thought nothing was missing."
Smoke frowned. "Could they have returned to the wrong room the first time?"
"No, and that's one of the interesting parts. Lord Sky is more paranoid than most, and this was a private meeting room adjacent to his office. He has a special style of lock on it, with a clever arrangement where the keyhole is never visible," Corydalis said. At Smoke's perplexed look, he waved a hand. "You kind of have to see it to understand, but there's a cylinder that holds the key. You socket in the cylinder, then you can twist the mechanism so that it lines up with the key in the cylinder. Then you depress a button on the cylinder that puts the key in the lock, and turn that. I'm not convinced this mechanism is actually unpickable, but it's not pickable in the ordinary way. Lord Sky has the only key, and it's the only room in Courthall with that particular key. And the room has no windows or other entrances."
"Well, if you've not a master key, why did they come crying to you about it?"
Corydalis chuckled. "Because I am the master of ceremonies, and it's my job to hear complaints if things disappear mysteriously."
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