Corydalis leaned back in his chair, half-smiling. "Ultimately, yes. But the nobility is accustomed to attention from the top of the chain of command. If they're upset about some problem, they come to me first."
"You don't discourage that?" She watched him over the rim of her glass, head tilted in curiosity.
He waggled the fingers of one hand and reached for his own glass. His was a fruity concoction adorned by a trio of grapes impaled on a wooden skewer. "It's complicated. I dislike it when a lord pressures my people to appease him with immediate results, or delivers an angry diatribe accusing them of incompetence. If a noble has some minor inconvenience, I trust them to tell it to the nearest flunky, if only because a flunky will be close at hand. But if the noble is truly upset, enough to find 'whomever's in charge', I'd rather they complained to me than my head of security. I'm not going to spend the rest of the day rattled because Lord Sky called me the head monkey at a zoo in the care of thieving pigeons and lackwit squirrels."
Smoke laughed. "Did he really call you that?"
Corydalis grinned back. "I regret to say he was rather more vulgar and rather less inventive than that."
"But someone did?" she asked. "Or have you had occasion to deploy that one yourself?"
"Ook ook," he said, with calm aplomb, and Smoke chuckled again. He liked the way she looked laughing, unselfconscious, the fine grey fur around her blue eyes crinkling with her amusement. Corydalis glanced away, pretending to admire a colorful gold-framed landscape on the restaurant wall.
"I suppose mysterious disappearing and reappearing papers are not likely to be connected to your ant problem," Smoke conceded.
"Probably not. Although the ants could have gotten into a locked room, granted. Do carpenter ants eat paper?"
She shook her head, smiling. "They don't actually eat wood, even. They dig homes and tunnels in it to hollow out living spaces."
"So much for that possibility. I know the fleas definitely don't eat paper. Not that it would explain the reappearance of the pages in any case. Security assures me that an enchanter would have to have broken the door, or at least the lock, to get inside. They haven't given up on the puzzle yet, but I don't believe they've made any progress on it. I don't suppose you've any insights?" Corydalis returned his gaze to her face, careful to remain leaning back and his posture casual. He was well aware of how easy it was for an individual of his size and position to intimidate others.
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