With: Andy, Zaza
Where: The Witch Queen's Palace, the Jewel of the Desert
When: May 16, 877 ROK - Evening
Zaza: "She appreciates a forward approach..."
Andy: "Don't let her see your discomfort. It will only embolden her."
*Yet don't lean into an overabundance of false confidence, as that might prick against her sorceress instincts,* Minnie added into the chain of advice, unheard by anyone but Theo. Her voice was clearer, her presence and grip on reality more firm as the soothing tea settled in Theo's stomach. Just what he needed, he thought sarcastically, rolling his eyes just slightly, even as the more sound part of himself--the part that had driven him to become one of the founders of the Peacekeepers, affirmed that it was exactly what he needed. It was what they all needed: More resources on their side.
With his next sip of tea, the flavor seemed more tenable, his instincts a little keener, his tongue a little less sharp in his mouth. He lifted the cup again toward Andy, as if in a toast, and this time, when he said, "Thank you, uncle," it rang with a greater measure of sincerity. "We're here with a specific purpose. We should be forward about our purpose and not deviate or do anything that could be perceived as disingenuous. As long as we do that, we don't have reason for discomfort." He got to his feet then, setting the cup aside. "I don't envy the task at hand for the other delegations--except maybe Jaya dealing with the Pirate King because the worst that happens there is still probably a beach party--but even though ours requires a careful hand, the Witch Queen hasn't been... duplicitous."
"That I am not," the woman herself said, stepping out from an archway and into sight. The Witch Queen was dressed in the austere way of the Southern Desert, cream linen dress with golden threads of embroidery creating patterns at the edges, a few small glass beads for emphasis. Around her throat, she wore a pendant necklace made of turquoise and gold, designed in the shape of a hawk with its wings spread in flight. Elegant beaded slippers covered her feet, and her dark hair was pulled back from her face in a braid.
Though she was Sanya Nimr's grandmother, and at the very least somewhere in her late sixties in age--and as rumor had it, likely significantly older--there was a certain vitality in her appearance. Her hair showed no strands of grey. Her skin was smooth. The kohl around her eyes gave them an almost predatory edge.
A few steps behind her paced a maned lion and a sleek lioness, each with a metal collar at their throats. If rumors were true, the lion was her son-in-law, the former Duke of the Southern Desert. The lioness was her own daughter, the former duchess, who had betrayed her.
"Lady Esperanza, it is a pleasure to see you once again," the Witch Queen said, almost demurely.
Several servants appeared from various arches, carrying chairs with them. They made a bit of a wide berth around the two lions as they placed one chair for the Queen and her three guests, and then two large pillows, one on either side of the Queen's chair, for the lions to lay upon. All this was done so quickly and quietly that Theo barely had time to blink at the near-choreographed precision of it.
"Shall we sit?" the Witch Queen said invitingly.