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This scene takes place just after Eugenia and Iereus have arranged Loukas's marriage.

Nika tallied the column of numbers, neatly writing in the sum at the bottom and checked her work and compared to the diagram in the folio. Satisfied, she blew on the ink to dry it and slipped the page into the stack.


Nika didn’t have to look up to know Myrrine stood in the doorway, breathless and bright-eyed.

“Yes, Myrrine? I told you that I’m working.”

“It’s important.”

“If Bion swallowed another bug, I’m sure it won’t hurt him.”

“It’s not that. I mean, he has, but I’ve given up trying to stop him – he seems to enjoy the taste.” Myrrine sank down on the bench opposite Nika, her hands splayed against the table top. “A messenger’s just come from Edessa.”

“Ah.” That was usual, Iereus wasn’t a man to send updates on the weather; if there was a message, it was important. She liked that about him.

Myrrine was watching her expectantly, clearly hoping to be cajoled into telling. The only thing the girl loved more than hearing gossip was telling it, and she usually dragged the process out.

Nika waited.

“Iereus is taking another wife!” she said in a rush.

“How nice,” Nika said, and dipped her pen in the ink well, ready to start a new calculation.

“I know you want to know who,” Myrrine said, a triumphant note in her voice.

“So tell me,” Nika said, placing her pen down.

“His name is Loukas Kommene. He’s the eldest son of the House -- sixteen-years-old. That sounds young to me. I can barely remember being sixteen.”

“What, you can’t remember five years ago?”

“You know what I mean,” Myrrine said, lips pursing in annoyance. “I wonder what he’ll be like.”

“I can already tell you that.” Nika sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose; reading in the dim light was giving her a headache. “House Kommene? The children of that house are weak and spoiled. Do you think he’ll be glad to join House Iereus when he’s probably never left the city, never once set his soft hands to work. While I’ve no doubt, young Loukas’s beauty may be to our husband’s taste, he’ll be an ill-fit for our House. Mark my words, he’ll be an unpleasant brat.”

Myrrine laid her head on her arms. “You’re probably right. But I hope he likes me.”
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