“You really should get off the floor, Inquisitor. What if someone comes in?”
“It will be no different than when they see me laying anywhere else?”
The ambassador gave a long sigh and reached down to Nell’s prone form to hand her a list of names. “This is a list of the guests we know about, in order of importance, which will be at the Winter Palace. You need to memorize them.”
Nell made a face at the paper and laid it to the side with the others they had been going over. “Yes, Josie.”
If Josephine heard the sarcasm in her voice she ignored it, instead looking down at her own paper, checking off what else they needed to do. “You need dance lessons. Vivienne has agreed to help.”
“Oh, I’m sure she is ecstatic about having me in her debt.”
“Her motives are a secondary concern. We also need to work on your… diplomacy.”
The pause made her laugh, and she rolled over onto her stomach before grinning up at her friend. “I can be diplomatic, Josephine.”
The other woman didn’t seem convinced. “I’m not saying you are rude, Your Worship. You are simply, very forward.”
“I think you mean blunt.”
Josephine looked as if she was going to reply, but she stopped herself and turned to set her writing board on her desk, then moved to sit in a chair near where Nell lay. “You cannot simply say what you want to say at the Winter Palace, Nell. The Game may seem ridiculous and pointless to you, but it is very real and very important to those that we are trying to impress. It is also the only way you will be able to find out about the assassin. It would not do to be turned out of the ball because you offended someone too openly.”
Nell rolled her eyes and sat up, turning so that she could face her advisor. “Just because I don’t enjoy talking around an issue does not mean that I don’t know how. I have spent most of my life training to be a Keeper. Do you know what that means?”
“To be the leader of your clan, and remember the old tales, yes.”
“Is that all you think we do?”
Josephine looked down and began picking at a loose thread on her sleeve. “I admit I do not know as much about your people as I should. It is easy to forget sometimes that you had a life before all this.”
Nell smiled and folded her hands in her lap. “It means that I learned about trade routes, and human and dwarven culture, and diplomacy, because when we do encounter other races the Keeper is the one who must speak for the clan. They are the ones who have to try and negotiate safe passage or set up trade with a village, and we have to be twice as reassuring, as charming, as well spoken as the humans because we are still the ‘dirty knife-ears’ that are going to steal their babies.”
Josephine had the grace to look offended at the summation of her people’s view on elves, but she did not deny it.
“So yes, I am blunt, because I despise playing those games when it is so much easier to say what you want and then get it, but I can play them. I won’t embarrass you, Josie, not with this at least.”
They stared at each other a moment before Josephine waved her hands. “Alright, I believe you that you have an idea of what I’m talking about, but-“
Nell groaned and flopped back to the floor, her eyes sliding shut as the woman’s voice droned around her.
“Fine!” She shouted after a minute of Josephine talking, and pushed herself up to standing. She headed towards the door as the ambassador jumped up behind her.
“Where are you going?”
“To seduce someone and prove my point.”
“I’m going to work my, according to you, imaginary charm and talk one, or twenty, of the nobles into my bed… or maybe a closet.”
She could hear Josephine scrambling after her, and had to bite down on a smile. “And when Cullen decides he can no longer be with me because I have become a woman of ill repute, you can be the one to let him know that I had to break his heart because you didn’t believe me.”
“This is not funny, Inquisitor!”
She shoved open the door to the main hall after giving an exaggerated nod. “Oh I agree.”
It was hilarious.