The building was huge. Even the elevator was a comfortably furnished room with ambianced views through false windows clearly streamed from the grounds outside.
Having reached an upper floor, the aide led him through a series of rooms which formed a corridor of adjacent chambers. These contained some kind of art gallery or museum, or most probably both, with real objects sitting on plinths and the ambiance set to reflect something of their original culture and history. It was impossible not to stare at some of the more interesting items on display.
“Var Sarava is a great collector,” the aide said, as Grim found himself standing, mouth slightly agape before a gorgeous mythological creature the size of his own head which had apparently been carved from a single, huge gemstone. He was impressed against his will.
When he was shown into the final room, the normality of it was disorienting after the opulence of the gallery. A very human scale and comfortable social room, with its focus where deep-cushioned chairs were set around a delicately inlaid table. There were two windows on adjacent walls, both framed with looping curtains, and showing very different views of the grounds. One wall had shelving with antique ornaments and beautifully bound old-style books. For a moment, as the aide quietly left and closed the door, Grim didn’t realise that there was anyone else in the room.
She stood perfectly still beside one of the windows. A petite and slender figure with softly blonde hair and a face that looked as if it had been flesh-cast from a mould, the sort of preternatural smoothness the extremely elderly achieved. She wore a blue garment, which could only be described as a robe. Its elegance was in its simplicity, its ornamentation in the way the colour was reflected, highlighting the brilliance of the blue eyes that watched Grim as he noticed her presence.
“Vor Dugsdall. I apologise for compelling you here to endure such a garish display of wealth. This was never my favourite home, but it is the one I am now, sadly, obliged to inhabit.”
Grim wondered how he was supposed to take that. He decided that face value was the best way.
“I could think of worse places to have to live,” he said.
A quirk of emotion danced in the dramatically blue eyes. “I am sure that is so.” She moved one hand and the room’s ambiance resolved itself from comfortable social area to plush business office. The curtains vanished to be replaced by neatly folded blinds, the inlaid table became smooth, the flooring changed from wood parquet to sleek moulded tiles, the shelving became a plain wall where art could screen and the ambiant colours shifted from warm browns and dark reds to cooler blues and black. The small woman walked with a very erect and slightly stiff gait across to Grim.
“Now you must try and convince me that I have made a good decision to involve myself in all this again.”
From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason, a Fortune’s Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook.
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