Tiana stepped inside D'Licorice Residence and it greeted her, then asked in a female voice, "Do you have a migraine?"
"Not yet. And if I'm lucky–" But she didn't need to finish her sentence, the Residence released herbs that reminded her to unclench her teeth and loosen the muscles in her neck. If she'd been dressed as normal she'd have done a stretching pattern.
She heard a click and turned her head and saw in that in the mainspace to her left, a no-time food storage unit had protruded a tray.
"An energy drink," D'Licorice Residence said
She must look very weary if this Residence noticed. She took the drink and sat in a rocking chair. "No one else is around?"
"The Family remains at the PublicLibrary. I am pleased to have the company, Priestess Tiana."
"You carry an aura of serenity wherever you go,"
Sure didn't feel like that from the inside. "Thank you again, for your kind words and the drink."
"It is the kind you like. It will not cause an energy crash later."
It wouldn't give her the big boost she could really use, either, but she drank it down, then stepped into the center of the rug in the room, grounded herself and said a small blessing for the Residence and the Family in gratitude. The tiny ritual let her ground herself, center all the swirling emotions the events of the day had caused. And as she scanned herself, she had that hint of foreboding of an external problem rather than an internal one.
Closing her eyes, she traced the feeling back to standing in the wind on the plateau, then earlier, to the mention of GraceLord Equisetum, a man whom she'd tried to banish from her thoughts for years. The very idea of him gave her nausea, made her feel helpless. Took her back to the night she'd lost her home to a firebombing mob who'd chased her Family away more than had hurt them, or the house. They'd lost and run. Or had run and lost.
A notion wisped in her brain. She was in the CityCenter neighborhood, where the PublicLibrary and D'Licorice Residence stood. Where the GuildHall stood. Perhaps it was time for her to take a look at the man for the first time in years. "D'Licorice Residence, can you tell me if the NobleCouncil is still meeting in the GuildHall?"
"Yes, Tiana," the Residence said. "There is debate on the requirements for testing from one strata of society to the next – Commoner to Noble, a GraceLord to a GrandLord. A large faction in the NobleCouncil want to increase the level of Flair that must be proven."
"I hadn't heard of that." She wondered if her father had. She frowned. "I don't like that idea.** The most vital society is one that is not rigidly structured, and where talented individuals can rise through the classes."
"That is what we Licorices believe, too. Some go beyond that to think the current Celtan society is too structured."
Liberals like the Licorices took that stance.
Tiana liked the present system just fine...a system where a Commoner like Walker Clover with great Flair could test to become a GrandLord...and on his abilities might rise to the most influential man on this side of the world, Captain of All Councils. A system where a boy from the slums like Antenn Moss Blackthorn could become a top level architect. She shook her head once to dismiss the attractive man from her mind.
"Is GraceLord Equisetum in the GuildHall?"
"Yes. He is vociferous in his support of the tougher requirements."
"Hmmm. I wonder how he might Test in comparison to Walker Clover," she murmured.
The Residence chuckled. "Not a consideration. His Family is nearly two centuries old."
Tiana knew. Not quite as old as the Mugworts. Not nearly as old as the Licorice Family that had been founded, along with the PublicLibrary, within the first decade of the Earthan colonization of Celta.
"D'Licorice, of course, will vote against the measure."
"This issue has split the FirstFamilies Council, t oo. Those who feel threatened by Commoners and their increasing Flair.
"But Flair is increasing across the whole populace."
"We Licorices have researched this, and those FirstFamilies who tend to intermarry, or who do not have a vocation or avocation have not had as much an increase in Flair as those who have gone outside the twenty-five FirstFamilies for their spouses, or have lived in luxury on their wealth and not contributed to Celta. Have not found a passion to pursue. The younger set of Ladies and Lords, are, of course, in favor of a more flexible society."
"The stratified want to remain stratified."
"That is our reading."
"I must be going. May I take the glider you're loaning me to the GuildHall, then home?" she asked.
She bowed in a circle, once again saying a simple blessing.
"The day is waning and cooling. Take a cloak from the front closet," the Residence said. Obediently she went to the closet, then smiled as she saw one of her own cloaks, dull, brown and respectable, that she'd left.
A few minutes later she took the final steps to the gallery above the NobleCouncil chamber. She vaguely recalled where her father's throne-like chair had been, closer to the speaker podium than Equisetum's. And the chair positions were based on the status of the Family – when they'd been established, whether they had outstanding Lords or Ladies, how substantial their Flair was. Tiana couldn't recall the last time the order of the Nobles had been reshuffled. Though when her father was stripped of his title, everyone would have moved up one, of course.
That still bothered her. It would bother anyone.
She stayed in the shadows of the doorway at the back of the gallery and looked down at the members who were present at the NobleCouncil. Quietly, gently, she opened herself to the spiritual eddies of the room. She found passion, both for and against the issue being discussed.