Esmina focused on the ground as they walked. What did that mean? The supposed drunkard was too well dressed, and spending money frivolously… And beyond that, the two men made no move now to hide their connection to each other. That must have organized known each other and planned the little scheme earlier today.
This was all a stunt to remind her who was in charge… And to show her what resources Berold had at his disposal. What a loathsome creature. She held her fury tight in her fists but kept her mouth shut. There was nothing to be done.
Soon they made their way into the Ministry offices, the dark browns and greens dimly lit by lanterns mounted on the wall. There was an older gentleman looking through spectacles as he scanned through the contents of some document on his desk. As the two of them walked in, his eyes lifted up, and Esmina could see the frown on his face even underneath his thick mustache. “Good evening,” he said in a gruff tone.
“Salutations,” her father replied. “Berold Rhaun. Come to finalize paperwork and acquire my Night Seal.”
“I was expecting you earlier.”
“My apologies. My daughter delayed my arrival, for she needed extra time to prepare for the trip.”
Now Esmina was frowning. What use was there in lying? Besides, they weren’t late. Her father had told her they wouldn’t be coming here until after sundown.
“Better late than never, I suppose,” the man at the desk said. “Let me see your papers.”
Berold walked over and put the writ on the desk, sliding it over. Esmina had stayed back near the door, silent.
“Alright, I’ll send for somebody to retrieve it.” He pulled a bell from beneath his desk and rang it a few times.
Within moments, a servant opened a nearby door. “Yes, sir?”
“Take our guest into the lower chambers to fetch him a Night Seal, would you?”
“Yes, sir.” He beckoned Berold to follow him, and the two left without so much as a glance towards Esmina.
The room was left in an uncomfortable silence as the man at the desk went back to his work.
“Um…” Esmina asked. “Can I ask you something?”
He did not look up. “Stupid questions don’t get answers. What.”
Was everyone in high society like her father? “A Night Seal only protects one person at a time, right? The one holding it?”
He rolled his eyes and glanced at her, annoyance painted all over his face. “Night Seals are just a formality. You’re not going to die if you are caught outside without one. Going to jail for not paying money for the privilege is the worst of your fears.”
That was some comfort at least. Her father wasn’t putting her in danger for dragging her along when they only had one Night Seal.
“Then what’s the point? What are they beyond expensive rocks?”
“Nothing. They’re just shards of the only constructor to ever die. One of the last kings of Upper Terrace had some publicity stunt to chop its corpse up into pieces and sell it to noblemen to boost the economy.” He looked back down at his documents and started scribbling on them. “Don’t let fanciful stories of the Maker’s magic fool you. All of those were stupid questions, but I was nice and answered them anyway. Now shut up, I have work to do.”
She gulped and looked away. What a pleasant fellow. She had known Night Seals were fragments of the only constructor to have ever died — that’s why they tended to be more common closer to the heart of Tebrein — but hadn’t heard any history lesson associated with them. Maybe her research wasn’t as extensive as she had thought. Or maybe he was just lying.
Soon, her father returned alone, holding a small stone. The shard of the constructor was encased in a smooth blue rock, somewhat translucent but not quite glass. Even long dead as it was, the metal inside seemed to glow with a faint, triumphant air to it.
“The paperwork is all settled, I presume?” Berold asked.
“Yes, yes,” the old clerk waved a hand at him. “I’d like to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight, so please be on your way.”
Her father nodded, turning to Esmina. His scowl made her glance nervously about herself, wondering what she had done wrong.
“Alright, let’s go home.” He passed her on the way to the door, opening it and stepping back outside as he pocketed the Night Seal.
“Home, or back to the inn?” she asked, following after him.
“I don’t intend to repeat myself.”
Maybe she could get some sleep on the carriage.