Julien

by Engor

Chapter 76

"Why can't I go and visit Julien?"

Ambar was determined to get some answers to the questions that had been whirling around in his head for the past few days. It had taken a fair bit of cunning just to fix it so that he was at breakfast at the same time as his brother, who had seemed to be avoiding him and who had only spoken in monosyllables on the few occasions that they had met.

"Because you have to stay with your Family. You're a Ksantiri – and he said your place was here, remember? Anyway, you need a proper education."

"I was getting a proper education in Aleth. Nobody seemed to think that wasn't going well."

"Well; now you're getting one here."

"And why hasn't he come to visit me?"

"Ambar, he's the Emperor of the R'hinz! He has other things to do."

"All right, maybe he does have other things to do, but I'd be amazed if he couldn't find a few minutes to drop by for a visit. He didn't even say goodbye before he left."

"He was in a rush. He told me to say goodbye to you for him, and I did."

"So why doesn't he answer my letters?"

"Probably he hasn't got time."

"I think you're hiding something from me."

"Are you calling me a liar?"

"No. I just don't think you're telling me everything."

"Perhaps you'd like to be invited to my private council meetings?"

"I'm not interested in your private council. I just want you to tell me what's going on."

"There's nothing going on. And now I want to finish my breakfast in peace, because I have a pile of work waiting for me. So do you, I'm sure – you're not on holiday, you know."

"I think maybe I'll go and visit Julien. Perhaps he'll tell me what's going on."

"You're not going anywhere. The Guides have got better things to do than to carry you about the place whenever you feel like a change of scenery. You might not realise this, but using the Guides costs a fortune. If you saved up your pocket money for ten years you still couldn't afford it."

"I didn't even know I had any pocket money!"

"You can access the House Ksantiri account if you want to buy sweetsnow or something."

"I see. So maybe I'll go and ask Lady Axelia if she can lend me enough to cover my next ten years' worth of sweetsnow money, then."

"I absolutely forbid you to go bothering my mother with trivia like that!"

"Oh, so now it's your mother, is it? When did I stop being your brother?"

"That's not what I meant."

"It's exactly what you meant! And you're right, too. I knew this wasn't going to work right from the start. I tried to stop you taking me as your brother, and I shouldn't have let you talk me into it."

"Don't say things like that – you're being ridiculous!"

"Well, I don't just want to stay here on my own being 'educated'."

"But... you're not on your own!"

"I am, too. The other students – Hyalek, Trannyen and that lot – know perfectly well I'm not really your brother. And I promise you, they're not my friends, no matter how much they might put it on when anyone's watching! At least in Aleth I had some proper friends!"

"What about me? Aren't I your friend?"

"No! You're hiding things from me and you're stopping me from going to see my friends. That's not how friends treat each other. And don't try to tell me it's because it costs a lot, because I'm pretty sure Aïn would do it for nothing if I asked him."

"Aïn isn't here, and in any case no Guide would take you anywhere without my permission."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm First Lord of the Ksantiris, and my brother can't just wander about all over the Nine Worlds whenever he feels like it."

"Well, give me your permission, then!"

"No."

"Why not?!"

"Because I'm not going to let you turn into a spoiled brat!"

"You're not my father! And in case you've forgotten, my father just got assassinated by our brother!"

"I'm head of the family and that makes me legally your tutor."

"And you think that gives you the right to keep me stuck here?"

"Yes."

"Good, well at least I know where I stand now. Thank you, Noble Lord: I don't have any more questions."

"Don't be like that!"

"Noble Lord and Noble Brother, I'm addressing you with proper respect, the way I was taught by the Honourable Master Kenntik, who teaches me manners and good behaviour. And now I beg Your Lordship to excuse me. The Honourable Master Sandeark has a mathematics lesson starting in a minute."

"Stay here!"

"As you command, Noble Lord."

"Ambar, you can't talk to me like that!"

"Noble Lord, you have just reminded me – more than once – of the respect which your rank commands. I'm talking to you exactly the same way as I would have talked to the Noble Lord Ylavan, if only I'd been lucky enough to have met him."

"That's not true – you're talking to me the way you'd talk to a complete stranger!"

"With the greatest of respect, Noble Lord, I'm talking to you the way I should talk to someone who has complete power of life or death over me – which, as you've so carefully explained to me, you do. Now may I have your permission to leave your presence?"

"Yes, all right. Come back and see me this evening."

"Noble Lord, I would advise you not to ask me to share your bed."

"I wasn't intending to. But why would you 'advise me not to', as you put it?"

"Because people gossip. They pretend I can't hear them, but they know I can. And the gossip is that sharing your bed is the only reason you invited me to join your family."

"Who would dare to say such a thing?"

"Noble Lord, not even you have the power to order me to tell tales. Can I go now? I'm already late and I'm probably going to be punished."

"Just say you were with me."

"Certainly not! I've got no intention of feeding the rumour-mill!"

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