The precious ice cubes clinked against the chilled mugs and pitcher as Sima, one of Adijan’s servants, set the plate of cho leaf drinks down between the two men.
“Please,” Adijan said flatly, raising a mug while his eyes followed the boy back out of the room. He’d bought the boy just before the rains this year, from the last trade ship to make port in Yvgia before the hurricanes. No more than 10 years old, the slight Hennish’s jatru were still emerging.
Rhennik did not notice the old man’s gaze as he took up his own mug. His pale brown skin was flushed and sweating in the heavy air of the forest, and he gulped the cool, sweet drink eagerly.
Adijan turned at the noisy sound. He grimaced behind his mug, as his narrowed eyes watched the heavier man shortly drain his drink and immediately proceed to fill it again from the pitcher.
“Oh!” Rhennik’s eyes snapped open in embarrassment and he put a bent hand to his inclined forehead. “My apologies, Adijan-azi. How rude of me. I am not used to this heat. I do not know how you can survive here.” He blinked quickly as he realized what he said, then looked at the floor, and finally at the full mug in his hand. “This drink is delicious.”
Adijan sipped from his mug, pulling a cho leaf into his mouth to chew on while keeping his eyes on the Tyik courier. “Thank you, Rhennik,” he said, leaving out the formal suffix. The man had to be clear about their differences.
Rhennik nodded with a forced smile, then immediately looked elsewhere. He still held his mug halfway between plate and lips.
Adijan closed his eyes in frustration for a moment. From across the yard came a staccato of heavy, muffled whumps and sudden crunches that left ripples in the air. Beside him, Adijan could feel Rhennik jump in his seat. Opening his eyes, he realized he’d misjudged the man. Instead of being spooked in his seat, Rhennik was standing upright and tense, his eyes wide as he stared at the sound.
“Have you not heard a winghammer before?” Adijan put as much condescension into it as he could. The Tyik was just another ignorant, superstitious plains-farmer. It kindled something in Adijan to think that he was actually considering work for these people, after all the time he’d spent trying to get away from those very people.
“No,” Rhennik breathed. “Never.”
The old man lifted himself from his chair and peered over at the mostly packed insectine cage where Rhennik was so tightly focused.