Bonfatti sighed as he stared down at the sundial in the Gervous family estate. He did not need it to tell it was already past noon. He stared back at the four poster bed and its disheveled, unconscious occupant. Miriam Gervous, famed beauty of the Golden City, most eligible bachelorette on the Peninsula, had seldom looked worse.
Her blonde hair was greasy and clumped with mud and vomit. Her nightgown was similarly disarrayed, and she still held the culprit, a bottle of Emerald Rice Wine, clutched in one of her asleep hands. Living like this was dangerous, as Bonfatti had warned her many times, but it was not new for the woman.
Today was her 17th birthday.
“Where is Pepetto?” Miriam asked, finally rousing herself into something resembling consciousness. Bonfatti did not respond. Miriam would remember her lover was far from here soon enough.
He heard her sigh as she did so. “Pepetto. For Father to send him away was very cruel. Why does he not write me?”
Bonfatti had no response to that either. For he did not know. It was possible he had been killed long ago. But he would never raise that possibility to her Ladyship. She already knew it, anyway.
He waited until she was bathing to bring up the really bad news. “Your father wants you to meet with Scion Vey today.”
There was a moment of silence from the bath.
“The head of the reconciliation council? A marriage pact with North Avorti? Preposterous, we’ll be dragged into civil war once Ivani decides to rebuild his father’s empire.”
“Apparently your father believes, considering their geographic location, the City will inevitably be dragged into the war.”
“My father cannot even keep peace inside the City! Even now the Catavins and the Delarres fill this city with their bravi. A bandit army waits outside to waylay any traders! My father would be better off finding me a strong duca from the thousand kingdoms. Like the savage, Pao Dominus, or the artist-king, Castopheli.”
“Pao Dominus’ last four wives have died under mysterious circumstances, and Castopheli is nearly eighty!” Bonfatti’s response was incredulous.
Miriam opened her mouth to respond, but was interrupted by an unwelcome guest bursting into her chambers. She had certainly not given leave to Escardo Gervous, her eldest living brother, to enter. Bonfatti stood up to address the brute with that very comment, but paled when he saw Escardo’s two loaded pistols. He was not in a good mood.
He threw a handful of parchment into Miriam’s bath. She did not look at them. She knew what they were. They were posters that had come up overnight in the City, into the hands of every town crier from the West Wall to the docks.
Escardo read from the one that he had not flung at his sister, in something like pure rage. “Miriam Gervous, daughter of the Hetriarch, second seat on the Council of Intercession and Holy Lady of the Golden City, must hereby confess to being the victim of the incestous rape by her brother, Escardo, since the age of 11.”
Miriam rolled her eyes as the posters floated in front of her. “You’re an idiot. Anyone could’ve said that. Why would I do it? It’s clearly some plot of the Delarre’s to undermine Father. And you fell for it.”
Escardo leapt forward in a rage, grabbing the side of Miriam’s head and smashing it into the marble corner of her bath.
“Don’t you ever insult me, you whore.” He stalked out of the room, leaving Miriam to contemplate her own blood soaking into her now ruined bath.
“Are you alright?” Bonfatti asked.
He could see a hint of a dark smile on Miriam’s lips, and for the first time in a long time, the old steel in her eyes. She had been adrift for a long time, but now she had something like purpose “I will be. Tell Father I will see Scion Vey. I have work to do.”