At that moment a sort of stillness overcame the ship's lounge. The atmosphere had grown steadily quieter as the hours dragged on; the novice poets and muses had stopped humming their novelties for one another, leaving only the hushed tones of the elders and the occasional clink of a posset bowl. The gay tones of the ubiquitous murals that encrusted every corner of the Zelúkwía had seen better days, lending yet more to the tiredness of the celebration.
Íora rolled her eyes at the silence, her attention slow, lugubrious. She had spent the morning defending her latest literary innovation to her editor, who was utterly opposed to printing it. This time, it had not resulted in any perforated wings, but she was still sore, both in body and mind.
She swilled her bowl about, reflecting on this, and other conflicts of opinion. Checking the bottom of her drink was another personal habit—she had once swallowed a lump of ergot that someone had spat into her bowl the morning after a wild party, and the experience had never quite stopped haunting her.
Indeed, the bitter memory of waking up in the arboretum unable to remember her name—or where she left her clothes—was one that she couldn't get out of her head. For some reason. What was that? Oh, yes. Discordance.
"If you tell these poor people one more lie, Reséa, eventually they are going to start believing the speeches, too."
Atsha-Sithéa scoffed. "You were barely involved, Íora. I was beaten to a pulp, and I recall the events perfectly. I even remember that newspaper with the terrible tagline. No one in Tévopío believed it. Did you know that? Her account is hardly encrusted in self-congratulatory beryl sequins."
Íora raised a finger, spilling some of her posset, but not really caring. "If today weren't your coronation, I would hit you."
Atsha-Sithéa, Reséa, Ekhessa Salnúkzoa, Súa Atetía, and several of the younger government officials sitting at the banquet table stared at Íora, trying desperately to look stunned, as if it might send some signal to her that she would not act so belligerently and transparently hung over.
It didn't, and she took it as a cue to continue.
"First of all, she didn't know it was actually called Tkezga Gardens. We didn't realise that until we were standing at the gates, clay tablet in one hand, dictionary in the other, trying to decipher the runes carved into the arch. Do you remember that now? You simply described it as 'the Oasis-era fortress in the marshlands,' which wasn't even correct, because it was pre-Oasis and built during the Sixth Empire."
Íora sat back. Smugness radiated from her like air from a torn spacesuit, though she did not even smile.
Reséa rubbed her face, a hand outstretched towards her greatest literary rival with the solemness of one introducing the half-time comedy at a viradelía.
Súa tilted her head. "How do you even remem—"
"But worst of all," roared Íora, "she forgot the part where there wasn't actually a bounty on Kona's head."
Reséa waved her outstretched hand dismissively. "I was getting to that!" grumbled the silver-haired woman. She had stopped dyeing it just a few months earlier, and blue strands could still be found in amongst the blonde and white, but they were getting few and far between. "We didn't know there wasn't a bounty on Kona's head yet. She was not completely truthful about it, if you recall."
"No," admitted Íora, "the reality was, on the whole, far more interesting, even if the outcome was the same."