SOME GOLDEN HARBOR – snippet 43:
“I suppose you’re used to this sort of thing,” Luff said bitterly as he started around the Council Hall with Daniel, toward the enclosed parking lot in back. There were clots of spectators at the rear of the plaza, watching but unwilling to be said to have joined the mob. Corius’ voice through the PA system was audible though individual words weren’t always clear. “Because your father’s Speaker Leary, I mean.”
I wonder who told him that? thought Daniel. He was pretty sure Luff hadn’t known that Daniel was anything more than a young middle-ranking officer when the Princess Cecile landed on Bennaria.
“I’ve seen other mass gatherings, yes,” Daniel said carefully. He had no reason to be abrupt with the question, but neither did he want to get in a discussion about Corder Leary. “This is quite a polite one, it seems to me. But that has nothing to do with who my father is. I grew up on our country estate, Bantry, not in Xenos. I saw bird migrations and file-fish runs, but not political demonstrations.”
There’d been political meetings, though. Not this sort of thing, but the discussions which the public never learned about. One man, or three, or on a single occasion twelve, arrived at Bantry separately and separately slipped away again. On the night of the largest meeting began the Proscriptions that crushed the Three Circles Conspiracy.
They’d reached the steel-scrollwork gates of the parking compound. Luff’s driver was inside talking with three attendants. Daniel pulled at the leaves, but they were locked.
Hogg’d been walking behind Daniel and Luff as they moved away from the crowd. He glanced back once more, then stepped to the gate and rattled it in irritation. “Hey!” he called. “You there! Look alive!”
The four men muttered uncertainly for a moment. Finally an attendant walked toward them while Luff’s driver got into the black landau. It was the only vehicle still in the lot.
“They’d better get a move on,” Hogg muttered, resuming his watch on the plaza. In a different voice he went on, “There were people waiting down some of the streets leading to the square, you know, master. They don’t wear their colors, but they’re somebody’s bullies for sure.”
“Master Luff?” Daniel said. “Do you think the other Councilors will attack Corius today?”
He wasn’t sure how the Manco agent would respond. He’d remained in sullen silence while the three of them pushed back through the crowd, and the comment about Speaker Leary hadn’t been made in a friendly tone.
Instead of growling some angry variant on, “How would I know?” though, Luff said, “No, no, they won’t do that. The whole city would be burned down if they did that. Waddell may have observers, but attack? No.”
He looked over his shoulder at the plaza. “The Councilors’ve all gone to their estates, I’m sure of that. Those who think they have enough retainers may leave a guard on their townhouses, but some won’t even do that.”
Luff shivered. “What if the city burns anyway?” he asked plaintively. “What will I do? This is a terrible thing, terrible.”
The driver had turned the car and was moving toward them. The attendant unlocked the gate’s crossbar and slid it sideways. Hogg shoved the leaves fiercely, deliberately making the attendant jump back. The fellow’d delayed them, but Hogg was capable of taking his anger out on anybody who happened to be close.
Any wog, that is; Daniel didn’t catch his servant’s anger unless he personally was the cause of it. Which was often enough, in all truth.
“Sir?” said the attendant unexpectedly as he pulled one leaf fully open; Hogg was pushing the other back. “I–”
The fellow looked back at his fellows, standing against the wall. Each had his hands locked together to keep them from twitching. “I mean we, we were wondering if, you know, we should leave the Council Hall?”
“Ah,” said Daniel, the syllable replacing, “Why in the world are you asking me?” because as soon as he framed that question mentally, he knew the answer: the attendants were terrified. They feared not only what the mob might do but also equally irrational violence by the Councilors who were their masters.
“I think you should go home, now,” Daniel said quietly. He was the closest thing to authority the poor fellow had; it was simple human kindness to give him the answer that might save his life. “You want to be with your families in case things get, well, confused later.”
Luff had gotten into the car. “Come along, for God’s sake,” he said. “We can’t be sure the streets are safe even now!”
Hogg moved deliberately to put his shapeless bulk between Daniel and the Manco agent. He was looking back at the crowd, whistling Waiting to Grow between his teeth. That’d been Elemere’s signature tune….
“Even though Councilor Waddell told us to lock the doors and watch the place tonight?” the attendant said. He sounded as desperate as a mother asking a doctor about her child.
“If the building’s still here in the morning,” Daniel said, “you can come back before Councilor Waddell’s likely to. If it’s not, well, you’re still better off, right?”
He smiled and clapped the man on the shoulder. Hogg climbed into the open cab with the driver, and Daniel slid into the passenger compartment with Luff. The car was accelerating out of the lot before he got the door fully closed.
Daniel glanced through the opera window in the back panel. The attendant he’d spoken to was waving to his fellows to join him. Even before they did he’d trotted out into the street, leaving the gates open behind him.