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Ntaro Challenge: A House L'u-cif-er Story (ch. 1) by Acton Bell
SUMMARY: Genji and Viir are sent to Ntaro to investigate a series of accidents to L'u-cif-er holdings. They discover a tangled web of lies and murder.
Genji winced inwardly as the soloist hit another wrong note. By his count that was twenty-five in this piece alone. Add that to the mistakes in the previous three solos and it added up to--.
Genji, a mental voice admonished him. The Ntaro are trying to honor us.
Better that they honor the music, he sent back to the man sitting beside him, and torture it no longer. A proficient musician, Genji found most amateur musical entertainments acceptable at best, excruciating at worst. The nervous young sons and daughters pushed forward to display their talents before the gathered Heads of House, their Ladyes, and other important visitors tended to perform poorly. This evening's entertainment was proving worse than most. Ntaro voices were not suited to the program of Byshen chorales they had chosen.
Still, you must credit them for the attempt. Viir mentally reproved him.
As I credited you? From out of the corner of his eye, Genji saw the flush deepen the copper of Viir's cheeks. Twenty-three years ago he had heard someone mangling one of his favorite piano concertos and stepped into the practice room to see who it was. At that moment he'd found his Elska bond. While Viir's playing had improved only marginally over the years, Genji had never regretted their meeting.
Nor have I, minn ást.
The soloist finished then, ending the lovers' mental dialogue. Genji's applause was wholehearted and the girl preened a bit at his enthusiasm. He was no telepath or precognitive, but he was sure she would spend the next several days lording it over her age mates that she had captured the attention and approval of the off-world representative of House L'u-cif-er.
"She's already preparing her speech," Viir whispered as they rose from their seats. Normally Viir kept strong shields in place at a social event such as this, but under the circumstances it was necessary that he remain slightly open.
Genji choked back laughter, turning it into a cough as their host Overseer Roghet approached. "You are pleased with this night's entertainment?" he said. His accent and inflection were off, turning what should have been House Polite Conversational into House Confrontational. Had such an inflection been used by a member of another House, there would have been severe economic repercussions for the Speaker's Family; however, as Roghet had only been promoted to the position of Stjórnandi of House L'u-cif-er, Vidian Compound three days previously, Genji was inclined to let the matter pass.
In House Formal Polite Genji said, "The effort of the sons and daughters of Ntaro is not unappreciated. It would please this one to hear the songs of Ntaro at some future time."
Roghet seemed unsure of what the proper response should be. He was a small, dark, round man, a sign that his family were immigrants to Ntaro. He gave the impression of being ready to bounce away like an errant ball at any moment as he nervously bobbed his head.
The awkward silence was broken by a smooth voice. "Chanon, ipakilala imo dumuluaw."
Genji's brow raised.