Rising to her feet with his welcome assistance, she took a deep breath and said in UnHoused seeking a Boon of a High House, "I seek an audience with the First Dsk of House T'o'lz at the Dsk's convenience." Parts of a First dsk's duties were to decide who gained admittance to the Head of House's presence. If Mera made a poor impression on the First Dsk T'o'lz would be closed to her.
The dsk, who was no doubt a Second or Third, showed no expression, but replied in House to UnHoused Formal Second, "If you will follow."
The foyer of House T'o'lz was stark in its simplicity. No sessa for the comfort of those who waited were piled about. Instead the chair and small workmanlike desk of the dsk stood upon a raised platform above the red tiled floor. The whitewashed walls were bare of ornamentation, save for the eclipsed sun crest painted in scarlet and black above the bead-curtained archway that led deeper into the house. Even the matched staircases that led to the second floor were sturdy rather than graceful.
It was far different from the shabby opulence of House Teir, where she had lived her entire life. Mera pushed the thought away. House Teir was behind her. No matter what happened at this interview, Teir was forever closed to her.
"May the House request the name of the one seeking an audience with First Dsk Awar?" The dsk's quiet voice broke into Mera's thoughts.
"Teó" Mera checked the name that came automatically to her lips. That name was no longer hers to claim. Her brother Epor Aros had seen to that. She clutched her reticule tighter and said firmly, "Mera. My name is Mera."
The dsk inclined his head to the correct degree indicating acknowledgement of a reply from one of the UnHoused and went to his desk, while Mera remained where she was. His voice was no more than an indistinct murmur into the hringja from where she stood, giving her no clue as to how he was presenting her to the First Dsk.
A peculiar prickling sensation at the back of her neck as if someone were watching her took her by surprise. She turned quickly, the skirt of her robe rustling as she did; but there was no one there. No one stood on either of the stairs or the landing above.
She frowned. The prickling was growing in intensity, becoming uncomfortable. She had experienced something similar a few times before, but always in busy public places. She had put it down to her dislike of crowds. But there was no crowd here.
"Mera?" The dsk was looking at her quizzically. "Are you well?"
Before she could reply, the outer door opened and they both turned to see who was entering. Mera was struck first by his attire. Rather than wearing the tan, blue, or red robes the majority of Byshen men favored when attending to public House Business, this man wore the close-cut shirt and pants of an off-worlder. She thought he was an off-worlder seeking to hire a T'o'lz Negative Psi until he said, "'Lo, Tage."
The lack of proper inflection, the lack of any inflection, seemed to confirm him as an alien; and yet his accent was pure Skanjorn, marking him as a native of the northern desert region.