Leithan and his friends too, same as everybody else, though Shay did it with a scowl on her face.

"Aw. Are you crying?" Rami asked Leithan, mocking.

Leithan did have tears in his eyes.

Quin had pretty much paraphrased from Veya's tenth book, Infinity, but he'd liked the way she spoke the words with a pure optimism, like some kind of true messenger of Veya, even five hundred years after her existence.

Also, the klar hangover was hitting him hard by now, tugging at heartstrings. Messing with the fragile structure of his emotions like the scaffolding of an unfinished building falling apart, leaving him vulnerable.

"No," he told Rami. "I just have a go-fuck-yourself in my eye."

Rami laughed, and they sat back down along with the rest of the audience.

On the stage, Quin brought her hands together and said, "And now, without further ado, I invite Elder Priest Tremes Oldwoods to take the stage."

Leithan sighed.

The elder stood from the front row and took his ceremonious time walking up the gold-carpeted stairs. He was in a fancy, shoulder-padded suit that made it look like he was broader at the chest and concealed his bulging waistline as much as it could. The suit was black with green and gold waistcoat, complete with decorative pocket watch, handkerchief poking out, silk scarf around his neck, gentleman's hat atop his head.

He gave Quin a grandfatherly smile as he took her place, and she went to sit with her family.

The smile made Leithan wince.

He couldn't look at Tremes Oldwoods without his mind conjuring up very unwanted images, of Tremes without his clothes on in dim light, on the vast bed of the elder's fourth floor suite . . . climbing on top of Leith and then—

"You okay? You look pale," Shay whispered, a much-appreciated distraction.

"Yeah," he said, and reined in his thoughts.

The elder spoke to the crowd, on studiously slow tones. "I would like to thank the wonderful people of the city council, and the city hall staff for all the great work they do for New Rimar. Without them, we wouldn't be here today, we wouldn't have such a wonderful city, we wouldn't . . ."

Leithan spaced out. Tremes's speech was boring – even Rami thought so.

"Come on," Rami whispered, "get to the point already."

Tremes did . . . eventually.

"And now," the elder said. "Let me give you the names of this year's winning candidates."

Leithan twisted in his seat, trying to spot Shivan. He saw him, two rows back, sitting beside a young woman Leith recognized as Frista Latesky – she was a writer for the New Ri Press. Shivan didn't see Leithan, his hopeful gaze was fixed to the stage. Leithan turned back around.

The sunlight, slanting in westward from the skylight, bathed the room in a soft glow that hovered over the crowd much like the suspenseful apprehension.

Tremes called some names, and soon, pretty much the whole Grayhound tribe stood on that stage with him. Lord Blane, his sons Jem, Rilien and Dalmis, as well as Jem's and Dalmis's wives, and some of the parents of those wives . . .

What a fucking joke.

And then Rami's parents – which was why Rami was here in the first place – Arnel Fiercewind, Chief of Temple Security, and Hanna Slyfox, Captain of the City Watch. They were both on the council.

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