encountered Suhail againÂ â¦ but none of it had accounted for the possibility that our meeting would not be as free and easy as our previous interactions.
There was only one answer I could give.
âI will do my work,â I said, and pushed off the wall. It would have been better had we been returning to the House of Dragons, rather than our lodgings in the Segulist Quarter. Then I might have distracted myself properly. âI will not give anyone cause to say it was a mistake to send me here.â
But even as I spoke those words, I knew them for a lie. I had in my desk at Shimon and Avivaâs house a folded piece of paper, and I would see it in Suhailâs hands if I had to climb the walls of the sheikhâs house to do it.
A favour from my brotherâOur routineâWe lose PrimaâA new arrivalâDragon wrangling
Alasâor perhaps I should say âfortunatelyââclimbing the walls of the sheikhâs house would not have done me any good.
I had the sense to turn for aid to someone I trusted not to make the problem worse: my brother, Andrew. That he might laugh at me was entirely possible, but I could admit my conflicted position to him without fear of it rebounding upon my public reputation. (Tom I trusted even more, but any action he took would be read in light of the stories told about the two of us.)
When Andrew walked me home the next day, I invited him to the courtyard, where we might converse in relative privacy. âI was wondering if I might ask a favour of you,â I said.
âOf course,â Andrew said without hesitation. Then he grinned. âAm I going to regret saying that?â
âThere is no reason why you should. It is not dangerousâoh, donât look so disappointed,â I said, laughing. âIt has to do with the sheikhâs family. As it happens, his younger brother Suhail was our traveling companion during my time aboard the Basilisk. â
âI see,â Andrew said, and then: âOh. I see. â
As separate as we had been these past few years, he still knew the rumours. No doubt he had some of them from our mother. âThe tales are stuff and nonsense,â I assured him. âSuhail is only a friend, and a respectable scholar. But it seems the sheikh disapproves of our association, and I do not wish to antagonize him by doing anything that might be seen as forward. I was wondering if you might carry a message for meânothing inappropriate, you have my word. Merely that I have acquired a piece of research material, which I think would be of interest to Suhail.â
Andrew forbore to mention that I referred to Suhail by his given name alone. It was habit, left over from our time on the Basilisk, when I had not known any more of his name than that, nor any title to gild it. âYou want me to take the research to him? Or should I just tell him you have it?â
âI should like to give it to him myself, if I can,â I admitted. âThough if that fails, then yes, I would like you to convey it on my behalf.â
My brother shrugged. âVery well. Iâll see what I can do.â
What he could do, unfortunately, was to inform me the next evening that Suhail was already gone from Qurrat. âBack to the desert,â Andrew said. âThe sheikh doesnât go out there very often himself, so heâs got his brother acting as his representative with the nomads.â
And when, I wondered, had that practice begun? After Suhail came home following the death of his father? Or when word came that Tom and I would be assuming Lord Tavenorâs duties?
Either way, it put Suhail quite neatly beyond my reach: a most frustrating situation. I could only hope that he came back to Qurrat soon, or Tom and I received permission to go out into the desert ourselves. As Andrew had said, he was the sheikhâs representative to the Aritat, and they were the ones providing us with our