Every morning, they had breakfast together. If they were in the same place, even if they did see each other again for the rest of the day. They at least had breakfast together. It was a private affair, just the two of them. Anything they needed was brought in ahead of time, and they were not bothered by just about anything until they gave their consent. It was simple. They just ate a good meal and talked. About their marriage. About the kids. Finances. Insurance rates were killer. And good lord, that new ten-month tax; it really kicked your purse in the nether regions. Sometimes they talked about business, but Demetrius really didn't like that. Whenever his wife, Elena ever tried to bring up the topic, he normally whined and complained. Normally, he said something along the lines of, “By the Lich's birds, Elena, you know that the absolute last thing that I ever want to talk about, while I'm eating, is business. No matter-” “Yes, dear, I know,” said Elena, sighing and taking a bite of her oat porridge, “But sometimes-” “No,” he said, pointing a spoon at her, “You didn't let me finish. No matter what it is, it is not so oppresively urgent that it cannot wait for me to finish eating. I want peace at my meals. The whole world won't go to Hell while I do this one thing.” “All right,” she said, “I'm sorry. You're right.” “Is it so important that we can't eat and have a nice conversation?” he said, thrusting with his spoon. Elena held her hands up, “No. I said it wasn't. It can wait. We can eat.” “Well good,” said Demetrius, “I'm glad.” He took a bite of his porridge, sweetened with honey (of course). There was dead silence. A silver spoon clinked on a bowl. The back right leg of Demetrius's chair creaked (he would get it fixed, one of these days). Elena took a sip of her coffee. She looked at it, the black liquid in her cup. It looked like water, or tea, but it was completely dark and opaque. It had a very strong flavor. Neither of them had liked the taste at first. That had been about two weeks ago, when they had first gotten some beans. Since then, she had grown accustomed to it. Demetrius didn't like it so much, but he paid for it, so he's going to drink it. And pay for it they did. Man, was it expensive. A ludicrously costly import, from a place that was very far west of this side of the empire. They had had to also pay for a specialist to roast the beans for them properly, because who from around here would know how? They didn't want to ruin them. Good goddess, Demetrius would have had the man murdered who ruined his coffee beans. He swirled it around in his cup, then took a sip. He made a face, just like every other time he took a sip. “You know, I don't really like it,” said Demetrius. Elena sighed and rolled her eyes. “Then don't drink it,” she said, “I'll drink it. Just put the cup down.” “No,” said Demetrius, hugging it, “I paid for it. I'm going to drink it. And it makes me feel jittery.” “Stop complaining about it,” said Elena, eatting more porridge, “Is this what you had in mind when you said we were going to have 'nice conversation'?” “Fine, woman,” he said, suddenly brandishing his spoon again, “If you will not stop badgering me about it. What is it? Can you not leave a man to his coffee, in peace?” “Stop being so melodramatic. You're not going to die,” she said, finishing her food, “Besides, it is of importance.” Demetrius grumbled and ate more of his porridge. He looked down at it. It was dry. “My porridge is dry,” he said. “Oh, stop being a baby and listen,” she said, swatting at him with her hand, “We are going to be having some visitors.” “Oh,” he said, dramatically feigning interest, “And who might our esteemed guests be?” Elena smiled and picked the word that would have the most negative impact, “In-laws.” The old man sat straight up, his eyes open and bright. “In-laws?!” he said, loudly. “Who? Family's visiting?” Elena took a sip of her coffee (it was getting cold, by now). “Yes,” she said, “Our esteemed relatives, from the House Draco.” “Draco?” said Demetrius, sipping his own, “Why are they suddenly so interested in visiting? Do they want something? I bet they want something. It had better be worth our while.” The wife tried to calm her husband down, “I don't know, but don't be so cynical. We are related, after all. Maybe we finally made it onto their calendar.” Demetrius, Head of House Archon, eyeballed his wife incredulously. He didn't believe a word of this. “What do you know, that I do not know?” he asked. Elena snickered. Her husband was so paranoid. “Nothing special. Don't you keep up with international news? Current events? Are you just a 'local news' kind of guy?” The House Head was offended. “Of course I keep up with current events,” he said, “Lay it on me. I just normally hate talking about this stuff during breakfast.” “Oh,” she said, “I didn't know you were so well-informed. Well then, dearest husband of mine, I take it that news as already reached you of the new wave of persecutions that has broken out in the capital.” Demetrius was shocked. His cup stopped on the way to this mouth, mid-trip. No, he had not heard of this. “How 'current' is this?” he asked. “Very recent. I just keep in touch with the right people,” she said, somewhat beaming, “It hasn't swept out this far, yet. Hopefully, it won't. We are already in a precarious state.” “Is it bad, this time?” asked Demetrius. “So far? Yes. But only time will really tell. In the meantime, living that close to the Lich's heart is a hazardous prospect.” “So what?” he said, “Some people I don't even know are going to come hide out in my estates? From the government? OUR government?” “No,” said Elena, sighing. She was losing control of the conversation. “It's not like that. They're not hiding. It's just not safe there. We are providing them with a retreat, as it were.” The spoon came back into play. Demetrius pointed it all the way across the table, straight at his wife. “You tell me, woman,” he said, “Are these people devil-worshippers? Tell me right now if they are. I will not harbor enemies of the state.” Elena pushed the spoon aside. “No, Demetrius,” she said, “They are not devil-worshippers. They are just members of our extended family that wish us to perform a favor for them. Is that not how you advance in life? By performing favors for those more powerful than yourself? It is expected of us. We are family.” Demetrius grumbled. He hadn't really been a big fan of the marriage in the first place. It seemed too... It was complicated. Very complicated; politics always were. You had to keep track of your friends and your enemies, and that became hard to do when you were wrapped up in people like the Dracones. But, maybe Elena was right. Maybe. Maybe he was just being paranoid. Wizards were naturally paranoid people. He stroked the grisled old gray goatee on his chin. His spoon went back into his bowl. “Maybe,” he said, “Maybe you are right. I don't know. How many?” Elena shrugged. “I don't know,” she said, “For now? Four. I don't know how many more after that. Roderick (Head of House Draco) is sending a representative to discuss the matter with us. She is among the four.” “Hm...” said Demetrius, thinking, “Who do we have to entertain them?” Elena had already thought of all this, of course. But it was good for his ego and their marriage if she played it all out with him, anyway. “On hand? Not much. You sent Killian off to inspect the eastern border. If you want it to be a family member, what you have is Freya.” “Well excellent then,” said Demtrius, smiling, “Freya. I'm sure a young lady such as herself can be a fine hostess when the situation calls for it. Someone will have to entertain them while we speak with this 'representative' from their masjesties, the Dracos.” Elena just smiled. Demetrius finished off his cup. “Where is she, anyway? I guess we need a servant to go fetch her. Tell her the good news.” Elena stood up and said, “I will take care of it,” and she left the room, after knocking on it to let the servants know that they could enter.