Home > Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(5)

Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(5)
Ilona Andrews

“The otrokar rooms will be up there. They give prayers to sunrise, so they require a view of the morning sun.” I turned and pointed at the opposite wall. “The vampires go there. Their time of reflection begins as sunset ends, so they are in the west.” I pointed at the south wall. “The merchants will reside there. They are a forest species and prefer shady rooms and muted light. Everyone has their separate stairwell. Nobody can enter each other’s quarters. The inn won’t permit it.” I pointed under the north wall, where long windows sliced the wall into sections. “I’m going to put a table there for the leaders to conduct their negotiations.”

“That’s a well-thought out layout,” Caldenia said. “But why pink marble?” She waved at the ceiling. “Pink marble, white ceiling, golden accents… With the electric lighting it will turn into this ghastly orange.”

“I had one chance to impress the Arbiter and I had to improvise.”

Caldenia arched one eyebrow.

“I saw it in a movie once,” I explained. “It was easy to visualize.”

“Was it a movie for adults?”

“It had a talking candelabra who was friends with a grumpy clock.”

“I see. What about a ballroom from your parents’ inn?”

I shook my head. I remembered it in excruciating detail, but when I thought about recreating it, my heart squeezed itself into a painful clump. I sighed. “I can make it completely white, if you would prefer.”

Caldenia’s eyes narrowed. “So the color can be altered?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, not white. White is the safest of choices. Also is memory serves, House Krahr builds their castles with grey stone and you don’t want to show favoritism.”

“Otrokar favor vibrant colors and ornate decoration,” I said. “They tend toward reds and yellows.”

“So we must strike a balance between the two. Blue is a soothing color most species find conductive to contemplation. Why don’t we try turquoise?”

I concentrated. The marble columns turned a deep turquoise.

“A little more grey. A little darker. Little more… Now can we put lighter streaks through them. Can you fleck it with gold… Perfect.”

I had to admit, the columns did look beautiful.

“Let’s take down the gold leaf,” Caldenia instructed. “Elegance is never ostentatious, and there is nothing more bourgeois than covering everything in gold. It screams that one has too much money and too little taste and it infuriates peasants. A palace should convey a sense of power and grandeur. One should enter and be awestruck. I found the awe tends to cut down on revolts.”

I seriously doubt I’d face any revolts, but if it cut down on the slaughter, I would be quite happy.

“Gold has its uses but always in moderation,” Caldenia continued. “Did I ever tell you about the Cai Pa? It’s a water world. The entire planet is an ocean and the population lives on giant artificial floating islands. It’s amazing how many people you can stuff into a few square miles. Each of these is ruled by a noble grown rich on pharmaceutical trade and underwater mining. Space is at a premium, so of course, the fools build elaborate palaces. I had a cause to attend a meeting in one of those monstrosities. They have these underwater algae forests, quite beautiful, actually, if you are into that sort of thing. The entirety of the palace walls was covered in algae cast in gold. There was not a single clear spot on the walls or the ceiling that didn’t have some sort of flourish or a flower in gold or some other garish color like scarlet. And between the algae there were portraits of the host and his family with jewels instead of eyes.”

“Jewels?”

Caldenia paused and looked at me. “Jewels, Dina. It looked ghastly. After ten minutes in the place, I felt like my eyes were under assault by an interstellar dreadnought. It was making me physically ill.”

“Some people simply live to prove to the others that they have more,” I said.

“Indeed. I lasted a single day and when I departed, the host had the audacity to claim I had insulted his family. I would’ve poisoned the lot, but I couldn’t stand to be in the building for another moment.”

Her Grace raised her arms. “This is your ballroom, dear. Your space. The heart of your small palace. The sky is the limit, as they say. Abandon conventions. Forget the palaces of your world. Forget your parents’ inn or any other inn. Use your imagination and make it your own. Make it glorious.”

The sky is the limit… I closed my eyes and opened my mind. The inn shifted around me, its magic responding. My power flowed from me and I let it expand and grow, unfurl like a flower.

“Dina…” Caldenia murmured next to me, her voice stunned.

I opened my eyes. Gone was pink marble, the gold leaf, and the crystal chandeliers. Only three windows, all in north wall, remained. A glorious night sky spread across the dark walls and the ceiling, endless and beautiful, the light patina of lavender, green and blue forming gossamer nebulae dotted with tiny flecks of stars. It was the kind of sky that called space pirates to their ships. Long vines spiraled around the turquoise columns that supported the balconies and delicate glass flowers glowed with white and yellow. The floor was polished white marble, inlaid with a rich mosaic in a dozen shades from black and indigo to an electric blue and gold, stretching to the center, where a stylized image of Gertrude Hunt decorated the floor, circled by a depiction of my broom.

I looked up. Above it all three enormous light fixtures came on, each a complex constellation of glowing orbs bathing the room in bright light. I smiled.

“Now that is what I call awe,” Caldenia quietly said next to me.

The magic chimed in my head. I opened my eyes. Ten past midnight. A little early for the summit, which was supposed to start tomorrow evening.

I swung my feet out of the bed. I’d gotten an hour of sleep. My head felt too heavy for my neck. I couldn’t remember the last time I worked so hard. I still wasn’t sure if the pits in the otrokar rooms were low enough. There was some sort of sacred proportion between the central “pit” area and the height of the plush circular couches around it. I’d consulted my guides and made them to the exact specifications listed, but my gut told me the height was off. It just didn’t look right, so I spent the last thirty minutes of my day lowering and raising the wooden makeshift couches before I had the inn make them in stone. It would all be worth it.

Another phantom tug, like ripples in a shallow pond. Someone stood at the end of my driveway, just inside the inn grounds, waiting politely to be invited in.

I got up and slipped on my innkeeper robe. A simple grey affair with a hood, it hid me from head to toe. Beast raised her head from her post by my bed and let out a quiet sleepy bark. I checked the window. A dark figure stood in the thick night shadow of an oak by the front hedge. It would be tall for a human. Probably a couple of inches taller than Sean.

I picked up my broom and left the bedroom, walking down the long hallway to the front staircase. Beast trotted next to me. The architecture of the inn had changed so much, my trek to the front door nearly doubled.

The floor was cool under my bare feet. The rain was still falling and the inn and I agreed on comfortable seventy degrees inside, but like in any house some spots were warmer and some cooler and I wished I had worn socks.

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