Flattery

a part of the World Domination series by Lexi Summer Hale

“What do you think?” Inaya plopped down beside me, handing me a sheet of paper. I took it and looked it over. The handwriting was distinctly hers, all hard lines and none of the amokeshá I’d spent years learning. It was offensively plain, and I scowled.

“Don’t look like that,” said Inaya, recognizing my face.

“I can’t help it! Your handwriting is vulgar,” I told her. She hit me with a pillow.

“Scribe!”

“You didn’t even point the stress,” I taunted. “How many times do I have to tell you? Either learn the amokeshá or point the strEEP!” I trailed off as she grabbed me by the waist and started tickling me.

“Admit my handwriting’s pretty!”

“You — ahh! — couldn’t make me if you put me on the rack!” I shot back, trying to wrestle free. She pinned me on my back.

“That can be arranged, you little elitist!” she growled, panting from the exertion.

“S’a matter of honor!” I protested, my face buried in the pillows.

Inaya smacked my bottom and I yelped. “Scribes!” she exclaimed with exasperation, as she let me up. I stuck out my tongue.

“Shoulda thought of that before you went and married one!”

“Mrrr.” Inaya pulled me into her arms, resting her head on my shoulders from behind and nuzzling my neck.

“Aww, giving up already?” I teased.

“I’m tired!” said Inaya. “I spent half the day walking the Amarashis around the palace. Iloma didn’t shut up once!”

“You poor thing,” I said, kissing her on the cheek.

“Are you even gonna read it?” said Inaya, slipping her hands under my robes.

“Read what?”

“The poem! Or are you gonna spend all night heckling my writing?”

“All right, all right.” I picked up the sheet from where it had fallen and forced myself to parse the rough glyphs Inaya had scratched down. “Flowers aren’t usually your thing,” I said, glancing through the first few lines. “You’re usually so much more vulgar.”

Inaya giggled. “Do you think Lord Sokakame enjoyed the one I wrote him last month?”

“I think we’re lucky you didn’t cause a civil war.”

“Flatterer! Anyway, he deserved it after the thing with all the snakes.”

“Okay, yes, he did, but still.”

I used to take dictation for nobles with poetry a lot. Most scribes did. We’d get together at the pub sometimes in the evenings and read them out loud, trying to one-up each other with how awful they were. Inaya’s poetry, thank Meraya, was nothing like that. Her handwriting might be abominable but at least she knew how to put words together to say something meaningful, even if it was just a long-winded “I think you’re hot, let’s fuck.”

“I think it’s adorable,” I said.

“Yay!” She squeezed my breasts, and I blushed.

“Just promise me you’ll let me make a proper copy. I don’t want to inflict your handwriting on the poor girl. Ow!” Inaya had pinched my nipple.

“Fine, but only because it’s from both of us,” groused Inaya.