Rann continued to gaze into Kyreion’s fawn-gold eyes, marking how they hooded with resistance. The younger Malyrdeon prince was strong-willed and spoiled, accustomed to getting his way. His father’s arrival created an unwelcome change to his routine.
“I don’t populate my household with brutes.”
“Neither do I," Solon said. “Rannulf will be a refreshing change from your usual mix of fair weather friends and sycophants.”
Kyreion slid his father an acid glance. “I know what they are.”
“Yet you tolerate them. You do not know what Rannulf is, yet you dismiss him. I expect more from you than that.” Solon lifted his head at the entrance of one of the few women to grace the room. “Excuse me,” he said, leaving the two younger men alone in an icy contest of stares.
“Rannulf’s father is a chieftain of the Kheld folk,” Gyges said to break the silence.
“I’m impressed,” said Kyreion, meaning quite the opposite. “Being a Kheld chieftain is little better than being the loudest pig in a sty. Might as well tell me his father’s a high-ranking slave. Though a slave would be a step up for your kind,” he said directly to Rann.
He was being provoked, maybe tested. He now regretted not asking more questions about the younger Malyrdeon prince. If he had, he might have known in advance that he’d be facing a royal prick.
“I was told I would be a guest. I will be attending classes at your school.”
The prince lifted an elegant eyebrow. “You think to study among us? You don’t have the most basic understanding of . . . anything. Can you even write, or add numbers?”
“I can do both.” Rann held in check his resentment at being thought ignorant. It was true most Khelds didn’t write or know more than rudimentary mathematics. Because of that, Staubauns assumed none of his people could read or write or work figures.
“Must come in handy for counting sheep—or heads taken in battle.”
Rann knew he’d never win a battle of words. The Staubaun language hampered him, but it was more than that. Even Kheld words came to him precisely, carefully chosen through thought; they never flew nimbly from the tip of his tongue. Nothing he might say would get the best of this petty Highborn prince. So he held his tongue and let his eyes speak for him, telling Kyreion he was being an ass.