Gwydion and the female sergeant follow the inspector into his office. “Have a seat,” the tall, dark-faced god says, indicating the mismatched chairs in front of the desk. They look like they may have been purchased by the Guardia at some going-out-of-business auction, or perhaps retrieved from a pile of garbage, but at least they appear clean and sturdy.
Just as the inspector is about to sit down, the mortal sergeant sticks his head in. “Inspector,” he says, “pardon me, but I need to speak with you about the watch schedules.” He looks at the two seated gods apologetically, then back at the commanding officer. “It will only take a few minutes, sir.”
The officer asks their pardon and walks out of the room, leaving Dion and his new female colleague sitting in their respective chairs in silence. Dion glances at the goddess, taking the opportunity to acknowledge her incredible beauty. His eyes linger on the graceful lines of her delicate face, taking a minute to follow them down to the curve of her neck and then further down, all the way to the lovely hand resting peacefully on a folder sitting on the goddess’ lap. Where has such a beauty been hiding that I have never seen or heard of her? Dion wonders. Surely his circle of young and bachelor First Ring friends would not keep knowledge of this alluring prize away from him.
Intent on making her the latest entry in his little black folder, Dion turns towards the goddess and breaks the silence currently filling the room. “Well, m'lady, I guess it's up to us.” He reaches out, taking Alma’s hand in his. “My name is Gwydion, but friends call me Dion and I would hope you would too. Please do tell me your name and something of yourself to help start our relationship.”
Alma looks down at her hand and gently removes it from Dion’s grasp, responding, “Thank you, sir.” She looks back at him, “My name is Alma and I believe I do not know you well enough to call you anything other than Sgt. Gwydion.”
Smoothly ignoring the rejection, Dion turns on the full charm. “Alma,” he says as if tasting the word, causing the goddess to raise an eyebrow in response. “That is a very sweet name. I believe I have an aunt with that name. And please, titles do grate on me,” he shakes his head slowly, as if the title really does weigh on his shoulders. “But if you insist, then Gwydion will suffice. Although I would hope we can move past the formalities in short order. Where in this lovely city do you and your family reside?”
“I come from the Second Ring, where all Death gods reside,” Alma replies after a moment’s silence, her expression still pleasant, if blank.
Dion now registers why this beautiful woman was never in his scope. “Ah, a Death goddess! Very prestigious family and one of the few that I’ve never had the pleasure to know. Much of my time was spent in the First Ring with my uncle, Archon Math,” Dion states, studiously watching Alma for a reaction as his social standing would normally gain him advantage over many of the names inscribed in his folder. Seeing no reaction from her, he holds his façade and continues. “As such, I had the honor to socialize with many a family of the First and Second Ring. I am so grateful to finally meet such a lovely representative of the Death gods.”
“Many are not so grateful, I assure you,” Alma says, a subtle note of bitterness tainting her voice. “I am afraid I have never heard of your uncle. My visits to the First Ring, although frequent, were usually short-lived. But one of my brothers may know of him. Father certainly will,” the goddess says. Resting her chin on a pale, graceful hand, she looks directly into the handsome god’s bright hazel eyes. “I wonder… Why is an Archon’s nephew sentenced to dwell in the Fourth Ring?”
Dion, far too practiced to be easily distracted by the uncomfortable question and the unsettling glimmer dancing in the goddess’ eyes, delivers an already well-rehearsed line. “Oh, I've been desirous to learn more of our city than can only be found in the inner circle, and to provide me more growth opportunities.” While effectively running for my life, he thinks as he continues. “So that is why I've gladly taken this assignment.” Without transition, he resumes his attempt to gain positive favor with this lady. “As for your family, possibly others do not understand their significance and importance. I assure you, I have the utmost respect for them. Pity you don't know my uncle, though. He is a wonderful individual. I would gladly take you to our mansion in some near term to meet him,” he offers, hoping that it won’t be too long before he will be able leave Three Rats and show his face in the First Ring.
Alma smiles. A polite, lovely smile, Dion notices, but hardly an inviting one. “You are too kind, I am sure. However, I hope you know you will find no mansions or servants in Three Rats. This part of the city does not take kindly to tourists and strangers. Or wealthy people, for that matter...”
“Yes, of course. All part of the growth opportunities. Bring a little culture to this area, make some connections, and of course support my fellow officers.” Dion continues to pour on the charm, slowly becoming aware that none of the normal telltale signs of female weakening are occurring, a rather unusual and disturbing event in the attractive god’s experience.
“A fine goal in life for those with the skill and strength to pursue it,” Alma responds.
Dion moves to less subtle messaging, testing her attitudes. “I assure you, my dear Sergeant Alma, that my skills are many and my strength more than adequate to get the job done.”
Alma smiles in mild entertainment at the charming god’s lack of modesty. “Truly good to know,” she replies in a slightly softer voice. “Tell me, Sgt Gwydion, have you ever been assigned to dwell in any other place than your uncle's mansion? For as I am sure you know, you will need to find your own place in Three Rats if you are to stay here.”
Dion, being well practiced at creating hideaways where he would entertain his guests, decides to try a helpless tact. “Well, not exactly, no. Being a god of magic, I do understand the spells, but normally have not had the need to do so. If I run into difficulty, I would hope that I could request your assistance in that task?”
“But, of course. I am honored to help such a brave and generous character. There is a restaurant down the street called ‘The Singing Cockroach’
The owner has some apartments to rent just above it. It is far from a First Ring mansion but I have no doubt you will have no trouble making your home there.” Alma smiles pleasantly at the god.
Believing he may finally be in the right path, Dion doesn’t hesitate to say “Why, thank you for the suggestion. I will surely take it.” Hmm..., he thinks, Looks like we have an Ice Queen here. Interesting.
Both gods go silent as the inspector re-enters the room.