“True,” agreed Kerace amiably. “I never expected me to become First Citizen either.” She noticed that when she smiled back at them, the smiles of the Superior Council’s two representatives, Councillors Mentick and Velon, became a little less certain.
“Of course,” went on Councillor Mentick, “under the Revised Accords, the First Citizen must be married. Together the two Councils and First Counsellor Stakis have assembled a portfolio of the possible candidates for you to review.” He gestured and his assistant, a young man in a tailored pearl-grey outfit, stepped forward and put a stack of slim folders on the desk in front of Kerace. The Councillor went on, “I’m afraid that the rules for the First Citizen’s spouses are so stringent there are only twenty-two possibilities in all of Henchorlend.”
“That few out of all the men in the country?” Kerace used an amused tone but she wasn’t sure whether to be hurt or angry that she wasn’t being given time to mourn her personal losses before jumping into the red tape of the succession. “I can see that I have some interesting reading for tonight.” She went to push the stack aside and then realised that both the Councillors were sitting back in their chairs and looking at her expectantly. “Wait, I need to go through these and make a choice right now? While you wait?”
“Of course.” Councillor Velon had a higher pitched voice than his colleague. “There’s no time like the present. The investiture can’t take place until after the wedding, after all.”
“And someone has already scheduled the investiture, haven’t they?” Kerace eyed the two Councillors with an increasing dislike that she was trying to keep off her face.
“First Counsellor Stakis believes that given the sudden tragedy that has put us in this position,” Councillor Mentick used just the right amount of gravitas, Kerace had to concede him that, “the interregnum should be as short as possible in order to reassure the populace that they remain in good hands.”
Kerace sighed. “Very well,” she centred the folders on the desk in front of her, “if you insist. Perhaps one of your efficient gentlemen assistants could organise coffee and tea for all six of us and a large plate of biscuits, please?” She began reading.
Three quarters of an hour later she handed three folders, all from among the last five in the stack she’d started with, to the two Councillors. “I’d like to meet these three gentlemen, please.”
Mentick and Velon looked at the names. “These three?” Mentick was surprised. “I would have thought-.”
“Councillor,” Kerace asked, “which of us is going to be intimate with my choice?”