Huto Mellenhoz did not like anything about this particular assignment. He did not like the clothes, he did not like moving so unsubtly, and most of all he did not like the way that operating openly as agents of the Imperial Chancery made Liel think that she could get away with the casual cruelty that she usually kept under wraps. He had, over the course of being assigned to work with her, managed to convince her of the necessity of abandoning anything that might make them stand out in the normal course of their work, which included such idle amusements as vicious threats, abuse of authority and petty vengeance. When he had first brought the matter up with her, she had merely said “You have your hobbies, I have mine,” and probably would have left it at that if he hadn’t forced the issue. But now, well, now the whole point of the exercise was that people knew that there were Chancery agents around. The point was to be noticed, and much as he despised Liel’s enthusiasm Huto had to admit that the way she went about it worked, and he could never get too mad about things that worked. Or so he told himself, anyway, as he buried his irritation.
And then, of course, there were the clothes. Formal coat of dark grey or black, Grey City-style hat of the same color, black trimmings, discreet black Chancery pin on the lapel–the works. He hated it. The whole point of the Chancery’s agents, those who bore the black diamond mark of the Chancellor and shared his immunity from Imperial law, was that you didn’t know who they were. The mere threat of them was supposed to be enough to break down most treasonous thoughts, because you never knew. Anyone might be one, and with the rate at which they were rumored to foil treasonous activities everyone but you might very well be one. As far as Huto knew, the organization wasn’t supposed to have any identifying clothing aside from the easily-hidden diamond pin–the standard Chancery “uniform” that he now wore was an invention by playwrights who needed a quick visual shorthand for the black-marked men. Playwrights who, it was clear to Huto, had never actually asked a Chancery agent what they might actually wear on a mission. It was so impractical–the coat alone, in this heat…
But that was what people expected, and so that was what they wore. Sometimes you had to play to preconceived notions, no matter how foolish they might be. He took one last chance to adjust his hat, trying to direct the slight breeze towards his forehead, and glanced at his partner.
“Put the damn sword away,” he said. “You’re going to cut yourself twirling it around like that.”
“Ease up, big man,” said Liel, smiling her cat-stalking smile. “We’re here to send a message, yeah? And you know that nothing speaks like a naked blade.”
“Yes, but it speaks rather loudly,” he said. “Have you never heard of subtlety?”
“I think you tried to explain it to me once,” she said amiably. “It sounded boring.”
Huto sighed and shook his head. He would not, he was certain, ever be able to understand why Liel had been made a Chancery agent. “Well,” he said at last, “we’ll see what we can do about that.”