“The problem with having scarily brilliant friends was that it made surprises….complicated.” Kevire explained as their plates were set before them. Her guests each made the due sounds of appreciation before picking up soup spoons. Kevire adjusted the silk chiffon of her wrap and continued. “Every winter season the lot of us would attempt to outwit the others and give the gift no one would suspect. Dayrin, I still remember that plot you hatched second year.”The group leaned forward with respective peels and bursts of laughter.
I took a very long sip of my drink. “You all really do go back, don’t you?” Seated directly on Kevire’s right, it seemed the safest thing to say.
There was a rumble of confirmation around the table. Kevire nodded. “First year onward. You should have seen what we managed to get up to.”
“We had to do something to amuse ourselves!” The man name Dayrin crowed. Kevire and the others laughed again. “The instructors didn’t know what to do with us, the other students couldn’t stand us for setting the curve, and things get dull when you are…” Dayrin trailed off, gesticulating with his soup spoon.
“A snob.” On of the other guests supplied, sending a heavy lidded smile over to Dayrin. The gentlemen took the gentle chide with a wide smile.
Kevire huffed. “Come now, my guest is going to think us all affected.” Her exasperated sigh was entirely for my benefit. She coughed lightly into her napkin and went back to her soup.
I waved away the apology. “Not at all. I’m enjoying the company and the conversation. It is uniquely lively.”
“We can provide that at least.” Dayrin brandished his soup spoon in my general direction. “See, I’ve stopped apologizing. We were the top of our classes and are now the foremost in our fields. Sometimes that makes people uncomfortable, which says more about them than about us.” In the low ambient lighting of the dinner hall I could not entirely make out his expression but I suspected it was not entirely friendly.
“Of course, many are unfortunately intimidated by intelligence.” I agreed, picking up my own spoon and eying the soup. I set the spoon down again and took another sip of wine.
Kevire glared at Dayrin before turning her attention to me. “The point, I was trying to make is that yes, people held our talents against us, and that was quite hard. But the true burden we bear is that so little surprises us anymore.” She smiled, tone turning light again. “It makes this happy season so dull.”
Someone coughed loudly, silverware clinking hard off the china as it was dropped. Before the hostess could frown I raised my wine glass to her. “Then I propose a toast.” I said loud enough for the entire table to hear. “To the friends who can surprise you.”
Some managed to get their glasses to their lips, others did not as the hacking began. The tablecloth was grabbed, dishes and candles sliding with a great crash to the ground, as a noblewoman keeled over the side of her chair. Dayrin lasted long enough to get to his feet, choke a swear at me, and then collapse.
I turned my attention to my hostess. Kevire’s blue eyes were wide and frightened, her pale hand twitched at her throat. Only the cushioned chair back held her upright as the poison did its work.
I couldn’t resist. I raised my glass to her again. “Surprise.”