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The Embassy servants rotate as poison-testers. It’s supposed to be a ceremonial job, an archaic formality. Leif isn’t supposed to be convulsing on the ground with his throat on fire and his hands and feet starting to go numb.

He’s injected with something as the rest of the dining hall is cleared; everything goes hazy. Next thing he knows, he’s groggy in a probably-hospital room, being prodded by people in airtight germ-resistant layers.

One of them, eventually, is Thorn. Leif’s vision un-fuzzes enough to see Thorn’s gloved hands tightly clasping his own. But still, even now, he can’t feel them.