Ansle regretted not having marked the misting glass. He knew
neither which side was the front, nor which edge the top. It took six
attempts before he finally arrived at the correct alignment, Sennary sliding
into view with a look of undisguised boredom.
"That's the one, now stick something on it so you know for next time."
"I will, Sennary; I'm not completely without brains... You'll be aware by now that the Messenger is dead, precisely in the manner I predicted?" He ran his fingers through his hair.
"Of course I am. And Giqus was his subordinate, died too - had you heard that?"
Ansle's face couldn't but display his thorough glee.
"Really popped himself well, leastwise there were no remains. You're, er, smiling, Ansle..."
He scowled, quickly. "Naturally I knew of this. A smug, pompous ass - I never liked him," dismissive. "So, have you anything regarding Conley?"
Sennary poked his tongue into his cheek, pondered. "Well, it's like this. People are very reluctant to talk about what happened, and even when they do they couch everything in religious terms. I don't get up-to- the-minute reports here, but it seems that Conley and Roween definitely escaped the High Temple alive. Their present whereabouts are, however, unknown."
"They've had time enough: they'll be in the Lowlands now - be certain of it."
"They may have made for the Lowlands, but that doesn't mean they got there. You should hope they travelled by sea." He adjusted the glass, it had tilted forward. "There are rumours of a Message resurgence in the marches - the Voths are adopting some other god from their pantheon in a backlash against the Messenger: `Vitalists', they call themselves. It would be nigh impossible for Conley and Roween to pass through without meeting trouble."
"Trouble of what kind?"
Sennary grunted. "Say, being burned alive..."
"I see." He interlocked his fingers. "So you need to be further west, then."
"Now hold on a moment, Ansle, I have Purasans to oversee, I can't just up and leave for the Lowlands."
The chancellor looked faintly irritated. "I'll redirect supplies from the Purians to the Purasans. They depend on imported grain these days, and there's none coming from the Vothic heartlands any more. The price of bread will rise, and so will the Purians. Justan will send you there to help Zovia restore order."
"No he won't: he'll have me send troops, but I won't be asked to go personally."
"That rather depends on how bad the riots are, doesn't it?" He stroked his beard, smirked.
Sennary flicked his eyes skyward. "Don't you ever think? The consequences! Why not wait awhile? There's sure to be an assault on the Lowlands soon anyway, now the Messenger is out of the way. Things are moving very quickly: Justan will probably have taken Elet too before Winter fully sets in. The MSR are already working on the climate, he should be able to continue campaigning right up until the New Year if he needs to."
"New Year? Good, that gives me several months... Your argument is persuasive, Sennary, but I think I'll still cause the revolt; it can serve another purpose I have in mind."
"Supplying more dead bodies, you mean?" Ansle frowned, sharply. "Yes, I do know about that, and, what's more, it was The King who told me. I think perhaps he ought to be informed precisely what you intend to do with them, don't you? Soon."
"They're only being stored for the moment, there's an old quarry in Altinn that I've rented. A few more weeks, and I should have the necessary magic to..." He stopped, abruptly. Sennary was no longer the trustworthy mercenary he once was; his position and authority were now almost comparable to Ansle's own.
"To what, Chancellor?"
"To use them, Sennary."
21st January 1999: isif49.htm