Business is Slow


King Augfi Jerllamo of House Jerllamo, the Keeper of the Hidden Gate, stabbed his breaded chicken and broccoli with a fork in slight annoyance. Where was Commander Tuima? Didn’t he know they had business to discuss? Augfi had been forced to take his dinner instead of waiting for the man. And just like his chicken and broccoli would get cold if he did not dispense of it punctually, sensitive matters at hand would go stale and fail to yield their purpose if not tended to properly.

He had just received word yesterday that the Farella pair had been successfully deposited in the correct locations. That was one thing rendered static, at least for now. But it had been two weeks since they had been nabbed. Four days since he had his note delivered. Ten more days until they needed to hang a red banner for him. Had to keep on schedule.

He finished his chicken quickly and moved on to the buttered, boiled yucca. Can’t lose time like this. Where was Tuima? Grendhill needed to be goaded further. The royal abduction alone would not render them compliant. He needed to raise the stakes for them.

He impatiently reached out and rang the bell in front of him. An attendant popped into the chamber immediately. “Yes, sire?”

“Get me the Captain of the Ranger Guard. I do not care where he is or what he is doing. He knows he should be here now.”

Augfi washed down the last of the yucca with the drink provided. One of the new foreign ones. What was this one called? It didn’t matter. It was sweet but dilute, so it was more refreshing than nutritive, like a cool glass of water. At least that was helpful when he was working hard.

He stood, waving the bell again to call the attendant and have the tray taken away. As soon as there was space again on his desk, King Augfi grabbed the recent letters he had received. Domido trundled off to Ffips, Mifalla delivered to Yevrah . Their room and board paid. Of course the jailers knew nothing. He had them billed as riot starters, political dissidents dangerous to the people, but only in their own nation. Take them somewhere else and they would be harmless. Add that they were liars, naturally, and he could store them in allies’ prisons, far away from anybody who may actually have heard of Grendhill. He might even let them live and return them once they were ransomed.

Commander Falangel Tuima entered smartly and stood in front of Augfi’s desk. “My lord, I beg forgiveness. The inspection took—”

“Drop it. We haven’t the time to discuss that right now. Who have you planned for this mission?”

“That is what this inspection was for, sire. What you want is no simple feat. Make no mistake; we will carry it out.”

“Of course you will carry out. I told you to. When? It has been two weeks since we committed to this path. We were able to conduct preliminary missions before that point. Why have we not commenced this phase yet?”

Tuima clenched his jaw, exercising patience. “Sire, what you had the Ranger Guard doing before was only gathering information. That was easy. We speak the same language. Now you wish to plant. That is difficult. Our people have been separated for generations. We have very different accents. To gather information, you pose as a visitor from another land. To plant not simply information, but ideas of distrust in your ruler will usually require a native of that country, or somebody who appears to be one. We had our best, most agile tongues traveling north with the Farellas to learn their accents. They returned. After this evening’s inspection, which I just finished, I am now satisfied that we have a few that can do it.”

“Fine then, send them off.”

“Sire, just because they can do it does not mean they can work miracles. We will send them off tomorrow afternoon, after a thorough briefing on their objectives.”

I said do it. Send them tonight.”

“Sire, they do not know yet what—”

Fine! Send them in the morning. When the sun is up, they will be gone.”

Tuima worked his jaw some more. “Yes, sire.”

“Go! Don’t you have Rangers to be briefing right now?”

As Commander Tuima departed, Augfi tried to calm down. He hated delays once he had a goal with a timeline. He felt a need to force reality to conform to his timeline, rather than adjust his goals.

Perspective, that’s what this was about. Perhaps Grendhill would not capitulate as quickly as he wanted, but the reality was that he had their monarchs in his grasp, and no delay could change that. He had them safely stowed away. Grendhill could not find their king and queen. Not even the King’s Council of Esclace could really do anything about it if they caught wind. All dealings had been conducted by the Charter, and the Farellas were not even in Esclace to be found by accident.

Naturally he couldn’t keep them in his own prison. Naturally he had to separate them from each other as well. Thus any potential raid was already neutralized, rendered ineffective and pointless. That, and the fact that nobody in all the Thallenroads had ever heard of Esclace, or the Amelpaths. They thought Aarde was a myth, after all, and that myth was even known by other names that would not work on the platforms. Impossible to find, even if they tried.


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