Chapter 14 Hat

        "My life is the Message," began Giqus, "Son of Lon and Lona."
        "The Message is my life," came the wispy reply. "Be arisen."
        Giqus obeyed. "You summoned me, Messenger," a hint of anxiety rising unbidden in his elderly voice.
        "I have work for you. The list of Estavian and Akrean leaders, who knows of it?"
        Giqus was vaguely curious. "Apart from Justan and his people, only you and I; I transcribed it directly from the comsphere myself, as you instructed."
        "What if the list were to fall into the possession of ... the Akreans?"
        Giqus squeezed his beard. At best, it could cause the Akreans to war against Justan; with Estavian support, such a possibility would also be the likeliest outcome. Internal pressure on the governments of those countries, readily provided by the orchestration of their many new Believers, could practically guarantee it. With the Messengers's own armies closing in daily, and a common enemy, the Akreans may even make good allies until the magic-driven forces were crushed. The only minor disadvantage would be that Justan would realise that there was a bleed high in his information pipeline, could diagnose the traitor, and the Messenger would receive no further intelligence from that source.
        He cleared his throat. "On balance, I think it a good idea. Perhaps we could ensure our follower in the Muraki hierarchy escapes before Justan can seek retribution. Loyalty should be rewarded."
        "I have spoken with this follower."
        Giqus paled. When did he do that? How did he get hold of the comsphere?
        "Loyalty deserves reward, yes, but first it must be fully ... tested. I have required a certain function to be performed, before the priesthood of the Message can embrace ... a new initiate."
        Giqus was thoroughly unnerved; existence was always difficult when the Messenger arranged things without his knowledge. "What task is it you wish to be executed, Messenger?"
        The Messenger's insipid, hollow laugh rang out. "It is no task, Spellworker, but a person! Loyalty is to be shown to Loss, my nephew, god of death."
        He knew the name of the victim already, he felt it, in his heart. "Ansle of Malith is to die?"
        "You are sorry for the man?" trilled. "Do not be. He opposes the Message, he opposes the Messenger; he is but an empty shell with ... no soul. He will never believe. His death will spare the lives of many thousands."
        Giqus nodded - what else could he do?
        "Arrange for the death-list to be known to the parliaments of the democracies. Let it be known to their generals. Let it be known to their business-rulers. It is the will of the Messenger."
        Giqus bowed, turned to face the exit. Some monarchs forbade the showing of backs to the royal presence, but the Messenger took it as a sign of zeal to do his bidding. Giqus' view was more pragmatic: it meant his life was no longer in danger. He walked to the door.
        "Let it be known to everyone!" shrieked the Son of Lon and Lona, distant behind him.
        Giqus left, tinkling giggles filling the audience chamber as the door closed.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: isif14.htm