Ansle didn't recognise the knock. "Enter," he called, looking
up. Sennary's face appeared round the door. "So the Purasan border was
blocked?" He put down his pen, slid his left hand under the desk.
"I was called back by The King:" Sennary's arm avoided the blackboard, "I was instructed to bring you this." He took a small box from a belt pouch, opened it, removed a medal.
"What's that for?" Ansle was moving his concealed hand as quickly as he could manage without its showing in the upper arm.
"There's a campaign medal for everyone in the magical support regiment, and you're their commander-in-chief; look on it as a perk."
"The campaign isn't over yet," nonchalant.
"Well don't take it up with me, I'm just the messenger." He looked warily at Ansle's left arm, saw it withdraw from its hiding place, rest on the desk.
"Put it on that pile of books."
"Justan said I've to pin it on you personally. He seemed to find it amusing."
"Where is Justan now?" More time...
"North Davia when I met up with him. Look, can we get this over with? I'm busy."
"Why didn't he call me about it? Why did he send you, not Nolley?"
"I don't know; perhaps some private joke. General Nolley is west somewhere, recruiting."
"Make a focus."
"Make a focus." Ansle demonstrated. "I want to check you're not tagged."
"Tagged? Why would I be tagged? What would it matter if I was?"
"Just do it!"
He obeyed; Ansle started gesturing. Sennary's eyes studied the mage's hand, sliding through the motions, slower than usual. "Can't you hurry it up, Chancellor? I don't like having to hold a fo - "
Suddenly, he clasped his chest: a pain, searing, agony. He dropped the focus, staggered back, too late.
"The trouble with you, Chewt, is you're so damned predictable."
"What? You can't..."
"That was a quickbind, you're suffering a heart-attack."
"But, you, it was a tag-check..."
"With my right hand, yes, but my left did the damage. Oh, didn't you realise that it was an illusion on the desk?"
He was sinking to the floor.
"Not as good as yours, of course, no audible or tactile components, and only a short duration. But then it didn't need to be perfect, did it? Just enough to fool the gullible."
The Sennary illusion broke, Chewt was gasping, clutching her chest.
Ansle indicated an eye. "These are MedSpell night lenses, I bought them last week. Day vision is impaired, but I can see infra-red. Your Sennary didn't emit heat, did he? Of course, you'd forget that. Your outline glowed through his image like a candle behind a sheet."
Chewt was twitching now, nearly gone.
"You failed, Chewt. Too unimaginative. You relied on your speciality. Stupid."
He rolled over the body, tugged the medal from her hand. It was a Magicorp binder now. Placed above his heart, activated, he'd have gone the same way as her. He put it against a book, said, "Congratulations". It stuck.
Reliable to the end, our Chewt.
21st January 1999: isif19.htm