Chapter 26 Hat

        The visual link was abominable, but Ansle could at least hear Sennary's voice. He was calling from Rhiev in Akrea, using the public inter-city trunk. That meant someone in the Cala exchange was holding whichever sphere was receiving the incoming call against another making the outgoing connection to the Academy. Whoever it was would, of course, be able to listen in on what was being said, and Ansle was sure that this ability to eavesdrop was why most connectors took the job: the rewards otherwise were almost certain to be deservedly sorry.
        "Ansle? At last - it's taken fifty minutes to reach you." Sennary sounded a touch distant, distorted as his voice bridged between the two comspheres' physical contact in the switchgirl's hands.
        "I've been trying to call you for the past two days," drily.
        "Ambushed, broke my com-2. Look, I met up with Conley, she still doesn't have the information but she's working on it. The other lass is handing it to her a few bits at a time - I could probably get it quicker myself, if you liked." There was something about the way he said it, something, but Ansle couldn't tell what, too much interference.
        "Things have changed a little now, Sennary, I'm venturing a different approach. The situation will be too hot in the Purasan south, now that Dreimen has been taken, so Conley will want to be heading north. I've arranged a little pressure to drive her west."
        "West? Into the ". There was a momentary volume drop as the junction spheres slipped apart, somewhere in the Cala exchange. The switchgirl reconnected them. "Won't that mean she's likely to be captured?"
        "It's what I'm hoping will happen, yes. Confined in one of the Messenger's dungeons for some while, it may give Roween time to contemplate how much her spell is really worth if she is the only one who knows it."
        There was no mistaking Sennary's disgust. "You'd deliberately lead your daughter into his hands? What if she's killed? What if Roween is?"
        "They won't be, I assure you. The Messenger may attempt to convert them to his beliefs, but he wouldn't kill two fleeing mages, they're too interesting. I expect you'll be able to collect them in a couple of months' time, when his armies are beaten and he's surrendered."
        "The Messenger may never even get to see or hear of them before they die. Besides, Roween isn't a mage anyway, Conley casts all their spells."
        "Not the important one, Sennary. And he will hear of them, I'm absolutely certain."
        The mercenary said nothing for a moment. "I'm running out of time here, Ansle, these business links are expensive. What do you want me to do next?"
        "Ah, yes... The Estavian army is in sore need of commanders. Justan requires the services of reliable men to take control. I suggested your name, among others; he saved a regiment for you. How long before you can reach Taltu?"
        "Taltu?" Another pause. "Three, four days if the roads are clear, maybe a week if I have to go cross country."
        "I'll ask Justan to hold it for another week. He's somewhere in the north of Akrea; you might present yourself if you pass nearby. Oh, and if you do find him, there's one of my MSR men with him by the name of Vyval: ask him to get in touch with me, please."
        "I'll try, Chancellor. Anything else?"
        "Not for the moment, no. Oh, wait, yes there is: Porett, of Porett Technologies, may be going to Estavia in the near future. He and I have a certain arrangement, haven't we Porett? I think he may have some equipment for you, to assist in your mission."
        "Another comsphere wouldn't go amiss, that's for sure. By the way, Conley's click-well's still functioning, I guess that's what he's tagged."
        Ansle nodded: it made sense - Roween might indeed have made an effort to avoid eliminating their source of income. "A useful observation, Sennary." He tapped twice on his chin. "So, did you learn anything worthwhile during your stay with the Purasans in the marshes?"
        "Not from the people themselves, no, they care too much about the past, they're completely ungrateful for any outside help."
        "Well I think they'll find The King is past caring, too." He smiled, self-satisfied smugly.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: isif26.htm