Chapter 6 Hat

        "My life is the Message, Son of Lon and Lona," recited the supplicant.
        "The Message is my life," answered the Messenger. "Be arisen, Giqus Spellworker. Tell me your news."
        "Messenger," said Giqus, struggling to his feet, his eyes not straying from the marbled floor, "we have word from a follower of the Message in Murak. Their king has commissioned a report to assess the power hierarchy in Akrea and Estavia. No expense is to be spared, the document must be prepared as quickly as possible."
        "Instruct this follower to obtain a copy. It is the will of the Messenger."
        "It will be done." Giqus bowed low, his arms held wide apart. The Messenger watched the old man, distantly.
        "Akrea and Estavia are democracies," the Messenger noted, his reedy voice almost lost in the huge chambers. "They have a rigid order to their government. A small number of individuals, selected by the populace, head a vast structure that manages the whole country. King Justan will think that by replacing the roots of the tree, he can command the branches." He clenched his fist, but his falsetto tone remained unaltered. "However, we, by enlightening the branches ... will regain the roots."
        Giqus straightened again, although his head remained bowed. "Messenger, the armies of Akrea and Estavia are powerful. If the Muraki king gains them quickly and intact, he will use them against us before we can complete their subversion."
        The Messenger absently stroked the toroidal medallion about his neck. "The religion of Estavia is weak, a handful of benign personalities. Akrea's is similar: only their god Tah makes any pretence at addressing life's ... evils. It will be easy to absorb their pantheons into that of The Message."
        "But Messenger, it may be too late. Their armies will fall upon us as soon as Justan assumes control."
        "There is truth in what you say, Giqus. These democracies have large forces because they ... are too stable. They fear that once their armies are defeated, the state can be taken whole, and run using existing chains of command. They do not see that the reverse is also true: King Justan will simply use cursèd magic to remove the leaders, then impose his own governors and generals. He will defeat the state to control the armed forces. Perhaps he will be surprised if he attempts the same ... on the Messenger." He gave a short, shrill laugh. It echoed from the whitewashed walls.
        "Our plans for Estavia and Akrea are already executing, Messenger. We have many people in place, and the number converting to The Message grows daily. Lying between our legions and the democracies are but a handful of Purasans; Justan and his horde must first face Voths and Davians. We should reach Akrea before he."
        The Messenger wagged a finger at his adviser, as if unaware that it could barely be seen. "Do not underestimate the Purasans, Giqus, nor overestimate the Davians. The Voths of the East will fall within days; they are a poor people with no stomach for fighting. The Davians are strong, but have a weak king, Breska; his sister Mitya is ... sympathetic to King Justan. If King Justan is gathering intelligence for an assault on Akrea, his plans for Davian lands will be well ... advanced."
        Of all the Messenger's bewildering affectations, it was the ill- placed pauses in his speech that annoyed Giqus the most. Sometimes, he was grateful that protocol did not permit him to look the demigod in the eye; it would mean death were his irritation to show.
        "The Purasans are a proud people," the Messenger continued, "and their faith is hard to assimilate into The Message. They have many free spirits, and a cycle of well-developed myths and ... sagas. It may take our armies longer to subdue them than we ... would wish."
        "We will need the battalions of Akrea and Estavia with us if we are swiftly to defeat Justan's sorcery, Messenger. It is true, The Message has a certain inviting attraction to the magic-oriented mind, but we have little time to organise any large-scale conversion. If Justan takes the democracies without using force of arms, we will be unable to prevent their use against us. We must secure them before he can strike."
        "You speak wise words, Giqus. It is settled, then. Pass word to our followers in Estavia and Akrea: they are to begin. Three months from now, the new governments will welcome our troops with showers ... of carnations." He rose from his throne, his voice smiling serenely.
        Giqus bowed to leave. The Son of Lon and Lona stopped, as if perplexed, then pointed, forcefully, towards the unguarded door. "Do it, Giqus," he ordered, "it is the will ... of the Messenger."

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: isif6.htm