Interludes

Interlude 1a

‘Did you do it? Are they together?’

The younger of the two Sidereals sighed and patted himself down in a vain attempt remove some of the dust from his jerkin. He considered being sarcastic about the lack of greeting but thought better of it. ‘The ghost and the old rat seemed pretty amenable. I had to inspire the last one.’

‘Please tell me that you are not obliquely referring to a use of Subordinate Inspiration Technique?’

‘Well, yes, although I thought my implication was fairly direct.’

‘And you did this in spite of my request to make no direct contact?’

‘It’s not as if I invited him to a talk over tea. Would you relax? I’m relatively certain he had no idea I was there.’

‘Relatively?’

‘Well if he suspected that somebody else was telling him what to do, then he was strangely keen to follow their advice.’

The Harbinger sniffs, ‘Nevertheless, I do wish you would seek a greater variety in your training. A Vizier of your experience should not have to resort to such unsubtle methods.’

The final figure steps forward from the shadow of his own statue and breaks his silence. ‘I’ve trained him just fine. The job got done, didn’t it? And who else could have done it so well?’ He looks at his protégé and frowns. ‘Stop swiping at yourself, boy, you’re just moving the dirt around!’

‘I wish you wouldn’t be so cavalier about this. Are you forgetting what’s at stake for both of us?’

‘Of course not. I just don’t see how being grumpy about a successful job helps us.’

‘Because being so may well ensure the next job is successful!’

The elderly God merely harrumphs and mutters something under his breath. There is a slightly awkward silence. Above the ruins of the abandoned arena where this conversation is taking place, a cloud covers the moon. The wind blows, rustling the plates on the elder god's armour.

‘Actually, now that you mention complete disclosure...’ begins the younger exalt hopefully, ‘I was thinking that now would be a suitable time to tell me why you have me forever running around the three corners of Creation, and what Unity has got to do with anything?’

There’s another pause. ‘We could tell you...’ the elder God ventures cautiously, ‘but, of course, then we’d have to kill you.’

‘Oh. Then if it’s all the same to you, I’d just as soon stay in the dark.’

There is a momentary pause before it becomes obvious that the older sidereal is stifling a guffaw. The tension breaks and the God bends over amid sudden gales of, ‘Sometimes, boy, you are a complete fool. Go and get yourself cleaned up and we’ll tell you what we’ve been doing when you get back.’

The two remaining figures continue to laugh for a while as their companion leaves. Finally, they calm down, and the God finishes drying his eyes.

‘You’re not seriously going to tell him the truth are you?’

‘Him? Oh, Heaven, no.’

‘You don’t trust him?’

‘Do you?’

‘Not particularly. He’s very keen to impress now, but he seems fickle.’

‘You underestimate him. I do trust him, but he’s got too many enemies for me to take him into my confidence.’

‘Then what are you going to do?’

‘I assumed we’d make something up.’

‘Like what?’

‘I don’t know. Something with demons? That would explain why you’re here.’

‘Sometimes, and I want you to be clear on this point, I utterly hate you.’

‘I know,’ replies the God happily and the two lapse into silence, waiting for their colleague to return. The sound of metal-clad fingers tapping out a slow rhythm on a stone wall echoed solemnly across the clearing.

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Interlude 1b

Outside, the sun hangs low in the sky, its light almost entirely blocked by the heavy rain. In spite of this, the streets are thronging, and the sounds of the happy crowd, and the music drown out the noise of the falling rain. Inside, the atmosphere is somewhat more sombre. Two figures stand in a grand but sparsely appointed room. The broken glasses on the floor and the still-spinning plate in their midst suggest that one of the three is less than pleased.

‘How long, then, until they are together?’

‘I believe the Lawgiver is travelling in to Nexus now. It is only a matter of days’

For a few moments the only sound comes from outside, save for the clicking of boots on the metal floor as the first interlocutor walks to the window.

‘Somebody must have intervened’

‘I would have thought so, but we’ve been monitoring all three very closely, and we’ve seen no evidence of interference’

‘Frankly though, I think that reflects more on the quality of your agents than on the lack of interference’. The only reply is silence until the speaker continues, ‘Well, then. It seems our hand is being forced. Is she ready?’

‘Perhaps. A few months more and I can be sure’

‘We do not have another few months’

‘Then I guess she has to be ready. I’m not actually sure we could keep her here for any more training. Not once she takes another look at her scroll’

As one, all 6 eyes turn to the scroll unrolled on the table, currently centred on Nexus.

‘Do you think she will go there?’

‘It seems likely’

‘Can you talk her out of it?’

‘I can try’

‘Try hard. A lot rests on her success. I don’t want her to entangle herself too soon.’

‘And on that note, you’ll excuse me if I take my leave. I have a few more things to show her’. He approaches the scroll, rolls it up and heads to the door, pausing one last time in the doorframe to say ‘Maybe it’s good is she goes to them. The longer they’re together the stronger they’ll become’

‘No. Let her gather her own strength. Don’t worry about the others. I have plans for them’

The door shuts and once again the only noise in the room comes from the carnival outside.

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