Friday, June 19, 2009

67 - Give this man a dose of truth drug

I clutched my job record in its folder. My gloves were clammy damp from nervous sweat. I shouldn’t be this nervous. My immediate superior didn’t actually know I was here, out of the city, waiting to be interviewed for the new position for the Spark of the Sun’s Ray. I was using one of my holidays and rather than pay for a place in a post carriage, since I was throwing every penny into my savings so I could marry my beautiful Piriala, I’d walked out to the Winter Palace.

“Inthilin Amras, Aitzas?” I stood up, brushed off my robes one more time and went into the office. I’d never seen the Heir before, buried in my cubby in the back of the Marble Palace. Lishas said that was a good thing because the Heir was as likely to use my reports as garderobe papers rather than appreciating my carefully balanced columns. Lish had enough seniority and his family enough money to ease his way and he’d actually been up here to apply for this job two days ago, a day before it was officially announced even. Not for him to use his up his holidays and sneak out to apply clandestinely.

I was only the keeper of the Heir’s kennel records, the highest position the family could afford for me after buying positions for six older brothers. The old kennel records keeper, who’d held the position before, had died in it and had no sons with clerical ambition or training.

I did the full Heir’s obeisance and sat down on the chair provided, raising my eyes to take my first look at the Heir. He was elegantly chunky, with a dark blue tunic spangled with silver wire stars, each one with a diamond chip in the centre. He looked at me as if he were very, very tired of interviewing candidates, eyes hooded, lips compressed. On impulse – father said my impulsive nature would be the death of me one day – I said. “Is it possible this lowly one may assist the Chip of the Divine Light?”

Of course it was forward and presumptuous but he looked tired and my job would be to make his life easier. That was the idea. He blinked and really looked at me, while I tried not to shrink in my seat. “It could be. Show me your record.” He held out his hand and twitched the fingers at me to give him my paper.

I put it on the desk and slid it across for him to take up. Of course he didn’t have to worry about security, since his Mahid had searched me to the skin when I arrived and handled everything I had. No expensive or elusive paper poisons or exotic weapons on this body.

He read it through, ever entry, when he looked up my heart sank in my chest. He wasn’t impressed.

“Last year you refused a bribe... according to my secretary.” How, in the name of my Great God had his secretary found that out? I should have just taken it quietly and not said a word to anyone, but... but...

“Yes, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” Tell the truth and forzak the rest my grand da always said.

“Tell me what it was about.”

I clenched my gloves together. Forzak the rest... “It was a purveyor of dog-food, Spark of the Sun’s Ray. The divine one’s kennel keeper always orders the best quality for his charges. The purveyor attempted to hide the fact he was bringing in a lesser quality meat and tried to bribe this one to not notice. That way he would pocket the difference.”

“And my hounds’ health would have suffered.”

“Yes, Spark and no poor dumb animal deserves to suffer because of someone’s lack of care and greed.” It was the sort of stupidly honest thing I kept doing, despite older brothers’ instructions. Mama despaired of me getting ahead because I was so naive. “For dogs? You put off your wedding for dogs?” She’d cried because I’d given up the amount of money that would have made it possible for me to set up my own household.

“Hmm. You are concerned for creatures in our power then?” The Heir got up and came over to my side of the desk, leaned back against it, just looking at me.

“This one is, Spark.”

“Even at your own expense?”

“This one does not see it that way, Spark.” I would have to say that. Why couldn’t I just keep my big mouth shut?

His voice was soft. “How do you see it?”

“This one... this one... has no opinions on the Divine Imperator’s bureaucracy, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”

He snorted. “I see.” Oh, Muunas, I’m answering without answering and he could just take offense. “You aren’t afraid of travelling to a newly conquered district, Inthilin?”

“This one is not afraid... or not much, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.” And I could have kicked myself for that touch of honesty, again. Bad for a career administrator.

He nodded. “And if I did hire you, would you swear to me under truth-drug?” What was he talking about? That kind of oath was usually not asked except for the Imperator Himself. I had to think a moment. “I have a special mission for the right man, Inthilin. But I have to trust him, completely.”

I swallowed hard. This sounded a lot like he was setting up his own power base... Did I want to risk it? “I want a man who cares, even for my dogs,” he said softly.

Not exactly sure what I was getting into, I swallowed again and nodded slowly, holding out my arm. “This one would offer oath,” I said making my decision. I didn’t quite know why, except I... well... I liked him. In my gut. Nothing sensible. “At the Spark’s conveninence.”

He nodded and called his Mahid in. “Give the man a single dose of truth drug.”

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