The tiny little room where 2nd Amitzas waited for me had, at one time, been a smoking room. I found myself suddenly craving a katzerik though I had not had one in months. I could imagine the fragrant smoke coiling up and thought of Mil Maren sitting with his feet up, blowing smoke rings at the plaster ceiling rose. Rest he in Selestialis. I pulled my attention back to 2nd Amitzas, sitting like a gargoyle fallen from the roof.
“God evening, Spark.”
“God evening to you as well, my guardian.” Damned if I will ever give you the sobriquet 'beloved guardian'.
“Two things are required of you this evening. Begin the planning for the next move for our group and two, I shall give you information with which you will plan an assassination attempt on the murderer of your father and the usurper of your throne.”
I didn’t respond, merely sitting down at the table that had been salvaged and fixed for my use. Selestialis, if it were out of any other mouth, about any other father or throne, I'd take it as true. It makes me the heroic prince against the vile villain instead of me the forzak evil threat in the hills against the saviour of the Empire from a corrupt minded Imperator. It makes me sound like the hero of a bad knuckle-sucker. I am supposed to assassinate Chevenga? When the whole might of the Empire couldn’t stop him? I’m the mosquito in the sleeping chamber, not the army at the door. Because he likes me, the Yeoli Imperator hasn’t put out his hand to find and squash me! Fool.
Then 2nd Amitzas pulled out a slate and sketched upon it a spiderwork of lines before setting it under my nose. “Most do not know that there are two Marble Palaces. There are the normal corridors and behind and below and around them are the secret ways where the Mahid have patrolled for centuries.”
I stared at the webwork as he laid the chalk stylus against the slate, the gritty sound loud. I hadn't known about any of these tunnels he sketched out. “These are the tunnels around the Imperial Chambers. The secret doors into the halls are here, here and here.” The stylus moved, click, click, click.
How in Hayel had I not gotten caught sneaking around? How? Hmm. None of these seemed to cover my secret ways at all. And I did my sneaking in daylight mostly and obviously none of the Mahid knew about my two secret holes in the Marble Palace walls or I would have been dead in the chamber years ago. “I did not know of these tunnels, my guardian.” I kept my voice as neutral as possible.
“Yes. I only knew some of these. Until we were sent away."
The first of the Mahid showed me the ones he knew, the ones only he and your Divine Father had known, which greatly increased my knowledge. I believe I have the most comprehensive understanding of the network of tunnels, the traps and entrances and exits. You will learn them, by rote, from this day forward so that I will have fulfilled my duty as First of the Mahid in this respect. The Future Imperator should also know them.”
“Of course.” I was starting to feel sick. Obviously there was some secret access to the Imperial Chamber that only Father and First Meras knew. And now only 2nd Amitzas. There was a possibility that an assassination attempt could succeed. “If there was such a prospect, why has it taken this long for such an attempt to be planned?” I stared at him as straight as possible as if I were angry with him.
Ice Eyes stared back, impassively. “The Spark’s safety and initial training was my first priority. And then we were snowed in, as the Spark recalls.” I held his eyes hard, tapping my finger on the desktop as if considering. It was a deliberate copy of one thing that the fat guy did when annoyed. I could see him begin to react to it, automatically, before he seized hold of himself. Kurkas had everyone so well trained in terror of him.
“Training me was a higher priority than killing him?” I made my voice very soft. This display of temper would be another way of convincing Ice Eyes that I was not soft on Chevenga as well as expand what tiny scraps of authority I might seize.
He went very still and stony. “We did not know if the barbarian would even stay, Spark of the Sun’s Ray.”
“Hmm. I am convinced that this was an incorrect action, First Second Mahid. I trust you will correct this in yourself.” And if I’m lucky you’ll actually do the correction. I certainly cannot force it. “Let us plan the death of my Divine father’s murderer.”
“Of course, Spark.” For one moment, 2nd Amitzas, you were beneath me. Only for a moment but you let go your death-grip on me. “The most important thing the Spark needs to know is that there is a secret passage actually inside the headboard of the Imperial bed.”
“I repeat. There is a passage inside the head—“
“—I understand that. It is not a solid block of marble then.”
“We would have to send assassins then, who would be instructed on how to reach the access point and how to open the headboard, and kill the vile barbarian sleeping in the Imperial bed.”
As if something so simplistic would work. Let him think I’m that naive and stupid. “The Spark is aware of the barbarian’s sense for weapons?” Forzak it.
“Is it strong enough to wake the man from a sound sleep?”
“Oh yes, Spark.” He leaned forward, once more in control.
“How would the Spark circumvent that sense?”
“Hmmm.” I really couldn’t think of anything. I certainly am not going to suggest they not carry weapons at all and try and kill him bare handed. “My imagination fails me, my guardian. Suggestions?”
2nd Amitzas folded his hands together precisely, stacking finger on top of finger. “The trick will be to ensure that sense of his be dulled. Does this inspire?”
“Anything added to the food would be revealed by the food taster in time to adminster an antidote. And if it were possible it would be simpler to merely poison him.”
“I request the Spark to re-think this idea.”
You have some plan already. I don’t want to kill Chevenga you fikken monster! I’d rather figure out ways to inventively kill you! I trailed a finger around the top of the table, as if thinking.
“I find myself well and truly stumped, my guardian.”
2nd Amitzas smiled. “The Imperial food taster’s vital signs are carefully monitored as he sleeps. If his normal slumber is somewhat deeper, or chemically assisted, who is to recognize it or cry warning of any kind? We shall arrange to give him a --- supported slumber shall we say.”
“With a sleeping powder or draught," I said. "And the barbarian will sleep heavily enough to circumvent his weapons sense. Also something the dogs in the Marble Palace would not react to, if the shennen daifikas even know of that. So one of our assassins will add – not poison -- but sleeping powder to the food. Untasteable, untraceable.” Oh Selestialis. It could work. It depends on two things. “They have to get the sleeping powder in the food and they have to get to that secret passage that only you know about.”
“Exactly. Well reasoned, Spark. So which of your Mahid will you assign for this prestigious assignment?”
This wasn’t a theoretical exercise. Unless a miracle occurred, or someone had discovered the passage in the meantime – unlikely, given that its existence had never been leaked that I knew – this maybe could. Might. Might succeed in killing Chevenga.