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A Tempest of Lies
Copyright A Strange Geek, 2010
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Story codes: MF, Mf, Ff, fsolo, Mdom, toys, bd, magic, oral
"Enter and be welcome."
Yonlas hesitated nonetheless. Seeing the Elder Apparent was a painful duty anymore. He suspected Master Kyllos no longer slept properly, as if the man left his tiny office only to eat a meager meal in the cafe or meditate in the gardens. Nevertheless, Yonlas had his duty, and he stepped into the room.
The blue flames in the lamp flickered at his approach. Perhaps his own perceptions were biased by his worry, but the lamp seemed to burn brighter each time he visited Kyllos, as if the man's eyesight were failing as well.
Kyllos lifted his head and put down the parchment he was reading, the top of a large sheaf which never seemed to shrink. "I bring you urgent intelligence, Master Kyllos," said Yonlas.
Kyllos drew himself straight, and only then did Yonlas notice the man had been hunched over the desk. "What news have you?"
"Activity has been spotted at one of the unoccupied Overlord Manors. The old D'yoran Manor."
Kyllos paused. "The name escapes me."
Yonlas folded his hands tightly before him. "Gronnus D'yoran, the one with whom Jollis consorted when--"
Kyllos nodded. "My memory has been sufficiently prodded. Please continue."
"A large group of Oceanus Mages have established a camp at the Manor's old Portal device."
Kyllos leaned back in his chair and steepled his slim, age-spotted fingers. "For what purpose?"
"We do not know. We know only that they are experimenting with the Portal device itself. Much magical energy can be detected by even the least magic-sensitives among us."
Kyllos remained silent, his eyes glistening and pensive.
Yonlas' fingers twitched. He hated having to prompt his Master again. He wished Jollis were back. Jollis could have helped him sort out his troubled thoughts concerning the Holy Order. "Should ... should we not relay this to--"
"And there is no obvious evidence of any hostile intent towards us?"
"None had been called out specifically in the report. They are not versed in Portal mechanics, however, so they cannot tell to what end are these experiments."
Again, Kyllos remained silent.
"Master ... does not ... surely, with you as Elder Apparent, it behooves you to--"
"Who else has received this information?" Kyllos suddenly demanded.
Yonlas blanched. "No one, Master! Such intelligence reports are for your ears only as you had decreed it."
Kyllos nodded. "Yes, quite right, forgive me for another lapse in memory."
Yonlas swallowed. Every moment watching his Master was torture. "Is something wrong, Master?"
Kyllos lay his hands upon the desk and drew himself forward. He gave Yonlas a small smile, and some warmth returned to his eyes. "Not at all. You have performed your duty well. I will take your information under advisement."
"No immediate tasks for me, Master?"
"None. I do not see the need for alarm." Kyllos paused and tilted his head. "But you do, apparently."
Now it was Yonlas' turn to remain silent.
"Speak freely, please," prompted Kyllos.
Yonlas did not want to. Like Jollis half a nation away, he had his own crisis of faith, and this was not helping. "The Holy Order is interested in knowing if the Oceanus Mages are able to gain new insights into Inonni Portal technology. They were very clear about wishing us to maintain the edge."
"Yes, indeed," said Kyllos. "And experimenting on a tired old Overlord Portal which we ourselves passed up because we did not believe it needed to be formally shut down hardly qualifies as new insights. They cannot teach a Portal created with old technology to operate like one of ours no matter how much magic they sink into it."
Yonlas had only a glimmer of understanding of how Portals operated, but he nodded just the same. It sounded logical to him, and Master Kyllos was delivering the information with a voice of conviction and authority.
"The Holy Order is quite taxed at the moment with the task of bringing Enlightenment to Oceanus," said Kyllos in a softer voice. "It is consuming much of their energy. I do not wish to distract them unless I have evidence of a definite threat."
"Of course, Master."
"Keep an eye on the situation, and report to me anything else they find."
"Yes, as always."
"Then I bid you good day and good blessings to you."
Yonlas bowed, then bolted out the door as if glad to be dismissed.
Kyllos leaned back in his chair again and sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He slipped his other hand into a pocket and curled his fingers around the Farviewing pearl tied to Jollis. Was it time yet? Had Jollis determined the true actions and intent of Kyllos' would-be peers? Had he discovered why the Holy Order acted so secretive and evasive when Kyllos asked about the old Overlord Portals?
His stomach felt sour, as it did now with every meal. He slept only fitfully. The longer Jollis was away, the more guilt weighed upon him. He wished he were ten years younger and not burdened with a recalcitrant Oceanus Emperor. He could have investigated this himself instead of sending Jollis to be his lightning rod.
He pulled out the pearl and held it in his slightly trembling hand, then closed his fingers around it and shook his head. No. Let Jollis contact him when the Wanderer finally understood the nature of his mission.
He dropped the pearl into his pocket and clasped his hands together, bowing his head to offer yet again futile prayers to deaf gods.
"There you are," said Frenon. The corners of his lips twitched upwards. "My Lord."
Tarras did not feel the title was any more deserved just because he had changed from his robes to the more elegant clothes Rennis had acquired. Nor did he feel comfortable in them, as the tunic was too tight across his chest. While his attire would have been destined for the trash a season ago, they were a step above what some of the arriving former Nobles wore. That made him far more uneasy than any ill-fitting clothing could.
"Rennis has been waiting for you," said Frenon as he shouldered his crossbow. "Though I daresay the others are entertaining themselves quite well."
"In what way?"
"They are planning their new ventures when they reacquire their fortunes."
Tarras sighed and shook his head. "I now regret agreeing to dress myself this way. Perhaps seeing me in my shabby robes would give them a clue as to the reality of the situation."
"I shouldn't need to tell you this, my Lord," said Frenon with a slight tone of impatience, "But your brethren are very big on symbols. I reckon that is why they put up all those damnable banners, despite being such eyesores."
"The symbols were less important when they did not need to cling to them like driftwood in the middle of the sea. We paid them little mind before the Inonni came."
"Regardless, they cling to them now. Much of their conversation is debate over how the various Noble clans do things. Quite boring to my ears, but I was never privy to such ..."
He trailed off. A gleam had appeared in Tarras' eyes. Frenon tilted his head in question.
"Frenon, do you still have contact with the workers who helped set up the stage?"
Frenon nodded slowly. "Yes, they're just down the road apiece. Why?"
"I will need you to contact them for one more job before I start my speech."
"Begging your pardon, my Lord, but Rennis is quite ready to chew iron with as impatient as he--"
"He will wait a little longer," Tarras declared. "This is important. Now listen carefully to me as to what I wish them to do ..."
As Tarras explained, Frenon simply stared. Finally, he said, "With all due respect, my Lord, that is insane."
"Nevertheless, you will do it. Consider it an order from a Noble Lord."
"I will do what you ask, but you have stated in the past that you wish me to speak my mind."
"That is still the case, and your objection has been noted. I wish it done just the same. Make sure you impress upon them what the exact targets will be. The attendees themselves are off-limits."
"Understood," said Frenon as he re-shouldered his crossbow. "But no guarantees there will be no 'collateral damage.'"
"What Mage Verano has done is monstrous," spat Rolas. "There is simply no other word for it."
"And you do not consider what the Oceanus Mages may be planning to be any less so?" cried Hurus.
"And have not the gods themselves suggested punishment fitting the crime when it is as heinous as this?"
"They are not the ones to judge! It is for the Holy Order to ... for them to ..."
"Ah! You see the folly of your own words."
"Do not mock me."
"I wish only to open your eyes," declared Rolas. "I would dare to say that Elder Yurton is as much to blame if he allows this to continue."
"He is not the entirety of the Holy Order!" shouted Hurus. "I maintain he is operating alone, against the wishes of--"
"What proof do you have of that?"
"And what would you have us do?" Hurus cried. "Turn against the entirety of the Order?"
"Something must be done," Rolas said in a tight voice. "This cannot be the orchestration of one man. We know experiments are being carried out in other Manors. Their Portals are being powered as well."
Hurus narrowed his eyes. "And how do you know this?"
Rolas laced his fingers together. "Certain reports have reached my ears."
For once, Jollis was loathe to stop their bickering. He had never felt at such a low point. He was out of ideas, and even the arguing of his supporters was welcome for any insight he might glean. "What have you heard?"
Both Cohorts flinched as if they had forgotten Jollis was in the room. Rolas stepped forward. "Wanderer, fellow Cohorts in other Manors are concerned. Some have taken it upon themselves to take readings of their Portals, and those are being repeatedly powered as well. They, too, wonder why the Portals have not been formally shut down as the Holy Order indicated they would be."
Hurus rushed forward. "The Holy Order is not required to be on a timetable!"
Rolas turned to him. "Nevertheless, it has been nearly a season now. That is long enough to glean whatever information there is to be had from them if they are not attempting transdimensional travel."
"You are not an expert in Portals."
"Stop it, Hurus. You are trying to defend something which is indefensible."
"Perhaps I am not as willing as you to throw away a millennium of Enlightened guidance!"
"That is enough," said Jollis. He turned to Rolas. "What details have you heard of these other readings?"
"Not much, I am afraid," said Rolas. "None of the other Cohorts have Mage Jothan's experience or ability. They can take only very crude readings, enough to indicate the Portals are churning with energy at irregular intervals."
Jollis was silent.
"Wanderer, in deference to my friend, what is the chance that only this Manor is involved in transdimensional experiments?"
Jollis' eyes shifted between them. He heaved a sigh. "I do not know."
Neither Cohort looked satisfied with that answer.
"I can go only by what I know, that it is happening here and now," said Jollis.
"I suggest the Oceanus Mages know more than you do," Rolas declared.
Jollis tilted his head. "Your statement is likely true, but in what regard?"
"I am considering your account of the overheard conversation with Mage Marlon. It is clear the Oceanus Mages are planning the destruction of multiple Portals. I suggest that the Oceanus Mage Guild, who certainly have more resources available to them than we do at the moment, may have determined what the Holy Order is doing, and they intend to stop it."
"And cause the deaths of many of our own brethren who are innocent in this supposed conspiracy!" Hurus cried.
Without looking at his friend, Rolas said in a low voice, "Perhaps that is the sacrifice we must make for our atonement. Many of us helped dig the earth to lay to rest the bodies of the Rogue Mages who were killed."
Hurus looked stricken. "They had no choice," he croaked. "They were following the wishes of Mage Verano, and indirectly, the Holy Order."
"It is the wise man who scrutinizes his tasks against the greater goals," intoned Rolas. "Only the fool accepts on blind faith that they will lead him there."
"And just who do we go to if we wish to question the actions of the Holy Order? To the gods themselves? To the goddess?"
Both Cohorts looked again to Jollis.
Jollis gave a cross look in return. "Do not stare at me as if I am to declare myself a divine avatar."
"We look for guidance, Wanderer," Rolas said in a solemn voice. "For you are the only one we believe we can trust now."
Jollis' stomach clenched again. He was reminded of the day -- so long ago it seemed now -- when Kyllos had first sent him to Oceanus to deceive an Overlord and his undraughted slave. Kyllos had said something similar, that Jollis was the only one he could trust to do his task.
Jollis' eyes widened.
No, that was not what his master had said. Kyllos had said Jollis was the only one he could trust. He had ended his sentence there. Jollis had filled in the rest, as he assumed Kyllos had meant the task.
Just like this one. Kyllos had sent him to be the lightning rod because Jollis was the only one he trusted to do it right. Surely Kyllos did not trust Jollis more than his own brethren at the Holy Order, as an Elder Apparent would know...
The force of the epiphany would have knocked Jollis off his feet had it had physical force: Master Kyllos had suspected the truth all along and needed Jollis to confirm it.
Jollis set his eyes hard. "Leave me. I will summon you when I am ready to discuss our actions moving forward."
Whatever disappointment the Cohorts may have felt at being summarily dismissed was tempered by the renewed sense of confidence from Jollis. They bowed to him. "Of course, Wanderer, we will remain close at hand," said Rolas.
"Do not hesitate to call upon us," said Hurus. "Please do not interpret my reluctance to accept the truth as disloyalty. I will faithfully serve you until we are sure."
"I have no doubts concerning your loyalty or that of your companion," said Jollis with a small, appreciative smile. "But I feel now is the time for consultation with a higher power."
The Cohorts nodded and left, believing he intended to meditate and commune with the gods. Instead, Jollis stepped forward and pulled out a Farviewing pearl.
"About damn time you showed up," Rennis growled as Tarras stepped into the back of the barn behind the stage.
"Do not blame me," Tarras said in a gentle voice. He lay a hand against his chest. "Blame the clothes I had to squeeze myself into."
"I tried to match your size, but I was going by what I last knew of you. I had not thought you could manage to put on weight traveling the countryside and cavorting with peasants."
"You would be quite surprised to learn just how well they can feed themselves without our intervention."
Rennis' jaw clenched. "Be that as it may, I--"
A scream rose from beyond the curtain, followed by the scraping of chairs and the scuffing of shoes, and then shouts of alarm, anger, and dismay.
Rennis bounded for the curtain. "What in blazing hellfire?!"
Tarras followed at a more sedate pace. He parted the curtain just as it closed behind Rennis and stood beside the shocked former Overlord.
The former Nobles had gathered in an irregular crowd in the center of the room. They shouted and gesticulated towards the peasants who streamed down the sides of the makeshift auditorium, trailing bits of dirt and mud behind them from the quantity they held in their hands. They threw a single large gob upon each banner as they passed, where it landed with a great splat. Tiny streams of dirty water trickled down the tapestries and dripped to the floor. A woman uttered a screech as splashed mud nearly landed on her.
Tarras scanned the crowd. He saw no one with any serious amounts of dirt upon them. The workers were doing as he had wanted.
"What in blazing--!" Rennis sputtered. He cast a wild look at Tarras. "Do something about this!"
Tarras folded his hands. "And what would you have me do which would not involve wrestling the mud away from these men?"
"Send Frenon after them! A few good crossbow bolts--"
"By the time I fetch him, it will be over. See?"
The peasants had reached the last of the tapestries. They raced towards the stage, and Rennis gasped and ducked as if expecting to be hit full in the face with mud. Instead, the peasants converged behind them and barreled through the curtain and out the back.
Rennis raised his head and glanced towards the now muddied curtain, then down at the trails of dirt upon the stage. He cast a level, blazing look at Tarras. "Damn you," he muttered through clenched teeth. "Damn you. You orchestrated--"
Tarras strode forward. "I suggest you help the others return to their seats so I may commence with my speech."
Rennis curled his hands into fists before he marched off the stage.
Tarras stepped up to the podium and surveyed the damage. As he had hoped, it had been confined to the tapestries and banners, save for what had splashed or dripped to the floor. He raised his hands. "Please, everyone, calm down," he announced in what he hoped was an authoritative voice.
Many of the former Nobles looked up and quieted their chatter. It allowed Rennis to direct them to take their seats.
"It appears no one was hurt by this incident," continued Tarras. "So I recommend we continue. You came to hear my words, and I am prepared to give them."
Now many of the former Nobles were taking it upon themselves to sit down. Many still glanced at the soiled banners in distress and disdain, and few would allow themselves to be seated anywhere near the splatters of mud on the floor. Eventually, the center of the barn became quite crowded.
"I will give you the words I have prepared for this moment," said Tarras, his voice growing more steady. "But they may not be the words you are expecting to hear."
What little chatter had remained now vanished. A few still continued to glance at the muddy banners and tapestries.
"Yes, I know. You are all quite distressed over this incident. You consider it a great travesty."
Many nodding of heads.
"For some, perhaps, they were the last you owned. The last symbols of your power and prestige. And now they are gone. Mud is hard to clean from such old cloth and canvas when we no longer have a small army of cleaning staff at our beck and call. And yet you continue to look at them, as if you believe you can reclaim them and return them to their unspoiled beauty."
A few more nods of heads, but more reluctant. A few betrayed guilty looks upon their faces. It disappeared quickly, but those particular former Nobles no longer looked at the banners.
Tarras allowed himself a small, relieved sigh. Perhaps he was going to get through to them after all. "You cannot recover them. Some of you have acknowledged this. But many of you, I suspect, have not. You must move past this. Leave the banners as they are. You are letting yourself be distracted."
He paused. A few more now paid closer attention to him. It was encouraging.
"Many of you held positions of power which demanded focus."
Tarras knew this was a lie. Many let their advisers have free reign so they could bask in luxury guaranteed by a century of clan success and favoritism. Yet he counted on their egos holding sway and was rewarded by the sight of agreement on their faces.
"And you would not let yourself be distracted by inconsequential things. Thus it is imperative you achieve that focus now. The banners are symbols only, symbols you must leave behind."
Tarras was met by a more dubious response, and more glanced at the banners again. Some betrayed outright shock at his last statement.
He suddenly flung his arms out to the sides. "All right! Look at them again if you must! Does their despoiled nature change anything?" Tarras' voice rang out into the uneasy silence. "Are you any more or less what you were when you first walked in? Did the symbols even mean anything in the first place?"
Many faces turned back to him with a mixture of anger, confusion, and worry.
"They change nothing. What they symbolized ended the day the Inonni took over this nation."
People shifted uneasily in their seats, and a few faces still blazed anger. Yet no one stormed out or bolted to his feet to dispute his words.
"The very fact that no dire fate met these men who despoiled your symbols should convince you. We do not command men any longer, and we must not act as if we do. We cannot speak as if we intend to retake our palaces, reacquire our slaves, and rehire our servants. The world has changed, and cannot be changed back."
Now many of the looks he witnessed were of panic or despair. No one looked at all comfortable with his speech, though now few appeared willing to even glance at the banners again.
"That does not mean we can do nothing to change it into something more to our liking."
Several exchanged looks. Many appeared confused.
"We cannot command men, but we have command of ourselves and our destiny."
This did not clear up the confusion, but now most of his audience looked to him with interest. Tarras realized the sad truth that some were being intellectually taxed more than they had ever been.
"The fortunes of the Noble Lords once depended on others," said Tarras as he gripped the sides of the podium. "We depended upon the labors of the peasants. We depended upon the goods of the craft Guilds. We depended upon our trade with other nations. We depended upon pleasures contracted to us by the Overlords. I did not choose that ordering arbitrarily. What we had before the Inonni was the work of generations. It had to start somewhere. That is where the future lies. We start again."
More dubious looks met his words.
"But this time, it must be different. This time, it has to be different."
A few faces turned desperate for him to say something they would understand.
"I stated we cannot change the world back to the way it was," said Tarras in a softer voice. "The Inonni would not allow it, and it is what they would expect us to try. The only way we may usurp their control is to do something they do not expect. Something better than they can offer the ... this nation."
Tarras had almost said "the peasants," but felt that would be too much too soon. He would deal with the details later.
"We are used to a very modularized society. We have our concerns, the peasants have theirs, the Overlords have theirs, and the craft Guilds have theirs. But in my travels across Oceanus, I have found that when these barriers break down, when these groups work together, they manage to delay, confuse, and frustrate the Inonni's ability to spread their control."
Silence was the response, as if he had suggested they shake the hands of the men who despoiled the banners.
"Many of you know of my past association with Emperor Duric Z'garon," said Tarras. "I spoke to him on matters of military planning. I often spoke of hearts of men. An army does not run solely on strength of arms, but on the hearts of those who brandish the weapons of war. They must want to fight, they must want to win, they must care deeply about the cause for which they fight. The same is true in ruling a nation. The rulers must capture the hearts of men and make them want to be loyal. And in all my travels, one thing has rung clear concerning the Inonni:
"The Inonni have failed to capture the hearts of men."
Rapt interest greeted his words. Somehow, he had managed to touch on their egos again.
"Several of the craft Guilds actively work against the Inonni. The peasants are frightened of the Inonni. Yes, frightened! Realize what I had said before: we would have had nothing if it were not for the peasants who till the soil and grow the food and cart the goods we consumed and traded. The Inonni have failed to capture their hearts, and without that, they do not control a nation, they merely occupy it. A vast gulf exists between the two concepts."
A nodding of heads. Tarras felt giddy, and his eyes glistened. He was getting through to them. He had managed to mention the peasants after all without losing them. He doubted a single one among them wanted to deal with the peasants directly, but it was a start.
"It is up to us to recapture the heart of this nation," Tarras' voice rang out. "Already, others have gone before us and have started this process. We cannot let them work alone."
Many more nodding of heads. Tarras was no fool; he knew most simply did not want others to reap the glory. Tarras would take what he could get.
"That is the new order!" Tarras declared. "Not these symbols. They hold no further meaning. If we feel we must have symbols, we must conceive of new ones. Lords, Overlords, Guilds, and yes, even peasants, will be part of this new order. If you continue to cling to your old symbols and your old ways, you will be left behind. But if you abandon the old world, you will have a chance to step into the midst of a new power structure, a new beginning, a new chance to make new fortunes for yourselves and your descendants!" Tarras paused and stepped back from the podium. "That is all."
He glanced at the sea of faces without really seeing them and turned away. Halfway to the curtain, a great noise arose as the former Lords and Ladies stood ...
... and applauded.
Tarras was too struck to move at first. He slowly turned back to the audience. Now several were shouting "Hurrah!" and raising their fists in triumph.
His eyes misted. Did he get through to them? Would they remember this moment in the days to come? He had no idea. But now he saw among those applauding him were both Rennis and Frenon, and not in simply polite response. Rennis actually managed a tiny smile.
Somehow, that meant more than all the adulation from the former Nobles. Tarras returned the smile and ducked behind the curtain.
Jollis was so moved by the gaunt appearance of his mentor that the words stuck in his throat. His chest clenched, and he wanted to shed tears at the toll recent events had taken on his Master. When he could speak again, the carefully orchestrated conversation he had envisioned in his head vanished, and the only words which would rise to his lips in a quaking voice were, "You knew."
The shimmering Farview image of Kyllos clasped his hands before him. He forced a small smile clearly devoid of humor. "Such a statement can mean many things, my Wanderer."
The tightness in Jollis' chest worsened, and his muscles clenched. He forced himself to relax and keep his voice steady. "The illicit work which is being done on the Overlord Portals."
Kyllos let out a small sigh. "I suspected as much, yes."
"And the ... the deception." Jollis closed his eyes when they threatened to spill tears down his cheeks. He took a few deep breaths, but could not bring himself to open his eyes at first. "An age-old deception of the breadth of our Portal knowledge."
Kyllos remained silent, prompting Jollis to open his eyes. "That I had known, yes," said Kyllos, who appeared to Jollis to have aged another ten years. "It was knowledge I was not supposed to have as only an Elder Apparent, but it had cast suspicion upon the purpose of the activity at the Manors."
"Your suspicions have been confirmed," Jollis said in a bitter voice. He could no longer quell his rising anger, but it had no direction. "They work to achieve transdimensional Portal ability. But ... there is more ..."
In a halting voice, Jollis explained what Verano had done with the Rogue Mages. Kyllos became as pale as moonlight. His shaking hands unfolded, and his eyes blazed. "I have no words to describe my feelings towards this ... this desecration of our beliefs," said Kyllos.
"What am I to do, Master? I do not know what to do. In that regard, I have failed you, as you rely on me to be your hand."
Kyllos' face took on a haunted look. "I fear I cannot give you guidance. I cannot ... I cannot jeopardize my position."
Jollis wanted to be furious with him, but he understood. His mentor was not driven by ego but a desire to change the Holy Order from within. Any word that he had sent Jollis on a mission to expose their lies would destroy any hope of reform.
Jollis felt lost. Everything he believed was anchored to the teachings of the Holy Order. Now he had to establish his own anchor; he had to reach beyond the Order and understand what being an Inonni and what Enlightenment really meant.
And Kyllos could not help him.
Debate raged inside his head. Did he tell Kyllos what the Oceanus Mages were planning, or did he silently agree to their solution? Did he let the problem be consumed in fire and blood? And what of Verano and his hideous experiments? Jollis wanted to kill him, but knew it would render Amanda's suffering meaningless.
Yet now he doubted the intentions of those who would use her to spread Enlightenment to the Urisi.
No, he could not kill Verano. No other Mage had as much knowledge of Portal mechanics. He could not risk the Order handing over the research to a even less scrupulous Mage. At least Verano expressed regret over what he had done and resentment towards those who gave the orders.
Jollis suddenly drew in a sharp breath. The solution had crystallized in his head.
"You have resolved your dilemma?" Kyllos asked.
Jollis heard the hint of desperation in his Master's voice. "I cannot say," said the Wanderer in a flat voice.
Kyllos nodded in full understanding. "You will do what you feel you must, and I will support you in spirit even if I cannot recognize your service to me this time."
Jollis nodded, and felt his chest unclench. Kyllos once again had shown the wisdom of the ages. He knew what Jollis was about to do and had silently given his blessing. He would have found some way to subtly express his disapproval if it had been otherwise. Yet his words also meant Jollis would be alone in facing the consequences.
And both knew the other benefit even if they would not dare speak it: Kyllos would be freed from any suspicion from among his brethren at the Holy Order. Jollis would truly become the lightning rod.
"Is there anything else you have for me, my Wanderer?" asked Kyllos in a mild voice. "I have heard some curious reports of activity at an Overlord Manor which we do not occupy." Jollis hesitated, and his Master spoke again. "Oceanus Mages are experimenting on its Portal with vast amounts of energy. The report crossed my desk only a short while ago. I have done nothing about it."
Jollis' eyes widened.
"Without any indication of a clear threat, I do not wish to alarm the Holy Order."
Jollis swallowed hard.
"Naturally, if I do hear something more definite, I will be forced to relay the information. But I cannot if I hear nothing further."
"I have heard nothing you need to pass on to the Holy Order," Jollis declared.
Kyllos paused, then nodded understanding once more. "Very good."
"May I ask a question, Master?" Jollis said.
"How do things fare with the Urisi Nation? Are you close to obtaining the man we desire?"
"We believe we are. We have sensed some obstruction on their part but believe it to be only normal politics. They wish to see how far they can push us. We will allow it so long as the end result is the same."
"So you will not need me to contact Ambassador Norlan?"
"Only if something goes wrong."
Jollis nodded. "And what will become of this man when we take him?"
"He will likely be turned over to Mage Verano."
Jollis nodded once. "As I suspected. I have no more questions for you, Master."
"Then I bid you good day and good blessings to you." In a somber voice, Kyllos added, "And good hunting."
Jollis felt a surge of renewed loyalty and love for his mentor. His eyes glistening, he nodded once and terminated the Farview.
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