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By Myranda B. Kalis



"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?/For if it prosper, none dare call it treason." - Sir John Harington, "Of Treason," *Epigrams*

"We have a problem." The voice was low to begin with, and further hollowed by the depths of the hood shrouding the face from easy view. The figure it was attached to--tall, broad, and swathed in an aggressively normal deep green court cloak--paused, and made an appropriate courtesy to the smaller figure seated in the chair before him.

"'We'?" There was an unseen arching of a questioning brow in his companion's tone, an edge that could have drawn blood. "Or 'you'? I seem to recall that you made many reassurances that all would proceed according to schedule irregardless of the unfortunate lapse in Pacifica?"

"All *will* proceed in its due course--that hasn't changed, nor will it. But *we* do have a problem." He had edges of his own, and his companion acknowledged the distinction with a slight inclination of the head. "You are, of course, aware of the arrival of the Huntsman's agent."

"He was impossible to miss--Seera was at his side the entire evening." A dry chuckle. "If I didn't know he was heartless, I would swear he was smitten. The good Ambassador seemed rather...well behaved...for one of his reputation."

"The Ambassador's reputation sells him short, and he has every reason to proceed cautiously. We shouldn't have killed the woman in Pacifica." There was reproof hidden in his voice.

"One of our number acted...hastily...I admit." A grimace. "Has it done irrepairable damage? Or limited our options?"

"Inasmuch as it forewarned an Ailil whom we know is a spy and suspect is an assassin that we're willing to indulge in murder to silence our opposition, yes, it has. I don't expect that the Ambassador will be as easy to deal with."

"I hear a 'however' in your tone."

A faint, unseen smile. "However--Commander Tysia of the Red Branch already distrusts him completely. Her personal distaste for the Huntsman and his minions is a useful weapon in this case. If all else fails, we might always, rather than arranging an accident....."

"Arrange for Scathan ap Ailil's shadowy reputation to have some light thrown on it."

"My thoughts."

"I will bear this advice in mind. Are there any more 'problems' that require my personal attention?"

"None. All proceeds apace. Our own assassin is in place and awaiting his commands--I had to order him to keep his distance from the Ambassador, something about an old feud--"

A snort. "Assassins should be motivated by profit, not honor. His response?"

"He acquiesced--he did, after all, swear himself to this endeavor long before the Ambassador came on the scene, and to the service of the house of the true High King. I expect he believes he'll have the chance to dispose of the Ailil before all is said and done anyway, and I chose not to disabuse him of the notion."

"And who knows, he may just." A long, slender hand raised in dismissal, and the messenger took it, placing a kiss upon the signet that decorated it. "Have a care, my friend--it would not be victory for us or for our master if you were not there to savor it with us."

"To be sure."

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