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Prologue

 


Saturday, December 19, 2054

The room was ornate in a way that put rococo to shame. On the walls, many of the sub-details in the gilded reliefs incorporated fractals, so that one could have examined the gilded scenes and abstract curlicues with a microscope and not run out of exquisite detail. The base for the gilding was a white substance similar to ivory, but with an opalescent sheen that no elephant tusk could ever boast.


All in all, the effect would have given a Himmit a heart attack, had one of those worthies tried to rest on that surface, and had it had a heart. The other surfaces were similarly ornate, reducing the Himmit on the carpet to a body surface of merely gothic levels of detail that shifted quiveringly. Every hour or so, the Himmit placed a forelimb against its head, as if it was in pain.


In the center of the room was a large table of stone. In the stone was a sword. From the sword emanated a voice that was heavily modulated to prevent identification.


"This situation disrupts the entire plan. It is grossly unacceptable. Curse the Epetar group for clag food! What were the rest of you thinking? Progress be damned, I'll be hard pressed to salvage something other than outright war over this," he fumed.


"Abject apologies, Master." The Indowy got no further.


"Don't bother. You, yourself, didn't do it, so your apologies are hardly sincere for all that you speak for others. Shut up and let me think."


The Indowy decided that it was more likely than not to be in the interests of his clan to volunteer some information. "Master, I have news that the O'Neal is traveling to Barwhon to approach the Tchpth on a diplomatic mission," it said.


The leader of the Bane Sidhe, whoever it was, was not known for its sense of humor. Indeed, so seldom was its humor triggered that its existence was largely regarded as mythical. The Indowy before it and the Himmit in the corner were, therefore, shocked senseless when a strange sound emanated from the blade of the sword.


"Stop . . . stop . . ." it rasped. "I'm not . . . it's just . . . O'Neal . . . diplo . . . too funny." The rasping crept into its voice. For just a moment it became normal enough to make out what sounded strangely like the melfluous tones of a Darhel.


"The greater problem still exists," the sword hummed with a last chuckle. "Whether this drives the plan backwards or advances it must be considered. I will give you orders in time. You are dismissed."


If the Himmit was affronted, neither of the other species had the experience with its expressions to discern it. The crack at the edge where the ceiling met the wall widened around the body of the Himmit as it exited, sealing back to invisibility behind it.


"O'Neal. A diplomatic mission," the sword hummed once more. "Too funny. Oooo. I have an idea. . . ."


Then it vanished.


 


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