Mirrored from Sythyry.
Hanija doesn’t have ordinary, proper broadsheets. Instead, it has a small sort of handbook or magazine, usually of twenty-four pages, printed on every even-numbered day of the month, and sold for rather more than one might expect a proper broadsheet to be sold for. The bindings on the news-magazines are terrible, as one might expect from a news-magazine written and published in a frantic hideous hurry. Oddly enough, the research and the writing is not terrible; it’s actually pretty decent. If you can read Hanijan, of course.
Zineng (né Guard-Mage) can read Hanijan fluently. (I can too, at the rate of a sentence every three minutes, which means that I only bother with the news-magazines when, um, someone who can read Hanijan fluently tells me I ought to.) He — in his official capacity as the Hanijan Guard’s Liaison upon Foreign Wizards Now Disenchanting Assorted Hanijan Citizans (LUFWNDAHC) — stopped by to chat, as he does every day or two. “Did you see what Embarrass the Embezzling Official said about your friend Sehkidi?” Sehkidi being the judge in my tofyof case.
“Alas, I am afraid that I neglected to steal a copy of Embarrass the Embezzling Official this morning. I thought it was a spell, you see, and I was so disappointed when it turned out to be a news magazine that I didn’t even think of buying it,” I said. It does sound rather like a spell. “Also, I do not befriend everyone who tosses me in a wet and stinking dungeon cell. You are somewhat of the exception. I don’t believe I’ve even seen Sehkidi since my public beating.”
“Well, it doesn’t come out today. Yesterday’s did a bit of a three-club rhumba on him, though,” said Zineng. “He is accused to taking bribes in several canal-leakage cases, and favoring his brother-in-law many legal circumstances.”
“Pity I didn’t know that a few weeks ago. I’d have bribed him to let me off,” I said. This got me a frown, for Zineng is quite the devoted civil servant.
“He’s not the only one,” said Zineng. “Judges, guild heads, princes, legislators, master-surveyors — all of them accused of any number of crimes, and all the accusations come with a fine leather briefcase full of evidence, summarized in the nicest calligraphy I’ve ever seen in anonymous accusations.”
“Simply accusations, is it?” asked Phaniet.
“Well, we haven’t had time to track down a twelfth part of it yet, but not simply accusations. Every bit of evidence we’ve been able to confirm was correct. And the accused know it, too. Sehkidi packed a rucksack full of jewelry and lozens, and left town in a rampaging rush before noontime. Great lords and notables are tottering and falling like candle-pins, Sythyry, and it’s all your doing.”
“That it is not. I didn’t know a thing about Sehkidi, I swear it — I’ve been too busy with this disenchantment business — you know it, you’ve been here with me quite often.” I was actually worried, though. I can stretch a minute quite long, and Zineng knows it.
“I’m not accusing you of doing it yourself,” he said.
“Do I have to find alibis for everyone on board, then?” I asked.
“No, no, it’s not that. I know perfectly well who is responsible, and it’s not you: it’s Nanggi-Zi. She left some nice treats for all sorts of people, to be delivered if she ever chanced to be killed or incapacitated or inconvenienced. A sort of posthumous gift, arranged to try to discourage the city from ever letting her become posthumous.”
I protested, “She’s still prehumous! Well, the part of her that’s in Jagraton’s body is. Her own body is a touch dead. But that’s not my doing — it’s been dead for years and years.”
Phaniet nodded grimly. “Well, thank you for the warning. We’ll hurry as much as we can on the spellbreaking, and leave the city immediately afterwards.”
“No we won’t!” I squeaked indignantly. “We’ve endured weddings, imprisonments, and mind-wizards here, and we’re not going to be chased away by a bit of blackmail! Besides, I don’t think there’s anything we can be blackmailed for. All the worst things are public — maybe too public.”
Zineng fidgeted with his tailtip. “Actually, Phaniet’s right.”
“We — which is to say, Rastomil and Jagraton, but it’ll apply to us too — started a chain of events which lead to lots of blackmails and lots of secrets getting spilled. Someone, sooner or later, will decide that it’s our fault, or that we’ll be good scapegoats for something. Do you want to display your incompetence at politics some more, Sythyry? Or shall we get home and start building our new city?” asked Phaniet.
“We’re not going to get chased out of here!” I insisted.
But of course we will.