The doctor expressed polite disagreement, by means of a gesture of curled tentatails. “If this is the plot, it is very clumsily done. Coming to a new scoral naked and peniless, feigning amnesia and attracting all manner of curiosity, seems like a very bad way to manage it. She would have been better off with clothes and money, hiring herself as a servant or laborer or whatever. For that matter, why Nwa-Bher? Why not a much larger city, where there are so many kysps that a new one more or less is not notable?”
The mayor said, “I have no answers for these questions. Perhaps, if this choice is the case, Ro-Ro-Ku will explain. A related choice, which Dze-Ts-Kwy has been fretting about, is that she is actually a Vemian spy or agent provocateur. Again, why attracting so much attention? And why Nwa-Bher, a city of no particular interest in the war? I suppose a Vemian base here could be of some use to them. But I do not think that our faith is notably weak or easily swayed.”
Dze-Ts-Kwy stretched her tentatails. “I propose we give her a test for this. Give her some Vemian holy seals to desecrate. If she does so, she risks eternal contamination of her soul. Would any Vemian devout enough to be a spy do so?”
”… Perhaps so?” mused the doctor. “She may be anticipating some vile ceremony of atonement upon her return. Or, I suppose, she may have some even more vile ceremony of preemptive atonement for whatever blasphemies and crimes she commits here. I don’t know enough Vemian theology to know if this is even possible.”
“But this does lead into another possibility,” said Dze-Ts-Kwy excitedly. “She might be a test from the gods — a messenger or angel — even a god herself!” [«Close enough» I said, when Roroku reported this.] “Since this is a holy war and a time of testing of all kyspkind, it could be that the gods sent her to see how we treat her, like in the story of Dò-Sja-Sje-Swa.”
“The revelations of Ko-Go-Nwa could be enough divine intervention for our generation,” said the doctor. “But the Vemians say that Vem-Thu was the last and final prophet, and there will be no more. Ko-Go-Nwa says no such nonsense, and, indeed, is a counterexample. So it is theologically possible that the gods might send another even while Ko-Go-Nwa is alive.”
“Or perhaps the Vemians have assassinated Ko-Go-Nwa and we haven’t heard yet, as they threatened when St. Smu-Vhan executed Vem-Thu. Oh, let it not be so!”
“Well, were that the case, we would soon hear. Let us not multiply possibilities endlessly!” said the mayor. “We have enough of them already. Faller, drug victim, fugitive, spy, angel. A pity there’s only one of her, so we have to treat her in a single way. Here is how I propose we proceed. Let us treat her as if she were a faller, but treat her well, so that if she is an angel the gods will be pleased. If she is a drug victim or an innocent fugitive, the same will work. If she is a wicked fugitive, I shall not fuss, so long as she is not wicked here. I do not think that unnecessary kindness will be a moral or spiritual blot upon us! But let us ask questions of other scorals, to see if anyone such as her is missing.”
“This is 4/5 of a good plan,” said the doctor. “What if she is a spy?”
“We must test her, inconclusive though it be, and watch her. And if we can think of anything that should remain secret, we should take steps to conceal it from her. I can’t, though.” (Evidently mayors are not trained in military matters; knowing the population of Nwa-Bher, and its likely combat strength, are the first things a spy would want to know.) “Dze-Ts-Kwy, you have aided her so far. If she is an angel, perhaps she is sent to you. Would you and your fiancée Ka-twu-thu be willing to attend to her, to treat her well, and to tell us if she is doing anything indicative of spying or provocateuring? The city will pay a suitable fee for this.”
“Oh, can I?” said Dze-Ts-Kwy. “I will talk to Ka-twu-thu as soon as may be. I predict that, given her finances and her personality, she will be eager to do so.”
(Ka-twu-thu was duly fetched, briefed, persuaded, and enrolled into the civil service.)</blockquote>
“Ah, I hope we have not kept you waiting unduly,” said the doctor back to Ro-Ro-Ku. “We have one more test to perform: a test of orthodoxy, not of medicine. Behold, here are two sheets of paper. One has the names and symbols of Vem-Thu, the Last Prophet. The other has the names and symbols of Ko-Go-Nwa, the New Prophet. I lay them on the floor, thus. Desecrate one of them, venerate the other. The choice is yours.”
Roroku, without hesitation, and with gestures that she had researched as best she could with a few information spells, arched over the symbol of Vem-Thu and sprayed it with excreta. She shook herself off, and went to the symbol of Ko-Go-Nwa, and curled up in a tight donut, like an infant kysp on her parent.
“Thank you, Ro-Ro-Ku,” said the doctor. She beckoned to her assistant, who plunged the desecrated signs into a fire. The doctor, the mayor, and Dze-Ts-Kwy spoke privately for a moment — “She did it without hesitating or wincing. If she’s a spy, she’s a brazen one indeed.” — “We have done what we can do in a difficult and confusing situation. Dze-Ts-Kwy, you and Ka-twu-thu are now our city’s last defense against her, if she is a spy. And our first supplication to her, if she is an angel.” — “We are ready and all eagerness!”
“Very well, Ro-Ro-Ku. Dze-Ts-Kwy and Ka-Twu-Thu have agreed to take care of you for the time being. We will try to find out where you originally come from,” said the doctor.
“Thank you for all of your attention. I shall do what I can do to be a good guest and to repay your hospitality,” said Ro-Ro-Ku.
Which she did, in the way befitting an astral dragon. Which is to say, with violence, sorcery, betrayal, and conquest.
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