‘He frequents a tavern called the Rat’s Nest, your Majesty,’ I supplied. ‘It’s in the thieves’ quarter near the east gate.’
‘I’ll send for him.’ He looked at me. ‘How old did you say he is, Polanna?’
‘I didn’t say,’ I replied. ‘About fifteen or so, from what I’ve heard.’
‘That’s awfully young.’
‘That depends on the individual, Drosta,’ I disagreed. ‘And you will have time to train him. Taur Urgas hasn’t started to march yet, so you’ve got some time to play with.’
‘There’s something in that,’ Drosta conceded, ‘and young ones are easier to mold than the ones already set in their ways.’
‘And they usually work cheap,’ Gallak added. ‘If you give him a title of some kind – “special Emissary”, or something like that – he might even work for nothing.’
‘What a wonderful idea,’ Drosta said enthusiastically.
I’d assumed that mother’d sent me to Gar og Nadrak just to assess the characters of Yarblek and Drosta, but it’d gone a little further than that, obviously. Not only had I met them, but I’d brought them together, and that had been the real purpose of my visit. Drosta was enthusiastic about Yarblek right at first, but I understand that his enthusiasm wore off after Yarblek found out what his services to his king were really worth. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I suspect Yarblek’s price started going up shortly after he met Silk.
This has been quite an evening,’ Drosta said expansively. ‘I got to watch the best dancer in my whole kingdom, and then she helps me to solve a problem that’s been nagging at me ever since I took the throne. Yes, quite an evening indeed.’
‘And you haven’t even tasted your supper yet,’ I added.
‘Will it be as good as the rest of the evening’s been?’
‘Better, probably,’ I promised.
‘Was that more or less what you had in mind, mother?’ I sent the thought out after Gallak and I got home.
‘Approximately, yes. You’re quick on your feet, Pol. Bringing the two of them together like that was a stroke of genius.’
‘I rather liked it myself. If we’re going to be using them somewhere out there in the future, I thought it might be more convenient if they were already hooked together. Am I more or less finished here?’
‘I think that covers just about everything.’
‘The next question is just exactly how I’m going to get out of town so that we can fly on back to Annath. Erasing the memory of everyone who’s seen me here in Yar Nadrak might be just a bit challenging.’
‘Why not just send word to your father? He’s not doing anything useful right now, and he’s got that stack of gold bars gathering dust in his tower. Tell him to come here and buy you from Gallak. He needs some exercise anyway, and he’s just a little too attached to that gold of his, wouldn’t you say?’
‘That’s terrible, mother!’ It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.
‘I’m glad you approve,’ she replied placidly.
I waited for a couple of weeks, observing the progress of my ‘Yarblek scheme’, and then, when things seemed to be moving in the proper direction, I went across town to the Drasnian embassy to speak with Margrave Khendon, the man known as Javelin. A clerk carried my name into his office, and I was immediately admitted.
‘Polanna,’ he greeted me with a polite nod of his head, ‘I’m honored by this visit. Is there something I can do for you?’
‘I think you may know my father, Margrave,’ I said, looking around a bit cautiously for any peep-holes or listening posts. Spying is the national industry of Drasnia, after all.
‘I wouldn’t really think so, Polanna. I haven’t been in Yar Nadrak all that long, so I don’t know all that many Nadraks.’
‘My father’s not a Nadrak, Margrave. We haven’t as yet pinpointed his racial origins. Anyway, he’s in a Sendarian mountain village called Annath right at the moment, and I need to get word to him. It’s a matter of some delicacy, so I immediately thought of you. The Drasnian intelligence service is famous for its ability to keep secrets.’
‘And for finding them out,’ he added, looking rather directly at me. ‘I get the feeling that you’re not an ordinary Nadrak dancer, Polanna,’
‘No, I’m not. I’m better than all the others.’
‘That’s not exactly what I meant. You’re not a Nadrak, for one thing. Your eyes are the wrong shape.’
‘I’ll speak with them about that. Anyway, I’d like to have you get word to my father in Annath. Let him know that I’ve done what I was supposed to do here in Yar Nadrak and that I’d like to have him come here and buy me back from my owner – a fur-trader named Gallak.’
‘Ah – it might be helpful if I knew your father’s name, Polanna. I’m sure I could run him down eventually, but having his name might speed things up.’
‘How silly of me. I’m sorry, Khendon.’ Then I gave him a sly sidelong glance. ‘Maybe you should go back to the academy for a quick refresher course, though. I’m a bit hurt that you didn’t recognize me the moment I came through the door.’
Then he looked more closely at me, ignoring the leather clothing and the daggers. Then he blinked and rose quickly to his feet. ‘Your Grace,’ he said with an exquisite bow. ‘The very building trembles in your august presence.’
‘Your embassy was built by Nadrak laborers, Khendon. A good sneeze would make it tremble.’
‘Nadrak construction is a bit slap-dash, isn’t it,’ he agreed. His eyes narrowed, and one of his cheeks started to twitch. ‘Some things are starting to fit together now,’ he noted. ‘This business with Yarblek was all your idea, wasn’t it?’
‘How perceptive of you, Margrave. It all has to do with something that’s going to happen on out in the future. I needed to establish a connection between Yarblek and King Drosta – and between Drosta and Prince Rhodar. It’s going to have a serious impact on something fairly significant. Don’t ask questions, Javelin, because you’re not going to get any answers. I’m having emough trouble keeping my father from tampering with the future, so I don’t need you muddying up the waters as well.’ I pushed the note I’d written and sealed that morning across his desk. ‘Just see to it that my father gets this. It explains everything to him. Don’t bother prying it open. It just tells him to come here and to buy me from Gallak. The Purpose of the Universe will be ever so grateful to you for this service.’