The Blue Star
Chapter 25: Interview at the Nation's Guest-House
Lalette lay curled on the bed, half propped by pillows under her armpit. Demadé Slair had unbelted his sword to sit down; it leaned against his chair. Mathurin sat in the one by the table, the candle throwing his sharp profile into strong silhouette. Rodvard shifted in the damaged chair, whose lost stuffing made his seat uneasy.
“And that was all?” said the writer to the assembly, pinching his lower lip. “Nothing more from Palm, nothing more from the other Episcopals? Pest, Bergelin, you are less useful than I had expected.”
“There was the legist who spoke,” said Rodvard. “I think he is a man to beware of. His thought was so ruthless and desirous of power that he would ride down anything.”
“You mean the kronzlar Escholl? That is of some use at all events,” said Mathurin. “We need more like that, whether as allies or enemies. Things must be stirred; too many people are careless of who wins.” He stood up and began to pace the floor slowly, head thrust forward a little, hands behind him. “Listen, Bergelin, I will be wholly frank with you. We held a meeting of the High Center this afternoon, following the session.”
Rodvard said; “Are the names of its members still a secret, except for yourself?”
Mathurin gave a snort. “They will not be long, for things have so fallen out that the High Center and the Council of Regency will be one. You will have guessed that Brosen Zelitza of Arjen is one, there’s the best speaker in Dossola. General Stegaller; he’s in charge of the recruit bureau technically, but is really organizing what will be a people’s army. It may surprise you to know that your old friend Mme. Kaja is a member; a wonderful woman for handling matters of detail, and we have to have one of her sex because of our position about the Art, but I could wish it were someone beside her, she’s so religious.” Lalette made a little sound; Rodvard caught sight of her face (and knew she was about to burst into one of her angers).
“Will no one tell me what has become of Doctor Remigorius?” he asked (hoping to forestall the outburst).
Mathurin’s pacing stopped. “I forgive you and will tell you, but if you wish health, you will not mention him again. Rat, spy, tool; he has fled to his employer, Prince Pavinius—but he will not live long, so no more of him.”
(Lalette thought: these are the creatures round my husband, my man—if he is my man, and not merely using me and my Blue Star.)
“It was decided—” Mathurin began, but before he had finished, a mouse slipped from under the edge of the bed, and ran rapidly across the floor as though on tiny wheels. Slair’s arm flashed up and out with the scabbarded sword like a striking bird; blade and beast together arrived at the center of the carpet and the mouse twitched once and died. Demadé Slair picked up the small corpse and stood looking at it.
“Poor creature,” he said, “I ask your pardon. Now your children in the hole will starve for lack of the food you went in search of.”
Rodvard was astounded to see a tear glitter at the edge of the swordsman’s eye. “Ah, bah!” said Mathurin. “Will you defend vermin, Slair? You’ll have use enough for your steel when the new decrees are passed.”
Rodvard stirred. “What decrees?”
Mathurin turned (with his back carefully to the candles, Rodvard noted, so that his face was dark). “There’s to be a new court, to try special cases; it was what I was about to mention when interrupted. Treason against the people and nation. You will be writer to it; more important than the sessions of the assembly.” He turned to Lalette. “There is also a part for you; you are one of the keys now.”
Lalette said unhappily; “In what way?”
“As versus these Episcopals. They spread venom; represent the greatest danger we now have to face. Pavinius? I give him a snap of the fingers; he is too nice, with his Mayern foreigners and western herdsmen. The Tritulaccans? Nothing by themselves, they had never beaten Dossola in the former war but for the revolt of Mancherei, Mayern help and the treason of the Kjermanash chieftains. The court? Now sold to Tritulacca, and destitute by its own action. But the Episcopals are still not out of credit with the people, who have been lulled by their solemn mummery. We drove them from the assembly of the nation this morning, good. But now they may join Tritulacca in the name of what they call true religion.”