Negotiation at One Remove (by Walter Langendorf)

“He will come, Nari, for the Deimotic Arts.” It sounded like blasphemy, for one so versed in the roundabout necessities of jnan to speak the plain truth. Heramari Iyokus, however, was a man intimately familiar with blasphemy.

Grandmaster Iyokus, he corrected himself inwardly. In the wake of the disastrous losses at Shimeh, in the wake of the astonishing transformation of the Holy War it was easy to lose sight of his own change in station. When the world moved such a distance, who could keep precise track of their own stumbling transition?

“Uhh…” he vocalized his frustration at the track of his thoughts. How was it that this infant faith invaded his innermost counsels, so that his every rhetorical question seemed to be answered by the very name of the Aspect Emperor. He had once prided himself on the clarity of his thought. Now he served another, and he had witnessed with blinded eyes what true clarity of thought entailed.

Nari, the thrall who fulfilled his addictions, placed the vessel upon a nearby stand with a deliberately heavy hand. It pleased the Grandmaster to pretend his ears were far less sharp than they were in truth, so that his servants would believe he heard only the sounds they made for him to hear. In truth, he fancied that in the dim illumination he demanded for his private chambers he knew the truth of things far more intimately than they. To lord over the ignorant…had he fallen so far?

“He has no need of them, of course” he continued to speak to the empty spaces. Nari, of course, had no capacity to reply. Yet it pleased Iyokus to discourse with the man as though he retained the ability to comprehend, and to respond.

“His Mandate learning”, and ohhh the bitterness that filled his soul when he spoke that hated word, “is no doubt sufficient for his purposes. Indeed, if the Zaodunyainni are to be believed it is sufficient for all purposes.”

He reached to the receptacle, and picked up the object of his hunger. Iyokus had long since resigned himself to the necessity of taking Chanv. He had, very deliberately, deadened his mind to the sullen shame that all addicts must bear when exercising their dependence before those who do not share it. There remained, however, a spark of resentment at the necessity of bringing this bargain to pass. Must there be a corporal component to his surrender? The actual taking of the opiate seemed almost…crass.

“But I have observed the man.” He felt the thrill of heresy. How long before no one would refer to their new sovereign as such? ” Vicariously of course, and I have never seen him set aside a tool unused. No matter how apt or flawed for his purposes, he pursues and acquires an understanding of all that falls within his reach. From poetry to music, to the fabled mathematics of far Zeum, the parade of tutors, whether they know that they fulfill such a role or no, is never ending.”

“He will come for the Daimos”

He had returned to where he began, and as the Chanv began to take affect he considered ending there. He lacked the courage, however, and so he continued to ramble.

“What will I take in return? For there can be no doubt that I’ll render unto him all that he asks for. We are stricken by the losses of Shimeh, and rendered helpless by the patronage that those Mandate fools shower upon him for indulging their…” He paused, the Chanv giving him the clarity to wrench his thoughts from this well worn rut and return to the monologue he had rehearsed.

“My Daimotic knowledge, and here I pause to congratulate myself, for such has been the diligence of my study that my knowledge and the School’s are one and the same. My knowledge given for what?” He paused, and let the tension build.

“No mere bauble, none of the empty consideration and trappings of status with which his other teachers have been rewarded. My concern must be for the future. Heramari Iyokus will be used up in the Aspect Emperor’s war, my knowledge given to fuel his dreams and my time spent in service to his dream. Fine, I accept this. But my School…for my School there must be recompense.”

“Is it blasphemy, then, to dicker with the divine? To haggle with the heavens? Then I blaspheme. But I’ll have this from him. I’ll have the very source of his strength, given to the disciples of the Scarlet Spires for all times to come.” He smiled, the smile of one who finds within himself the strength he’d feared would not be there when he called for it. “When I’ve surrendered myself, and my services, and my knowledge, and my School into bondage. My heirs will have that which we have yearned for for so long. We’ll have the Gnosis.”

He sat in silence then, listening. He did not start when Nari’s stumbling tread became a warrior’s deliberate movements. He did not twitch when the other inhabitant of this space sat across from him. He was proud of himself for this, and yet he knew that this was a pride that he was allowed, granted like a dog is permitted to pride itself on its skilled retrieval of a felled fowl. He sat and listened for the word that he must hear.

When it came at last it seemed almost too mundane, and he was struck by the thought that such must be the conceit of a man who approaches a great river and demands stridently that it continue to flow, or that a mountain remain tall and inviolate.