I saw someone very interesting today.  I was, I admit, somewhere I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was there for a good reason.  I’d heard the Nargas were here, and that they had someone with them.  I wondered with a racing heart if it was my sister.  I hid behind some huge pots in the hall just outside the throne room, and, peering through the space between pots, I saw the Nargas drag a bruised and bloodied man into the palace and drop him at my father’s feet.

My father laughed and said, “So this is how the mighty Telenir come before the Most Wise Lord Eridu.”

The man, who looked tired and hungry, got to his feet, made a slight, rather condescending bow and replied, “I was about the business of my people when your …” he flipped a hand in the direction of the Nargas,  “allies here, saw fit to snatch me away from my daily affairs.  This does not seem such a wise choice for you Eridu, to take a powerful Telenir Warlord, stuff him in the hold of a Narga War Wagon and drag him halfway across Seventh Galactic Alliance space to suit your whim.”

I could see that my father was taken aback by the man’s comments, and I made note of his response, voiced or not.  He was concerned that he may have made a mistake – for the very first time.  I could see it in his face.  I edged a little closer, but the voice of the prisoner carried easily, though it was neither loud nor strident.  He was tall and slim, with powerful, sloping shoulders and hair the color ashes and charcoal.  He was swallowing with difficulty, and I knew he was thirsty.

“If you wish to be allied with the Telenir,” the man said, “It is through me that you must do it.  It is I who replaced Sarkhan as the conduit to the Mahdi, and it is through me that alliances, if any, will be cast. It would be in your best interests to either release me immediately and allow me to go about my business, or allow me to contact my government to come and parley.  If you do one of those two things, and do it now, I will forget this little vicissitude and negotiate on your behalf to the detriment of the Equi and the increase of the Lebonathi.”

The man was threatening my father, which I found both foolhardy and fascinating.  He was in no position to threaten anybody, much less the Most Wise Lord Eridu.  Their eyes locked, and my father’s broke first.

He made that magnanimous, palms up gesture of his that always bodes no good and said, “Please escort our guest to suitable quarters and see to his refreshment, while I speak to my Council.”    Two members of the palace guard stepped forward, locked arms with the prisoner and marched him away.

Later that day I made inquiries of my uncle, who works in the higher echelons of the palace guard, and he said the man had been given food and water, and locked in a cell.  I knew at that point that my father felt truly threatened, or that man would have been dead.