A choice for Lord Adus

Lord Adus looked at the slight figure sprawled on the floor to his left, and then back up at Varsilde.  There was no sign of pity in the Ambassador's face, just a watchful patience.  Adus shuffled over to the thief, and rolled him onto his back, checking quickly for a pulse.  Renny coughed as he did so, so he pulled his fingers back, a rueful smile on his face.

"And he's alive too, your Excellency.  I am actually quite impressed, I would have expected him to have been tortured to death by now."

"And what would bringing a corpse here serve?"

"Everyone knows that the Coradine folk are skilled in both vivimantic and necromantic arts.  I would expect that if he died you'd get whatever information you needed from his spirit."

The Ambassador laughed, a heavy guffaw that was almost painfully loud in the small room.  "He's not here for information, my Lord Adus.  He's here to accept a commission from the Coradine Ambassador, as are you.  A corpse couldn't very well do that, now could it?"

Renny pulled himself up into a sitting position, leaning back against the wall and tucking his legs underneath him.  All this talk of corpses was too close to where he'd been in the dungeon.  There was clearly no way out of the room though: apart from the big man who'd carried him here blocking the door, there were the people talking about him like meat, and the two similar looking men over by the table. 

"Wh--" he tried.

"Wha--"  He started coughing, his throat was both dry, and raw from screaming under torture.

"What commission?"  He started coughing heavily, and Adus looked at him curiously.

"I'm curious too," he said, "but perhaps your Excellency might be kind enough to provide some water for this... this..."

"Thief?" Varsilde unstrapped a thin leather water flask from his own belt and offered it to Renny.

"I was hoping for gentleman."

"Even marriage to that heifer-like daughter of your King wouldn't manage to make this one a gentleman!"

Renny spluttered at that, his mouth full of water, but Adus smiled thinly.  "You don't seem to think very much of us, your Excellency.  And I don't think either of us will be accepting a commission from you if it involves betraying our country."

"I wasn't aware you had much choice.  And principled though you are, my little friend here can't afford such luxuries."

Adus smiled again, his lips pressed so tightly together that they whitened.  "We are at an impasse then.  You undoubtedly won't let me leave unless I agree to your commission, but any promise I make here is made under duress and is meaningless.  And I won't hesitate to kill your little friend just to make sure that he hasn't accepted your commission.  You Coradine are all alike aren't you, so arrogant and certain of your own smug superiority!"

Varsilde looked amused, though Vadide and Davide looked annoyed.  Derj didn't react at all -- possibly he's not Coradine? thought Adus -- and Renny looked indignant. And the thief's made that water flask disappear!

"But Lord Adus," said Varsilde, adding harmonics of persuasion to his voice, "what if I can make you an offer that will let you keep your priniciples and walk out of here alive?"

The End

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