Chapter Two: The Ministers
Written in collaboration with Phoenix and Silver Midnight
The summons had gone out to the other ambassadors from the Ring of Fire only half an hour after the attack; the Ministry of Security had seen fit to put their errant member in a high-priority holding cell, and now it was the Minister of Public Relations' task to demand explanations, make veiled threats, and hopefully smooth things over. It had been a carefully worded summons, of course; even if they hadn't made many overtures yet, these people were emissaries from an important world, and he didn't want to offend them immediately. The city was not ready for another war, especially not over something as petty as simple assault.
Public Minister Cedric Falken-- and Minister of Security Gavin Vance, who Falken had insisted remain, if just to look cool and calm, to give the whole affair that added air of seriousness-- waited in an office specifically made for any size creature, given he knew that two of the party were dragons. The summons hadn't been particularly specific, and any or all of the ambassadors might end up coming. The office itself was fairly spartan, done up in Falken's favorite earth-like motifs, with chairs of various sizes for inhabitants of various sizes. Falken himself was standing, trying not to pace, thinking over what he would have to say and the possible responses he could get. Another reason to have the Minister of Security around, standing just behind him-- and his xenodragon Jugiss, who loomed over them both.
The doors to the office slid open at the approach of the Ring of Fire ambassadors, the pair of security officers stationed to either side nodding at man and dragon that came stalking and padding through, respectively. The former was dark-haired with one hand wrapped and a slightly anxious expression, the latter was large, copper, and unreadable: Reshi and Silent Melody. Falken knew of them, but had yet to meet them, a failing of his own, but he'd simply been too busy, and they hadn't been on the station all that long. And now, he was meeting them under rather stressful circumstances. Ah well.
"Ambassadors Reshi Aricoli, Silent Melody," Falken greeted them, voice polite but serious; this was no business meeting or social gathering. Falken couldn't remember the last time he'd had to deal with a deviant foreign emissary. "I'm Public Minister Cedric Falken, this is Minister of Security Gavin Vance. Thank you for your promptness. Please, sit. We have a few items of import to discuss, I'm afraid."
"At your service, Minister Falken, Minister Vance," Reshi said with a slight bow. "I would say it's a pleasure, but I don't think the circumstances call for that." The thought made him wince slightly, but he sat gingerly in one of the human-sized chairs. Silent Melody, inclining his head simply, disdained the dragon-sized chair-- as most dragons tended to do; the chairs were really rather pointless-- but as it was a well-known fact that dragons preferred the floor, it was at least carpeted comfortably. If Falken wasn't misreading the colors of his opalescent, Old World-style eyes, Silent Melody was annoyed.
Falken took a seat, as well, letting Vance sit as well or continue to hover, whatever was his preference. "Unpleasant circumstances, indeed," Falken agreed. "I regret to inform you-- though you might already know-- that we have a member of your party in our custody, in a holding cell, for attacking one of our citizens less than an hour ago."
"I apologize on behalf of the Ring of Fire for the problem," Reshi responded, a bit awkwardly.
"Apology accepted," Falken answered, but continued, "unfortunately, apologies won't deal with the perpetrator, one Hemlock Bleedingheart. There are a few options open to you, as foreigners and ambassadors. We could try him under our own laws and hold him to the consequences therein-- probably imprisonment or a brief term of labor on Atu, considering what we know of the crime-- or we could release him with a heavy bail and exile him from the station and affiliated planet with the incident in his record. If there is someone from the Ring of Fire who he is answerable to, however, we could hold him until whatever punishment he or she sees fit."
"Well, er...." Obviously, Reshi wasn't comfortable making that kind of decision. Falken waited, ready to give him whatever time he needed, when Silent Melody finally spoke up.
::Explain. It was a mistake, after all, we should at least try to answer for Jasien even though he isn't here.::
The dragon had a quiet, rather soothing sort of telepathic voice despite any annoyance he felt, but it still made Reshi jump a little. "How exactly are we supposed to explain that--"
The doors to the office slid open and a male voice interrupted him: "I'll answer for myself." Everyone in the room focused on the newcomer, who wasn't someone Cedric recognized; Jugiss gave a twitch and a growl, but her bond Vance kept her still, wisely. Both the dragon and human ambassadors jumped as they turned to look, but the stranger, a young man who obviously wasn't a Star City native, focused on Falken and Vance. "I would like to apologize on behalf of myself, Ministers Falken and Vance. It was my mistake, sending him here. I had...more trust in the Necromancer than I should have." The fellow shook his head at that. "I also had a threat about his behavior should I send him and he not hold to his promise, but evidently that fell through. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about your justice system, but I think we could come to some decent punishment."
Whoever he was, this stranger was some kind of authority at Ring of Fire. The guards outside had let him in, and he spoke as if he had the power to carry out a punishment, so he had to be the Firelancer from Ring of Fire. Cedric had been under the impression, however, that, that estimable position had been filled by a woman....
At any rate, he was here, and an introduction was in order on his part. "I'm sure we could reach such an agreement, yes," Falken agreed, with a hint of a smile, "but it might be easier if I knew your name, sir."
"Oh, pardon me," the Firelancer said with a blink. He seemed rather new to such things as introductions and politics.... "Jasien Loritayri," he introduced himself with a slight bow and a donning of the political mask again. "Firelancer of the Ring of Fire."
"Good to meet you," Falken answered, mimicking the bow-between-equals before motioning to one of the other human-sized chairs. "Shall we discuss this Hemlock Bleedingheart, then?"
The Firelancer sat just as gingerly as his ambassador had, seemingly almost as uncomfortable. Falken could understand how it was: he'd grown up with politics and shouldered responsibilities early on, but not everyone was comfortable with such things. "Well, seeing as that's what needs discussed.... If you don't mind, though, I'd prefer to hear the story before I discuss anything or even actually discuss a decision."
"Unfortunately, we don't know all that much," Falken admitted. "A citizens with necromantic powers approached me this morning, requesting permission to enter Hatching Bay 05 to exorcize a ghost she'd sensed there. She's helped us in the past and proved herself trustworthy, so I gave her the password and let her at it. Not fifteen minutes later I'm getting a call from the Minister of Security saying the girl's been attacked by one Hemlock Bleedingheart, with what looks like the remains of a metal golem of some sort and a long shaft of bone through her leg. As of my last update, she was still unconscious. We intend to get a full report once she wakes, for pressing charges, if necessary."
For some reason, the fact that the victim was a necromancer, herself, caught Jasien's attention. Falken could understand: usually necromancers were an unsavory bunch, this Hemlock as a case in point, and often dangerous. Taking the word of one was probably unwise at best, but this Shoel Devaut was a decidedly abnormal necromancer. "A necromancer?" Jasien repeated, then continued, sounding concerned. "So then you don't know what happened? If you don't mind, Minister, could I speak to the lady?"
Falken shrugged. "I assumed you, or one of your ambassadors, would wish to at some point, since the whole case involves your citizen. Once she wakes and has suitably recovered for interrogation, yes, of course you may."
"You said she had a bone spear through her leg?" Jasien asked curiously. "If you don't mind my asking, how bad is the injury?"
"Bad enough for her to pass out, I suppose," Falken answered. "I haven't actually seen her, I've been dealing with the paperwork side of things, including summoning your ambassadors." He nodded gently at Reshi and Silent Melody-- who was, indeed, being quite silent. "Knowing the doctors here, though, I shouldn't be surprised if she isn't out all that long, a few hours at most."
However, if the Firelancer wasn't willing to discuss Hemlock Bleedingheart until hearing from his victim, Falken could think of many things he should have been doing, and had been doing before this little emergency cropped up to steal an hour from his day. He rose, offering Jasien a hand to shake. "Perhaps we can adjourn until after we've heard from the lady? I will be sure to contact you once she wakes."
Both Ring of Fire humans rose. Jasien shook, a good shake, and he looked a little embarrassed. "I have to say, though, I thank you for not banning us all together. Many places with an actual government would have."
"If it's one thing you learn as an official at Star City," Falken chuckled, "it's that an example of one cannot describe an entire world, or even an entire city. People are different; I understand that. Though I agree that it was probably a mistake to send someone violent along with an emissary, you probably had your reasons."
"The Mayonaka clutch," Jasien admitted lamely. "Really I figured it would be better to have someone stand, and well... Truth be known, a lot of our riders would rather not have Xenodragons or Hydras lurking around the locale. I did think, though, that maybe he'd changed his ways some. He was at least on good behavior for my mother."
There was a slight chuckle from Reshi. "I think perhaps your threat was a little too nice, Jasien. If I recall, Lani's threat was to kill him herself."
Aha, his mother must have been the Firelancer he'd been aware of. Falken didn't think it prudent to ask after her just now; perhaps at another time. "We certainly had a lot of people come for that thrice-cursed thing," he sighed, escorting the little group-- large group, counting Silent Melody-- back towards the doors. "Well, at least it's over, at last. Thank you for coming; I'll send for you when the lady wakes, Firelancer."
"Jasien, if you don't mind," the Firelancer corrected with a little discomfort. "There's generally been a bit of informality at the Ring of Fire, and I'd rather not change that now."
Falken chuckled. "Very well, Jasien, then. I trust your ambassadors can see you to somewhere to wait."
Jasien nodded. "I'm sure we'll be quite fine, thank you for your time."
"And thank you for coming," Falken answered. "Farewell, for now."
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyright to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.