Isles of the Forsaken

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Authors: Carolyn Ives Gilman
again, sir,” Joffrey said, managing to sound both gracious and respectful.
    Tossing his hat on the table and sinking into the chair that Goran had recently vacated, Minicleer regarded Joffrey with the kind of fondness another man might have reserved for his dog. “You outlanders live in a state of primitive bliss, did you know that?”
    “Indeed?”
    “Your conflicts are at such an elementary level. Race hatred is refreshingly primal to a person accustomed to the complexities of the Court.”
    “You must have received news from Fluminos,” Joffrey said.
    “Yes,” Minicleer said, but then proceeded not to share it. “I have come to invite you to a celebration. There will be ladies present. It’s really unseemly for you not to couple with them, Joffrey. You know the rumours that get started about men in ships.”
    “Give me a chance,” Joffrey said with a tense smile. “I’ve not been here long. What are we celebrating?”
    “A great victory. My team won the tournament.”
    “Congratulations, sir!” Joffrey said warmly. “Against some stiff opposition, too. And everyone said sacking the coach was the wrong move.”
    Joffrey had learned to follow Innings sports once he had realized that the teams were all sponsored by various factions of the old aristocracy, who avidly followed them in place of the real power they had once wielded, and still craved.
    Minicleer, protesting modestly, allowed himself to be praised and congratulated for five minutes, until he grew bored.
    “Who was the man with the peculiar complexion being escorted up to the palace when I came in?” Minicleer spoke with stylish indolence, but his eyes were sharp.
    For a moment Joffrey hesitated. “He was a man we feared might cause trouble in the outlands during the occupation. The Governor ordered him brought in, and I concurred.”
    But Minicleer had caught the instant of hesitation, and it was enough to arouse his curiosity. “His name?”
    “Goran,” Joffrey said, gambling that the Inning would not recognize it.
    “He did not look like a rebel commander. What is his significance?”
    Technically, Joffrey would not have had to answer; but he was not about to resist a direct question from an Inning. “He is the son of Onan Listor, who was involved in the last rebellion.”
    This was something Minicleer could understand. “You think he would have made a bid for the crown of the Forsakens?”
    The question was so impossibly wide of the mark that Joffrey could not think at first how to answer it. “There is no crown of the Forsakens,” he said at last. “Goran’s power lies . . . elsewhere.”
    Misreading Joffrey’s hesitation, Minicleer said coldly, “I advise you not to withhold information from me.”
    A chill of tension passed down Joffrey’s back at that tone, and he said, “The Heirs of Gilgen have a religious significance, sir. Ordinarily, there is no formal king or government. But in times of crisis, a leader will often arise. If the Heir of Gilgen endorses that leader’s righteousness, then he or she becomes the Ison of the Isles. Any cause that Goran backed would become a holy crusade.” It was a feeble way of describing it, but at least the Inning would understand.
    “Well then,” Minicleer smiled, “get him to endorse our cause.”
    “I am afraid he would not do that willingly.”
    “There are ways of getting men to do things, even against their wills.” Minicleer’s smile had turned into a cruel smirk.
    “I am afraid torture would be counterproductive with a Lashnura.”
    “Perhaps you islanders are not as skilled at such things as we are. Or perhaps you fear supernatural vengeance. Is there a trace of superstition hiding even in you, Joffrey?”
    Joffrey answered calmly, “No, sir. The man will do as we wish.”
    “Good.” Minicleer strolled toward the east wall, where a mosaic map of the Inner Chain was inlaid in many-coloured woods. He looked as aimless as if he had never uttered a threat. “I never

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