Saturday, December 27, 2014

Down in the Darkness Deep--Part 21

Cheimarrhus sat there in the mines’ barracks, wondering just how it was he’d been outfaced by that fat fool Nycetus. It was not simply that the man knew not only of the widely-rumored scandal of his carrying-ons with Princess Nebthet but the more hushed up scandal of what had happened with… the girl. The injustice of it all stung his cheeks. That fat, ill-bred sybarite, using that simple mistake against him, a noble of blood just a shade beneath the Blood Royal! And the worst part was the girl herself--highborn, of course, or else it would have been no crime at all, but still of an undistinguished family, an inconsequential little thing, of no account. Why, he did not even remember her name and was uncertain that she’d ever told him.

It’d had been that sort of party.

And now--because of that simple mistake on his part--and the whinings of Nebthet, which he was sure played a part--he was here, a pathetic exile, toiling to keep these wretched slaves in order at the whims of that pederastical shamble of a lower Magnate. Others were earning honor, glory and wealth in service to the Undying King of Kings, but not he. No, he was rusting here.

Once again, he wondered if there was a soul so wretched in all Mount Cthonique, and once again, supposed not.

“Oy,” came the harsh voice of Abgar. “Yer nibs!”

Cheimarrhus glanced up at the brutish legate, who was regarding him with a certain vicious pleasure. “Do you mean me?” he muttered.

“So you can be taught!” declared Abgar with a chuckle. “Lord Nycetus has some scum he wants detained. Plotters. Seeing as you’re so eager to crack heads, I thought you might enjoy this.”

“So he has decided to do something,” said Cheimarrhus, with a shake of his head. “Well, it is good to see that we are not simply to sit around and give these slaves treats and kisses.”

Abgar’s hard face twisted into a scowl. “Do not mock Nycetus. He’s the wiliest man ever to run these mines, and that’s why he’s done it so long. Plenty of men have lost their shirts trying to make a profit here--but not Nycetus. He’s made what he’s paid into these mines a hundredfold.” He leaned forward. “Your family may be finer, yer nibs, but Nycetus could buy and sell the whole lot of them, and not break a sweat, nor begin to pauper himself.”

Cheimarrhus stared at the man. “And yet with all that wealth, he just stays here…”

Abgar shrugged. “No reason to let go of a good thing,” he noted. “But don’t fool yourself. His Lordship has a long reach, and more interests than you realize. The day will come that those who down at him now will be begging his favors.” He chuckled. “Indeed, it’s already coming--but it will come further.”

“How glorious,” said Cheimarrhus, rising to his feet. “And what about this day so fills you with pride?”

“He rewards good service,” answered Abgar. “And I’ve given him the very best.” He regarded Cheimarrhus confidentially. “When the Holy Empire comes south--and it will come south--there will be another army there in the service of the Undying One, who will turn them back. And it will be serving under Lord Nycetus’ banner. And under my command.”

Cheimarrhus blinked. As much as he wished to dismiss this as idle boasting, it sounded… horribly plausible. “So why isn’t he sending this army out now?” he asked.

“The Northern League is finished,” answered Abgar. “Why waste his men and his coin bludgeoning it into submission when he can let other men do that, and so have his full strength for the real foe?” He shook his head. “There’s the real glory for you, nibs. And a war that will put two coins in the pocket for every coin that is spent. Why, we’ve got most of the arms right here!” He chuckled. “And you’ve gone and made him into an enemy. Foolish lad.”

Cheimarrhus scowled. “Oh, let’s go get these plotters you were talking of. I find I am truly in the mood to cause some grievous harm.”

“Well, hopefully it’ll be something you’re useful at,” noted Abgar, as they left the barracks.

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