Justinian did his best to look forcefully into the chubby man's eyes. "So," said the Eastern ambassador, "yet again, after your assurance that meaningful talks could begin today, we are again presented with more delays." He gave a sigh. "Such a... pity."
Justinian glanced away. "Things have happened."
The chubby man gave a little sniff. "This seems to happen quite freqently."
"Well, yes," said Justinian. "We live in a shifting world. Things are constantly happening. In this case, they mean that I alone am talking with you."
"Indeed," said the man with yet another sigh. "On my side, the Emperor's court has... given me an indication of the Most Worthy's thoughts on this matter..."
Justinian gave a dull nod. The Easter King had countless honorifics, all exaggerated, all faintly ridiculous. "And what were they?"
"That the truce, alas, must end," said the ambassador. "In a week's time, if the Emperor is not given reason to think otherwise, our troops will besiege Joyeuse."
Justinian did his best not to fall out of his chair. "That... surely Skarvsky realizes that..."
The man gave a slight smile. "I would not dare claim to know the mind of the Illustrious Gate. But... let us consider. Over and over we suffer delays. Bothersome delays. And vague tales of disorder. And that indicates that the eye of your Dark Lord is turned from this area. And so the Emperor asks himself, what does he risk by attacking? And he decides, very little."
Justinian took a deep breath. "Yes, but..."
The man raised one plump little hand. "Indeed, before you object, I am only speculating. Foolishly! Foolishly! For who am I to speak for our great and glorious Emperor. A flea, a speck, a bit of dirt!" He gave a shrug. "And yet, that is who you must deal with for the moment..."
"Of course," said Justinian, rubbing his temples.