Beasts of Antares

Beasts of Antares by Alan Burt Akers Read Free Book Online

Book: Beasts of Antares by Alan Burt Akers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Burt Akers
Tags: Fiction, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
    Anyone who tries to run a country, even a ramshackle kind of place as Vallia then was, cannot do it all alone.
    You have to learn to delegate.
    “And remember, the welfare and happiness of Ortyg and Fransha are more important than a possible advantage on the fringe of Racterland.”
    Naghan Vanki still wore his trim black and silver clothes, cut in the latest fashion and inconspicuous. Black and white are the Racter colors. He moved his hand over the papers on his desk, the same kind of damned papers that cluttered my desk.
    “Once I thought the Racters held the chief hope for the country. Events have altered my appreciation.”
    With a quick look at his clepsydra — the time was flying by! — I turned to leave. “If Mavindeul does not throw in with us and rise, we’ll soon be in a position to attack the Racters from the south, anyway, as soon as Kov Turko has cleared his Falinur.”
    “My sources inform me that Antar Voinderam will not risk an attack on the dowager Kovneva of Falkerdrin until he is assured of success.” Had Naghan Vanki been in the habit of smiling, or of allowing any expression on that chilling face of his, now he might have smiled. Old Natyzha Famphreon, the dowager Kovneva of Falkerdrin, was a holy terror. No one — but no one — could ever be assured of success against her until she was battened down and on her way to the Ice Floes of Sicce.
    “We’ll do our best to accommodate him.” I opened the door, and then thought that Vanki might profit from a little jolt. “You know there is zorca horn rot in Thoth Valaha. We are going to be short of saddle animals if we’re not careful. I want a full report of our negotiations with the countries in the Dawn Lands we have approached to purchase airboats.”
    Vanki said, just a little quickly, “We continue to try in the Dawn Lands, majister.” Then he halted himself, about to say something and checking himself. Oddly, I had the clear impression that he knew something, had thought I knew, and had suddenly realized that I did not know.
    He was very smooth. “I will have the report on your desk before the suns rise.”
    It would have been childish of me to have said, “In triplicate!” as I almost did. We were operating on a level a little above that kind of pettiness.
    “We desperately need vollers,” I said. Vanki, like most Vallians, called airboats fliers. Voller was the Havilfarese name, coming from the places where they were built. “And we need saddle and draught animals. I shall be going to Hyrklana as soon as I can shed some of this work load. Not that we will get much joy out of fat Queen Fahia. But we must have transport!”
    He saw that I was seized by the urgency of this problem. It was vital to the continuing struggle.
    “Much of the mergem crop has been planted where the forests were cut down for the sailing ships of the sky.”
    “We’ll just have to forage wider for lumber.”
    “Yes, majister.”
    About to burst out, as the old intemperate Dray Prescot would certainly have done, I held my tongue. Spymasters may become two-edged weapons. If that happened Vallia would be in for much bloodshed before we righted the ship of state, so to speak. He watched me with that calm stare as I went out. Our parting remberees were polite, that was all.
    But, for all that, Naghan Vanki was an invaluable servant to Vallia.
    * * * *
    The urgency of everything was enough to drive a man wild with baffled impatience.
    Both Antar Voinderam, Ortyg’s father, and Larghos Eventer, Fransha’s father, had left the city before I could contact them. Messengers were on their trail. After seeing Vanki, there was one more man I would see, perhaps in this case as in so many others, the most important man of all.
    Riding back through the nighted streets of Vondium, passing ruins still sprawled in ugly decay but bright with wild flowers, grim and yet glowing reminders of the Time of Troubles, I relished the scent of moon blooms. She of

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