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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

He Who Should Be Worshipped

“Countryman?” Tarrin was horrified at the way this was going. “You are a traitor!”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” Talakan yawned. “Had I succeeded in my gambit, you would be calling me a savior right now. Diaria would be unconquered, undivided, and mighty. As opposed to anarchic, sycophantic, and enslaved to the whims of a dissolute mental incompetent.” Tarrin didn’t like agreeing with the betrayer of his goddess, but he had to acknowledge Diari had seen better days. “Water under the bridge, though. The kiljhacs killed me and sacked Diaria; what’s done is done. No, we’re here today to talk about you.”

Tarrin eyed the taller Diarian suspiciously. “Whatever you’re selling I don’t want any Talakan,” he said. “I may not be a Psilord but I wasn’t born yesterday. If I was willing to make some evil deal to return to my beloved homeland, I would have negotiated with our mad Emperor already.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure,” said Talakan, moving his hand in a disinterested way. “Let’s cut to the quick, shall we? It just so happens that right now--this very moment, as such things pass for in Minn Srajhan--your wife is going into a seizure from a Cane overdose.”

“Coyri?” Tarrin leapt up in a knee-jerk reaction, but then stopped and frowned deeply. He didn’t trust the fallen psilord further than he could throw him, and the story he was trying to feed him didn’t add up. Cane was a neurotoxin; Tarrin had counseled a youth who was addicted to the stuff. It was rarely fatal, as Tarrin understood it, so why would anyone try to poison his wife with it? Why would anyone want to poison Coyri anyway? “I think you are lying, oh deceitful one,” he stated.

“Not actually an option I have here, I’m afraid. I’m only Talakan insofar as your psionic schema has ordained it so. This decision you face here is very much a real one.”

“What has my wife to do with kiljhac drugs?” Tarrin demanded.

“Why don’t you tell me where you think your rent money’s been going the past three months, and we’ll work from there?”

“I--” Tarrin opened his mouth, and shut it. He’d assumed Coyri must have stealthily spent some of the money, to be sure, but no more than a hundred coin of it, and on something like beauty products or housegifts for Jiffee that she was too embarrassed to go without. How could she be a drug addict? But Jiffee’s husband, he knew, was involved in the Diari underworld somehow, and there had been those strange mood swings lately, her agitated behavior when he walked in on her without knocking...

“Precisely,” Talakan said. He gestured at the tree he was leaning on, and the outline of a faded blue door took shape on it. “This is the door back to New Trade. Open it, go home, and you should be there in time to revive your wife and get her the help she so desperately needs.” Tarrin opened the door. “Don’t you even want to hear your other choice?”

“Not really,” frowned Tarrin. “Why, were you going to offer me power or wealth or the salvation of the Diari Empire or something like that if I left my wife to suffer?”

“Actually, I was going to advise you that if you step through that door without the other twelve archetypes you came in with, it will seal behind you and they’ll all be trapped here until the Great Wheel next turns. Figure 576 years, give or take a gross.”

“I--I have to leave them behind?”

The former psilord shrugged. “They’re just kiljhac,” he said.

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