Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 138,839,046 Issue: 287 | 13th day of Eating, Y9
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Outsider Within: Web of Deceit - Part One

by tashni


A Scorchio in terrible need of eyebrow plucking slammed a copy of the Darigan Herald on Vosh’s desk so hard that two of her pencils bounced onto the floor. The Darigan Kyrii resisted the temptation to glare at him.

      “Good morning, Sir,” she said. “How may I assist you today?”

      “I demand to see Lord Darigan! I demand to know why he’s letting the enemy into our homes!”

      “I’m sorry, Sir,” Vosh said, biting back laughter. “Hearings with Lord Darigan are by appointment only, and I’m afraid he’s booked solid for the next several weeks.”

      “We’re not fools, lady,” said a Pteri.

      “That’s right,” continued the Scorchio. He jabbed his finger at the front page of the Darigan Herald sitting on her desk. “We know what you’re up to, and we won’t be shut up about it!”

      Darigan Invites Enemy to Tea. A quick glance at the byline proved the article addressed the upcoming and “secret” visit of Sir Redik of Meridell.

     Vosh opened her mouth, hoping something clever would come out, when through the Tower’s doors strolled the one and only D.A., wearing, as always, a hood over her blue Zafara hair.

     “D.A.!” Vosh said, springing up from her chair. “Just the person I wanted to see.”

      D.A. raised an eyebrow at Vosh as she ran up to her.

     “These gentleman are from the village,” Vosh said. “They’re upset about Sir Redik coming to visit.”

      Addressing Vosh, she said, “Sir Redik is not coming here.”

      “Don’t bother, lady,” said the Scorchio to D.A. “It’s all over the Herald and the Kyrii here confirmed it.”

      D.A. briefly narrowed her cool blue eyes at Vosh for giving the Scorchio fuel to his fire. Still addressing Vosh, she said, “These are the Chambers of Darigan; we are responsible for the safety of all living on the Citadel. I do not have time to deal with walk-ins. You are the receptionist; dealing with such people is your business.” D.A. walked past Vosh, heading for the stairwell up to the offices.

      Running in front of D.A., Vosh cried, “You can’t leave me here, these guys won’t leave me alone.”

      “I have more important matters to attend to than these men.”

      “Hey, I heard that!” The Scorchio sprinted up to them and shoved his snout in D.A.’s face. “I don’t have to take abuse from you.”

      D.A. did not grace him with a response. She stepped past him to go up the stairs. He jogged up in front of her again as his buddies stayed back, watching their leader posture. “Hey, I’m talking to you. You seem like a big-shot around here.” He crossed his arms and shooed her away with a flick of his wrist. “Tell Darigan I will see him now.”

      Narrowing her eyes and hardening her jaw, D.A. stepped closer to the Scorchio.

     Caught off guard, he took an involuntary step back.

     “That is Lord Darigan to you.” Her voice remained disturbingly monotone. “Whatever you think of his Lordship’s decisions is your business, but after he saved you from the evil of the Three and a disastrous war with Meridell, I demand that you pay him respect.”

      The Scorchio visibly lost some of his nerve. He tried to regain his composure with the words, “Yeah, well, Lord Darigan’s the one who tried to destroy us all in the first place, remember?”

      D.A. raised her voice slightly for the first time. “You will recall that he was polluted by the Orb’s power, and that when freed from it, he liberated you from Kass under the power of the Three. Now, because Lord Darigan has given you that freedom, you are welcome to your opinions, but you will leave these Chambers immediately. We have work to do.”

     With her eyes seeming to penetrate his arrogant façade, the Scorchio took a few steps back before turning to leave the Chambers with his companions.

      D.A. continued up the stairs.

      Forgetting any control over her facial expression, Vosh stared after the woman. Of the many characters in Darigan’s Chambers, the crown for most gossiped about went to D.A. She first arrived on the Citadel years ago during Kass’ reign, and she was the only former servant of Kass to serve Lord Darigan today. No one knew why she inspired such confidence, for she certainly wasn’t Darigani or even Meridellian.

     * * * * *

     A dragon-like Darigan Hissi glided down the hallway of Darigan’s Chambers. The staff members jerked erect and took alternate routes to their destinations whenever they saw him, an appropriate display of fearful respect toward the Chief of Internal Security. Few could look him straight in the eye, and yet, down the hallway strode one of the few who displayed no fear at the sight of him. For that, D.A. had his eternal respect and loathing. She caught his eye and stopped next to him. A smiled peeled his scaled lips. “D.A., good morning.”

      The Zafara woman nodded at him. “Chief Henka,” she said, as always addressing him by his full title. “I assume you know of the leak to the Darigan Chronicle?”

      Dang, if she didn’t learn things fast, usually not long after he did, and he had no idea how. “Indeed, I was informed this morning,” he replied.

      “I assume that means there is a leak in the Darigan Chambers.”

      Obviously. “That is one possibility,” Henka replied.

      “Any leads?” she asked.

     That was another thing Henka both admired and loathed about D.A. She never backed down, even when he clearly had no intention of answering her questions. “A few leads, yes.” Her questions were all the more annoying when Henka himself did not like the answer.

      “I may be of some assistance if you will give me information on your leads.”

      Danged if he knew who it was. It could have been a gossiping secretary talking to her friend who was overheard by some low life in a tavern who sold the info to a freelance writer of the Darigan Chronicle. “I apologize, D.A. I know you have the Citadel’s interests at heart, but I am afraid I cannot divulge such sensitive information to someone such as yourself. After all, D.A., you hold no title or even a military rank.”

      “Indeed. You will inform Lord Darigan, of course?”

      “Of course, D.A. We are all but servants of His Lordship.”

      D.A. nodded and walked past him. Henka never knew if she was playing with him as much as he was playing with her, or if she really was just that blunt.

     A thought came to Henka. He ran up next to her. “Oh, by the way, D.A., I almost forgot. I’m doing a sort of informal investigation right now. You wouldn’t happen to have gossiped about Sir Redik’s coming in a public place, have you?”

      Annoyance tinged her face. Henka perceived a twinge of adrenaline in his veins; the battle was on.

      “I have spoken of it to no one other than Lord Darigan, yourself, and General Galgaroth,” she said. “All of this was spoken inside the Chambers. So, Chief Henka, I can only assume that if I was overheard, it must have been by a member of the Chambers. The leak, therefore, would be inside the Chambers. That must be very alarming to you. If you cannot keep tabs on what is going on inside the Chambers alone, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to look after all of Darigan Citadel.”

      “Indeed, D.A., it is very possible. However, I must also wonder if you are in communication with anyone at all outside of the Chambers. You always seem to be here, yet one must have a confidant outside of work to maintain one’s sanity. You do have a confidant, yes?”

      “If we all must have confidants, Chief Henka, I am most curious to know who hears all of your secrets.”

      Henka allowed himself a small smile. “My secrets are well kept, D.A. Just make sure that yours are as well. Unless, of course, the secrets are being kept from Lord Darigan.”

      “Lord Darigan knows everything that should be known, Chief Henka. The last time I checked, you are in charge of the secrets of the state, not the staff.”

      This time D.A. walked past him and he let her go. Debates with D.A. were becoming his chief pleasure in life. Who cared whether or not the public knew that Sir Redik was coming? However, once the decision had been made to keep it secret, it should have remained so. This breach was unacceptable. If that receptionist hadn’t confirmed the information to those morons from who-knows-where, the damage control would have been easy—just deny it all. Standard operating procedure included deniability, and D.A. knew that. Henka wished he had such a clever person at his right hand.

     Nevertheless, anyone who had the kind of influence D.A. had over the Citadel’s Lord should not be unknown to the Chief of Internal Security. The unknown is unpredictable, and to be unpredictable is to be dangerous. She was certainly one to watch, that D.A.

To be continued...

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