Kerii Shys, the diplomat from Carane, descended down the wide metallic staircase of the Vatarian hangar, oblivious to the bellows of the countless airplanes behind her, her mind solely focused on the near impossible task assigned to her today. This war must end. She had been repeating the words over and over, internalizing the orders, even as their gravity and significance alighted on her anew with every recital, sinking in her further and further, and drowning her further into the chasm of her own fears, even as she tried to remain afloat.
Unbidden and unforeseen, a train of thoughts broke into her mind. This is it, the Sovereign had continued, as they had discussed her orders a few hours earlier. The endgame. Our final few moves… That will decide whether we win the war… He had paused. Or die… Kerii had comprehended then, and she had sat stoically throughout the discussion, listening with rapt attention, as the Sovereign had laid out the strategy for winning the war against the Vatarian Empire. The talks must go exactly as planned… And then he had concluded. It rests on you.
Kerii had nodded, stoically again, her face masking both her joy and her fears. As she had turned to leave, he had made a last comment. I hope you understand the danger associated with this… Keri had nodded again. Of course she did. The Sovereign had considered her for a long moment, and then added – Jermiaani will go with you. Keri had felt incredulous, ludicrous even, and had turned behind to consider the Sovereign’s pet dog as he stood by the door. However, it hadn’t been up for discussion.
She looked at him now as she descended the wide metallic staircase of the Vatarian Hangar. She saw a lowly scum, unsuited for such an enterprise. He looked back at her, and if she could read thoughts – she would have seen the despise from this “dog”, who felt she had abused her aristocracy and reached the level of a diplomat through nothing short of nepotism. The Sovereign would have smiled at both these accusations – they were incorrect of course, but very insightful.
Kerii had been too preoccupied to understand the dog’s thoughts, however, and she gave him a curt “Wait here”, as she searched for the conduct who would take her to the Vatarian emperor. She found the convoy of vehicles at the south side. “The Emperor awaits” said the attendant, as she opened the car door. It rests on you.
“You have been very busy, my dear lord” said Kerii to Emperor Gixa, as they sat in a military tower overlooking the immense Sila river, the diplomatic negotiations already cratered. The masks of diplomacy and of hypocrisy, as Jermiaani would have put it, had dropped more and more these past weeks, and the negotiations had turn tumultuous turns, and now had reached a state where the fangs lay bare. The peril of the current situation made him very nervous. Peace seemed impossible now. Some would have attributed the failure of peace to Kerii. She had been too forthright in the negotiations right from their start, not reading the emperor’s asks, failing to achieve common ground, unyielding and immovable, almost non-diplomatic. Some would have said that the aristocracy had shown its true colours, and that merit could nowhere be found in this diplomat, and that she had botched up perfectly possible solutions, and was single-handedly responsible for the rest of the deaths the war would bring.
Kerii, well aware of all of this, remained unfazed as she continued to challenge the emperor. It rests on you. “You have been busy” she said again. “You have been deliberately trying to push the borders of your own empire by impinging on ours. You turned Jankaha into a battlefield, driving the people from their homes, clearing out their land and establishing camps of your own. You have been sending spies into Carane, trying to infiltrate our intelligence. And lastly, you have made three assassination attempts at our Sovereign. Now…” she said, moving further upright, asserting her dominance over the situation “you should be surprised that we are giving any peace terms at all. We could come in and destroy you at any minute – Carane has both the ordnance and the coffers to pull it off. Bend the knee my lord, and our Sovereign will still let you live. You will get to keep a portion of the Vatarian empire, and the rest of it will be signed over to the government of Carane for safekeeping. These are our final terms.”
The next thirty seconds would remain engraved in Kerii’s mind for many years to come, and she would look back on this time for strength, during times just as dark. The gun roared and the flash caught her off-guard, sending her into a shock, even though she had been expecting the consequence. She then felt the difference between understanding death as concept and knowing it as reality, even as the bullet moved towards her, and the emperor’s face broke a smile, the madness of power visible on his face.
It faded away soon enough, and the emperor looked upon dazed at the bullet that had been stopped in mid-air. The gun fell from his hand. Jermiaani’s arm was raised, a device upon his palm, emitting a blue aura and a whirring sound. “Carsanion tech” Kerii called out to the stunned emperor, regaining her own composure, the bullet still suspended in mid-air. She tried hard not to break into a smile. It rests on you… The talks must go exactly as planned… If Carane gets a hold of the Vatarian Empire, we are sure to avoid war for another fifty years at least. Possibly more. We have a chance at everlasting peace. But we are no invaders. We will have to show the world that the emperor left us with no choice. The negotiations must fail…
And what better way to fail the negotiations than to shoot at the diplomat of the country offering peace, thought Kerii. She had provoked him, prodded him for weeks now and she could see her masterpiece unravel in the spinning bullet that waited patiently as the truth of the matter dawned on the emperor. He had underestimated her every step of the way. She was too young a diplomat and had seemed like a child in her negotiations, and he had investigated her background – she had struck him a high-born with no merit, gotten in purely by name. He could now see that it was the desired effect. The Sovereign had picked the right person for the job.
Kerii rose, the emperor still dazed. “You will be given 48 hours to comply with our terms. Post that, the Carsanion force will breach the Vatarian empire and you will be taken into custody. You choose.” She nodded at Jermiaani, a silent nod of thanks. He acknowledged, and escorted her out, flicking his wrist as he left. The bullet dropped to the wooden floor, and stayed there motionless, a sign of coming times.
Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre