A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows by Poul Anderson. Chapter 9, 10, 11, 12

virile, alien to Terra and rather contemptuous thereof–a culture

influenced by Merseia, both directly and through the, uh, zmay element

in your population.

“Aye, granted, you’ve long been in the forefront of resistance to the

Roidhunate. However, such attitudes can change overnight. History’s

abulge with examples. For instance, England’s rebellious North American

colonies calling on the French they fought less than two decades before;

or America a couple of centuries later, allied first with the Russians

against the Germans, then turning straight around and–” He stopped.

“This doesn’t mean anything to you, does it? No matter. You can see the

workings in your own case, I’m sure. Dennitza is where your loyalties

lie. What you do, whom you support, those depend on what you judge is

best for Dennitza. Right? Yes, entirely right and wholesome. But

damnably mislead-able.”

“Are you, then, a Terran loyalist?” she demanded.

He shook his head. “A civilization loyalist. Which is a pretty thin,

abstract thing to be; and I keep wondering whether we can preserve

civilization or even should.

“Well. Conflict of interest is normal. Compromise is too, especially

with as valuable a tributary as Dennitza–provided it stays tributary.

Now we’d received strong accusations that Dennitzans were engineering

revolt on Diomedes, presumably in preparation for something similar at

home. His Majesty’s government wasn’t about to bull right in. That’d be

sure to bring on trouble we can ill afford, perhaps quite unnecessarily.

But the matter had to be investigated.

“And I, I learned a Dennitzan girl of ranking family had been caught at

subversion on Diomedes. Her own statements out of partial recollections,

her undisguised hatred of the Imperium, they seemed to confirm those

accusations. Being asked to look into the questions, what would I do but

bring you along?”

He sighed. “A terrible mistake. We should’ve headed straight for

Dennitza. Hindsight is always keen, isn’t it, while foresight stays

myopic, astigmatic, strabismic, and drunk. But I haven’t even that

excuse. I’d guessed at the truth from the first. Instead of going off to

see if I could prove my hunch or not–” His fist smote the table. “I

should never have risked you the way I did. Kossara!”

She thought, amazed, He is in pain about that. He truly is.

“A-a-ah,” Flandry said. “I’m a ruthless bastard. Better hunter than

prey, and have we any third choice in these years? Or so I thought. You

… were only another life.”

He ground out his cigarette, sprang from the bench, strode back and

forth along the cabin. Sometimes his hands were gripped together behind

him, sometimes knotted at his sides. His voice turned quick and


“You looked like a significant pawn, though. Why such an incredibly

bungled job on you? Including your enslavement on Terra. I’d have heard

about you in time, but it was sheer luck I did before you’d been thrown

into a whorehouse. And how would your uncle the Gospodar react to that

news if it reached him?

“Might it be intended to reach him?

“Oh, our enemies couldn’t be certain what’d happen; but you tilted the

probabilities in their favor. They must’ve spent considerable time and

effort locating you. Flandry’s Law: ‘Given a sufficiently large

population, at least one member will fit any desired set of

specifications.’ The trick is to find that member.”

“What?” Kossara exclaimed. “Do you mean–because I was who I was, in the

position I was–that’s why Dennitza–” She could speak no further.

“Well, let’s say you were an important factor,” he replied. “I’m not

sure just how you came into play, though I can guess. On the basis of my

own vague ideas, I made a decoy of you in the manner you’ve already

heard about. That involved first deliberately antagonizing you on the

voyage; then deliberately gambling your life, health, sanity–”

He halted in midstride. His shoulders slumped. She could barely hear

him, though his look did not waver from hers: “Every minute makes what I

did hurt worse.”

She wanted to tell him he was forgiven, yes, go take his hands and tell

him; but no, he had lied too often. With an effort, she said, “I am


His grin was wry. “Less than I am.” Returning, he flopped back onto the

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