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

no direct line there. Probably make no difference if I did. Maybe not

even any difference what I counsel Hans. I’m a lone agent. They could

easily decide I must be wrong.”

He forced a level look at her. “Or Dennitza could in fact have exploded,

giving Emperor and Admiralty no choice,” he declared. “The Merseians are

surely working that side of the street too.”

“You hope I–we can get my uncle and the Skupshtina to stay their

hands?” she asked.

“Yes,” Flandry said. “This is a fast boat. However … we’ll be a month

in transit, and Aycharaych & Co. have a long jump on us.”

{The resident and his lady made her welcome at Thursday Landing. They

advised her against taking her research to the Sea of Achan countries.

Unrest was particularly bad there. Indeed, she and her Merseian–pardon,

her xenosophont companion–would do best to avoid migratory societies in

general. Could they not gather sufficient data among the sedentary and

maritime Diomedeans? Those were more intimate with modern civilization,

more accustomed to dealing with offworlders, therefore doubtless more

relevant to the problem which had caused her planetary government to

send her here.

Striving to mask her nervousness, she met Commander Maspes and a few

junior officers of the Imperial Naval Intelligence team that was

investigating the disturbances. He was polite but curt. His attitude

evidently influenced the younger men, who must settle for stock words

and sidelong stares. Yes, Maspes said, it was common knowledge that

humans were partly responsible for the revolutionary agitation and

organization on this planet. Most Diomedeans believed they were

Avalonians, working for Ythri. Some native rebels, caught and

interrogated, said they had actually been told so by the agents

themselves. And indeed the Alatanist mystique was a potent recruiter …

Yet how could a naive native distinguish one kind of human from another?

Maybe Ythri was being maligned … He should say no more at the present

stage. Had Donna Vymezal had a pleasant journey? What was the news at

her home?

Lagard apologized that he must bar her from a wing of the Residency. “A

team member, his work’s confidential and–well, you are a civilian, you

will be in the outback, and he’s a xeno, distinctive appearance–”

Kossara smiled. “I can dog my hatch,” she said; “but since you wish,

I’ll leash my curiosity.” She gave the matter scant thought, amidst

everything else.}

Flandry greeted her at breakfast: “Dobar yutro, Dama.”

Startled, she asked, “You are learning Serbic?”

“As fast as operant conditioning, electronics, and the pharmacopoeia can

cram it into me.” He joined her at table. Orange juice shone above the

cloth. Coffee made the air fragrant. He drank fast. She saw he was


“I wondered why you are so seldom here when off duty,” she said.

“That’s the reason.”

He gazed out at the stars. She considered him. After a while, during

which her pulse accelerated, she said, “No. I mean, if you’re studying,

there is no need. You must know most of us speak Anglic. You need an

excuse to avoid me.”

It was his turn for surprise. “Eh? Why in cosmos would I that?”

She drew breath, feeling cheeks, throat, breasts redden. “You think I’m

embarrassed at what you’ve learned of me.”

“No–” He swung his look to her. “Yes. Not that I–Well, I try not to,

and what comes out regardless shows you clean as a … knife blade–But

of course you’re full of life, you’ve been in love and–” Abruptly he

flung his head back and laughed. “Oh, hellflash! I was afraid you would

make me stammer like a schoolboy.”

“I’m not angry. Haven’t you saved me? Aren’t you healing me?” She

gathered resolution. “I did have to think hard, till I saw how nothing

about me could surprise you.”

“Oh, a lot could. Does.” Their eyes met fully.

“Maybe you can equalize us a little,” she said through a rising

drumbeat. “Tell me of your own past, what you really are under that

flexmail you always wear.” She smiled. “In exchange, I can help you in

your language lessons, and tell you stories about Dennitza that can’t be

in your records. The time has been lonely for me, Dominic.”

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Categories: Anderson, Poul