“What possessed you to go into the Fifth?” Culus asked.
“Another error,” Pie said. “I went to Patashoqua and I met a theurgist there who said he could take me over to the Fifth. Just for a jaunt. We’d be back in a day, he said. A day! I thought this was a fine idea, I’d come home having walked in the Fifth Dominion. So I paid him—”
“In what currency?” said Thes ‘reh’ ot.
“Cash. And some little favors. I didn’t prostitute myself, if that’s what you’re suggesting. If I had, maybe he’d have kept his promises. Instead, his ritual delivered me into the In Ovo.”
“And how long were you there?” Culus ‘su’ erai inquired.
“I don’t know,” the mystif replied. “The suffering there seemed endless and unendurable, but it was perhaps only
Thes ‘reh’ ot snorted at this. “Its sufferings were of its own making, ma’am. Are they strictly relevant?”
“Probably not,” Culus ‘su’ erai, conceded. “But you were claimed out of the In Ovo by a Maestro of the Fifth,
am I right?”
“Yes, ma’am. His name was Sartori. He was the Fifth’s representative in the Synod preparing for the Reconciliation.”
“And you served him?”
“In what capacity?”
“In any way he chose to request. I was his familiar.”
Thes ‘reh’ ot made a sound of disgust. His response was not feigned, Pie thought. He was genuinely appalled at the thought of one of his people—especially a creature so blessed as a mystif—serving the will of a Homo sapiens.
“Was Sartori, in your estimation, a good man?” Culus
“He was the usual paradox. Compassion when it was least expected. Cruelty the same. He had an extraordinary ego, but then I don’t believe he could have carried the responsibility of the Reconciliation without one.”
“Was he cruel to you?” Culus inquired.
“Do you not understand the question?”
“Yes. But not its relevance.”
Culus growled with displeasure. “This court may be much reduced in pomp and ceremohy,” she said, “and its officers a little withered, but the authority of both remains undiminished. Do you understand me, mystif? When I ask a question I expect it answered, promptly and truthfully.”
Pie murmured apologies.
“So,” said Culus. “I will repeat the question. Was Sartori cruel to you?”
“Sometimes,” Pie replied.
“And yet when the Reconciliation failed you didn’t forsake his company and return to this Dominion?”
“He’d summoned me out of the In Ovo. He’d bound me to him. I had no jurisdiction.”
“Unlikely,” Thes ‘reh’ ot remarked. “Are you asking us to believe—”
“Did I hear you ask permission to question the accused again?” Culus snapped.
“Do you request such permission?”
“Denied,” Culus replied and turned her eye back upon Pie. “I think you learned a great deal in the Fifth Dominion, mystif,” she said. “And you’re the worse for it. You’re arrogant. You’re sly. And you’re probably just as cruet as your Maestro. But I don’t believe you’re a spy. You’re something worse than that. You’re a fool. You turned your back on people who loved you and let yourself be enslaved by a man responsible for the deaths of a great many fine souls across the Imajica. I can tell you’ve got something to say, Thes ‘reh1 ot. Spit it out, before I give judgment.”
“Only that the mystif isn’t here simply charged with spying, ma’am. In denying its people the benefits of its birthright, it committed a grievous crime against us.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Culus said. “And it frankly sickens me to look on something so tainted that once had perfectibility within its grasp. But, may I remind you, Thes ‘reh’ ot, how few we are? The tribe is diminished to almost nothing. And this mystif, whose breed was always rare, is the last of its line.”
“The last?” said Pie.
“Yes, the last!” Culus replied, her voice trembling as it rose. “While you were at play in the Fifth Dominion our people have been systematically decimated. There are now fewer than fifty souls here in the city. The rest are either dead or scattered. Your own line is destroyed, Pie ‘oh’ pah. Every last one of your clan is murdered or dead of grief.”