The Minister flew. He always flew. For his age, the man was still very fit. Before all the dignitaries assembled underneath the tent erected on the dry, cracked desert soil, down climbed The Minister of Malasrion from his airship high up, hidden by the clouds. After him climbed the infamous two, Shrendig first. Foolio got said a few brief words to The Minister before he moved towards the gathering, first met by a complaining Roggs Mallow - apparently his entire wealth had been seized.
"Its for the good of the Republic, Mallow,” on went the bowler hat.
"But Sherpies - and, and everyone’s!“
"As I recall it Sherpie gave his good will to us,” he stopped walking and produced a small brown leather book. “Yes, yes, there he is.“
"But this is against the law! You’re a despot, Noska! You’re a low down despot!“
This was heard by everyone assembled, some shared the sentiment, although most were planning to get their own way later on that afternoon. The Minister stopped a second time.
"Come here Mallow, come on.“
Red-faced Mallow paced up from behind the aging man.
"If I were you, I’d stay a bit closer to Betrina - like I suggested - so you don’t end up totally penniless after all this. I have an impressive memory, Mallow. My memory is very, very good. I remember you rubbed shoulders with Ragzin three years ago, he sorted out that annoying misadventure some of your shareholders forced you into, didn’t he?“
Mallow’s face drained.
"Mmm, yes. You are quite an idiot,” the Minister walked the rest of the way to the tent alone, Shrendig and Foolio locked arms with the sore Mallow, following behind. “Friends! Friends! Have we not succeeded thus far?“
Everyone was largely silent, they all knew what was to follow.
"I told you so! I told you all, didn’t I!“
"Sit down and shut up, would you? We’re all quite impressed, and slightly more willing to co-operate than three months ago,” came a disembodied retort from within the shade. “You miserable old man, you’ve ruined us all, we’re all in chains now.“
Already sitting at the table were Bertrina and Plel, both together, Plel dressed much the same as his two more elusive counterparts, still wearing his sand-goggles. The Minister more or less ignored the rabble of edgy businessmen and politicians, taking a seat next to the two.
"Hello sir,” Bertrina leant over. “I’m so glad you flew, the train was awful coming here, I couldn’t stand them.“
"Yes we’ve inherited a beautiful generation of selfless optimists,” The Minister laughed, taking off his hat a travelling coat. “You don’t look well, Harkoff, I trust you’re being properly looked after.“
Plel turned his head heavily to The Minister, and stared at him for what seemed an age, with watery red eyes, “No, I’m not feeling well at all, Mister Minister. It must be the water, its only now I’ve begun travelling you see.“
The Minister cast a cautious eye over the man. “Have Shrendig take you back to Nela after all this, we’ll sort this out.“
Bertrina had a sudden thought that she was being denied the truth again, and studied the faces of the two men seated on her left. The old man and his sickly subordinate fought themselves with all their wills not to feast themselves upon her face, to discern whether she truly knew.