New Shoes


“What?” There trembled Bertrina, her eyes pleading for the protection of the chair to be in her hands.

“I was going to show you something.”

“You where-” Betrina’s eyes lost track of the demon before her, flitting back and forth over the bending mirage: There sat the emaciated Harkoff in a white smock. “-going to show me something.”

A long while passed, the strangers grasping for reason.

“Sit down Betrina, please, I’m worried you’ll fall over.”

Voluntary movement returned to her constricted muscles, and Betrina assembled the chair at a comfortably distant location from the bed.

“A long time ago, my parents worked for the Malasrionese Ministry, my mother was a diplomat to the Jousen, she was one of the main proponents of the Malasrionese Confederation, and had fought hard to secure a fair symbiotic relationship between our two countries. I believe the world was lucky that someone who truly appreciated the ways of the Jou had the opportunity to make a real difference,” Plel smiled at his feet, as he paused. “My father drove her carriage, he was a fool. I never had much to do with him in my childhood, then again, in the whole of my life, I never had much to do with my parents - they were both killed when they both travelled to the South in a delegation responding to a Gremanese solicitation maybe twenty years ago now. The incident was entirely obfuscated to protect business investments in the South. I was very young then. Just talking, I’m told. I was made to forget most of my life when I began working for the Ministry, so I rely on what I was told by my superiors. It could be that I’m being bare-faced lied to, but that has never really bothered me, I undertook this to care for my sister’s children. She’s been dead ten years now, I can’t remember why she died. In fact I’m not even sure I had a sister, but I get to see the children I call nephews once a month for a few days - this last month an exception - and to see them happy is enough for me to live.”

Bertrina stopped looking at the photographs of the man mutilated in the desert, and watched the man in the bed in the corner of her eye.

“You know Shrendig and Foolio, don’t you? They work for you, sometimes, don’t they? They’re no different from me. They’ve been this way for far longer than I, I finished my preparation about three years ago, but they’ve been fully able aides for over a decade. They’re the most amazing people in the whole world, which is why the Minister relies on them so heavily to know things. The people we become are invisible. We’re meant to be impossible to trace, but concessions are made for when one first begins. Like me. Anyone could’ve done the task I was assigned, and under any other conditions an aide would have failed, but perfect mystery was not necessary. Which is why I was assigned the task, and why the man was left in the sand.”

“But why did you skin him? Why did you destroy him so utterly? How can you inflict such monstrous pain so mercilessly?” Bertrina’s strained voice addressed the floor, the tiles, the room.

“It’s a matter of debate whether it was I that really committed the act. Or whether anything Foolio or Shrendig does in the name of Malasrion is really an extension of their own will.”

“What?” Bertrina threw her disbelief upon Plel.

“Have you seen the sachel attached to the report?”

Bertrina paused. “Yes, there were about six white pills in it. Why?”

Bertrina’s changing expression revealed she had answered her own question.