The Envoy, Her, p.1H. B. Fyfe
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This etext was produced from Planet Stories March 1951. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
_Vyrtl weighed a pebble in his hand. "You expect to be executed," he stated flatly._]
the envoy, _Her_
by H. B. Fyfe
_The Emperor must be getting old, they thought, to deal so mercifully with the upstart Jursan Rebels--which was quite true. He was not too young to dream...._
* * * * *
Despite the concentrated patrol defenses, the Emperor's space yachtslipped down to the surface of Klo, second moon of Jursa, withoutincident. Only recently, such a show of force would have drawn aflight of torpedo rockets from the rebellious planet; but the Jursanagitators for a scientific renaissance had at last been beaten totheir knees.
A landing tube was connected between the ship and the transparent domethat had been constructed on this airless satellite for theconvenience of the lord of the system. Notables in military posts orpresent on some other excuse gathered to greet their master.
"By Pollux!" gasped one onlooker. "Those guards must all be seven feettall!"
The file of magnificent soldiers, who gave the impression of beingalmost entirely armor-plated, deployed on either side of the landingtube exit. They were followed by a figure glittering enough to be anemperor; but since he was attended by only four officials in bejeweledscarlet the crowd recognized him for a chamberlain.
"His Illustrious Sublimity the Lord Vyrtl, Viceroy for Terra, Emperorof Pollux, and of all its fourteen planets, and of all theirthirty-seven satellites, and of all the nations thereon, Co-ordinatorof the planet Hebryxid--"
It went on at some length, but the man who led the next little paradeout of the landing tube paid no heed. The part about Terra was avestige of centuries before communications had lapsed, and served nopurpose but to remind him that new contact with the original planetwas one of the Jursans' aims. The rest of his titles he could, by now,recite backwards.
The crowd of officialdom gaped at him as he stood there. He was a tallman, which conveniently helped conceal a tendency toward obesity.Under the excess tissue, his face had a massive strength, with broadbones and jutting chin and nose; but the gray eyes were weary andcynical.
"Wilkins!" he ordered in a bored monotone. "Find which yokel is incharge, and burn a jet under him!"
* * * * *
A resplendent aide hustled forward to where the official in charge ofthe dome was wetting his lips over his rehearsed greeting. It wasquickly made plain that His Illustrious Sublimity desiredtransportation and a look at the quarters he would have to put up withuntil the jackals on Jursa came to their senses.
The official had tried to provide for every known imperial fancy. Hesmirked delightfully when Vyrtl caught sight of the lozards tetheredat one side.
"By Pollux!" exclaimed the Emperor, his eye brightening. "We hadn'texpected the pleasure of riding till this was over."
"He tells me they have built a forest, Sire," reported the aide."About half a mile square. At least, you will have some relaxation."
"Good! It is all very well playing the soldier and roughing itinformally, but a man must have _something_!"
He surveyed the reptilian mounts that were led forward and chose onewhose eight legs were a trifle longer than average. With reasonableagility, considering his bulk, he hoisted himself into the saddle andset off toward the miniature palace awaiting him. His guardsmentrotted alongside while the rest of his retinue mounted and followedas best they could.
He drew rein once, to gaze up through the dome at the yellow-greendisk of Jursa. Wilkins overtook him.
"Note the dark line in the southern hemisphere, Sire," he said. "Theresult of Marshal Tzyfol's sweep--the one that broke through theirfleets and led to their plea for terms."
"Excellent!" said the Emperor. He lowered his gaze and stretched hisneck uncomfortably. Vyrtl was unaccustomed to looking up at anythingor anybody. "They will bear our mark."
"It will teach them the lesson they deserve," agreed Wilkinsdutifully. "Autonomy, indeed!"
"Quite," said Vyrtl, urging his lozard forward. "Who are those foolsto think they can demand exemption from established imperial laws ...they should be satisfied with the standard textbooks and forget theirputtering! Ha--what's this?"
He pulled up before a small replica of the palace.
"The dome engineer built it for your wives, Sire."
"Twenty of them volunteered to share the rigors of the campaign. Theirspecial transport arrived just before us."
"Humph!" grunted Vyrtl, riding past.
* * * * *
Early the next morning, after the engineers had arranged a dawn forhis benefit, Vyrtl called a council of his commanders. Chief-of-StaffRobert Tzyfol reported on the situation.
The rebellious Jursans were sending a representative to ask for terms.In the Marshal's strongly expressed opinion, no leniency wasnecessary. The imperial fleets were slowly but surely stamping out allresistance, making Jursa unlivable.
"Abject submission is their only course," he declared.
It was the sort of declaration with which Vyrtl might have agreed, hadhe been able to voice it first.
As it was, he announced that he would keep it in mind when judging thefate of the rebels. He had no inclination to destroy a perfectly good,tax-paying planet if he could whip its inhabitants into line by othermeans.
He ended the conference by stating his intention to ride in theartificial forest. He enjoyed the glances of relief among thegenerals--especially the older and more brittle ones--when he gavethem leave to resume their military duties instead of attending him.
A few hours later, Wilkins found Vyrtl and a small retinue restingbeside a pool at the edge of the forest.
"The rebel envoy has arrived, Sire," he reported.
Vyrtl kicked a pebble into the pool and spat after it. "We shall seehim immediately," he announced. "No use wasting ceremony on thevillain."
Returning to the palace, he strode into the audience chamber andsignaled for the envoy to be admitted. Still warm from his ride andinsultingly disheveled, he sat in the imitation of the great throne onhis capital planet, Hebryxid.
"If he isn't brisk," he muttered to Wilkins, "we may teach himpromptness by hunting him through the forest tomorrow."
Above the whispers of hastily assembled officers, courtiers, and a fewof Vyrtl's wives, a chamberlain announced, "The Jursan envoy, DaphneFoster."
"A woman?" murmured Vyrtl.
"So it seems. She looks quite ... distinguished."
"Ha! The witty Wilkins! A pretty choice of words."
The woman approached the throne amid a low buzz from Vyrtl'sattendants, and bowed gracefully. Gracefully but not too abjectly,considering the situation and his own position, Vyrtl thought. Sheraised her head and endured his deliberate scrutiny.
She _would_ have to be a rebel, Vyrtl told himself. He supposed theyhad scoured all Jursa for a real beauty to dazzle him; but they woulddiscover that it would not work.
At first glance, she had seemed slim, but he saw now that, thoughtall, she was very well proportioned. A net of tiny, glittering jewelswas woven into the black hair that hung to her shoulders. Her featureswere regular, but expressively alive compared to the artificialplacidity of the court beauties.
But what disturbed the Emperor of Pollux most was the w
A smile in deep blue eyes was pleasant, when someone was sufficientlyaccomplished to muster it in his presence; but this was a shade toofamiliar. She seemed to put herself on a level with him--as if toshare an amusement beyond the others present.
The next moment, he was trying to decide just what quality made hersthe most beautiful female voice he had ever heard. Consequently, hemissed most of the formula about "the gratitude of all Jursa" at hisreceiving "his humble slave."
* * * * *
That smile lit the blue eyes again. It was hard to tell if a ghost ofit lingered at the corners of the full lips, but the total effect wasof anything but humility. He pulled himself together, aware thatWilkins had noticed his hesitation.
"So the Jursans seek to soften our just
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