Hvs.tCF 42:2/Text

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By the end of the call, Parson and the King of Haggar had found more common ground than either of them had expected to. They'd agreed to talk again.

Afterward, Parson sat in his quarters with Maggie, getting her impressions of it.

"He's quite the ball of hate, isn't he?" she said, sitting on the chair by his rolltop desk.

"Yeah," Parson laughed. "I was surprised, though. He didn't seem to hate us too much."

"He was gratified that we made an overture," said the Thinkamancer. "He is also impressed that we conquered this city. As the man who croaked King Slately, you have his respect. He does fear you, as a non-Royal who croaks kings. But he fears Charlescomm more. I would say he trusts you no more and no less than his allies."

Parson stroked his chin. "How much of that is your own judgment, versus the extra stuff you can sense through the Thinkagram?"

"I couldn't rightly tell you," she said, tilting her head. "When casting, my own thoughts remain in the background, and are not perfectly distinguishable from the sensations of the spell."

"Must be wild."

She gave him a modest smile. "It is simply what I do, Lord."

"So what do we know?" He stared down at the carpet, trying to digest the details of the call. "In the middle of the battle, Charlie made a tactically reckless play to force Haggar not only to fight against us, but specifically to assassinate Ansom. Why?"

Maggie shook her head helplessly. "He was Chief Warlord. Perhaps for the bonus?"

"Yeah, maybe," said Parson, unconvinced. "He wasn't in the city, though. I've always assumed Charlie was trying for Wanda and the 'pliers. Why blackmail Haggar to kill Ansom at the bridge? There's something going on there that I don't know about."

"And now, perhaps Charlie knows that we know," she said, her mouth in a wry twist.

"Yeah, I know," said Parson, giving her a serious look. Before the call, she'd reminded him that Charlie might be listening in, but that the pinkie swear would keep him from even hinting about that fact to King Dickie. "You think he was tapping the call?"

"As I've said, we only know that he is capable of it, not when he does it," said Maggie, lowering her voice. "This above all else is why we must see him removed from the world."

Parson took in a deep breath, and sighed it out through his nose. "I have to tell ya, I'm kind of liking this truce, Maggie. I don't trust Charlie, but I like that the spell he gave me is real. Maybe we can keep these truces going. I know the Great Minds want him gone, but I'm not one hundred percent convinced that the ultimate endgame involves killing Charlie."

Her face suddenly went stony—even mean—in a way that chilled him. It reminded him of the way she used to look when he'd first met her. Her Signamancy had changed a lot in past months. He guessed he hadn't really noticed it, until he found himself looking at a flash of the cast iron bitch she'd once been.

"I am, Lord," she said crisply.