Chapter 17

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Dear Father,

Galen stared at the words for a moment, then made a careful stroke.

  xxxx Father,

I hope this letter finds you and Mother in good health. Zana and I-

He leaned back in his seat and rubbed his eyes. Should he tell Yalu about Zana's... predicament? He could almost feel his father's fury, blaming him for allowing her to tag along, insisting that as her fiancé and future husband, it would've been not only his right, but his duty to forbid her to come with them, and to order her to stay at Yalu's house, just as his father had proposed the last time they were in the City.

He sighed, and continued.

  xxxx xxxxxx Sir,

I hope this letter finds you and Mother in good health. Zana and I are well, as far as that is possible under the circumstances. I must say, though, that I heard unsettling news about Urko's latest activities regarding the Council and the Council Eldest, and I hope he hasn't extended his measures to other members of the Council. These new developments vindicate my decision to take Zana with me - it seems the City is becoming quite dangerous to people the Chief General disagrees with.

Which brings me to the occasion that prompted this letter. Whatever Urko is planning - and I am confident that whatever it is, you will keep on top of it - he isn't confining himself to the City alone. It seems he is also purging the surrounding prefectures from police chiefs and prefects that don't agree with his political ambitions, and supplants them with his own people. I don't have to point out to you how dangerous that will become once the number of his followers has reached a tipping point. It is one thing to reform the City Guard; it is quite another to build an army that can choke the City if it doesn't yield to Urko's vision, whatever it might be.

Specifically, Urko now seeks to unseat Prefect Kanla of Pendan Prefecture. She had to deal with an outbreak of human swamp fever lately, and was able to get it under control thanks to the help of a traveling veterinarian, who wrote up a complete report that includes all measures, as well as the medicines used. I'm sure that the surrounding prefectures can profit from the gathered knowledge, as well - they all have to deal with the same propagating conditions. However, in his zeal to erase all humans from our world, Urko set the human village on fire, and also pursued the veterinarian, because in his madness, he confused Dr. Kova with the fugitive Atiba Galen and his entourage, a similarity that was, as I can assure you, entirely coincidental.

Now the general is appealing to the Council to persecute Prefect Kanla for aiding and abetting an enemy of the state; let me say it again that the prefect dealt only with Dr. Kova and his wife, and at no point even dreamed of helping a wanted criminal. I am also positive that the general can offer not a single shred of evidence for his claim that he had apprehended the fugitives, nor can he justify the wilful destruction of the prefecture's workforce.

So I am respectfully asking you to speak for Prefect Kanla in this matter, who I'm sure will prove a valuable asset in the xxxxxxxxx interesting times to come.

I hope to be able to write to you again in the near future, but since I'm also sure that your mail is being monitored, I will restrict my letters to occasions that necessitate a contact. Rest assured that you and Mother are always in my thoughts. I hope that one day, we may be able to talk to each other in person again. Until then I remain

Your faithful son

Galen stared at the letter, then sighed and reached for a fresh sheet to make a neat copy. There was no way he could send it directly to his father, not with Urko clamping down on his enemies right now. He'd have to send it to Melvin's cousin Ango first, who was a monk in a temple just outside the City, and who'd give it to Melvin, and Melvin...

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