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By Sarah Hapgood

For the first time in years Gorth found he wasn't the most despised person in the land. His Consort was instead. Rarely did a day go past now without Tamaz being rubbished in the newspapers, on the streets, or on television. And the culprit himself seemed to be incapable of doing a damn thing about it. Not that he seemed to care. When Gorth pleaded with him to try and do a damage limitation exercise of some sort, Tamaz laughed as though he was a fool.

"What do you think they're going to do to me?" he said "Storm the Headquarters and execute me in the Market Square!"

"You can't afford to push the people too far".

"They won't harm me", said Tamaz "I have the babies, remember? One attempt to harm me in any way, just one, and I'll take the children some place where no one can find them. They'll be out of sight, and they'll be brought up as Ghoomers, not humans. And no one wants that, do they?"

Gorth couldn't answer. He knew Tamaz was capable of anything, if it meant that he could have his own way in the end.

At Easter they went to Lixix on a state visit, as planned. They were greeted at the dockside with all the usual sparkle and ceremonials, as befitting the presidential party. But there was tremendous disappointment amongst the locals that the hermaphrodite children had been left behind in the City. It was them the people wanted to see, not Tamaz with his thick lips and ever-widening waistline.

An exhausting schedule had been planned for their visit, and each morning Tamaz had to be got into a fit state for it all somehow. A fleet of acupuncturists, masseurs, dressers, personal trainers, dieticians (they usually lasted about five minutes), doctors and fortune-tellers were all required to coax the President's Consort into a reasonable condition.

Tamaz appeared at functions often drunk and foul-mouthed, and wearing so much jewellery it was a wonder he could walk upright. When he was criticised in a local paper for showing so much opulence when most of the town was living below the poverty-line, he responded in a very Ghoomerish way. He turned up at the theatre that night wearing not a single item of jewellery. Instead his dresser walked behind him carrying his entire collection in a box about the size of Albatross Island.

In despair the Ministry tried to think of some way of presenting Tamaz's good side to the public. Only trouble was, he didn't appear to have one. The only advantage to any of it was that Gorth's popularity inched up a little. They put it down to a sympathy factor. Most men empathised with a long-suffering martyr, even if at the same time they got exasperated with him.

Tamaz seemed to have no understanding of human nature at all. He behaved badly, and then reacted with outrage when he was compared unfavourably with previous president's consorts. It didn't help that both Joby and Adam had been held in high regard by the public. Even Joby's grumpiness and intolerance of state occasions had always been treated affectionately, because Joby was an open book and could be trusted. He had also won a lot of respect for insisting on his right to be his own person, and because everyone knew he had risked his life for Kieran's sake on more than one occasion.

It was up against Adam that Tamaz failed most miserably though. He couldn't even begin to compare to the slim, artistic blonde, who had always made time to talk to people. Tamaz's lack of virtue as a parent showed up badly here too. Adam hadn't kept Baby Lonts locked out of sight below ground, and had always taken him with him on state trips. Tamaz's retorts that Adam hadn't had to endure the pain and indignity of childbirth gained him very little ground in this world of men.

"Your gifts as a soothsayer have proved to be completely useless so far", said Tamaz, sitting in the Governor's Palace at Lixix. He was having his hands manicured prior to attending a state dinner, hosted by the said Governor. He had summoned one of his small army of soothsayers for a telling-off.

"But I ..." the soothsayer protested, and then trailed off. He was a fat, middle-aged man who had made his living reading palms at fairgrounds, before Tamaz had got to hear of him. At first it had seemed a lucrative deal, personal counsellor to the President's Consort, but in the end no amount of money was worth this hassle. He was expected to be on call at all hours of the day and night, like a doctor, and to not just be able to predict the future, but have the answer to every single one of Tamaz's problems, and pray fervently for the immediate annihilation of Kieran and his entire family to boot.

"But I what?" Tamaz snapped.

"There has been no word on the Indigo for several weeks now Your Grace", said the soothsayer, clutching at straws.

"And you seem to think that that implies it's lying at the bottom of the ocean?" said Tamaz "WRONG! You don't get off that lightly".

"I can't manipulate the fates, Your Grace".

"Sod the fates!" Tamaz roared "You're always telling me prayer moves mountains, and yet it seems it can't sink a bloody ship! How many assassination attempts has that gormless brat survived now for instance?"

"Begging Your Grace's pardon, but they weren't very well thought out assassination attempts".

Tamaz knew this was only too true. As assassination attempts went they had been laughably inept. On the second knife-attack, here in Lixix, the would-be assassin had actually come out of it far worse than anyone else! Why did he use a knife, for crying out loud? Guns could be bought anywhere if you had the money. Surely the human race hadn't got so soft in its old age that no one could be found who was prepared to shoot Baby Lonts in cold blood? And Tamaz wanted Lonts dead more than he wanted any of the others dead, even Kieran. Baby Lonts overshadowed his own children. Baby Lonts was also the lynch-pin of Kieran's family. The heart would go out of them if Lonts was killed, and Adam would be effectively destroyed too. Short of killing them all systematically, killing Baby Lonts was the next best thing.

"The Vanquisher's star sign is Pisces, and this a bit of a dark time for Pisceans at the moment".

"Oh don't give me all that", Tamaz spat "A dark time for Pisceans indeed! He's probably sipping cocktails on his sun-deck! Oh get out, the last thing I need at the moment is another waffling soothsayer, what I need is an assassin who's up to the job. But as you can't even seem to tell me where that damn boat is, I haven't got a hope in hell of getting anywhere in that department".

"N-Not by mortal means Your Grace, but perhaps ..."

"Perhaps what?" said Tamaz, sharply "Come on, spit it out, and don't be all night about it!"

"Father Gabriel used to use elementals to do his bidding".

"Father Gabriel was nothing but an old witch-doctor, and little good all his hocus-pocus did him in the end. He finished up with his head cut off!"

"It is, I feel, Your Grace's best means of getting hold of the location of the Indigo. As things stand at the moment, we won't be able to locate the Indigo, much less arrange another assassination, without supernatural forces to guide us".

"Find such a creature and bring it to me", said Tamaz, quietly "By two o'clock this morning, or it'll be the worst for you".

"I am ever at Your Grace's bidding", said the soothsayer, and he backed out of Tamaz's presence.

After he had gone Tamaz noticed that the manicurist was still cowering by his chair. Tamaz picked up a small silver fruit-knife and slit the boy's throat. He then dragged the bleeding body to a small window in one of the corridors of his suite, and hurled it through the open aperture. Nobody saw the body land in the middle of the kitchen courtyard, taking several sheets from the washing-line with it as it fell. No one raised too much concern when they did find it. After all, murders weren't uncommon in Lixix, even at the Governor's Palace.

The freak show at the fairground in Lixix was a dismal place. It seemed to leave the word "entertainment" behind at the admission booth, and degenerated rapidly into "saddo's amusement" instead. The soothsayer wasn't interested in most of the exhibits though. He went straight to the Sealed Section.

He knew exactly what he was looking for, and found it hidden at the back of the canvas enclosure. The creature was big, lard-white and hairless. Of indeterminate age, with a penis that reached down to its knees. On that feature alone it lived up to its hyperbolic title of "The Most Fearsome Creature In The World", let alone without the huge red mouth which seemed to take up most of its face.

"The Governor's Palace at two a.m", the soothsayer whispered to the freak show owner, passing him an envelope thick with cash "I'll show it the back way in. Strictly confidential. Particularly if you want to see it again. We're dealing with a Ghoomer when all's said and done. It doesn't pay to cross one of them".

"He'll be there", said the other man, firmly.

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