I write to inform you that during my most recent audience, the Nansur Emperor, quite without provocation, publicly addressed me as “fool.” You are, no doubt, unmoved by this. It has become a common occurrence. The Consult eludes us now more than ever. We hear them only in the secrets of others. We glimpse them only through the eyes of those who deny their very existence. Why should we not be called fools? The deeper the Consult secretes itself among the Great Factions, the madder our rantings sound to their ears. We are, as the damned Nansur would say, “a hunter in the thicket”—one who, by the very act of hunting, extinguishes all hope of running down his prey.
—Anonymous Mandate Schoolman, Letter to Atyersus
At Atyersus, Achamian is called before the Mandate Quorum, where he’s informed that the new Shriah of the Thousand Temples, Maithanet, has called for a Holy War. The target of the Holy War is not yet known but they speculate that it is either the Schools or the Fanim. Simas, an old teacher of Achamian councils that a Holy War against the Fanim and their sorcerous priests, the Cishaurim, could not succeed. Therefore the target has to be the Schools.
Achamian is ordered to go to Sumna and discover Maithanet’s true intent. He claims that he has no more contacts in Sumna but he remembers Esmenet, a whore he used to visit. And there is also someone else. Simas has informed Nautzera, a senior member of the Quorum, that Achamian does have an asset in Sumna: Inrau, a young priest. Inrau was once Achamian’s student, but he defected from the Mandate. Achamian objects but Nautzera reminds him that Inrau should have been eliminated for compromising the Gnosis. Achamian, who helped Inrau escape, is blackmailed into using him as an informant. He reluctantly agrees and leaves for Sumna.
At a private meeting between Simas and Nautzera, we are informed that the Mandate’s agents are being eliminated. Nautzera wanted to tell Achamian of that fact but Simas told him it would only ensure that he would refuse to seek out Inrau. They conclude that, since their spies are taken out so effortlessly, there must be a traitor amongst the Mandate.