the smuggler’s bible


Nor steps out of the elevator flanked by his staff. Their heels click in unison on the scuffed grey tile of the acceess corridor.


“Cameras, but only the standard security net, nothing targeted. They’re being extremely polite.”

“It will have occurred to the tabellarius that his administrative council recently expended great sums of blood and treasure, all to be the ones in charge of an immensely fucked up situation.”

The door to the garage slides open as they approach. The cars are waiting in a neat black line. “And anyway,” Nor says, “a little courtesy doesn’t cost a thing.”


Zvonomir waits in his office until the other relevant parties have arrived and are seated, then gives it five more minutes before making his own entrance. It’s petty, yes, but the delay will save time later. They’d almost certainly become suspicious if he didn’t try some sort of power play.

The meeting is in a simple annex conference room—and decidedly not on the filed itinerary. Three men in crisp black suits are waiting. One, with a sweep of dark grey hair and a grim expression, jumps protocol slightly.

“Tabellarius, thank you for taking this seriously,” he says. “I’m Nor.”


“If their documentation is to be believed, the only sample was incinerated. The tests, however, were very thorough.”

“Please proceed,” Zvonomir says, flipping through a sheaf of reports, “as if the opposition’s conclusions are sound. We’ll backtrack wherever possible later. You are dismissed, logistics officer.”

Grazny leaves the audience chamber—relocated to a refitted commercial structure across the capital—and departs immediately to inspect work at the palace.

It’s difficult to prepare a response to an uncertain threat. That’s just the way it goes. But with the proper chemical and archaeological strata analyses, well, there’s always something you can do.


The baggage train that accompanies a top flight Tabellarius appointed directly by the admin council to a new posting comprises immense and extremely valuable resources. Logistics Officer Grazny gets her pick.

She sends three squads of veteran hobelars in tactical kit through the ruins under the palace. They return with a skeleton heavily abraded, consensus determines, by very sharp teeth.

However, the embedded comms rig they dig out of the battered skull is still transmitting. And there are very few signals, Grazny is informed by Zvonomir’s diffident security chief, that an honest to god big fuck fleet computer cannot trace.