top of page

The Death of Ambassador Janus

"Convent of St. Saba" - David Roberts (Old Book Illustrations 2007-2023)

[1] A figure, barely visible

As they approached the tents.

Her cloak and headscarf billowed hard.

The wind appeared incensed.

[2] She clutched in hand a leather bag

A satchel filled to burst.

And staggered through the waves of sand

To reach the shelter first.

[3] The guards bowed out of guardhouse

And asked the stranger where

And why they looked to come this way

And if they’d stay long there.

[4] “Imperial business," said a voice

Calm despite the questions.

They handed over several notes

That would serve as distractions.

[5] Safely sheltered from the storm.

They ducked behind a column

And pulled the scarf down from her face.

A face most thought was rotten.

[6] Tremendous scars ran up her face

From cheeks to her hairline.

The rub of cloth across the cracks

Were painful every time.

[7] In front was a kaleidoscope

Of brightly coloured men

A rainbow of alliances

And swords to govern them.

[8] Horse lords, merchantmen, and dwarves

From Volca to the Sea.

Dignitaries from Lattenfluss

And slaves from Drummerdy.

[9] Although most travellers would be

Bewildered and unsure.

To navigate a gathering

Had never been a chore.

[10] And though the throng was numerous,

The woman found a path.

Despite the noise, despite the heat

She found the Orthic heart.

[11] An Orthic tent, coloured with red

And gold around the seams.

Guarded by two grim soldiers with

Such sweat that ran in streams.

[12] She knew to wait until their break

Before she headed in.

No witnesses, as usual

Nobody there to scream.

[13] Once the heat had grown too much

And they had left their post,

The woman slipped into the tent

Almost unseen. Almost.

[14] Inside the tent, a welcome space

Of cool and pleasant air.

Two pots of water mocked the vase

Of flowers, which despaired.

[15] A broad and wooden bed was there

Quite opulent in look.

Such effort must the men have made

To bring what they had took.

[16] And in the centre of the space

On top of sequined rug

A wide, map-laden tabletop.

A handled, wine-filled mug.

[17] From what she guessed the map suggests

Invasions of the West.

From what she saw ‘twas little thought

For peasants and the rest.

[18] But truth be learned the woman turned

Her back against it all

And from her satchel took an orb

Well-polished, black, and small.

[19] Inside the orb, if you had looked

Was swirling, turning smoke.

So much contained inside the ball,

Enough to make it choke.

[20] The woman threw it up and caught

It in her clever hands.

With one examination of

The room, she made a plan.

[21] The bed would do, at night he would

Return and think him safe.

He’d take off all his fancy clothes

No longer would they chafe.

[22] Then when under the covers he

Would roll and toss and turn

Until the orb made contact.

His final payment earned.

[23] She held the key and wound the lock

Until it was prepared.

But from outside the tent she heard

The sound of laughter flare.

[24] The giggling of figures who

Should know better than that

Were edging nearer to the tent

And to the woman’s trap.

[25] But she was still inside, and still

Beside the target’s bed.

So hastily she hid the orb and

And grabbed her bag instead.

[26] With one last placement of a note

She dipped out the front door

And made a show of disconnection

From the tent, before

[27] She ducked her head and pulled her cloak

Around herself to hide

From anyone discovering

Their privacy denied.

[28] She slipped out just in time to spy

A sodden diplomat

Supported by two guards and then

A third one at the back.

[29] “Oi! What you think you’re doing here?”

The last one grabbed her arm.

“What business do you have to share?

Or do you mean us harm?”

[30] “No sir,” she said without a pause,

“it’s just that I was sent

“By members of the Conclave to

Ambassador Janus’ tent.”

[31] The giggling Janus overheard

and whooped, “that’s me! I’m him!”

The suffering guards continued on.

The bed they’d put him in.

[32] “The ambassador is, ah...indisposed

Right now. So, what is it?

“You have something to share with him

You’ll share it with me quick.”

[33] “Umm...sir,” the woman feigned again

“It’s already inside.

“Apologies but nobody

Was here when I arrived.

[34] “I left it on the table,

There’s a note for you to read.

‘Twas meant for master Janus

But maybe you’ll read instead.”

[35] The guard had barely time to register

What had been told

Before the woman slipped his grip

And through to the crowd she strolled.

[36] When she was out of eyeshot the

Guard rejoined the group.

The ambassador let his men

Unclothe him head to boot.

[37] And whilst they did so, on the desk

The guard noticed the note.

It had no signet on the wax,

And in the note was wrote:

[38] To Ambassador Janus.

Tallo does not forget.

For wasting all our children’s blood

You’ll have no more regret.

[39] Just as he finished reading,

“What’s this? A funny orb?

I don’t remember owning this -”

Then out all the smoke poured.

[40] To people in the makeshift town

All that they understood

Was one moment a tent was there

The next a pilar stood.

[41] A pillar of black flame ascended

Far into the sky.

It even stopped the sandstorm for

A second, then it died.

[42] The flames and smoke were gathered up

Back into the small orb.

It steamed atop the dusty ground

And rocked from south to north.

[43] Meanwhile, the woman slipped back out

And went into the sand.

She fixed her headscarf back in place

And left that horrid land.

[44] Later, inside of Tallo’s hall

She met the ruling Thane.

She took his gold and left the town

And was never seen again.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page