Viktor stormed through the front door of his apartments in a rage. “There is to be a change in plans, Grigori. I will deal with Matthias’ child, myself. I want you on your way to Torda immediately.”
“Your Excellency?”, Grigori stammered.
“Don’t question me, dwarf, just do it. That bitch has borrowed more trouble than she is prepared for.”, Viktor spat.
“Zsaka?”, Grigori asked.
“Of course, you simple fool! And once you arrive in Torda don’t speak to anyone apart from Father Miklós.”, Viktor instructed. “It would be better still if you can avoid being seen at all.”
Your Excellency, you always treat me as if it were my first time.”, Grigori complained. “Have you not learned after more than twenty years in your service that I am completely capable of representing your interests?”
“Just don’t fail, Grigori. Serendipity isn’t beneficial happenstance as everyone so loves to think. I’ve spent years pulling these threads together and it makes me uneasy that my future success now rests largely on your meager skills. Especially now that my anger is roused.”
“Are you telling me, Your Excellency, that over ten years ago you had Miklós assigned to the church in Torda specifically for this moment?”, Grigori asked in surprise.
“I am not quite that prescient, Grigori.”, Viktor answered. “But I did think I might someday need him for something, and that baronial family in Torda has held my attention for some time. So, I made sure that Miklós would be placed there and I also made sure that he knew it was only by my assistance that he became a priest at all.”
“But I thought Bishop Tamas supported Miklós throughout his entire time in seminary.”, Grigori questioned. “Did he do something wrong as a Deacon?”
Viktor glared impatiently at Grigori. “You have the gall to ask me such a stupid question just minutes after having the gall to ask me why I question your capabilities?”
“My apologies, Your Excellency.”, Grigori replied. “I was momentarily confused.”
Viktor explained with an over-emphasized slowness, “Miklós knows that it was by my assistance that he was approved by Bishop Tamas for the priesthood because that is what I told him.”
“And he just accepted it?”
“Grigori, I often wonder why I bother trying to teach you anything.” Viktor sighed dramatically before continuing. “You see, stupid people… that would be people like you, Grigori… all have something in common. Do you know what it is?”
“I assume you mean apart from us all being stupid.”
No sooner had he pronounced the last sound of the last word before Viktor’s arm moved in a blur and Grigori found Viktor’s fingers tightly clamped around his throat.
“Yes, Grigori.”, Viktor stated flatly as Grigori struggled for breath. “I mean something other than the fact that you are all stupid.”
Grigori’s face turned violet as he tried to remove himself from Viktor’s grip.
“You know what to do, Grigori.”, Viktor taunted softly. “Stop struggling and put your arms down at your sides.”
Viktor’s grip was so tight that Grigori was unable to even make a sound. He fought hard to overcome his sense of self-preservation, finally succeeding in letting go of Viktor’s wrists and anxiously moving his arms to the sides of his body.
“That’s much better.”, Viktor soothed as Grigori’s face turned a shade closer to blue. “You really must learn to choose your words with greater care.”
Grigori’s arms twitched, desperate to try to release himself, but he managed to remain in control and forced his arms to stay down. His vision started to go gray and shadowy in expanding bursts that seemed to explode after each beat of his racing heart.
Viktor suddenly released his grip and Grigori collapsed to the floor, wheezing and coughing as he fought to restore air to his lungs. Viktor sat in silence, waiting patiently for Grigori to catch his breath.
“Do you understand, Grigori?”
“Yes, Your-“, Grigori stammered breathlessly, triggering a new coughing fit as he tried to speak.
“Take your time, Grigori.” Viktor said with a mockingly patient tone. “Certainly the coachman has all day to wait for you.”
“Yes, Your Excell-ency.” Grigori managed, still struggling to breathe comfortably.
“Let me help you understand, Grigori. What stupid people have in common is their reliable tendency to accept without question the reality with which they are presented.”
“So Miklós believed what I told him, Grigori, because he is stupid and it never occurred to him not to believe it.”
Grigori nodded again.
“And the Bishop?”, Grigori asked in a hoarse voice. “How did you manage to arrange for the Bishop to assign Miklós to Torda?”
“Grigori, you really don’t follow patterns well at all. Who do you think the Bishop credits for his bishopric?”
“Now, get yourself packed and ready to depart, Grigori. You took care of the children before the journey here, so just do as I’ve told you and leave the proper thinking to me.”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”