Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 18part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
“I’m sure the dealers didn’t. Probably one of the drug runners into Third District. They’d be afraid that they’d get swept up into the work houses. They’re so dependent on the weed that the withdrawal would kill them.”
“They’d just find others. That’s why we don’t try to throw them in the work houses now, unless they cause other trouble.”
“But they know we could.”
“What do you plan, sir?”
“Spending some nights here. What else?”
Seliora would understand. She wouldn’t like it, but she’d understand.
Lundi night, after a hurried dinner, as I stood in the doorway, ready to leave for my session with Draffyd, I said quietly to Seliora, “After I get back, we need to talk. Things are not getting better.”
Holding Diestrya on her hip, Seliora nodded slightly, her black eyes fixed on me. “I know. I’ll be here.” She smiled at our daughter. “Say goodnight to Dada.”
“Goodnight.” The single word came out cheerfully and with a smile.
“You be good for your mother.” I bent forward and kissed my daughter, then stepped out into the chill. Although the ice-rain had stopped, mist rising off the warmer waters of the river drifted across Imagisle. I walked quickly southward toward the quadrangle and the infirmary.
As I reached the middle of the quad, I caught a glimpse of movement to my left, behind the hedge I suspected had been placed to keep young imagers from cutting from sidewalk to sidewalk and wearing a path in the grass. Immediately, I raised concealment shields and eased forward and around the trimmed boxwood, trying to determine who might be doing what to whom…and why. Through the swirling mist, in the gloom on the far side of the hedge, I saw three junior imagers standing on the icy grass, two of them clearly trying to intimidate the third.
The single young imager was a girl, and she was only slightly shorter than the two youths. Both youths carried half-staffs. She carried nothing-except confidence, evident from her posture. That worried me, but I listened as I eased forward.
“You think you’re so good. You’re just a girl. Girls aren’t real imagers.”
“Maitre Kahlasa is. So is Maitre Dyana,” replied the girl.
“They’re old,” said the other youth.
“They really can’t do anything, not like Master Rhennthyl can.”
That was all I needed, young imagers acting like bullies, thinking they were emulating me…and attacking another junior imager.
The taller boy jumped forward and struck at her with the staff, except that the staff stopped short of her in mid-air and vibrated as it hit her shields.
Then the other youth began to beat on her shields.
I could sense the girl’s dilemma. I’d been there. She could hurt them, possibly kill them, but she wasn’t skilled enough to figure out a way to disarm junior imagers without inflicting injuries, possibly severe or fatal ones. And her shields weren’t developed enough that she could avoid all of the force and pressure of their blows, force that would eventually break her shields. I didn’t want to interfere, not immediately, because, if I did, the boys and their friends would likely just wait for another opportunity when no master was around.
It took me a moment to recognize Tomai. Schorzat was her preceptor. She was feisty and able enough to hold her own for a time. I’d just have to hope that, at some point she’d strike back, and I could mute what ever she did just enough that it wasn’t fatal, but strong enough to scare the two witless.
Several more blows slammed uselessly against her shields, but they were closer to her, an indication that she was having to contract them to hold them.
“You’d better stop,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You couldn’t hurt a rodent.”
“You’re a rodie yourself, anyway,” declared the larger youth.
Abruptly, she released the shields and jumped back, so that their staffs swung down and onto the grass.
I immediately imaged oil under the boys’ feet, then cast shields around the two and slammed them to the ground with a blast of air…an instant before two wooden mallets slammed into my shields with disturbing force.
Then I dropped my concealment shields and marched toward the three.
“Enough!” I projected a certain amount of force behind the words, releasing the shields that held the two boys. I stopped short of them and glared. “Are you two idiots trying to kill yourselves? Get up!”
The two were shivering, not from the cold. Up close, I recognized both Silmyn and Torgast. “If I hadn’t shielded you both, you’d likely be in the infirmary, if not dead. She knocked you both flat and put enough force in those mallets that if they’d hit your head they might have knocked you cold, maybe even cracked your skulls like eggshells.” That last phrase might not have been true, but none of the three would know for sure.
I walked over and picked up one of the wooden mallets, the one that had broken in half, and held it up. “This hit my shields with enough force to split in two. If I hadn’t protected you two idiots, what would have happened?”
The wide-eyed looks and swallows suggested that they had some inkling.
I turned to Tomai. “You come with us. None of you are to say a word. Not one, and not until either Maitre Schorzat, Maitre Dyana, or Maitre Dichartyn meets us in the administration building.”
Tomai looked as stunned as they did, but I didn’t want her saying a single word. They followed me to the main reception hall…and the duty watch desk. It took a quarter of a glass before the duty messenger found Maitre Dyana and she appeared. I sent Beleart, the duty junior secondus, to tell Master Draffyt I’d been unavoidably delayed.
Maitre Dyana must have hurried, because she was only wearing a foul weather cloak over her grays, and not one of her signature colorful scarves. She looked at the three junior imagers, standing in a line silently, then at me.
“I need to brief you first, Maitre.” Then I turned. “You three are to say nothing until Maitre Dyana questions each of you. Do you understand?”
I got three cowed nods, then looked at Beleart. “Make sure they don’t.”
Only after Maitre Dyana and I were alone in the conference room off the reception hall did she smile. “You put on quite a performance, Rhenn.”
“I had to.” I explained exactly what had happened, adding, “I don’t know how much force she put behind the mallets, but it wasn’t insignificant. One of the mallets split when it hit my shields. I can understand her anger. They were taunting her that women imagers couldn’t do what men could. Like someone else, years back, I think she needs some training in less lethal ways of protecting herself. You know why I told her to keep quiet.”
“Very wise. She knows she might not have struck them, but she will worry that, if you hadn’t, if she had, she might have killed them.”
“I thought it might be best if you handled it from here.”
“I can do that.” Her eyes twinkled. “By the way, Rhenn, exactly why were you headed down here at this time of night?”
“Maitre Poincaryt scheduled me for another session with Draffyd. I attempted to use imaging to keep a child from a poisoning death.”
“What happened to the child?”
“He’s fine. Maitre Poincaryt worries that it might not go so well next time. He’s right, but the boy would have died.”
She laughed gently. “If those three you terrified only knew…”
“They haven’t learned enough to know.” Just as I hadn’t, once upon a time.
Dyana nodded, and we walked back out to the three, where I took my leave and hurried to the adjoining building that held the infirmary.
“Disciplinary actions?” asked Draffyd as I walked into the surgery.
“I ran into two youngsters trying to beat up a young second named Tomai.”
“She couldn’t have had a better master come along,” Draffyd said. “She reminds all the older masters of another yo
“I thought you might say something along those lines,” I said ruefully. “I managed to temper her strikes enough that she didn’t kill them.”
“Are you sure that was wise?”
“I haven’t heard that either Silmyn and Torgast were the kind of bullies like Johanyr or Diazt.”
“They’ve been a bit of a problem, but, you’re right, nothing like Johanyr. He had as much raw ability as you did.”
“He didn’t want to work.”
“It’s probably better that way.”
“Is he still at Mont D’Glace?”
“I suppose so. We would have heard, otherwise.” Draffyd pointed to the surgical smock on the peg beside the door and the cadaver on the surgery table. “We need to get to work.”
What he meant was that I needed to get to work.
Two glasses later, I washed up and left the infirmary. I might not have looked green, but my internal organs were somewhat unsteady. Still, the mist and cold helped enough that I was merely chilled through when I closed our door behind me.
Seliora appeared immediately. “You must be cold. I have some warm mulled wine for you.”
I couldn’t help putting my arms around her, and just holding her.
“How was Master Draffyd?” she finally asked.
“He was fine. I’m glad he’s the imager surgeon and not me.”
“You could do some of that, couldn’t you? Now?”
“A little. If someone would die otherwise.” I shuddered.
“Go sit in front of the stove. You’re freezing.”
I took off my cloak and hung it up, then followed her directions, taking one side of the settee directly before the stove in the family parlor.
Seliora reappeared with two mugs and offered me one, then settled beside me. “You’re worried. More worried than I’ve ever seen you.”
“Even more than when Iryela’s father was after you and my family?”
“More than that,” she said.
I held the mug to my lips, letting the cinnamon-clove steam wreathe my face for a moment, then took a small swallow of the wine before I spoke again. “There’s more to all of this than just elveweed and friction between freeholders and factors and the High Holders.”
“You think the Ferrans have more spies here causing trouble?”
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. But the stronger elveweed comes from Otelyrn. I mean that it originally grew only there, and that points to Stakanar or Tiempre.” I took another swallow of the wine. I was beginning to feel warmer. “It’s also caused another problem.” I had to explain to Seliora why I’d be changing our schedules for a while. She listened while I talked. When I finished, I waited.
“You’re as bad as any Pharsi when it comes to protecting your own,” Seliora said quietly.
I didn’t mention that Mama Diestra had made that point before we were married. But the plain fact was that it would be difficult for taudis-toughs to kill me. Difficult, but not impossible. But…if they went after my patrollers, and I wasn’t there…before long I’d be totally in effective as a Patrol Captain. “There’s another problem. They’re putting the word out that Kharles was shot because I meddled in their operations in his district.”
“I didn’t. The crazy tiler lost his daughter. Maybe she was his niece…” I explained the rest of the story.
“It’s all a set-up to get to you,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the two dealers Horazt named are being exposed to punish them and that the others let Sostrys get to those two.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised at that, either, but it doesn’t change anything.”
“No. If you’re there, even if some patrollers do get hurt, your men will stand behind you. If you aren’t…”
She didn’t have to finish the sentence.
Eventually, we went to bed, first to hers, and then, as always, I went to my own-knowing that, uneasy as I was, my dreams might lead, as they occasionally had, to unthought dream-imaging.
On Mardi, I skipped the early-morning exercises and slept later-not all that much later, given Diestrya, but I needed as much sleep as I could get, and I was grateful that my disturbed dreams hadn’t led to sleep-imaging. Even so, I didn’t head in to the station until close to ninth glass, but the day was still damp and chill.
Lyonyt greeted me with an announcement. “Captain, we just got a report. First District thinks they just picked up the body of that elver you asked about. Red hair…same scar along the forearm.”
“Thank you.” I couldn’t say I was surprised that Kolasyn’s brother was dead. The only questions that had ever been in my mind were when he would die and whether anyone would find his body. Some elvers could put in a day’s work, go home and smoke a weed-pipe or two, got to bed, and get up and go to work. Then, there were the ones for whom smoking the weed was life itself. They died hard and young. Haerasyn had clearly been one of those. “I’ll have to go down to First District in a bit.” I paused. “We haven’t had any word from any of the goldsmiths, have we?”
“No, sir. I’d say it’s not too likely now.”
“You’re right about that.”
After checking the logs and the reports and finding nothing out of the ordinary, I walked into Alsoran’s study. I didn’t close the door.
As usual, the lieutenant was on his feet. “I heard about your relative.”
“It had to happen. It’s better that it’s over. I’ll go down there and take care of matters after we’re through here.” I gestured to the chairs, then took the one facing his desk. “What’s happened that’s not in the logs, if anything?”
“We’ll need to rework some of the rounds tonight. Last night, Vaeryn got his foot run over by a cart, and Socaryt’s out with a flux of some sort.”
“Is the foot something that will heal?”
“The surgeon thinks so, but it will be weeks, if not longer.”
“Can he handle the duty desk on the midnight to morning shift?”
“He should be able to. We can see.”
Once Alsoran and I reworked the rounds, I took a hack down to the headquarters building on Fedre, just a block or so up from East River Road, not because I wanted to be anywhere near Cydarth, but because the rear of the building also held First District station.
I didn’t know the patroller on the duty desk, but he clearly knew me. “The body’s in the cold room, Captain Rhennthyl.”
“Thank you.” I walked back to the far corner and opened the heavy door slowly. There was almost no odor, even though there were five bodies laid out. I could tell from body positions that four were elvers.
Once I stood beside the redheaded form, I recognized Haerasyn. His dead face held the contorted expression common to all the elvers who’d died from the stronger weed. I didn’t even shake my head.
I walked back to the front desk. “It’s him. I’ll sign the claim forms and have the crematorium pick up the body as soon as they can.”
“We’ll hold it.” The desk patroller handed the single sheet of paper to me.
I filled it out, signed it, and handed it back.
He looked at me again.
“I’ll be making the arrangements right after I leave here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
I could understand his feelings. No patroller wanted to have a dead body around very long, although it wasn’t so bad in late fall or winter.
“Oh…I’d sent a request about jewelry and goldsmiths?”
“Yes, sir. No one’s reported anything, and with a reward, it’s likely that they would if it crossed their counters.”
After I left the First District station I walked around to the charging section of headquarters. As I’d hoped, since it was early afternoon, Buasytt sat unoccupied at the desk.
“Captain…what brings you here?”
“Business with First District. I just wanted t
The graying patroller shook his head. “Last glass has been the quietest in weeks. Until now, it was like every tough in every taudis had decided to get busy.” He frowned. “Except Third District.” After a pause, he asked, “Would you care to tell me why that might be so, sir?”
“All I can say is that we’ve been working to change things as much as we can in Third District. We cracked down on the taudis-gangs years ago.”
Buasytt nodded slowly. “I recall something about that. You took on two of the taudischefs yourself, didn’t you?”
I laughed. “I didn’t have a choice. They came after me. When that was done, it made sense to finish the job.” And I had, but certainly not in the way I made it sound. “Have there been any attacks on patrollers in other districts?”
He shook his head. “Lots more smash-and-grabs, a couple of small explosions out in Sixth District, but away from anything.”
That sounded like someone testing something, but I didn’t say so. I just smiled. “I appreciate learning what’s been happening. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Captain.”
From headquarters, I took another hack out to Elsyor Memorials, where, for the appropriate payments, they were happy to agree to pick up Haerasyn’s body, prepare it for viewing, and then for cremation, after a family viewing. They even had a courier service so that I could send a message to Seliora at NordEste Design. I wanted her to get the message, because someone with a level head needed to be the one to inform the family.
Then I took another hack back to Third District. Just in dealing with that small part of the mess Haerasyn had left behind, I’d spent three golds. That didn’t count the thirty golds worth of jewelry and coin he’d stolen when he’d vanished.
There had been two smash-and-grabs while I’d been gone, not that they wouldn’t have occurred even if I’d been there. I did get back in time so that, at fourth glass, when the evening patrollers reported and those on the day rounds returned, Alsoran and I were able to brief all the patrollers on the possibility of violence against them by taudis-types from outside the district.
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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