Imagers intrigue ip 3, p.23

Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 23

 part  #3 of  Imager's portfolio Series


Imager’s Intrigue ip-3

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  “We won’t take an official position on any of those issues, except that the Justiciary rule quickly on the law itself. You present another problem. There is no way you can return to being a Civic Patrol captain and take on the duties before you here at the Collegium.”

  “You don’t have to announce that immediately. Tell Commander Artois that I’m needed here for the time being, given the destruction and deaths here, and that in the interests of the Civic Patrol, Alsoran should act in my stead. Artois already has two lieutenants doing that for dead captains. I’m nowhere close to dead.”

  “Why do you suggest that?”

  “To keep Cydarth from replacing Alsoran. If they think I’m coming back, and even if they don’t, it will make that harder. Alsoran looks easygoing, but he’ll do what’s right. I can make it harder for them by dropping in to see Alsoran once. It doesn’t have to be for long.”

  “That seems reasonable, and it will support Artois. Just don’t trot out there until you have full shields and full control.” Dyana nodded. “Aelys has already removed all of her husband’s personal items from Dichartyn’s study in the administration building, and it is ready for your immediate use. I suggest you settle in there as soon as possible.”

  “Is she staying here?”

  “No. She could, but neither of the girls is an imager, and she has a sister in Extela to whom she is very close. Also, the stipend she’ll receive, while not miserly, will go much farther there. She and the girls are leaving on the ironway later today.”

  I suspected Aelys would just as happy to be away from Imagisle.

  “You’ll also have to take over as preceptor for those junior imagers that Dichartyn was mentoring. You’ve effectively been doing that with Shault, but there are four others. Only Shault isn’t a tertius.”

  I frankly hadn’t thought about taking on being a preceptor, since I’d only had to assist with Shault because of the circumstances of his past. Still…that wasn’t urgent. “Did you find out anything from Sea-Marshal Geuffryt?”

  “Nothing anyone can act on. Not yet.”

  “Would you mind I kept in touch with him?”

  “I’d appreciate it if you would.”

  “You’d like me to build and maintain contacts with the various military types, then?”

  “Since Dichartyn did…” She raised her eyebrows.

  “He didn’t mention those contacts. He did mention his liaison with the Civic Patrol. I’d prefer to wait a few days before dealing with Artois and Cydarth, though.”

  “That might be for the best.”

  “I’m still concerned about Caartyl.”

  “You don’t care for him, do you?”

  “From what I can tell, he’s been plotting since I was with Council Chateau security. You might see if Schorzat or anyone knows anything about a factor named Alhazyr-”

  She looked at me, and I realized that was my job, among other things that I really hadn’t thought through. “More along your lines, Maitre, Juniae D’Shendael has been close to Caartyl-”

  “I know. I’ve already talked to her. She was actually worried about you. She was playing Caartyl as part of her effort to change Council procedures to allow women Councilors.”

  “You knew her when…before.”

  “Yes.” The single word closed further discussion of Madame D’Shendael. After a pause, Dyana continued. “I’ve been able to avoid specifics about how the barges were destroyed.” Her voice turned wry as she continued. “Draffyd already suspected. He merely asked if I wanted the fact that you’d done it not mentioned. I asked him how he’d come to that conclusion. His answer was rather direct. He said you’re the only one who could have. He also said that if you weren’t a Maitre D’Image already, you would be soon, assuming you took better care of yourself.” She stopped, as if waiting for a response.

  I nodded politely. There was no reason to point out that, even if my actions had been emotionally driven, taking better care of myself would have resulted in scores more imager deaths and far greater destruction of the Collegium.

  “Good. That’s the only suitable response. You understand, I presume, what the meeting is all about?”

  “To give everyone the opportunity to believe that they could influence what they should not-and that is something that most of them know.”

  “Who doesn’t know, do you think?” she asked gently.

  “Rholyn knows, but he would hate to admit that his greatest strength is dealing with the Council on a day-to-day basis. He will have to say something.”

  “What about Jhulian?”

  “He may say something about the legal aspects, but only if he believes that there’s a serious problem. He doesn’t flyspeck.”

  “You best go into the conference room and wait. Please leave the door closed after you leave.”

  I nodded and rose.

  When I walked into the conference room adjoining the anteroom, I was the first one there. I took a seat in the middle of the table, but with my back to the windows, although, since it was still morning, those on the east side of the table wouldn’t be looking into the sun.

  Jhulian was the first to join me. A thin blond figure, he was the Collegium’s legal expert as well as its sole justicer. “Greetings, Rhenn. I’m glad to see you’re back on your feet.”

  “I’m just as happy to be sitting for the moment.”

  Draffyd was next. He looked at me even before sitting down. “No more physical problems?”

  “Not so far.”

  Then came Rholyn, who was the Collegium’s Councilor. I’d even painted his portrait years before, and he hadn’t changed much since I had. Behind him came Schorzat, who seated himself across from me.

  Before anyone could say anything, Maitre Dyana stepped into the conference room and closed the door behind her. The only senior Maitres not attending were Dhelyn, the master in charge of the branch of the Collegium in Westisle, and the heads of the other two regional collegia. There had never been that many imagers who were Maitres D’Structure or higher, but the fact that all of those in Solidar, save three, were gathered around a single table was more than a little sobering.

  Dyana took her seat at the north end of the oval table, then let several moments pass before she spoke. “All of you know the situation facing the Collegium, and I see no point in detailing it. There are two matters that merit this meeting. First is the selection of a replacement for Maitre Dichartyn, which should not take long, and second is a discussion of the Collegium’s position with regard to the options open to the Council. That may take slightly longer.”

  I noted that there was absolutely no humor or irony in the second charge to us.

  “The head of Collegium security reports directly to the Maitre and is appointed by the Maitre. I would like to hear any thoughts you may have.”

  After a moment, Draffyd spoke. “I’m certain you have evaluated all possibilities, but in the unlikely event you might consider me, I must decline.”

  Dyana smiled. “So noted.”

  Jhulian smiled as well. “I doubt that my expertise would serve the Collegium well in a security capacity. Also, my involvement in such matters, if it ever surfaced, would create great difficulties that it would be best that the Collegium not face.”

  Maitre Rholyn cleared his throat. “In practical terms, I face the same problem as Master Jhulian. My elimination effectively narrows the choice to Master Rhennthyl and Master Schorzat. Rhenn is certainly talented, and there’s no doubt that few, if any of us, are as strong an imager as he is. But his expertise in handling security, particularly…ah…covert matters, has been limited. Would it not be better to have Schorzat move into handling all of the security duties, with Rhenn as his assistant?”

  The faintest smile flickered across Maitre Dyana’s face.

  “I must decline,” Schorzat said quickly. “All my knowledge is at Rhenn’s disposal, but I could not have survived what he and Maitre Dyana did, and whoever succeeds Maitre Dichartyn must have that ability.
The head of Collegium security, especially now, can show no vulnerability. The only two imagers ever to survive direct hits by bombard shells are Maitre Dyana and Maitre Rhennthyl.”

  “The position calls for a Maitre D’Esprit,” Rholyn pointed out.

  “Rhenn’s abilities exceed those of a Maitre D’Esprit,” Jhulian replied.

  That he was the one to reply surprised me, but it made a sort of sense, since he was the Collegium’s justicer and expert in legalities.

  “It was felt that he should have a minimum of ten years with the Collegium before being granted the rank, even in a concealed status,” Jhulian continued.

  “Because we are clearly under attack,” continued Dyana, “the luxury and grace of allowing Rhenn more time to widen his understanding of the Collegium itself and its relations with the Council is no longer possible.”

  Schorzat nodded, in relief, I thought.

  “There is no doubt, is there,” asked Dyana, turning to Draffyd, “of his abilities?”

  Draffyd laughed softly. “When barely a tertius, with only moderate shields, Rhenn was shot with a sniper’s rifle as a result of the Ferran assassination teams who had killed more than a score of junior imagers. He had the presence of mind, and the ability, to image a block into his chest to slow the bleeding. While with the Civic Patrol, he has weathered the explosion of the Puryon Temple in the taudis and assassination attempt after assassination attempt.”

  “I might add,” interjected Jhulian, “that with more than five years as a Civic Patrol captain, he has a solid knowledge of the laws of Solidar. That is far more than his predecessor had when he assumed the position. Rhenn also served, if briefly, in the security detachment of the Council Chateau.”

  “He also has access to intelligence sources that were not available to his predecessor, as I have already discovered,” added Maitre Dyana.

  Rholyn smiled warmly. “I am very glad to know how thoroughly you have looked into the situation, and I will certainly do my best to provide what ever information and support that Rhenn may need.”

  “I know that you will,” replied Maitre Dyana pleasantly, but there was cold iron behind the warm tones of her voice.

  It was more than clear that no one wanted the position, including Rholyn, but that he didn’t want me to have it. That was likely because he knew I had some contacts among the High Holders and that I would not have to rely on him totally.

  “Now…the pressing issues are what stand the Collegium should take with regard to the Council, how much we should make known of our position, and to whom in the Council should that information be conveyed.”

  “We have always conveyed our support of the Council,” observed Rholyn.

  “That is a given,” replied Dyana.

  “Might I raise an observation and a question?” I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t certain anyone else would. I didn’t give any of the others a chance to object, not that they would have. So I said quickly, “Over the past few years, we’ve seen a conflict growing between the freeholders and the larger and wealthier factors and the High Holders. It’s become almost open civil war at times, especially over water rights, grain shipments, and the like. There are only a few more High Holders than the minimum required for the balance of power to shift to the factors and freeholders, that is, in terms of who becomes the Councilor in charge of the Executive Council. My question is: Can we afford to ignore this by merely observing?”

  “Exactly what do you have in mind, Rhenn?” asked Rholyn dryly. “Having enough ‘accidents’ occur that there are fewer than a thousand High Holders? That would certainly change matters.”

  “Actually, I had something else in mind, perhaps letting it be known that the Collegium is opposed to any change in the Council through violence…perhaps strongly opposed.” I smiled. “A good number of High Holders are already borderline and may not be able to retain lands and assets sufficient to meet the requirements for being a High Holder. The more successful factors involved in fabrication and the larger freeholders are beginning to out-compete them in many areas. So long as the change occurs through economic and social forces, it should be allowed to occur.”

  “How can you track down the perpetrators of violence?” asked Rholyn. “Either side has the resources to hire agents.”

  “We don’t have to. Just let the Collegium’s position be known. Sooner or later, either a High Holder or a freeholder complaint, with evidence, will find its way to us. If it’s a legal issue, I’m certain that Maitre Jhulian will find a way to bring it before the High Justiciary of Solidar. And if it’s evidence of another kind…well, as you noted, illness and accidents befall us all.”

  “You’re rather cavalier about it,” suggested Rholyn.

  “I’m not at all cavalier about it,” I replied. “I’ve watched, and I’ve experienced personally the use of unchecked High Holder power to destroy families and individuals. I see no virtue in standing back and allowing High Holders to fight change with their powers and resources until this civil war gets to the point where everyone on both sides is either poisoning or shooting. That will only weaken Solidar and encourage Ferrum and others. What I’m suggesting is a quiet message that says that everyone can compete economically and legally, but that the Collegium is highly opposed to the use of violence by either side.”

  “Even if you’re prepared to do the same?”

  “I bow to your expertise in debate, Maitre,” I replied, “but since the enemies of the Collegium have already shown that they are willing to strike at individuals, it’s not as though I would be the one who first employed the technique.” I managed a smile. “As Master Dichartyn once pointed out, if it looks like an accident or a natural death and there is no evidence to the contrary, then it must be an accident or a natural death.” That wasn’t quite what he’d said, but it was close enough.

  Jhulian laughed. “He has a point there, Rholyn. He isn’t proposing that we be the ones to start singling out individuals, nor that we use overt violence.”

  “More to the point, Rholyn,” said Maitre Dyana, “do you have a better approach?”

  That question led to more discussion, but, in the end, no one did, and Maitre Dyana closed the discussion by saying, “That’s settled. Maitre Jhulian, if you would see that the Collegium rolls are changed to reflect that Rhenn is a Maitre D’Esprit. Maitre Rholyn, while I understand that you have some concerns, I trust that they are not major enough that it will prevent you from arranging a meeting for you and me with Caartyl and Glendyl here, and preferably tomorrow or as soon as Glendyl returns from Ferravyl. Meet them and escort them past the ruins of the three senior imagers’ dwellings before you bring them here.”


  She smiled coolly. “I’m certain that you can manage.” Then she stood. “That is all. We have much to do.”


  Seliora and Diestrya were waiting in the first floor study in the administration building that had belonged to Master Dichartyn.

  “Beleart said this was the best place to find you,” said Seliora. “How did the meeting go?”

  “As Maitre Dyana intended.” I took the chair behind the desk, empty of anything. There were a few books in the bookcase-three volumes on jurisprudence, the legal codex of Solidar, all fifteen volumes, and a black bound book that held Council procedures.

  Diestrya investigated the empty shelves. Fortunately, the heavy volumes of the codex were beyond her reach.

  “We got another letter back from your mother, by private courier. Beleart gave it to me. She wrote again how much she appreciated my sending that note by courier to let her know that we were all right. She also said that the fires in Kherseilles missed the factorage there, and that Khethila was fine. Oh, Klysia has already begun to clean up the dust and grit in the house. It should be ready by supper time.”

  “They’ve repaired it already?” I almost shook my head at the stupidity of my question. Imagers who could form perfect machine parts could certainly re-image a house back into
shape, especially in a few days if a score or more of them were involved.

  “You’re effectively the second-highest imager in Solidar,” Seliora pointed out. “You also saved most of them.”

  “No one’s said anything.”

  She smiled. “All anyone has to do is look. Three dwellings are destroyed. There’s a large hole in the fourth. It’s ours. Well…they see it as yours. Nothing was destroyed after that, and the barges with the bombards exploded immediately. Also, the word is out that you’ve been made Maitre D’Esprit.”

  “It is suggestive,” I admitted. “Not conclusive, but suggestive.”

  “More than suggestive,” Seliora countered.

  “What can you tell me about Fhernon? Anything at all.”

  Seliora frowned. “Why? We’re still working on his commission. You know that.”

  “Suyrien was shot and badly wounded. He may not recover. The High Holders have selected Fhernon to take his Council seat…but not to serve on the Executive Council.”

  “Poor Kandryl….” Seliora shook her head.

  I noticed her sympathy didn’t extend to Frydryk, but said nothing.

  “Fhernon has always been polite and very formal. He knows I’m married to you, and he knows who you are. I don’t think he’s all that different from most High Holders, but he did bring his wife to look at the drawings before he approved the upholstery design for the dining chairs. She was cautious, but did recommend a small change, and he agreed. He paid the advance deposit without quibbling.”


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