Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 31part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
“In peace and harmony,” came the response.
After that came the charge from the chorister. “Life is a gift from the Nameless, for from the glory of the Nameless do we come; through the glory of the Nameless do we live, and to that glory do we return. Our lives can only reflect and enhance that glory, as did that of Suyrien, whom we honor, whom we remember, and who will live forever in our hearts and in the glory of the Nameless.”
Another hymn followed-“Honor Has No Name.”
“No honor bears a name, for in acts alone lies virtue,
Nameless is the goodness that prompts the best in all they do…”
I agreed with the sentiments and words of the hymn, but both the music and the words were strained, as often was the case when philosophy or religion mixed with music.
Then the chorister said, “Now we will hear from Frydryk D’Suyrien, speaking for the family.”
The memorial service would be the last time Frydryk would be called that publicly. After the service, he would be Suyrien D’Alte, probably called “Young Suyrien” for a time. As was the custom, Frydryk did not take the pulpit, but the topmost step of the sacristy dais. He faced the more than two hundred people who had come to pay their respects to the family, or more accurately, I suspected, to sign the registry to ensure that their presences were known to the family.
Frydryk had to clear his throat several times before he finally began. “My father, above all, was an honorable man. He believed in honor in word and deed above all else. From the time we were children, he stressed the importance of honor. He believed that even true love was not possible if a man and woman did not enter into it with honor…”
I listened carefully as Frydryk catalogued in more than moderate length all the ways in which his sire had been honorable and managed not to sigh in relief when he had finished. I was sure he believed all he had said, and I was equally sure that Suyrien had believed it and that he was more honorable than the vast majority of High Holders. Unhappily, given the way most of them construed “honor” and the fashion in which all too many of them ignored it in practice, Frydryk wasn’t saying as much as he thought he had said.
Once Frydryk rejoined his family, the chorister moved to the pulpit again. “At this time, we wear gray and green, gray for the uncertainties of life, and green for its triumph, manifested every year in the coming of spring. So is it that, like nature, we come from the grayness of winter and uncertainty into life which unfolds in uncertainty, alternating between gray and green, and in the end return to the life and glory of the Nameless. In that spirit, let us offer thanks for the spirit and the life of Suyrien D’Alte. Let us remember him as a child, a youth, a man, a husband, and a father, as not just a Councilor, but as a man devoted to Solidar and to the spirit of serving to the best of his considerable abilities, not merely a name, but as a living breathing person whose spirit touched many. Let us set aside the gloom of mourning, and from this day forth, recall the glory of Suyrien D’Alte’s life and the warmth and joy he has left with us…”
With those words, all the women let the mourning scarves slip from their hair.
Then came the traditional closing hymn-“For the Glory.”
“For the glory, for the life,
for the beauty and the strife,
for all that is and ever shall be,
all together, through forever,
in eternal Nameless glory…”
After a long and respectful silence, people began to slip away, particularly those at the back, who had doubtless signed the register already. More than fifty others remained, because many of them either wanted to offer condolences to Frydryk and Alynkya or Kandryl and Iryela or to Kandryl’s sister, whose name I didn’t even know.
I needed to speak to several of them, for differing reasons, but I waited for a couple I didn’t know to offer their words before approaching Iryela and Kandryl. Kandryl wasn’t quite red-eyed, and Iryela looked perfectly composed. I inclined my head to them. “I’m very sorry. While I didn’t know your father that well, he was always cheerful and good to me.”
“Thank you, Rhenn,” offered Kandryl.
“I have sent inquiries, about Johanyr,” I added in a much lower voice to her, “but I have heard nothing yet.”
“Thank you,” she murmured.
Then I waited behind Councilor Alucion and his wife to speak to Frydryk.
When I stepped forward, Frydryk actually spoke first. “I thought you would be here, Rhenn.”
“I’m very sorry. He was a good and honorable man and Councilor.”
Frydryk studied my face. “You were attacked also, I heard. I can see bruises everywhere.”
“There are many more,” I replied wryly, “but one can heal from bruises.”
He nodded. “I appreciate your coming.”
“I don’t wish to intrude, but…might I call on you tomorrow?”
“I wish it were otherwise, but it may bear on your father’s death.”
“Half past ninth glass at the town estate,” he finally said.
“Thank you. If matters were not so urgent, I would not have pressed on you.”
Alynkya looked to me, then reached out, took Frydryk’s hand, leaned toward him, and murmured something.
Frydryk nodded, if almost imperceptibly. “I’m reminded that you have always been thoughtful in times like these, and for you to insist declares that urgency.” He offered a faint smile. “Tomorrow.”
I inclined my head in reply and stepped away to allow those behind me a chance to offer their condolences. Baratyn had slipped away, and I finally located the duty coach that had brought me amid the forty or so lined up around the anomen and along the Boulevard D’Council.
Ferlyn was in his study when I finally returned to the Collegium. Every digit of wall space in the tiny room was filled with bookcases, and every shelf was overflowing with either books or papers. There were even books stacked on the single windowsill.
“I heard you were looking for me, sir.”
“I was. I have a few questions where I thought the skill of a pattern-master might help.”
“I think we often raise more questions than resolve any.”
“That’s possible with anyone, but I’d still appreciate your thoughts.” I picked up the books piled on the single chair and stacked them on top of more books on the desk before sitting down. “You know the requirement for a High Holder to be the head of the Executive Council?”
“How could I not? I assume you’re asking how many High Holders already do not meet the requirements set forth in the Council compact.”
“Do you know?”
Ferlyn shook his head. “No one knows for certain, because there’s always been a discrepancy in valuations between those High Holders like Suyrien and Ryel, who have manufactories and industrial facilities, and those like Haestyr and Haebyn, whose wealth lies in land and forests and other agricultural assets. Haestyr has been pressing for a strict interpretation of the original language, in which craft-related assets were valued at half those of land-related assets.”
“Then, there’s something you should know.” I went on to explain about the change in valuations slipped through by Suyrien.
When I finished, for the first time since I’d taken Dichartyn’s position, Ferlyn looked truly surprised. After a silence, he said, “It’s not surprising that he was shot. It might be surprising that he wasn’t shot earlier.”
“Because the change in valuation will mean some High Holders won’t be able to retain their position and rights?”
“There might be as many as fifty, and Quaelyn has calculated that there are presently 1,034 High Holders. Master Poincaryt knew about those calculations, but whether he told Maitre Dyana or Maitre Dichartyn, I don’t know. We did not tell anyone else-except you, now.”
I had wondered about the issue of the number of High Holders for some time, but particularly after learning of Suyrien’s chan
“No one knows for certain. They probably didn’t then, either. From the documents we’ve searched, it appears that there were close to two thousand.”
That explained, in some ways, why the High Holders had accepted the thousand holder threshold for the reduction of High Holder power. It had probably been a concession granted because none of them could have envisioned such a reduction in their numbers, even over the hundreds of years since then.
“Does our Naval Command reflect the patterns of the past, or has it changed more toward the Ferran set of patterns?”
Ferlyn blinked, obviously startled by the change in the subject matter of my questions.
“We’ve talked in the past about the goals of warfare, and the patterns involved,” he began. “There are two key questions. The first is the overall mission of the Navy, and the second is what force and support structure will best accomplish that mission. Historically, the mission has been a dual one-to assure open and unrestricted trade, and to dominate the oceans in such a fashion that no other land can threaten our merchant and Naval vessels. The problem inherent in such a split mission is that it requires a larger navy than either part of that mission will alone…the Ferran mission is limited to restricting the influence and power of our fleets and ships. That means they attempt to develop vessels and weapons systems designed specifically for use against our warships, while we must also have capabilities they do not. For example, we have Naval marines for boarding, as well as high speed launches and gunboats…”
I continued to wait, knowing that Ferlyn would eventually get to the point.
“…do not have the range of information that you or Dichartyn possess, but from what I have seen, the recent requests from the Naval Command suggest a re-focusing on ships more capable of engaging the Ferran dreadnoughts…”
When I finally left Ferlyn, more than a few thoughts, many of them conflicting, were swirling through my mind.
Vendrei morning I actually woke without a headache and with the feeling that, despite all the bruises, some of which were slightly sore to the touch, I might actually be nearing a full recovery. That assumed that I could anticipate troubles before they impacted me personally. Otherwise, I’d end up injured or worse once more. I did do a few more of the morning exercises, and they didn’t hurt all that much.
After seeing Seliora and Diestrya off in the duty coach, I hurried to my study, getting there a quint before seventh glass, because I wanted to look over the recent reports to see if I’d overlooked anything about High Holder Ruelyr. I’d barely finished confirming that there weren’t any recent reports on Ruelyr when Ralyea arrived. He was the only one of the imagers whom I had not yet met since becoming his preceptor.
Ralyea didn’t quite look at me as he came into the study. “Good morning, sir.”
I laughed at the timidity of his presence and speech. Dichartyn’s notes had indicated that both were a problem. He appeared paralyzed at my reaction.
“Ralyea…I don’t bite. I don’t even nip, and I’m not nearly so clever with words or arguments as Master Dichartyn was. What I’m interested in was what he was interested in. I want you to become the best imager that you can. Do you know what one of the first things he said to me was, years ago?”
“No, sir.” His voice still trembled.
“He told me that there were bold imagers and old imagers, but there were no bold old imagers. He was right. But that’s only half the story. The other half is that an excessively cautious imager accomplishes absolutely nothing.”
The young third said nothing.
“Have you ever watched a turtle walk, Ralyea?”
He frowned. “Ah…yes, sir. Not in years, sir, I mean.”
“Tell me. Can a turtle go anywhere by keeping its head inside its shell?”
“And what happens if a giant land lizard or a heron comes upon a turtle in the open, even inside its shell?”
“It probably flips it over and kills it.”
“On the other hand, what happens if the turtle hurries out of the open into shelter before any predators appear?” I smiled. “What’s the point of talking about turtles? As applied to you?”
He didn’t answer, and I forced myself to wait, just looking at him.
After what seemed a full quint, he finally stammered, “You’re…saying that even with shells…or shields…there’s a time to move…to act.”
“Sometimes…doing nothing behind shields…” He looked at me.
“Let me put it simply. Even a turtle has to stick its neck out to get anywhere. An imager who isn’t willing to stick his neck out-cautiously, mind you-won’t get any place and will end up in as much trouble, if not more, than an excessively bold imager. Keep that in mind.”
After that, we went over his assignments and readings, and I asked him to re-read the section of the history dealing with the events leading to the formation of the Collegium and the first Council. When he left, I almost felt as though I’d been doing manual labor, but I had half a glass to check the reports Kahlasa brought me after Ralyea left. There was nothing more on either Ruelyr or Johanyr.
At least the walk across the quadrangle to the duty coach station refreshed me, even with the chill blustery wind.
As I sat in the duty coach, headed northward on West River Road, I realized why Master Dichartyn had often been so hard to find-and I was far from doing all that I probably should have been. Ferlyn’s words, or their implications, still nagged at me. The drive took only slightly less than a glass, since the “L’Excelsis” estate of the Suyriens was three milles from Imagisle, although it was closer to one and a half as a raven flew, because both the road and the River Aluse wound their way north. Still, that was far closer than Suyrien’s main estate, some fifteen milles south of L’Excelsis, if also on the river.
The “smaller” L’Excelsis estate was located on a hill overlooking the river. Surprisingly, to me, the walls were less than three yards in height, and there was but a single guard in the gate house, who opened the gates and waved the gray Collegium coach through for the drive to the mansion-not quite a chateau, since it was a comparatively modest two-story gray stone structure on the hillcrest a mere hundred yards from end to end. The trim was crimson, and the roof tiles well-kept but weathered slate.
A single footman stepped out from the portico to greet me, and Frydryk was waiting in the hexagonal foyer.
I inclined my head to him. “I’m sorry to intrude at this time, but I’m afraid that your father’s death will not be the only one if we can’t track down those responsible quickly.”
“I understand.” He gestured to the door on his left, then turned.
I followed him into a study whose front windows, their pale blue hangings drawn back, overlooked the River Aluse and its gray swirling waters. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases covered the inside wall facing the windows. A small writing desk was set before the windows, with three yards of polished parquet flooring between the desk chair and a circular table with four chairs.
Frydryk took the chair facing the windows. I took the one to his right.
“What would you like to know?” he asked.
“Several things. First, when we had dinner with you and Kandryl, you alluded to why your father had paid a visit to High Holder Ruelyr. I’d appreciate it very much if you’d expand on that. You’d mentioned his problems with low justice, but it wasn’t just that, was it?”
“It is a High Holder matter, Rhenn.”
“Was it about the elveweed traced to his lands? And the fact that his lands were so heavily mortgaged that he had no other way to meet the banque’s terms but to accept a questionable lease and turn the other eye?” The last part was only a guess, but I couldn’t see any other reason for a Hi
“I shouldn’t say. Really.”
I smiled pleasantly. “There’s already an investigation under way, and possibly a justiciary inquiry, you know. It will come out, and you wouldn’t want more holders or factors to die when everyone will know before long anyway. Was he gaoling tenants under low justice to keep them from reporting the elveweed?”
“Father didn’t know. He had heard that Ruelyr, and some others, had been incarcerating malefactors longer than they should have. He wanted to find out more.”
“He didn’t say much when he came back, except that he couldn’t help Ruelyr any more. He was worried. He said that Ruelyr blamed him for his troubles. Father didn’t say why. He only said that Ruelyr was living in the past, and that he wouldn’t listen. He told me to avoid him because Ruelyr’s actions would bring him down, sooner or later.”
“He didn’t say any more than that?”
Frydryk shook his head.
“Isn’t most of Ruelyr’s worth tied up in land?”
Frydryk nodded. “He has a few manufactories, but they’re really just to supply his lands.”
“What does Alynkya think about him?”
“Ah…I haven’t asked her.”
“You should ask her…about many things. Women often see what we miss. Her eyes may be the only pair besides your own that you can trust.” I paused, then asked, “How are the shipworks doing?”
Frydryk blinked, as if disconcerted by the apparent change of subject. “We’re doing well enough with building merchanters and the like. We’re finishing up a fast frigate for the Naval Command in a few weeks, but it will be the last, until…” He shrugged.
“Despite your father’s position, he had great difficulty in persuading the rest of the Council of the need for more modern vessels. That’s what I understood.”
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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