Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 35part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
When I got back to my study, I realized I was angry…at more than a few things. I’d had to ask Iryela for something the Collegium already had, something that should have been in Maitre Dichartyn’s files, not locked away in the Collegium library. That wasn’t a total loss, because I suspected no one in the library had updated the listing. How complete Ryel’s updates were was another question. Then, every time I tried to find out something, such as where large sums of funds were coming from, I kept finding that there wasn’t any way or system to find out, or not accurately. The Council was squabbling over how to fund ships Solidar needed, and no one really even knew what sort of taxation on whom would raise how much funding, and I suspected that, if I talked to Reynol, he’d tell me that his figures were estimates at best. That didn’t mean I didn’t need to talk to him.
None of the Civic Patrol Commanders’ reports were the same. Some were little more than half-page summaries. Others went into mind-numbing detail, much of which looked irrelevant. And neither Commander of either Westisle or Estisle had ever really addressed the stronger elveweed issue, except in generalities. The newsheets had reported ships being burned over the past two months, but nowhere in any reports were there any figures, either about totals of vessels lost, destroyed cargoes, and their values.
And who had compiled the High Holder listing? When I’d leafed through it and read some of it on the way back to the Collegium, there was no indication who had compiled or printed the small volume, although a single sentence on the second page had indicated that it was the official roster of High Holders as of the year 700 A.L.-more than sixty years earlier. Why wasn’t there a more up-to-date listing? Was that because the High Holders didn’t want one? Or because they honestly believed more frequent updates were unnecessary?
I’d thought about compiling a rough estimate of the damages created all across Solidar by the Ferrans and their agents, as a tool to persuade the Council to approve building more warships, but I dismissed the idea immediately. First, there was no way to determine the costs of all the incidents. Second, I didn’t see any way to separate out incidents arising from the conflicts between free holders and High Holders from those created by Ferran agents. And third, most of the Council could not have cared less.
Finally, at half past four, I’d had enough, and I left my study and began the walk home through a wind even more bitter than the one that morning. I did see, as I neared our house, that work continued on rebuilding the large dwelling for the Maitre of the Collegium.
Seliora greeted me in the front foyer when I stepped inside and out of the wind. She had a rueful smile on her lips as she held up two envelopes.
“I take it that those are invitations.”
“How did you guess?”
“Because you’re holding them up.” I smiled. “What else could they be? I have no idea why anyone would be inviting us anywhere.” I did manage to keep my voice serious, and half-concerned as I took off my cloak and hung it up.
“Rhenn! We will be getting these invitations. You are effectively the second-highest ranking imager in Solidar…” She broke off and began laughing. “You knew all along, didn’t you?”
“I was told that we should expect them, because we’re far too young to be where we are and you’re far too beautiful.”
“No one said that.”
“Oh, yes, they did. Maitre Schorzat did.” I didn’t mention Schorzat’s speculation about Madame D’Glendyl and hoped one wasn’t from her, sent before the shooting.
“He was also telling the truth. Now…where are we invited?”
“To a small reception at the salon of Juniae D’Shendael on the sixth of Ianus at her town house, and to a winter ball at D’Almeida Place, hosted by Almeida D’Alte and Madame Ruisa D’Almeida. That’s on the fourteenth of Ianus.”
I didn’t know anything about High Holder Almeida, except that Master Dichartyn had once mentioned him in passing, and nothing about Madame D’Almeida. “You might wait a day or so before accepting. There might be more.”
“I’m afraid you might be right, dear. You’re freezing.” She guided me into the family parlor and settled me on the settee directly before the stove.
“Before you head off to tell Klysia to start serving, I need to tell you about today. I saw Iryela…” While I told Seliora almost everything, I decided against mentioning the bequest. Until she actually received it, nothing was certain, and, besides, Iryela had said it was small. Small to a High Holder might mean as much as a few hundred golds, but until the terms were presented to the Justiciary and approved, there wasn’t much point in even speculating on what she might do with the funds.
“So…you think Johanyr provided the funds to Geuffryt? Why?”
“How else could he strike back at me? I wouldn’t be surprised if Geuffryt promised that our house would be the first one targeted.”
“I can see that. What I don’t understand is why Geuffryt would want to attack the Collegium.”
“I had trouble with that, too. On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense. But then, Schorzat told me what Geuffryt had said to Marshal Valeun several years ago about the High Holders playing stupid games and being supported by the Collegium. Iryela mentioned that his father was a High Holder who lost everything…”
When I finished, Seliora asked, “Do you really believe he’d turn against Solidar itself?”
“No. But I can see him as the type who would try to weaken or destroy the Collegium because he believed we opposed a strong Navy or supported those who do. I need to see if Maitre Dyana knows more about his background.”
Seliora nodded, then asked, “What else?”
“The more I look into the files, the less I find. There ought to be some numbers about…well…everything, and some way to find them…” I went on to tell her about the High Holder list. “…and it’s that way with everything…”
“I think you’re hungry and need to eat. Then, we can talk about it all.”
She was right about that.
A fine snow was drifting out of high clouds as I made my way toward the infirmary on Meredi morning, but there was only a digit or so on the ground. When I got there, Draffyd told me I’d have to wait until that afternoon before talking to Glendyl.
So I went to my study and quickly read through the newsheets.
Tableta reported that the rising price of coal would require the Naval Command to ask for more funding from the Council in order to keep the northern fleet on station and fully operational. The story also noted that newer ships had more efficient boilers and turbines and didn’t burn as much coal, but that the Council had not acted on the Naval Command’s request for newer ships during any session during the past four years. That story wouldn’t make anyone on the Council happy, except Glendyl, and he was in no condition to enjoy it.
Veritum had a shorter version of that story, as well as a brief report that the body of High Holder Ruelyr had been found in a hunting lodge on his lands near the Sud Swamp. There was no mention of the cause of death. There was also a story on the success of the Stakanaran effort to consolidate what they were already calling their new province-what had once been a part of Tiempre, before it had been a province of Stakanar centuries before. That made perfect sense, given the shifting of Solidaran warships from the waters off Otelyrn to the northern fleet.
After I finished that depressing, if enlightening, news, I headed upstairs to see if Maitre Dyana had arrived. She had, and Gherard gestured for me to enter her study.
“Gherard said that you were looking for me.”
“I was. Before I go into that, though, I was hoping that you might know why a High Holder named Laevoryn sailed off into the sunset some years ago and never returned.”
“That was twenty years ago.” She smiled faintly.
“I don’t believe that’s an answer, Maitre Dyana. But an actual answer might be relevant to one of our problems.”
“It was quite a scandal at the time,” she continued as if I’d said nothing. “Laevoryn was handsome, breathtakingly so. He’d had the effrontery to seduce the wife of another High Holder, rather brazenly, and even to flaunt the matter. The other High Holder said nothing. Instead, he arranged for a complex arrangement of land transactions, involving water rights. I can’t say I understood exactly how it worked, but the result was to cut off water to a large portion of Laevoryn’s lands. Laevoryn reacted by shooting and killing one of the other High Holders. He claimed it was a hunting accident at a shooting party. That was regarded as a severe breach of etiquette, and for three years no High Holder would have anything to do with Laevoryn, either socially or in business, and any factor who did was punished financially. Several were ruined. One attempted to kill Laevoryn but only ended up killing Laevoryn’s mistress. Did I mention that Laevoryn had committed his wife to an estate tower, claiming she was mad?”
“I don’t believe that you did.”
“In the end, Laevoryn left Kherseilles in his yacht, sailing it single-handedly. The debts left his wife and children little more than well-off artisans.”
“Whose wife did he seduce?” I asked.
“The first wife of High Holder Haestyr.”
I couldn’t help wincing. Seliora had told me all about Haestyr and his son.
“Haestyr wasn’t always the way he is now.” After a moment, Maitre Dyana said, “I assume what you have to tell me bears on the acts of his son.”
“It does. It appears as though matters have become even more entangled.” I explained what I had learned from Iryela and how that bore on what Schorzat and Kahlasa had discovered.
When I finished, she nodded. “That is indeed likely, since the Collegium refrained from intervening in the dispute, on the grounds that it was a matter between High Holders.”
If I hadn’t seen the brutal indirect cruelty of High Holders directed at my own family, I wasn’t sure I could have understood how a seduction had destroyed so many people and how the ramifications continued onward and even threatened the security of all Solidar. “So Geuffryt arranged the attack on Imagisle in an attempt to destroy or severely weaken the Collegium to pay it back for refusing to help his father?”
“There have been less understandable motives.” Her smile was cold. “The problem is that we have no absolute evidence to bring before either the Council or the Justiciary. Those who could have been witnesses died on the barges, and all we have left is a stack of forged documents. We can’t even claim theft, since the lease of the barges and tug were paid in solid golds. For that matter, it would be difficult to dredge up the remnants of the barges to prove that they are the missing ones.”
“That doesn’t mean something can’t be done,” I suggested.
“Maitre Rhennthyl, we cannot afford anyone looking askance at the Collegium. Not at the moment. You will not take action against him or have any of the security imagers do so. Or any other member of the Collegium or anyone who is connected to you, your wife, or to the Collegium. Is that clear?”
“That is clear.” I did have another idea, but whether it would work depended on what else I discovered.
“Good. Is there anything else?”
“Glendyl still isn’t able to talk. I will let you know.”
Maitre Dyana rose. “Please do.”
I nodded and left her study.
When I returned to my study, there were two copies of the Year 700 list of High Holders set on my desk with a note on the top.
Some earlier annotations were made on the Collegium copy by Maitre Poincaryt and Maitre Dichartyn. Those are in black ink. I took the liberty of adding the High Holder’s notes to the Collegium copy in blue.
The signature was Kahlasa’s.
Even though the book was sixty years old, I decided to estimate how many High Holders there had been when it had been printed. There were thirty lines for print on each page, and generally about three lines on each High Holder listed, with an empty line between each entry. That worked out to seven entries a page. That was when I noticed that the pages were unnumbered. I also discovered that the High Holders were listed alphabetically, by region, starting with the northwest and those around Eshtora.
So I counted the pages. There were seventy-three sheets with names on them, or one hundred forty-four pages, since two pages were blank. At that point, I knew I had to count every name on every page, very carefully. I counted the names in ten-page segments, marking the segments with long slips of paper. When I was done, I had one thousand and nine names.
Then I counted up the annotations. Maitre Poincaryt and Maitre Dichartyn had noted the loss of ten High Holdings, and Ryel-Iryela’s father-had noted some twenty-one names, but the entries in his book dated back forty years, while the oldest date in the Collegium book was 742 A.L., just nineteen years back. Three names had been eliminated by date, as were they all in the Collegium book, after Ryel’s death.
By the count in the Collegium book and according to the Council compact, that meant that the High Holders should lose one Council seat. By Ryel’s count, that should have happened years ago. Was that why the count had never been updated?
I could see why Maitre Poincaryt would not have acted on the Collegium count. If threatened by the loss of control of the Executive Council, and thus the loss of the power to block spending and taxation measures, even the greediest of High Holders would have agreed to relinquish some assets and lands to create another High Holding or two, or even found a way to elevate a wealthy and pretentious factor. To me, it was clear that Maitre Poincaryt had been waiting until the number of High Holders dropped to the point where that was not possible. If that happened to be so, then why had Suyrien slipped that “reform” valuation provision into law?
At that moment, I understood, and I stood and picked up both small volumes and headed back upstairs.
Gherard looked at me, then at the closed study door. “Maitre Rholyn just left. She’s alone, sir.”
His tone suggested that I should enter at my own risk.
I smiled. What else was there to do? “I’ll try to leave her in a calmer frame of mind.” I eased open the study door, stepped inside, and closed it gently, but firmly, behind me.
Maitre Dyana looked at me with an expression that, for all its apparent serenity, would have frozen the River Aluse solid all the way from L’Excelsis to Solis.
“Is this about Glendyl? Or Geuffryt?” Her tone was low, smooth, and cold.
“No. It’s about control of the Council.”
“Not that again.”
“No. Maitre Poincaryt and Maitre Dichartyn didn’t have enough information. I borrowed a copy of the year 700 printed roster. It has annotations of twenty-one lost High Holdings dating back to 710. It also does not include the three in the past five years. As of 700, there were only one thousand nine High Holdings.”
“Where did you get that roster?”
“From the library of a noted High Holder-with permission. I had that High Holder’s annotations added to the Collegium copy.”
“You realize what you have there, don’t you?”
“The possibility of civil war? It’s possible, but the change is also inevitable. Suyrien had to have known that. That was why he slipped in that provision about High Holder valuations. He decided to do it so that the change would be so dramatic that there wouldn’t be any question about the change having to take place. He planned on it not taking effect for another year or so, when he would have had a chance to prepare the groundwork with Maitre Poincaryt.”
“How do you know that?”
“The changes don’t take effect until after the first of Ianus, but the first valuation would be based on land and asset values as of 35 Finitas of next year, and wouldn’t take effect until a year from this coming Ianus. Maitre Poincaryt had had more than a few meetings with Councilor Suyrien.”
She sat there studying me for a time. “What do you propose we do?”
“Maitre Rhennthyl, you will be at every one of those meetings, but we will not arrange any meetings until after we deal with the Ferrans. For now, we will not speak of the matter to anyone, especially not to Maitre Rholyn, not until after Ramsael becomes Chief Councilor. I also suggest you keep those books in a very secure place.”
“I will. What should I know about Maitre Rholyn’s position, besides the fact that he is unhappy with me, and that he sides with the militant High Holders against the factors and the free holders?”
“Do you need to know more?”
“Do I?” I countered.
“Ramsael would like to avoid violence and wants to calm matters down in the east. Rholyn is trying to persuade him, without appearing to do so, that ancillary water rights erode the very basis of Solidaran water law and should be abolished. At the moment, Maitre Jhulian is finishing a brief to refute that. Maitre Rholyn does not know that, nor should he.”
Maitre Dyana’s words told me more than I really wanted to know, including the fact that she might well be setting Rholyn up. She would only be doing that because Rholyn was openly following her orders and secretly doing otherwise. That confirmed my long-held opinion of him.
“I believe you understand,” she said.
I just nodded before I left, the two books in hand.
Finally, in the late morning on Jeudi, Draffyd allowed me in to see Glendyl, after cautioning me not to exhaust him. The Councilor was propped up in the infirmary bed at a slight angle, halfway between lying down and sitting up. His head did not move as I stepped up to his bedside, but his eyes fixed on me.
“Good morning, Councilor.”
“I wouldn’t call it good…except…compared to the…alternatives.”
“Sometimes comparisons are revealing,” I agreed.
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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