Imagers intrigue ip 3, p.36

Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 36

 part  #3 of  Imager's portfolio Series

 

Imager’s Intrigue ip-3
 



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  “I understand you saved…my life, Maitre. I do appreciate that.”

  “I kept you alive so that Maitre Draffyd could.” That was a fair statement, I thought. “We never did finish our conversation. I don’t understand why a Ferran agent would shoot at you.” I watched him closely.

  I thought I caught a slight stiffening and perhaps a moment of surprise, and I went on. “After all, you are the voice of the factors and the leading advocate for change in Solidar. That is, change in a direction that would be more…along the lines of what the Ferrans believe is the proper form of government.”

  “I have no idea who they were shooting at, Maitre Rhennthyl. They could have been targeting either one of us. I am grateful they were not more successful.”

  I knew Glendyl was grateful, but I didn’t believe for a moment that he thought he’d been the target, and that suggested he knew very well who the shooter represented, at least who had hired and instructed him. “That’s possible. But why would anyone be shooting at a relatively unknown Maitre or the temporary head of the Executive Council? Shooting either of us would change little. Also, how would they even know I was coming to the Council Chateau? I didn’t tell anyone I was coming until I took the duty coach on Lundi morning. That would suggest that someone believed I’d be there sooner or later and that they were waiting. But who would know that I’d have to come to the Council Chateau?”

  “All imagers wear gray. He might well have thought you were Maitre Rholyn.” Glendyl tried to lift his right hand, as if to wave me off, but it trembled so much that he immediately lowered it. His voice was tired, and he didn’t really want to talk to me. That was clear enough.

  “Then who do you believe hired the shooter?”

  “It could be anyone. We all have enemies.”

  “Has anyone threatened you?”

  “Not recently.”

  “Why didn’t you want to supply the boilers and turbines for the modern fast frigate?”

  “Because Suyrien wanted to build the ship at a loss, and that would have allowed the High Holders and Caartyl to declare that we could build more with the same margins. We’d have had to fight even harder for a reasonable profit for the rest of the ships, and that would have delayed things even more and reduced profits as well. I’m not in business to lose golds.”

  “I take it that the Ferrans allow reasonable profit for their shipbuilders?”

  “I wouldn’t know, but they must. They’re building modern ships, and we’re not.” He glared at me, except he was too tired to make it effective. “You’re asking me stupid questions when you ought to be asking all the High Holders why they won’t pay their share, and what they intend to do.”

  “What else would you like me to do, then?” I asked reasonably.

  “What ever you need to, Maitre.” He closed his eyes, not that he was sleepy.

  “Thank you. Maitre Draffyd will take very good care of you, Councilor. The Collegium certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen to you, especially under our care.”

  His eyes twitched, but he didn’t open them, not while I was in the small gray-walled room.

  Draffyd was waiting outside. “You were reasonably brief. Did you find out anything?”

  “Not yet. What happened to his right hand?”

  “It’s always been weak, from when he was younger, but he’s kept that hidden for years. The angle that the shot took him at damaged some muscles. I don’t know that they’ll fully knit, and, if they do, it’s likely to be months, or longer.”

  “I didn’t catch that.”

  “You caught enough. He’s still fortunate you were there.” He nodded, and I headed back to the administration building.

  Maitre Dyana appeared at my study door within moments of when I returned. She slipped gracefully into the chamber, closing the door behind her. She was again wearing a scarf, one of brilliant blue edged with pale yellow. “Was your conversation with Glendyl productive?”

  “Did he tell me anything that was directly useful? No. I didn’t think he would. The way he avoided the questions was indicative of several possibilities. At the very least, he had arranged, or he knew that senior imagers would have to visit him.”

  “He had to know that we carry shields that are proof against snipers.”

  “I thought about that, and that’s why he’s guilty.”

  Maitre Dyana did not speak for a moment. “I have an idea, but I’d like to hear why you think so.”

  “Glendyl is anything but stupid. He has to know about imager shields. He’s known, possibly even seen, when Dartazn, Martyl, or I deflected bullets or survived explosions. But…he also knows that the Ferran agents, some six years back, were successful in killing a number of imagers, generally caught unaware. What if, just if…an intermediary let it be known that the Ferrans had weapons capable of piercing imager shields? What does he have to lose? They either succeed or they don’t.”

  “Why would he want imagers killed?”

  “Because he believes that we support the continued control of the Council by the High Holders. He may even know, or suspect, that there are no longer even a thousand High Holders, and yet nothing has changed.”

  “He hasn’t brought that up in the Council, but he wouldn’t.”

  “Did you ask Maitre Rholyn that?”

  “No. I’ve studied the proceedings and records,” she replied, “and Maitre Poincaryt never mentioned it, either.”

  “You think Glendyl wouldn’t bring up the question because he fears the High Holders?” That suggested Glendyl might be an excellent factorius and businessman, but that he certainly didn’t understand fully what had been going on behind the calm front of the Council. All he had to do was to wait a little bit longer than one more year, and he would have been the head of the Executive Council. Suyrien had already laid the groundwork. Instead, Glendyl had failed to see that change was coming, and had tried to use Ferran agents to force that change.

  She shook her head. “He wouldn’t bring it up for the same reasons that you believe Maitre Poincaryt didn’t. There are some factors, notably Etyenn, who would relish the chance to become High Holders and who probably already have the wealth if not the lands. Even talking about it could delay the change.”

  “Still,” I pointed out, “there’s more here. Master Dichartyn told me that Glendyl had knuckled under to High Holder Haebyn’s demands to delay locomotives and replacement engines to ironways that didn’t give preference to eastern High Holder grain shipments. He also said that there were rumors that golds had changed hands, and that Glendyl had delayed shipments. Why would Glendyl, who disliked High Holders, do that…unless he needed golds? Not only that, but Glendyl, who has always been trying to reduce the power of the High Holders, wouldn’t offer the cartage reform amendment. Caartyl did.”

  “That may be, but Glendyl has nothing to gain by having imagers killed.”

  She was probably right, but still…

  “You have that look, Maitre Rhennthyl. Did you suddenly recall something of import?”

  “I’m not certain of its import. I’ll need to talk to some people first.”

  “Then I suggest you do.”

  After Maitre Dyana left, I pulled my winter cloak back on and left again, trudging through the gray morning to the duty coach stand.

  Three quints after I stepped into the coach, Davoryn, who only drove me occasionally, was guiding it up the drive to Frydryk/Suyrien’s L’Excelsis chateau. It was a risk, calling on Frydryk without an appointment and unannounced, but where else was he likely to be on a cold winter day? If he didn’t happen to be in, I could find out where he was. But I had a strong feeling I needed to talk to him as quickly as possible.

  The retainer who appeared at the door took in my grays and the visored cap with the silver imager insignia, then finally said, “Sir…I don’t believe that…High Holder Suyrien was expecting you.”

  “I’m most certain that he wasn’t,” I said agreeably. “Is he in?”

  “Ah…


  “Please tell him that Maitre D’Esprit Rhennthyl needs some time with him, and that I wouldn’t spend a glass getting here without an appointment if it were not important.”

  “Yes, sir.” He paused, then added, “If you would come in and wait in the foyer…”

  Once I was inside, he closed the door, then turned and headed toward the door on the left side of the hexagonal foyer, the one to the study where I had met with Frydryk earlier. After a quick knock, the retainer opened the door, barely enough to step inside, shutting it behind himself.

  In moments, the door opened, and the functionary said, “Sir, this way…”

  “Thank you.”

  I didn’t even have to close the door. It clicked shut behind me.

  Frydryk had clearly just stood from behind the writing desk filled with stacks of papers. “Maitre Rhennthyl…” He looked bewildered to see me on his doorstep, literally and figuratively. “To what do I owe this unexpected visit?”

  I smiled, as pleasantly as I could. “I need the answer to two questions. Two very simple questions.”

  “Yes?”

  “The first is whether you have had a guard force at the shipworks and whether you know if Glendyl does at Ferravyl.”

  “That’s not all that simple,” Frydryk replied. “We’ve always had guards, and Father made sure that they were paid well. Also, when we do build Navy vessels, there are Navy guards as well around those drydocks as well. Glendyl…he never said much about it. Father did mention that he didn’t like to pay for anything that didn’t produce profit, including guards.”

  “Thank you. The second question is simpler. How much does Glendyl owe you?”

  “That’s…” Frydryk’s mouth opened, then shut. “Was he behind it? The shooting?”

  “How much?”

  “Close to a quarter-million golds.”

  “And your father was pressuring him to supply the engines and turbines for the first fast battlecruiser?”

  “He-Father-just said that Glendyl was being unreasonable, and that he was certain, once they talked matters over, Glendyl would see reason.”

  “Did they talk matters over? Do you know when?”

  “They did, several nights before Father was shot. When Glendyl left, Father came and found me in the billiards room. He was very pleased, and he sent a message to the head of the shipworks to revise the proposal to present to the Council when it reconvened in Ianus…” Frydryk paused. “I can’t believe…Glendyl? Why would he do that?”

  “I don’t think he did. I think your father was killed and Glendyl was shot in order to stop the shipbuilding project.” That wasn’t the whole story, but there was no need for Frydryk to know the rest, especially since I wasn’t certain of all the details, not yet.

  “But who?”

  “The Ferrans. Who else? With your father and Glendyl dead, and a huge debt owed by Glendyl, who would know that Glendyl hadn’t arranged for your father’s death? Especially since Glendyl would have known that he would become the acting head of the Council.”

  “That would mean…”

  “It could mean any number of things,” I said quickly. “Oh…I was wondering. Are there plans and specifications for Glendyl’s turbines where you can reach them?”

  That brought another frown.

  “I don’t need to see them. Glendyl almost died. I’d hate to think that all that work was only in one place.”

  He did smile. “That was something Father insisted on, given how much Glendyl owed him. We have two sets in two very different and safe places.”

  “Good…and thank you. I just needed to know about the debt before I did anything else. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention it to anyone for right now…except, of course, Maitre Dyana, if anything happens to me.”

  That surprised him as much as anything I’d said.

  “Of course…but…”

  “We still need modern ships, but I don’t want all of this coming out until we can track down all of those who are involved. One way or another, it shouldn’t take that long.” Why I thought that, I didn’t know. The Ferran plot had been put in place years before, I suspected.

  “Thank you.” I smiled again. “I do appreciate it…and give my best to Alynkya.”

  “Oh…I will.”

  With that, I left the study and a still-confused Frydryk.

  In the coach on the way back to Imagisle, I tried to fit more of the pieces together. Glendyl hadn’t gone to the Ferrans. That was clear. They’d come to him, most likely not even as Ferrans, but as someone reputable, and they’d known about his debts, perhaps as representatives of a banque concern. They’d also known about his accepting bribes from Haebyn, and they’d threatened to expose everything unless he did a favor for them. That favor had likely been tied in some way to Suyrien’s death, further enmeshing Glendyl. Then they had suggested that the only way to avoid being discovered was to remove senior imagers, such as me or Rholyn.

  Still…there had to be more. Or I was missing something? Or both.

  Then I recalled the last Pharsi foresight flash I’d gotten. Had that been a vision of Glendyl’s massive manufactory at Ferravyl? Was that where I was supposed to go?

  Even as I knew it was necessary, a part of me both resented and accepted the fact that I had no choice but to go on intuition…simply because neither the Collegium nor the Council had developed a unified and standardized system for handling information.

  Seliora could come up with cards and card readers that could replicate designs for fabrics, but the head of security for the Collegium Imago had to piece together rumors, fragmentary and incomplete information, and old documents, and then rely on intuition and hope. I’d had more information when I’d been a District Captain of the Civic Patrol. That was an aspect of Ferlyn’s studies of patterns that, apparently, no one had yet understood. Just as the way of fabricating and building things was changing, so also was change needed in the means and systems of administering Solidar…and in gathering intelligence and data.

  But…that would have to wait until after I visited Glendyl’s manufactory in Ferravyl and after I resolved the current crises…if I could.

  Once I returned to the Collegium, I took full advantage of my position as a senior Maitre and had the duty staff arrange a sleeping compartment for me on the evening express to Ferravyl. While they were taking care of that, I wrote out a set of instructions for Anaxyr, the Collegium’s regional in Ouestan, and then took the sheet to Schorzat, who was in his study, writing out something himself.

  “Does this make sense?”

  He took the paper and read it. “It makes sense. Whether he can find out what you want is another question.”

  “He ought to be able to discover if there are Ferran clients who’ve made recent transactions here in Solidar…or if there have been withdrawals on accounts that meet the parameters.”

  “That’s possible,” he said.

  “Good. I’d appreciate it if you’d take care of having a copy made and the original sent. I’m trying to get ready to take the night express to Ferravyl.”

  “Ferravyl…something to do with Glendyl?”

  “I hope not, but I’m afraid so.”

  “Better you than me. Train travel isn’t all that marvelous for an imager.” Schorzat shook his head sympathetically.

  “I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.”

  I returned to my study, where I did some rough calculations. Then, once Beleart confirmed that I had passage, I headed up to see Maitre Dyana.

  She just looked at me when I walked into her study.

  “I’ll be leaving for Ferravyl on the evening express.”

  “What’s in Ferravyl that requires your presence so urgently?”

  I offered a pleasant smile. “I’m not totally certain, but I think it might be part of the answer to some of the problems we’ve had.”

  “Which part? Geuffryt’s?”

  “No. Why Glendyl and Suyrien were shot. Suyrien needed Glend
yl’s engines and turbines, even for the merchanters he was building. So who else would be likely to loan Glendyl golds, in order to keep the engines coming? I guessed that the costs of developing and building the newer steam turbines for warships cost Glendyl far, far more than anyone knew, but since he had the sole rights to them, Suyrien didn’t have any choice. I checked with Frydryk, and they loaned him a quarter of a million golds.”

  “That doesn’t explain why you need to go there.”

  “I don’t think that was all Glendyl owed. He wouldn’t have taken what amounted to bribes from Haebyn if Suyrien’s funding happened to be fully carrying him. I can’t be certain, but I think the answer is in Ferravyl.”

  “They may not let you in, you know?”

  I smiled back at her. “They will.” I smiled back at her. “I’m still a Civic Patrol Captain, too. I never got around to offering a resignation, and Artois never asked for it.”

  “No.” She smiled in return. “The Collegium hasn’t canceled your assignment there, either. How long will this take?”

  “One way or another, I should be back by Solayi evening.”

  “Be careful. You aren’t that indestructible, Maitre Rhennthyl.”

  “I intend to be very careful.”

  “Be more careful than that. If you won’t think about yourself, your wife, and your daughter, then think about what will happen to poor Schorzat if he has to pick up the pieces.”

  “Yes, Maitre.”

  I eased out of her study.

  It took another two glasses to make the remainder of my arrangements, which included another visit to Draffyd and arranging for an obdurate to accompany me on the express. Then I hurried home to pack. I’d just finished when Seliora entered her bedchamber and took in the valise.

  “You’re going where?” she asked. “When?”

  “Ferravyl. I’m leaving tonight. I’m fairly sure that’s where that farsight flash took place…or will take place.”

  “Why there?”

  “Because it’s the only place that makes sense.” I gave her a quick and condensed version of what I’d found out and thought.

  “Going there could be very dangerous.” Those were her only words when I finished.

 
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