Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 41part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
I nodded. “What else?”
“Does there have to be anything else?”
“No, I suppose not, but your tone suggests that there might be.”
“Well…what will happen if that information leaks out? Do we really want the Council or everyone in Solidar-or in Ferrum-to know what we can or can’t do?”
“I can understand the concern there. I really can, but there’s another problem. Maitre Poincaryt and Maitre Dichartyn probably did know most of what I’ve asked masters to supply. When they died, that information died with them. We need that information now, and I can’t learn it all in time without doing something like this. Also, can we afford to keep losing information because we’re afraid to have a record except in the minds of one or two senior imagers? As I told Heisbyl a little while ago, once the most powerful imagers could stand against any weapon. Now we can’t. That changes matters.”
“For most Maitres, that doesn’t matter. You’re changing their world.”
I nodded. “You’re right about that. But I don’t see any choice if the Collegium is to survive in a way that will still protect imagers.”
“The older Maitres don’t see it that way, Rhenn.”
“Maitre Dyana does, and, I’d be surprised if Maitre Jhulian doesn’t as well. How do you see it?”
Ghaend shook his head. “I agree with you, but I don’t like it.”
“So…if we’re going to be honest about it, then, that only leaves something like four or five older Maitres who are unhappy.”
“And probably a hundred older seconds and thirds, when they find out.”
“What difference will it make to them, unless an older Maitre stirs them up and misrepresents things? I would hope…” I broke off the words. “Someone will. You’re right. No matter how much sense it makes, no matter how much times have changed, people, even imagers, want to believe in their traditional and special place in the world.” I shrugged. “But I can’t see any other way around this.”
“This is part of something much larger, isn’t it?”
“It is, and the longer before I have to reveal it, the better.”
“I don’t think I’d want to be in your boots, Maitre.” Ghaend smiled and rose. “I won’t press you. Dichartyn told me, years ago, that to press you was both useless and unwise. I trust that the Council sees it that way as well, for all of our sakes.”
I stood. I didn’t correct him, but only replied, “So do I.”
Once he left, I wondered who would spread the word. Certainly, Heisbyl would, and most probably Maitre Rholyn, if in a more indirect fashion.
The next visitor, surprisingly, was Quaelyn, and he was smiling broadly when he arrived after ninth glass and sat down across from me. “Congratulations to you and Maitre Dyana. It’s well past time for something like this.” He lifted the envelope.
“Not everyone thinks that way.”
“Of course they don’t. People have a pattern. If they’re comfortable, they want things to stay that way, and Imagisle has been comfortable for a long time.” He grinned. “Until you came along.”
“I can’t say I had anything to do with the attacks on Imagisle or Solidar.”
He raised his thin white eyebrows. “Don’t be so certain about that. People react to what they feel, not what they see or think. You’ve changed how people feel. It’s time for a change. Change for the better, especially, takes power and a crisis to change things. We’ve needed more systematic information on imagers for years. Now, you’ve taken the opportunity.”
“I heard you talking about the patterns of where imagers were born, years ago. I’d hoped there would be more in the records. There wasn’t.”
He smiled mischievously. “I’m gratified that you remembered. I tried for years to get Maitre Poincaryt to ask for more information about incoming imagers, but it never happened.”
“I think I know why.” And I did. I’d thought about it a great deal, even before Ghaend’s visit. “He and Maitre Dichartyn were always worried that such information could get out and be used against the Collegium…especially since there have always been so few imagers.”
Quaelyn snorted. “That’s handicapping yourself for no benefit. I told Poincaryt that then. People will always believe the worst when they want to. Facts that don’t agree with what they want to believe just get ignored. The only facts they want are those that support what they want to believe. Not having the information you need because other people might find it and use it is like burying your head in quicksand. They don’t need it to cause trouble. They never have.” He stood, abruptly. “That’s all I had. Don’t let them change your mind, Maitre Rhennthyl.”
After he left, I closed my door and tried to think through what I hadn’t done. In addition to determining how many and which imagers needed to go where for transport to the northern fleet, and working out the associated logistics, I still needed to discover-one way or another-a few other unresolved matters, such as how accurate Geuffryt’s information about payoffs to Caartyl and Cydarth had been, and what had been involved with that. Also…I couldn’t help but wonder about the dead young woman who hadn’t been an elveweed suicide…and the role the freeholder-High Holder water conflicts played…or why L’Excelsis Indemnity had been destroyed…or…
The complexity of what I’d planned spiraled ever wider, and by Meredi morning, I realized that the evaluation of seconds and thirds was just the beginning of the detailed difficulties. We still had to get some twenty-odd junior imagers to a Naval port, most likely Westisle, but I needed to work that out with Valeun-something I wasn’t exactly looking forward to, but couldn’t avoid. I’d already sent a messenger to the Naval Command suggesting a meeting at the fourth glass of the afternoon, but hadn’t yet received a reply.
In the meantime, some aspects of the travel had to be taken care of. The nearest port was Solis, two long days by ironway, while Westisle was more than four days by ironway. Either route required overnight travel…and far more sleeping cloths than Draffyd happened to have, not to mention the preparation of large quantities of sleeping draughts. Then there was the requirement for lead foil, because gunboats weren’t designed to carry imagers, and while that could be imaged, even for imagers, it was a slow and tedious process.
On top of all those problems was an even larger one, and that was why I found myself once more in Maitre Dyana’s study before mid-morning.
She just looked at me.
So I launched into the problems at hand. “You’ve forbidden me to take charge of this in the field-or on the ocean-but there has to be a master in charge who understands what has to be done and who has strong shields and enough confidence to face down Navy Commanders.”
She nodded. “Whom do you suggest?”
I had thought about it. “Can I pick anyone?”
“Anyone who’s not a Maitre D’Esprit or a Maitre D’Structure.”
That didn’t surprise me, given how few senior masters there were. “Dartazn. He’s dealt with Councilors. He’s impressive in stature. He’s thoughtful and intelligent, and he’s close to being a Maitre D’Structure in imager abilities.”
She nodded. “He’d be a good choice…if he’s willing to put all his effort into it. He can be rather stubborn in a quiet way when he’s forced to do things he’d prefer not to.”
“I haven’t talked to him, but I have the feeling he might relish something like this.”
“Dichartyn once said that about someone else, and he was right. I hope you are.”
“If he’s not interested…then I’d suggest Ghaend.”
“So would I, but Dartazn would be better.” She nodded. “Go talk to him. He has a great deal to learn in the next week. But don’t forget to tell Baratyn first.”
“He won’t be happy, either.”
“You expected otherwise?” She raised a single eyebrow.
With a rueful smile, I left, heading back to my study to see if I’d gotten a reply from Sea-Marshal Valeun. As I walked
Valeun had replied. The duty prime had an envelope, and in it was a curt note said that he would be available at half past fourth glass.
My next task was to meet with Baratyn. So I donned my heavy winter cloak and ventured forth into a bitter wind to make my way to the duty coach stand.
Once I reached the Council Chateau, I found the Council’s security master standing in the corridor on the main level, just outside the study where the messengers waited between duties.
“Maitre Rhennthyl, what brings you here these days?”
I offered a smile. “I came to talk to you and to get your thoughts on something.”
“If it’s thinking, we’d best go to my study.”
I followed him and closed the door. He didn’t sit down, and I didn’t suggest it, either. One way or another, the conversation would be short.
“What do you think of Dartazn as a possibility for a position where we need a thoughtful, but enthusiastic and commanding Maitre D’Aspect?”
“It sounds like something dealing with seconds and thirds. Is it?”
“He’s been good with them.” Baratyn smiled. “He’s good with everyone. I figured he might not stay here…after all that’s happened.”
“We’re short of masters everywhere. But I wanted to talk to you before I talked to him.”
“I do appreciate that.” He paused. “We’ll be short-handed here.”
“With what we’re doing,” I replied, “the entire Collegium is likely to be short-handed, possibly for several months. Once this is over, it’s possible that we may be able to start training some replacements.”
“When will you need him…if he agrees?”
“The moment he does. I have a coach waiting.”
Baratyn’s face sobered. Then he nodded slowly. “Is it true that the Ferrans detonated Glendyl’s engine works right around you?”
“And you’re planning something to take the war more to them?”
“Let’s just say that we’re planning something.” I smiled. “Do you happen to know where Dartazn might be at the moment?”
“He was escorting a visitor to see acting Chief Councilor Caartyl. I don’t imagine he’ll be that long.”
“Has Caartyl had that many visitors?”
“Very few. Just a handful of guildmasters. Word is out that Glendyl is likely to recover, and he can be vindictive.”
“He may be preoccupied with rebuilding his engine works.” Then, he might not, if I found any hard evidence to link him to the Ferrans and the shooting of Suyrien. I had the feeling that some of my surmises would remain only that, at least from what I’d learned so far.
“That was a bad business.”
“More than I can say.”
At that moment, Dartazn came down the steps to the north of where we stood and walked toward us.
“Maitre Rhennthyl needs to talk to you.” Baratyn nodded to me.
“I need a few moments of your time.” The messenger study was empty, and I gestured for Dartazn to follow me in there. I couldn’t close the door, because there wasn’t one, only an archway onto the main corridor.
“Maitre Dyana and I need someone for a special assignment. Both of us thought you’d be good in it, and I’ve already talked to Baratyn. He agrees.”
“What sort of assignment?”
“Taking charge of a group of younger imagers involved in a larger task.”
Dartazn nodded slowly. “The way you put that, sir, suggests there is a certain amount of danger involved.”
“Yes, although part of that will depend on the skill of whoever takes the assignment.”
“Can you tell me more?”
“I’d prefer not to, not outside the Collegium. If you’re interested, we can go back to the Collegium. I can tell you more there.”
He nodded. “Am I the first or the last junior master you’ve approached?”
“The only one. I’d rather not have to approach any others.”
At that, he smiled wryly, an expression that also held a certain boyish charm, for all that he was slightly older than I. “I think I’d like to try.”
“Then we should depart. I have a duty coach waiting.”
He gathered his cloak, and we left the Council Chateau.
Once we were in the duty coach, I began to explain, beginning with the Ferran and Stakanaran efforts to undermine Solidar itself and then telling him about the problems with the Solidaran fleet. That was as far as I got by the time we got out of the coach, but that was enough for Dartazn to commit to the position. For the next four glasses, with one glass out for the midday meal, I went over the plan, what I expected of him, and answered his questions as well as I could. The one question he didn’t ask was why I wasn’t doing what I was asking him to do.
That alone suggested he was the right imager for the task.
Then we found another duty coach, and on the trip northward, I filled him in on what he needed to know about the Naval Command. The only thing I told him about Geuffryt was that the Assistant Sea-Marshal was the intelligence head and to be politely avoided where possible and treated with great civility otherwise, and that any request for information was to be handled by saying, “You’ll have to ask Marshal Valeun or Maitre Rhennthytl about that, sir.”
Dartazn smiled at those instructions.
The duty coach arrived at the Naval Command building almost exactly at two quints past four. By the time we’d been escorted up to Marshal Valeun’s study, it was half past the glass.
The senior ranker in the anteroom stood and opened the door to Valeun’s study, without a word, although his eyes lingered on Dartazn for a moment. The door closed behind us.
Valeun stood behind his desk. “Maitres.”
“Sea-Marshall Valeun, I’d like to present Maitre Dartazn. He is the master who will be directly in charge of the imagers and who will be with the fleet to coordinate our part of the operation.”
“I had thought you might be undertaking that task, Maitre Rhennthyl.”
“Alas, like you, Marshal, I’ve been tasked with overseeing a number of Collegium efforts, and the Maitre of the Collegium felt the master imager on the fleet level should be devoted to the operation and to nothing else.”
Valeun studied Dartazn, then nodded. “Welcome aboard, Master Dartazn.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“We have much to discuss.” Valeun gestured toward the chairs before his expansive desk, then seated himself.
I took the seat to the side, letting Dartazn sit directly facing Valeun.
“We will have a fast frigate waiting at Westisle by Jeudi, the thirty-third of Finitas, suitable for transport, but she does not have sufficient lead-lined spaces.”
I glanced to Dartazn.
“We will supply lead foil-both for the frigate, and for a number of the fast gunboats,” replied Dartazn.
“The frigate will join a replacement flotilla that will be leaving shortly from Solis…”
From there we got into detail after detail, and it was more than a glass later before we finally left the Naval Bureau. I’d had to talk more than I’d hoped to, but less than might have been. With Valeun, it was hard to tell, but I got the sense that he’d be more than happy to deal with Dartazn, rather than me. He also didn’t mention Geuffryt, and that was just fine with me.
I still wanted to resolve the issues dealing with the Civic Patrol, and the possible involvement of the Banque D’Ouestan with the Ferrans, not to mention the very loose ends dealing with Caartyl and Cydarth; but those would have to wait until we had the imagers packed up and on their way to Westisle.
When I woke early on Jeudi, four dig
“You’re not going to NordEste today…”
“I’m not?” she said sleepily.
“Not unless you want to walk four milles though snow…”
Not that we had that long together before Diestrya joined us and I finally got up.
After breakfast, I still trudged through the snow to the infirmary to check with Draffyd on Glendyl. I had to wait a bit.
“Have you been here long?” he asked as he stepped out of one the surgical rooms.
“Not really long.”
He gestured toward the room he just left. “One of the dining hall workers slipped on the snow and fell. She hit her arm on one of the stone walls outside the hall and broke it.” He paused. “What can I do for you?”
“Is Glendyl still here?”
“I’d thought to let him leave today, but with this weather…”
“That makes it easier for me to talk to him.”
“He’s not happy with you, or the Collegium.”
“He’d have lost even more if I hadn’t gone to Ferravyl when I did.”
“He doesn’t think so.”
“Has he said anything to you?”
“Besides complain about everything here in the infirmary? Not much. He hasn’t said a word about you or Maitre Dyana, or the Ferrans, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I grinned. “I was.”
“He’s in the same chamber.”
“Thank you.” I nodded and walked down the corridor and into the Councilor’s room. The walls were the same gray, but Glendyl had obviously sent for items to make his stay more comfortable. He was seated in an armchair that certainly wasn’t from the Collegium, and he wore a silken dressing gown. He set down a file of papers and looked at me, but did not speak.
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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