Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 44part #3 of Imager's portfolio Series
“You may not know this, Maitre Rhennthyl, but I was not the heir to Ram-sealte. So I took a commission as an officer and spent four years at sea.” He turned from the window. “The more I’ve learned about the bombardment of the Collegium, the more concerned I’ve become. The most senior and able of the imagers were targeted. As you noted, the gunnery was excellent. More than excellent. Outstanding, I would judge.” He paused. “Could that have been done by an imager? Certainly, there were no vessels remaining in the area.”
“The shells were fired from barges north of Imagisle. Quite a few people saw the barges burning and exploding before they sank. As for an imager creating that destruction…no. The best of imagers might be able to create and detonate one or two shells in that fashion, but there were something like eight fired quickly.”
“I thought as much, but it is best to ask. I must confess that I do not understand the motivation behind such an attack.” He held up a hand. “Oh, I can understand how the Ferrans well might wish to cripple Solidar by striking a blow at the Collegium, but by far the best way to do so would be to have targeted the quarters of your junior imagers. They represent the future, and one could kill far more of them with each shell. Whoever was behind the attack wanted to take out the leadership of the Collegium.”
“That is very clear,” I agreed. “But there have never been that many senior imagers, and I have no doubts that Ferrum knows that.”
“Might I ask what you intend to do about that and these other attacks on Solidar?”
“Might I ask why you’re asking me, rather than Councilor Rholyn or Maitre Dyana?”
“You could indeed. The truth is that you’re known not to imply one thing while meaning another or to say nothing at all in most elegant phrases.”
“I might not say anything at all.”
“You might not, but you will not waste my time.”
“Let us just say that the Collegium is well aware of the need to act.”
“Will the Naval Command support you in what ever you plan?”
“They will…either in the near-term…or later.”
“Your words contain implications…” He cocked his head slightly.
“All words do, Councilor.”
“Pardon me if I am unseemly in my bluntness, Maitre, but when might we know of the…implications?”
“As we both know,” I replied politely, “we are effectively at war with Ferrum. Until the Ferrans are dissuaded, that conflict will continue. We are working on such dissuasion. At the moment, I would prefer not to say more.”
“You are every bit Dichartyn’s successor.” Ramsael laughed. “Let me change the subject to another that will affect us all, if not quite so immediately. Like all the High Holders who are Councilors, I opposed the ‘reforms’ that the late Chief Councilor managed to have enacted in the last session of the Council.” Ramsael smiled politely at me. “I presume you understand the measures to which I’m referring.”
“If you’re referring to those contained in the low justice changes, I do.” I didn’t see any point in denying that I knew very well. First, to do so would have been lying, even if I did so by evasion, rather than by outright prevarication. Second, all that would do would be to delay matters, and not for all that long, while irritating Ramsael. And third, it would just make the eventual resolution more difficult.
“These changes could have far-reaching effects. I trust you understand that as well.” He looked at me directly.
“The changes would come, regardless of those provisions,” I pointed out.
“How will the Collegium act if efforts are made to reverse those so-called reforms?”
“I can’t speak for the Collegium, Councilor.”
“I would have expected no other response, you understand? Yet, I had to ask.”
“If the Collegium speaks or acts, Maitre Dyana will be the one with whom you will deal…and no one else.”
Ramsael frowned. “Given that, as a friend of my daughter and her husband, then, how would you advise me?”
That made it difficult. “Let me just say that I suspect your efforts would be better directed elsewhere.”
He nodded slowly. “How much time do we have?”
“You know what the law said. I would judge, and it is only my opinion, that if the Council follows the law and the original charter, the Collegium would see no reason to speak or act.”
“That will not set well with some.”
“Not following the law and charter will set less well with even more, I fear.”
“The Collegium stands where?”
“Behind the law. Where else could the Collegium and its Maitre stand?”
“Not all laws are for the best, some would say.”
“I would agree. I would also say that a land that does not live by its laws will not long endure. It may change those laws, but to flout them will destroy it far more quickly than following bad laws.”
“You have me there, Maitre Rhennthyl, and best we leave it at that. Is there anything I might be able to help you with?” Ramsael did not smile, but his voice was quietly earnest.
“Several matters, possibly. What can you tell me about the Banque D’Ouestan?”
“Very little directly, except that they’ve recently opened branches in Kherseilles and Estisle. They also appear to be offering favorable terms for loans to factors.” Ramsael seemed relieved at the change in subject, even though he’d brought up the initial questions.
“They wouldn’t be touting the fact that they’re not beholden to or owned by High Holders, would they?” I asked.
The faintest hint of a smile crossed the Councilor’s face, then vanished. “There are rumors to that effect.”
“Do you know what factors of import might have had dealings with them?”
“Know? No. There was word that Veblynt played off the Banque D’Excelsis against them to finance his new paper mill south of Rivages. Glendyl avoided talking about them, and that suggests he knew more than he wanted to reveal. Reyner warned everyone to avoid them because they were backed by outland golds. Someone suggested that troublemaker Broussard had dealings with them…”
I asked a few more questions, listened, and then took my leave. I was intrigued that Ramsael was familiar with Veblynt, but then the paper factor had come from a High Holder family, and because he was a friend of my father’s, I could certainly talk to him…when I had some time. In the end, I stayed at the Council Chateau through the opening glass, while the votes were taken to confirm Ramsael as Chief Councilor and to seat Fhernon as the High Holder Councilor replacing Suyrien.
Rholyn made an eloquent speech in support of Ramsael, but the only words that stuck in my memory were: “Like any good Chief Councilor, Councilor Ramsael will be mindful of our heritage. He will understand and accept the present, while planning for a better future that neither rejects the past nor blindly embraces change for the sake of change…”
I couldn’t help feeling that Rholyn was trying to be all things to all Councilors.
When I finally got back to the Collegium a quint or so after the first glass of the afternoon, I knew I had to concentrate on the links between Glendyl and the other factors and the Banque D’Ouestan.
On Mardi, I took the duty coach with Seliora and Diestrya and dropped them off at NordEste Design, then had the driver take me to the Banque D’Excelsis on the Midroad just south of Plaza D’Este, the branch that had been bombed.
As I got out of the coach, I turned to Desalyt. “If you’d wait?”
The guard outside the banque doors glanced at me-or my grays-but decided against saying anything as I entered. I hadn’t been able to remember the name of the director of the banque, but I had written it down right after the explosion and locked it into the hidden safebox in my home study, along with the note I’d received and, later, the card I’d gotten from Madame D’Shendael at the Autumn Ball. So I’d taken a moment earlier that morning to open the s
The second guard-the one inside the banque-must have been there on the day of the explosion, because he clearly recalled me. He stepped forward. “Master Captain?”
“I’m here to see Director Tolsynn.”
The guard turned toward one of the clerks behind a bronze framed cage. “The Maitre and captain is here for the director.”
I only waited a few moments before Tolsynn appeared. I might not have remembered his name, but I couldn’t have forgotten the waxed black mustaches and bulging green eyes-or the air of self-importance that made him seem to bulge out of his black pinstriped jacket.
“Maitre Captain.” His acknowledgment was a polite statement of the fact that he didn’t want to see me.
“There are a few items we need to discuss, Director. Your study would be most convenient.”
Tolsynn didn’t quite sigh. “I trust this will not be too long.”
“Only long enough to go over what we need to.”
I followed him to the small study with the narrow uncluttered desk and took the chair farthest from the door. He looked at me, the door, and finally seated himself, waiting.
“You may have noticed that there have been more than a few explosions in L’Excelsis over the past month. In the course of our investigations, the Collegium has come across a variety of indications that the Banque D’Ouestan has been used to convey funds from Ferrum to L’Excelsis, and to other banques, as well as to individuals who may be connected to those explosions.” I smiled at Tolsynn, projecting both forthrightness and a certainty that he certainly wouldn’t wish to hide anything from me.
He didn’t say anything.
I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head slightly, signifying that I was waiting for a response.
“For most of our clients, we seldom deal with the Banque D’Ouestan. Out of all our clients, there are less than a hundred factors and other commercial enterprises who regularly receive funds from that institution. They have done so for years.”
“So you haven’t noticed anyone receiving large sums from there in just the past year? Someone who didn’t before.”
“I couldn’t say if someone received one or two fund transfers, but I can assure you that no significant funds were transferred to any client over the past year who had not already been transacting business for some time before that.”
“Has the Banque D’Ouestan ever sent representatives here for any reason?”
Tolsynn frowned, then he nodded. “They do have a local representative. At least, he represented himself as such. I have his card here.” He turned in the chair and lifted an ebony card box, opening it, then riffling through it. “Here…” He handed me an engraved card.
The name read:
VYKTOR D’BANQUE D’OUESTAN
880 AVENUE D’THEATRE
“What did he want from you?” I studied it for a moment, then handed the card back.
“He didn’t seem to want anything. He gave me his card and said that if I had any troubles or questions regarding transactions or transfers that I should let him know immediately. We never have had those problems.”
“When did he give you the card?”
“Sometime in Harvest, late Agostos, as I recall.”
I asked more questions about the Banque D’Ouestan, but Tolsynn didn’t know any more. So I changed the subject. “I’d like to know if you observed anything else about Kearyk. I’ve seen a miniature of him, and he seemed extraordinarily handsome.”
“More like…” Tolsynn paused, then said, “almost pretty. He was always well-dressed. I once asked him if he spent all his earnings on clothes. He laughed. He said he didn’t have to.”
“What did you think of that?”
“I wondered for a time, and I watched. But several times he was picked up by someone in a stylish carriage. More than several times.”
“Did you notice anything about the carriage?”
“No. Just that it was black with brass trim. Very conservative. With two matched grays.”
“Did you see who was inside?”
Tolsynn shook his head.
“I take it Kearyk had a fine hand, his writing, I mean.”
“Did he draw?”
“How would I…” He broke off. “Come to think of it, I did see a few…well…doodles…on a scrap of paper once. Very graceful…very fine.”
“Graceful enough that he could have forged the entire ledger sheet with the off-entry in it?”
“I suppose. I hadn’t thought of it. He seemed so gentle and kind. Why would he have done that for such a small sum…comparatively, that is?”
I didn’t have an answer for that question, although I was beginning to get a glimmer of one. “I have no idea.” I laughed softly. “That’s why I had to come back to talk to you. This branch doesn’t handle the Civic Patrol accounts, I take it?”
“No…those are all at Council Square.”
“Did you know Captain Bolyet? He was a friend of mine…a good officer.”
Tolsynn nodded. “I met him a few times…and, of course, his widow. It was an accident, I heard.”
“One of those freak things that you never think can happen. Any patroller thinks he might be shot at, or attacked, or even have trouble with a runaway hauler’s team…but to get hit by a loose crane? Even Subcommander Cydarth found that hard to believe.”
“He said something like that.”
“He’s been a client for a long time, I imagine.”
“Longer than I’ve been director here.”
“I wonder if he’d know this Vyktor D’Banque D’Ouestan. I’d heard he or his wife had relatives there.” I shook my head. “Probably not. When you hear that someone’s from someplace or has relatives there, you always think that they’ll know people you do, and usually they don’t.”
Tolsynn nodded. “He’s never said anything about that, but we’ve not passed more than a few words ever.” He paused and looked at the door. “Is there anything else?”
“Not at the moment. Thank you.” I stood.
After I left the banque, I instructed Desalyt to take me to the Plaza D’Nord. Despite the fact that chalkers worked in places where there were pedestrians, it took nearly a glass for us to find Lacques. He was a block down from the Plaza, on the corner of Milner Lane and Saenhelyn Road, and he looked to have just started a small wall painting on a narrow stretch of stone between a cafe that looked to be closed and a millinery shop.
I had the coach stop a few yards back and then got out and walked toward the chalker.
He turned and said, “It’s not finished…sir.” For a street artist, he was well-turned out, with dark trousers and polished boots, and even a red cravat.
“Lacques, you might remember that we talked about Kearyk several weeks ago.”
“I told you everything I knew…sir.”
“No. You told me the truth about everything I asked. I’ve been thinking. That chalk you did, the one of the half-man, half-woman. That was Kearyk, in a way, wasn’t it?”
The chalker didn’t answer for a moment. Then he smiled crookedly. “Yes. Kearyk had that handsome angelic look, but sometimes he could be a manipulative bitch. He could be so sweet and dear…and then…other times…” Lacques shook his head.
“You don’t happen to have a black coach with brass trim, do you?”
“A chalker? With a coach?”
There was an edge to his voice, and I pressed. “But you know who it was, don’t you?”
“I don’t know his name. Kearyk never said. He told me I didn’t own him. I only saw him once, from a distance. He had to be a wealthy swell, but not what you’d expect. Clothes like a High Holder, but dark, and his hair was cut short-like yours.”
“Did you see what color his hair was?”
“A mixture of red and silver gray, I thought. He was years older than me. But he had golds, and Kearyk loved golds and clothes
“Kearyk received clothes from this…friend?”
“I don’t know where else he would have gotten them.” Lacques’s voice turned bitter. “I’m the one who taught him how to dress and present himself. He was turned down for several clerkships until I showed him what to wear.”
“Why didn’t you become a guild artist?”
“It’s not a matter of talent. You have to have golds to get a master to take you…or have them take a special interest in you, and…I didn’t have the golds, and I was never handsome enough.” He shrugged. “I manage to get by, what with the art and being a server a few places.”
“Did Kearyk ever say anything about his friend?”
“No. I asked, but he said he was just a friend. He was lying, and he knew that I knew that, but if I’d pressed it, he would have left.”
“He didn’t say anything at all about him?”
“Just that he knew all the people in the salons, like Madame D’Shendael and Madame D’Almeida. Kearyk liked to think he could have conversed with them. He’d go to the bookshops and read her books a chapter at a time.”
“That was all?”
“You think this swell had something to do with his death?”
“I don’t know.” I thought that he did, but I didn’t know.
“But…why? I can’t believe that Kearyk was anything but…a plaything to a swell like that. I even told him so.”
“What did he say?”
“He just said that it wasn’t like that at all, and he enjoyed the culture. He said if I asked more, he’d leave. I didn’t.”
I spent another quint with Lacques. I didn’t learn much more, but I’d learned more than enough to end up even more puzzled about why matters were turning out as they seemed to be.
By the time I returned to Imagisle, I had enough time to check with Schorzat and Kahlasa, and to write down the name and address of Vyktor D’Banque D’Ouestan. Neither Schorzat nor Kahlasa had anything new to report, and Maitre Dyana wasn’t looking for me. So I went over to the dining hall, which contained noticeably fewer junior imagers, unsurprisingly. I sat between Chassendri and Isola.
I’d barely taken a sip of tea before Ferlyn immediately asked, “Most honored Maitre Rhennthyl, might you be able to explain where so many of the juniors have gone?”
L. E. MODESITT SERIES:
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