Imagers intrigue ip 3, p.6

Imager’s Intrigue ip-3, page 6

 part  #3 of  Imager's portfolio Series

 

Imager’s Intrigue ip-3
 



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  “It’s about Haerasyn.”

  “Kolasyn’s younger brother, the problem one? What’s he done now?”

  “He’s an elver. Not too serious, but…Odelia heard about some of the elveweed being poisoned. She wanted to know why you couldn’t stop the smuggling and the smoking. I told her that you were fortunate to be able to find out about it, and that she or Kolasyn should tell Haerasyn.”

  “And?”

  “She said that Haerasyn didn’t listen to his brother or to his brother’s family, especially not to Pharsis tied up with imagers.”

  “That’s Haerasyn’s problem, not Odelia’s or Kolasyn’s.”

  “Haerasyn’s never been…very practical.”

  I wondered if that was because everyone had sheltered him, because he could be so charming, the way my own brother had been.

  “Haerasyn can be very sweet, like Kolasyn. Odelia likes Haerasyn, and so does Kolasyn. They’re worried, and they can’t do anything. They think you can.” Seliora squeezed my hand, but her eyes were sad.

  “So I’m supposed to halt a trade no one has ever been able to stop because suddenly her husband’s brother might lose his life because he’s addicted to elveweed…and it’s your fault if I don’t?”

  “That’s about it. She didn’t say it. Not that way. She said that it was interesting what you could and couldn’t do.”

  “Oh…I can survive bullets and explosions, even if they break my ribs and nearly kill me, and I’ve worked with three taudischefs for over six years so that I finally know a few things before they get worse, but I’m supposed to stop a trade in a weed that people have been smoking for hundreds of years all by myself…when they’re the ones choosing to smoke it?”

  “I agree with you, dearest,” Seliora said gently, “but…”

  “Odelia doesn’t feel that way, and she’s your cousin, and she’s looking at you as if it’s all your fault because your husband won’t do something to save poor addicted Haerasyn. No wonder you were upset.” I paused. “What does your mother think?”

  “She agrees. You know how practical she is. She just tells me to ignore Odelia about the whole thing, but Odelia kept bringing it up yesterday and today, every chance she got.”

  “Have they found out anything about the fresher elveweed?”

  “No. That will take a few days.” Seliora yawned. “You’re thinking that someone is sending some of the poisoned weed just to the dealers supplying Third District?”

  “I couldn’t say. It’s too fresh to have come from Caenen or Otelyrn, and I don’t see how anyone could grow enough under glass or in the Sud Swamp to supply much of Solidar.”

  “But why would anyone poison just some of the weed? No one important smokes it, and no one with any factoring or holder connections makes golds from it.”

  “Not that we know.”

  “Do you really think…?”

  I shook my head. “I don’t know enough. It might not mean anything at all, but I’d still like to find out.”

  “What about the Ferrans?”

  “They’ll attack, sooner or later. They think that the Jariolans are weak and corrupt.”

  “Are they?” Seliora yawned again.

  “They’re corrupt. That doesn’t mean they’re weak.” I took her hands and stood. “You’ve had a long day, and you’re about to fall asleep.”

  “I know…but I like the quiet times, talking to you. We don’t have that many of them these days.”

  That was all too true, between my schedule and Diestrya.

  Even so, we climbed the stairs hand-in-hand, and then got ready for bed. Once we were in Seliora’s bed, holding each other-and more-helped alleviate my feeling that the relative stability and comfort we’d enjoyed for the past few years was about to vanish…and not because of anything that either of us had done.

  In the end, of course, we kissed and parted, and I returned to my small sleeping room and cold sheets…with the hope that my sleep would be pleasant, or at least dreamless.

  6

  Fog had settled around Imagisle, and I was walking southward through the dank and thick gray mist from the house toward the quadrangle to meet with Maitre Poincaryt and Master Dichartyn. I could barely see a yard or two in front of me, and I didn’t know what they wanted.

  Somewhere overhead in the distance, thunder rumbled, then died away.

  Ahead, I saw a figure in a cloak. The cloak could have been either dark gray or black, but whoever stood there on the stone walkway did not move as I neared.

  “Hello, there,” I offered.

  There was no response, nor did the figure still move.

  I was close enough to make out the hood, but for some reason I couldn’t make out the face within it.

  A blinding flash dazzled me, leaving glittering flashes in my eyes. Then, a deafening crash numbed and shook me. The figure in the cloak still did not speak, and instead of a face under the hood, I could only see darkness. Suddenly, as I watched, the cloak collapsed into a heap on the stone walk…and huge gray stones began falling out of the misty sky, all around me.

  I sat bolt upright in bed, sweat pouring from my forehead. I could smell something, but, after I lit the bedside lamp, a quick check of my sleeping chamber reassured me that what ever I’d imaged in my nightmare hadn’t set anything on fire.

  Rather than wake Seliora, because she’d looked so tired, and we’d stayed up far longer than we should have, I eased out of my bed and walked to the window. When I looked out, I could see that there was no fog. The stars were shining in a clear sky, and Artiema was half full and casting her pearly light on the lawn and walls below.

  Fog? Figures that weren’t? Stones falling out of the sky?

  Why had I dreamed something like that?

  I was afraid I knew. Even if I couldn’t logically explain it all, I had a definite sense that troubles lay ahead for both me and the Collegium.

  Eventually, I did cool down and go back to sleep.

  I wasn’t totally surprised when I woke on Vendrei to see a dark line etched in the stone of the wall beyond the foot of my bed. It didn’t look like much, just a jagged black line. After opening the bedchamber door, I concentrated on imaging the gray stone to its unmarked appearance, and the line vanished. That small bit of imaging did give me a trace of a headache, which I ignored as I dressed in my exercise clothes, and then slipped out of the house to make my way to join Clovyl, who had added some time spent on refresher training in hand-to-hand combat.

  When I finally returned to the house, between the effects of exercise, running, and a cool shower, I felt the future might be less foreboding. I was glad to see that Seliora looked more rested when I joined them at the table, but the headache didn’t totally disappear until after I ate.

  I just concentrated on being cheerful during breakfast and on the trip to NordEste Design. There certainly wasn’t anything Seliora could do about worries I couldn’t even explain, nor was there anything more I could say or do to address the problem she faced with Odelia. All I could do was to talk to her and Diestrya and make both of them feel special for the time we had together that morning.

  Once I had left them safely at NordEste Design, I read through the newsheets quickly. While the stories speculated on what might happen between Ferrum and Jariola, nothing had yet occurred. Nor had there been any more burned or damaged grain warehouses-not reported in the newsheets, anyway. The most interesting story was about the drowning death of a rising young Caenenan priest who had been trying to build a theo-political movement against the High Priest of Duodeus-effectively the ruler of tropical Caenen. Because Solidar had reached a practical and trade accommodation with Caenen, after having removed the previous High Priest, the drowning suggested the fine hand of one of Schorzat’s field operatives. The shortest story in Veritum nagged at me. Little more than three sentences long, it stated that the Council would be considering revising the Solidaran sales tax structure and imposing a one percent value-added tax on both the bulk sale of agric
ultural produce and of manufactured goods, on the grounds that the sellers of those goods were effectively exempted from the end-use sales taxes.

  After reading the newsheets, I considered the implications of the invitations Seliora and I had received. Certainly, the combination of Iryela’s note and the invitation to the Council’s Autumn Ball strongly suggested that High Councilor Suyrien had a definite agenda in mind. But what? In addition to being the Chief Councilor of the Executive Council of Solidar, Suyrien was one of the economically most prosperous and powerful High Holders, with extensive lands around L’Excelsis, one of the largest and most modern iron works at Ferravyl, not to mention the shipworks at Solis, which built most of Solidar’s warships. That had been an issue for a time, because, with its location on the shallow Southern Gulf, Solis was barely a deepwater port.

  None of that had much to do with me, either as an imager or as a Patrol Captain. Yet it had to, because neither Suyrien nor Master Dichartyn was going to involve me unless they wanted or needed something. I just had to figure out what it might be before I ended up in a position where I didn’t want to be.

  After I left the coach at Third District station and stepped inside, Lyonyt beckoned to me when I was barely through the doors. His forehead was furrowed. “Sir.”

  “What is it, Lyonyt?”

  “Last night, there were four more elver deaths. They all had that twisted look…”

  “Bad elveweed?”

  “It looks like that, sir.”

  After I hurried through various details and reports, I went looking for what ever taudischef I could find. Horazt wasn’t in any of his safe houses, and I even tried Shault’s mother’s place, although I was fairly sure Horazt hadn’t spent any time with her in years, probably because her son was an imager, and he wasn’t certain that she might not tell Shault something that might upset her son. No one had seen him, or they didn’t know where he was, or wouldn’t tell me. All I could do was leave word that more of the bad elveweed was being run into the taudis.

  I finally ran down Deyalt in mid-afternoon. Except I didn’t. He found me as I was walking down South Middle just short of Mando and the woodworks.

  “Captain…word is that you’ve been saying there’s a lot of bad weed out.”

  “We picked up four dead elvers last night. There were two last week. In over five years, I’ve never seen more than one in a week.”

  Deyalt didn’t speak for a moment. “It won’t stop, Captain. Word is that the weed isn’t bad. It’s just a lot stronger. Makes ‘em feel even better. They’ll pay more for it.”

  That made matters even worse, not better. The elvers might lay off if they thought the fresher elveweed was poisoned, but a stronger smoke would only end up with more dying. “That will mean more deaths.”

  Deyalt nodded. “We can’t do much about that. Jadhyl thought you should know.”

  “Thank you. I’ll make sure the patrollers understand.” I paused. “Do you know if the other taudis are getting the same stronger weed?”

  “I heard that it started in the Hellhole. Other than that…maybe down by the south river piers…I couldn’t say.”

  “Thank you.” I nodded, and he slipped away.

  The afternoon suddenly turned cold and windy, as it often did in fall, and I was happy to get out of the chill when I returned to the station. My relief vanished with the appearance of two separate dispatches from the Subcommander. One requested an update on any information any district captain might have on the Place D’Opera explosion. The second one was directed at me, wanting to know what the decrease in chargings from Third District meant, indirectly suggesting that we weren’t doing our job, as if the number of arrests and incarcerations were the only measure of Patrol success.

  How exactly could I reply without sounding arrogant? If I said that Third District had fewer chargings because we’d done something to reduce a few of the causes of crime, that was presumptuous. So was pointing out that the local taudischefs really didn’t want to get me angry. So was suggesting that because the taudis was quieter, we could shift a few more patrols to the Avenue D’Artisans and along the Midroad, and that cut down on smash-and-grabs and common theft.

  All of those were probably true, but I couldn’t prove it. All Cydarth cared about was numbers. To him, arrests and chargings were proof of Patrol effectiveness. I didn’t want to press my men to make arrests for his numbers.

  So I spent more than a glass writing a calm and dispassionate reply that noted a decrease in violence and attributed it to the wise policies promulgated by headquarters…and the aftermath of the removal of the disruptive influence of the Tiempran Temple of Puryon.

  After that, I went out and accompanied Chualat on his rounds in the area just east of the Guild Square. When I returned to the station, the Collegium’s duty coach was waiting, and I was more than ready to leave, but I still was a quarter-glass late in reaching NordEste Design.

  Happily, Seliora had had a better day, and our ride with Diestrya back to the Collegium was short and uneventful. Seliora didn’t even complain too much about my wanting to talk to Master Draffyd, especially after I told her why.

  Draffyd was in the infirmary, but he almost glared when I walked in. Then he recognized me and smiled. “Rhenn…I haven’t seen you in a while, and you’re on your feet.”

  “I wanted your advice.” I explained what had happened the day before with the child who’d swallowed the elveweed. “I didn’t know what else to do. I knew it was dangerous. But…” I shrugged.

  “I’m glad you realized how dangerous it could have been. The child was fortunate you were the imager there. But you were still very lucky. If you could come in after dinner next Meredi, I’d like to work with you then. Don’t eat much supper.”

  “I’ll be here.”

  I hurried back to the house and arrived with enough time to spare that we both spent a half-glass playing with Diestrya before readying her for bed, and then dressing for dinner at the Dichartyns’. I just washed up and brushed my grays. Seliora changed into an outfit consisting of a dark gray shimmering blouse, with a matching long skirt trimmed in a deep burgundy, and a jacket of the same shade of burgundy.

  Then we set out, Seliora carrying a basket filled with two bottles of an amber Grisio that her Aunt Staelia had suggested was quite refreshing. Since Staelia owned and very successfully operated Chaelya’s-what I would have called a gourmet bistro-her recommendations were worth heeding.

  Master Dichartyn’s house was two dwellings to the north of ours. We walked past the dwelling of Master Rholyn and then the one of Maitre Dyana. From the outside, all four looked similar: gray stone walls, with dark slate gray roofs, and leaded glass windows. Each had a low stone wall enclosing the space around the house, with raised beds for gardens flanking the walls, and lawn between the raised beds and the stone walkway surrounding each house. Running along the wide spaces between the walls surrounding each house were stone walks, flanked by low boxwood hedges and, except in winter, flower beds. The dwellings’ window casements were painted dark gray-with one exception. Not surprisingly, Maitre Dyana had the trim on her dwelling painted two shades of blue, one a dark grayish blue, and other a light mist blue. But then, she always wore a bright scarf with her imager grays, and more often than not those scarves were either blue or contained blue.

  Just beyond Master Dichartyn’s dwelling was that of Maitre Poincaryt, or more properly, the official dwelling of the Maitre of the Collegium Imago, located on a low flat knoll doubtless raised two yards above the others just to distinguish it from the houses of the other senior masters. It was also half again as large as the dwellings of the senior masters that surrounded it. Seliora and I had only been inside Maitre Poincaryt’s dwelling little more than a handful of times, usually at the year-end reception he held for all the masters of the Collegium.

  When we reached the door of the Dichartyns, I didn’t even have to lift the knocker, because he opened the door, his gray hair backlit by the lamps of the
foyer behind him. “Rhenn, Seliora…please come in.”

  He stepped back, and his wife hurried from the hallway behind to join him.

  Seliora handed the basket to Aelys. “We thought you might enjoy this.”

  “Oh…you didn’t have to…” replied the good Madame Dichartyn, as angular as when I’d first seen her at the Imagisle Anomen six years earlier, “but it was so kind of you.” With her last words, that angular severity vanished with the warm welcoming smile she bestowed on us. “The girls are at Maitre Poincaryt’s, watching over his grandchildren. He and Auralya are entertaining his daughter and son and their spouses. They don’t see them that often, since one couple lives in Cloisonyt and the other in Khelgror. But…you must come and see my indoor herb garden.” Aelys drew Seliora away.

  Master Dichartyn said quietly, “I’d like just a moment with you, Rhenn.”

  I waited for him to speak.

  “Yesterday, you were talking to Baratyn. You gave him quite a worry.”

  “I know. I didn’t mean to. He made a pleasantry about things being quiet at the Council Chateau, and I said that they weren’t likely to stay that way. All I meant was that, with a resumption of the war between Jariola and Ferrum likely, he’d likely be seeing more assassins and the like, the same way as before.”

  “Rhenn,” Dichartyn said quietly, “please think about who you are. Believe it or not, people will read more into your words than you may mean. This time, there’s no harm done, because I told him the same thing this morning, and that was when he said you’d already warned him, but I don’t think you meant it in quite the same way, did you?”

  “I meant that it was likely…not…” I wasn’t quite certain what else to say.

  “Rhenn…how many Maitres D’Structure are there in the Collegium?”

  “There are five here, and Dhelyn. I don’t know if the heads of the two other Collegia besides Westisle-I know they’re all really part of the Collegium, but I think of them that way-are all Maitres D’Structure.”

 

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