Raiders From The Sea, Chapter 18

This one is longer. Bluefin sport a broom. Gwen has lunch with her sister.

Chapter 18.

SS- 21, (Bluefin)

The commander watched from the bridge as the boat followed the guiding seafolk into the lagoon and joined the other two boats that were tied to the hulking sub tender anchored in the lagoon. The lagoon and the island had become a hub of activity as the navy expanded the trading post with a base for the flying boats, improved the anchorage and dropped the concrete quarters for navy seafolk to allow them to have a rapidly growing bower. The construction battalion was already starting on base housing and storage depots, some large oil tanks so that fuel could be stored at the base and wrapping it all with steel and concrete gun platforms that should let the Imperials know that this was not a place they wanted come with unfriendly intentions. Pilings for a new pier for both trading vessels and navy use were being driven by a pile driver on a barge. It was obvious that the Republic thought that the island was going to be important for some time.

As the boat moved through the lagoon, seafolk girls waved and started to dance as the boat crew grinned from their places on the rail. The various ships had a good portion of their crews at the rails, in whites, saluting the boat, cheering, and brooms were being waved frequently. The chief of the boat came up to the bridge with a broom, climbed up the periscope mast and attached it. As he dropped back down, he said, “Sorry sir, I almost forgot.”

“The Commodore might not be happy.”

“He will be when he sees the report. You taking that shot did nothing but good, because it let our people in that Ravathyra hell hole know that we were there and let those Ravathyra bastards know that they were not the only ones that can come up to places hidden and surprise with an attack. We also got everything the Admiralty wanted before you took your shot. By the time you did, we were just waiting to see if we could discover anything about our people in the city. Thanks to the shot, we did.”

The boat was tied up and the commander had to go through the smiling crews of the other two boats as he crossed them to the tender’s gangway. As he climbed the gangway a smiling lieutenant was waiting at the top and saluted. The commander said, “Permission to come aboard?”

“Permission granted. The commodore is waiting in his office.”

The lieutenant led the commander to the commodore’s office where they went inside and saluted. The commodore said, “That will be all, lieutenant. Sit Commander Pinch.”

The commander sat and the commodore started with, “I want to get this out of the way. You went outside your orders, potentially risked your mission and revealed that the boat existed. I hope, commander, that you understand the potential consequences of that.”

“I do sir. I took the shot fully aware of the potential consequences. On the other hand, I knew where those ships were headed, we still don’t have a good way to find ships hidden under glamor, I needed to stay on station and those characters could have hurt a lot of people. I felt that I had to take advantage of the fact that the ships were not under glamor, were together as a squadron and sailing right into a perfect targeting solution. I thought that the benefits of me taking the shot outweighed any potential consequences of revealing that the boat was there.”

“I just wanted to know if you were gloryhounding or chasing Admiral Ehlark Zylvyre’s rather substantial bounty.”

“I didn’t know who was in command of the squadron. I did know that there was an admiral’s banner flying, but that ship was the lead and the target of the last torpedo I fired so that ship was the most likely to react.”

The commodore grinned. “So the last thing the old bastard saw was his pride and joy blowing up and heading to the bottom. Commander, you are a very cruel man. With that cleared away, I’m going to endorse your actions. Frankly with a target like that, I would have taken the shot too. Killing evil bastards aside, how did the rest of your patrol go?”

“Before the admiral and his squadron arrived, we managed to get good soundings of the approaches, a feel for the normal traffic and photos of most of the fortifications and the harborfront. Everything is there in the report. As a result of the admiral and his squadron suddenly exploding, the Republic’s people ashore initiated contact about a five day later.”

“So you achieved all your objectives and nailed the bastard for a bonus. You didn’t happen to get a picture, did you?”

“Open the report.”

The commodore did and pulled out the three pictures on top. “Where did the other two come from?”

“Admiral Shanelis has people watching entries and departures and the various spies share things. Admiral Shanelis’s person took those with a crystal and they were passed around.”

“All three of these are going to get passed around. This report will need to be dispatched back home soonest and I want you to go over it with the marine commander here and intelligence. Since you know the territory, I’m going to send you back. Intelligence is sending two people, the foreign ministry one and the marines one, in a task force to look into things there. I want you to back them up. Since you are taking the extra people, I’m going to withhold restocking your fish.”

“There probably won’t be anything to shoot at anyway. The Ravathyra stopped sending raiding ships to their secret base for some reason.”

“I’ve already dispatched Marlin there anyway. From now on, that place will be covered by a boat.”

“Do we have the boats?”

“Yes. Five new boats are just finishing their shakedowns. By the way, you will have a squadron and a promotion coming up. Now you will get the opportunity to feel what it is like to be in my seat. Dismissed.”

The commander returned to the boat and Lieutenant Sawyer asked him, “Did the commodore chew you out, sir?”

“Worse. I have a squadron command and a promotion coming up. At least we are all going to be rich.”

The Port of Chatsrey, Beltian Republic.

Gwaerengwen had never felt so lost in her life. She wasn’t sure what she should do or where she should go. Radhron was busy with the details of getting the ship unloaded of the things from the Ravathyra raiding ships and the estate. The rest of the people from the estate seemed to be looking to her for guidance and she didn’t have any. So it was with relief when Neres showed up with an apparent elf who said, “Milady Yllanan, I am Kentog Stillingfleet from the Bureau of Exile and Immigration Affairs. I have been tasked to facilitate your entry into the Republic.”

“You don’t look like a goblin, Mr. Stillingfleet.”

“I was lucky. I take after mother. My sister was a bit unlucky, though she managed to nail the guy she wanted, so it didn’t matter. He dragged her under in any case, which upset mother a bit. In any case, your case is a bit complicated by the recent events, so I was delegated by the foreign minister. We will need to get your people settled, though your son has volunteered to handle that with his people, get the people here oriented and let them know what the rules are. That especially goes for the slaves who have to understand that they are emancipated. I have people here to handle that and it is all routine, so our main task will be to establish your role as the imperial ambassador, something that the Republic, the Kingdom of Hammer and the Federation of Peoples has needed for a very long time. It is very hard to complain when there is no way to communicate and up until recently the Ravathyra managed to squelch most attempts to make contact so that they could continue their activities.”

“We in the empire didn’t know what the Ravathyra were doing, at least not most of us. The ones that did, looked the other way, or the Ravathyra arranged their exile. My sister was exiled.”

“I know. You will be seeing her as soon as we get things in the right direction. So let us begin.”

Stillingfleet went over what was expected, the general rules for handling exiles, such as the registry and informing any relatives that an exile had entered the Republic and a host of other details. The entire thing was rather overwhelming and Gwen was more than a bit exhausted when she, Tomas and Calladia had finished with Stillingfleet who smiled as they were wrapping up and said, “You have the beginnings of an excellent staff, milady.”

“I know. We will have to hire more, I suspect. The thing with Captain Zylvyre is going to be eating up a lot of resources.”

“We want to make sure that the bastard has an unambiguously fair trial before he hangs.”

“I have met his Barrister. A rather formidable fellow.”

“Very. He is very good at what he does. Captain Zylvyre has been given the best representation we have.”

“Mr. Ironaxe works very quickly and the first thing he did was have me send a message to Captain Zylvyre’s uncle requesting that he arrange the repatriation of the slaves with family members on the prosecution team.”

“So, we should be seeing them returned soon. I will tell the Secretary of State and see if Mr. Kellet can arrange transport. He has the best connections to the empire through your house.”

“Then I and my stepson will have to talk with Edwin about that.”

Stillingfleet’s aide came to the lounge where they had been working and Stillingfleet said, “The empire doesn’t have a formal system of transport and diplomatic documents, so I took the liberty of having diplomatic passports made up for you and the staff that I thought that you would have. If more are needed, you can contact the foreign ministry. Needless to say, the Secretary of State would like to formalize such things with the empire as soon as possible. It’s about lunch time a lady will be looking for you, so why don’t we go ashore and let your sister find you before I get in trouble.”

“My sister is that influential?”

“I’m not going to say, because your sister likes to be discreet about certain things. I don’t know how much she will want to share with you.”

Stillingfleet led her onto the walkway connecting the ship to the large building and through the mostly empty building to the end and down a stairway where an elegantly dressed woman was waiting with an obvious servant. The woman looked up as they approached and called out, “Gwen!”

The woman was her sister, Nylathria, who she hadn’t seen since she had been exiled a century ago. Her sister ran over and hugged her. “Gwen, you are here at last! I would take Radhron to task about that, except that it was the Ravathyra’s fault for sending their ships and things to pester us again. Where is Galassiel?”

“Still out at the island with her boyfriend, who she arranged to get to a beach finally. She has a tail and is militantly living the seafolk experience with him. I imagine that they will Swim here at some point or come with Cloud.”

“Probably come with Cloud. Brendan was a rather serious boy, growing up. Why don’t we get to the car and I will show you my city.”

Gwen followed her sister to the strange vehicle, the servant held the door as they entered, then went in front and the vehicle moved off down the busy street.

“This is your city?”

“Some of it is. A man gave me some empty land as a gift and I leased it to farmers and then other people who built things on it. The land does very well. Tell me everything that happened since you finally dumped your philandering husband. You should have come with Edwin instead of just sending him away.”

“I think that I felt that I had to be the good elven wife and manage the household, regardless of what Esgalwathanar did. He did what he did at the capital and I had the estate.”

“You had Edwin and the rest there and until you sent Edwin away, you didn’t really want to concern yourself with Esgalwathanar. Of course Galassiel did the right thing when Esgalwathanar bungled finding somebody for her. He was so caught up in connections and influence because he doesn’t understand the power of a true partnership.”

“Do you have a partner?”

“Yes, but because of my business, we are a bit discreet about it. He is the man who gave me that land in the first place.”

“Where are we going?”

“A wonderful place for lunch. A new goblin restaurant opened up in a great location and the food is just incredible.”

“Goblins serve food? What is a restaurant?”

“Yes and we are almost there, so I will let you discover.”

After a bit more of the rather overwhelming and confusing ride, the car pulled over to a curb and stopped. The servant opened the door and the sisters emerged from the car in front of an elaborate doorway, guarded by a rather stuffy looking goblin in a fancy uniform. The goblin smiled when he saw the ladies and said “Welcome Milady Orizana. Who is this?”

“Ugziot, this my sister, Lady Yllanan from the empire.”

“Ah, another exile then. Welcome lady, to our humble business.”

The ladies entered the building where another goblin was waiting. “Milady Orizana, so nice to see you again. Your usual table?”

“Kord, this is my sister, Lady Yllanan, who just arrived from the empire and since it was such a wonderful day, I thought that we would sit outside on the patio.”

“A wonderful idea. Meilael, take the ladies to the court. Table fourteen should do well.”

A half elf popped up and said, “Ladies, if would follow me.”

He led them outside where they must have been going uphill and Gwen hadn’t noticed as the court over looked the city and Meilael took them a table on the edge with a view overlooking the city. He sat the ladies down and said, “May I get the ladies something to drink?”

“You know what I like, Meilael and bring my sister the same. By way, the special will be fine for both of us. Tell Vikz that I leave myself in his hands as always.”

“Very well.”

As the half elf left to get the drinks, Gwen turned to her sister and said, “A restaurant is a place where you can go and eat. You are really trusting your meal to a goblin?”

“Very much so. Vikz is one of the top chefs in the city and I am so happy that he opened his own place at last. Isn’t the view wonderful?”

“Yes it is. How did this city happen?”

“About a century ago, the republic built a canal from the interior to up the river. The port here was already here and the commerce and the city just grew. I have seen most of it and the energy here is amazing. I know that the city can be overwhelming to new arrivals from the empire at first, but you will get used to it all too soon.”

“How many people live here?”

“Several million. I don’t pay that much attention.”

“The empire doesn’t even know that this city exists.”

“No they do not. If the empire did, they would be rather afraid. Unfortunately for the empire, other than the Ravathyra raiding the towns and seafolk along the coast, the empire has been looking inwards and been stuck in the past with the Inquisition keeping things that way.”

“I have noticed that. Of course things were different at the Estate than they were at the capital. We had to face the consequences of first the turmoils and then the emperor becoming incompetent. The taxes kept going up and we needed to increase the business or collapse. So we made compromises. It helped that Esgalwathanar tended to share blood with his bedmates and then when they inevitably became pregnant, sent them to the estate where they would no longer become an embarrassment. I’m not sure that he understood that his bedmates turned out all to be remarkable women on their own who attracted partners from next door and not so next door. Of course, as the kids have grown up, they have all proven to be remarkable as well. The Estate has grown nothing but stronger because of them.”

“I can’t wait to meet the ladies and their husbands and children.”

“Some of them are still at the Estate, somewhat. Millicent, Teiran’s mother, for instance, is managing the Estate for me as well as being in the faery kingdom a good portion of time.”

“How does she escape?”

“She jumps out to her house at the Estate. Sometime she brings the nuisances with her when their mother can’t stand them for a while. Of course, the other mothers reciprocate, trying to get the boys, at least, stuck in the faery kingdom. So far, none of them have, though some girls are working on it.”

Nyla giggled. “It sounds as if things are a lot of fun at the Estate. I wonder how your husband is dealing with it.”

“Captain Shanelis left me the little portal from the ship and mana battery so that it would work even here, so that I can keep contact with the empire. Teiran’s wife, Lavidia has taken over the castle in the capital and as far as I know, Esgalwathanar hasn’t complained. Lavidia’s daughter caught the young man next door, which made Esgalwathanar’s sister, Leilatha scream about inappropriate relationships, which was idiotic because Lavidia is royal fae and Jessamine a wonderful girl.”

“Why was Leilatha at Esgalwathanar’s in the first place?”

“I think that you can guess, especially since Esgalwathanar’s father arranged a marriage for Leilatha with Erlan Zylvyre.”

“She wanted to take over the household accounts and ruin Esgalwathanar after Radhron made off with you and apparently burned down the Estate. That way she could advance the Ravathyra faction and damage whoever Esgalwathanar was supporting. Of course she had no way of knowing that things were set up so that the Estate would look destroyed, but wouldn’t be.”

“Were you involved with that?”

“I, Edwin and Sellia started the ball rolling and Peiran and some of the others slipped over and made the plans. Who was the young man that the young royal fae made off with?”

“Aneirin Hienorin.”

“Interesting. I imagine that the Ravathyra were rather upset that they weren’t able to lock down their timber supply.”

Meilael came back with two glasses and Gwen was surprised that they were full of ice and what appeared to be tea. She took a sip and the tea had had things added to it that made it a delight on the tongue. She turned to her sister and said, “How do they transport the ice?”

“They have machines that make it and a company delivers it so that people can keep their food cool this time of year. Isn’t this tea wonderful?”

“Yes it is. I will have to tell Millicent that we should smuggle an ice machine to the estate and hide it.”

“You wouldn’t be worried about the Inquisition?”

“Our Inquisitor is a slave to his stomach and taste buds. That is unless the Inquisition hasn’t made a change in assignments. He would stamp just about everything that the traders off loaded. He made doing things so much easier. Wave a freshly baked pie under his nose and some ladylike entertainment and he didn’t want to waste his time doing a detailed investigation of trivialities.”

“An intelligent and practical man then. Is he married?”

“Yes, but his wife relies on servants to cook, buys cheap slaves and thinks that she is economizing. She also was brought up by the Ravathyra and they way they think that women should behave. She is very devout and dutifully only had one child when the stupid thing went around. Though I can’t say very much as I was the same way. At least she manages to keep Illitia in her bed. I couldn’t manage that with my husband.”

“Esgalwathanar was what he is long before father made the arrangement. I’m not sure why father did that except that maybe he thought that Esgalwathanar would use his skills in certain directions to protect you and any children you had. He did, in a rather disgusting way, but I cannot say very much about that and not be a hypocrite. Lunch is here and we should enjoy it, so why don’t you tell me all about the rather remarkable people that seem to be family, now that they are all here. Now there’s a surprise. You don’t see Kulgha and Dumag together very often. Hello gentlemen.”

Barrister Ironaxe had walked up and said, “Hello Milady, actually I should say Miladies. I didn’t know that you knew Milady Orizana, Milady Yllanan.”

“Gwen is my sister,” Nyla said. “I found her at the ship. Dumag, I am surprised that you are here.”

Dumag grinned. “My brother just came in on the same ship that this lady did and we were discussing his client.”

“How so?”

“I wanted to know if he would be willing to talk with my people. Kulgha says that he probably wouldn’t unless I had a big carrot. Since the man is facing a death sentence that isn’t easy.”

“What do you do, Mr. Ironaxe?” Gwen asked.

“For my past sins, I am a brigadier general in the Marines and commander of the second division when it is assembled. Mostly I curse at young fools and hope that I can kick the stupidity out. I succeed for the most part.”

Kulgha grinned. “Ladies, I think that I will take my brother here over to our table. I imagine that he will be cursing a lot, since I won’t let him near my client for his persuasive measures, though having my client have a discussion with one my brother’s sergeants for a few hours does have a certain appeal.”

The brothers went to their table and Nyla turned to Gwen and said, “I have been caught up in the business lately. Who is Kulgha’s client and why are you involved?”

“I’m involved because Kulgha’s client is an Imperial citizen and as the only available Imperial Representative, I signed his client’s writ of extradition. I’m not sure that I can tell you who his client is.”

“If the case is big that will be in the papers. If the man is an Imperial and involves you and Kulgha, then the case is big, so the information is not confidential. That information is public record in any case.

“Kulgha’s client is Paeris Zylvyre.”

“How did they catch the bastard?”

“When Paeris heard about Melodic, he went looking for it right after he had just raided Marius Leomaris’s trading post, killed Marius’s son and about a hundred of Marius’ people, wounded a bunch more and pillaged the trading post. Cloud saw the smoke and investigated. Marius’s ships showed up in the next couple of days and they all came to Radhron’s trading post where we all were waiting for Cloud. Meanwhile Paeris was admitting what he had done to Captain Illianaro Shanelis who wanted to avoid having the traders cut off the empire entirely, something that could easily have happened, by taking the people Paeris and returning them to Marius. Radhron took Melodic and everything else that floated, along with a navy ship that had turned up chasing Leomaris and looking into the trading post, and found Paeris’s ship and Paeris. Radhron took steps to make sure that Paeris survived but couldn’t escape, they all came back to the island, I signed the writ and Captain sent it off to the Justiciars and the Regency Council, who endorsed it.”

“That explains why you were delayed.”

Melodic had to transport the wounded since she was the fastest ship and then the people taken by the Ravathyra before taking us.”

“Paeris is used as a boogeyman to scare children here in the Republic. I imagine that the trial will have a panel of judges because it will be almost impossible to find a jury where at least one family member hasn’t been kidnapped, robbed or murdered. The man was a scourge along the coast for a very long time and the navy, since it didn’t have mages, couldn’t find him. That was one reason that Edwin and Radhron decided to use Melodic so visibly. They were hoping that they could draw the raiding fleet out into the open and give it a bloody nose. Apparently they did.”

“The navy had submarines tracking most of Paeris’s ships. Terrible was the only one they missed and there was a cruiser that the navy sent to be on station near the trading depots. Nobody expected that Paeris would be so stupid to attack one or that he would even know where they were. They must have found out through a spy at the Travyre’s. We were a bit leery about spies and since a large portion of the family is fae, plays with the fae or is being chased by the fae, any spy at the Estate would have to be very good or fairly useless. Millicent handles that and she doesn’t like snoops that may catch her dancing with her husband.”

“Fae dancing?”

“Yes, so you see the issues there. I don’t think that she would actually eat a snoop, but she likes to be a tiger rather frequently.”

Nyla giggled. “I imagine that could be scary.”

“A bit dangerous, actually. A real tiger showed up once and roamed around the estate for days until somebody realized that it was a cat and not Millicent.”

“What happened to it?”

“You know, I have no idea, but a cute tiger striped cat did show up and Tomas’s kids adopted it. It was on the ship with us. It’s a very nice cat, actually. Strangely enough we have never had an issue with anybody thinking of robbing Tomas’s office or house.”

The ladies finished their lunches and Nyla said, “So what do you think of goblin cooking?”

“The lunch was excellent. I would not have thought of goblins as such craftsmen.”

“In their own country, things are rather inhospitable and poor. Hospitality and visitors are rare and there is a lot of status in being able prepare excellent meals from a low variety of the same things to eat. So being an excellent cook and being a great craftsman with food is a very high status thing with them. But in the empire they are considered crude and barbaric. Did you see anybody crude here?”

“Not at all. I didn’t think to ask, but where is your man?”

“In the kitchen, probably, harassing a lady somewhat and eating very well while gossiping about us. Meilael, tell Aien that we are ready for the car and tell Vikz that my sister was impressed by the meal.”

“I will milady.”

A rather unhappy Aien was waiting with the car and the ladies were on their way. Nyla said, “I have arranged a house for you and your staff. Edwin is dealing with most of the people from the estate. He has a place where they can become comfortable and adjust. Things can be overwhelming even for those who knew it was coming. I think that you want a place a bit quicker and you have responsibilities already.”

“How close will it be to Strom Ironshield’s place?”

“Why?”

“He has my books.”

“He does take libraries as part of what the business pays him for keeping things running. But you were never a deep reader and I think that you can find better things here than those books of elvish poetry.”

“If I’m going to be the Imperial Representative, I will need to be able to access Imperial law when I do things like write writs of extradition. Since I have been dumped into the deep end with the thing involving Paeris Zylvyre, I’m going to need to be consulting things frequently.”

“That shouldn’t be a real problem. I can arrange a car for you, in fact I already have, so you can go to Strom’s library whenever you like. You seem rather annoyed at the man. Is there a reason?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“He did what Edwin did, didn’t he? When was the last time you were with a man?”

“Since Edwin.”

‘That is far too long, but you probably don’t want to have a fling. I could arrange that, but you have always wanted stronger meat and something more solid. Father should have arranged the marriage with Esgalwathanar with me rather than you, since I am not as uptight about certain things as you are, but that is water over the bridge.”
“Calladia said that I wanted somebody steady and Strom is steady. You haven’t said what you have been doing, sister.”

“This is going to be difficult, but I’m not going to sugar coat it. You must realize that I was pushed onto one of the Ravathyra’s ships when I was exiled and expected to pay for my passage by entertaining the captain, in bed, frequently. By the time the ship reached the shores near here, the captain was tired of me and dumped me onto a beach, with the clothes on my back and a rather callous attitude about men. With that attitude and my elvish looks I found a town and a wagoneer who was willing to exchange a warm bed in the inns for a ride here. Once I arrived, I looked into things and working on my back could be very profitable if you were good at it and I was. I was good enough that I could afford to pay other girls and get them off the streets. I built a house for them and was overjoyed when some of them were lucky enough to find partners and real homes. Then Jacob showed up. At first it was the same old thing. I was a lady for a night and he could pay the bill. He became a repeat customer and then he did the incredible thing. He proposed marriage. I was rather shocked and turned him down flat. I was an elf and he was just a mortal. He came back and said that even if he was, he could give me a real partner and happiness for as long as he lasted, even if it was for a brief time. I turned him down and threw girls at him, wonderful, beautiful girls, girls that had never worked for me, girls from the best families. He wouldn’t sleep with any of them, let alone marry one. He came back and said that he would make sure that I would never want for anything and he did. He gave me the land and then went out and pushed that canal through so that it made the city the biggest in the Republic and me incredibly rich. It was then that I realized that I had no choice and had a real partner. I shared blood with him and we have been partners ever since.”

“Do you have any children?”

“Yes, but they stay with Jacob so that my reputation as a tarnished lady doesn’t touch them. The interesting thing is that since I decided to share blood, I have never shared a bed with another man, nor do I wish to. We keep things discreet, but we have our partnership and each other.”

“He must be a remarkable man.”

“Very. I tried to drive him away and he just came back and did yet another remarkable thing. I love him so much because he doesn’t care about what I did, but only about me.”

“I did the stupid thing and drove Edwin away.”

“He doesn’t blame you for that and I think that he would have returned if he could, but he was wrecked on that beach, a tail needed him and the family needed him. They were in deep trouble and you were not at the time. Then Sellia showed up, paying some of the same fare that I had and told us what kind of cess pit the empire had become.”

“It wasn’t until I was out that I realized that a gilded cage is still a cage and just what the empire had become. Sellia has apparently found somebody.”

“Some seafolk caught the ship she was on and managed to get the mage and wreck the ship. It was obvious that Sellia was a victim, so they took care of her, a young man managed to get her on a beach and the usual thing happened. Then they Swam here and she found Edwin.”

The car slowed and Nyla looked out the window. “Good, they are here and so is Jacob.”

There were two more cars and a big vehicle that men were unloading as Calladia was supervising. Tomas was talking with another man and after they exited the car, Nyla said, “This is Jacob Fraunces, who does things for me from time to time. Jacob this is my sister, Gwaerengwen.”

“Welcome to the Republic, Milady.”

“Gwen to you, Mr. Fraunces. Apparently you more than just things for my sister.”

“Yes, but she insists that I keep that discreet so that I don’t ruin her reputation.”

“Her reputation? She said that she was protecting yours.”

“My reputation doesn’t need protecting. Of course, I know that she thinks differently. She certainly worked hard enough to make the point, so I accept things the way they are. I have set up this house for you and your staff, though I expected that there would be more than two.”

“There are, but the rest are in the charge of Edwin at present and I am told that if I want them, I will have to pay them. Fortunately, thanks to the bounty on a certain character, I am well off at the moment.”

“Great Captain Zylvyre. Did your sister tell you who the captain was that raped her for her passage?”

“She didn’t, actually. Now that you mention it she never said the man’s name. Nyla?”

“Yes, it was Paeris. I didn’t want to tell you because I thought that it didn’t matter. The rest of them are the same way in any case.”

“It matters, to me, Nyla,” Jacob said. “I am so glad that Radhron arranged to bring him back alive and I am going to make sure that the man’s many crimes are known. Of course the rest of the family is in trouble as well.”

“How so?”

“About twenty years ago, people here went crazy for fancy wood trim on houses. Look at this one and you can see what I mean.”

The house almost looked like a candy house in its wooden trim. Gwen turned to Jacob and said, “I see what you mean, but how does that affect the Ravathyra?”

“I have a business that makes the machinery that makes that possible. The company had a new customer recently. I sold some planers and other tools to Sakkaic Steelminer, who just coincidently built a new house for his daughter.”

Gwen grinned. “Was it a very nice house?”

“Yes it is. My grandson made the deal and was invited to the wedding. The girl was showing it off to all her friends who immediately wanted fancy wood trim and beams in their houses. I’ve heard that hardwood is rather dear in the Empire right now. Why don’t I take you inside and show you the house.”

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