Star Chamber [18 Lage 4261]
It was probably a good idea to go right back to the city. Within two-thirds of an hour of coming through the gate, we found ourselves in a very small and very elegant parlor, with Kaim-Su, Hezimikkinen, and the Duke.
This is not a routine thing. First of all, Hezimikkinen and the Duke don't particularly like each other. Second, the Duke is rarely without counsellors and assistants. Third, the Duke rarely takes a quick personal hand in matters unless he is very concerned indeed.
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration made me tell the story. She added details of the negotiation, when the Duke asked. She recommended that I write a full account of it for the city records, since I do that kind of thing anyways. You're not reading it, by the way. You're reading the more honest and less truthful one that I'm writing for myself. More snarky, too. Those are the honest bits that I left out of the official report.
Hezimikkinen's Half-Siblingly Concern
After some discussion...
Hezimikkinen:"Strenata, it's good to have something for which we can publicly thank you. But, why did you get Sythyry involved in this, by the seven knives?"
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"By the wicked and willful act of having Vae ignore the proposed date in the letter I sent, and seek me out three days before, when I was out riding with a good friend." If she intended to involve me, she's hiding it from Hezimikkinen.
Hezimikkinen:"The permanant position, I mean. What makes you think Sythyry can even do the job?" Hezimikkinen does not properly appreciate my virtues and skills.
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"Sythyry's quite inoffensive. I know for a fact that zie detests two people who meet zir regularly and don't have the slightest inkling of zir detestation. Which would seem to be the crucial skill in this job."
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"Iska and Dubaille."
Me:"Right. Iska and Dubaille."
Hezimikkinen:"I forbid it." I was delighted that Hezimikkinen does not fully appreciate my virtues and skills.
Duke:"Hezimikkinen, I understand you are charged with your half-sibling's safety. I am charged with my city's safety, which takes precedence. Sythyry, you are to attend to Vaisessasilmin's commerce as arranged. I scarcely need say that you are to pay close attention to her moods and opinions, and give us the best notice possible before she performs some hideous crime."
Me:"I will, Your Grace." Which is to say, "Please please please no!"
Duke:"I must say I'm more comfortable having Hezimikkinen's noble and educated half-sibling in charge of this than that commoner."
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"This particular commoner has done well enough so far, Your Grace!"
Duke:"Pah. Not you, Strenata. Greekstripes, or whoever that Herethroy farmer cosi is."
Kaim-Su:"Greenspikes. Who didn't do a very good job."
(Greenspikes was indeed nobody in particular, who had happened to be friendly with a young and lost and bewildered Orren boy last year: Vae's first disguise.)
Me:"Why can't Strenata do it? She's done excellently so far."
Kaim-Su:"I don't want her to waste too much time from her important projects."
Nobody answered me.
Duke:"And having an immortal befriend an immortal is a nice piece of strategy ... well, long-term tactics, at least. We won't have to keep finding new friends for her and making sure the new ones are really friends." He smirked at Hezimikkinen's. "Unless you'd like to do it, my dear?"
Hezimikkinen:"That is not a suitable alternative."
Duke:"Not a bit. You are far, far from inoffensive; your half-sibling is much more suitable. For that matter, I imagine any servant in the palace would be much more suitable."
Hezimikkinen:"Send a servant then."
Me:"That sounds good!"
Duke:"Strenata's arrangement stands."
Me:[Thought but not spoken"That sounds bad!
Hezimikkinen and Me:"Yes, Your Grace."
The Final Analysis
After much discussion...
Duke:"Simply evicting her is, thus, not an option; she is more or less unable to leave, and will return. "
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"I'm fairly sure of it, Your Grace."
Duke:"If we kill her, how much will it cost us?"
Kaim-Su:"That depends on how good she is, which we still do not know. She's been cagy. If she's the standard N. magus with complexity 60 ..."
Me:"She cast one spell of complexity about a hundred, and another one a touch less, Your Grace. She said she's a bit better at Locador, which both were. I'd guess she's got about 80 generically, and 100 in Locador."
Duke:"How sure are you?"
Me:"Not quite sure, Your Grace! I doubt I'm off by more than ten, though. And she might not have shown her full abilities."
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"It's more than she showed in less guarded times, Your Grace. She was very rattled today."
Duke:"Confirm that with an expert, Sythyry." (I did, that afternoon. I was right.)
Kaim-Su:"Have the expert bill the guard." (I did, that afternoon. It was high.)
Duke:"Nicely done to check that, by the way."
I spent a long while glowing.
Kaim-Su:"Assuming Sythyry's right, I should think that killing her would cost roughly as much as a hate-war with Pshent, and carries a much higher risk for destruction to our countryside and towns."
Duke:"Confirm that with an expert."
Kaim-Su:"I am your expert."
Duke:"I know that. Confirm it with yourself. I don't want to make permanant policy based on ten seconds of casual thought. Not even yours."
Kaim-Su:"Very well, Your Grace." Which was the only time either Kaim-Su or Hezimikkinen used the proper form of address.
Duke:"Assuming that you're right, we don't really have much of a way to enforce our side of the arrangement. The city is safe. Obviously she can travel near the forts with impunity. And the rest of the countryside could be her plaything."
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:[with a lazy smile]"Oh, it's not so bad as that, Your Grace."
Strenata pulled out the handkerchief she had made for Vae, and said with a big grin, "We have her eye's blood and her eye's tears." (And, yes, a good wizard can work for a while and do some quite remarkable things with that deep a connection to her -- in subtle ways that child's magic, even her kaiju-sized child's magic, will have trouble protecting her from very well.)
Nobody said anything for a moment. Then the Duke stood up, and curtsied to her, and said, "Well done, Baron Strenata."
Strenata demonstrated quite clearly that she has more presence of mind near a semi-hostile nendrai than near a wholly admiring Duke. She didn't manage to say a coherent sentence for the next third of an hour.
Also I shall have to tease her mercilessly about having a title now, considering all the arguments she's had with everyone that titles are worthless and pernicious things.
The General Aftermath
The Duke and such agreed to the arrangement that Strenata negotiated, more or less. The display of power is to be explicitly harmless -- we have a good plan. And it is to be a display of emphatic power, saying that Vae is one of the newest varieties of nendrai, more imposing than the older ones.
(Gnarn, it seems, makes the species more powerful every few centuries, as primes get more powerful, rather than inventing wholly new monsters. They seem to be a particular favorite of hers.)
Incidentally, I consider an alliance with a nendrai to be fairly pernicious and wrong. But this is the duke who made alliance with ulgrane, which is worse. I am not so proud of Vheshrame today.
My Aftermath, part 1
I have been officially appointed "Ambassador to Vaisessasilmin." This title carries, as far as I can tell, nothing but duties with it -- shopping duties, and duties of befriending and spying on the beast. I whined to Anoof about that. He pointed out that I'm already a noble and ought to do some appropriate noble things to justify it, rather than just have a good species. (He also pointed out that it's a good start for an imposing political career, which, of course, I Very Much Do Not Want.)
Me:"This is a very dangerous job!"
Seeks-Mental-Equilibrium:"Not really. It'll be like this afternoon. You or I have what she wants. All she's got is insanely large amounts of utterly freaky magic. You win, no contest."
This would be more reassuring if it were not obvious that the Duke and all consider Vae to be only slightly less of a threat than the city-state of Pshent.
And I'm supposed to study nendrai at the Academy. Or somewhere else if there's no-one in the Academy good enough. Starting now, and dropping enough of my other classes so I have enough time for it.
~Mother~ will be so ... so ... I have not the slightest idea how zie will react.
My Aftermath, part 2
Ilottat was waiting in my room at Quelldrie House.
This is the first time he's come to Quelldrie House openly to see me. The first time he's been open with, say, Jarmiet, or Ghirbis, or whoever, about being my boyfriend.
He had been very worried about me. There were all sorts of rumors that I'd run into the nendrai and then been snagged by the Duke, and such things have quite some potential for awful harm. I should have sent him a note -- but of course he doesn't like being sent notes from me, or didn't.
He comforted me very well and very properly after an exceedingly alarming day.
Anyways, he loves me. He cares about me. He worries about me! He knows enough to take me to the Sloop in Soup when I'm entirely upset and jangled. And he'll acknowledge these things in public, even, when the situation's grave enough.
Which makes up for everything else that happened today, I think. At least for now.