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
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
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.
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.”
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.”
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
(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
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
Seeks-Suitable-Remuneration:"I'm fairly sure of
it, Your Grace."
Duke:"If we kill her, how much will it cost
Kaim-Su:"That depends on how good she is, which
we still do not know. She's been cagy. If she's the
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
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
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
(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
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.