The Savior – Snippet 10


The Penance

Six years previously


Treville District

The Village of Lilleheim

470 Post Tercium

Mahaut DeArmanville Jacobson had come to love Lilleheim. Ten years ago, she would never have predicted this would happen in a thousand lifetimes. Yet the little village three quarters of the way up the Escarpment had become her home. At first, she’d thought there was nothing that changed here, the same day just like the next. She’d come from Hestinga, which could at least call itself a town, maybe even a small city. Worse, she’d stepped, of her own free will — even if it had been the will of a rather naïve nineteen-year-old girl — into a marriage of epic awfulness.

For months she pined for Hestinga and her family’s little cottage of stuccoed wattle. She’d been raised in a mid-level military officer’s home, which meant, in Mahaut’s case, lots of love, lots of off-the-cuff training in weapons and tussling (especially with her brother, who was two years younger than she), but not very much prosperity. Yet, in so many ways, living in the town made up for this.

Hestinga had riches of its own: merchants, inns, a large temple, and a military garrison. Lilleheim had none of that. It was a farming center, a place to collect olives and olive oil, wine — and grain. Lilleheim owed its very existence to the enormous Jacobson granaries at its center.

Here there were hardly any tradesmen. Yes, there was a cobbler, old Tomy Biteberg, a bakery run by the family Krakauer with its twelve children. People bought their lamp oil from the olive farm run by Jurgen Danziger, the son of Horst Danziger, a man who’d been killed by the Blaskoye when they’d sacked Lilleheim two years ago.

And that was it. There was no store. For that, you had to travel to Hestinga, over a league and a half away. And of course, everyone in Lilleheim, everyone in Hestinga, and people throughout the Land, bought their grain from the Jacobsons. This was now Mahaut’s clan.

The Jacobsons were ancient First Family blood. They had settled the village and had ruled it for generations. A Jacobson ran the mill. A Jacobson owned the gargantuan granaries and silos. Her father-in-law, Benjamin Jacobson, held the land around the village for fifty leagues and more. Anyone who farmed it worked for Jacobson as a sharecropper. Anyone who owned their own plot and produced something beyond enough to feed a family had to deal with the Jacobson mill and granary.

Mahaut was married to Benjamin Jacobson’s second-oldest son, Edgar. Now she was a Jacobson herself, a land-heiress, as the title went, to be addressed by “your grace.”

She’d found that Lilleheim did change. There was the season of blossoms: figs, dates, pricklebrush, sage, columbines, and hyssop. There was the growing season with green grain yellowing to ripeness. And then the brown season after harvest, when the Escarpment had its own variations in color and texture when she finally took the time to look.

There were variations among the people, too. There was the surge of the children into the fields during harvest and planting, back to the Thursday schools each week, back into the village when not required at home, the more well-to-do into the school, the poor children learning a trade, or — more often — running wild through the village lanes.

Before, she’d made a weekly, sometimes daily, trip to Hestinga, where she’d led the Women’s Auxiliary to the Treville Militia. She had been a natural selection, growing up as she did in a military family, and also being First Family now by marriage. This had been her excuse to get away from Lilleheim, and she’d blazed a path like few women before her. She’d transformed those mothers, sisters, and wives into a true auxiliary that had done well in the Battle of the Canal. More than just well. They had used rocketry to trap the Blaskoye horde and push them into annihilation of breechloader rate of fire.

She’d kept her position and captain’s rank, but in the past few years had slowly allowed the leadership to pass on to others. She’d done this willingly. They were her lieutenants. They would do a fair job, and not let the Auxiliary fall back into its former sewing-circle ways. The Blaskoye raiders were still about, after all, even if they dared not show their faces in Treville.

Truth to tell, she had grown tired of the trek into Hestinga. As Edgar was more and more horrible to her, the other Jacobsons had rallied around her. Old Benjamin, who was a widower, and Edgar’s sisters, had come to depend on her first as the de facto mistress of the house, and now as one of the managers of the vast network of grain shipping and trading concerns throughout the land run by House Jacobson. To her surprise, she’d discovered a talent for the task. It was like commanding the Women’s Auxiliary, but on a vastly grander scale.

Otherwise, her future was limited. A musket ball had torn into her womb during the Blaskoye siege. She could not have children. But she adored her nieces and nephews, and there were plenty of them tearing around the Jacobson compound. At first, it had surprised her when they came to her with their hopes, their dreams — and their problems. Not any longer.

So she was not taken off guard when Loreilei Jacobson and Frel Weldletter came with the expectant look of those seeking advice into the Jacobson compound’s inner garden one afternoon.

Normally no one used the courtyard this time of day. Mahaut knew this well, which was the reason that this was when she usually got in her archery and knife-throwing practice. She liked to do this within the compound so that she could walk the two blocks from her office and be sure to get practice in daily. Her target practice with musket pistol and derringer she conducted a short distance from the village within a dry hammock. Sometimes she did not get to her range for a whole month at a time, although usually she did so weekly.

Within the Jacobson compound, she’d set a target up across the courtyard and was notching the arrow when Loreilei and Frel came bursting through a side door.

The two were trailed by a servant who was trying to stop them — and simultaneously to announce them — perhaps afraid the young people might step in front of a flying arrow. There was no chance of that. She had placed the target cattycorner to the side door, and there was no line of flight that would catch someone near an entranceway. She would have been able to hold up in any case. Now she removed her notched arrow, set the bow down on a bench, and went to greet her niece.

Loreilei and Frel were each a little over fifteen years old now. They were two years away from a terrible ordeal that had almost thrown them into slavery for life. Both had been rescued from the heart of the Blaskoye sheikdom in the Redlands oasis called Awul-alwaha. Loreilei and Frel both bore the scars of their captivity. On each of their faces, cut across their foreheads, was a ragged scar. This was the mark of slavery among the Blaskoye clans.

Loreilei had been abducted from Lilleheim. Frel came from a very different place. He’d been born in the Redlands, the son of the chief of the Remlap clan. It was a clan that had not given in to the Blaskoye when all other tribes were capitulating. They’d taken the chief’s son and nearly destroyed his small clan as punishment. That same headman had died in the rescue of Frel. The boy had watched his father’s throat being slit before his eyes.

The rescue party had been made up of Scouts of Treville led by Abel Dashian. Among Abel’s men was a cartographer named Josiah Weldletter. He had befriended the old headman, named Gaspar, as much as anyone could, and had taken in the boy after his father’s death. Weldletter had kept his word, and raised Frel in his house. Weldletter and his wife had not been able to have a child, and over the past year, the couple’s pity for the orphan boy had turned to love of someone they now considered a son.