The Savior – Snippet 15
Mahaut left Edgar’s bedside the next day and did not return. He was past the crisis point, and now would only require several weeks of recovery. She was not looking forward to having him around the Lilleheim compound. His official appointment was as House Jacobson factor in Garangipore, although it was understood that a staunch family retainer named Mahler did the actual work of grain transshipment from the Canal to the barges traveling up and down the river.
Edgar had spent the last two years living permanently in Garangipore, with the agreement that Mahaut would visit him occasionally to keep up appearances but would remain in Lilleheim most of the time. There was a large family block of buildings in the town, and Edgar had a palatial apartment within them. He was more often to be found in the area brothels and gaming houses than at home, as Mahaut knew from several sources that she cultivated to keep her informed of the business matters at Garangipore.
And now, apparently in the bedrooms of First Family matrons.
Mahaut was beyond being shocked by Edgar’s behavior. The trouble now was how to contain the damage. A war between families would do no one any good, especially if those families were as powerful as the Eisenachs and the Jacobsons.
She called one of those sources of information to her, a grizzled, nondescript man named Jeptha Marone. For over a decade, he’d been a traveling trader for House Jacobson. He’d started out as a wagon driver, and worked his way up as Benjamin Jacobson, and now Mahaut, had discovered that he had that rare combination of trustworthiness and wiliness that was most needed when there was business that had to be conducted quietly. He had also done a stint in the Regulars and was handy with gun, knife, and fists.
Marone stepped into Mahaut’s anteroom and bowed. As always, he looked very nervous to be anywhere near a land-heiress’s quarters. At least officially. He’d done enough snooping in them to be quite calm when the visit was unofficial — and unannounced.
“Trader Marone, we need something done, and we need it done with the utmost discretion. Will you take some wine?”
“No, Land-heiress, thank you,” he replied. His voice was surprisingly high-pitched for one with such gruff looks. “How may I be of service?”
“There’s a child. At least, we think there is a child. First, I want to find out if this child exists, or if it is the product of Edgar’s imagination.”
“Establish if there is a child,” Marone said. He liked to restate his instructions carefully, and he wasn’t afraid to ask for clarification. “What child is this I am to find or not find, Land-heiress?”
“It is the child of Betta Eisenach of House Eisenach. She is married to the first cousin of the Family pater. She’ll either be in Garangipore, or perhaps she’s gone to Lindron. I gather that’s where she’s from. She would go there especially if there is a child and she needs to enter into confinement. I do not think they will want this child known to the world, so it is not going to be the easiest thing to find out what it is or where it is.”
“If it exists at all?”
“Very well, Land-heiress, I am to find the child’s location.”
“I am to find if the child is boy or girl.”
“Yes, Marone. Most important of all, however, is this. I want you to find out what House Eisenach intends to do with that child. I want to know if they plan to keep it, kill it, or give it away. This will be the difficult thing to ascertain. I’m going to place substantial funds at your disposal for use in obtaining this information, however.”
“Find out ultimate plans for disposition of the child,” Marone said. “This is a matter of importance, and expenditure of the necessary funds needed to obtain the information is preapproved by the Family.”
“You have it, Marone. Do you think you can do it?”
Marone bit his lower lip and shuffled a bit, considering. “It may prove difficult, Land-heiress. Especially since House Eisenach does not want any of this to come to light. But I think it is not impossible. And whom do I report this to when I’ve completed the assignment, your grace?”
“To me,” Mahaut said. “I will deliver the gist of it to Pater Benjamin.”
“As you say, Land-heiress Jacobson,” said Marone with another bow. “It’s my pleasure to serve the House, as always.”
“You do us honor,” Mahaut replied.
And you grow richer in the process, she thought.
Which wasn’t such a bad thing, considering that Jeptha Marone had six mouths to feed back home, and a seventh on the way, if the gossip around town were true. Tana Marone had been seen at the Lilleheim baker’s with quite the bulge showing under her linens — a bulge that hadn’t been there two months before.
Marone took another bow and made his way out.
“And what are you going to do about this child?” said Benjamin Jacobson, stepping into the antechamber.
Mahaut started out of her thoughts. “Pardon me, Pater. I didn’t know you were there.”
“The question stands.”
She rubbed her eyes and checked her fingertips to be sure a smudge of kohl had not come off. “It isn’t up to me. It’s up to you.”
“No, this one I am leaving to you. We will go with your decision.”
“Then I don’t know,” Mahaut replied. “I will try to do whatever is best for the house as I see fit, but that will depend on the circumstances. If you wish me to handle this, you’ll have to trust me, Pater.”
“I have nothing but trust in you, daughter-in-law,” Benjamin replied. He shook his head and sat down in the chair that Marone had refused. “But this situation that Edgar has put us into is dangerous. I saw a feud among Firsts when I was younger. It was between House Dupree and House Freemont. So much blood. Three friends of mine dead and floating in the Canal as carnadon fodder. The only thing they ever did to deserve it was to be born in the wrong place and time.”
* * *
A month later, Edgar was back on his feet and stalking around the compound like a pent-up wolverdon. He wore a sling around the injured arm and complained when he wasn’t permitted a dont to take out riding. Benjamin had forbidden the stablehands from giving him a mount, but this didn’t stop Edgar from railing at them and striking a stable boy viciously with a hand whip.
Mahaut tended the boy’s wound, which was ugly but not too severe — although the whip’s lash had only missed the boy’s eye by a finger’s width.
Oh, yes, Edgar Jacobson is back, she thought.