The Savior – Snippet 25
Her desk was made of imported Delta hardwood, and large enough to lay a body on. But when she rolled out the ledger scrolls for House Jacobson Lindron, they covered the whole surface. In this way, she could see it all in a glance. The accounts, the connections, the flow of grain, goods, and barter chits. The liabilities. The possibilities.
Karas had done a good job, as far as it went. He was conservative with Jacobson funds, as was she. But it was clear from the outlays that he had been more concerned with keeping peace among the First Families of the capital city than with making a profit. And look where that plan had gotten him.
That’s not fair, she thought. No one could pay his way out of a House disaster as Edgar Jacobson’s duel had been. No, that took blood. It may take more.
Karas was also cutting deals with the Blaskoye raiders from the southern border of Lindron. They were deals to trade the goods that they’d robbed from elsewhere in the Land. She supposed Karas would view this as a necessity of doing business. Perhaps. But maybe something could be done to stop the blackmail once and for all.
She’d hired a tutor for Loreilei and was bringing her along on her rounds of house visits to the capital First Family matrons — a necessary social duty — and on evening functions and get-togethers. She’d even allowed Loreilei in on some business meetings. She supposed she was trying to train Loreilei in the things of the world that she, Mahaut, had learned the hard way. It wasn’t so long ago that she herself was headstrong Mahaut DeArmanville of Hestinga, invincible, young, ready to take on the world — and hopelessly naÃ¯ve.
She’d been beaten down, wounded, betrayed — but she’d fought back. Now she was chief consort of the House of Jacobson in Lindron. Factor. Here in Lindron there were so many things to consider. And most days she felt up to the task.
“Master Marone to see you,” said Dillard, who worked in the outer office.
“Send him in.”
“Very good, Land-heiress.”
Marone looked even more grizzled than usual. There were several bulges under his jacket that would be weapons, and she noticed that the knuckles on his right hand were scraped red. She motioned for him to sit, and he lowered himself into the chair with a delicate grace for such a big man. He sat ramrod straight.
“What do you have for me, Marone?”
“It took a bit of doing and more than a bit of spending, but I believe I’ve found the child.”
“Submit your expenses to Dillard,” she said. She leaned forward. “Tell me.”
“The Eisenach woman came to term and delivered a boy,” he said. “Then it was carried away quickly, out of Eisenach House here in Lindron. I have this from the nurse. She gave the child to a man she didn’t recognize. I spent more than a few day tracing this person, but I finally found him. I questioned him thoroughly.”
Mahaut glanced down and noticed Marone’s skinned knuckles.
“His name is Dubin, but that’s no matter. He’s an orphan monger. He takes them and sells them, Mistress. He’ll take a fee and place them as shop apprentices, fieldhands, sweeps, whores in training — and other things too vile to mention.”
“I understand, Master Marone,” she said. “Go on. What happened to the child?”
“He was sold to the orphanage near the Lindron gunpowder works. It’s run by priests. Sort of a monastery.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad, considering. At least he’ll be near the family trade.”
“It is bad, Land-heiress.” Marone shook his head ruefully. “It’s the workhouse that the Silent Brothers are drawn from.”
“Those wretches who work at the gunpowder factory?”
“Yeah, those ones, Land-heiress.”
The Silent Brothers were the priestly worker caste who made gunpowder. Making gunpowder was a prerogative of the priest-smiths only. The recipe, or magic, that went into creating it must be kept a secret at all costs. One of those costs was to develop a priest caste of men to carry the secret knowledge of gunpowder’s making. The Silent Brothers were castrated at a young age, and their tongues were cut out. Abel had dealt with them. He’d told her that they had a complicated sign language among themselves, but otherwise they communicated with no one. They went about their jobs in the gunpowder yard, they ate and slept there, and never left except as a cadaver — an event which usually came at a young age. Those who worked with the materials that went into gunpowder tended to have short lifespans.
“When is theâ€¦when does the operation on the children take place?”
“The tongue at age three. The other at around seven years old, I believe, your grace.”
“So they haven’tâ€¦done him yet. Cut off his little balls, I mean. The tongue’s no matter.”
Marone started at Mahaut’s graphic language. “That’s right, Land-heiress”
Mahaut was quiet for a moment, then cleared her throat and spoke. “I want this child. I want him here.”
“In this house. In House Jacobson. He is a Jacobson, after all.”
“A bastard urchin.”
Mahaut bristled. “Don’t ever let me hear you say that again, Marone. If I do, I’ll have you turned into one of those Silent Brothers.”
Marone hastily nodded. “No offense intended, your grace.”
“Can you arrange to take the child? Steal it, I mean?”
“Might take some doing, but I think I can handle it with a good purse of chits.”
“Whatever it takes,” Mahaut said. “No price is too high.”
Marone allowed himself a smile. “It won’t take that much, considering the kind of folks I’ll be dealing with. Nothing that will break the House, that’s for sure.”
“Like I said, do whatever it takes. Understand, Marone?”
“I do, your grace.”
“The sooner the better. I want those scissor as far away from the little thing’s testicles as possible.”
“Yes, Land-heiress,” the trader replied.
“We have to keep this as quiet as possible. I think one of the maids has a sister who has recently delivered. I’ll make arrangements for her as a wet nurse.”
Marone nodded. He shuffled his feet a bit, started to speak then stopped himself.
“What is it, Marone?”
“I was just thinking, your graceâ€¦” He hesitated, then seemed to start over and spoke again. “You know I have young ‘uns of my own, Land-heiress. I know that every day I miss ’em something awful, and I think they miss me. So does the wife. Miss me, I mean to say. But what I’m saying is, the boy should have someone to look after him like that. Like they would a son.”
“He will,” Mahaut said. “He’ll be a son of Jacobson House. He’ll get plenty of affection.”
“Very good then, your grace.”
“Get going, Marone. The sooner the better. Keep those cutters away from the boy, and I mean it. See Dillard for whatever funds you’ll need.”
“Yes, Land-heiress Jacobson.”
The trader rose, bowed awkwardly, then turned and left.
She was alone again. At her very large desk. In her very own office.
For a moment, Mahaut allowed herself to enjoy this, all of it. Then she turned to the ledger scroll on her desk and got back to work.