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Imager's Intrigue (Imager Portfolio Series #3)by L. E. Modesitt Jr., Not Yet Named
Rhenn's past catches up to him in this third entry in L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s hit Imager Portfolio series.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, including the Saga of Recluce series and the Corean Chronicles series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction… See more details below
Rhenn's past catches up to him in this third entry in L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s hit Imager Portfolio series.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr., is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, including the Saga of Recluce series and the Corean Chronicles series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre. In addition to his novels, he has published technical studies and articles, columns, poetry, and a number of science fiction stories. He lives in Cedar City, Utah. William Dufris began his audio career doing radio plays, audiobooks, film/animation dubbing, and language tapes in London, where he lived for thirteen years. While there, he had the honor of sharing the microphone in a number of BBC Radio plays with Kathleen Turner, Sharon Gless, Stockard Channing, and Helena Bonham-Carter. These experiences led him to cofound two audio production companies: The Story Circle Ltd. and Mind's Eye Productions. He has also acted on stage and television in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. William is the original voice of Bob (and Farmer Pickles/Mr. Beasley/Mr. Sabatini) in the popular children's show Bob the Builder for the United States and Canada (Series 19). He produces, directs, acts and engineers for his audio theatre company, Rocky Coast Radio Theatre. He has been nominated nine times as a finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award and has garnered twenty-one Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which also named him one of the Best Voices at the End of the Century, as well as one of the Best Voices of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
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Imager's IntrigueThe Third Book of the Imager Portfolio
By Modesitt, L. E.
Tor BooksCopyright © 2010 Modesitt, L. E.
All right reserved.
Unlike most people, I hated actually going to sleep and looked forward to waking up . . . in a way. When Iâ€™d been a struggling apprentice portraiturist years before, I never would have believed I could have felt that way, but life has a way of changing preconceptions. In my case, it had to do with the sleeping arrangements required of imagers. Although weâ€™d been married for nearly five yearsâ€”it would be five years on the twenty-first of the coming Fevierâ€”Seliora and I had never slept the entire night together; not that we both wouldnâ€™t have wanted to, but the dangers of that were far too high. Even before Iâ€™d known I was an imager, Iâ€™d lit lamps and imaged things in my sleep, and once Iâ€™d even set a chest on fire. Imaging in a nightmare could easily have hurt Selioraâ€¦ if not worse.
So I was pleased to wake, dress in exercise clothes and boots, and leave my discreetly lead-lined bedchamber with its lead glass windows and pad barefoot into the main bedchamber and look at her sleeping there. Then I slipped from the house and ran down the walkways to the exercise area where Clovyl put all those of us assigned to various security-related duties through exercises that ended in a four mille run. After that, I trotted back to the house and showered and shaved, in always cool if not cold water, so that I was clean enough to slip into Selioraâ€™s large bed before she actually rose and we got ready for the day.
On this Lundi morning, she was awake, waiting for me, and her arms felt wonderful around me. We didnâ€™t get to enjoy that moment for long because a small figure ran in from the adjoining roomâ€”meant to be a half-study, but serving as a nurseryâ€”and climbed up under the covers to join us.
Before all that long, the three of us rose, and I washed and changed Diestrya while Seliora showered and dressed. Then Seliora and Diestrya headed downstairs while I dressed in my imager grays. As soon as I sat down in the breakfast room off the adequate but not excessively large kitchen, Klysia filled my large crockery mug with tea, strong tea that Iâ€™d likely need for the day ahead.
â€œMore tea, too . . . please?â€? begged Diestrya from her highchair beside Seliora and across the table, offering me a winning smile, not that all her smiles werenâ€™t dazzling when she wanted something.
Klysia looked to me, then to Seliora. After catching the barest hint of a nod from my black-haired, black-eyed beautiful wife, I nodded. â€œJust a little, with cream.â€?
Because I was the most junior Maitre Dâ€™Structure, a step above the lowest imager master level, Maitre Dâ€™Aspect, but below the two senior masters at the Collegium, both of whom were Maitres Dâ€™Esprit, our house was a modestly spacious dwelling with an upper level holding three bedrooms, two bathing rooms, the master sleeping chambers, which included my stark sleeping cell and the half-study serving as a nursery, and a main level containing the family and formal parlors, the dining room, the kitchen, the pantry, and a larger study and library, plus, of course, the front entry foyer and Klysiaâ€™s quarters at the back. I had converted the northern upstairs bedroom into a studio, where Iâ€™d done portraits of Maitre Dyana and Master Dichartyn, and where Iâ€™d begun the preliminary work on one of Diestrya. That way I didnâ€™t have to use the drafty space Iâ€™d once been assigned in the Collegium workroom. Fortunately, because my days were rather occupied, no one had changed positions in the Collegium recently, so I wasnâ€™t required to paint another Collegium portrait any time soon.
Like all dwellings provided to married imagers by the Collegium, the outside of ours was of gray stone, with a gray slate roof. Inside, the walls were of off-white plaster, except for the main library, which was paneled with cherry and had built-in bookshelves that we had not come close to filling.
With the exception of the formal parlor and the dining room, the furniture in the house was a motley collection of leftovers from the previous maitre and pieces gleaned from sample works from NordEste Design, the business of Selioraâ€™s family. â€œEclecticâ€? was what Seliora called it, but it was still motley. The formal parlor furnishings, Selioraâ€™s bed and dressing table, and the dining room set, with its twin buffets and china cabinets, had all been gifts from her family, as all the linens and woolens had come from mine.
Breakfast was egg toast with berry syrup, sausages, and an oat porridge that Seliora had decided we all needed, particularly Diestrya. I had trouble not making faces in eating the porridge without a surreptitious dollop of the syrup.
â€œYou donâ€™t look all that happy, dearest,â€? offered Seliora.
â€œIâ€™m not.â€? And I wasnâ€™t, not when Iâ€™d have to spend the morning in one of Commander Artoisâ€™s monthly meetings of all the District Captains of the Civic Patrol of Lâ€™Excelsis. â€œItâ€™s time for Artoisâ€™s monthly lecture.â€?
â€œIt is the first Lundi in Feuillyt,â€? Seliora said with a smile.
I still found it hard to believe that Iâ€™d been married to her nearly five years. At times that seemed more improbable than the fact that I was a master imagerâ€”Maitre Dâ€™Structure of the Collegium Imago of Solidarâ€”as well as the only imager ever serving as an actual officer in the Civic Patrol, but how all that happened was another story for another time.
We were out of the house two quints before seventh glass. The morning was cool, even cooler than usual for the first Lundi of fall, and Seliora shivered in her cloak.
â€œCold?â€? I asked.
â€œI should have worn a winter cloak.â€? She smiled at me. â€œYou were out earlier. You could have warned me, except you donâ€™t even notice the cold.â€?
â€œIâ€™ll try to be better now that the weatherâ€™s colder.â€? I grinned at her.
She shook her head, knowing that Iâ€™d probably forget.
I carried Diestrya, as we walked southward toward the duty coach area closest to the Bridge of Desires, the stone span that crossed the River Aluse. After Maitre Poincarytâ€”the head of the Collegiumâ€”had worked out the arrangement between the Civic Patrol, the Council of Solidar, and the Collegium that had resulted in my being assigned as Third District Captain, Iâ€™d managed to get him to agree to have the duty carriage that took me to the Third District Station every working day make a stop at NordEste Design to drop Seliora off there. After all, it was her familyâ€™s home and business, and, without her and her family, Iâ€™d have died years earlier.
â€œMoon!â€? Diestrya pointed to Artiema, full and low in the western sky.
â€œYes, thatâ€™s Artiema.â€? I could also see Erion low in the east, just barely above the granite buildings of Imagisle turned whitish-gray by the white sunlight angling over Lâ€™Excelsis.
The first duty coach was the one reserved for us.
â€œGood morning, Master Rhennthyl. Good morning, Madame,â€? said Lebryn, the driver, who was also an obdurate, immune to the personal effects of imaging on his looks or being.
I opened the coach door for Seliora, then handed Diestrya up while I climbed in, then held my daughter for the ride to NordEste Design.
â€œWhat are you working on today?â€?
â€œThe upholstery design for a Mistress Alynkya Dâ€™Ramsael-Alte as a wedding present. Her father might be familiar.â€? Seliora grinned at me. â€œShe came to us because someone once was very kind to her at a dance.â€?
I winced gracefully. That had been one of my early duties in security at the Council Chateau, both to watch for intruders and, as necessary, to make sure that the daughters of High Holders were not without partners. Iâ€™d danced with Alynkya at two of the Councilâ€™s seasonal balls, the first when sheâ€™d been pressed to accompany her father, the High Holder and Councilor from Kephria, when her mother was ill, and the second when she had accompanied him after her motherâ€™s death. â€œWho is she marrying?â€?
â€œCouncilor Suyrienâ€™s eldest son, Frydryk.â€?
â€œSheâ€™s probably too sweet for him.â€?
â€œShe seems to have a mind of her own.â€?
That was dangerous for any wife of a High Holder, given that High Holders still retained the right of low justice on their own landsâ€”and low justice could include what amounted to perpetual incarceration and other cruelties, even for a High Holderâ€™s wife.
Before long, the coach stopped before the building that served Selioraâ€™s family as factory, factorage, and dwelling. Located at the intersection of Nord -road and Hagahl Lane, the yellow-brick walls rose three stories, set off by gray granite cornerstones. The wooden loading docks at the south end of the building were stained with a brown oil and well-kept, and the loading yard itself was stone-paved. The entrance on the south side of Hagahl Lane, on the north end, was the private family entrance, with a square-pillared covered porch that shielded a stone archway.
Seliora leaned over and gave me a kiss before she left the coach, and I handed Diestrya down to her. â€œThe newsheets are on the seat.â€?
She always left them there for me to read on the rest of the ride to Third District, and she always reminded me, a ritual that I found somehow reassuring. I followed her down and, holding my shields, walked her up the steps. She used her key to enter.
Then I walked back to the duty coach and climbed in. As Lebryn eased the coach away, I picked up the first of the newsheetsâ€”Tableta.
The lead headline stated â€œWar Looms in Cloisera.â€? The story was about the increasing tension between Ferrum and Jariola. While the two had reached a truce after the undeclared â€œWinter Warâ€? of 756â€"757, when the troops of the Oligarch of Jariola had finally pushed the Ferrans back to the pre-war borders and regained control of their coal mines, no peace agreement or treaty had ever been signed. Both nations had armed forces poised along the border, and the two had never resumed diplomatic relations. According to the Tableta story, the Ferrans were deploying a new steam-powered land-cruiser, claiming that it could operate in the coldest of winters, unlike earlier models that had broken down in hilly lands of Jariola during the cold winter months.
The story in Veritum was similar, but the second newsheet had another story that I found intriguing, not to mention disturbing. The grain ware house of a wealthy freeholder near Extela had been torched right after harvest, and it was the latest in a series of grain ware houses that had burned across the southeast of Solidar. All the ware houses except one had belonged to free-holders, rather than High Holders.
Then there was a rather cryptic and short story that reported on an explosion of an undetermined nature outside the Place Dâ€™Opera on Samedi night after the premiere of The Trial of Lorien. The explosion had damaged a coach, killed several people, and injured a number of bystanders.
I frowned. No one had contacted me. But then, the Place Dâ€™Opera was in Second District.
Seliora had mentioned the opera because Iryela and Kandryl had wanted to see the premiere, but couldnâ€™t because of a dinner at his fatherâ€™s chateau. The dinner might even have been in celebration of Frydrykâ€™s and Alynkyaâ€™s engagement. Or it might not have been, given the social obligations and intrigues that swirled around High Holders.
Iâ€™d wanted to see the opera for a different reason, although I was certainly not willing to pay the prices for the premiere. Lorien had been the son of Rex Defou, whoâ€™d been removed as ruler and rex of Solidar by Alastar, the first imager to be titled a Maitre Dâ€™Imageâ€”the most powerful of imagers, of whom there were none at present in the Collegium. Historians had always questioned whether Lorien was strong and temperate or weak-willed and subservient to the High Holders of the time. It would be interesting to see how the composer and the librettist had seen Lorien.
Butâ€¦ why werenâ€™t there more details about the explosion in the new-sheet?
For the moment, I couldnâ€™t do anything about it, and I finished reading Veritum just before Lebryn eased the duty coach to a stop outside Civic Patrol headquarters.
I stepped out of the duty coach and adjusted the gray visored cap that imagers wore when on duty off Imagisle, a cap similar to those worn by the Civic Patrol, except that mine bore the four-pointed star that symbolized the Collegium. Although the headquarters of the Civic Patrol of Lâ€™Excelsis were slightly less than a mille from the south end of Imagisle, my circular trip via NordEste Design had taken four milles. Even had I gone directly from the Collegium, the trip would have been more than two milles because there wasnâ€™t a bridge on the south end of the isle that held the Collegium. There really wasnâ€™t much difference in distance between going to headquarters and going to my Third District station, although the station was almost two milles northwest of headquarters.
The Civic Patrol headquarters building was of undistinguished yellow brick, with brown wooden trim and doors. There were three doors spaced across the front. The left one led to the malefactor charging area, and the right door was permanently locked. The middle double doors were set in the square archway above two worn stone steps leading up from the sidewalk. I took them and stepped inside and past the table desk, with a graying patroller seated behind it.
â€œGood morning, Captain Rhennthyl.â€?
â€œGood morning, Cassan.â€?
I hurried up the time-worn dark oak steps to the second level and turned right, going past one door before stepping in through the open door to the conference room, with its long oval table of polished but battered oak and the straight-backed chairs arranged around it. Three wide windows, both closed, were centered on the outer wall. They offered a view of the various buildings on the north side of Fedre, but not so far enough to see those along the Boulevard Dâ€™Imagers. There were no pictures hung on the walls, and only three unlit oil lamps in sconces spaced along the inside wall.
I was the second to arrive. Bolyet, the captain of Fifth District, was already there. Heâ€™d replaced Telleryn a year before, when Telleryn had earned out his stipend and moved to Kherseilles with his wife.
â€œGood morning,â€? I said.
â€œIt wonâ€™t be for long,â€? the balding captain replied. â€œCommanderâ€™s not happy. Something in Second District.â€?
He nodded, but before he could say more, Subunet, of First District, entered, trailed by Hostyn and Jacquet, who had dark circles under his eyes. Several moments later, Kharles followed.
Subcommander Cydarth walked in directly behind Kharles. He had black hair and a swarthy complexion. Part of his upper right ear was missing. â€œThe commander will be right here.â€? His voice was so low it actually rumbled, and I recalled how Iâ€™d reacted when Iâ€™d first heard him speak years before. Iâ€™d read of voices that deep, but Iâ€™d never heard one until then.
We all remained standing for several moments, until Commander Artois entered and shut the door behind himself. Three or four digits shorter than I was, he was also wire-thin with short-cut brown hair shot with gray. His flat brown eyes never seemed to show emotion. He sat at the end of the table, with Cydarth taking the place at his right. The rest of us sat, those in the first three districts to his left, those in districts four through six on his right, if below the subcommander.
â€œGood morning, Captains.â€? Artois paused, then continued. â€œSome of you know we had a problem Samedi evening and yesterday. For those of you who donâ€™t, Iâ€™ll summarize.â€? He tilted his head slightly, looking momentarily at Jacquet, before continuing. â€œSamedi evening there was a premiere of a new opera at the Place Dâ€™Opera. After the opera ended, an explosion destroyed a wealthy factorâ€™s coach and killed him, his wife, his eldest daughter, and the coachman. The factor was Broussard Dâ€™Factorius of Piedryn. He was visiting a cousin here in Lâ€™Excelsis. A message was found pinned to his body after the explosion. The message claimed that the factor had been killed because of his mistreatment of workers on his lands. The signature, if one could call it that, was â€Workers for Justice.â€™ Eight years ago, a High Holder was shot, not fatally, and he received a similar message. Thereâ€™s no other record of such a group.â€?
Jacquet said nothing, but the fingers of his left hand drummed silently on the edge of the table.
â€œWe have another problem,â€? Artois went on. â€œBroussardâ€™s formal coat, cravat, and shirt were shredded. The envelope was intact when found on his chest by the patrollers on the scene.â€? The commander looked to me. â€œCaptain Rhennthyl, is it possible for an imager to stand that close to a blast and then place such a message?â€?
â€œNo, sir. No imager I know of at the Collegium could do that.â€? I managed a rueful smile. â€œAt one time, I was caught in an explosion when I was a good fifteen yards away. I did survive, but I had broken ribs and couldnâ€™t move for days, even with a brace. It was two months before I healed.â€?
Cydarth nodded, thoughtfully, and I wondered why.
â€œI thought as much,â€? replied Artois. â€œThat means someone who was nearby planted the envelope. Itâ€™s also likely that whoever it was knew explosives and channeled the blast pattern, then hurried up in the chaos and pinned the envelope.â€? Artois glanced to Jacquet. â€œThe patrollers had been diverted by a fight just north of the building. The man who began the fight escaped, and the man who was attacked was apparently innocent.â€?
Cydarth looked sideways at Artois, not quite questioningly.
â€œI could be mistaken,â€? Artois said dryly, â€œbut I think it highly unlikely that an elderly and frail chorister emeritus of the Anomen Dâ€™NordEste would willingly choose to be involved in such a diversion.â€?
â€œHigh Councilor Suyrien has requested that the Civic Patrol and its patrollers exercise special vigilance around locations where wealthy factors or High Holders are likely to be present, except for the area around the Council Chateau, where Council security will exercise such vigilance.â€? Artoisâ€™s voice was matter-of-fact, as if heâ€™d been requested to deliver such a request, knowing that it was probably close to useless.
Third District had few worries along that line, with more than half of its territory comprising the northeast taudis and adjoining areas where those of only slightly higher means lived and worked . . . although I did have to say that matters in the taudis had improved over the past few years, if far more slowly than I had hoped.
â€œWe may see more of such attempts, and we may not. Right now, Captain Jacquet and his patrollers are looking into all aspects of the matter, and the subcommander or I will let you know of anything that may affect your districts. Now,â€? Artois went on more briskly, â€œthe subcommander will return the proposed bud gets and manpower requirements you submitted earlier. Iâ€™ll go over the revised guidelines. As I told you at the last meeting, you will have your final bud get to me no later than next Lundi . . .â€?
From there on, the meeting dealt with administrative details, and it lasted another glass. When the commander and subcommander finally left, the rest of us stood.
Bolyet glanced across the table at Jacquet. â€œI have to say Iâ€™d rather not be in your boots. Is there anything I can do?â€?
With Bolyet, I knew, the question wasnâ€™t a polite formality.
â€œNot at the moment. Iâ€™ll let you know if there is.â€? Jacquet paused, picking up the large envelope heâ€™d received, as had all of the captains, and letting Kharles, Subunet, and Hostyn leave the room. Then he added, â€œIâ€™ll bed every cheap tart in your district, Rhenn, if this is the work of some workersâ€™ movement.â€?
â€œWhat do you think it is?â€? asked Bolyet.
Jacquet shrugged. â€œToo direct for a High Holder, unless itâ€™s a High Holder not trying to have it traced to him. The bomb had a directed blast pattern, and that means someone who knows explosives. Could be a retired Navy armorer.â€? He looked at me.
â€œSome of the imagers at the armory could build something like that, but none of the ones who could build it would be able to use it very well. Theyâ€™d also be facing an immediate death sentence if they did.â€? I frowned. â€œIf you could send me a report on the bomb, though, I might be able to run it by some armory specialists and find out more about who did build it. I could also use the information to make sure someone didnâ€™t reveal something to someone they shouldnâ€™t.â€? I didnâ€™t mention that I could also eliminate anyone on Imagisle as a possibility . . . or discover if they were.
Jacquet nodded. â€œI can do that. Might be tomorrow before you get a copy.â€? He looked to Bolyet and then to me. â€œIf you hear about anyone on the shady side suddenly getting flush, it might help.â€?
â€œWe can have the boys keep their eyes and ears open,â€? promised Bolyet.
I just nodded. Then Bolyet and I followed Jacquet out into the upper level hall, down the steps, and out onto the sidewalk.
â€œGive my best to Alsoran.â€? Bolyet grinned before he stepped into the hack heâ€™d hailed. â€œI still donâ€™t know how you managed to persuade him to go back to Third District.â€?
â€œI will.â€? I grinned. We both knew that Alsoran had agreed to the transfer because it meant his making lieutenant earlier than otherwise would have been the case, and because he and I got along, which wasnâ€™t always the case between district captains and their lieutenants, as I well knew after suffering through three years of working with Warydt, his predecessor.
I hailed the next hack to take me to Third District station. As I rode up Fedre to Sudroad, I couldnâ€™t help agreeing with Jacquet that the explosion was a symptom of something far worse, although I couldnâ€™t have said why at that moment.
Excerpted from Imager's Intrigue by L.E. Modesitt, Jr..
Copyright Â© 2010 by L.E. Modesitt, Jr..
Published in 2010 by A Tom Doherty Associates Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Excerpted from Imager's Intrigue by Modesitt, L. E. Copyright © 2010 by Modesitt, L. E.. Excerpted by permission.
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