Space Opera Books


Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Jac had been meeting with the Princess for near two moons, and they had reached the events of the last three years in their study of the Kingdom’s problems. The Queen now sat each day for rounds in front of her window as summer faded and fall was near. Jac and the Princess had put together some money, and began to create a village of hovels outside the gates of Firtoskin. It had been named Cheaptown and several hundred families now had shelter there.

Thin veneer, with some bracing used for walls, and a lightweight sheet of metal for a roof. It was only as long each side as a man lying down. When three hundred hovels had been built, they had exhausted their first donation of money, and then the Princess had found more. Jac could not gift all his money to these tasks, for he needed money to continue to build the Makories, and employ the peasants that came from the country. He needed money to feed them in the free kitchens, and he needed money to fund the Creationism at his studio.

Master Gearman and Jac’s brother Col, also did not let Jac have access to all his own money. They believed he would squander it on the peasants. Squander was their word. Jac did not use it, and told them not to as well.

“You can not save every peasant. It is not your responsibility.” Col would say.

“It may not be. Don’t I have enough Guildens already? Don’t I have more than I will ever need?” Jac said back to them.

“I do not know Jacklincoln. We may not be as free under the King in the future as we are now. Creartionists may be fined to pay for the unrest that has come,” Master Mikonal said.

“I have not heard of that,” Jac was stunned by that thought.

Col said, “Some of the King’s Council speak of it. The nobles will not allow common men to join the council, or at least they advise the King so. They then forget that the clerks that are employed to record all that is said are common men and then they write the laws the nobles would enact. The men to carry out the work of the King and his councilors, is all done by commoners. Common men whose loyalty is to the King and Hornik and than their class ahead of that of the nobles.”

“So is this to be a law? Is the guild of Creators to be taxed unfairly, while the lords make ever more money from our creations?” Jac asked.

“It may happen. It is why I stop you from spending all your money. I will let you have some more Guildens for your projects, but I will ensure that you have reserves in case the nobles treat you unwisely.” Col never said how much that was.

Master Gearman had by far the nicest house of any man who was not a noble, and nicer then many nobles. Col had built a house nearly as nice, and also a new keep went up that overlooked the Creatories. It was not finished, and no one knew who owned it. Jac suspected that Col had already grown bored with his current house and built the new tower. His brother’s current house did not incorporate the new metal building materials or the transparent glass like that of the guildhall.

Three days after his last meeting with the Princess, there was another commotion in the front of the Creatory. It happened just as the new casting for the explosive lifting had been finished. The last test model had worked, and they had used it more then two hundred times. Now they had created a full scale production unit, as they planned for a Makory to create more than one device. Jac, his journeymen and apprentices, the other masters that worked for him, were all inspecting the device. Three of the apprentices were young ladies. One’s that the Princess had found to recommend.

Annaxier had also taken it upon herself, once Jac had said that he was going to have the first young girl join his Creatory, that she would take over the management of the apprentices dormitory. The Princess and her entire court of ladies came, with servants and others to see for themselves what arrangements that Jac had made. She then changed all his decisions, giving the female apprentices an area that boasted separate beds for each. Beds, not flea ridden mats of straw, which Annaxier was assured that the apprentices all had.

Jac had laughed for there were a couple such mats, though without the fleas, lying about the dorm room. But each apprentice had their own cot, if they were old enough, or were two and three to a bed, which most commoners found to be a great luxury of space, from the families they had grown up in.

Princess Annaxier also saw that a separate wash room was made for their cleansing, and a bathing room for the girls alone. The Princess then saw that three specially chosen women, one who had worked at the castle, were installed in the Creatory as servants. Annaxier wanted the girls to be treated well and supervised when they were not performing their Creationist duties. She did not trust Jac to see to them. The Princess even had, these last few quartermoons, been given reports as to the girls progress and the management of the household. Jac was instructed at their meetings in the castle how best to manage his household by Annaxier.

Jac had little choice but to adopt her changes. All given as sweet suggestions, not admonishments. But Jac knew the Princess enjoyed telling him what he should do.

“GrandMaster Cartwright?” A man with an armorial badge of the King’s had entered the main studio. An armsman.

“Yes,” Jac replied.

“You are summoned to court. Would you please come now?”

Jac looked at the man, then at his own clothes. His tunic was covered with the metal scrapings, and filings, grease, and straw that had come free when they had uncrated the very heavy lifting device. They had to use block and tackle, ropes and other such to move the lifter from the crate. “May I clean up?” The man nodded.

“A quarter cycle, then we must go,” the armsman said. Jac nodded.

Over his tunic he wore an apron, and began removing it. Jac said to the men who served him, “Good. Well I am away to the castle, but would all of you think about something to carry the lifter. Everyone go and design something, or two or three things. And then come back and amongst yourselves, if I have not returned, find something to make it move better. We can not build and use ropes and blocks every time, and we still have to take it outside to lift over the river, for we can not test in in the Creatory.”

Jac had wiped his hands on a towel and was walking towards the front of the shop. He said to the King’s man, “I have a small closet where I have a change of clothes, and shall be only a short time.”

Jac opened the closet and the man moved past him to look at the contents. “No, no. Oh by all the gods, no. Do you have fresh hose, something without stains?”

Jac shook his head.

“Then I would dab some hot water and scrub with soap if you can. You apprentice, I see you there, go get your master some hot water and soap. You, get a towel. What? Still in your tunic and doublet. You are going to have to take those off GrandMaster. Thank the gods you have a clean shirt.” The armsman shook his head.

Finally a long tunic of beige was chosen. “It will match the stains,” the man said. With it was chosen a the darkest doublet that Jac had at the Creatory. He had more clothes and better at his apartments. He pointed out that they could be sent for.

“Thankfully it is velvet, at least I think it is velvet.” The man said, “And this hat actually matches, but it needs… It needs, ah.” The armsman removed his own hat, took a feather from it, and placed that feather as an adornment in Jac’s hat. “There, now you must dress and we shall then attend your shirt points.”

When he had changed and his bodyguards had readied themselves the man said, “You will need your sword, GrandMaster, and do you not have more guards? Four should be your compliment.” The man said. “I have a squad outside, but a man of your stature should have four.” Jac shook his head and Lem shouted for two more men to suit up and be ready to go to the castle.

“We usually only take two,” Jac said.

The armsman nodded, “I am aware of that. But today it should be four.”

“And you say that you have a squadron of guardsmen? I have never been escorted by guardsmen before.”

The man smiled, “When you are ready, GrandMaster. Is that clock of the correct time? Hmm, too early. But I know just the thing.” The clerk, for he said that was what he was, led them outside. Jac found that a full dozen men, none of them familiar as those who waited upon the Princess had become, were formed outside of his Creatory.

With some effort all were assembled including Jack’s four guards, into a marching order. The leader went to a small corner business in Old Town. There was a bakery behind and here he purchased a bread with sugar, saying to the guards that they needed another quarter cycle before they would proceed to the castle. They all should have something to drink or eat.

“Then I am not arrested. Else you would not be in so little haste.” Jac observed. He did not want to eat anything as he had become nervous when he saw the many soldiers brought to escort him.

“Oh no GrandMaster. Not arrested, though I suppose I could have been sent for that as well. Two moons you have met with the Princess? Very forward of you. Why I think there is a pool, a gambling pool, GrandMaster, that has placed bets on if you would lose your head for your effrontery, and when. I have only heard though that there is such. No one has asked me to bet, and a good thing for I would’ve lost already.”

Jac saw that either the official joked with him, or he was very serious. Jac knew there were several who thought his discussions with the Princess were wrong, and that he should lose his head. It was not something Jac had given much thought to.

They started up again and Jac saw his glass bowl gift still in the castle’s main foyer when they entered. There were several other of the bowls about. Some now seeking favor, thought to purchase the bowls and gift them to the Princess or Queen. Still many others were in private homes. Near twenty sold each quartermoon, more than six Ailvens given to the Princess’ charities each quartermoon. A goodly sum but not nearly enough to solve the burden of unemployed population that was sieging the capital.

The second floor was where the King met with his court. Many of the most senior officials worked here, and also where Jac met with the Princess. The floor above were the private apartments of the King’s family and apartments for the most important members of the court.

Jac always turned right when he came to the second floor, for that was where the Princess and he met. In a small closet room off in that direction. This day, he and the guards walked straight ahead to the main hall of the kingdom where the King would sit upon his throne. In the room many stood, for this was the largest audience hall. Small groups were clustered around. Guardsmen stood with hands on sword hilts and others with hands on spear hafts.

The throne was empty and three other chairs were on the dais. Near the dais at the front of the room several of the highest ranking nobles of the King’s court stood, while a little further away were some of the high priests. One of which Jac knew. Jac looked for his uncle Linc, now a high priest also. His ties to Jac had promoted him within his church. Lincarjit had been moved to the capital and was being groomed for high church office. Jac did not see him.

In the last two moons Jac had also met with a few of the nobles in the room. He had met those who were also trying to do something useful for the kingdom’s causes. Jac did not see any of these either.

The armed clerk said, “Stand here and do not make a fuss. You will notice that two guards are behind you and will watch you for any precipitous action.” His own guards had to stand aside earlier as they entered the castle. And then this room. They stood with many others guards in the foyer now. Jac had been allowed to retain his sword, but a sergeant at the door had addressed him saying that he mustn’t draw it.

Jac had nodded. He knew that. Perhaps this general court was the way the Princess honored him for his tutelage of the matters that they deemed were very important to the kingdom. All of a sudden there was a stir near the door that Jac and his escort had just entered.

A voice boomed, “The crown prince, Edmanstow Farserit.” Prince Edmanstow walked in with four guards and took his place in front, standing before a seat on the dais. The man had a leather jerkin over his own black velvet doublet. There was slash work on both the doublet and the jerkin. The jerkin must have been made from fine leather. And it had little pearls beaded into it as well. Jac would have said that the Prince wanted to look like he had been practicing with weapons on the training ground, for a leather jerkin would be worn there. But not one with cutwork that was exact and intricate, nor with pearls sewed into it.

Even as the prince turned to face everyone, a man called from the door, “The princess, Annaxier Farserit.” And she too was escorted by four guardsmen. She did not glance at Jac as she strode by, which was curious. Annaxier was in a red gown that day. It was the only color showing except for the trim pieces around her neckline, sleeves and the hem of the gown. All were of the same color of yellow as her hair. She had a broach in the arms of her house on her left breast.

She did stop to talk to several people, including most of the priests as she walked to her chair. She too turned to stand in front of it. Still not looking at Jac. He did catch the eye of Sergeant Formilham who only scowled at Jac, like he usually did.

“Beware, beware. Now comes Lancellnick Farserit, King of all Hornik. Obey and attend. The King!”

Another call from the door and with no pause King Lancellnick strode forth, making for his seat as quickly as he could. All in the hall bowed or curtsied to him as he passed. Honoring the role, if not the man. In truth, instead of standing stronger for what he knew was right, the King did a good job of being a king. The realm was at peace, and despite the slums of poor that had grown around the country, was more prosperous then it had ever been. If he could do something about that, he could go from goodness to greatness relatively quickly.

King Lancellnick was dressed in a suit of court clothes. Jac could tell that care had been taken to match hose to slops, and slops to doublet. Over this a cloak of fine black velvet with the fur of a raccoon or beaver, the gray and black of such was thrown. Then two gold chains, around the kings neck. Jac noted that the Prince and Princess had similar chains to one of the two about the king’s neck.

The King sat, and then his children did as well. Some nobles, nearer the front of the hall, and the dais, had chairs brought for them. Most others stood. One who continued to stand was the man who would succeed to the crown should all of the royal family die. Duke Hendriker of Holsatzin, the king’s cousin. He also was in charge of the army. Master Gearman had brought him to see some of the lift device’s testing. That day the Duke came without forewarning and he did not seem impressed at what they were doing.

Another standing nearby was Lord Colndefroc. The lord was a friend from years before. The success of the initial steam twirler which was first made in the Cartwright foundry in Cawless, had caused the former governor of Cawless, to be advanced to Count. A rank just under the Dukes and above that of a Baron. Count Colndefroc sat as one of the King’s Council, and might remember Jack. They had met on several occasions, though certainly not since the Count had come to court.

“My lords, we have business this day, for we are beset by problems within Hornin, and outside of our borders. We also have personal burdens that cause us to be distracted from all these issues.” Jac believed the King referred to the Queen and her illness. “It should be quite evident that much of what we struggle with as a kingdom is new to us. Things we have no precedents to deal with. Things that we can scarce understand.”

There was some mumbling from the lords and ladies who were assembled in the room. Jac noticed that the presence of ladies. If the council was in session he knew there would be very few ladies there. If the Queen had been well, perhaps she would have attended a council meeting, as too might the Princess, but otherwise, only those ladies who attended the two royals would have been in the room if the King was holding his council. This was a much broader audience.

“We set a task for our daughter. We had asked for some time now that our lords temporal look into this matter, and none stepped forth to do so adequately. Our son is soon to be of an age where we might assign such tasks to him, but he too has not been quite ready for such responsibility.”

Jac was already a master of the Creationist guild when he was the Prince’s age. Col, Jack’s brother, was managing tens of thousand of Guildens worth of wealth and business at that age.

Jac did not like what the king said about setting a task for his daughter, nor how that fit with the squad of guards that had come for him. “We also look about us and see that we are surrounded by men who are ennobled. Some by our hand, many by the hands of our ancestors. Some even by the hands of those ancestors of the Ishyurk dynasty. The men who are not ennobled who would give us advice are our lords spiritual. All Are princes of their faith, and some too are as noble as the other lords of our council.”

The King shook his head, and Jac realized that he was doing the same. King Lancellnick looked at him then, and continued. “Our daughter tells us that the lords spiritual number five of common heritage for every seven. Fewer than that advocate that we should include commoners into our council. Of our nobles, less than one in three believe this to be a wise move. We however, deem that it is wise.”

The King motioned, and the clerk next to Jac said, “When you get to the King go to your knees, both knees, and bow your head until he puts the chain about your neck. Now we go.”

On the dais, the King continued, “Our daughter, your princess, is very wise. Annaxier has spent two moons talking to and interviewing our first selection of a commoner to join us on our council. So much of what besets our realm is linked in a chain that traces back to the creation of the Creationists. Some of you here in this room have advocated that we eliminate them. The lesson of the ancient Neverian goddess, Callian, tells us that once change begins, you can not turn it around and go back.

“Also, our wealth, that of Hornik and almost every family that is represented in this room has increased by a greater factor then ever before. Some of you have three times as much wealth now, then you had before the first steam twirler came forth from this young man, whom most must recognize. Bring forward Jacklincoln Cartwright, GrandMaster of the Guild of Creators to us.” Jac arrived in front of the King even as Lancellnick said that last word. Jac knelt.

“Some will not like this young man’s inclusion in our council. Some will think that we are not in our right frame of thought, for our other concerns certainly have distracted us often. We assure you, that this appointment, and others in the next quartermoons, will be to bring order out of chaos and allow us to hear what our entire realm says. Her Highness Annaxier has written a report that all my councilors may read. In it are what the men and women think who eat their day’s meal at the kitchens of the churches and of the anonymous benefactors, or live in a small covered dwelling outside the walls that the Princess has helped to build. Built with the GrandMaster’s aid. These are enlightenments. To know what the people think and feel is very valuable to us.

“These are not what our nobles have spent these five years saying the people think and feel. What the Princess has gathered are true words. What my lords temporal have reported has been supposition. Some amongst you look to your holdings and try your best to address the wrongness that has come to our realm. Most of you have taken the wealth that the creations of this man and others like him gave you, placed those Guildens in your pocket and let the peasants you no longer needed come to our cities. You have let your peasants become a burden on our largess, and that of good men like the GrandMaster.”

“We could speak more of this. We could tell you that in the last moon alone, he donated to these peasants, who are our nobles responsibilities, more money then we collect in tax from our lord of Brisac for a year’s fealty. Our lords temporal have received much more wealth these years, as have our lords spiritual through their ties to commerce. Our council has barely allowed that we should see an increase of taxes and have begrudged us each additional Coppen. We have seen our coffers grow by half these years, while our lords have seen their grow two and three and more times. Yet our lords leave the problem of the peasants on our shoulders. We think that some of our nobles should like to reevaluate their support for the poor that infest Firtoskin and other cities of our realm. Tomorrow at council we shall talk of this.

“Now however we shall invest our new councillor with his chain of office. GrandMaster Cartwright, we ask, your king, will you serve this realm, our family and ourselves to the best of your abilities, even unto your life, should we ask it of you?” The armsman who had fetched him was near and taped his leg. Surely an indication that Jac needed to answer.

“Yes, majesty. I shall do so. It will be my greatest task,” Jac responded.

“Oh, we thank you. Not all of our councilors think to treat it as their greatest task.” The king chuckled. Jac had looked up as he felt the chain of office settle around his neck.

“You may rise. Come Edmanstow, greet our new councilor. Annaxier.” The King turned to his children and motioned him forth.

The prince barely gave him a shake of the hand and quickly left the dais. Then he nearly disappeared to a side of the room. The king went to fetch other lords that he wanted Jac to meet and be greeted by. Princess Annaxier though came, and because of her station, they were given a few moments, in a crowd of people, alone.

“You could have warned me, highness,” Jac said.

She had a precocious smile, “I learned of this only a round ago. Father had already sent Petchurlin. He will be an ally, and will serve as your secretary. Father knows I favor Petchurlin.” That was the clerk who had come to the Creatory and guided him since. Jac nodded.

“As father said, most of the council do not want commoners on it. Count Harnmere will also be an ally, and ArchPater Larwellton. He is the principal in your uncle’s order and will see that you are heeded in your words.”

Jac said, “I am more concerned with enemies, and why I was asked to be on the Council. Master Gearman heads our order, is known to the king, and is much more astute about politics. He would serve the king better.”

King Lancellnick must have heard that, for he was not too far away. He came to them and said, “We asked you, young man, because you do not know politics, and can be frank. Like you were to our daughter just now.”

The King raised his voice, “Too many or our councilors tell us what they think we would like to hear. What they want us to do, which will benefit them, more than the kingdom. The king must make decisions that get food for all our subjects. The king must decide where sacrifices are to be made so we do not fall into war. Too many of our councilors forget these tenets.” The king nodded again and turned back to his cousin, the Duke of Holsatzin. A man who did not look happy at what had taken place that afternoon.

Ensuring that the king was a little ways off before he spoke again, Jac then added, “I do not know if I am to be a sacrifice to the nobles, or if I am to stir up trouble. This will also have an impact on my work at the  Creatory.”

“Yes, for often the Council can meet nearly every day. Should the king ask you to oversee one of his ministries, then your life would be full. But I think that his majesty knows of your endeavors. Uncle Hendriker talked for a round two nights ago of your new lifter device until the queen asked that he leave so she could retire. We were all in front of your window…” Jac knew she meant the gift, but he let her finish the story. He did not know that the Duke of Holsatzin saw some of the advantages that Jac had seen with the device. He would have to talk to the Duke further, for the man was tasked with the governance of the royal army until Prince Edmanstow came of age to take on those duties.

The Princess presented Jac back to Petchurlin who was standing behind him. Those who wanted to meet Jac came and Petchurlin introduced them to Jac. Soon enough, though, the King departed the room, and a moment later the prince also left. Other nobles left, and then with a nod and a smile to him, the Princess departed as well.

Petchurlin turned to Jac, “Shall we go to your guards? Always come to the castle with four, for you are a councilor now. And wear your sword. Always wear your sword. The council will not meet today as the King has conducted business and he has gone to the queen. Somedays it is like that. One thing, and then he is gone. A runner shall be sent to your Creatory with the news of every council session and I shall meet you at the top of the steps to conduct you to your seat. If you are not at the Creatory, can you have someone there direct the runner to where they will find you?”

Jac said, “Yes, yes of course.”

“Good. If you are unable to attend the council, then you should inform his majesty in person. That is much better than in writing. In writing if you can not do so in person, and should you not be able to inform his majesty, do not think to arrive later then the King for you will not be admitted. If you do not show up enough, the King will consider it like treason. You also will receive a stipend of thirty Guilden a year. While court is in session, you are given time to go to your estates, though I do not think you have any. You are required to remain in Firtoskin, but you may make arrangements with the king’s permission.”

“There is a lot to remember,” Jac said.

“There is much more and you are the man who by your example will make it alright to allow others of the common background to join the council. If you abuse the King’s faith, it will become that much more difficult. I believe that is why I have been assigned to you. My father was a sweeper of chimneys and did well to sweep the temple of Mortonish. He got me apprenticed to learn my letters and numbers and that led to me clerking here. I was serving as aide to the prince, but he wished a new aide, so the king thought it wise to serve you, GrandMaster.”

“I thank you, Petchurlin. I hope we will work well together.” Jac thought to say. “This is such a surprise, and I must still see to the orderly running of the Creatory as I think being a Councillor will detract from it. I wish the king had not wanted me to serve for my outspokenness. The Guildmaster has a great deal more time then I for such service.”

“The King sees things differently then each of us. He, as his father did, truly thinks of the problems of the kingdom. He may not be the wealthiest man, or work hard to be richer than any of his lords. But he is the man who has the right of high justice and he does want to use it well. I shall prepare a list for you, and have it delivered to your Creatory this night that you may read your other duties, responsibilities and privileges as a councilor.”

“My thanks again.” It was just down the steps and then a short corridor to his guards and they could leave the palace. Jac nodded and Petchurlin wished him a good day. Jac was half way down the stairs when he saw the Crown Prince and several other young boys, some young men, who were all there talking together. Men who were surely all nobles.

“So,” said the Prince, “My father thinks that we need a peasant to advise us.” The prince spoke to his friends but he had said the words when Jac was close enough to hear them. Jac had thought that one day someone would want to pick a fight with him, and that this must be what it would be like. He was sure though that the prince would not brawl. Not in the palace. There were guardsmen with their halberds standing tall. Other’s with their hands on sword hilts close by. Two at the base of the stairs, and two at the top, in their bright red, yellow and blue uniforms. One he was sure had nodded to him in recognition each time he had come to meet with the princess.

“Indeed, highness. Perhaps your father thinks to test you and the other gentlemen of his Council to see who can stand the stench the longest. I am sure his majesty intends to offer a reward for the greatest endurance.” That was one of the older nobles, though assuredly younger than Jac. He was turned and so Jac could not see what house. On the left face of the upper chest, armorial badges would be worn by the nobles. On the left bicep of the arm, were badges worn by the trades, or around the left arm, braids with a badge upon the left shoulder. Creationists had braids of gold, an azure blue and red intertwined. The Creationist badge was on a gold background on the shoulder, a representation of the steam twirler.

Jac stepped over to the far side of the stairs and hoped to avoid the young men. No young women, close by though some were further down the hall. Not as far as his guardsmen. No one seemed to notice yet that an altercation was brewing. “What Perimont, you think that there is a stench here? Why I can smell it too. Isn’t that greed? I think it must be.” This one turned to face Jac and stepped right in front of him. He wore the arms of a northern Duke. Jac had no idea which one, but Ducal arms, were always the largest. The arms of a Duke’s badge were edged in gold. The heir’s in gold and silver. And other members of that line with an edge of silver or simply of black depending on how they stood in relation to the Duke. This was edged in gold and silver. “Why this is where the smell must come from.”

Jac was a commoner, and thus he could not challenge a noble. Nor could a noble fight him with sword. Could a noble assault a king’s Councillor? That Jac did not know.

“If you please my lord, you block my way. If you would move to the side, I might pass,” Jac said.

“What? And take your offensive smell with you?” Jac had to think twice for he would love to wipe the smile from the man’s face. A man who was surely the same age as he.

The Prince spoke, “Do not trouble yourself Riclarpur. He is a favorite of my sister, and you very well know that you shall never wed her. She is destined for some foreign prince.”

“Annaxier takes another puppy, no wonder he smells like a kennel,” Lord Riclarpur said.

“Princess.” Jac said, and did his best to make the word sound respectful while still menacing.

“What? Did you speak peasant?” That was actually menacing, Jac noted.

Jac said very slowly and distinctly, “One refers to her as Princess Annaxier, lord lout.”

A hand started swinging towards him to slap, or hit him, but Jac dodged out of the way, leaning back and the hand passed within the smallest measure of his face. He felt the air from it’s passing. The lord stumbled a little off balance before recovering. Some of his compatriots sniggered.

“You dare correct your betters?” The man feigned shock, certainly for missing him.

“Can a noble challenge a commoner? I had heard that was against the king’s law, which I believe the prince must want to enforce.” Jac said and there was a laugh. Some of the lords looked around, and Jac was sure that it came from one of the guards at the foot of the stairs.

“Fool, you do not have the privilege of speaking of my wants,” Prince Edmanstow said. He too tried to inflict menance into his voice, but he really was just an overgrown boy. Jac did not feel menaced by him at all.

Jac nodded but he did not take his gaze from the lord who starred at him and had just swung. The heir of a Duke. “A noble can strike a peasant whenever they feel, turd.”

Jac smiled, “I am a free man. And that I am sure you are well aware of.” A noble who knowingly abused their privilege was not a friend to the king and was punished, sometimes harshly.

The first noble that had tried to insult him, Perimont, said, “That is true. You can not get away from that, Ric. This game grows tiresome…”

“He called me a lout, and his very manner offends me. It is not finished,” the duke’s son said.

Jac thought to himself, ‘Lord lout. I called him Lord lout.’ Jac did not speak that aloud though.

“Then challenge him and we all shall come and watch him be defeated. I shall ennoble him, for father certainly intends to do so, and then you shall kill him,” the Prince said. “There, by my will, you are made Baron. Choose a name and I shall send the heralds to you. I am sure that Lord Riclarpur will have his seconds reach you by nightfall, then on the morrow we shall watch you become spitted on his sword just like a pig for roasting. Ha. Come let us leave Baron common turd and go…” The prince turned and the lord who faced him spat to the side.

“My seconds will call on you this evening. I suggest my lord, that you have your own ready to discuss the terms of your death for sunrise tomorrow.”

“Come Riclarpur, this is not seemly.” The first lord, Perimont, said. Jac would have to find out more of what just happened.

Riclarpur and Perimont turned to follow the Prince and four others who also had been part of the Prince’s retinue. Jac gripped the stair rail and tried to catch his breath. He knew his heart beat faster.

“Good thing they did not talk to you outside the palace. Them fool lords and the Prince. They would have done for you then. Don’t you usually have guards with you?” It was the guard from the foot of the stair. “I have sent for your clerk, Lord Councillor. He will tell you all you need to know now.”

“Surely the prince and his friends have insulted me and done their best to frighten me, they shall stop now?” Jac asked.

“Nay. You didn’t look very frightened. If you had they might have stopped. But you challenged them back, and that is something they won’t like. Here is master Petchurlin. He will tell ye.” The guard nodded and walked back the four steps to the base of the stairs.

“The boy told me all about it, come let us get you to your guards. I should have kept to you. They would not have challenged you in my presence, but now there is no telling what will happen. If I tell the king, the Prince will be punished, and Lord Riclarpur, well the king can not afford to insult the Duke of Conlinton, but then the Duke’s son can not wreak havoc in the court.” The man stopped his thoughts then, “How did you get into so much trouble in, what do you call those parts of a sliver now, a few ticks?”

“You don’t really think he will fight me. I am not a noble, I am freeborn and not a peasant.”

“I think he will. The lad said the prince called you baron. If the heralds show up to record your arms, then you are in truth one. The Lord Riclarpur can then challenge you in all honour. The prince has played this joke before. But you are the GrandMaster of Creators. You are needed by the kingdom. I do not think the prince shall have his friend kill you. Not unless the prince was planning to cut off his fingers so that his hand was only a fist.”

“Then why challenge me so? It was deliberate.” They had reached the guard room, and Jack’s people saw how agitated he was, and immediately came to their senses and looked around for threats. He wanted to tell them he had faced down one danger, but more was to come later.

“The Queen, his mother dies. The King does not focus as much as he should. He relies on the Princess and certain others to fully look into some matters. The Prince is supposed to look into matters of war and defense with his cousin the Duke of Holsatzin. Instead the prince imagines that he will be king soon and so acts less diligently then any others King Lancellnick relies on.”

Jac felt ill. It did not appear that he was going to have a good day. “I think perhaps I shall just move back to Cawless. I need not create anything ever again, for I have money with which I can live comfortably and be of no problem to no one.”

Petchurlin chuckled. “Do you think that is at all possible. The Princess came to me and told me a great deal of your background once I was selected to be your aide. Not that I had not heard much of it before. But that does not sound like something you would willingly do. Run away. She also said that the ability to create was like a fire inside you. That you but saw something that could be new in your mind and it was as if you fed the fire.”

Jac nodded. That was him. Once a new idea took hold in him, he had to explore how to create something. It was now a curse, not a blessing. “Then the King must intervene…”

The aide shook his head, “He won’t. If you are killed, he will, or too injured to attend his Council tomorrow, he will, so you may end up scared, but in a way that you can be sewn up and attend his majesties council. His highness will have healers, even Searching Healers attend this battle. Do not look to shirk it, for last moon a Duke thought to teach the Prince his lessons, and the Duke attended Council with his cheek well bandaged. He wears those scars there now as a badge of honor and hate, I think.”

Jac shook his head. “Just take it, is that your advice?”

“Yes. Look at it this way. Now only did you become a Councilor of the King today, the first commoner in quite a while, for their were commoners before advising the Farserits, but more advised the Ishyurk’s. You also might be a Baron if the prince is serious in this. A Baron is nothing to sneeze at.”

Jac was richer then most Baron’s, at least that was what Col said. He would go and take his own counsel with his family and also Master Gearman. He would head to his parent’s home, which was in Old Town, in the lee of the inner wall. His sisters might have something to say also. Melissandier knew of the Prince’s band for they attended many of the plays in which she performed. He vaguely remembered that she had said so before.

“Very well, Petchurlin, I thank you, though I do not see as you have been much help. Should I live to see you tomorrow, then I expect you will show me your true worth.” That sounded more petulant then Jac had intended, but the man had already decided that Jac would bear the marks of defeat tomorrow when they next met.

‘I am sorry, my lord.” The man emphasized that. “I wish you the best today and until we next meet. I shall be here awaiting you for council tomorrow.” He nodded curtly and then left. Jac gathered his guardsmen and as they marched to his parents, he explained what happened.

Seeing urchins along the way, always happy to earn coin, he sent these lads as messengers to various people he wished to join him at his parent’s home. He marked two, who seemed smarter then the others with written notes, that they be sent after to the Creatory for a meal and then a simple lesson in letters. If they wished to learn, he would see that they had schooling should they pay attention from instruction by one of his apprentices. In this way one or two urchins he added each quartermoon to a school that he paid for in the great Mortonish temple. Seventeen lads and girls had learned enough and were smart enough to work for Gearman and Cartwright somewhere in the city. Others who he had helped also earned money each day after they had mastered their base skills. His own little tribe of one day magnates of business.

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    Jac’s good work is noticed. Not only the work he has done at the Creatory, but also the work he does with the Princess as they try to put in place organizations and foundations to deal with the great changes that are taking place in Hornik. Yet even as he is recognized for dealing with these new problems in a way befitting and as a reward, there are those who think that he should be punished as well.

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