Space Opera Books

 

Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Jac was soon standing, blood staining his tunic, in front of the clerk Petchurlin, at the steps of the palace that led to the meeting hall of the King’s Council. “That is ill advised Lord Cartwright. Would you not like to wear a clean blouse and fresh doublet?”

“No. Not at all. Should things have been different, I would have been here without a finger, perhaps, or the use of my hand forever denied me.” Jac knew that Prince Edmanston had manipulated him. But he wondered if King Lancellnick had done so as well. That was very much a possibility. And it so there was the real possibility during a fight with weapons so sharp that he could have ended up dead no matter how much better skilled he was than Lord Riclarpur. Luck could play it’s part in a duel. And if Jac had bad luck then it would have been a disaster instead of a triumph.

Petchurlin said, “Yes, I have heard of your victory. I am sure the king has also. As has the Duke on Conlinton. He shall be quite angered at the laming of his son.”

“Enough of this. You are like an apprentice who thinks I can not remember to add for I must be in my dotage. I will have words for Conlinton. Take me to the council hall and let them see the commoner made noble who would defend the rights of the kingdom that they will not.” Jac’s words were loud enough to almost be a shout.

Many turned their heads, if they had not already been looking at Jac and the clerk, to see who had spoke so loud. Throughout the hall were commoners such as Petchurlin, and there were nobles also.

If the noble class all acted like Prince Edmanstow and Lord Riclarpur, then Hornik was not going to be able to resolve many of the problems that beset it. If men were intransigent in their quest to retain all the powers they had from years before Creatories and Makories began to cause change, then what was manifesting in the kingdom would make the lesson Jac had taught the young lord seem as a slap instead of the maiming it was.

Petchurlin acquiesced and Jac was led past nobles and commoners alike into a hall nearby that was half full. Nobles and priests were gathered speaking to each other. Their clerks were scattered about, close enough to be called by their masters. A long table was in the center. “The king will sit at the head there with the prince on his left. Today on his right, the princess plans to join him. The queen used to come also on occasion. Much more when the prince and princess were little children. You will sit on the left side, at the last seat.” Petchurlin pointed. He then continued, “Seating is by date, unless you are given a specific ministry, and then you might have a place up near the very top of the table. On the left side of the table, closest to the King is the minister of the exchequer, then Duke Hendriker who is in charge of the army. On the right is the foreign minister, and then the King’s Justicar.”

“Those are the four most important ministers. Then there are six others,” Jac said and named them. “I have had an education Petchurlin. My choice to be seen this day spattered with a fool’s blood is not made lightly. I was appointed to this council because terrible things are taking place in Hornik. These occur alongside wondrous things. This council appears to have lost its way in managing the needs of all. As change accelerates, perhaps faster than we may manage it, that seems evident to many. History shows that decisions get made to make things right. Or at least lead us to today. Some decision are good, and history shows many decisions and actions could have been better,” Jac smiled.

Jac then recognized one face that was coming towards him, his uncle, Lincarjirt. “The ArchPater sent for me to attend him this session, and just told me to come over to you. I am to appear to be stern with you, for he does not want to lose the friendship of the Duke of Conlinton, yet the ArchPater also wants me to tell you how the boy, older than you yet the ArchPater calls him a boy all the same, did need to be disciplined. Is it true you lamed him?”

Jac said, “Aye, near twenty of his strokes, if I had not deflected them, would have done worse to me. Several would have killed me, I am sure of it. If I had thought more about it, I would have killed him after allowing him to inflict a terrible wound. Then Riclarpur would no longer be a blight to all, and none would look at me as if I did not do what was needful. But these frauds all know that it was needful. Even the man’s father.” Riclarpur had been used to maim and kill others. He had been used as a tool of evil.

“I taught you forbearance and the love of other men,” Pater Linc said. He was higher than that now. He was a Under ArchPater now. Pater, Upper Pater, then Senior Pater and now Under ArchPater. The next rank was that of ArchPater and there was but one in the religion of Krien.

“You taught me many things, uncle. What has been taught to the Prince and his friends? I would hazard to say they lack training in any moral laws.” Jac said is quietly

Linc smiled and then lightly touched him on his shoulder. “That may be so. I know you thought to impart a lesson today. Krien bless us that we all can find instruction in what happened this morning.” Lincarjirt then turned and went back to the ArchPater where they engaged in conversation, some of the other clergy coming to talk to his uncle and the ArchPater.

The room had become more full, and Petchurlin came and whispered that Jac should go to his chair and stand behind it as others were beginning to do. The royals would come soon. Even as Jac reached his chair the other councillors began to move to their seats until they all stood behind a chair. Conlinton, the Duke, was one of the last to enter the room and stand at his chair. The Duke was closer to the top of the table, but not in one of the ten seats of the ministers.

Princess Annaxier came in and stood at her chair, though her’s was held back by a servant, and even as that was arranged, the prince came where his chair was also pulled out. “The king,” was simply announced and all heads turned to the door. King Lancellnick came in. He had a scowl upon his face.

Lancellnick reached his chair and said, “Sit,” even before he sat. Shortly all were seated. Jac following the lead of the lord who was across from him.

One of the lessor ministers was the Chancellor. He was in charge of all the business that would be conducted in council, and seeing that all was followed after any decisions were reached, or the king had made decrees. He had remained standing and addressed the king.

“We have our normal agenda, to discuss. In addition in the three days since our last meeting, the crown has received another offer of marriage for the the Princess. There was a small case of rioting in the wheat exchange, and Duke Conlinton has a matter he would like to bring to the crown’s attention.” Many eyes turned to Jac, who had placed a smile on his face when the Duke’s name was mentioned.

The King said, “We would deal with the matter of the princess first. It does not matter to us what size bride price is offered, or what inducement is made to you lords to support it.” Jac was shocked by that. Surely the lords would not put their own interests over that of the kingdom when deciding where the princess should marry. Then he realized that was a naive thought based on his friendship with Annaxier. The men of the council when offered gold to influence the King might be very susceptible to such inducements.

“We shall not entertain any offer of marriage to our daughter until what will happen with the queen has. We are told that not many more months are left to the queen. That is sufficient time before we must discuss the matter of any marriage for Annaxier. The Foreign Minister, your grace, shall send word to whichever kingdom thinks to intrude upon our grief…”

“Majesty,” the ArchPater of the One True Faith, Kendiltur, stood. “It has been two years. The healers do not seem to be sure how much longer her majesty can hold on. We must have some response to our neighbors and friends.”

“Do not try our patience your grace. We desire our daughter at our side now and none of us wish to worry about what will come later, at this time.” King Lancellnick looked as if he could easily become more angry than he already seemed.

“Majesty, our neighbors grow impatient each moon. They each perceive that such an alliance is further from their reach. We need an alliance to ensure that we are not threatened…”

The King interrupted, “If they can not understand our grief at this time, then they shall never be our friend.” Lancellnick stood. He leaned towards the foreign minister who bowed his head.

“I will offer prayers for her majesty today. Please forgive me, majesty.”

That was not a good sign, Jac thought. The king would not allow a man to speak his mind in council.

The Duke of Conlinton was now standing, “Majesty I can not wait while you allow this abomination to sit here in our council…” The Duke, Jac felt, meant him.

Jac forced a chuckle which got some looks. Then he remembered the silliest things he had ever seen and also tickled his palm under the table where no one could tell he was doing so. Tickling his palm to cause laughter was a trick he had been taught prior to first speaking in public to other masters and journeymen of the Guild of Creators. Jac laughed harder. And louder.

The Duke had been ranting how his son had been injured for life but now, the sound of Jac boiling over in mirth stopped him. The King spoke, loud enough that it would carry to the end of the table, “Something is funny GrandMaster Cartwright? The Duke brings serious charges against you. One’s that the Justicar might very well have to look into.”

Jac stopped tickling his palm and rose. Rising seemed to be the thing, when addressing the council. “I was just thinking what a waste of time this all must be for you, sire. I was thinking that the fool of a Duke who has an idiot for a son, has never looked in a mirror to see that he and his family are abominations. Perhaps his gracelessness can’t afford one. I shall make a gift of one from my Makory today to his gracelessness.

“I was thinking how a boy gets to play at being a man and his toys are other men who are your subjects, majesty. I was thinking how a sneeze or two from some very learned men here at this table and our kingdom will blow away.” The Duke could not fail to know he had been insulted. Jac was interested in how the king would react.

“You speak in riddles, GrandMaster…” King Lancellnick was giving him an opening.

Jac said, “Sire, you brought me to your council because you wanted to hear the truth from those who have had no voice in your council. You call me GrandMaster, a title I earned. But you are inaccurate. Your son has made me Baron, so that his tool could do his best to kill me this morning.”

“You common pig. I will kill you,” the Duke of Conlinton said, still standing and looking quite livid.

“Your gracelessness, do you not think I could have killed your son? Prince Edmanstow was a witness, as no doubt were you in your carriage and saw how many times I did offer Riclarpur a chance to end the fight. He would not. But if you wish to try and kill me, I am ready for it. I can’t promise you that I shall allow you one good leg to stand on after, though,” Jac said. What did the nobles want? Him to be intimidated by all their threats. He did not need that.

Jac did not need any noble to like him. What he did need was some way to return to his life prior to the king’s summons to court. That was not going to happen. Time did not turn backwards on itself.

“There shall be no dueling,” King Lancellnick said. “We did bring Baron Cartwright to this council to hear truth from him. Is this truth?”

Jac paused for a second. With Melisandier to instruct him in drama, he knew a short paused would make a point. “No sire, it is not all. I meet bluster and bravado with the same. The truth is I did not seek a fight. The truth is I did not seek this post. But you appointed me, and Prince Edmanstow seems to be unhappy with that.”

“That is a lie!” the prince said.

The king looked at his son. “We shall let the Baron speak and then if others wish to do so, they can stand and speak. You can say what you will when he is done. We fear Conlinton that this will be some while. You best sit. We are sorry that Riclarpur is hurt. Continue Baron Cartwright.”

Jac took a deep breath. Master Gearman had spent years training him. Perhaps this one moment was he reason for it. “Sire, you should temporize such statements, or the Justicar should look into the terrorizing that Lord Riclarpur has engaged in. Most at the behest of the Prince. It is a coward that will use another man to do this work for him. It is a child who will use men as his playthings.”

“You cur! I will gut you myself!” Edmanstow said, but the others at the table ignored it, and the king hissed at his son to be silent.

“I can provide the names of the men that the prince had Lord Riclarpur duel. Four, like myself, were commoners, but the prince made them noble barons that Riclarpur could then destroy. One man can never use his right hand in the same way that I hamstrung the lords leg. I mentioned before I could have killed Riclarpur in our very first pass. I offered him many chances to stop his stupidity. If the lord Justicar will not look into the actions of such a knave, then who shall defend the rights of the seven men, barely able to use a sword, against a skilled duelist? The truth your majesty is that allowing nobles to duel nobles, or commons to duel commons, is a travesty of the courts of justice that you, your father and all your ancestors had set up once your fore-bearers defeated the Ishyurk dynasty and set up courts of law to adjudicate between people.” Jac had more to say on the matter, and if they were going to let him speak, he would.

“I do not think that your council needs to hear more about the seven men that were injured by Lord Riclarpur at the direction of the prince. I think most here know of the incidents. If not all of them, then many of them. Even the Duke will know how his son has used his skill, his position, and the Duke’s rank to intimidate opponents into losing against him. That further shows how wrong dueling is. That the prince has been allowed to terrorize so many and do so unpunished, shows that your justice is not impartial. Were I born prince, I too could get away nearly with murder, it would seem. His hand may not be Riclarpur’s in this, but it guided Riclarpur’s sword arm.”

As Jac took a breath the prince protested again. Lancellnick said, “We are aware of our heir’s involvement, Lord Cartwright. Perhaps you should proceed with these other allegations that you find fault with us and with this council.” Jac knew he had been set up again. This time by the king and Edmanstow had no idea that he had been played for a fool by his own father.

The king knew that Jac was a good swordsman. The king must have known that Master Fredardic was considering having Jac represent their studio in the kingdom weapons trials. That Jac had an excellent chance of defeating Riclarpur who then would not be such a problem. Jac wondered if the king had expected him to cripple the fool.

“Ah,” Jac said nodding, while staring at the king. “These men here, who sit and should advise you. They are scarred of you, obviously. None more than I would wish to say to you; not securing alliance with our neighbors at this time can wait till the queen has,” Jac searched for a politic way of saying died. He did not find one. “Died.”

There were gasps. “I am sorry, majesty, highness, but we all know that people will die. If the Princess had been bartered away before the Queen was found to be sick, Annaxier might be the Sultana of Justabul and be months away from news of the queen, and thousands of miles as well.”

Annaxier looked at Jac, and she was not happy. “Majesty, you must trust those who give you counsel to do so honestly, and they who do must tender it without fear that they shall suffer for their opinions, or thoughts. This council has too many men, and only one woman? Is that a good way to understand all that you rule? How many are on this council, not for the guidance they will give you, but because their grandfather was on it. How many are here because long ago, a relative of theirs helped an ancestor of yours, do something heroic? Heroism, also does not ensure the best advice in deciding whether it would be a good idea to tear up the city streets and place a sewer system under our feet. Advice that for thirty years no one has wanted to discuss, but clearly, each year that we don’t, the healers will tell you more are sick because we do not do so.”

King Lancellnick said, “You speak of great matters that have troubled us. We do not appreciate, however, being told how we must raise our children, and care for our wife.”

“Once you asked me to be your councillor, then I must give you my counsel. You are not a man who is unaffected by the whims of fate. We all are that. But you are king and every man, commoner, peasant and noble of Hornik relies that you will make wise decisions. Decisions that sometimes you do need others who are better informed to help you make them. I do in many of my decisions about Creationism. I know that the ArchPater Larwellton relies on several of his Senior and Upper Priests to help him come to decisions in the church.” The ArchPater nodded. Larwellton could not deny it, for Jac’s uncle Linc had told Jac of how the church worked before.

“You are on dangerous ground, lord Cartwright,” the king said. Jac took a moment to look at him. The king sat forward in his seat, one arm upon the table. Jac did not feel that he was on dangerous ground with the king. With the prince, perhaps, but not the king.

“I may be, majesty. But if I do not tell you the truth as I see it, as I know it, then you do not need my counsel. You can find many men who will agree with everything you say. I too will agree when I feel you are right. I will disagree when I feel you are wrong. A king not listening to his council is wrong. Allowing dueling is wrong for the best trained has a clear advantage. Not punishing those lords who have used their position to intimidate others, is wrong. Not discussing the options about the Princess and her marriage, even if you do nothing about it this day, is wrong. An opportunity missed. I think there are other issues that need to be discussed. Issues that you wanted my perspective on. The poor infesting our cities. The changes that are coming about because of Creationists and new devices. The sewer under Firtoskin…” Jac was nearly finished. He turned to Conlinton.

“And your grace, I can not say I am sorry that I have hurt your son. He wished to murder me. You did not punish him as a father for those he attacked before. I might have been more lenient and not have taken his leg from him, if he ever had shown mercy. His true punishment should be death for the misery he has inflicted on others. That he is not alone in his guilt for that, is a matter that should be dealt with also. That your majesty, that is the truths I know.” Jac cocked his head and realized he was finished. He sat. There was a great silence in the room. Jacklincoln had said things that were not spoken to the king. None told Lancellnick that they did not give him truth.

King Lancellnick said, “Our son would still have your head, GrandMaster and that matter we shall deal with soon.” The king looked first to Prince Edmanstow. After getting his son’s attention the king look at Duke Conlinton. “Conlinton, what is said of Riclarpur and those he has injured before, we do believe has merit. Should we instruct the Justicar to look into these? If such is found to be true, you may wish to duel Cartwright for the injuries he inflicted on Riclarpur, but we are assured that we shall take Riclarpur’s head in the greater courtyard.” The site where nobles were executed. “We are also not sure that you are even as good a swordsmen as your son. Would you wish to fight the young man who has joined us, and has our favor?” The king paused and the Duke shook his head. Jac was sure that the Duke and he would not be friends, but at least Conlinton now backed down from his public display of hostility.

Jac hoped that would be the end of that matter, but if it wasn’t, he could fight Conlinton later. “This talk of dueling, we are inclined to believe also has merit. Tomorrow, when tempers have cooled, we should hear debate on the issue. It may indeed be time to stop this tradition. It may be time to enforce the penalties we have enacted before should dueling occur once more. Let no man perpetrate another such action until we set forth a decree, and let the criers proclaim that this day, Chancellor.” The King ordered.

“Yes your majesty, it shall be done.”

“Good. Good. We sense the words of the young man are correct, that our council has men who do not speak their minds to us. Who would rather be known to appease us, rather then help us govern as best we may. We shall not ask if this is so. We will look to you all to examine your conscious’. We put a great demand on your time when we ask you to be here and serve us and our kingdom. Perhaps now some of you would think would be a good time to withdraw from the council. Perhaps you do not feel you may tell us the truth of your thoughts and convictions. We ask that you think of this and we shall speak more of it. Perhaps we shall let some councillors retire, and bring forth others who will better help to shape our realm and find the solutions for our problems. Advise us on how we best may dig a sewer here in Firtoskin.” That seemed to get a small laugh, and the king must have wanted one. Master Gearman said always tell a few jokes.

“The question of the marriage of Princess Annaxier is something our neighbors probably should know we discuss and debate and examine what is best for our country. We shall do so, anon. Chancellor, add it back to our agenda. We have been remiss on this point, though you, my council should know that Annaxier has learned some of Creationism and that is an asset unique to our kingdom we think. Perhaps she should not be allowed to go so cheap, or at all if we do not want these secrets to leave our kingdom,” the king and Annaxier both smiled. Jac realized he had been used again.

“Baron Cartwright, you should know that it is unwise to accuse your king of traits needlessly, or to embarrass a king. Such actions could result in you growing shorter by a head. We will hold in balance that you have provided us and our councillors with many new thoughts that we should examine closely, such as who should be on this council. Our son, though elevated you to the nobility, and usually when one is elevated, we provide them with a land grant, or some other reward. Well Eddie, what reward did you have in mind for out newest lord?” The king looked to his son then.

The prince was caught off guard as well. “I need no rewards, majesty…” Jac said, but not as loud as when he had spoken before.

“Does lord Cartwright decline the recognition of becoming a noble by the hands of the crown prince. Is that what we heard? No, such is not just. Prince Edmanstow has received land and gifts so that he may have an income. It is his folly that has caused strife. There may indeed be a great deal of anger amongst our sons, and my lords, we should like that you all look to your houses and address this as we shall. Dealing with peasants who have left ancestral lands and come to the cities to earn the coppens to feed their families, is not the fault of any one man. We do not condone that such hatred is expressed with the sharp edge of a noble’s sword.

“We shall have other punishments, but Edmanstow, I desire five thousand Guildens of your income to be awarded to your lord Cartwright before the quartermoon is out. You shall tender deeds and grants that amount to that.”

The prince’s eyes bulged and if he had hated Jac before, now he loathed him.

Edmanstow said, “Majesty, that is more than a third of all that I am awarded.” Jac thought it was much less then all that he earned each year now. Jac could well live without it.

“You should not question us. We deem that you should find hardship from your actions when they are in the wrong. As king such actions often have consequences that you will never see until it is too late. Our enemies and our friends have begun to make a study of this Creationism. They are some years behind us, but would like to equal or exceed our accomplishments. Even as it has caused Hornik disruption, it has also benefited us greatly. Do you see that Edmanstow? If your friends had crippled the GrandMaster, who is an asset to our kingdom, if you had scarred him off to the country and he not return, or worse, he be offered a position in Giurance, our ancient friend, our ancient enemy, what then would we do? If you my son, had given just cause to the GrandMaster to leave our country, he would not be the most reviled man here in Hornik. You would be. Thus what shall you do to make the GrandMaster feel welcomed by our hand and yours?”

Jac was shaking his head. It was true. If he felt beset upon enough, he would leave, and advise his family and friends to also uproot their lives and leave also. If a Creationist was to be persecuted for using their mind, others who used what intelligence they had for their livelihood would be persecuted as well.

“Very well majesty, I shall have such deeds and grants compiled for the GrandMaster by the quartermoon’s end,” Edmanstow looked reluctant even as he acquiesced to his father.

“Annaxier, you shall help your brother. We would not have the new Baron insulted by being given the worst of our son’s demesne. The Baron might be forced to use his sword again. At the least were he to get such lands and incomes as the prince has controlled, the Baron can afford a second shirt to wear when he shall come into our presence.”

Duke Hendriker laughed, and then others did also. They recognized that the King had made a joke. It might have even been humorous, if Jac had not thought it so personal. But Jac had started by laughing earlier. He reflected that kings and commoners both had points that they desired to make.

When the laughter ended, for it did not last long, the king resumed, “Now, Chancellor, you were saying we have other business…” The council began again. Jac was silent for most of it, though he did speak once more, as he saw that councillors caught the Chancellor’s attention so they were called upon. Even to the point that some lords would wad paper and throw it at the man to be noticed, if he had not seen them.

“Guirance and Vonaria have been holding meetings, I have been informed,” this was the foreign minister, ArchPater Kendiltur speaking.

“That is worrisome. They generally hate each other more than they hate us.” The Queen’s Mother was of Guirance. The King’s grandmother was of Vonaria if Jac remembered his heritage lessons.

“Yes your majesty. My agents think that they will have an alliance soon enough” the minister said.

Jac thought about that. Giurance looked forward to the steam carts coming to their border, but still there was protest to allow the carts to continue on into Giurance. Jac knew that the partners that his brother Coloskthon talked to in Giurance were very disappointed that they could not take their carts all the way to the capital. It would have increased productivity and efficiency. Jac looked to the Duke of Conlinton. If he remembered correctly, the border crossing was one held by the Duke, and thus a great depot for trade would be built on his lands as the steam carts would end there before they turned around.

Duke Hendriker stood and spoke then, “That would be very bad majesty. Each separately have more soldiers then we do. Together they have much more and that would be a worry. If a third nation were to join them, Keltoria, or Nosgovia, and they were to take umbrage at our new found strengths because of the GrandMaster and his friends delving into Creationism, we could be in a great deal of trouble.”

The King said, “We agree. We have caused Baron Cartwright to join our ranks for we have, we hope, access to such knowledge about our friends and rivals and we may need some new Creationist device to help us keep them as friends, and disabuse them of the notion that they are rivals. Rivals with armies much greater than our own.”

Jac stood, “Majesty, you have wondered what solution there might be for the poor. I would suggest that having a few more men who are poor learn to use the sword in your army might be to an advantage. We have plenty of food to feed them, cloth for their uniforms, sawn lumber that they might build their own barracks. It is a thought that I think you should look at.”

“We have, lord Cartwright,” the king said. He turned to another man who had a thought. The lord next to Jac said quietly when Jac sat, “It is thought that should we train too many peasants to carry the sword, then they might rise against us and we will not be able to defend ourselves.” He meant the nobles would be outnumbered by armed peasants.

Jac digested that. It was true, if the king was a tyrant it would be a worry. If he were not loved. And King Lancellnick might become that man.

It was a chain of logic. It the nobles were more hated then they were respected. If they did not work to solve the problems of the many peasants who had been removed from the land and looked to find work. If the nobles acted towards the peasants as did Lord Riclarpur.

If by winter men were starving and babes were dying from not having food. Peasants who were used to privation could indeed turn surly when they saw their children perish.

Jac rose again and spoke when recognized, “Majesty, I realize you responded, but how much thought has been put into this? The Duke says he should need troops. The foreign minister would like to have troops as well to discourage our friends from thinking that we are such a tempting morsel. Perhaps these men who are poor and clutter the cities can be taken, housed, clothed and fed, gaining their loyalty then the training of how best to use a sword comes later, over time, when you are assured of their allegiance to you. I think if you put food in a man’s belly, you go a long way to securing that. If you put food into his stomach and that of his wife and children through what coppens can be spared them, I know you will win their loyalty.”

This sparked discussion, and the king said he would think on it. Lancellnick wished that some of the poor be brought to the Palace courtyard and asked should they be given such a chance, would they take it. Would they learn to be soldiers if he were to do all of that. In two days, Duke Hendriker promised he would have a hundred men of such station that the king could speak to them.

When the council broke up after three rounds, it having taken longer then usual, Jac was informed, the Duke of Holsatzin came to him, “Baron Cartwright, a moment of your time.”

“Your grace?”

“You make enemies, and I for one do not wish to be amongst them. I am good with armies. Not so much with the sword,” the Duke said. “I wish to raise an army and think your plan has merit. Now that I have promised my cousin to find 100 men, I know, for the Princess has told me you are a benefactor of the poor, that you should know much better then I where I may find these men.”

“I, your grace?” Jac did not like revealing his connection to his charitable work. There were other men nearby who seemed to pretend to not be listening, but they all were. One was Petchurlin who wished to talk to him of all that had gone on in council.

The Duke smiled and said, “Do not be coy. You are too young and have not learned well enough how to cover a lie. In any case, my cousin, the princess, has told me, as has the king, these soup kitchens that give many of the poor food are paid for by you. All in council know that the material and aide to build shelter in Cheaptown is from you and the princess. The king took great pleasure in announcing that some quartermoons ago. Your name, GrandMaster of Creators has come up in our council many times.”

Jac saw Petchurlin nod. That did not please him as much as notoriety did. That would have pleased him so much more. Master Gearman had done them little favor by making them so wealthy from their creations, from Jac’s creations. He might not have attracted the notice of the king and his daughter. Jac wouldn’t have had to teach her so Annaxier wouldn’t then be married to the prince of another country. Or that Jac receive the venomous hatred of her brother, and his circle of friends.

The road that lay before him though, had a great deal to do with his own choices. Now he had to make another. “Yes, then, I can help you find such men to assemble before the king. Do you know of the kitchen that is near Frantos Square?” Frantos had been the greatest Ishyurk king.

“Aye, I have seen it, and cursed at the lines of peasants there near dusk to get their meal.” Some nobles not only cursed the men there, but whipped and beat them so that they would allow the nobles passage in the street. Some, Jac was certain, went to the area just so they could beat the men there.

“Then come tomorrow a round before dusk. That will be time for you to gather up men to talk to the king and tell them of this plan. I shall go to, and speak to the cooks and staff of the kitchen. You shall have your hundred men, quicker then you think, I am sure of it.”

“Good, then tomorrow I will see you there.” The Duke nodded and turned, but then turned back and took Jac’s arm in his, gripping forearms as if he were a comrade. “My cousin does not see it, but I fear we will be invaded by our neighbors soon. Men, your new creations, I need all. Well met, Master Creator.”

Others of the council came to him then, and shook his arm the same, but not all. Not most. Some had a few words. Some clearly did so because the King had favored him, or that the Duke of Holsatzin did. One or two might have done so because of his treatment of Conlinton and Riclarpur. Jac did not know and Petchurlin did not want to speculate yet on who befriended him, and for what reasons when they discussed it.

“I am surprised that you would even trust me to speak to you about this,” the clerk said.

Jac said, “I don’t, not yet. But I think over time we may indeed come to trust each other. Though, even one’s closest friends, it is always hard to trust completely. You learn that each man has an agenda. The one’s you can trust, and I am young still, my assertion may be very wrong, are those that tell you long in advance how they will be counter to you, remind you of that, and when the crisis is past that they were counter to you. You need be wary of those that say you may trust them when you first meet.”

Jac told his apprentices these words, encouraging them to have differing opinions then he. Encouraging them to fight him over their ideas. He told his apprentices To observe his journeymen, whom he respected and did trust, as they all contributed ideas to a greater goal. When all saw that Jac gave credit to those whose ideas made something new, they learned to trust Jac as well. It was a cycle that worked in the Creatories. Perhaps it would work in the King’s Council as well.

When Jac was finished, he made his way once more to his parent’s house where they expected him. He found the council that he had sought the previous night, all gathered. He also found his uncle there as well as Princess Annaxier. She wasted no time, taking him aside. “Fool! Father said you would stir things up and he was certainly surprised by how much, but you don’t challenge a king.”

She was not happy.

“Then who does, highness? If this is my King’s Council, here in this room, where the most trusted advisors I have to guide me assemble, do I not get challenged here? All the information is needed by me to do my job well. Information such as the training of a princess so that she becomes so valuable that she can not be sent away from the kingdom? Why is that? Your father seems very smart in this regard. He has some plan for you, and I am sure you are aware of it, though perhaps none but you and he share this plan.” Annaxier turned from him.

He hurt her feelings. He was upset with himself that he had done so.

“I am sorry highness. I should not like to see you sent off to another kingdom either. It would be the worst thing I can imagine. I value your friendship. But I expect the spies of our friends, and those of our enemies should like that we talk of your marriage to their candidates. The King either wants to get something better for all of us, or deny you to them all. I should imagine that your marriage is as distasteful to you, as what all these,” Jac used his hand to show his family and those others in the room, “tell me that I must marry as well. The richest daughters of other GrandMasters, other Creationists, though there are but three of an age with me there. Even that I should aspire to well titled, but poor nobles. That though may change as they hear all of what occurred today in council.”

Annaxier had caught her breath. She said with deliberation, “We all really don’t control much of our own lives, do we?”

“No. It seems the price we pay for certain things. I want to create and build these new things that I can see in my mind, and no one else can see. I want to help my young men and now women with their ideas. Your father was given the responsibility to nurture and grow all of Hornik and he is made kKng for it. Though I think he does like his task.”

“He complains that it takes too much from his raising of the family. Takes from his time with Ed, mother and myself. If he were a peasant he says, he would work a good day in the field during planting and harvest, but nights would be for himself and his family, as would that time when the crops were deep in the ground. He often says the peasants have more freedom of time then he,” she said.

“You may be right,” Jac replied.

When he entered she had come at him so quickly that the other members of his family and those friends who would advise him, had drawn back a little to give them space. He wondered at that. But there were his parents looking at he and the Princess, and Jac was sure they were still uncomfortable about her. Even he, after more than a dozen times in her presence, was still in awe that he talked to someone so pretty and nice. The highest ranked woman in the kingdom next to her mother. Jac had never told his parents that he had met the queen briefly. Before he even met the king.

Annaxier had taken him to see the window that he had caused to be made and the queen was sitting in front of it. It was so that he could be thanked for his gift. The king had ordered fifteen more for various rooms, including his own, and those the firm was charging for. Quite handsomely, Col and Master Gearman had applauded his genius at baiting the hook, but the day he met the queen, was well worth giving away the window without ever getting a sale from it. Jac knew though that the gracious lady was wasting towards death, and Annaxier would lose her mother soon.

Looking beyond the princess now, he saw that his family had drawn away so that they could talk alone. “Highness, perhaps we should sit and discuss what happens next. I am sure that my family would like to know. You all were concerned last night with the son of the Duke, but at some point you all had to remember that Master Fredardic here has made me very good with the sword.” Jac did not voice his thoughts that the King seemed to have manipulated matters. Annaxier did not seem to make that connection.

Jac led Annaxier back towards the group looking at them from the main hall of his parent’s house. “I know that one plays with danger when we leave the studio for the reality of a fight could always occur. I also know that if I had not faced one of Price Edmanstow’s lackey’s now, another would find me later. Even if the King had not appointed me to his council, at some point a noble would seek me out for retribution on all that has befallen his own family. I was going to be challenged. Now I hope I have put that to rest. Even more with your father citing that he will penalize any man found dueling. That the council and the Justicar will look to see if all they need do is enforce his previous laws and decrees to end this terrible sport of the nobles, and others.”

“I do not like dueling, but being ready with a weapon is always a good practice. Young Col, you have been missing your lessons, and you may need them more now,” Master Fredardic said.

“I shall do better to attend master,” Col said. He did not look like he would though.

“You shall brother, I make it a condition of fees paid you. You all were quite willing to have me learn the blade for a round each day. Now brother, you too must take this up. I know you have your own wealth and manage all the rest, but, Father, Kath. What do you say? Mel, should we force Col to learn to use that sword he wears. The king has spoken, but not all may follow his word right away,” Jac said.

“That is good advice, master Cartwright,” Princess Annaxier said and looked at Col. “How to you keep this all straight for three master Cartwright’s of your professions?” She asked and Vivan laughed. Then the others joined in.

Jac’s mother said, “Oh, highness, we can call each by name as do our close friends here as well, but should you wish it, we address my Sam here as Master Sam, and Coloskthon as young Master Col, or sometimes young Master. While of course Jacklincoln is Master Cartwright. Sometimes when I scold him, I call him by all his title. GrandMaster Creator Cartwright.” His mother thought that was funny, making him seem so important to the princess.

Vivan continued, “Sam now, it is time we be hosting all to our meal, for it is the dinner round. We have some fried dolingus and that is Master Cartwright’s favorite, now let us get the servants, to set our table, that we may eat. I hired another two today, Col, is there not someplace we can use them, for I have no room upstairs for them.”

“Then why did you hire them mother? You know we can not hire every person who needs work in the city.”

“But they are from Cawless, and one used to work for Master Carlincoln, who is a cousin…” The Princess said she needed to leave, but Jac’s mother would not hear of it and already was sure her guards and coachmen were being fed in the kitchens. Annaxier would have to dine with the family.

Master Gearman said that he should see the new servants for he might have a place for them in one of the Makories, and Jac settled into a chair, thinking that it was a very strange day, and that his shirt still needed changing.

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In this Chapter Jac’s deals with the aftermath of his duel. Now that he has made his way amongst the decision makers of the kingdom, it can be seen that in politics, as well as most human interactions, people come at decisions through a variety of means. Some are altruistic. Some want to do the best for the most. Some people make decisions solely based on how it will affect their own situation. Most think about themselves first. And here, we see how the world looks to another country when that country, once an equal, surges ahead to be a dominate. Not only do former friends begin to have suspect motivations for their former friendship and future friendship, but it means that the new power must look to protecting itself.

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Chapter 5    Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8

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Chapter 5    Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8

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