Space Opera Books


Steam and Thunder: Book One of the Creationist Duology Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Firtoskin was quiet. Not that the city had not been quiet before. In recent years peacefulness was something that seldom happened. Four additional commoners had joined the Kings Council and Winter had arrived with shelter for enough of the poor that had been averted.

Sixteen Makories had opened and had hired men and women from the country fiefs, including two that Gearman and Cartwright owned. One making the new lifting devices. Boomers, was what they were being called, as they made such a big booming noise. Another mixed the Kintre powders that caused the lift in the boomer.

The king had enlisted six thousand of the poor in his army, and those new soldiers had built barracks in time for the first snows. Their families had moved back to the countryside from where they came, for with coin, and the passage of a law, they could return to their homes. That further helped the overcrowding in the city. That and the many hovels in Cheaptown that the princess and Jac had paid to build. A few other lords had also contributed to that project, and now in the council there was a group of nobles, prelates and commoners who seemed to form a party for reform. A party that Jac participated in.

Many in the kingdom discussed about all that the King’s Council did, as King Lancellnick had started to use one of the printing presses that Jac’s firm had built. There were now three papers in the capital and papers on the major cities of the realm. The king sent forth a four page sheet twice each quartermoon that discussed his issues and those that his council debated. A council whose attitude had changed, Jac noticed, once word was spread of what was said in the council, and of how the king was more engaged in dialogue with his councillors. Much was made of how Lancellnick no longer tolerated hereditary appointments, but desired men engaged in helping manage Hornik and it’s problems. A third of those nobles had since departed from the King’s Council.

That was not why the streets were quiet, not that things had changed too much. Jac estimated that over twelve thousand people still arrived each day to be fed at all the kitchens that the temples and the charities managed. The meals he paid for alone accounted for 2000 bodies.

Firtoskin was quiet in respect for Queen Karanhit. She had entered her final rounds. Jac had written to Princess Annaxier that it was understandable that they should cancel their session that day. She had summoned him to the palace despite that. It was her one way of clinging to a future, she wrote. It was what her mother wanted.

In the King’s Council it had been much discussed whom the princess should marry and the leading candidates were from the three most powerful neighboring kingdoms. Each knowing that they had to keep increaseing Annaxier’s bride price. Not only Annaxier had taken to the study of tools for creationism, but so too did her ladies in waiting. Three of whom having replaced girls who were less capable of understanding the higher maths that the study entailed. King Lancellnick wanted to make the cost so prohibitive that Annaxier and her court would not leave the country. Jac had come to understand that. Annaxier was a check on her brother. She might leave once the king was dead, and Edmanstow was then king, but only when Edmanstow was able to rule wisely.

Jac hacing seen King Lancellnick’s strategy, did all he could to support it. He had led Annaxier to even create some parts of the Boomers. At least that had been what all thought. Jac had some insights but in his sessions with Annaxier and her ladies, presented that he was unable to solve matters. He found that two or three sessions later the ladies would have a solution he could claim as theirs. It made the fiction of their being Creators stronger.

Edmanstow’s short sighted plans and hostility had not changed through Summer and Fall. Prince Edmanstow was still spoilt and resented being told he was so. Something that far too many observed daily. The king limited his son’s ability to make mischief and tried to get him to diligently see that he was to be ruler of the most powerful nation in the world. Something that creationist science had given Hornik. But Edmanstow seemed to feel his liberties had been curbed. The Prince continued to devise ways to retaliate. Ways which usually met with failure. His own court of sycophants had been reduced by half as certain lords chose to abandon him, or father’s told their sons to do so.

Still Edmanstow persisted in wishing to swim against the stream. King Lancellnick was perplexed by it all, but the queen’s death superseded his attention to it.

Jac entered the castle which appeared to have few of its normal inhabitants. Very few.

Most nobles, unless they were family to the king and queen were absent from court that day. Jac was shown to the princess’ chambers. The sergeant was there to greet him, “She is in pain. You are one of her few friends. She also sees you as a man, Baron Cartwright.” The sergeant pulled Jac away from all the others about the corridor. “She wants to remain in Hornik, in Firtoskin with her father, and thinks that were she forced to marry a man here, she might do so. Her father has favored you, and if she were to be somehow compromised by you, whom she has developed a love for, she would stay, the king would force a marriage…” Sergeant Formilham did not look pleased.

“She would marry me? No, she would think to love me because I am an expedient to one of her desires. She does not love me for aught else at present,” Jac said. “And should I compromise a Princess, my head might separate from my body. The royal headsman might get himself some work.”

The Sergeant saw that Jac understood, “Perhaps. Probably so, Her Highness does not think clearly as her mother has had this sickness so long. The Princess was thrown at you so she could learn enough of your art that she would not leave the kingdom. Do not go to far, lord baron. I do not think the princess would be happy if you did.”

Jac nodded. He would be Annaxier’s friend, but he could not be the lover of a princess. Jac also could not allow her to pretend to love him when she had many misplaced emotions because of the oncoming death of her mother, the queen.

“Highness, what can I do to help?” were his first words when he entered the room. She had been crying, and her ladies that attended her also wept, though now they withdrew into another chamber of her suite. More then eight moons he had known Annaxier. Jac felt that working together they had helped the kingdom from the brink of one crisis, but a crisis not completely solved.

Another now loomed though. Then most likely another after that. The princess would have to marry, the Duke of Holsatzin had Jac convinced. Hornik would need the might of an ally to offset all that the other nations could bring against them. If they did not secure an ally and the other nations united to take the wealth that Hornik was accumulating, the kingdom would not have enough men trained in arms to survive. The Duke had begun to train the six thousand poor he had taken into the army, and another two thousand that he had also recruited. Taxes had risen a little to cover these new costs.

The Princess was dressed in a sating gown that day. Jac noticed the shimmer of her fabric. A light blue, which was not her mood. The white of her chemise offset the color of the sky. A belt and sash of a multi-colored piece connected, in shades of red and pink that also had a gleam to it.

“I am glad you are here. I need something to distract me,” Annaxier said and came and took his hand. “It is why I did not cancel our planned lesson today.”

Jac had progressed through the course of the eight moons of their friendship from bowing when they met from a distance. Now he was being given her hand to kiss. He took her hand in friendship. It was not fiction that their time together were lessons. He instructed the princess in much of the complex learning that he had come to, over the years. Together they instructed her ladies in waiting. The women who comprised her court, within the greater court of Hornik. Jac was nearly at the palace each day now. In order to accommodate the schedule, Master Fredardic and others conducted his own training much earlier. Still, some days he had little time for himself.

King Lancellnick, knew that many demands were being placed upon Jac, and had remarked on it. The Creatory was still trying to develop all manner of new devices, and tutoring Annxier, attendance on the King’s Council and other duties were time consuming.

They had found a way to make the steam carts even faster, and on straight and level track, the carts now could reach speeds as fast as a horse that galloped for short periods of time. They could pull several tons, as if forty horses were pulling the carts, and at speeds that were incredible. But a hill, or worse, a river, caused tremendous difficulty. Bridge building had become a new science of stress and pressure, for the weight of the steam carts was great. Old wooden bridges had not been constructed to hold that amount of metal. Water and coal also had to be replenished regularly as a steam cart travelled. And hills were difficult. Mountains though, they were impossible.

Jac said to Annaxier, “Then I shall do my best to aid you.” He should have offered her a heartfelt comment about her mother and the emotional pain that she was undergoing. Jac though had not suffered the loss of a parent as yet and so whatever he had to say, would lack that truth. He could not understand the pain she felt for he had not endured it as yet.

Annaxier said, “We were talking about the law of the physical and the concept of momentum. I have my notes here…” She reached for them and they were a little to the left of him. He turned as she moved past and they were very close.

So close that she stopped turning, and then looked at him, swaying towards him. It caused him to grab her. “Highness, you mustn’t. We mustn’t.”

Jac was conscious that this was probably his best friend, and he could say something that would kill that friendship. And Sergeant Formilham believed that the princess and any feelings she might have had for Jac were tied to the emotions raised from her own mother reaching her death. Jac had developed feelings for the princess himself. She was beautiful and was the one person he spent more time with than any other.

“Why not? I know you care for me,” she asked.

Jac held his tongue and used both hands to hold her arms. Loving the feel of her, but keeping Annaxier at a distance.

“Yes. Yes of course I care for you. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known. I may not have mentioned that to you before.” He said and had a lop sided smile, for he knew that his smile was anything but straight when he made a joke, and was in an uncomfortable position.

“No, you haven’t. Thank you,” she had a warm purr to her voice.

Jac was doing his best not to lose his resolve and pull her close.

“But surely you know that we can not speak intimately to each other.” He did realize that he held her, and he was not a complete novice with women. He had learned to have sex, to make a woman pleasured from servant girls at the house of Master Gearman. Jac also used a very discreet bordello in the quarter of New Town that his Creatory was in when he felt a need. The last time he had visited it was before he had met the princess.

Not because he did not have urges, but he had been kept very busy in his own duties and as King’s Councillor. Also because he knew he had feelings for the princess. Emotions had been developing and he did not want Annaxier to know that he used other women to absolve his own needs.

Annaxier went slack in his hold, “Why can we not? I care for you.”

Jac shook his head, “We can not such things. The King will not take kindly were I to say the same. I was made Baron by your brother, but you are destined for a lord much higher then I.”

“You talk foolishness again. The King and the kingdom value you near as high as any Duke, or prince. Do you not know this? Do you not see that near four of ten men in my father’s council will listen to you and follow your thoughts. The Progressive party, they are calling those that follow your leadership.” Annaxier said. Now thankfully standing a little further away from him as they discussed this point.

Jac replied, “I know this, but I must doubt some of these achievements you speak of. They are not like the devices I create. Those are solid. You can point to them, touch them. Because I speak of an idea in council does not mean that others can grab a hold of it.” Jac was much more comfortable now, for he and Annaxier had gone away from the talk of their own lives. Lives that had become intertwined.

Annaxier must have known that nothing good would come of an alliance between them. As Formilham thought, Jac would become shorter by a head.

She had turned a little red in the face, “You can not be so obtuse. It is infuriating. The men in the council follow your lead because you speak with intelligence and have a solution that can help Hornik. Duke Hendriker listens for you helped him with the army, and you help him with these new weapons of yours. These Boomers that shall be of use to defend our borders. ArchPaters’ Kendlitur and Larwellton both respect all you have done for the poor. They credit me with much of the aid at Cheaptown, but it was you who pointed out how to give the poor supplies to make their own hovels. These are all admirable qualities. Even father notes that you were wasted before he brought you to the King’s Council. He does not tell Edmanstow that my brother should be more like you, nor always sings your praises, but his majesty does speak well of you often enough that Ed surely knows the king’s value of you is near as high as his value of my brother.”

Jac shrugged. “I thank you for these kind words. I do not doubt some of my abilities, nor my leadership of the Progressive Party,” Jac had used the name of those who spoke as he in conversation before. “I doubt that I have risen so high in the king’s estimation though.”

“High enough to be worthy of a princess.” Annaxier had not forgotten that she had nearly kissed him. A kiss would not be the death of him. Any promise with a kiss, or anything that violated her virginity, would lead to his death.

“I did not mean it that way,” he said. Jac suspected that the emotions brought about by her mother’s illness had a great deal to do with her wanting to be loved. To be made love to. And as she was the one person he spent the most time with, Annaxier most likely would say the same about him.

She said, “No, I can tell. You don’t think you can be my consort. But you told me I am beautiful. That was a start. Is there noting else that compels you to have feelings for me?”

Jac could speak to that and not lie, “You are my closest friend. Not because I see you almost each day. That is a joy for me. But also because we can talk. Talk like this, though, and we step close to an area that you know full well could result in my being shown a cell in the dungeons. Your father has made it clear to other men of our kingdom that such suits would be ill advised. We could love each other like Tonlorius and Patrainia and as in the legend, here and now it would be a betrayal of our responsibilities to act upon such a love.”

She turned from him then. She looked out through the window he had installed in her rooms. Much clearer than what was there before. He did not think she saw anything though. “My responsibilities, you mean. You may love where you will. You may marry whom you want. But just as you argue in council, my happiness is secondary to my usefulness to the kingdom.”

He grabbed her and pulled her around, close. She had taken a place in his heart even if the place in hers was mixed up with the loss of her mother. “No, I wish with all my heart that I too was born of royal blood. That I could love you openly and as you deserve. The worst part of my day is that moment after we have said goodbye to each other here, or elsewhere, for you and I shall be apart for many rounds. The worst thing in my life will be to send you off to another kingdom. You were born a princess. We can not run far enough away to escape that. You will be the mother to a king. You will be a queen.”

He ran out of things to say, for the reality was such that he hated it. He hated that he had to argue in the King’s Council that Hornik needed to make the best deal to sell the princess. For that was what it was. It was why he trained her so well in creationist ideals. Only their closest ally should have Annaxier to sit a throne as queen. But there was some hope, slim, and against what Jac would advise, for others spoke to having the princess stay in Hornik. Not many would want their neighbors to learn the secrets that were enriching Hornik. Which Jac also knew was the King’s plan. It was why Jac argued about marriages for Annaxier. Misdirection.

There were tears in her eyes. “I just want to be a woman.”

“Annaxier, you are a woman. The best of all women.” He said and wiped away a tear as it fell down her cheek. He hoped he was gentle. He was conscious of her smell as he inhaled. He was conscious of the feel of her as he held her by one arm. There legs were touching and she was once more falling into his embrace. He could feel her pelvis and stomach against his flank. Her breasts against his arm. “Annaxier, we must not.”

He felt his loins stirring and his hose and codpiece would do little to hide the effect she was having on him. If he were to be aroused he would have to sit and hide that. She would know, but he could not leave the room, or allow any other to see such upon him.

“For now, for today, I must,” She stretched her face to his and their lips touched. He was aroused now. He could not touch her lips again. She felt his manhood as it grew and she smiled, a little. Her free hand reaching for his offending growth. He reached just as quick to intercept her hand before it could land upon him.

“No, Annaxier. Not now.” He moved a bit and found a chair that he could sit on. If someone entered just then, the evidence of his thoughts for Annaxier would show that the privilege of a private audience had been abused. Something that the king might need take notice of. If he did, Jac could lose his head.

If he were ever to be the lover of Annaxier, he would not make love to her in the middle of the day, while her mother lay within rounds of death. Though if he were to ever make love Annaxier, Jac would ensure that his own guards were upon the door, and that the King was miles away from where he did make love to the princess.

“You wish it also,” she said.

“Yes, of course. Do you not think I love you as well. You are the only woman I am with. But your mother is near her end. I should not like to take your virginity when emotions from that event may color all your feelings.

“We know that the King may not send you forth from Hornik to another kingdom. He has had me instruct you so that the other kingdoms realize that your value will need some serious commitment. It is possible that you will remain here, as a treasure of our kingdom. When you have spent time with your feelings after all that is happening to your family is finished, then we may proclaim our love to each other. Then we will see if the king will allow it to be as you think. That is the future for us. Now, if we were to do more than we have, there is no going back. And if this is somehow part of the pain you feel for your mother, I do not want to engender any regrets you might have towards me.”

She was shaking her head. The moments that he spoke, however, allowed his body to calm and be controlled. Now if someone came to the door, he would not show any evidence that he had acted in appropriately with the princess.

“I wanted you here so I would not have to think of my duties. These last days I have been consumed with my duties. Should I now have some peace? Is there no happiness for me?” Annaxier’s eyes were full of tears.

“For either of us?” Jac asked with out expecting any answer. “In a few moons, you will feel different then you do today. You have not said so, but the Annaxier I have known these eight moons who loves her mother, has expressed often her sadness that the queen is sick. I must believe that you are very much concerned about this today, even if you have said nothing.”

Her face was red again, “Oh damn you, yes. But I can not go to that room again until they summon me. Father sits at her side. Edmanstow stands, for he has been ordered by father to do so. I have been awake these two days not sleeping and tending her, but the king sent me from the room. He did ask that you look into this concept of heat tubes from the steam device. I thought you had built those long ago?”

Jac nodded. If the king asked her to speak of one of the creations from a few years ago, then King Lancellnick knew that Annaxier needed to find something to distract her.

Jac said, “We have reworked these twice and now a third time on how to make them work. We wish to find a way to use creationism of when the temperature outside is too cold, then the steam twirler can give off heat in it’s tubes, and when too hot, we want the steam twirler to stop.”

Annaxier sat, and reached out her hand across the table. He took it and then they continued to talk of the steam twirler and it’s pipes for a short while. He held her hand and gently caressed it. A knock came and he was able to release it before the door opened. One of her ladies in waiting said that she Annaxier summoned back to Queen Karanhit, “Accompany me, lord Cartwright,” he was commander.

A small entourage of guards, ladies in waiting and one or two others that attended her highness did walk up one floor and then to the queen’s apartments. Many others stood outside in the hall, the doors to the antechamber open. Jac could see that they were filled with those that served the queen, nobles of the court, healers and priests. A lane parted as Annaxier made her way into the antechamber, motioning for the guardsmen to stop, and most of her ladies in waiting. She took one of her ladies into the queen’s bedchamber, which Jac could see was also filled with the most important people in the realm.

The King, the ArchPater’s of the religions, the Prince, several Dukes and their ladies. “Attend Lord Cartwright,” she said turning at the threshold to the room.

Jac had little choice but to enter. He felt very out of place, though he had met most of those in the room. Some even followed his lead in the Progressive Party that Annaxier had named before. With the princess it’s champion, it was probably a name that would stick.

Jac had been in the antechamber before. That was when the clear glass window was installed. He had met Queen Karanhit then and some few other times since. She did have good days over the last few moons. But these were rare.

The bedchamber was a different story. The decor was similar, rich reds colors, with black borders and designs to give it weight. The bedchamber was nearly as large as the antechamber. But here, watching Karanhit die, as many would come to watch her give birth, a need then to see the entrance in the world of a future king. The bed was large and the predominant feature in the room. Jac did not have a bed so big, though he knew his parents had purchased one when they had become wealthy.

There was other furniture as well. Four wardrobes took all of one wall, opposite another wall that had curtains covering the windows there. The king sat in a great chair with arms nearest the bed. Brought close enough that it was touching. Prince Edmanstow, leaned against a small table with two drawers next to the head of the bed. A chest was at the foot of the bed. Neat the door, where he entered was another long table with more drawers. A door to the garderobe was off to the right. Where here were walls, portraits or tapestries hung. A moderate fire blazed, but so many gathered made the room warm.

Annaxier went to the bedside, the king siting close on the right side, “It will be soon, child. The healers say she is still with us and may hear you, but she will never speak again now. Soon she will sleep.” The king’s voice cracked as he sobbed. “Soon sleep, and then never wake…” He had one of the queen’s hands in his.

Jac felt a hand grip his shoulder. “It is I, Jacklincoln.” Duke Hendriker said very quietly. “The princess brought you, that speaks well for you.”

“I do not think I should be here…” Jac said quietly.

“If my daughter brought someone to my deathbed, I would trust her to know what she is doing. Annaxier and Lancellnick are the most astute of any in the kingdom when it come to politics. Though they do not always work in tandem…” The duke said.

Jac watched the princess as she kneeled on the other side of the bed from her father. She took the hand that had been held by Edmanstow until his elder sister arrived. Annaxier told her mother that she loved her, that it was fine for her to pass to the courts of the gods.

The healers checked on the queen then, and after no change, did so again ten ticks later. Thrice more, Jac saw they checked on the queen, each at these intervals of near ten ticks. No one much talked in the queen’s room, though when Jac turned his head to look in the antechamber, there was a great deal of talking in that room.

Some were saying prayers, a few even had the new prayer books that the printing presses had made. Jac started to recite the Death Prayers of Krien, quietly, and ArchPater Larwellton heard and came and stood next to Jac. They both then did so together three times during those agonizingly slow ticks of the clock.

“She is dead, your majesty,” the chief healer said when he checked next.

The king let out another sob, then said, as if it were some formula of his office, “Go and sound the bell. Cover the mirrors, and tear the clothes. We mourn, we mourn, we mourn. The queen has died, let the word be spread.”

Others in the room said, “Aye majesty,” as if in response to King Lancellnick’s statement.

The king turned and look at those gathered. “Thank you for attending us in our time of grief. Now, if you will give us and our family some time alone, we shall have court and King’s Council after mass tomorrow, ArchPater?”

“Yes your majesty, we shall have a memorial mass in the morning, as is custom, and then the Queen Karanhit will lie in state for two days after. We shall have a full memorial service then three days hence and her pyre shall be prepared for then.”

With that announcement, all but the King and his children were sent from the room, even the healers and their assistants who would prepare the Queen’s body so that it could lie in state for the period of mourning. Jac had received one look from Annaxier and a nod from the King, who did so to all the others that had been with him when his wife died.

Slowly the many nobles and others made their way from the antechamber and the hall that led to the Queen’s apartment. Jac found his own guards and was soon walking towards the Creatory, even as the bells of the city started to ring. Criers could be heard shouting the news of the Queen’s death. Jac could sense a difference from earlier, when the city was quiet in anticipation of the event. Now it was depressed and saddened because the event had come to pass.

Jac would tell all in the Creatory to go and pray for the Queen’s soul these next days. He would do the same at the Makories that he and Master Gearman owned. Best to stop work before the King and his council reminded all to do so. That would be something that he was sure would arise the following day when the King held court and council.

“Master Cartwright,” one of the the journeymen said. Jac turned his head. It was Dallintock. Dallintock had come up with an attachment to the plow. It helped to place a seed regularly into each furrows that was made. It had been used last season in many of the fields and this harvest they had seen the results of it.The new device led to an abundance of wheat and other plants grown with ease. Sales of the device had taken off.

Dallintock, who had grown up on a farm, had added another innovation to the farmer’s scythe. He’d made a reaper that could be pulled like a plow. He had the horse walk between the rows of the furrows, having a guide on this new plow give the spacing that would be needed at harvest. His newest thought was to produce a multiline plow, and have it pulled by a new type of steam cart. Digging up so much earth would need a great many more horses then a team of two.

“Yes, Dall?” Joe asked.

“Master, I have bad news, and this I know, is not a day for any more of that.”

Jac nodded, “Very well. I believe there is a saying about good news always slow and rare, while bad is quick and everywhere you look for it,” Jac said. He would have to refine that, if there was not such a saying. Everywhere you look for it.

“Yes, master,” the journeyman agreed. But paused briefly. Jac did not want men who agreed with him, nor those who had information he had to fish for. Dall continued though, “When I went to compare how fields of my new plow attachment did with those that did not have it, I began to find a trend. My mistake was not mentioning this as soon as I saw something in the numbers. Now though, I have six of the ten of the farms accounted, and I think you and the king and his council must learn of this.” Dall did not provide the conclusion.

“Yes, but learn of what? That your seed placing attachment works?” Jac asked.

“Oh, sorry. Yields on all the fields are down,” Dall replied.

Jac understood, “Oh, then your seed placer does not work. We will have to pay back those farmers and lords who bought it.” Jac was sanguine about it. Such happened.

Dall was still shaking his head, “Oh no Master Cartwright. The seed placer adds to the yields over those that don’t use it. No, not just six farms. I have six of ten farms of all the kingdom reporting, and overall the crop this year was eight tenths of last year. By next harvest we will have food shortages.” Jac came awake fully to this report.

“That is the first I have heard of it. Eight of ten parts, are you sure?” He asked.

“Yes, I am sorry for it. But yes. I do not think even if we start to eat less now, we can whether the storm. Surely some of the great lords with the biggest farms would know this aw well?”

Jac did not think the loss of twenty percent was so devastating. “But that is not so terrible, two in ten. Surely we can weather that.”

Dall had more to add, “But this is not so, for our prosperity had given encouragement to many peasants of other nations to come to Hornik. Less now that it is Winter, and that it is Winter, we should be nearing the end of last year’s birthing cycle. For all that the poor have swamped our cities, you must realize that in the country, a feeling of wealth abounds for those who have work. They are breeding like er, lords.” Lords often had large families, since they could afford to feed so many mouths.

“Well the poor, are also, as they have little to do. And you, GrandMaster, have provided them a safety net by feeding all. I think my accounts show that in other years, men, women and children starved in much greater quantities. In all, by Summer we will have another two hundred thousand to add to the hundred thousand we would normally expect to have seen born. These will be immigrants and new births.”

Jac shook his head. Hornik had less than five million all told, Jac knew that much. “Most lords that are still in Firtoskin did not return to their lands and farms because of the illness of the queen. If some know of this prosperity of new citizens, or lack of yield at harvest, I have not heard mention of it. And this is across the country? But there are different growing regions.”

“Oh, I am averaging. Some places there is an excess over the last year, but most show weakness, and a few had fallow fields and crop failure. That is what the numbers I have gotten are. I still have not got the information from the very far north, but I am not hopeful, for there had been word that the crop was thin this year. Over watering from the storms.”

Jac remembered that the council had heard such a report about the north being drenched earlier in the year. “Best show me your information and tell me all. I will ask to form a group in the Council so that the King need not be troubled. But can we find a solution to this problem over the next few days? Do you need help in getting more information?” The two began to look at the information that Dallintock had. There were two lords that had not been forthcoming of how the harvest on their lands were that Dall should have heard by then. One was Duke Conlinton.

After the memorial mass, which not only Jac attended, but so too did his parents and sisters, for they had all grown close to Princess Annaxier, King Lancellnick held his court. Jac found a moment to ensure the Chancellor had gotten his note about the harvest so they could talk about it in King’s Council. “Yes, you shall speak as soon as we finish plans for the queen’s funeral,” the Chancellor said.

“I thought you had all that you needed to speak about this. I can give you more…” Jac began.

“Nonsense, you know what this is about. You shall present it. You are right, though, that I do deem it as very important. You project starvation? Can not we consume more livestock this year and balance that against the bounty of the fields?”

Jac began to explain but the King had some matters he wanted to describe to his entire court, and the Chancellor had to hurry away. King Lancellnick did not actually announce anything of a surprise, for many had to deal with the arrangements for Queen Karanhit. Jac spent that time writing notes on what he needed to say in Council. All too soon, he was standing in front of the lords and councillors and had to speak of it.

“As you know there was a new attachment for the plow this year and it increased the amount of food planted. What you may not know, and I did not until yesterday, is that across the kingdom, we have had a terrible harvest. We also do not have a great many reserves. We have calculated and we do not have enough food stockpiled from this last harvest that will see to our succor until the next harvest. We also have an influx of new births of our people in greater numbers then usual, and an influx of people from some of our neighbors that would like to better themselves. I can show you charts and numbers. But if my lords will ask of their stewards of their own lands, then perhaps we can provide his majesty with a quick guide that shows the veracity of what I have found.” Having spent time with Dall and his numbers and reports, Jac saw a need for a new man to be one of the King’s Ministers and learn about agriculture for Hornik.

Some of the lords nodded, for they knew they had a bad harvest on their lands. Jac had written to his own stewards, for the lands that the Prince had transferred to him had farms upon them. He also had seen that the numbers were already part of the report though, and said so then to the council, “My own lands have suffered this year. Too late a planting from last, too much rain during the growing season. There has been much damage to the crop.”

Jac saw that the prince made a face and looked like he said something. Something that Lancellnick certainly heard and he gave his son a look and then a very stern whisper. The prince seemed to sit straighter after that and did not smile.

“GrandMaster, you are sure? This would be a serious problem if it were so,” the King said.

Jac nodded slowly, “As I mentioned, majesty, this is one report being done quickly by one man who saw something wrong. I have ordered a second report started and if these lords here will write to their own stewards, or travel to their lands and bring back the evidence from their own homes, then we may see if it is truly so. I do not think I would be lied to.”

“No of course not. We do not need news like this at the moment. We have much on our minds just at present.” All understood that. The king wanted time to grieve, and he knew such a crises as this might not allow it. “But we never can choose the time for tales which hurt us will arrive.”

“If I might suggest majesty, appoint five of your councillors to investigate this. Then also these men can suggest how to deal with the problem from buying food of our neighbors, to rationing, to dealing with hoarding and profiteering by inflating the prices,” Jac said, mentioning some of the few ideas he had.

“That is not so bad an idea. We like that suggestion. You GrandMaster, and Hendriker. Kendiltur, you also, if you have time.” The ArchPater nodded, and the king named two others. “Please, you will tell us as quickly as you can, if these are true facts. If we must purchase food from our friends and enemies. This is a poor time for such to occur. We have had bad harvests before, but never that forced all to ration. We have come close, but we have always found a solution.” The king dismissed it then from his mind. The rest of the King’s Council was solely spent dealing with Queen Karanhit’s funeral. Jac and the four others named retired to discuss the shortage matter. The King joined them before they could even begin.

“Good, you are ready to start on this. We do not doubt the GrandMaster’s words, but hope they are wrong. We have sent a note to the kitchens telling them to reduce the amount of food that is served each night here at court, and to the servants. We would be an example to our subjects. We did not want to create a panic in our people. But If any of this is true, then we must act on this very fast. It could become very bad for all of our people should we not. In other words, it would be easy to purchase grain and other needful food. This year, if the situation becomes known to other kingdoms, it may be part of what we are offered for our daughter. And if the country is faced with starvation, it may be a price we can not refuse. That is not a position we wish to be in.”

The king again thanked Jac for his timely warning. ArchPater Kendiltur offered his temple and a room there for them to meet in regularly. The ArchPater also suggested that they quickly start working towards verifying the information, and having solutions.

“It is one thing if we have a low harvest, we have endured crisis like this before, but I think the Duke has impressed upon us this year that our neighbors may not be so willing to help,” the ArchPater said.

“This is a horrible issue to have to face. My journeyman thinks we could have starvation before the next harvest. Perhaps we can force the planting of crops that are quicker to grow. Less of the crops that take the entire season,” Jac said.

“And how do we know that we shall not have a horrible harvest again? Or that we do not have more people seek refuge here in Hornik adding to our burden. I can not fault that they think we can offer them a better chance then their own countries. I am sure we can,” the Duke said. “But there are considerations of how much we can do for these new citizens, and how much their former countries will be hurt by so many running to us. We shall here of it from the other kingdoms and I do not think that they will have anything pleasant to say about it.”

The five men called for assistants and together they crafted letters to be sent to help with the finding of information. Each had men they could devote to the task of finding out facts, and many were sent also to retrieve the information that was needed. The churches were enlisted to aid in the figuring of how many new people had come to the kingdom from elsewhere, for every village of any size had a temple. The entire country was covered, but such a canvas of information would take time to fully gather. They knew they were going to have to make assumptions.

Even so, by the day’s end, they had compiled some information, and knew that before the end of the current cycle they would have enough to take to the king. The group then began to think of plans to deal with the issue, for having many starve in the late summer and early fall before the harvest was completely in was not an option any wished to face.

After six rounds, the night was late and the assistants as well as they who were councillors of the kingdom, craved their rest. Jac left with his guards for the Creatory and his home. He came upon the gate at the wall that was between Old Town and the new town. Inside a barracks room there, one could hear dicing and a couple guardsmen stood at a doorway.

“Here, are you lord Cartwright, hold up a moment,” Jac and his four guards came to attention, then, for this was not ordinary. The other lords he had been with all lived in the Old Town. Jac was the only one who would have to pass through the gate.

“No, no, we just have someone who wished to talk to you.” One of the guards said, while the other stuck his head inside.

“It is late. Can not whoever wishes to talk to me, wait until the morning?” Jac asked.

“Sorry, my lord, but you best wait.” A few moments later Jac recognized Prince Edmanstow. He was coming towards Jac from inside the room where the soldiers who were there had been dicing.

“Ah, privacy, there. Now GrandMaster, you have caused me a great deal of trouble. And I have lost forty silvens waiting for you to pass this evening. I am not pleased.” Jac did not think that was his problem. The boy was still very spoiled. Jac saw some of the lords that he surrounded himself with back in the room watching the soldiers and their comrades dice, while also watching the Prince.

“If I had known your highness wished to have speech with me, I would have made arrangements to come and see you at once.”

Saying that should satisfy Edmanstow’s self-centered ego. Jac knew no man who was so much consumed with how people thought of him. Lancellnick certainly thought more of the kingdom then what people thought of him. He had learned, Jac thought, that he did not need to be loved every day. If he did the best for the kingdom, then all would love him most days. Just not every day.

Edmanstow, Jac surmised, did not care if people loved or hated him. He wanted to do what was best for the prince. “I do not doubt that you would. Father has been distracted by my mother’s death. It has been a very long and slow process and he has relied on Annaxier. I have been left to my own self mostly, but I fear he shall remember me soon enough. You destroyed Riclarpur and sought to make that my problem. You were wrong, for I do not forgive easily.”

Jac knew that the Prince was going to be a problem when he was king, if he kept such an attitude. “Highness, as a councillor to your father I think that for the good of all, justice is much more important then revenge. Under one your reign would surely prosper, under the other, is tyranny.”

Jac had learned a great deal about politics, and the ruling dynasties of all the kingdoms extant then, as well as many that had fallen. “Do not threaten me, Master Creator. I do not appreciate it.”

Jac did not threaten him. The boy did not know what a threat was. Col had already talked of it, once. A few men hired to go to taverns where the poor knew that the prince did little to help their plight. A few choice words. Then a march, in a friendly sort of way to protest to the Prince and King how they suffered. Met by other men, hired men, shouting in favor of the Prince. These men doing violence to those who spoke peaceably. The next day three times as many would be marching to call for the Prince to give them aid. It would be easy to threaten, humiliate and manipulate him. Jac was not scarred by Edmanstow’s threats.

“Highness, you are very young. I hope that your father shall have a long reign still for you do not see what is happening around you. If you wish to have a talk with me here in the shadows, you are harming your cause.”

“You are wrong, peasant! Do not seek to lecture me. Else I will change my resolve. For I see how you are useful to my purpose. Enough have told me that those ideas that reside in your mind could be worth fortunes to me. I shall let you continue to keep your head, but you best stay out of our way. We will be king, and you will be but a subject. Do not think that you shall have a place in our Council, for only nobles and the clergy shall have one.”

Jac did not point out that Edmanstow had made him a lord. What Jac had heard was that the boy would not kill him out of hand. “I shall be a model citizen, highness.”

“Do not patronize us. We will have your head should you do so, despite your value. We warn you, do what you will with our father, but when our time comes, you will disappear from our sight. That is our will.”

Jac could think of nothing he should like better. He nodded. The Prince deciding he had finished, turned his back and called for his companions. Jac seeing his opportunity, gathered his guards and after another very long day, made his way to his bed and sleep.

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Invention and Creationism can not handle all problems. Death from causes that are not understood and the Queen dies. This causes problems as those who are most closely associated with the Queen, the King, finds that grief has allowed his mind to wander and all is not being taken care of in Hornik. Then one can not always count on the weather to be of help. In this case, a few ill timed disasters and of a sudden the reports arrive that the last harvest was not adequate to see the country through winter.

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