Sep Nullachtfünfzehn and co.

Short stories, fan fictions, and lots of insanity

A written brick shell: “Born to be Wild”

What follows is the earliest (current), unedited version of the first chapter of the Chronicles of the Taremys Family. Enjoy, and please, help me some with the editing.


 

Chronicles of the Taremys Family

and other tales from Colomynd, or Kolemiſz, and ſurroundings

Part One:

Born to be Wild

“Ah, theology… Is old Procopius still ranting about how little the Mother Snake and the Saints and all fits Colomynd?”

“You have no idea. Now there’s that Wistulan professor, er… Perunow, he’s ranting even more. Even Arpadius is complaining about that, now.” Moræna allowed herself a brief chuckle, to accompany her brother’s wholehearted laugh. “Hænnys, though… you know him?”

“It’s a common name.”

“Right… ” She glared at him ever so briefly before explaining. “Excluding our dear genius, Vaslavy, he’s the youngest professor around. He’s all about astronomy and physics and maths.”

“Those are the worst.” Ianc Taremys declared, emptying his cup of wine.

“Not necessarily. Either way, I tried his lectures once… I was sleepy, but remained awake in there. I understood next to nothing, but he didn’t allow me to sleep.” Moræna fumbled around on her gambeson. “You know, when father visited Morvinnys, he was who saved me, and who doomed me, as well. Should I tell the story?”

“You’re going to do it anyway.” stated Ianc, standing up, “What use would my complaints be?” He took financial reports on his table, and delivered them to the muddy ground of the tent. Being a mercenary captain isn’t too easy, obviously.


“Why, I take great interest in your pursuit of efficient use of steam power! What other reason would there be for me to visit the infamous Vaslavy Taremys?” he spoke. The voice seems a bit strange. As does that blonde beard. thought the addressed.

“You seem oddly familiar… ” he thought aloud. “I know that colour… hair and eyes… hm… ”

“Vaslavy.” he whispered sternly, to catch his attention.

“What?” The young professor was somewhat confused, especially since his voice had shifted to a higher tone for that one whisper.

“You still don’t get it?” The smirk gave her away.

“Moræna.” Vaslavy was unfazed. “Why am I not surprised in the least to find you here? I wonder.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really? You’re going to… address that matter again?”

“You do have a reputation of finding ways to break rules.” he defended himself, turning away to lean over his sheets of parchment and paper, sheets filled with blueprints and calculations. He shook his head, and turned to her again. “The beard looks impressively real, though. How’d you do that?”

“I shave.” She blushed, but she kept true to her principles, amongst which was never keeping a secret from him. Vaslavy was, by far, her most favourite sibling.

“What? Where?” Vaslavy was young, and relatively innocent, she had forgotten. She shook her head, trying to suppress a grin, or at least laughing out loud.

“Either way, how’s your… research going?” she inquired, getting closer to his papers and parchments than he would’ve allowed anyone else.

“I’m currently pursuing two solutions: first of all, a more effective way of using the steam for the circular movement directly, or using it for a vertical movement, which later is.. converted, so to say, to circular movement. Basically.” He was quick to place himself in the line of sight between his elder sister and a heap of metal which could only be a prototype.

“Which is the same you told me two years back.” she stated as-a-matter-of-factly. “Basically.”

“Do you study physics?” He had hesitated before saying that, and sought to begin several times, the first few ones attempting to actually explain the principles of his research to her. Yet he had decided to choose that as the most fitting reply.

“No. I mean, I did visit one of Hænnys’s lectures, but… that was about something else, entirely.” she had to admit.

“First of all, never think that when it’s about physics. And secondly… well… ” He presented a heavy heap of pipes and alike, all metal. “I’ve built a prototype each of both versions. And… well, there’s a ship being built at the Great Wharf, and another one at the Old Wharf. They’ll utilise these two, in far greater size, naturally.” He displayed a proud smile. “Though, I doubt they’ll be faster. At least when it comes to acceleration – their hulls will be reinforced with steel to withstand the forces created by these steam engines.”

“What kind of ships?” Moræna took the prototype out of his hands, and, though it was quite too heavy for her, she took it with one hand, her curiosity, as always, prevailing.

“Basically, galleys. They’re the ones with the design most fit for such a propulsion.” Vaslavy had to yank the prototype out of her hands again, before she pulled it apart. “Anyway, did you hear who’s coming to town today?”

“You mean to Colomynd or to Morvinnys?” The city and her university were two entirely different things, in fact; Colomynd was as open as a city under Wistulan rule could be, and even more egalitarian – when it came to the two sexes – whereas Morvinnys was a serious, strict, and solemn academy reserved for men.

“I mean regardless,” answered Vaslavy, making Moræna wonder, “and take that as a no.” He put the prototype back where it had been before. “His Excellency, Chancellor to the Archdespot, Caroly Taremys.”

That complicates things, I suppose. She gasped, slightly. “It’s been– I haven’t seen him– Ever since our little– ” Her thoughts were clear on that matter, Oh, dammit. It’s been nine years since our… little argument. Her voice changed almost instantly, and though the difference was only slight, it made her seem quite like the student she was portraying. Time for Iohænnys Hyssus Prahensys… though, father does know me, and is not as thick – when it comes to people – as Vaslavy is… we’ll see. “If I may be excused, m’lord, I shall hurry to the dormitories. I have yet to complete my work for tomorrow.”

“Of course, for without, how can we ever become masters of our arts?” Vaslavy cooperated.

He hurried out of the room, and up a flight of stairs, which led to the upper floors of that tower, of the Observatory. No one even noticed him leaving it, though he did quite slam the door. Either way, he hurried over the – as usually – relatively empty yard – empty, save for the few professors and students disputing in the shadow of the great oak, Mauderuin, around which the island had grown, and also except for those few who hurried from one lecture to the next – hurried to a very particular house of those that seamed the brick wall surrounding the isle of Morvinnys, making it seem more like a fortress with its towers and turrets.

“You have no idea. It is deeply rooted in our collective mind that the snake is a symbol of evil, and servants of such are thus servants of evil. Would it not be easier to adapt the religion locally than to force upon the people, who, for hundreds of generations, had been part of a very different religion, the idea that what they, till then, had thought is evil, is suddenly good.” Professor– no, Headmaster Procopius, Professor of Theology, argued loudly, vigorously fumbling the stick he leant on – no, not stick, it was actually a weapon, a so-called goedendag. A weapon made from Mauderuin’s branches shall grant wisdom and knowledge upon the wielder, and aid him in defending and spreading both. That was the reason for that, at least as far as he remembered.

“No, it is not, simple as that.” stated his counterpart, Professor Perunow, a theologist, his Colomyndian dialect flavoured with a heavy Wistulan accent. “The Mother Snake is already found in various versions all across the Kontinenta. You may know it as the benevolent… er… dragon, and Saints would be comparable to your dragonslayers and -riders. Furthermore would even a local alteration hint at a weakness of the imperial order and – ”

He did not listen, other than, various students, who began supporting either of the two professors, until Professor Arpadius, historian, managed to separate the two, who began to raise their goedendags, by outscreaming both. Arpadius is indeed a great professor. And mediator. was all he thought of his history professor then, before reaching the door of the house his own room was in. He threw it open, but forgot that it couldn’t be fully opened, and pressed himself through, and, after slamming the door shut, hurried up a narrow flight of stairs, at the end of which awaited a narrow corridor, where he took the ladder leaning at the side, and put it in place so the attic could be accessed. He climbed it up, and opened the door to his right, entering the most cramped space in the entire house: his room. The desk, covered in ancient tomes on even more ancient occurrences, equally ancient tomes on just as ancient beliefs, and a few sheets of parchment filled with equations, as well as considerable masses of candle wax, took away a third of the space, as did the bed, which also served as a wardrobe, with various sets of clothes forming a second blanket. The remaining space was filled with a number of tools, such as a broom, a goedendag with a broken shaft, a wooden tub, a washboard, and a great supply of quills, paper, and ink. What little remained of space was filled by him, and a chair belonging to the desk. He was about to close the door behind himself when he heard a faint creaking of wood, and, the longer he listened, also an ever so silent moaning. He couldn’t suppress a smile then. All female presence on the Isle of Morvinnys is forbidden. It distracts one from learning, studying. Dedicating oneself to a woman makes it impossible to dedicate oneself to the pursuit of knowledge. Such was Porcopius’s reasoning, anyway, he remembered, chuckling slightly, before he noticed something. There was another tub, a bathtub, in his room. One filled with warm water. He raised his eyebrow at that, and chose to make use of it. Having locked the door with a simple piece of wood to block it, he, the student Iohænnys Hyssus Prahensys became Moræna Taremys again – she ripped of his beard – which was a courtesy of the theatre down by the Great Market – and threw the hat she had worn on the bed. Then, she loosened the wide robes, left them where they had touched the ground. The boots followed, and remained in their positions as well. Lastly, she found she had no choice but to remove the undergarments, which thereafter joined the hat and beard on the bed, as well. Finally ready to make use of the surprising situation, she stepped into the water, relaxing instantly. Father won’t come here. I suppose. It was a thought she took comfort in. She took a sheet of paper which, in her wrath, she had crumpled up, and pretended it was a sponge, and attempted to clean herself with it, in any way.

Both the moaning and the creaking increased in volume.

She had found it ironic and amusing at first, but now, it had turned annoying. For a second, she thought of how to respond to this, and decided to take no further action, and furiously attempt to clean herself. She rubbed the harsh, thick, and now squidgy paper all over herself, then pausing for a second when she reached the least dirty areas, those covered by the undergarments. Her breasts – small ones, being slim, she would’ve been noticed had they been any bigger – were cleaned without a second thought, when she would’ve come to the private parts, covered in a thick dark blonde fuzz, she stopped. It’ll escalate, and they’ll notice me. she thought, only half joking.

The moaning ended in something sounding like a suppressed scream, and the creaking ended as well, shortly thereafter. At least, that particular kind of creaking.

Ah well, might as well clean my greasy hair. Her hair, shoulder-long, wavy and of golden colour, was gleaming as soon as light touched it, which was not because of its colour, but because of the grease. Maybe I should give some to Vaslavy. He could need some for his engines. were her thoughts as ran her hand through her hair. The water was still relatively clean and warm, surprisingly. She took her paper, unfolded it again, and then ran it over various strands of hair. She was thus focussed on that task that she failed to notice the nearing footsteps and creaking. Even the rattling at her door was ignored, as was the following whispering, even when the door was raised, she failed to notice it. Only when it opened did she take a look.

What. Before her stood a naked woman, not just any woman, but indeed some she knew, not by name though. Before her stood a naked nun, though a young one, with her legs trembling from what had just been finished. What. Is. Going. On.

“Who are you, what were planning to do here, in my room, and… what?” Moræna broke the silence, not seeking either of them being exposed.

“Er… ” the woman began, following Moræna’s gestured order by taking the few steps inside, and closing the door after her. “I’m… Hænna. Sister Hænna. From the Chelaster. I’m from the Marshes, so they call me Hænna from the Woods.” She spoke with a heavily fluctuating pitch and tone, and a slight accent, one that tended to simply replace several vowels and combinations of such by others. “I– Well, I wanted to, er, take a bath. And he– Hænnys, that is, er… we’ve known each other for– forever. And– ”

“I don’t care why you shag whomever you shag, just get in here, wash yourself or whatever, and get out the way you came, and neither of us will ever talk of this, to anyone.” ordered Moræna, rising from the lukewarm water. Hænna, for some reason, remained standing where she was, her knees shaking, and beads of sweat rolling down all over her body. The Taremys girl shook her head, and stepped out, towards who was, apparently, a nun, occupying the last free space there was in the room. Standing there, she narrowed her eyes and lowered her eyebrows the least bit, shaking her head once more, with a far more grim expression this time. “Do. What. You. Must. And. Then. GET. THE. FUCK. OUT!”

Hænna stood there defiantly. And Moræna, just for a split second, let her gaze wander to the broken goedendag. Good enough for me, I supp– WHAT THE– !

 

Iohænnys Hyssus Prahensys. Sometimes he wondered how he had come up with that name. Oh, right, I didn’t. I killed the original one. And accidentally, too. Heh. A smirk couldn’t be suppressed as he left the house, just as whistling – he was rather euphoric. The boots left more dirt than there had been on the cobbled path than there had been before. The gigantic building he was heading to was at least as tall as the cathedral’s nave on Cær Avon, Colomynd’s Palazial, and thus around forty metres. In every other aspect, however, Glanysgol, Morvinnys’s main building, outdid the aforementioned cathedral in every aspect, but for size above the ground. Well, almost every aspect, the cathedral had a by far more ornate design. Even so, Glanysgol was known throughout Wistula, with its two nave-like main halls, both of which were simple, sturdy halls with round bows, and thick walls, and around, smaller of their likeness had accumulated, in another style, with more delicate columns, pointed arches, and ornaments aplenty. He entered via the main entrance, which was a tall door, nay, gate of oak. And almost instantly, the euphoria dissipated, as Hænnys, Professor of Physics, called him.

“Hyssus, mind if you come with me for a bit?”

“Er– ” was all he managed, having been surprised.

“It won’t be to your worst.”

And he complied. The two walked in mutual silence through masses of students and professors, and took a few turns, all of which he memorised. After a walk of about ten minutes, Hænnys stopped.

“Do you have a single idea why I got you here, Moræna?” whispered he, in a way that it didn’t echo in the empty hallway. At the other side of the doors were professors’ quarters, and almost all of them were teaching, eating, or sleeping deeply after a night of either working, or drinking.

She didn’t answer, which was answer enough for him.

“You’d think a few pubes glued to your face, a lower voice and a strap to keep your tits flat would be enough to conceal your true… gender.” he hissed, his speech being inaudible from afar. “Thing is, they don’t.”

“How’d you know all that?” Moræna was genuinely surprised, or rather, shocked.

“What?” Hænnys reacted the same way she had. “I guessed the first and last one! I didn’t know!” He took a quick look around, before resuming the conversation. “Not until now, anyway.”

Moræna thought for a moment about what to say next, deciding to forget what she had been visually imagining. “How’d you find out my identity?”

Hænnys laughed heartily, though briefly. “I overheard you talking to Vaslavy.”

“So… ” Moræna attempted to remain calm, though she sought to end it all, being ashamed of the whole affair. But it was yet to reach its peak. “So, why did you get me here?”

“Two things, first: I know what you did to Hænna.”

She was, once more, surprised. Don’t say anything stupid now… It took her some time to think how to correctly stress what she would say, as not to sound too aggressive. “And what are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.” She raised her eyebrow, again, in surprise. “Either I expose myself, as well as you, which would force Procopius to banish both of us from Morvinnys, or I allow it.” She saw he had little choice in the matter. “Second, you have to be more careful. Just because you haven’t seen your favourite brother in years, it doesn’t mean you can shout all about the place. Be more careful.”

“Anything else, Professor? I must hurry to my lectures.” asked he, annoyed as he was.

“Come to think of it, yes.” spoke he. There remained but a second of silence before he added to his list of matters he had to address in his presence. “Third, I know of a way to smuggle people in and out of Morvinnys. It may come in handy, but pray you never need it. I’ll show you tonight.” Just as he turned away, Hænnys added, “And fourth, never let anyone know I forgot to include these in my initial… list-thing.”

He was back at the entrance, which was now almost devoid of people. Instead of take any corridor either side, he walked straight on, into the biggest auditorium, the Great Hall. The door, almost as massive as the front entrance, but not near as tall, opened with a creak, and closed again with the same sound. He hurried to one of the seats, and, out of his leather bag, took a quill, an inkwell, and a sheet of paper. We are quite decadent here. was what he thought then. In their front, Arpadius presented a map of the western Archdespotate of Wistula.

“What did I miss?”

His desk neighbour was startled at the sudden question. “Er… it was– well, Ianus Siscanus just summed up the Treaty of Submission. You know, since he discussed it last time.”

“What are we at, now?”

“How Colomynd profited from it, and from its early date.”

“Thanks.”

“…however, who profited most from it were neither the local, minor traders, nor the ferrymen or whoever – these are either merely very specific examples, or relevant only in their great number. The single entity that profited most, especially in the past few years, is the Taremys family. The Taremys Nævalys branch constantly develop new innovations in the area of naval warfare, or rather, make them practically applicable, at the Great Wharf – and besides, they run probably the biggest shipping company of all. The Taremys Biachys managed to greatly expand as well – whilst Wistulan rule requires, by far, fewer posters and pamphlets than the aristocratic republic Colomynd was before, their administration does require huge amounts of paper, as every last transaction has to be noted… ” Arpadius stopped there, to take a sip from a tankard of ale, which he was famous for drinking during his lectures. “But the main line of the Taremys profited most of all. And by all, I don’t mean the Taremys clan, I don’t mean Colomynd. I mean all of Wistula. Hardly any non-Wistulan family has ever risen quite as high as the Taremys did, the most recent example being Caroly Taremys, Chancellor to the Throne, and thus second only to the Archdespot, in theory. Either way, they managed to establish a monopoly in the banking sector locally, and a relative dominance all throughout the western parts of Wistula. Their traders, couriers, and alike trudge all around west of the mountains. And… yeah. Anyway, we have a very special guest today, one who’ll fill you in on the Taremys Empire, the Empire within the Empire. Be sure to show him your utmost respect.” With that, he went to open the door. And for a moment, his heart stopped. Through the door marched the only man he, and she as well, had ever been afraid of: Caroly Taremys.

Utmost respect may be a bit much to ask of them. At their age, I myself did not show it in the least.” declared the Chancellor. And still, you don’t. Not to those you’re supposed to show it to. “But either way, first, it feels good to be back at Morvinnys, after all these years. Come to think of it, maybe I should have earned myself the goedendag, instead of studying just enough to pass.” It earned him a few laughs. “Now, to get to the point… ” What followed would’ve belonged into a Maths lecture. He even had the audacity to show his discontent with that, and the man lecturing them, by falling asleep. It took – or so it seemed to him – a second, and the Chancellor was finished, when, in truth, it had been hours. Caroly finished, “Are there any questions?”

No one answered. Bells were heard. A full hour. Nice. Everyone started getting up, and he saw he had drooled on his paper. He wiped it away, put his entire equipment back into his bag, and followed suit. By that time, half the seats were deserted already, and he was the only one walking down to leave, whilst everyone else was already trying to, the mass of people hindering itself at leaving. Several classes. So that’s why we’re in the Great Hall. Only he, Arpadius, and Caroly remained within the room itself.

“Wait, lad!” he was called by the latter. He froze in his tracks, but decided to face him, and turned around. Caroly took a brief look at him – brief indeed, but for him, it seemed to take forever. “What’s his name?”

“That one? Iohænnys. Iohænnys Hyssus Prahensys.” was Arpadius’s answer.

“So, tell me, Iohænnys, why do you study history?” Phew. That was a close one. thought he, then wishing he hadn’t – Caroly seemed to be inspecting his face, the eyes, most of all.

“Well, I find it intriguing how forces that had been at work hundreds of years ago are still, in another way, at work nowadays.” was his vague answer. He tried not to meet his gaze, and took a look at what Arpadius was doing. He snatched something that may have been a seal from the table. What? Did father leave it there? And only then did he realise just how stupid that had been – Caroly was accompanied by two guards, Hussars. Who noticed nothing. They do make for great guards, apparently.

“Good answer. Just interest, then?” He was persistent, and he finally met his gaze ever so briefly.

“Aye.” Caroly nodded, and turned away. He surely had noticed the eyes, and how familiar they must’ve seemed. Did he just ignore it? was one of the thoughts that flew through his head. It seemed odd – after all, how many blondes had eyes of grey and green colour both, and how many of these did he know? He always said I had my mother’s eyes… strange.

He accepted it, and hurried out of the auditorium. He would get himself something to eat afterwards.

 

“You could just follow me, you know.” called her Hænnys. In all her years of sneaking about, she had developed quite a skill at it, so she decided to let darkness do what her fake beard and all couldn’t – hide her. “I’m only doing this because I think you’re someone worth saving. I don’t have to.”

“Idiot, I’m right behind you.” she whispered. The corridor let it echo, which made her, as well as him, shut up. He walked in front, with a torch, and led her down a spiral staircase, further below the city. When they came to a wooden door, he opened it, held it open for her to go through, and shut after her. To the right and the left, rows of shelves seamed the central corridor, some of them even hewn into the stone. Barrels, and other containers were being stored there. And judging from the floor, which was covered in a mixture of whatever they were containing and water from the canalisation above them, it hadn’t been used for quite some time. “Where are we?”

“A secret place.” was his answer. From one corridor to the other, he suddenly had become extremely wary of his torch, and especially hot cinders flying from it. “This is a relic from a time when Colomynd was independent, and Morvinnys was still a place for both genders. What surrounds us here was produced in Morvinnys then, and accidents were common. In fact, many non-students, and non-teachers worked in the production of that… stuff. And, as most men was blacksmiths, tailors, generally craftsmen, sailors, or whatever, their wives and daughters produced this substance. And after one accident, almost all those working on that died, not only laying waste to Morvinnys and other isles, but also killing off many women, the birth rate thus dropping.” He paused as he opened another door, held it open for her, and closed it again after her. “If you think Colomynd joined Wistula that early because of trading profits and shit, you’re wrong. We joined to protect us from ourselves.”

“What kind of stuff is that, anyway?” asked Moræna as they passed many more barrels.

“It goes by many names, and I won’t mention any of them. And I don’t know how to produce it – for that, ask the alchemists, I heard old Stephynus still teaches it to the best of his students.” Hænnys avoided a direct answer.

“What does it do?” As much as Hænnys avoided the topic, as much did Moræna persist.

“It burns. And terribly fast. And terribly hot. And it burns even on water. Once, when Colomynd was at war, a King wanted to land in the city to make the city surrender. The Colomyndians just poured it into the Iadûrys in great masses, letting the river and the current carry it out into Îslut’ Sound, and then set it on fire when the King’s fleet was close enough. It burnt. As did the King’s army. Nothing remained of them, except for ashes, it’s said.”

“Can it explode?” To her, that substance became more and more intriguing.

“It might, mixed with the right substances… ” Hænnys allowed himself to say. “But it can be set on fire by almost anything… it gets too hot? It burns. It falls from a certain height? It- no, wait, that’s a different substance. Heh. The point is, you can’t handle it too easily.”

“Alright.” She decided to accept the explanations given.

“Here we are.” He opened another door, and the two had to walk over something that seemed like a wooden platform, until they reached another spiral staircase, hewn directly into the rock. They ascended it, and, at the end, stood in a storehouse. “The back exit is always unlocked. We’re just by the Old Wharf here. You remember where to enter it?”

“Yeah, just– ”

“Shut up, not a single word about what I showed you. To anyone. It’s too risky. Most actually believe these vaults don’t exist anymore, so keep that to yourself.” Hænnys decided to take the easier way back.

“But I can ask the alchemists about– ”

“That, yes.” he answered, and shut the door.

This should be interesting. Her pyromania had been awakened, and with it thoughts about the substance’s usage aplenty. But first, she decided silently, there’s a few visits I have to make. She smirked. This shall be fun.


“So much for him saving you.” thought Ianc aloud. “But what about him dooming you?”

“That is another story. I won’t tell you about all the days in between, they were the same, for the most part.” Moræna took a sip of whatever he had offered her. “Hm, apple cider, I see.” She took another sip, as if the beverage had been wine, and added, “I had no idea you knew my taste when it comes to such… ”

“I don’t.” he stated bluntly, and with the hint of a chuckle. “I just offered what I had here. Which all complies to my taste.”

“I see.” she took another sip, and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. The ground beneath her sank for a centimetre or two – they were camping on marshland, after all. “What’ve you been up to?”

“Leading mercenaries.”

“You don’t say.”

“Leading mercenaries against what apparently were bandits. Actual ones.” He chuckled at the last part. “I’m not lacking anything, and neither are my men, I suppose. They’re fast to complain. And so far, they haven’t complained about anything I could change.” He played with his tankard a bit, before he thought aloud again, “Though… I suppose we don’t necessarily have to camp in the marsh itself. I mean, we are quite fast a force, so just outside Minsz ought to suffice… ”

“I’m just going to believe you on that one.” She refilled her tankard. “Have you heard anything from father? Or maybe even Iassomyr?”

“Not really.” He turned around to face his map table. “Wait, actually I have. He was in Colomynd. And he was present when Vaslavy’s– hm. About Iassomyr, well, he allegedly ended his affair with that Vicar, or Hussar, or whoever. Some even say he got his wife pregnant, but we both know that’s highly unlikely. Else, nothing.”

“Fair enough. You’ve been in the marshes the whole time, so I guess you’re not exactly up-to-date on gossip.” She emptied her tankard, and refilled it again. “I suppose I might as well continue now.” she spoke, slurring slightly.


“I met my daughter today.”

“Truly? Why, this is great news! As far as I know, you did lose contact to her, what, nine years ago?”

“Indeed.” He stuffed his mouth with a piece of a dumpling. “Though someone in your position, and least of all, you, should have to be remembered of such… facts.”

“Is that so?” inquired the man sitting opposite of the eating one. “Why, are we prohibited to crave at least some form of conversation?”

“It’s not that you’re not allowed to. It’s that you could accomplish the same by other means.” Caroly Taremys ate another piece of his roast beef. “You’re an Arbiter. A proper one. Your life is all about gathering information and deciding what consequences these should have.”

“About your daughter… ”

“Right.” He swallowed a piece of beef. “Is there anything you want to know, out of courtesy?”

“I do believe you were in the process of telling a story?”

“Indeed.” The Chancellor took a sip of the wine he had in his glass. “I met her yesterday, after my lecture at Morvinnys. I recognised her, she recognised me. But I very much doubt that she knew I recognised her.” He didn’t even raise his head to face the Arbiter he was conversing with. “Her disguise is good. She’s running about with a false name, a kind of… beard, and even managed to sound like the student she portrays. I’m genuinely impressed.”

“Interesting.” The Arbiter observed the meal, and how it was consumed, with wanting eyes. He directed his attention elsewhere. “I suppose you didn’t make any attempt to contact her?”

“And why should I? She’s – he is, that is – doing well, I’m told. And any attempt at contact would be in vain, and would likely endanger her life, as she is at Morvinnys.” He still refrained from making any visual contact with the Arbiter.

“There are other ways to get her to comply… ” hinted the Arbiter quite obviously.

“I’m not going to capture her. She still is my daughter, a Taremys. Anyone with that name is under my protection.” Caroly looked up from the plate, and stared into the Arbiter’s eyes, his own full of resolve, perhaps with a hint of defiance.

“Then you should be interested in what I have come across.” The Arbiter whipped out a letter, which he had opened, obviously. “The seal belongs to someone of your family, and it is addressed to someone apparently named Black Sheep. It is filled with cryptic orders, most suspicious…” He played with the piece of paper. “I’ll be honest, I’ve found it in your office.”

“That one?” His heart rate increased insignificantly. “Why, there must be some form of misunderstanding.” He noticed a slight smirk in the Arbiter’s face. “When I, shall we say rebelled against my father, I was called the black sheep of the family by the not too far-sighted members of my family. I would guess whoever carried it must’ve confused me with Beran Czerny of the Kopecki.”

“Are you certain?” The Arbiter was, perhaps too obviously, unsure about his suspicions. “He is called Black Ram, after all.”

“An error made in translation. Or perhaps they sought to make it just a bit less obvious.” mused Caroly, emptying his glass of wine. He looked out of the window, noticing only grey clouds. Rain, I see. His voice lowered in volume, to the point it was no more than a whisper. “I’ve heard rumours about him. That he dares to have even staunch supporters of Wistulan rule hanged, only because they might pose a threat.”

“I’ve heard such as well… ” The Arbiter rose from his seat, took a look out of the window, and grasped his coat, thinking whether he should put it on now or later. “Though it should be disregarded as what it is – a mere rumour.”

“I thought the same way, when only those of my family who aren’t too content with Wistula told that rumour. But now? Even Professor Perunow at Morvinnys, even several Hussar officers have been heard… contemplating Czerny’s true intentions.” A servant hurried in, and carried away the empty plate and glass, and another one brought in several stacks of paper, a quill and an inkwell. “I do believe – thank you – that such a rumour, spread by friends of Wistula as well as those discontent with the current state of affairs, should be investigated.”

“True words, Your Excellency, true words.” The Arbiter hinted a salute, and left, not noticing Caroly’s slight smirk as he leaned over the pile of paper. This should be quite a show. he thought as plans formed in his mind. This should be most amusing to watch.

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