Chapter Four: “Tools”
The smell of antiseptic was nearly overpowering in the medical ward. Cleanliness in a hospital was ideal, of course, but Maaike wondered if the staff might be taking it a little far. She had asked a doctor early on about the smell, when she first started coming to the hospital to comfort the worse off patients, and he had replied it was a habit that came from the battlefield surgeons. In the rudimentary tents the army used for operating rooms, there never seemed to be enough of the disinfectants, and some doctors had developed an almost worship of them. One such man was now the director of the hospital and was not likely to relent on his personal war against the invisible killers proven by the now well-documented germ theory.
Still, if the patients had to tolerate it, then she would as well. The day was sadly too chill to have the orderlies wheel patients outside, so she had taken over a lounge and, with the attending doctor’s permission, had several patients brought in so that she could read to them from the Troenan Scriptures.
“And thus cherish your body as Troena has given it to you.” She kept her voice soft; many of the patients were incoherent, but hearing a soft voice seemed to calm them. “Though Praedin may visit upon you illness and deformation, never seek it upon yourself, for to do such is to invite Praedin into your body and to corrupt the form of Troena.”
She had chosen the passage purposefully. When she had been in Adervyn, she had heard that particular passage of the scripture more times than she had cared to count. The church did not take well to the halfmen, and in the city-nation, that passage had been the beginning of many a fiery sermon denouncing the Regency and its choice to employ Lazris’s monsters.
Here, it would do well to give the public just one more reason to fear and loathe revenants, and by extension their masters. Or at least their perceived masters. Still, the sick men and women around her were hardly a target audience. The other young noblewomen that were in the hospital as volunteers, though, were another matter entirely. She saw them pretending to not listen. With all of the talk of revenants that already circulated around court, it was like throwing coal dust on a forge fire. The broadsheets were already rife with the last night’s unusual crimes in the Brass Purses. They still did not openly speculate to revenants, though. She suspected Jaeger’s hand in that.
She smiled and looked down to continue reading the passage, but a voice from behind her stopped her short. “It is so comforting to see the laity already with the church’s message on its tongue.”
She turned around, not betraying her surprise, and smiled. “Cardinal Anglind, I had heard you were in the city.”
Anglind looked at her impassively, even as she stood, curtseyed, and kissed the ring he mechanically held out to her. Duke Warwick Tonniger stood beside the cardinal, a faint smile on his young face.
Once the pomp was finished and Maaike was standing again, Anglind frowned. “Lady Vorrena, I cannot say I had heard the same of you.”
“Vorrena?” Tonniger said. “I think you are mistaking milady, Your Eminence.”
“His Grace knows me, Lord Tonniger,” Maaike said. “But under a false name, alas. I am truly Maaike Kanadis, Your Eminence.”
“False names are the province of Praedin,” Anglind said.
“And I have sought penance,” Maaike said. “I hope Troena can forgive a woman thinking after her safety when she was alone and far from home. I dare not imagine what the Justiciars of Adervyn would have done had they suspected the heiress to a Sentatian Barony was in their city.”
“Oh, I’m sure you dared,” Tonniger said. “Else you wouldn’t have had the common sense to assume a false name.”
Maaike flushed at comment, and Anglind turned his glower to Tonniger. “Do not mock the lady, Warwick. Whatever the reason for her deception, it is past. I must say, I am glad your dedication to serving the ill was not a lie as well, milady.”
Maaike gave Anglind a shy smile, something a reproached daughter might give her father. She had known Anglind in Adervyn, but only in acquaintance. The man was so onerous that she hoped to keep it that way. But, as no other man in Adervyn had spoken as strongly against halfmen, he would be of use to her, just not if people saw her as merely an extension of his doctrine.
“She volunteered in Adervyn’s hospitals?” Tonniger laughed. “And here I thought she was just trying to improve her image.”
Maaike’s smile slid into a frown she directed at the duke. “Illness knows no borders, Lord Tonniger. My time in the hospitals is not about my image, but about comforting those in need.”
Tonniger looked at her, mouth agape. “Troena’s beard, woman. You actually mean that, don’t you?” He paused and glanced at Anglind. “My apologies, Your Eminence.”
Maaike placed the cloth bookmark in her scripture and snapped it shut. “Indeed I do, my lord. Although, if you will excuse me, I am afraid my temper has seemed to sour, and I’d prefer to not upset the patients.”
“Ah, yes,” Tonniger said. “If you’ll come this way, Your Eminence. I believe the director is waiting for us in his office.”
Maaike glanced back as she left, and saw that Anglind lingered a moment, looking after her. She curtseyed to him again, and then started down a hallway almost at random. If it was one thing she had never cared about Anglind, and most men of the clergy in fact, it was that they all seemed to know she was holding something back. She was always careful to speak only truth around them, least they seem to realize her lies.
Alas, now that Anglind knew she was here, he would likely seek her out again, especially after hearing her read his favorite passage, judging by how often he read it to his congregations.
She continued down the hall, realizing that she was not quite sure where she was going except away from the cardinal. She considered turning back—surely he was gone by now—and that was when she noticed the constable standing beside one of the doors.
She walked up to the constable and smiled. “A patient with a bodyguard? Who’s in there, the Prince?”
“Quite the opposite, my lady.” The constable was tall and lean, and quite young besides. She would have guessed he was barely old enough to wear the uniform. “Tymeran here is a marked criminal, straight from the slums.”
“And so he’s in the Royal District hospital?” she said. “And how did that happen, exactly?”
The constable looked up and down the hall. “No offense, my lady, but I don’t think—”
“Oh shush about protocol.” She put a hand on his arm, only a light touch, and smiled. “Surely it is no state secret, constable . . . ?”
The constable swallowed hard. “Drayden, my lady. Andrew Drayden”
“Constable Drayden.” She glanced where her hand touched his arm. There was a bandage with a small bloodstain. “You’re hurt. From his monster?”
“What, oh no, my lady,” he said. “This is from the riots.”
“And still stand duty, injured?”
“Well, we’re so understaffed—”
“That you see it our honor-bound obligation to work while even hurt.” She smiled at him, and he blushed. “So, this Tymeran didn’t hurt you?”
He looked up and down the hallways again. “I doubt he could, my lady. He’s rather bad off. We pulled him out from under a pile of fallen beams. I don’t know how he survived it, really, but now the courts say we have to let him heal up enough to stand trial, and the slums hospital was full up from all the riots, so the magistrate made us bring him here. I don’t see the reason. They’re only going to hang him.”
She took a step back and tapped a finger to her lip. “So certain?”
“We’ve been looking for him for a while, really,” he said. “Turned out there were enough warrants out for him to fill a cabinet.”
She nodded slowly. “Then I simply must meet him.”
He nodded then blinked. “What?”
“Such a man surely needs comfort,” she said.
“Yes, well,” he said.
He stammered more, but she simply pushed passed him and closed the door on his face. Inside, the wrought iron bed was at odds with the gilded chairs and tables meant for visitors. Large bay windows let in ample light that fell across the broken shell of a man in the bed. His arms and legs were all suspended, and his face was more than half bandages. Despite his state, Maaike could tell he was the largest man she had ever seen. The one eye that was not covered was open and looked at her with a calculating intelligence.
“Sorry I can’t stand, my lady,” he said. “Rather occupied, elsewise I’d give you a ravishing I’m sure you’d never forget.”
She let the faintest smile show on her lips. “Is that the way to talk to someone here to bring you comfort in this trying time?”
“Comfort?” He laughed in a way that sounded painful. “Well, I suppose you could do that. That much of me at least can stand, and you seem pretty enough.”
“Would that be what eases your immanent departure from this mortal coil, Master Tymeran is it?”
“The whore knows my name and fate,” he said. “Least you can do is make better use of that mouth than to try and make me feel guilty for what I did.”
“Perhaps.” She pulled a chair over next to him, and he watched her with a suspicious eye. “Or I could offer you an option. You seem a smart man, Tymeran. Course and arrogant, perhaps, but smart beneath it all.”
He started to laugh again, but as he watched her, he trailed off. “And what exactly does that mean?”
She stood. “Later.”
He laughed again, a wet raspy thing. “Sooner would be better, whore. These bonesaws don’t seem to think I’ll live for trail, and I wouldn’t put it past one of them to ensure it besides.” He looked over to his left arm, which ended in a short stump. “They already took most of an arm. They’ll be back for more, I wager.”
She smiled at him. “Later. But, in the meantime, I want you to think about what you would be willing to do. I’ll give you an idea, leastwise, that some amount of respect will be part of it.”
He scoffed and she smiled then left. Andrew bumbled some question after her, but she ignored it and continued on, making note of exactly where she was. Tymeran was making a show of it, but by tonight, she had a feeling he would come around. If not, it was of little consequence. But if he did, well, she was not one to pass up opportunity.
* * *
Soft strains of music floated in from the parlor, but Jaeger did not hear them. His mind was far too occupied by the broadsheet on the desk and the large letters across its top: “Crime Wave Spreads to Brass Purses!” It was almost too much. He had told them to downplay the story, and he was sure if he called upon the editor, he would be told that yes, the article was downplayed. The only mention of revenants was from the interviewed citizens, after all. The editor had wanted to title the piece “Revenants Run Rampant!”
He almost did not notice the slight stumble in the music as he read the article again, trying to imagine what sort of things would be asked of him at tomorrow’s Council Meeting. Prince Dorian had already questioned him, but the boy hardly had a clue of what to ask, and he had been easily shuffled along with cleverly worded promises and facts. The Council would be a different beast altogether.
He looked up when he heard a man clear his throat, and rubbed his eyes. Yes, the music. Of course. “Constable Viggler.”
“My Lord.” Viggler was an average looking man from the slums, which was to say he was brutish and crude. Even in his sharp, brown constable’s coat with his new ropes of rank on the shoulder, he looked more a street thug than the chief of one of the busiest precincts in town. Sadly, it was also one of the most understaffed, too, and there seemed to be a lack of people who wanted to don a brown coat. Viggler had been meant to only be a temporary appointment to fill the position of chief. It was looking more and more than he was going to be the permanent replacement.
“I trust you have read the news, constable?”
Viggler’s eyes darted to the broadsheet then back up again. “Ah, yes sir, of course.” Jaeger had the sudden suspicion that his new constable chief could not read, or at least not well.
“The public is of the opinion there are revenants running amok in our fair city, constable.”
A drop of sweat rolled down Viggler’s temple. “I’d heard as much from rumor, sir. But I’m sure that’s all it is. Just people believing old soldier’s jumping at war ghosts.”
“You do not believe there is a revenant in the city? Were you not part of Black’s operation, Constable Viggler?” He had been, and that operation had burned down a city block hunting for a revenant three months ago.
“Ah, well, that is, perhaps one, sir,” Viggler said. “But I don’t think he’s the cause of all this, no offense. Just ghosts from people who can’t let the war go, that’s all, my lord.”
“I still think it bears looking into,” Jaeger said. “It’s a city wide problem, but it seems the most concentrated in the slums. I want you to look into it.”
“Pardon, my lord, but I’d say Docktown or the Brass Purses has it just as bad as the Slums right now.”
“The Purses were only just hit last night,” Jaeger said. “And while Docktown has been troubled, I’d prefer a precinct that has some experience with revenants already.”
“That will be all, constable,” Jaeger said. “I expect a report on my desk tomorrow detailing how many men you will need for this task force. I will do what I can to get you replacements for your normal patrols. Good day, constable.”
Viggler had at least enough common sense to salute and leave quietly. Jaeger looked down at the broadsheet again and sighed. Resisting the urge to crumple it up, he put it to the side and started looking through his other papers. Before he had even really started on any particular task, the music stumbled again, and he heard Duke Tonniger’s voice in the parlor.
“Becka, darling, for as much as you play, I’m surprised your fingers still manage to trip over themselves whenever you see me. Am I really that dashing?”
Jaeger could not hear Becka’s reply, but he stood and walked to the door that separated his office from the parlor. Warwick was standing by the piano giving Becka what must have been meant to be a winning smile. Becka appeared to blush as she looked away, but Jaeger knew her well enough that she was stopping herself from laughing at the man.
“Becka,” Jaeger said. “I think I’m tired of music today. It seems to keep me from focusing. Thank you.”
Becka stood and curtseyed. “Yes, uncle.”
Jaeger let her familiarity slide. He had long ago given up trying to convince her that he had stopped being her uncle the moment he took the oaths as of the Sunset Count. She gathered up her sheet music into a folio and again curtseyed, this time managing to include Warwick as well, and left.
Warwick watched her leave, obviously following the sway of her hips, and turned to Jaeger when she was gone. “I think she likes me.”
Jaeger laughed. Warwick’s smile grew wider, despite not realizing what he had just said, and he followed Jaeger back into the office. Jaeger poured them both a finger of bourbon and then they sat down together by a small end table away from Jaeger’s desk. It was meant to seem friendly, but it actually gave Jaeger a clear view of the parlor and kept prying eyes away from papers.
“And what has brought you here, Warwick?”
“Just coming to see how you are taking the latest broadsheets.” As if Jaeger did not already have a copy of every publication in the city, Warwick pulled out one of the Royal Gazette and offered it up. “The Council is going to be rather cross about this.”
Jaeger did not take the paper. “I’m acutely aware, I assure you.”
Warwick shrugged and put the paper on the table then sipped his bourbon as his gaze followed Jaegers out into the parlor. They sat there in quite for several minutes, Warwick obviously waiting for Jaeger to ask him why he was there. Jaeger decided to not indulge the duke; he was not in the mood for games.
“The constables are not being much good with this menace,” Warwick said at last. “I swear, most of them don’t seem to even think revenants really exist, let alone commit crimes in the city, and those that can at least believe it don’t think they’re that much of a threat.”
Jaeger nodded but did not speak or even look at Warwick. The man was still working up to why he was really here.
“What you need, I think, is someone to help you that truly knows what revenants can do, don’t you think?”
“An advisor on revenants?” Jaeger said. “I think I know well enough what they can and cannot do.”
“Do you, Jaeger?” Warwick lifted his glass and smelled the bourbon, but lowered it again without drinking. “Do any of us, really? I’ve never actually seen a revenant, or a demonstration of what they can do. Have you?”
Jaeger narrowed his eyes but then shook his head. “True enough. Maaike claims she knows, and I could believe it.”
“Ah, Lady Vorrena.” Warwick laughed at Jaeger’s confused look. “That was apparently the name she went by in Adervyn. I met her today at the Royal Hospital, with Cardinal Anglind. Seems that he knows her. Regardless, little good she will do you, eh old boy? That bridge is burnt.”
Jaeger rubbed his goatee. Vorrena? That she was posing as a Voxfeldian in Adervyn was not surprising, but to have chosen that name? He would have to send a letter to his friends in the Cloister to see if they remembered anything about a “Lady Vorrena”.
Warwick frowned and looked at Jaeger. Perhaps he was starting to grow bored with Jaeger not playing along.
“You obviously have a recommendation for me,” Jaeger said. “Out with it.”
Warwick’s frown deepened for a moment then was gone. “Do you know General Kristian Miaroni?”
“Personally?” Jaeger said. “No. I can’t say a city administrator’s path crossed much with the supreme commander of the war effort.”
“Mores the shame,” Warwick said. “Well, I do know him, and if you would like, I could see about getting a small force of soldier’s assigned to advise you on this issue. Men and woman who have actually seen what revenants can do and don’t treat them like shadows in the night.”
Jaeger looked at Warwick for a long moment. “I’m touched that you think of my plight so deeply in your free time to have contrived such a complex plan.”
Warwick smiled. “It isn’t all that, old boy. Just an idea that occurred to me that I thought you might make use of.”
Jaeger sighed and looked down at Warwick’s broadsheet. “Mysterious Crime Spree Continues” was in large letters across the top. Warwick was right. Three months ago, when it was one revenant that was not proudly proclaiming itself with crimes and when Jaeger had a competent chief in the Slums precinct, they had failed. He doubted Viggler would succeed, not on his own.
“Very well,” Jaeger said. “When do you think you might have the general deliver this detail?”
“This afternoon,” Warwick said. “The orders have already been sent. Oh, don’t look at me that way, Jaeger. I knew you’d say yes, and you did. And now, you have the right tools for the job, yes?”
Jaeger shook his head and finished his bourbon. “We shall see, but thank you Warwick. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work that needs my attention that, for once, does not involve monsters in the night.”
Warwick finished his drink and stood. “Of course, old boy. Of course.”
* * *
The sound of the mantle clock was all that filled the silence, and Rojer spun a pen along his fingers as he waited. The snifter of brandy in front of him was untouched, and next to it was an opened letter he had just received today. When the letter had been delivered, he had first been ecstatic. It was not often that a lowly major received not just correspondence from the Office of the General Staff, but from the likes of General Miaroni himself. Rojer had naturally thought he would be introducing himself as Lieutenant Colonel Hares instead of Major Hares. He even poured his celebratory drink before opening the letter.
Then he opened the letter.
Then he screamed for Sergeant Fresen and sent him to find Lieutenant Lux.
And now, he waited.
A soft knock came at the door, and he put the pen down and straightened his coat, despite it not needing it. He then swallowed all three fingers of brandy in a single draw and put the glass in a drawer in his desk. He straightened his coat again, stood, then sat back down.
The door opened and Lieutenant Lux walked in, followed by Sergeant Fresen, although he nodded and started to leave.
“No, you stay too, Shane,” Rojer said. “This involves all of us, as it happens. Megyn, have a seat.”
“Sir?” she said. “What is this about?”
Rojer waited for Shane to close the door and take a post next to it. “I received a letter from General Miaroni just today. It would seem we are to report to the castle to speak with Count Jaeger.”
“Does it say why?” Megyn said.
“It does not,” Rojer said. “But, the highest ranking officer in the country does not send letters giving orders to majors, lieutenants, and sergeants without a reason. Especially letters commanding absolute secrecy. I was hoping you might know.”
“Me?” Megyn said.
“Yes you.” Rojer stood, walked over to his sidebar, and poured himself another drink. “What did you tell them, Megyn?”
“You think I’m a rat?” Megyn said. “Are you daft?”
Rojer stood up taller and glared down at her. “Watch your tongue, Lieutenant. You are addressing your superior officer.”
“Praedin take you and your protocols,” Megyn said. “I know you don’t give a damn about this country or what that uniform means, so you can just stop pretending that you do. Yes, I know you both take bribes. Yes, I know you both burned down a block of the slums. But I’m no rat!”
“Just a murderer,” Shane said.
Megyn turned around in shock. “What did you say, Sergeant?”
“I said you’re a murderer,” Shane said. “Or would you prefer I called you a vigilante, delivering Troena’s righteous justice to the rapists and drunks in Docktown? You think your little lunchtime and midnight hobbies are secret?”
Rojer looked from Shane to Megyn and back. “What is this, Shane?”
“This hussy likes to go down to Docktown, find some poor bastard in the middle of a crime, usually rape or theft or something, and then kills him. I think she gets off on it, truth told, sir.”
Rojer clenched a fist. “How long have you known this?”
“A few months,” Shane said.
“And you haven’t told me before?”
“Didn’t see a reason.”
Rojer ground his teeth. He could hardly fault the man. Information was leverage, and if Rojer had known, it was not like he would have turned Megyn in, not with how much she knew about him. No, he would have used it to blackmail her. At least until he could discredit her enough to turn her in and make sure anything she said about him would be ignored.
“At least what I do helps the city,” Megyn said. “You just line your pockets and watch the city burn down around you.”
“Spare us your melodramatics.” Rojer held the letter up. “You seriously don’t know what this letter is about?”
Megyn grabbed the letter, read it and then shook her head. Rojer snatched it back and handed it to Shane, who read it and shook his head just as fast.
“Well then.” Rojer cleared his throat and looked between the other two. “I think we’ve all proven that we’ve quite a bit to lose. Whatever this is about, and I am sure none of us will enjoy it, I think we should all understand that that if one of us falls, all of us fall.”
Megyn scowled but nodded along with Shane, who was impossible to read but likely agreed more readily with Rojer. Sure, if they fell, Rojer would fall the worst, but he could make sure the rest of Shane’s life was spent in a small room with iron walls.
“Well then,” Rojer said. “We had best get to the castle. The count is waiting.”
The filed out, and Rojer led the way. Yes, if one fell, all of them would. But the second one of them could be rid of the other two, that would be that. Rojer just had to make sure it was him that was left standing. Now, if only he could figure out how.
* * *
Jaeger had the soldiers sent to a small solar well away from anything else. General Miaroni had quickly provided the detail as Warwick had promised, and had even sent along dossiers on the three soldiers he had sent along with his reasoning. It was far too tidy for Jaeger’s taste. Still, he already suspected Warwick of having his own reasons for offering to help. No one did anything without having some benefit for themselves in it.
Then there was the fact that Jaeger recognized one of the names.
Still, despite whatever Warwick was gaining from this, perhaps Jaeger could too. The simple truth was, he needed help, or else these revenants would tear the city apart. Perhaps not literally, no, he was not so dramatic as to believe that, but they would undermine the already fragile opinion of the government. It was bad enough with the rebels and their riots.
He finished reviewing one last report and signed off on it before locking his office and headed off the meet the soldiers. Why had he been given these three in particular? He had read their dossiers, and while two had seen field action, the major had not. Was he really sent just to be an administrator of the other two? No, Warwick, and perhaps even General Miaroni, had an agenda of some sort, and they either intended to use Jaeger or act directly against him. Best to assume they meant to act against him, even though it hurt to think of Warwick that way. The man was one of the few Jaeger thought of as a friend.
He realized he was thumbing through the dossiers again, and had completely lost track of his surroundings. He looked up to see a beautiful woman that was perhaps half his age. Long, chestnut hair framed a round face with slightly tilted eyes that shone like jewels.
“Oh, Lady Manne,” he said. “I thought the hallway was too bright for this time of day. Now I see it was merely your radiance.”
She looked down and blushed so perfectly he had to wonder if she practiced it in a mirror. “Please Count, call me Ana.”
“Only if you can call me Jaeger,” he said.
She looked back up and smiled. “Of course, Jaeger, although I haven’t seen you since you took me to the prince’s salon. I was starting to fear I’d bored you.”
“You, milady?” He smiled, and again she blushed. “Never. I have merely been exquisitely busy. Alas, the city does not run itself, but it often tries and mucks it up even worse. In fact, I was just on my way to an important meeting.”
She pouted and moved closer to him. “Oh, I see. But perhaps, maybe later you could find some time for me?” The scent of her perfume filled his head and made his mouth go dry.
“Yes, perhaps. How about dinner tonight, even?”
She stepped back and pouted even more. “I have dinner plans with my parents tonight. But maybe you could find some time for lunch tomorrow?”
He very nearly told her that he already had a lunch appointment, even though he did not. No doubt he could remedy that without much trouble. People were always trying to find time to spend with him alone, hoping he was a secret road to the prince’s ear. Still, almost was not quite.
“Lunch would be divine,” he said. “Meet in my parlor?”
“I eagerly look forward to it.” She curtseyed and moved to the side. “But I shan’t keep you anymore. I would hate to make you late for a meeting.”
“Tomorrow, then.” He took one more breath while she was close enough to intoxicate the air with her scent, and then continued on his way. Where Lady Ana Manne had come from, Jaeger was not quite sure. Which is to say he knew exactly where she was from, but how she came to be in Tijervyn and spending time with the Sunset Count was beyond him.
He was not bad with the women, despite his sworn bachelorhood, but it was usually ladies closer to his age that showered him with attention. Ana could have been his daughter, and there were plenty enough handsome young lords that followed her every move. Still, she was a matter of pleasure, and he had to tend to matters of business first.
The soldiers were standing at attention when he opened the door, and they saluted as one. Jaeger would have been impressed had he not noticed the slightly ruffled cushion on one of the chairs near them. He idly wondered who had been sitting in it, but quickly decided.
“Major Hares,” he said. “At ease. I’m a bureaucrat, not a general.”
“At ease,” Hares said, and all three of them assumed a parade rest.
Jaeger shook his head but did not press the issue. “Do you know why you are here?”
“No, my lord,” Hares said. “We simply received urgent instructions from General Miaroni that we were to report to you and do so in secrecy.”
“Quite right,” Jaeger said. “I will assume you all have read the news and know the rumors. There are revenants in our city, and thus far the constabulary has been powerless to stop them. General Miaroni has offered you as my personal advisory detail on this subject.”
“Sir,” the woman, Lieutenant Megyn Lux, said. “Might we ask, why us?”
“Because you all have experience fighting the revenants,” Jaeger said. “You saw them in combat and understand what they can and cannot do. I need more than rumors and hearsay to protect this city, and that is what you are here to give me.”
“I’m afraid there has been some confusion,” Hares said. “I was never on the front. Lux and Fresen were, yes, but not me.”
“Really?” Jaeger opened Hares’s dossier and pretended to read it over. “Quite odd. I’ll contact the general’s office and inquire about this. In the meantime, I am sure you can make yourself useful, yes Major?”
Hares licked his lips and smiled. “Yes, of course.”
“Very good,” Jaeger said. “I have arranged an office for you in the east wing of the castle on the third floor. Any of the servants over there will be able to point you in the right direction. I am correct in assuming you know your way around the castle?”
Hares swallowed hard and smiled. “I do.”
“Good, good. You may go, then. I am sure you are eager to settle into your new office.” Jaeger let them start to leave. “Oh, Major, a moment alone, please?”
All three of them shared the quickest of looks. There was something between them, and Jaeger was fairly sure he knew what it was. After the other two filed out, Jaeger closed the door and stepped up close to Hares.
“I know who you are, Major Hares,” Jaeger said. “I know your father, and I know how you manage to live the lifestyle you do on a major’s pay.”
Hares licked his lips. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, my lord, but—”
Jaeger cut Hares off with a gesture. “I know what you are, and you will stay on this team. Lux and Fresen can be my consultants for the revenants, but you will be my eyes and ears. And let me be quite clear: I am not buying this information off you as you might be accustomed from others. No, I use a different coin, and right now, that is your neck not becoming markedly and suddenly longer. And remember, if you help me protect this city, your will have a new friend in the castle.”
Hares forced a smile. “That’s easy enough”
“But,” Jaeger said. “Don’t think that means I approve of you. You give me one reason, even the ghost of a reason, and I will see clapped in irons and before a court marshal. You are a tool to me, Hares, and not one I’m particularly thrilled about having. Am I clear, Major?”
“Crystal,” Hares said.
“Very good, then. Off with you.”
Hares left, and Jaeger stood in the room, thinking. The look those three had given, it was not just because they feared Jaeger knowing they earned some of their paychecks under the table. The thought made him want to sit down with a bottle. Warwick. Ana. And now the soldiers themselves. Why did everyone insist on acting so strangely? Perhaps he was growing paranoid. Then again, perhaps he was not.
The seat and bottle would have to wait, though. There was still more to do before he could turn in for the night. The Sunset Count’s work was never done.
* * *
Maaike paced back and forth, although she would not have thought herself nervous. No, likely it was Mortimyr that was affecting her. The man was sitting at his workbench, looking over the tools of his trade, as well as several pre-built parts. They were not very intricate, but they were not meant for permanent installation, but instead as a stopgap to keep the patient alive. He hadn’t needed to use them for the others, but they had been healthy when he started.
“They’re late,” he said. “Do you think something happened?”
“They are breaking into the Royal Hospital,” she said. “And for once are supposed to not be completely obvious. These kinds of things take time.”
The truth was, she was starting to wonder what was taking them, but it would not serve for her to get Mortimyr worked up. He would need his nerves tonight most likely.
Another half hour passed in dead silence before she heard the hidden door in the basement. Mortimyr jumped from his seat and ran to the trap door. She followed behind, forcing her pace to only a brisk walk. Below, her three halfmen had deposited the broken form of a man on a table in the middle of the room. She walked up beside it.
“You took quite a while.”
Mizan looked at her with his unnerving green orb of an eye. “Most of the trouble was just getting to the room.”
“The grounds were heavily patrolled,” Iwazan said in his metallic voice. “You told us to not be seen.”
“We found the windows though.” Kikan cocked his head to the side, listening to something that likely no one else in the room could. “He actually put up quite the fight for a man with more broken bones than not.”
Maaike nodded and pulled the thick hood off the man’s face. Tymeran squinted in the dim light and looked up at her with a sneer. “This you’re doing, whore?”
“You’re upset with me?” she said. “I am your only chance at preserving the sorry thing you call a life. You might want to show some more respect.”
He laughed and spat to his side. “I somehow doubt kidnapping me is going to keep me alive, my lady. Doc’s said something in me is still bleeding. They didn’t seem to think I’d survive to the morning.”
She noticed, even in the dim light, that there was blood mixed with the spittle. Yes, they probably had said that and meant it. “Do you want to live, Tymeran?”
“And how are you going to do that?” he said.
“Don’t be daft. Look at the men who brought you here.”
He furrowed his brow but did as she said. Realization came to his face. “They’re those revenants I’ve been hearing about, eh?”
“And you can join their ranks,” she said. “All you have to do is swear fealty to me, and you will become the most feared and powerful man in this city. Not a bad trade, I’d wager.”
He surprised her by not jumping right for the bait. “And just what are you going to do with me?”
She smiled. Good, he was smart. She had thought so, but she had never accounted herself the best judge of character, at least about these things.
“You are going to help me bring down the Meisters’ Guild and gain the favor of the crown. Once that is done, I will arrange passage to wherever you wish outside of Sentat, and you will be a freeman. Until then, though, you are my tool. Is that acceptable, Tymeran?”
He took a moment to answer, as if considering the actual consequences of his actions. Perhaps he was, or perhaps he was considering if he could haggle with her. And then, he nodded.
Maaike turned to other three. “Take him upstairs. Gently, if you would.”
They picked him up, not rough but still enough to make him cry out in pain, and took him up through the trap door. When they were gone, she turned to Mortimyr.
“Will he do?”
Mortimyr dry washed his hands, licked his lips, and glanced over his shoulder to the trap door. “I, well, that is, no. No, he is not right.”
She frowned. “You’re lying to me Mortimyr. You’re a horrible liar.”
He looked back at her and pulled a kerchief from his coat and dabbed his forehead. “My lady, please. This man, perhaps he will survive the procedure, but I do not like the feel of him. You were not lying when you said he would be the most powerful man in Tijervyn.”
“I have made my decision, Meister,” she said.
Mortimyr looked on the verge of saying something else, but then merely nodded and headed up the stairs. He stopped when she called to him.
“And Mortimyr,” she said. “If Tymeran does not survive, nor will you. Am I understood?”
A look of despair crossed his face. Perhaps he did truly think Tymeran would not survive, but at least now she knew he would not purposely let him die.
“Meister?” she said.
He swallowed hard. “Yes, my lady.”
“Good,” she said. “Now go create me a dragon. I have a city to set aflame.”