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For Beltur and Jessyla, eightday at Lord Korsaen’s near-palatial dwelling was quiet, although the two spent some of the day talking and worrying, and some eating excellent fare, and Beltur spent some of it in Korsaen’s library looking for anything that might shed light on Haven, the town where he, Jessyla, Lhadoraak, and Tulya would be councilors. He found nothing. He even scanned The Wisdom of Relyn to see if Relyn had written anything about Vergren or Haven. Relyn hadn’t.
Oneday was much different. By eighth glass, Beltur and Lhadoraak were in the library sitting at a table looking at a stack of documents, as well as two slim volumes, one of which contained the code of laws of Montgren and the other of which set forth tariff procedures and schedules. Beltur started with the tariff volume and handed the legal book to Lhadoraak.
The fashion in which the duchy assessed tariffs was unlike anything Beltur had seen or heard of. The first surprise was that every building in Montgren paid a yearly tariff to the duchy and to the nearest town. The town got two parts in three; the duchy the other part. Likewise, every crafter and every shop or other business paid a tariff every season. Finally, every inn or public house paid an additional tariff based on the number of rooms and the amount of spirits consumed. One of the duties of a town council was to verify and keep track of both.
Beltur took a deep breath. He’d only read ten pages. He looked up at Lhadoraak. “I hope you’re enjoying what you’re learning more than I am.”
“I was hoping the same,” returned the blond black mage.
“Our consorts are going to have to read these as well,” said Beltur.
“You can tell them both,” said Lhadoraak, glancing toward the library door through which Jessyla and Tulya had just entered.
“Tell us what?” asked Tulya.
“That you’re going to need to read what we’re reading when we finish,” said Beltur. “About tariffs and laws. Since we are the Council of Haven, or will be shortly…”
“Is there anything in these documents about whether there’s a healing house?” asked Jessyla.
“I don’t know,” said Beltur. “Why don’t you two read through the papers and see what you think is most important. Oh … and let me know if there are maps of the town, or the roads around it.”
He struggled on with the tariff book, and for a time, there was silence in the library.
Abruptly, Tulya looked up. “I found a town map! It shows the square, a town hall, and lots of buildings, two inns with names, a rendering yard at the edge of town, and roads coming in and out.”
“Is it recent?”
“It doesn’t look that way. The paper is yellow.” After several moments, Tulya added, “It says that it faithfully represents Haven in the fifth year of the rule of Duke Korlaan.”
“If you’d keep looking for other maps…”
After a time, Jessyla said, “There was a healing house, because there’s an old letter here to a Duke Korslyn informing him that there are no healers in Haven and that the town can no longer afford to maintain the healing house.”
Almost another glass passed before Korsaen entered the library. “I thought you’d like to know that Korwaen, Taelya, and Maenya are enjoying themselves together. I also thought you might like to take a break from your studies and have some refreshments.”
“We’d appreciate that,” said Beltur. “We do have a question. The only town map seems to be one made in the time of a Duke Korlaan. Do you know when that was?”
“Korlaan was Korlyssa’s grandsire,” replied Korsaen.
“I’m confused,” said Jessyla, although Beltur doubted anything of the sort. “Korlyssa is the Duchess, and she’s your aunt. You said that she was the only heir and had a daughter who would succeed her. That means either your father or mother was a brother or sister to the Duchess, and the Duchess-heiress is your cousin. Where do you fit in?”
“I said the Duchess was the only surviving heir. My mother was her younger sister. She died having me. My father was killed in a border skirmish with Lydian raiders when I was ten.”
“I’m sorry,” said Jessyla contritely.
“I should have made that clear to you. It’s something everyone in Montgren knows. I sometimes forget that others don’t.”
“There’s rather a lot we don’t know,” said Beltur wryly, gesturing to the pile of documents.
“Those are things you can learn. The skills you can’t learn from papers and books are the reason why you’re here. There’s one other thing I might mention. Captain Raelf heads the post in Weevett. He’s very good, and he understands both the Hydlenese and the Lydians.” Korsaen offered a wryly amused smile. “He should. He served in both forces.”
“Did he come here, or was he another one of your ‘finds’?” asked Beltur.
Korsaen shook his head. “One of Maeyora’s. Sometimes … let’s just say that she sometimes knows how things should turn out.”
“Druid foresight? Like that of Ryba?” asked Jessyla.
“How would we know?” replied Korsaen almost enigmatically.
Jessyla raised her eyebrows, but only said, “Oh, and one other question. Duke Korslyn?”
“He was Korlyssa’s father and my grandfather.” Korsaen looked quizzically at Jessyla.
“There was a letter to him about closing the healing house in Haven because there were no healers and not enough silvers to keep it open,” she replied.
“I can see where that would concern you. Are you ready for some refreshments?”
All four smiled and rose.
As they left the library, Beltur glanced back. You never thought …
He shook his head. He could definitely use an ale.
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