An Inconvenience Rightly Considered
Iminye finished her first meeting with representatives of the Stregoni, a secret society of sorcerers and other magic-users that operates in Sa’iph who might find it useful to count a daughter of a member of the High Council among its members. The benefit to Iminye for belonging? The Stregoni’s efforts to put her in touch with a rumored arcanist who has specializes in chronomancy. Her first indication that her request had been fulfilled was the sudden and unexpected appearance of a man who claimed to know her — and to have an appointment to meet with her — at her table at an outdoor cafe. When he realized he was “early”, he disappeared without explanation.
While waiting for the mago di momenti to show himself, Iminye looked for some other adventure to occupy her time. The A’nari Keep, left cursed by the death of its Shal lords twenty years ago, seemed an interesting and potentially enriching place to visit. Iminye sought out Hugh Vernon, a human merchant who is looking for partners to sponsor his fourth expedition to the Keep, and negotiated a deal to participate in that expedition. She then visited the map rooms in the Libraries, and obtained copies of whatever maps were available of the A’nari holdings and the Keep itself. As she unrolled them, she looked up to find herself in an unfamiliar room, in the middle of winter, with the mago (not the man who had appeared at her cafe table days before). From his perspective, she had been there for weeks — and it was not her first visit. He noted that her studies would be difficult, and it would be hard for her to keep the chronology of events straight in her mind at times. Moments later, and she was back in Halveet, in summer … with the mago who gave his name as Isidor y Verdade, waiting for her downstairs. And Iminye’s studies into chronomancy began …
Iminye also invited Mobley for dinner, to see whether he had learned anything more about the death of her cousin, Ned Foster. During that dinner, she asked Mobley to see whether Master Bianchi would agree to meet with her — a request that Mobley eventually agreed to relay to the old man.
Iminye also went to see Clea Shal Malaspina, the curator of the official and unofficial histories of Sa’iph in the Libraries, only to find out that the lady had disappeared — and that she was rumored to have been involved in the death of Ned Foster!
After his and Bianchi’s return from Hinderlet with the books in hand, Mobley examined the Atlas and Histories more closely. The Atlas contained maps prepared by Judit Ferer, the same long-dead priestess of Kalle who had designed the floor and dome of the entry hall of the Libraries — and like the floor, a number of the maps showed symbols indicating — among other things — an eye, a cup, a staff and a horn. Mobley did some more academic investigating, meeting again with Fran McCluskey to discuss the Histories and the tales of the Kernig ogre tribe that once controlled the mountains west of Sa’iph and was armed with a large ruby that could be used to call fire from the heavens. Mobley and McCluskey discussed how the Kernig were wiped out in some mysterious way during a war with Sa’iph, after Sa’iph sent a skalding, Jiacinta, to present a large black pearl as a gift and the Kernig (or so Sa’iph claimed) killed Jiacinta. Mobley also visited Pater Ethan Seer, a priest of Hamal who heads the Temple’s congregation in Halveet, and learned that the Temple is indeed searching for various religious artifacts previously associated with a Stamm trickster god whom the Temple believes was an incarnation of their own god, Hamal.
As midsummer drew closer, Mobley noted that the light through the dome above the floor in the Libraries’ entrance hall seemed to cause the symbols in the floor to shimmer and shift slightly in place. Surmising that Judit Ferer might have crafted a map that would — as Kalle advocated — show you not where you are, or where you have been, but where you should be — Mobley determined to camp out in the entrance hall on midsummer’s day and see what happened. Enlisting Theo to sketch the floor as it appeared normally, and then throughout the day, the two of them set up watch. They weren’t the only ones watching; a priest of Hamal, Nigel Lire, was seen observing, as were two Shal Politi ladies — one a Dominta with a hook nose and a mole by her mouth, the other a younger woman with two silver loops. Theo denied knowing the Dominta when Mobley asked him, but was clearly afraid. The younger woman approached Theo in an effort to see what he was drawing, but he turned on her and began sketching her face, and she withdrew.
At noon, Mobley — ensconced on a balcony several stories above the floor — could see how the lights affected the symbols on the inlaid floor. Some moved off the map completely, including the symbol of the Steltand, the horn supposedly crafted from the tooth of the Stamm trickster god, which disappeared west into Clun. Some moved only a bit — including the symbol for the Beenocken, the staff crafted from the god’s femur, which shifted to the furthest arctic regions of the North Redding. Others stayed in place, including that for the Eye of Hamal, the red ruby that had belonged to the Kernig tribe — apparently still located in the heart of the former Kernig territory on the western edges of the Sa’iph/Torei border.
When Lire and the two Politi women left the Libraries, Mobley left Theo to continue to watch while he and Master Bianchi met Iminye for a late lunch. On the walk over, Mobley asked Bianchi about the Politi Dominta, and learned she was Fianmetta Shal Antazi, known as Lord Antazos’s scourge, who often doled out punishment to the Antazos slaves — including Theo.
The meeting with Iminye did not go well — the Politi Dominti had no patience for the young woman who had demanded his grand-daughter be arrested, and refused to hang around and play her verbal games. So Mobley returned to the Libraries, to continue to watch the floor — and at night, saw shadows form over the map, centered over the cursed A’nari Keep, over the former Kernig territory, and over Halveet itself.
Iminye received an invitation to dinner on the night of midsummer’s — from Fianmetta Shal Antazi, a member of the household of Dembrosi Shal Antazos, the Sajeem’s L’Ambasciatore to the HIgh Council. Iminye arrived at the rented residence whether Fianmetta was staying to find the household in a bit of an uproar. Rather than being prepared to wine and dine Iminye, and engage in some typical Shal noble verbal fencing, Fianmetta was thrown off her game. Fianmetta was in the midst of an argument with a half-Shal segnato when Iminye arrived — Damiano, whom Iminye had met earlier as “Franco,” a member of the Stregoni. The dinner is short, tense, and not at all what Fianmetta had hoped for — and ended with Iminye requesting that Damiano escort her back to her inn to help keep her safe.
In the carriage ride back to her inn, Iminye engaged in some verbal jousting with Damiano, who was not pleased to be commanded to dance to her tune, and who was even less pleased when Iminye asked how she could contact him whenever she wanted. Iminye learned that two segnato children had escaped earlier that day (the two children freed, off-screen, as part of Aladar’s story) and that Fianmetta was determined to flog the person responsible for arranging the escape — and had ordered Damiano to carry out the flogging.
Tara and Jochim
Tara and Jochim spent midsummer in Malisis, where Tara got the drop on Koshofer — the middle-man who placed the contract on Aureus with Tara many months ago, and who also placed the contract on Tara when she reneged on her deal to kill Aureus. From Koshofer, Tara learned that Koshofer was contacted by a bar — Olerio Shal Lampi — who is favored by Isabella, the daughter of the Sajeem. Olerio is the bard who Tara, Mobley, et al., had been told was scheduled to perform in Hinderlet on the day that they stole the books back from the deliveryman. (In other words, Olerio was supposed to pick up the books in Hinderlet.) Olerio was scheduled to return to Sa’iph on Lord Antazos’s personal yacht, which was set to leave Malisis and head for Sa’iph within the next couple of days.
Disguising herself, Tara managed to insinuate herself into a group of celebrants surrounding Toinet Shal Antazos during Malisis’s midsummer festival, flirting with a masked Shal man who introduced himself as Fancy. Tara portrayed herself as one of many young women infatuated with Olerio, determined to meet him and try to consummate her passion. Fancy, who is really Estevao Shal Resgate, grand-nephew of Lord Jiado Shal Tallentire — an old and legendarily randy and dissolute member of the High Council from Helve — played along. He told her that Lord Tallentire’s ship would be one of many craft carrying Shal nobles east to Visaiyain, Helve, Sa’iph, along with Lord Antazos’s ship as well. Interested in what game she was playing, Estevao offered “Milara” and her servant — “Joshua” — passage on the ship.
Despite the suspicions of Estevao’s cousin and Lord Tallentire’s retainer, Marzio Shal Saraiva, Tara maintained her disguise en route. The convoy stopped outside Halveet, where she witnessed Fianmetta and her c’hanata, Damiano, and an injured Shal woman (Surema, who had been flogged for arranging the escape of Daned Thand’s nephews) board Antazos’s ship. Lampi was picked up outside HInderlet, and Tara engaged in a bit of ship-to-ship correspondence to intrigue him and draw him into her web. Intrigued, Olerio agreed to meet Milara for dinner when the ships stopped in Visaiyain, and to spend the night at his apartments there. Tara was well on her way to seducing Olerio, stripping him of armor and weapons before turning the tables on him and interrogating him. Olerio confirmed that Isabella had placed the contract on Aureus (though he did not know why), and that Isabella had not yet decided whether to order the death of Aureus’ brother. Warning him to not trouble her again, Tara let Olerio go, and she and Jochim rushed to the Vind Hall to hire a mage for a teleport — a service, the Vind Hall clerk told her, that most mages-for-hire did not offer anymore — to Halveet.