Somewhere Else Entirely -106-

The King announces Keren and Garia's betrothal to the people, receiving only qualified approval except from those who know her. There are other concerns on everyone's minds like winter and war. Garia officially accepts the extra armsmen to her household and then joins Milsy to figure out what her double's status should be. Later, Forton brings news from the city.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

106 - Announcements, Arrangements


Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2011-2014 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.


When Garia and Jenet went to her dressing room in the morning they found that it was full. Not only had everything they had been issued from the Palace Wardrobe appeared and been hung up but so had all the clothes she had sent to the laundry after returning from their journey.

"This is ridiculous! I'm not even a Princess yet! What happens when I have to have all those fancy gowns for ceremonies and such? However does the Queen manage?"

"Milady," Jenet replied, "Her Majesty has no need for either exercise or riding attire. She also has no need, so I believe, for traveling clothes such as we wore while we journeyed to Blackstone and back. It is true she has many gowns for formal occasions but some of those are used but rarely and are thus kept stored away against need."

"Oh. Of course, you're right. The King and Queen can do what they like, can't they? We'll have to find time to do some sorting, I think. Like I said before, there are gowns in here I just don't think I'll ever wear again, and the traveler's clothes... well. Perhaps Tanon ought to have them back. So, what should I be wearing this morning, Jenet? It looks like I'm going to be presented to the world as Keren's betrothed so I oughtta at least make the effort."

"Quite so, Milady. If you are to become Palarand's next Queen -"

"No, don't! I'm having enough trouble thinking of me as a Princess, let alone anything more!"

"As you wish, Milady." Jenet rephrased her words. "If you are to be betrothed to the King's only son, then I suggest something a little more formal than your usual wear. There is ice outside this morning, I suggest you wear something warmer than usual. As it happens you chose some gowns yesterday which may be suitable." The maid walked to the racks and began moving the hangers to see what had been put where. "Here, Milady. Perhaps this one. It is not too heavy to wear to breakfast and will look good with your rank sash across it."

The gown was of heavier, stiffer material, had full-length sleeves and showed almost nothing of her chest. The hemline was lower than Garia preferred and the skirt was fairly straight with no gathers, tiers or pleats. There would be no high kicks dressed in this gown. Despite the straight style the skirt would still be wide with the winter-weight petticoats Garia would have to wear beneath it. The color was a strong mid-blue and there was silver satin trimming at collar, cuffs and hem.

"Hmm. I see what you mean. Okay, let's get on with it. I'll be glad when the fuss is over and I can get back to exercising in the mornings."

Jenet raised an eyebrow. "Milady, you must consider how long you may continue to exercise. In future, your days may be more filled, as those of the Queen's are."

"Hah! My days are already completely full, Jenet. Let's leave that problem for another time, shall we? I'm starting to get hungry."

Jenet was just setting Garia's rank badges into place on her sash when a knock came at the sitting room door. The maid opened it to admit the Queen and her maids.

"Oh, good! It occurred to me that you must needs dress for the audience after breakfast, I see you have chosen wisely."

"Good morning, Your Majesty. I have to admit it was Jenet made the choice for me today. It's going to take me some time to figure out all this formal stuff."

"As you say, dear." Terys eyed the young woman critically. "You look wonderful, my dear, as always. Despite your upbringing you seem to have an eye for color and style and I deem you need have no fears for the future. Come here, my dear."

Terys gathered Garia into an embrace which seemed to take all the tension out of the younger woman.

"Now, my dear, you should not be worried at that which is to come. I was also a young girl, from a land with different customs, asked to make my home in this distant country. It is true that you are not born of the highest nobility as I was but that should make little difference. I was here but four weeks before my betrothal was announced, you have been in Palarand these six months and have traveled widely and met many of its people. You are already known to all and loved by many, I doubt not that they will smooth your path to the crown."

"Thank you, ma'am."

The two separated and Kenila and Jenet set about the business of straightening the creases out of the gowns of their respective mistresses.

"I do not think very much will happen beyond today's announcement," Terys continued. "I know that you have many responsibilities and you will have time to fulfil those in the months ahead. As the King said yesterday, your marriage will likely not take place before the Festival of Spring Dawning. Though certain matters must needs be planned in advance, they should not take up very much of your time."

"Thank you, ma'am. I was beginning to wonder how I was going to fit it all in."

"As you say, dear. Are you ready? Shall we go to breakfast?"

In the corridor, Keren was waiting. He was dressed in his best uniform, with his Heir's diagonal sash and a gold fillet around his brow.

Damn, he looks amazing! I forget, sometimes, just how casually we all dress these days back in the US. There's definitely something to be said for a well-fitting uniform on a man.

...Though his training gear comes a close second...

His smile was like a beam of sunshine. "Mother, Garia, good morning! Breakfast?"

Terys replied, "As you say, Keren." The group began walking the corridor. "I was reassuring Garia that she will not find the next few months to be a worry. Though you have likely realized that your marriage would eventually happen, you will both have ignored the particulars of such an event."

Keren gave a rueful smile. "As you say, mother! I lay in bed last night, thinking, 'Maker! What have I done?' Then I realized we have months to spare and my fears drained away. We both have enough other matters to handle before that day dawns."

When they reached the dining room there was a scattering of applause, which indicated that some version of the previous day's events had gotten into the palace rumor system. Eriana, Milsy and Senidet were already there and they came across to join them.

"Your Majesty, Your Highness, My Lady." Milsy curtseyed. "Is it true? I have heard such rumors that I wished to be true but could not believe."

"My dear," Terys replied, "It is true, and there will be a formal announcement after breakfast by the King, when we take our regular audience."

"Ma'am, that's wonderful news!" Milsy's face fell. "Does that mean Garia is going to be busy all day?"

"I do not believe so, my dear. There will doubtless be some interest in her this morning but there is no rush in this matter. You desire to speak with her?"

"Ma'am, I do," Milsy replied.

Garia added, "There are some matters between us need resolving, ma'am. The armsmen, for one, and oaths for another. You remember, I told you the other day?"

"I remember, my dear. Yes, I think you two had better resolve those questions before too long. Shall you require advice from myself, or perhaps that of Kendar?"

Garia said, "Um, I think we'd better just talk first, ma'am. Then when we have questions to ask we'll come and find someone who has the answers."

"As you say, dear."

Robanar appeared, talking animatedly to Merizel. Once in the room Terys went to join him while Merizel approached Garia like a rocket. Her face showed extreme excitement and Garia wondered if she would actually explode in the middle of the dining room.

"Garia! I mean, good morning, Your Highness, Your Highness, My Lady." Merizel executed a belated curtsey and then carried on gushing, "I barely believed what you told me last night, though I knew it would happen eventually. The King confirmed it as we met in the corridor just now. Oh, congratulations, both of you, I am so pleased!"

"So it would seem," Keren said dryly. "Mistress Senidet, has any told you the news?"

"Your Highness, there are many rumors about the palace this morning. From what I have just heard, it seems that Garia is to be betrothed to you. Is this so?"

"It is, Senidet."

"Then I must add my congratulations to you and to the Baroness. Oh!"

"Some problem, Senidet?"

The smith's daughter looked abashed to be speaking to Keren in this manner, but they had journeyed from Blackstone together and she felt she could impose.

"Highness, I wondered what would happen to Blackstone, should Garia become your bride."

"Oh, that's easy," Garia said. "Blackstone carries on as it is. There's a complicated arrangement already in place for just such circumstances as these. I'll dig out the papers and you can see for yourself. I think it will do you good to find out what happens behind the scenes when baronies like mine get set up."

Senidet frowned. "'Behind the scenes', Milady?"

Garia realized these people didn't have the tradition of theaters and movies, from where that expression originated.

"Oh, it means all the hard work people do that most people don't get to see," she explained. "Like most of what your father does, in fact."

"As you say, Milady."

Garia saw Kendar about to bang his staff and said quickly, "Everyone! After breakfast the King will announce it formally in the Receiving Room. You'll all be there, won't you?"

"Of course, Garia!"

Kendar banged his staff for attention and the diners took their seats. Although nothing was actually said over the meal there was an excited hum at each table, everyone apparently aware that something would happen shortly. At the end of the meal Kendar banged again.

"If it please you, His Majesty and Her Majesty will this morning conduct an audience in the Receiving Room, where an important announcement concerning His Highness Prince Keren will be made. The audience will begin in a quarter of a bell."

Garia joined the others trooping through the corridors to the great Receiving Room, which was already rapidly filling despite the weather. As a foreign guest Eriana was entitled to a chair to the right of Robanar's throne but this time Keren sat closest with the Princess to his right. Garia was seated to the left of Terys with Jenet, Merizel and Tandra standing behind her. Milsy and Senidet joined the crowd in front of the thrones.

There had been no real opportunity to speak with Eriana yet and Garia wondered how she would take the announcement, since it left a question mark over her own presence in the palace. It was possible many of those attending would assume the announcement concerned her, not Garia. Eriana looked content with the proceedings but Garia knew all about her fiery temper and wondered what impression she would leave those in the room.

Garia looked over the audience in the room. Apart from the Harvest Festival this was the first public function involving the King she had attended. There were at least a hundred and fifty people there, a number of them no doubt palace servants who 'just happened' to be nearby to hear the King's words. There were a significant number of guardsmen around the room, understandable given the current circumstances. The rest were apparently petitioners or friends and relatives of those who were. All had traveled in that morning and all were dressed for the outdoors.

About a quarter were obviously ordinary folk, those who would be called 'working class' on Earth. A very small number, from their attire, could be nobles of one kind or another but probably not of any real status. The rest, the bulk of the audience, were what would be called 'middle class' on Earth. Some would be shopkeepers, merchants, factors, guildsmen, officials of various kinds, others would be mill owners, prosperous farmers and respected village elders. Some might have been lawyer types but she hadn't had much contact with anyone legal. Jepp didn't count as he was primarily a Scribe.

Seeing everyone dressed for the outdoors, Garia then realized that the Receiving Room was, in fact, somewhat cold. A moment's thought made her realize that if the room had been warmer, those dressed for winter would soon be passing out from the heat, since there would be no room for anyone to take their coats off during the audience. There were enough people in the room that the combined body heat would keep everyone comfortable, and she began to appreciate the thick gown she now wore, even though it had seemed heavy and cumbersome at first. She wished that Jenet had suggested gloves.

Kendar banged his staff and Robanar and Terys entered through the doors behind their thrones to stand in front of them. Everybody in the room bowed and curtseyed. The King and Queen took their seats and those in the room who had them followed suit. Most, of course, remained standing. Kendar took a small scroll from his sash and began to read.

"His Majesty Robanar, by the Maker's grace King of Palarand, together with Her Majesty Terys, by the Maker's grace Queen of Palarand, attend an audience of their people here today. If any should have dispute, concern or grievance which the King or Queen may judge, let him stand forward that they may hear his petition." He paused, then continued, "Before the first petitioner is heard His Majesty makes an important announcement concerning his son Prince Keren, Heir to the throne of Palarand. Silence for the King's words!"

The rustle in the room died away magically as Robanar stood.

"My people," he began. "It gives me great pleasure to announce that a suitable consort has been found for our son Prince Keren."

Everybody's eyes became riveted on Eriana, sitting beside Keren.

"This young lady came to Palarand under mysterious circumstances and we have taken her in, given her shelter and residence in the palace. The bonds between our son and this young lady already run deep and it seems right for him, for her, for Palarand and for Alaesia that these bonds shall continue and be confirmed by their marriage."

There were some expressions of confusion, now, of puzzlement. Some looked at Eriana, at Garia, not knowing what was happening. There were two young ladies present, which was which?

"I speak, of course, of Lady Garia, Baroness Blackstone. She has already proved her worth to Palarand and it is fitting that she should be joined to our son Keren, who will guide Palarand in the years following our own reign. Keren, Garia, stand forth that our people may recognize you."

This was nothing like standing on a balcony talking to your own townsfolk at all, the audience were mainly city dwellers of the capital, most of whom had never seen Garia before and probably knew very little about her except rumor. She rose and stepped forward, then turned and joined Keren to stand in front of his parents. They in turn stood up and positioned themselves either side of the young couple. All eyes were definitely on Garia, now.

"Behold, our son Keren and our daughter Garia. No date has yet been determined for the wedding since there are more serious matters that presently concern Palarand, but we deem it will be celebrated soon after Spring's Dawning."

There was a moment's stunned silence. Garia wondered if the King had got it badly wrong but the applause began, slowly at first but building up until most of those in the room were clapping, even the guardsmen. The expressions on the faces of those facing her told a different story, though. Those who were familiar with her, like the palace staff and most of the guildsmen she could identify in the crowd, were smiling or grinning as they knew her and thought it would be a good match. Some of those whose clothes picked them out to be of noble rank or maybe city burghers looked disapproving while the bulk of the audience looked merely relieved that their Prince had finally found a consort.

More hard work to come! I need to meet and greet with these people so they'll understand what is going on.

Robanar waited for the noise to die down before adding, "So that you may come to know the woman who will one day be your Queen we propose to hold events in the palace and the city that you may meet her and speak with her." He gave the crowd a lopsided smile. "I will not wish a hard journey upon you, we will devise such events as the weather permits us. Kendar, have the customary notices of betrothal made, that they may be distributed about our lands for the benefit of our people."

Garia knew that those notices would probably be printed for the first time in Palarand's history.

"As you command, Sire."

"Now, perhaps we should deal with matters more urgent to you all. Keren, you may conduct Garia from this room, if you would. Kendar, let us continue with our customary routine."

"As you desire, Sire."

Kendar began booming out instructions as Keren led Garia out through one of the doors behind the throne. All of Garia's retinue followed.

She blew a sigh of relief. "What do we do now, Keren?"

"I'm not sure, Garia. There's not enough time to go and do any exercise this morning. We shouldn't get involved in anything complicated in case father needs us again. Merry, what's Garia supposed to be doing today?"

Merizel didn't even look at her papers. "Highness, she must speak with Commander Feteran and Mistress Milsy today."

"Together or separately?"

"Both, Highness."

Keren turned to Garia, who shrugged. "You can join in the fun if you like, Keren. Does anyone know where Feteran is right now?"

"Milady." One of her two escorts was Toranar. "The Commander is presently in the Large Training Room."

"Good. I think we can walk as far as that this morning, even if we aren't taking part in anything. What do you think, Keren?"

"I do not know if we will be needed again before lunch, Garia. Father and Mother will be busy with their subjects, so provided they know where we are I do not think it will prove a problem."

"That's about what I thought. Toranar, what about Tord and Brazan? Do you know where they are?"

"Milady, Brazan is with the Commander. I think Tord remains within the Receiving Room."

"I'll need him. Go swap places with him, tell him I need him this morning. If the King wants any of us, we'll be in the Large Training Room."

Toranar banged his fist on his chest and re-entered the big room. A short while later Tord emerged, saluting Garia.

"Milady?"

"I have to see Feteran and Brazan and I need you as well. Coming?"

"As you command, milady."

The group made their way through the palace towards the rear of the jumble of buildings, passing several groups of servants along the way. All made obeisance to Keren as they passed. Garia noted that a number of the female servants, particularly the younger ones, sported short hair styles and their eyes followed Garia as she went past them. Soon they came to the large room at the back of the palace where the men trained. As the weather was bad the room, also unheated, was filled with guardsmen in training fatigues being kept warm with drills and exercises.

Captain Merek saw the group as they entered and came to greet them.

"Highness, Milady, Milady. I see by your attire that you do not exercise this day."

"That's right, Captain." Keren smiled. "My father has just officially announced our betrothal in the Receiving Room."

"Highness, Milady, I must congratulate you on behalf of His Majesty's men." He smiled in return. "I have no doubt the men will wish to show their own appreciation. With your permission?"

Merek turned and bellowed a series of parade-ground commands that stopped all action and brought the men to surround Keren and Garia.

"Men, today the King has announced the betrothal of His Highness Prince Keren and Lady Garia, Baroness Blackstone! You may show your approval!"

There was instant applause accompanied by cheering, whistles, stamping of feet and the pounding of spear butts by those who carried them. This went on for some while until Merek calmed the men down with a gesture. Keren stepped forward.

"On behalf of my betrothed and myself," he smiled, "we thank you for your congratulations. I just hope that one day we will repay your trust in us. I must apologize in advance, the wedding will involve you all in yet more spit and polish. Until that day you must attend the more important side of your duty, the protection of the whole Royal family."

There was another scattering of applause before Merek broke up the gathering. The Guard Captain turned to Keren.

"Highness, you have some other reason to join us today?"

"Aye, Captain, we do. If we could have words with Feteran, Brazan and yourself, we shall not detain you long."

The enlarged group gathered in a corner of the big room as everywhere else was occupied.

Feteran said, "Highness, My Lady, my congratulations. We have long expected such a match." His expression changed. "Milady, will this mean that the men I command become the King's men again? Begging your pardon, Highness."

"Not at all, Commander," Garia replied. "House Blackstone will remain a going concern if and when I marry Keren." She wrinkled her nose. "There are questions there, aren't there, about who might want to go where, but if you or your men want to remain Blackstone men that's fine with me. Today I want to officially confirm exactly who is a Blackstone man or not. Captain?"

"Milady. Commander, the detachment you took north with Lady Garia numbered but five men. You found two more in Blackstone who I deem of good enough quality to join their fellows. The lad Briswin, especially, promises to become a fine archer. However, Mistress Milsy, in the guise of Milady, also required an escort so another eleven were found to protect her during her duties, commanded by Tord."

Feteran nodded. "Aye, sir. We briefly spoke of this yesterday."

"As you say. I'm repeating our words for the benefit of Brazan and Tord. Those men we chose to escort Mistress Milsy must needs wear Milady's colors, there were a large number of volunteers and I was forced to select from among that number. It became apparent that, when Milady returned to the palace, these men would, in practice, become armsmen of House Blackstone. As that has now happened I am formally offering those men to Milady and yourself to increase your establishment."

"Thank you, sir. We are very grateful for your offer."

Merek continued, "The men are a mixture of seasoned guardsmen, all of whom you must already know, and some of the recent intake of new recruits. I will not tell you your business, you may accept or reject as you desire. Doubtless Brazan and Tord will assist you in this task."

"Thank you, sir." Feteran turned to Garia. "Milady, with the new men we will have enough for two files, I propose that one is led by Brazan and the other by Tord. Does this meet with your approval?"

"Sounds good to me, Commander. I suggest you mix the men so that there is no rivalry between those who went north and those who came south."

Feteran nodded approvingly. "A good suggestion, Milady. Captain, I accept your offer. What shall be done with the men? I would suggest that they continue in their present duties for now."

"Agreed, Commander. Since I assume that all your men will reside in the palace for some months I would suggest a meeting to decide how best to make use of them. Milady, what of Mistress Milsy? Now that you are returned, should she still require an escort?"

"That's an interesting question, Captain. I'm going to talk to Milsy after lunch and I'll let you know what we decide as soon as I can."

Merek bowed. "Thank you, Milady. Now, if you'll excuse me..."

"Of course, Captain."

~o~O~o~

Milsy grinned. "Your place or mine?"

"Actually, I haven't been to Morlan's - I mean, the Royal Questor's - quarters since we left the palace months ago. Do you mind if we come over? I know you have room for meetings."

"Of course, Garia! Who should I expect?"

"Me and Merizel, I guess. Keren? Will you join us?"

Keren shook his head. "Something has happened in the city. Marshal Forton is expected during the afternoon, my father may wish you to join our discussions. If you go to the laboratory then we'll know where to find you."

"Okay. Shouldn't be a problem. See you later."

Garia, Merizel and Milsy set off from the dining room trailed by their maids and four guardsmen, two of hers and two for Milsy. Because the recent cold spell had generated ice everywhere they couldn't take the direct route to the Questor's quarters but went through several corridors before ending up at a well-remembered door. They entered and went straight to the sitting room where Bursila immediately poked the fire back into life. The three selected chairs and sat down, for a moment just examining each other.

"You've certainly changed, Milsy," Garia remarked. "Life in the palace obviously agrees with you."

"It's not so much the palace as the guildsmen, Garia. Once they realized that I wasn't stupid, whatever my past may have suggested to them, I have had nothing but help. I really have to thank you for giving me the opportunity to show everybody what I could do." She smiled. "Having the King and Queen at your side certainly helps, too! They knew what you were capable of, they wondered if I could become something similar. I don't think I'm the same as you, we're different, but we both show what women can do, can't we?"

"That's certainly true! I changed a lot of minds on our journey north. Palarand is never going to be the same again."

"Aye." Milsy looked at Garia. "You are not the same, either. You have battled men and monsters, not to mention falling in love with a certain Prince of our acquaintance! I am not certain I could have managed any of those things. Still, I cannot complain. For a kitchen drudge I'm not doing so badly, am I?"

Garia realized that there was someone missing, a certain person who had been present the last time she had been in this sitting room.

"You're not! Speaking of romantic attachments, where is Tarvan? I thought we'd have bumped into him since we've been back."

"Ah, he's in Teldor presently, Garia. You would not believe the quantities of wire which are needed to make all that we have invented. Or perhaps, coming from Earth, you would. He supervises the construction of three workshops... no, factories, I believe the word is, which will make wire of various kinds. One will be of copper wire for electrical use, another will be of iron or steel wire for construction purposes, the third will produce a mixture for use in manufacturing."

"Oh. We must have passed on the road. And with winter here you can't even send letters, can you."

Milsy grinned. "We can, provided we keep them short so that the semaphore system can take them. We use a code so that no nosey persons can find out what we speak about."

"You two are serious?"

Milsy smiled at the question. "We are! I think it was as natural an attachment as your own, Garia. There was no need for negotiation, we just found that we spoke of the same things and enjoyed each other's company as you did."

"I'm pleased for you two, I really am." Garia paused, her expression becoming business-like. "Now, we'd better get down to the reason for this meeting. This morning I've been with Captain Merek where he formally handed over the men who have been escorting you to House Blackstone."

Milsy nodded. "Aye. He told me at lunch."

"Good. Of course I'm happy for those men to keep doing what they already do but it raised a number of questions, not least your own status. You see, nobody is sure just who or what you are now. Can you ever remember giving your oath to anyone?"

Milsy frowned. "No, I can't, Garia. Is this a problem?"

"Not really, but it's causing uncertainty. Someone is going to ask why, for example, House Blackstone men should protect someone who has no allegiance to their Baroness. Everybody in this land answers to someone. Who do you answer to?"

"I don't know," Milsy answered slowly. "It never occurred to me, I was just enjoying myself. I assumed all that was taken care of." She looked at Garia. "You have considered the matter, of course."

"Me and the Queen, yes." Garia smiled herself. "It seems I have learned a great deal about how the status system works in Palarand though there's nothing like it in Kansas. The way I see it you have three choices, though there may be others. First, you could become my vassal. If you do that you have the use of my armsmen as a right. Second, you become a direct vassal of the King. I'll still provide the troops, seeing as how we both do odd things that don't fit in with the usual palace routine, but you'd be his responsibility, not mine. Third, you could become a Freewoman, if there is such a thing. That would mean you'd only have your Guildswoman's oath to bind you, but that may be all you'd wish for."

"And the armsmen in the third case?"

Garia shrugged. "I don't know. Hey! I'm making this up as I go along, you know."

Milsy grinned. "I'll let you into a secret, I do too! Please don't tell Tarvan, will you?" Her face became serious. "There's other angles to this that I can see. Where would I live? I reside here in the Questor's quarters at the King's pleasure, if I choose wrongly I could be thrown out. And then there's the problem of funding. Tarvan and I could do a lot more if there was more coin for materials. As it is we have to buy materials with Guild grants and they are sorely tried with everything else that is happening."

"I can believe that! In fact, I am personally funding a lot of the development they are doing. Hmm." Garia's expression became thoughtful. "I could just cut out the middle man, I guess. Look, if you were to swear to me, you'd have access to my treasury, which the Queen tells me is uncomfortably large for that of a mere baroness. In fact, she's told me I need to employ some accountants to handle the cash flow."

"Cash flow... interesting phrase, but it describes the process very well, doesn't it? Um, I think you should find out just what Tarvan and I have been doing down here before you start making offers like that. Oh!" Milsy giggled. "I keep forgetting where you come from! You've probably seen everything we have invented before, haven't you?"

"That's not necessarily so, Milsy. I don't expect Anmar to follow the same path as Earth and I don't really want them to. By imitating Earth you may miss other, more useful ideas and devices, other ways of looking at problems. In fact, I didn't want Gerdas to use the twenty-four hour system but it seems that it is too useful to ignore."

"You're right. It makes it so much simpler to organize the day that I wonder we hadn't thought of it decades ago. The bell system is good enough for present use, mostly, but it won't work much further into the future, not once we start tying Palarand and the nearby countries together with the semaphore system. After that we'll have an electric telegraph, and then I imagine we'll be speaking to one another. Am I right?"

"Wow. Yes, you are right. But a voice telephone system is a lot more complicated than a telegraph system will be. You're not just sending pulses of electricity from one end to the other." Garia waved a hand. "That's for another time. You understand what I was saying about not imitating Earth?"

Milsy nodded positively. "Yes. But there's no reason we can't pick out the good bits, is there? As to the other matter, can I think on it a while? In fact, why don't I show you some of our experiments out in the laboratory? That will give me time to decide what to do."

Garia, Milsy and Merizel left the sitting room and entered the great laboratory. Since it was such a huge room it was very cold and they made sure to close their coats around themselves as they walked through.

"I must apologize," Milsy said, "If I had thought about your visit we could have gotten some heating organized in here. Normally it's too hot with the forge and the steam engine running together."

"That's fine," Garia replied. "We're probably not going to be in here too long anyway. Wow, did you do all this while we were gone?"

"Not by myself, of course." Milsy was bashful. "I just have the crazy ideas, the guildsmen run around and make them for me."

Most of the benches in the long room remained untouched from when Garia had last seen it. The two at the far end, near the furnace, were the ones she and Keren had used and Milsy had taken full advantage of their availability. One had two brass clock mechanisms on it, interconnected with wires and a battery in the middle.

"Is this from when you figured out how to use the Great Clock?"

"It is, but the story is a little more complicated, Garia. The guildsmen who look after the clock had to do some maintenance on it and they invited Tarvan along to have a look, since he had shown some curiosity, so naturally he invited me. I didn't even know what the word clock meant at that time. The guildsmen weren't too sure but he convinced them I was harmless so we went off to the Clock Tower... you've been there, of course?"

"Me? No, I never got that far. The only tower I have been up is the big one over the water tank with the lookout post on the top. I did some star-gazing with Master Gerdas."

"Oh, as you say. The lightning rods have made a real difference there, I can tell you... where was I? Oh, yes. When we reached the tower it had the most amazing mechanical thing inside, almost filling the top of it. Hanging underneath was a pendulum and some weights which made everything go. They explained to Tarvan that, whenever the weights neared the floor they would have to wind them up again and this would take time, so that the Great Clock gradually became less and less accurate, eventually needing to be corrected by a sand-dropper brought from another clock in the Hall of the Guilds.

"They didn't have to do the winding that day, just some lubrication and other cleaning up jobs, so Tarvan and I stood on the walkway while they did that and tried to work out how we could improve the clock. First idea was a steam engine, of course, but that wasn't practical since someone would have to stoke it day and night and the power need was very small. Then we talked about having two weights, so that one going down would pull the other up and so on. That's when I learned why perpetual motion wouldn't work!

"Finally I realized that I was becoming... tranced by the motion of the pendulum and thought, what if we could make the arm of the pendulum close a spring switch each time it swung, and that switch turned on an electromagnet for just a moment, while the pendulum arm was right there. Wouldn't that be enough to just keep the pendulum going without needing a weight at all? Then Tarvan said, what about when you had to change the battery, and I pointed out that you could put a new one in before you took the old one out."

"That's a very clever idea, Milsy."

Milsy looked pleased. "I thought so myself, and in fact Tarvan couldn't see anything wrong with it, but when we explained it all to the guildsmen they practically ordered us out of the tower at sword-point! They didn't want anyone tampering with such an important machine, and I cannot blame them for that. So we asked Guildmaster Parrel next time we met and he obtained a clock mechanism from the Clockmakers' Guild to experiment with. It took us a week to prove that this clock," Milsy indicated the one nearest the window, "kept better time than the Great Clock did when modified to use the battery instead of a weight.

"During that week I idly wondered, amongst other ideas, if the same switch that operated the pendulum could operate pendulums in more than one clock... and Tarvan pointed out that, if one clock kept good enough time, we didn't need pendulums in the other clocks at all. Then the whole idea exploded with terrifying speed and before we knew it Master Parrel had suggested installing what he called Repeater Clocks in all the major rooms in the palace."

"Like those clocks in the Receiving Room and the family dining room."

"Indeed, Garia. A big problem we faced was that the dawn and dusk bells reset the bell numbers and this makes the mechanisms very complicated, even if we added extra wires to set the numbers right. Then Master Gerdas came along with his ideas of hours and minutes and the design of the whole thing changed completely... is it like this on Earth?"

"It can be, and there's a danger there. If you let a committee get hold of your ideas, bad things can happen to it. Sometimes, of course, you need a committee to make sure your idea will be useful to the largest bunch of people, so they are not all bad. So, this other clock is your slave clock, is it?"

"Slave Clock... ah, I think I like that name better than Repeater Clock. Yes, it is. As you can see, it was made exactly the same as the other one but we took half the parts out because they weren't needed. That made a big impression on the Timekeepers' Guild, I can tell you. Anything that saves time and materials making a clock can only be good, don't you agree?"

"Absolutely. We're always looking for shortcuts or simplifications to make life easier. Like using paper instead of parchment." Garia turned to the other bench. "What about -"

A footman approached from the domestic end of the laboratory. He bowed and then addressed Garia.

"Milady, the King desires your presence in his parlor."

"Oh, of course. Milsy, I have to go. I'll see you at the evening meal, yes?"

"As you say, Garia."

Garia turned to the footman. "Lead the way, please."

Merizel asked, "What about me, Garia?"

"Uh, I don't know, Merry. You'd better come along and see, if the King doesn't want you then no doubt he'll let us know."

The footman led the way back to Robanar's parlor and Garia, Merizel and their maids entered. Already seated were the King, Keren, Forton and Merek. Robanar raised an eyebrow at Merizel but then nodded, gesturing to vacant chairs.

"Please be seated, Ladies." When they were comfortable he addressed Garia, "Marshal Forton has information which may be of interest to you, Milady. I'll let him explain."

Forton said, "Milady, you recall I described two tunnels which led away from the Residence of Yod. One emerged in the cellar of a tavern nearby. That tavern has been closed and everything within it examined closely. We found this in the belongings of the owner."

He fumbled in the pouch at his waist, bringing out a coin and rising to place it in Garia's hand.

"Do you recognize this, Milady?"

Garia held it up to catch the poor light of a late winter afternoon, but she already knew what it was. She had by now handled the local currency enough to know that this was not produced nearby.

"Why, yes! This is a quarter, and it can only have come from my wallet. That money was stolen - presumably - by whoever killed Morlan."

"A quarter, Milady?"

"Oh, yes, the coin of Kansas is made up of dollars, which must be a bit like your crowns, and cents. There are a hundred cents in a dollar. A quarter is simply worth a quarter of a dollar, or twenty-five cents. We don't actually chop the coins up, you see."

"Ah, I see. Therefore the coin proves that the tavern owner must be connected with the murder of Morlan."

Robanar shook his head. "Not necessarily, Forton. You well know that coins from many countries are found in the markets, inns and taverns of Palarand. Doubtless one sought to pass this quarter off as a coin from a distant country."

"Aye, Sire, I must needs agree. But this tavern owner must have known of the tunnel, surely, so cannot a link be made?"

Robanar shrugged. "It matters little, Forton. The tunnel is enough to condemn him."

Keren said, "Father, perhaps the tavern owner was used as a means of getting rid of the Kansas coins. As you have just pointed out, foreign coins circulate throughout our land. What better way of unloading the proceeds of a crime?"

"As you say, Keren."

Garia thought, then spoke. "Sire, I wonder if you could ask for everyone in the city - discreetly, of course - to look out for more coins like these. I can't remember how many should have been in my wallet but there would probably have been," she shrugged, "five, six, or maybe more to find." She had another thought. "Sire, you said that coins like these go up and down the Valley, right?"

"As you say, Milady. Of course, most stay within their own country but naturally many do wander. We have even seen coins of the Kittrins, which are not metal at all like our own but disks of some kind of very hard pottery. Why? What is your thought, Milady?"

"Only that Yves Perriard may have had cash on him when he came to Anmar, much as I did. I wondered if any of his coins could be found in the city."

Forton looked at Garia, puzzled. "Surely his coins and yours would be the same? How may you tell who carried them?"

Garia shook her head. "We have completely different money than Yves uses, Marshal. Theirs are called euros and cents and the coins look totally different."

Forton looked surprised. "Different, Milady? But I thought... you and this other person came from the same world."

"We do, but it is as large as Anmar is, and Yves came from a country... some seven or eight thousand marks away from my own." She shrugged again. "Roughly. And his country is the other side of a great ocean to mine."

Keren pointed out, "Garia, if Yves Perriard carried any coin then Yod may have kept it, to hide evidence of his presence among them."

Garia nodded. "That's always possible. But there is a chance that his coins have gotten this far." She had another thought. "Marshal, did you find any documents in that tavern? I'm specifically thinking about two items about... this big." She demonstrated with her fingers. "They'll be heavily decorated with different colored inks and have a man's picture in the middle. Oh, and there will be Garian numbers in the corners and maybe elsewhere as well. The backs will be decorated the much same but there will be a picture of a big building on them."

"Such a strange description, Milady. May I ask what these documents are for? Are they of value to an enemy?"

Garia smiled. "No, they are of no value to anyone, Marshal. They are actually also money, coin if you will. We use paper for money instead of carrying great bags of coin around all the time. You could think of them as, what was the phrase? Anonymous letters of credit. These are worth ten dollars each. On Anmar they can't be used for anything as you don't use paper money yet."

"I'll make a note of your description, Milady."

Merizel tore off part of a sheet of paper and handed it to Forton. He received it with surprise.

"Why, thank you, Milady Merizel! This is unexpected but welcome." He noticed that Merizel had sheets of paper filled with writing. "Do you record our meeting, Milady?"

"My Lord, I do," Merizel replied. "Every meeting with Milady is recorded, since she may speak of something new at any time."

"Ah, I see." He nodded. "An excellent idea."

As the Marshal folded the paper and put in into his pouch Robanar said, "Tell her the rest, Forton."

"As you wish, Sire. The second tunnel, we discovered, went under a building across the street from the Residency and continued below the next street. At some point it split, one way leading to an entrance to the drain system, the other ending under a private dwelling in a further street. We have seized that building also, but have not yet discovered a way into it from the tunnel."

Garia nodded. "I would think they'll use the drains, Marshal. The other exit may be a dummy or designed to put us off the scent. From the drains you could probably come out almost anywhere in the city, couldn't you?"

"As you say, milady. The Chivan drainage system is so extensive you could hide an army down there." His expression was rueful. "Of course, we must needs post men in many places to make sure they do not do that very thing." He went on, "Milady, as you foretold, there was a third tunnel. The entrance was cunningly concealed and led in yet another direction. We only discovered it as the remains of the Residency were being cleared from the land for safety reasons. The tunnel came up in the basement of a small shop some distance away. We found stores of items as you also foretold, weapons, clothing and food mostly. Naturally we have seized the lot."

A knock on the door brought Robanar's manservant with pel and pastries. While the group ate and drank they talked about the situation in the city, trying to understand what kinds of danger the inhabitants might be in from people left behind after the Residency fire. Garia could help to a certain extent, from her knowledge of terrorist events around Earth, but together with the previous discussions they decided that they had taken all the precautions that were practical.

"There is more news that may be of interest, Milady," Forton said. "We have had reports from Sheldane. Duke Visselen sent a strong force and surprised their boats on the river bank near the town. There were few men, enough to defend their craft from the town but no more. There was a short fight and most were taken prisoner. We have recovered many boats, most appear to have belonged to merchants from the upper states but three were war galleys."

Garia nodded. "That's how they got there. I bet the only reason they went to Joth was to capture enough boats to get their force downstream. They were probably hoping to use those same boats to get back all the way to Yod but I don't know if that would have been possible."

Robanar shook his head. "Having traveled the river, Milady, I tell you that in winter it would be an arduous task. Every bank they must account hostile to their force and they must needs take all their provisions with them. They might sail part of the route but I deem much of the way would be by rowing only."

"Father," Keren asked, "what plans might there be for replying to Yod? Have you thought to take the war to our foes?"

"It is too early for such matters, son. While we are in the depths of winter we cannot move troops and neither can they. Besides, we do not know the temper of our neighbor countries along the Sirrel as yet, our letters will scarce have reached Brugan."

"But you will plan?"

"Aye, son. We must gather our strength so that we can strike a blow in late winter or early spring, should the weather permit. Garia, I must warn you that Keren will likely be part of that force."

She had known that it was possible, but to hear it stated triggered a spike of fear. She was not a free agent any longer, she had a stake in what was to come - and someone to lose. She suddenly realized what every woman who had ever sent their husband or son to war had understood, sometimes there is nothing you can do but stand and wait and fear the worst.

"I understand, Sire."

Behind Garia Jenet suddenly curtseyed and Robanar noticed.

"Jenet, I believe that you signal your mistress must needs change for the evening meal?"

"As you say, Sire."

The King ran a hand through his hair. "We have done enough today, I think. Garia, you and Milady Merizel may go. We will meet again as the need arises."

"Thank you, Sire."

~o~O~o~

Garia snuggled closer to Keren.

"I like doing this!"

"You had better," he replied. "You'll be doing a lot of it in the future."

They were seated on the settee in Garia's sitting room. Keren had his left arm around Garia's shoulder, his hand at her waist. She was tucked under his arm, her head on his chest, her arms around his waist. On a chair by the table, Jenet acted as chaperone but was concentrating on a book in front of her, trusting her charges to behave themselves. The book was the one Merizel had given Garia many months ago, a child's primer to learn how to read.

"It's such a relief being able to do this officially, as it were," she murmured. "Now that everyone knows we'll be expected to be together, won't we?"

"Aye. Though we must get to Spring before we dare relax."

"About that. Did your father really mean it when he said you might go to war?"

There was a small shrug so as not to disturb her.

"Mayhap. The royal men of Palarand have customarily gone to war in the past but we have not led our men into battle for many years. With the new weapons, and the change in ways of warfare which you foretell, I do not know how safe such an adventure may be. If the enemy perfects these guns... what did you call them? Rifles... no man on the field will be safe. I do not know if my father would risk my life in such a battle but I must needs learn the ways of war. Do you have any experience of war yourself?"

"No. Not the kind of war you'll... I mean, Palarand will be fighting. It doesn't matter, every war is different than what went before. There's always something new."

"Aye. I hope that we will win the day. Yod is become a pestilence on the Valley lands and I would be rid of them."

Garia sighed. "It doesn't work out like that, Keren. That's a history lesson for another time, though."

"As you say." He bent his head and kissed her forehead. "Did I ever tell you how lucky I am?"

She raised her eyes to his. "You may have just once or twice, perhaps. You can say it again, if you like."

"That's what I like about you. You're just not like anyone else I've ever met."

"Even Eriana?"

"I think Eriana could wrestle grakh bare-handed, but she's too spiky for my liking. We're a perfect match, Garia, and you know it. Now stop changing the subject."

"As you command, Your Highness."



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