Somewhere Else Entirely -118-

Garia is still juggling people and activities as she moves through the palace. She introduces Tarvan and Milsy to the difference between AC and DC and gives hints about possible uses before a meeting of the War council is called. She learns about the retaking of Joth and the preparations being made to carry the war to Yod.

Somewhere Else Entirely

by Penny Lane

118 - Different Currents


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) 2011-2015 Penny Lane. All rights reserved.



When Garia and Lanilla arrived at the Cerise Chamber they had a surprise, because not only was Gullbrand there but also Jenet, Geska, Odgarda and another Einnlander. Jenet looked upset, the first time that Garia had seen her like that.

"My Lady -"

"It was not my fault, Jenet, I'm sorry. The Queen called unexpectedly. It was a private meeting."

Which statements are all perfectly true, even if the wrong conclusions might be drawn from putting them together.

Jenet curtseyed. "Ah, I did not know, Milady. I trust everything is satisfactory?"

"I think so. Nothing for you to worry about." Garia turned and smiled at Merizel, who was again sitting in a chair. "How are you doing?"

"I feel much better, thank you, Garia. Or, I was, until this crowd descended on me!"

Garia grinned. "I forgot that Gullbrand said he'd come to visit you after lunch. I'd brought Lanilla to see you, actually. You said you were going to have a look at her reading and writing. Jenet and these two, well, the Queen came..."

"Oh, yes! As you say, Garia. Master Gullbrand and... his friend only just arrived before you did."

"Right. Gullbrand is going to join House Blackstone for at least a short while and he'll help you with some of your duties. It should take some of the pressure off you - and me - since we have more people and projects and everything else to handle now. I hope you don't mind."

Garia wasn't sure what Merizel's expression was but it appeared her opinion of Gullbrand as a helper was only lukewarm. Despite that Merizel knew that their affairs were becoming too much for her and Garia to handle alone and they couldn't really expect the palace staff to manage much of the load, especially the House Blackstone portion.

"I... well," Merizel forced a smile at Gullbrand. "My Lord, it is true, we are in need of some assistance. If Garia has asked you, then I can certainly find work for you, but," she emphasized, "it may take some time for you to become accustomed to the unusual nature of our activities."

Gullbrand bowed. "Lady Merizel, the Baroness has explained that to me and I am willing to do whatever you may ask of me."

"I may ask a great deal, My Lord. It would seem that none of us know the ways of the court in any detail so you may find yourself going to Kendar or Terevor for guidance. But, welcome anyway. If you would find yourself a seat."

Hardly had Gullbrand sat down than the door opened to admit a footman.

"Milady," he addressed Garia, "Mistress Milsy begs to remind you that you intended meeting with her this afternoon. If that is no longer possible I may return with a message."

Garia slapped a hand to her forehead.

"Oh! Yes, I did, didn't I? No, that's fine. I'm on my way, there's no need for you to go back again."

"As you command, Milady." The footman bowed and withdrew.

Garia turned to Merizel. "See what happens when you get a stomach ache? Everything falls to pieces. That's part the reason why we need help."

"As you say, Garia. Now, you'd better go, had you not? I think I can manage with Lanilla and Lord Gullbrand this afternoon."

Merizel made a shooing gesture with her hand that caused Gullbrand to raise an eyebrow. Garia turned and then remembered the other person in the room.

"You're Sigsten, aren't you?"

"Yah, My Lady."

He was tallish, but there was no real meat on the body. He wasn't obviously one of the warriors Eriana had brought with her so Garia thought he had to be one of the original ship's company. He apparently had some metalworking aptitude which was why he had been chosen to join House Blackstone.

"I guess you'd better come with us, then, and leave Lady Merizel in peace. Uh, Jenet. You'd better come with me as well and bring those two with you. Poor Merry's room is crowded enough as it is."

"As you wish, Milady. Geska, Odgarda, come."

Garia led Sigsten and her three maids, plus the obligatory four armsmen, from the Cerise Room and through the palace labyrinth to the Royal Questor's quarters. Bursila opened the door and bade them all enter. Milsy greeted them with a smile and a curtsey for Garia. With them was Senidet and Molleena.

Another crowd! At this rate I'll need my own palace!

Milsy looked at Garia's party. "I wondered what had happened, Garia." She looked at the expression on Garia's face. "What has happened? Nothing bad, I deem?"

"Oh, no, Milsy, nothing like that. Just staffing problems... kind of. I've taken on Gullbrand to help Merizel out for at least a while. This is Sigsten who is supposed to be helping you out. Lanilla's back from Sick Bay and... I may tell you later what else. I take it you want to talk about this problem of yours."

"Aye, Garia. Tarvan's in the Laboratory trying to identify the problem. We have a number of experiments laid out. If you'd all follow me?"

Garia decided to take her armsmen into the laboratory this time and place two at each end. There was a connecting door at the far end and it would have been pointless having all four outside one end of the Questor's quarters when anyone could enter the other. She had a word for the two Norse maids as they followed her into the big room and looked around with amazement.

«You may look at anything in this room but you must not touch! We don't know half of what is in here and it may be dangerous. Don't even disturb the dust, please. It is important we know if anybody tries to touch anything.»

The two curtseyed. «As you command, Milady.»

At the far end Tarvan bowed and grinned a greeting at Garia.

"Guildmistress, your retinue grows again! So many people, I wish that I might be of some help, but my talents run in another direction, as you well know."

"Aye, Tarvan. It isn't as bad as it looks... Hmm. Well, it wasn't when I woke up this morning! You remember Gullbrand? He'll be assisting Merizel when she returns to fitness and Sigsten is here to help out you two. You'll have to find out how useful he might be and let me know if there's any problems."

"As you wish, Guildmistress." Tarvan eyed Sigsten up and down. "He has the reach and the strength which Senidet does not, Guildmistress. That will serve us well as we string wires throughout the palace."

"That's what I thought," Garia agreed. "So, down to business. What's your electrical problem, then?"

Tarvan replied by touching a wire to a contact. "This is."

The double click was clearly evident. Tarvan moved to the next experiment and touched another wire to a contact. The relay it was connected to clicked, and so did another one at the other end of the bench. When he removed the wire, both relays clicked again.

Milsy waved a hand. "See what I mean? We can't predict when this will happen and when it doesn't. Do you have any idea what's going on?"

"I think I do," Garia said slowly. "I had a good think about this last night and you've confirmed my suspicions." She took a deep breath. "Unfortunately, you're discovering things that are right on the limit of my knowledge."

She took a few moments to review the wiring of the items on the workbench and then came to a decision.

"Can we use the study? I'll need the blackboard and it's a little cold in here."

Milsy replied, "Of course, Garia. We've been in there earlier and the fire should still be alight. Bursila, can you go and see to it, please? We'll be right behind you."

Once everybody had gathered around the blackboard in the study Garia began.

"Okay, what I'm going to tell you about is something I've seen but I really don't know how it works. In the telling you'll find out about a new electric part and a whole new way of thinking about electricity. It will be up to you to figure out how it all works, although of course you can always come and scrape any tiny memories out of my brains if you have questions."

Milsy objected, "We know you don't know everything but it can't be that bad, surely?"

"We'll see. There may be more in there than I realize. My memory seems to be better than when I was on Earth, but I can't remember things I never knew, could I?"

Garia cast around, realizing that Merizel wasn't with them to take notes. Seeing her glance, Senidet raised a hand.

"Milady, if I may. We know that Lady Merizel is unwell, so with your permission I will record whatever you tell us."

"Oh, thank you! I was wondering how I'd do this. Right, let's begin."

She drew the axes of a graph on the board.

"It's all about what happens to electric current the moment you make the circuit," she began. "Despite what you might think, the full current doesn't flow immediately, but depends on the wires and coils and everything else that make up the circuit. If this direction is voltage and this one time, this is what might happen."

Quickly she sketched out a line and explained that any coil resisted change since it had to build the magnetic field. Nearby wires were also affected by fields from other wires.

"So the way round that particular problem is to make a part which at first doesn't make any sense," she explained. "Tarvan, we'll need two sheets of very thin copper foil, about the size of a sheet of paper, and two sheets of wax paper, each a little larger than the copper ones. This will make something called a condenser."

"Now, Garia?"

"No, I think you can make these up at your convenience. Now, let me remember how these things work. You have wires connected to each copper sheet, preferably at a corner." Tarvan nodded. "Then you layer the copper sheets with the wax ones so that they don't come into contact and roll the whole thing up into a cylinder."

"And then?"

Garia spread her arms. "That's it! You have made a condenser. I am told they can be made in all shapes and sizes, and the area of the copper sheets and the gap between them, together with what you put in that gap, makes a difference to how they work for different purposes. More than that you'll have to find out for yourselves."

I have a broken tractor to thank for even that knowledge. I helped Uncle Brad fix the electrics and one of the condensers was blown. He pulled it apart so I could see how it was made and told me a little about how they worked.

Then I realized that Milsy and Tarvan's electrical education had been missing a big chunk...

Tarvan's brow was furrowed. "But, how can such a thing possibly work? The electricity cannot flow at all!"

"Ah, but it does! The trick is, it can only flow when the voltage is changing. I was told that a condenser is the exact opposite of a coil, and you can do a lot using one or the other or both together. Now what you do is put this condenser across the part where your switch is, not across the coils. It will soak up some of the stray currents which the coils are making flow round the circuit."

"I think I see."

Milsy asked, "Is that the only use for such things, Garia?"

"No, they have many uses. You can use them anywhere you get sparks, like your relay contacts, and they should help prevent damage to the metal. They are used in other places, too, but I'm going to have to put that information through the Council."

Milsy nodded. Although she was not on the Council, Tarvan was and she knew of its existence.

"That had me thinking," Garia continued, "and I realized I'd left out some very important parts of the electricity discussion. That may have been for the best, since back then things were probably confusing enough as it was. Agreed?"

"It wasn't that bad, Garia. So what else is there to learn, then?"

Garia went to the board and erased the graph, drawing another one in its place, this time with a sine wave traveling along the time axis.

"What we've been dealing with so far is what we call direct current. By that I mean that, once you have a circuit, the current only flows one way. There's another type of circuit where the current flows both ways, and we call that alternating current. This is what that voltage over time graph looks like with alternating current."

Tarvan frowned. "That looks interesting, Guildmistress. The shape looks... familiar somehow."

"Oh, yes it is! You'll find this shape everywhere in nature, it's called a sine wave. It's everywhere you look from the length of the day and the height of the sun throughout the year to the way a piston moves in and out of a steam-engine cylinder."

"I rather thought it was the shape of a string on a dajan when it was plucked."

"That, too, and so much more! For our purposes, it is the voltage, or the direction of the voltage, when you put a coil near a magnet which is turning."

"But... we don't see that, Guildmistress, in our generators... ah! It is to do with the way we take off the electricity, with the brushes. Is that right?"

"I think so. If you build a different kind of generator -"

Garia described building a generator with slip rings instead of a commutator.

Tarvan nodded. "But, what practical use is this, Guildmistress? There must be some, else you would not be familiar with the idea."

"Familiar is not really the word I would choose, Tarvan. But you're right, there are benefits and drawbacks as with anything. The main benefit is, it enables you to do another trick which saves money and helps transmit electricity long distances - amongst other things."

"Ah." Tarvan nodded again. "I had wondered, Guildmistress. I have been thinking about a power station on the banks of the Sirrel, and how large the wires must needs be to bring the power to a city such as Palarand."

"That's exactly why we do it, but the down side is that you end up with a form of electricity which can't be used for a number of purposes. Most relays, for one. You have to convert from one form to the other. Alternating Current, or AC, can be used for heating and lighting and running motors which will be the main uses of power in the future. Your relays and clock circuits need Direct Current, or DC."

"As you say. We must use a kind of motor connected to a generator to convert, then?"

Garia looked confused. "Yes... I guess you do right now, since we don't have any other way to rectify the current..."

"Rectify?"

"Yes. If you look at the graph again, you'll see that if you can somehow chop off the bit of the flow below the line, you'd have a rough DC current. That's called rectification, or so I was told. You can smooth the voltage out using a big condenser like I just described."

"Oh." Tarvan thought for a while. "I think I understand, Guildmistress. I assume there are materials which can do this, or is there some other method?"

"Materials, yes. Certain kinds of crystals, perhaps, and that's about all I know, Tarvan. You'll have to talk to some rock specialists and get some samples to experiment with." Garia frowned. Valves. A valve is just a kind of light bulb, isn't it? "There is another way, and that involves some glass-blowing. Hmm. I wonder how much of that I can remember? I think I'll have a word with Hurdin some time."

She turned back to the board and tapped it with a knuckle. "Here's a question for both of you. What would happen if I placed one of your coils near to another coil? One which was in a different circuit?"

"I do not know, Guildmistress. The magnetic field -" Tarvan shook his head. "If the coils are not permitted to move, as they are in a motor, nothing should happen. Is this so?"

"Except when you turn the circuit on or off, Tarvan -"

"- So that's what is happening in our second circuit, then! Somewhere the wires are close enough to make a current flow briefly through the second circuit when the first is turned off or on."

"I get it. I get it!" Milsy jumped up and down with excitement. "Garia, I understand! It isn't the movement of the magnet in a generator which makes the current flow, it is the fact that the field changes when the magnet moves! So if you put two coils close together, the field will change as you turn one circuit on or off and that field will affect the other coil."

Light dawned with Tarvan. "- and that's why you wish to use this Alternating Current, is it not, because the current, and therefore the field, changes all the time! Guildmistress, that's amazing!"

Garia grinned. "Exactly. No moving parts involved at all. All you need do is to wind two coils on the same iron slug and you'll have what is called a transformer."

"A transformer?" Milsy's eyes narrowed. "But it won't transform anything, you'll just copy the shape of the voltage or current from one coil to the other."

Garia's grin broadened. "That depends... on how many turns of wire is in each coil, doesn't it? Twice the turns on the output side, twice the voltage."

Now their mouths were open as they understood the possibilities this new idea opened up.

"So... how does this help with my power station problem, Guildmistress?"

"As I understand it, Tarvan, the thickness of the wire depends on the current, not the voltage. At the power station, you transform the voltage up to a very high value and that makes the current small, since you can't create power out of nothing. Your wires can then be made thinner, but have to be carried high up off the ground because the high voltage will jump just like lightning. At the city end, or wherever, you have other transformers to make the voltage lower again. Or, even lower in the factory or house if you need an even lower voltage. You can keep going up or down as your circuit needs."

Milsy asked, "Could we make lightning in here, Garia? Proper lightning, I mean, not what we use for welding."

"It's possible, but it might get dangerous. Most electricity will kill and high voltages can jump across much larger air gaps than a welding arc can do."

Milsy's face fell. "Oh. I was so looking forward to making tame lightning."

"One day, Milsy! At the moment I think we need to find out more about what we're doing, don't you agree? Death isn't high on the list of new things I'd like you to experiment with."

Tarvan was muttering to himself as he took a piece of chalk and approached the board.

"If I may, Guildmistress? We'll need a new kind of generator, some of these double-coils to play with and a new kind of motor." He wrote a list on the board. "Not to mention these... condensers you described." He had a thought. "This new current, it is going to go straight through a condenser, isn't it, Guildmistress?"

"Yes, but the whole business is a lot more complicated than I described, because I don't know why it works. There's also a complicated relationship between coils and condensers and I don't understand that, either. The size of a condenser matters and so does the material between the plates. The size of the transformer coils also matter, as does the material you wind them around."

Tarvan nodded. "I have noticed some differences in the coils we have made so far, Guildmistress. It is apparent that the way we make them affects the way they work."

"You'll need to do some careful experiments to find out what works best and what doesn't - and I could add that different ways may be better for different purposes. Don't assume that because something isn't good enough for one thing that it won't work for something else."

Garia realized that Tarvan was staring at a full-blown research project.

"Look, I don't think you can handle this all on your own." She caught Senidet's eye. "I mean, just the three of you who work in here. We're going to have to open this up, make it a subject for Questors as well as an engineering department." She groaned. "Another thing for me to do. I'll need to speak with Brovan, see if he has anyone who might be interested. And I'll have to ask permission of the King, of course."

Milsy nodded. "Of course, Garia. Does this mean we may not experiment with what you have shown us?"

"No, carry on. Just be careful making transformers which multiply up the voltage too high. Oh," she smiled, "of course, you can only have one input coil on a transformer, but you could have more than one output coil."

Tarvan looked puzzled. "Why would you want to have more than one output coil, Guildmistress?"

"Say you wanted different voltages, Tarvan, for your experiments. Or you wanted one circuit to be isolated from another."

"Ah! I see, Guildmistress. I had not considered that."

"I'm sure there are other reasons too. Look, while Senidet copies our latest drawings off the board, perhaps Bursila ought to go make some pel? I'm sure we could all do with a drink."

"Of course, Garia," Milsy agreed. She smirked. "Bursila? Perhaps you should take some of Garia's many maids to help you."

"Hey! Anybody would think -" Garia grinned back. "I do have a lot of staff at the moment, don't I? Perhaps you'd be better off just with Molleena, at least she knows where everything is. Meanwhile the rest of us can move into your sitting room, unless you haven't had the fire lit in there."

As they walked out of the study, two of the maids to make drinks and the rest to go to the sitting room, Sigsten asked Garia a question.

«My Lady, the other one like you speaks of making lightning. Is this truly possible?»

«It is, Sigsten, but of course it is very dangerous. Most of what we do in here uses the same power that lightning has, but at safe levels.»

«I understand, My Lady. I am interested to learn more of what I saw in the big room. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before.»

«I'm sure Milsy and Tarvan will teach you as much as you want to know, Sigsten. We try not to keep too many secrets around here. But first, I expect they'll just want to use you as an assistant with whatever they are doing.»

«My Lady, I expect nothing more. Already I have seen such wonders I believe I have joined the Gods.»

Garia was about to quote her "magic" and "technology" saying but decided Sigsten might be offended or take it the wrong way. Great Convocation or not, she wasn't sure what the Einnlanders thought of magic or technology.

"Milsy, Sigsten says he is interested in what you are doing and he wants to learn. He can understand much of what we are saying but obviously his vocabulary isn't that great yet. Is that likely to be a problem?"

"I don't think so, Garia. This is all new to us as well so we're learning almost as much as he will be. We'll make use of him and we won't assume he is stupid, either."

"That's great! Of course you two have the right attitude, haven't you? It's all those outside who still have the old ways of thinking."

"As you say. Here, find a seat and I'll poke up the fire."

Tarvan had a frown as he sat and faced Garia.

"In there you said that these waves you drew are everywhere in nature. I accept what you say, Guildmistress, but apart from the example I gave I cannot think of what else you might mean."

Garia thought. "Okay. This is math, really, not electrical or physical, but of course everything overlaps anyway, doesn't it? Let's take a simple example. If you measure the height of the sun above the ground, at noon exactly, from the same location every day for a whole year, the heights you measure will follow that shape I drew. The middle line, which on the blackboard represented zero voltage, would be at the equinoxes - do you know what they are?"

"Of course, Guildmistress. We celebrate Spring Dawning as the start of spring each year and this year's Spring Dawning is when you are to be wed. The Fall equinox is recognized but we do not make a celebration of it in the same way." Tarvan paused, thinking. "Ah! I understand! When the day and night is equal, then the height of the sun crosses the line between longer and shorter. Of course."

"You'll also get that line if you plot the length of the day against the days of the year, since one depends on the other. Another example," she continued. "If you look at a flywheel on a steam engine and the piston connected to it, you'll get the same relationship. Turn the wheel a short distance, measure how far the piston has come out of the cylinder. Keep on going until you're back to the starting point and the graph will be exactly the same."

"Then, Guildmistress, from what you are saying the relationship is related somehow to functions of a circle, is that not so? If that is true, how does that affect the height of the sun above the horizon?"

Garia grinned. "You'll have to ask Gerdas for a quick course in how the Earth - excuse me, how Anmar moves around the sun. Anmar is a sphere and its motion round the sun is almost a circle. It's fairly straightforward when you know how, but I don't want to confuse the issue today."

"As you desire, Guildmistress. Anmar a sphere? I look forward to that conversation with Master Gerdas."

"The universe we live in is an amazing space, Tarvan, and we know just a tiny fraction of it. The more you learn, the more you'll want to learn."

"Since your own arrival I am humbled to admit that you are right, Guildmistress."

"Tarvan, you have no idea!"

The pel arrived and was consumed. As they were preparing to return to the study, Milsy asked, "Garia, forgive me asking, but you surely do not require all your maids? Even the Queen -"

"Don't remind me! It's embarrassing enough as it is. Everyone will think I have taken up airs and graces just because I'm going to marry Keren, and I don't like it. It's just pure chance I've ended up with everybody the way I did."

"You have not yet decided what to do with them all, I suppose?"

Garia raised an eyebrow, but it was accompanied by a smile. "What, after my personal staff already, Milsy? You have a need for more helpers, then?"

Milsy grinned back. "Seeing as you put it like that, Garia, I wondered if I could have one to help wind some coils. Us women have smaller fingers and it is delicate work."

"I don't see why not. All they are doing is following me around at the moment, there isn't enough work for two let alone four."

Garia turned to the two Einnland girls. «Girls, Milsy needs someone to help out making things in the big room. You know I don't really need more maids and the only reason I have you two is because of the language problem. Would one of you like to stay over here? You'll have Sigsten to help out with your talking, so you wouldn't be completely alone.»

Geska curtseyed. «My Lady, you would choose one of us? What is it we would be doing?»

«All those things on the benches in the workshop? You would help Milsy and Tarvan make more similar things. I don't know if either of you can sew or weave or do anything like that.»

«My Lady, we can both sew of course, any maiden in Einnland is taught such arts as a child. What we saw outside was... unusual, but much of what we have seen since we came to your country is unusual. If you command us to work for Mistress Milsy, then we shall do so, of course.»

«I'm not going to command either of you, Geska. If one or other of you wants to try this out, then you can, but I'm not insisting. If you would prefer to stay as a maid, then that's fine as well.»

«You are gracious, My Lady. If we may have time to discuss your offer?»

«Of course. Take as long as you like.»

Garia turned to Milsy. "They may be interested but they need to weigh up their options. It may be a day or two before they give me an answer. Is that okay?"

"It is, Garia. There are four women here already so it isn't a problem for us - yet - but I think we'll soon need to employ more hands as the projects become bigger. Having Sigsten is a relief because presently there's only Tarvan to handle the heavy tasks."

"With luck, we should be able to change all this once we can find a mansion with a suitable workshop for you to move into." Garia grimaced. "Argh! You'll need to employ your own manager, then. You can't spend your time managing people when you could be inventing things, can you? You'll end up with the same problem I have now."

Milsy let out a small sigh. "Aye. I have watched your progress with trepidation, Garia. It was so much easier when I was just washing pots and peeling vegetables." She grinned. "Nowhere near as much fun, though."

~o~O~o~

Keren greeted Garia with a warm smile as she entered the dining room.

"Solved some of your problems? I caught sight of you as you returned from the laboratory with your retinue."

Garia gave Keren a hug. "Maybe. Gullbrand is going to help Merry with the administration. Everywhere I turn, new people seem to appear who I have to look after. Is it going to be like this after we marry?"

"Yes and no, Garia." He grinned as she stuck her tongue out at him. "When I am King, then of course we shall have the resources of the palace to call on, particularly Kendar and Terevor, or whoever might succeed them. Until then," his brow furrowed as he thought what might follow their marriage, "we may make use of Gullbrand, if he is willing. You may not know that apart from a manservant who serves me in the morning and evening I have no personal staff at all."

She pouted. "It's all right for you, you're a man. We ladies require more attention. Besides, I'm running my own noble house now and it's hard work."

"It is worse than you think," Keren replied, making her look up sharply. "What I mean is, you are starting a new noble house, so you have problems not faced by those who just inherit." He grinned. "Like me. You have to find staff and a mansion here in Palarand as well as organizing your lands... although they seem to be managing well without us around to interfere, don't they? One day, this will all settle down and you will wonder what the fuss was."

"Humph. Like I said, you're a man. What do you think I'll be doing once our children come along?"

Keren was suddenly at a loss for words. "Ah... Umm... Look, here comes mother."

Garia curtseyed carefully as Terys approached.

"Everything is satisfactory, dear?"

"Ma'am, I'm not sure I would use the word satisfactory but I am content with progress," Garia replied. "Master Gullbrand has agreed to help Merry handle some of the administration and I now have two Vikings... ah, Einnlanders who have joined Blackstone. I'm managing so far and I hope nothing else happens for a day or two."

"As you say, dear." Terys peered more closely at Garia's face. "You are beginning to look tired, dear. Once you have passed on your responsibilities to Merizel and Gullbrand I desire that you take some rest, as you did before. Regrettably there will be no way to keep you from the war but your other adventures must be delayed, dear, for a time."

Garia stared at the Queen. If her state showed in her face it had obviously affected her more than she had realized. She gave a deep curtsey.

"As Your Majesty commands."

Keren looked at her with concern.

"Mother is right, I had not seen it at first. You must rest, Garia. Once we approach the Spring Festival more closely your days will become filled and you dare not become tired then, as you must be aware. Take your time now, while the winter keeps people away and we have the opportunity to relax."

"You're right, Keren," Garia reluctantly agreed. "Maybe a day or so to make Gullbrand familiar with what's going on -" she caught the Queen's eye, "- and then I'll drop out of circulation for a while. Oh, what about riding? Ma'am, can I still do that? It relaxes me more than anything else - oh, apart from Keren, of course."

Terys considered. "You may ride, my dear, as the weather permits. But just to enjoy the ride, no more."

"Thank you, Ma'am."

Keren was amused. "You compare me with Snep? I am flattered."

Garia poked her tongue out again, and then Robanar arrived to end the conversation.

"Are we ready to eat?" Robanar said breezily. "I fear there is much to do this evening, I will not tarry over this evening's meal." The King caught sight of the Queen's expression. "What, my dear?"

"I have just been telling Garia how tired she looks, dear. I know I may not command you to rest, as I may others, but you must needs take note of your own condition and keep a steady pace these next few weeks."

Robanar inclined his head. "As you say, my dear, but remember, in these matters the country must come first. I am the custodian and I am responsible to the people for their safety. If there is a choice," he shrugged, "then I know where my priorities must lie. Come, let us sit."

After the meal they gathered in one of the private meeting rooms, one with a table, since there were likely many documents and maps to consider. Robanar began by passing a letter to Garia.

"My dear, although this is addressed to me from Duke Wallesan, it is from Maralin to you. It would cause talk should you bespeak one another directly, as you are not supposed to know of each other's existence."

Garia nodded, stretching out a hand for the letter. "Thank you, Sire. I know we must be extra careful in these days ahead. Can I open it? I don't think there will be anything relevant to tonight's meeting, but you never know."

Robanar assented and she opened the letter to give it a quick scan.

"No, Sire," she said after a few moments. "I can't see anything important right off. I'll read it properly later, I think. If there's anything to tell you it can wait until tomorrow."

She put the letter down and Robanar glanced at those around the table.

"Very well. I have today received a more detailed account from Duke Wallesan of Joth concerning the retaking of his city and what they found inside." His expression showed distaste. "It appears not is all how we assumed it to be. Merek, Forton. You may read his account later, there is nothing there which you ought not to see."

"Aye, Sire."

"Thank you, Sire."

Robanar stared at each of those around the table. "I'll summarize, briefly, for the rest of you. Wallesan judged, from various signs, that the Yodans did not have sufficient numbers to hold the city, especially after several of his patrols were ambushed while foraging for livestock and firewood outside the city. His Grace assembled, in plain sight outside the North Gate, a large force of regular troops and levies, as if for battle. At the same time as these made for the gate and the walls another force, smaller but concealed by means of camouflage, managed to gain entry by a much smaller gate on the south-west, the invaders being distracted by the alarms elsewhere.

"Once inside the Jothan forces cleared the immediate area and headed for the South Gate, intending to open it from the inside. They met fierce resistance but threw the gate open before the invader could respond. Once open a third force, concealed by trees from the walls, entered and began clearing the city. There was serious resistance, but the Jothans knew their city and used that knowledge to their advantage. With their backs to the river, the Yodans were forced to surrender."

"I see, Sire," Forton murmured. "What date would that be? The information we presently have was not that precise."

Robanar skimmed the letter. "If I read this correctly, that happened on the third day of Marash, Forton. I agree, the accounts we have had so far have varied in many respects." He grinned. "I trust the Duke knows what day he took his city back."

"Indeed, Sire. You mentioned what happened afterwards."

Robanar became somber. "It seems that not everybody was thrown out of the city when the Yodans attacked. Some of the younger men were retained for labor... and some young women were retained for... recreation." He grunted. "I'll not explain further, since there are women present, but you may all imagine for yourselves just what that might mean."

Garia was shocked but not surprised. Even in the twentieth century, armies were not immune to the excesses of ancient times. Here, she almost expected something of the sort, especially when the forces of nearby countries were not composed of professional soldiers.

"The invaders didn't manage to eat all the grain stored in the city," Robanar continued, "and no attempt was made to despoil what was left, for which His Grace thanks the Maker. The winter this year has not been especially severe so far, but with his people scattered all over his lands some have been left in difficult circumstances." He pointed a finger at Forton. "I would ask you to ensure that our own stocks of grain are suitably distributed about the land, so that no-one may seek to starve us by despoiling some or all at once."

"Sire, we already do this but the point is well made. I will order a discreet watch made on all of the larger stocks." He annotated the document in front of him.

Robanar resumed. "The usual looting and destruction had taken place, with several buildings burned down, at least two of them by accident. The harbor and jetties were in good condition, no doubt because the Yodans made their own use of them. His Grace knows that he could have fared much worse than he did and is grateful that he has most of a city to return to." There was a broad smile. "He captured thirty-three guns, the design of which appears to be the same as those that Keren and Garia faced on their return here. There didn't seem to be any instructions given to destroy or hide the guns to prevent them being captured. Only a small number of Yodans appeared to know how they were to be operated and it seems all were killed. There appears to be sufficient... ammunition... remaining to allow each gun-wielder to fire fourteen times or so."

Keren said, "Father, since they were always likely to acquire more such weapons before we did, I made sure to teach them all that I knew, seeing how dangerous they could be to His Grace's party. That is why he speaks of ammunition."

Garia spoke up. "Fourteen rounds is not a lot, Sire, if His Grace wanted to train his men with the guns. Has he said what he intends to do with them?"

Robanar shook his head. "Not in any letter I have received, Garia. You have, perhaps, an idea?"

"Not exactly, Sire. The limited ammo means you couldn't send the guns with the armies except to cover special circumstances, like defending a strongpoint against a counter-attack." Merek nodded thoughtfully. "Perhaps the best use might be to put them on their river traffic, to repel boarders if a hostile boat tries to capture them. But I had a different thought, Sire. Does His Grace say anything about the men he captured? Are they anything like those we captured?"

"Hmm? The levies, you mean? He says they are co-operating with everything he has asked them to do and some have even pointed out officers hiding by pretending to be ordinary men-at-arms. Aye, Garia, it sounds as if the quality of Yodans discovered in Joth is very like those we encountered in Palarand."

"Then I'm guessing there isn't very popular support for the war at home, Sire. The men do it because it is their duty, that's all. It's the officers and those above them who are causing all the trouble."

Robanar nodded agreement. "That is what I have found in my conversations with those men who were here in the Chamber of the Sick. I dare not trust them - yet - but I deem most would not desire to fight any but their own masters, having once tasted battle. Some have even sought sanctuary here, offering their labor and talents to Palarand."

"Then perhaps we ought to be concentrating on the officers, Sire. Get rid of those and the rest should give up easily."

Forton stirred. "My Lady, how do you propose to do that? It is often difficult to tell officers in the heat of battle and with these strange Yodan uniforms, if I may call them that..." He shrugged. "We do not know who we may face, My Lady."

Garia held up a finger. "Target anyone with a gun. Most seemed to be officers, from my recollection, or senior non-coms. Uh, non-commissioned officers, I mean, like File Leaders." She held up another finger. "The other thing I noticed is that the officers wear calf boots while the men wear ankle boots. Comes from riding frayen, probably. You might not be able to tell at a glance but it may be enough when they get close enough. Of course, anyone who is mounted ought to be fair game. If we can chop off the head, the rest should give up easily."

"Milady, are you sure you do not come from a race of warriors?"

She smiled sadly. "I do not, Marshal, but we have been forced into any number of wars in the last two hundred years or so and that makes us very wary about losing any skills we may have built up. Many of our stories and traditions are built around our military past so everyone has at least some kind of familiarity with the essentials."

"As you say, Milady."

"That has made me think about the kinds of powder weapons we could use against the Yodans, Sire. One is a special kind of gun that I won't say anything more about until I can find out if we can make such a thing. The other is a simple thing that can be held in the hand and thrown at the enemy. We call that a grenade."

"Oh?" Robanar raised an eyebrow. "What advantages would this device give us, Garia?"

"If I may describe it, Sire. It would be a round pot made of... cast iron or possibly even glass or thick clay and filled with gunpowder. There would be a fuse which the holder lights before throwing it at the enemy. When the fuse runs down the grenade explodes and the various bits of the container - the shrapnel - fly out with great force and injure or kill anyone who is nearby. The advantage is that these are small and easy to carry and need little training to use."

Merek asked, "So the man-at-arms would have a bag holding a number of these items, then, instead of the cartridges a gunner would have?"

"Aye, Captain. More modern versions have... other means of starting the explosion which don't involve fire, and those have a means of hooking them onto a harness, so you don't even need a bag."

"Pots," Forton said. "Of course we make pots of clay and glass all the time. I presume that the same furnaces and kilns may be used for these objects?"

"Exactly, Marshal. We just need our chemists and guildsmen to come up with a suitable powder mix to put in them. It might even be easier than making powder for captured guns."

"And a pot is waterproof," Forton mused. "Easier for a man to look after than those silk cartridges, I deem."

"As you say, Marshal... except for the fuse, which sticks out of the pot... I wonder! I wonder how a fuse which has been dipped in wax would work. Because it's wax, you can still light it, can't you?" There were confirming nods. "Then the whole thing is waterproof! I think I need to talk to..."

Garia tailed off, noting Terys's disapproving look.

"Ma'am? This is too important to wait, I think. I need to give this design to a few people so that they can begin making samples."

"Garia is right, my dear," Robanar pointed out. "Let her speak to those who will make these things for us, and then she may rest."

"As you wish, dear," Terys reluctantly agreed.

"Then that is settled," Robanar said. "Garia will provide instruction to those who require it, and we will inspect samples of these... grenades... as soon as they can be made. Let us progress. Forton, tell us the state of the levies you presently have."

"Aye, Sire. I have almost four thousand men from Central Palarand ready to move at about four or five day's notice, Sire. The largest problem, as always, is finding transport for their food and other supplies. About one thousand four hundred are men who have previously been under arms and are therefore experienced. We have used them as the core of the formations we plan to send. All are fully equipped from existing stores, though some of the weapons and armor are of older designs. These will be exchanged with newer items when they become available.

"Kendeven offers one thousand three hundred men, as you are well aware the population is much lower so close to the sea. Brikant has three thousand, some of which are already in Brugan to prepare transit camps for the main body of troops when they arrive. Of course, His Grace wishes to retain some portion of his levies for his own defense."

"And North Palarand?"

"Sire, although we have raised levies in almost all towns and villages, your brother desired to retain those north of the Sirrel to protect the land against invasion or sabotage. Since that is the source of almost all our arms and supplies, I am inclined to agree with him. He says that of course, if the situation should change, then he will provide men and supplies using the northern trade road as required."

Robanar nodded. "As I expected. Good, we are progressing much as we first planned. Forton, I understand you have news of events in the city?"

"I may not call it news, Sire, but there is certainly new information." He glanced about at the others. "You are all aware that we have informants now, throughout the city, who seek to discover any plots or stratagems which may place the city, the palace or any of our people in peril. To avoid detection our men are divided into small groups who report secretly to two organizers each, and thus the information is gradually collected through layers that we might ensure nothing goes missing and nobody may know where the information comes from or whom it goes to.

"We have discovered at least three groups who also collect information and seek to cause mischief. There may, of course, yet be others we have not found. Presently we have allowed these groups to remain undisturbed, with one of our informants inside each of the enemy bands. No-one who attends uses their own name when they meet, so we cannot yet know exactly who these people are. We are certain there are informants inside the palace, though we have not yet been able to identify them. I understand Captain Merek has his own men looking for these people."

"I have," Merek confirmed. "We have suspicions of certain guardsmen, two recent recruits and one of longer standing, which disappoints me greatly. Certain of the cleaners have been reallocated less sensitive work since they may be suspect and there is a question over two footmen. I'm sorry, Sire. I know your views about employing as widely of your people as possible but it does make extra work for us."

Terys looked alarmed. "Are we in danger from any of these you name?"

"Not directly, Ma'am. It is possible that one of the suspect guardsmen may admit others more dangerous but by themselves there is little they might do. You are protected by men you know and trust, as is the King, the Prince and Lady Garia. We are ready should any seek to cause mischief within the palace bounds, Ma'am."

Robanar grunted. "I do not agree, Merek. When you first produced this list it seemed, as you said then, that the situation was within our grasp but much has happened since that day. Detain all these people and question them, if you would. We cannot permit those who are not loyal to ourselves to wander the palace unchallenged."

"But, Sire, if I do that then we will have no means of discovering their link to those outside the palace. It may leave us unprepared when those Marshal Forton spoke of decide to make their move."

"Perhaps, but you place everybody inside the palace at risk. Suppose one of your cleaners fires the palace? No, I want those people somewhere they can do no damage."

Merek bowed his head. "Sire, I will do as you command."

Robanar turned to Garia. "Garia, do you agree?"

"It's a tricky question, Sire, I can see both sides of the argument. You're right, though, we have no idea what these people plan or what they might be capable of."

"Then that's settled. What must we discuss next?"

"Supplies, Sire." Forton replied, his face showing what he thought of the subject.

Robanar grimaced. "Very well. It is tedious but without the supplies we need we shall not prevail. Proceed."

~o~O~o~

Garia flopped back onto the quilt on her bed, her nightgown billowing. Geska and Odgarda had retired to the staff dormitory at the end of the corridor so she only had Jenet and Lanilla in attendance. Still looking at the plastered ceiling, she asked a question.

"Do you think the Queen is right, Jenet? Am I overdoing things?"

"It is not for me to say, Milady, but I have observed that you do much more than others of your station might. Of course, I am aware of the reasons for that, it could be no other way. The next three months may be particularly difficult, Milady, since you will be wed and then travel to Blackstone. Perhaps the Queen has that in mind."

Garia hitched herself up on one elbow. "Jenet, if you think the Queen is right, then say so! I'm not going to jump up and down and say naughty words just because I've been told to do something I might not want to." She wrinkled her nose. "I happen to agree with her, actually. Too much has happened since we crossed the Sirrel and returned here. Battles, the War, Einnlanders, the whole thing with Eriana, even finding... ah. I didn't tell you about that, did I?"

"Milady?"

"Okay. I need to tell you what happened when the Queen came to call today. I don't need to tell you that you must not tell anyone else."

"Milady? If the Queen consulted you in secret, then you must not tell me without her permission."

"It's not like that, it's something different and the Queen just happened to arrive in the middle of it."

Garia sat up and adjusted her position on the bed. "Sit down, the pair of you, and I'll tell you. Lanilla was there so she already knows but you should know too."

Once everybody had made themselves comfortable, Garia began.

"You remember when we came back here after training? We had Gullbrand and Sigsten with us, didn't we?"

"Aye, Milady, and there was Gullbrand's boy as well."

"Yeah. Well, I noticed something odd about Alrik..."



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