What are you doing in
Lord Bridry froze. Was there
a pistol at his back? Was the young voice accompanied by guards? Or did
the lone man think to take old Elyas Bridry with a blade? The white-haired
nobleman turned to see a familiar young gent, the scrabble finally shaved
from his chin, sculpting a more mature face than when hed last seen
the boy. The smiling Randyl Lhyvreyn held his arms wide, expecting a hug.
Bridry! I thought my
father banned everyone from his study, the young man feigned a stern
tone, still smiling.
Lets say hes
taken to letting me raid his library on rare occasions in exchange for
certain favors we shant speak about, the old man replied with
a crusty voice, embracing the gentleman briefly and clapping him on the
Considering the aristocratic
circles Lord Goddard Lhyvreyn and the renowned Elyas Bridry frequented,
such a nonchalant mention of favors, could be seen as bold
talk. However, Randyl laughed it off, albeit stiffly.
Bridrys gaze subtly panned
around the dark room. As an appendage of the manor that hung within the
path of the black-spewing smokestacks of one of Rynyrs various iron
and bronze foundriesseveral owned by the LhyvreynsLord
Goddards library was always dark these days. Quite impressive,
really. Ive learned more here than at the academy.
Ah, who learns anything
at the academy? the young man chuckled. Some wine then?
Unfortunately, no. I
cant stay long. Other matters, always.
Too bad, but I understand.
I hear youre quite the busy man. There was the briefest pause
here, leaving Bridry to wonder if young Randyl was daring a rather plucky
innuendo. But the face was too honest, the manner too naïvenot
at all like his father, thought Bridry.
Seemingly oblivious to the
scrutiny, Randyl continued. So whats a political emissary
like yourself doing spending time with books anyway? Should you not have
some lackey doing the reading for you while you run about court, scheming
with all the other nobles?
Scheming? Hah! Maybe
in my younger days. That fires all but left me now, Bridry
said, deftly slipping a golden signet into his trousers, maintaining his
warm façade while his gaze continued scanning the room, looking
for the panel he knew must be hidden here somewhere. He absorbed every
possibilitythe tapestry, the paintings, the fireplace, the desk
with its beautiful brace of pistols hanging above it, the bookshelves...
Ah yes, something about the bookshelves
something not quite right.
So what are you reading?
the young nobleman asked. Ive read many of these myself.
Bridry turned and surveyed
the shelves. He hadnt read a single one of these books. He stepped
up a short ladder and plucked out a highly wrought book with metal corners
entitled The Menite Empire Subsequent to the Reconstruction Era. Im
nearly through an interesting survey of Menite temples, mainly those in
western Khador. A brilliant scholaran old chap of mine from the
early days, Sir Wilby Albenbrightpenned it, but I must say Im
disappointed to find that hes focused on existing temples rather
than the more interesting ruined ones. I do so love ancient history, you
know. He slid the tome back into place and reached for another.
Right now, however, Im eager to dive into this old tome.
His finger landed upon a faded
red book, the gilded lettering on its spine tarnished almost black. He
tugged at the book gently, but it didnt budge. A fake. Surely part
of a panel.
Very eager, he
whispered. Randyl, I just recalled something I wish to show you.
But first, fetch Wexler, if you would be so kind. I wish to finish a short
passage and then Ill meet you in the central library downstairs.
I believe youll both be rather surprised.
Randyl peered at the man suspiciously
for a moment, then smiled. Very well, Bridry. Youve always
been one for surprises. I wonder what youve cooked up this time.
The young noble smiled and bowed his head before leaving the chamber to
search down his mentor, Artys Wexler, House Lhyvreyns Minister of
Bridry waited a few seconds
to be sure Randyl was gone, then went and peered into the carpeted hall.
No one to be seen. He shut the heavy iron door with a ka-chunk, latched
it shut, and then plucked a gilt pocket watch from his woolen vest. He
flipped it open and peered at the golden handslittle more than an
hour before dusk. He still had some time, but couldnt afford another
Bridry tucked the watch back
into its pocket and looked toward the false panel. The old man moved quickly,
slipping his belt around to reveal a flat slipcase of tools formerly tucked
against the small of his back. Bridry made quick work of the panel, and
moments later stood in the center of the room, holding in his hands a
packet of papers sealed by an ornate signetthe very same signet
now resting comfortably in his trousers pocket.
Oh, youll be surprised,
young Randyl, he said toward the door where the young noble had
stood just moments ago. Bridrys voice was suddenly deep and sure
now, quite unlike the parched croaking of the elderly emissary. It was
the voice of master spy, Armand Rhywyn.
Armand walked across the room,
his stride solid, no longer betraying any hint of age, and snatched a
leather satchel from underneath an Iosan imitation settee. It contained
a house guards uniform of House Lhyvreyn and some other accessories.
The spy pulled out the uniform and placed the packet of papers into the
satchel, then stepped around a corner and began removing his disguise
in order to replace it with that of the house guard.
The Council of Nobles
doesnt take kindly to the ordnance theyve commissioned being
sold under their noses to Khadoran expansionists, Armands
deep voice whispered. So when they see these ledgers with Lhyvreyns
seal, I imagine theyll haul old Goddard before the court in a day
or two, the spy peeled a strip of flesh-colored wax from one side
of his face, revealing a smoothly shaven, sharp jaw line. Surprise
is the just the first thing you deceitful bastards will be feeling then,
I promise you that!
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