The conquest of Banay
If ever a general has better prepared an attack on an enemy town than Moyri and me our entrance into Banay, I would like to meet her, and swap notes. We had our apprentices inserted in the town, we had reports that they were doing well, had spread out, taken jobs and were spreading the word, we had assembled another retinue, which included smart and gifted apprentices — now we only needed to announce our arrival and let the powers that be in Banay prepare for our entrance.
So we waited for another day, on a big wheat farm, half a day outside Banay. A pleasant place to stay, but nothing really to do except go out, find a secluded spot and make love. Which we did.
Our entry in Banay was all one could wish; there were people waiting for us at the East Gate, we had a procession to the Town Hall. Weirdly enough, most towns in Valdyas don’t have a Town Hall. But then again, most towns in Valdyas are known to other towns, though I guess there are always surprises. Trynfarin was one, Three Hills another. Though at least their neighbours knew about them; nobody in Selday knew about Banay.
Well, state visits go like state visits. It wasn’t exactly boring, but we’ve got kind of a routine now. I go visit doctors, midwives, priestesses of Naigha and the Town Guard, Moyri talks with the heads of the Guilds, the Mighty Servant, she’s called Sidhan, and the important merchants.
The usual things happened; I got some more acolytes of Naigha to travel to Selday, to apprentice in the hospital, the doctors and midwives’ guild was very glad to see us. Jeran had already taught them a bunch of things, amongst them the cure for the silver sickness.
The sheriff of Banay, Erne, was plenty glad to see me, too, and we spent quite some time setting up a scheme for inquiring after disappeared children, and for reporting back to Selday. She told me that most of the richer, more important people came from Dol Rayen, and mostly lived clumped together in little quarters that reflected the old quarters in Dol Rayen. The common people were mostly local, and there were very few “foreigners”. Which explains why for the first time since like ever I was being stared at. Oh, there were some Ishey, of course, but they didn’t count as foreign. And there was an Iss-Peranian baths in the harbour quarter, so Moyri and I decided to visit there as soon as possible.
Then I finally visited the, rather grand, Temple of Mizran. What we quickly learned, even before my first visit, from one Vauri who had been fired from the Temple of Mizran, and Halla, who had taken her place, was that the one person with egg on their face here in Banay was the Mighty Servant. Halla had actually purloined the secret administration and hid it in our bedroom in the Town Hall.
The banquet was everything you might expect from a banquet given by relatively rich people who never have had to pay taxes, are close to the sea and the woods and have rich farms all around them. It was a bit exhausting, but it was quite fun to tell them that the baroness and her wife wanted to be seated together. I had the High Priestess of Naigha as my other neighbour, and I had already found that it was really interesting to talk together.
After food, dancing. Lots of dancing, and I actually had a lot of fun! Which is strange, because we were really worried that the town would take an instant dislike of us. We got some undercurrents, that the gentry were surprised themselves that they didn’t think of us as interlopers, so I guess our hearts and minds campaign was a success.
A pity, though, that the campaign meant we’re going to lose Sabeh. She had come to me to learn to make sweets, and came with us so she could continue to learn Guild stuff. But she’d found a job in an inn, and really liked it there (and, I guess, the son of the innkeeper), so she decided to stay.
We left the dancing quite early, for two reasons… The first is that it was obvious that no matter how much fun we had dancing, the real party wouldn’t get in full swing until the Guest of Honour had retired. And the second one was that all that dancing had made it really hard for us not tear the clothes off each other and make love then and there.
And that would have done much to undo the good impression we had made, invidually, together and as a couple. So with a short detour through the kitchen to borrow some olive oil, we went upstairs, closed the doors, said our prayers and remedied our lust.
The next day was more meetings, and more meetings, and debriefing our infiltrators. And making plans to catch the Mighty Servant the next day. We decided to occupy the Temple of Mizran at dawn, and make sure we had all the proof we needed before the Mighty Servant appeared.
Moryi was still asleep — now we’re in a town again, she’s reverting back to her sleepy-headed habits — when I went to the town guard. We also had our band of apprentices, both the ones who had gone into town, and the band we’d collected in the hinterland of Banay. We posted people at every door the Temple Had, and posted some more around the house of the Mighty Servant.
Halla had actually also stolen a key to one of the doors, so we could get inside without having to pick the lock. Which was a pity, because it is a useful skill that I like to keep in good form at. Vauri and Halla quickly showed us where the secret safe was, and Vauri knew how to open it without a key. Now we had proof in our hands… And then I set Halla and Vauri (who I appointed as Clerk Investigator) to look for more: I was so sure that if this temple wasn’t in touch with other temples that there must be false seals for the other temples, to create fictitious letters of credit, for instance.
And they found them. In two caches, one had the seals for lesser temples, and the second, best hidden cache had the great seals of Essle, Albetire and Valdis!
When the Mighty Servant left her house, she was immediately arrested and brought to us. Of course, at first she was all bluster, but when we showed her what we’d found, she lost all of that. Actually, she looked kind of relieved that it had all come out now, and that surprised me.
From there to the trial at the end of the week brought out a lot of the rat in me — I mean, bite and never let go, no matter how hard people try to dislodge you. I sent the next senior Priest of Mizran to collect a dozen clerks, to send out in the town and the countryside to discover how much real estate Sidhan owned, and to have all those houses and farms searched for incriminating evidence.
The first search in her own house I took upon myself, with all of Sidhan’s servants waiting in the garden. We found her hidden cupboard, which contained in the first place a whole lot of money, and in the second place, another hidden cupboard, which contained a lot of jewels.
What I wanted to make sure of was whether Sidhan had been involved in the child smuggling, so I asked Vauri and Halla to turn the whole house inside-out, and if they didn’t find anything, find a builder to demolish it from roof to cellar.
The only thing they found was a continuation contract with some people from Solay, for bigger sums than I had ever heard of. I left my investigators ripping off the panelling, but they said they wouldn’t need to do real damage to the house.
It might make a good place for a town hospital, so I made a mental note of that.
From the house, I went to the guard hall, where I interrogated Sidhan in my most devious way.
And then I went away, and came back, and so three times.
When I was having dinner with Moyri she wondered whether I wasn’t actually tormenting the woman. I thought about that, and I think that one other session would still be in order. As I explained, I wanted the people in the barony to know that the chief sheriff of the barony was really tenacious, tough and implacable. And a bit of a terror. Well, Moyri had to agree with that, but she reserved her right to tell me when I start acting like I’m with the Nameless, so only one more session, not more than that.
During dinner, we got news from one of the farms that Sidhan owned in the neighbourhood. In a locked chest in “her” room, our people had found the originals of the contract I had only got the continuation of. It turns out she had a thoroughly illegal deal with Sithi crime-lords to swap Valdyan silver for gold stolen from the Imperial Treasury.
When I taxed her with that at the last interrogation, she admitted everything. She had set all of this up, receiving money and giving fake letters of credit for them to acquire the tens of thousands of riders to swap for the gold. Gold is worth much more than silver in Valdyas, but it’s the other way around in the City. And when she had started, she couldn’t stop any more.
Well! Of course not. Every Sithi knows that you don’t want to deal with those people.
When I got back, Moyri and I started making love, while talking shop. What can I say? It’s the way we’re made. I can perfectly well drown Moyri’s face in all my wetness while mulling over what punishment an errant Mighty Servant deserves, and Moryi can clench my fingers between her thighs while she answers that, no, this probably doesn’t deserve a hanging. (Well, almost, at the actual climax, we usually are silent.)
In the end, while we were basking in the afterglow, we came to the conclusion that we would leave Sidhan locked up here in Banay until we were back in Selday; then send for her, and send her on to Essle, so the Temple of Mizran in Essle could deal with her. We would confiscate everything she owned, give part of it to the Doctor’s guild to found the new hospital, part of it to her servants. A really panicked kitchen drudge had accosted me that afternoon to ask whether she would get her week’s money, which would have been paid tomorrow, and I had told her, nope, not from me. But that was so Moyri could hand it out, and be thought kind and caring. And we’d take the rest to fund all the things we want to do in the barony.
No execution, a proper punishment, and handing her over to the people she really hurt.
And with that plan, we fell asleep.
We would need to wait a couple of days for our investigators to finish tracking all Sidhan’s property. But it was already clear that we wouldn’t find more crimes, so Moyri and I went down to the harbour. The harbour master still looks a bit like a rat, but he’s friendly enough, and, well, he had no choice. The harbour is no longer hidden using semsin, and we had a stroll round and found some likely apprentices. Here once again, there were not just teenagers, but also adults who had never learned to use their Gift. A twin brother and sister had taught each other, a bit.
At that moment I realized what we were doing, gathering people from all over Idanyas and taking them with us.
In the first place, making it possible to teach all those untaught people a little.
In the second place, mixing Idanyas up. Take someone from three villages to the east, and leave them here, where they can get a good apprenticeship, and maybe find someone Gifted to learn from.
In the third place, keep and retain the cream of the crop. They might be kids, sometimes, twelve or thirteen, or maybe even older, but they’re smart, they’re done at the temple school or town school, they’re gifted, and if they come with us, they’ll have adventure and fun and will learn, and when we arrive in Selday, we will have a two dozen clerks who are learning to work the way Moyri and I want them to work, and whom we can trust, and who can be our staff for governing Idanyas.
I never really noticed much of a staff with the other barons and baronesses we visited on our way back to Selday, but everyone has to figure out what works for their charge, and I think this is how we will handle ours.
Besides, it’s fun!
The trial had many attendants, and the confession of Sidhan and Moyri’s verdict were well received, from what our apprentices had picked up, her contrition, my investigative powers and Moyri’s leniency were all popularly acclaimed. Of course, it’s not necessary to be popular, it works just as well to be feared, I guess, but we left Banay quite content.
With three more carts, four more oxen, four more horses and about a dozen extra “staff”.
Semsin lessons tonight are going to be FUN!
Oh, and in the end, we decided to take Sidhan with us after all. She’s quite good at teaching people things, and she does have a very large knowledge of the world. So this travelling guild school now also has their history, trade, geography and fraud skills teacher.