Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha) (2 page)

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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We should add that, after the battle, Morrolan caused to be built a floating castle, as was a tradition among his family, which had often lived in such structures before the Interregnum, either because of the ease of defending such a place, or else simply because they were able to.

With Kâna’s army defeated and in retreat, Zerika marched from Dzur Mountain to Adrilankha and began construction of the Imperial
Palace, unaware that the Pretender had other schemes working in case the military attack had failed. In particular, Grita, the daughter of our friends’ old enemy, has offered her services to Kâna in exchange for help in achieving vengeance against Khaavren, Aerich, Pel, and Tazendra. She has been of no small help to the Pretender, in particular succeeding in finding Illista, an exiled Phoenix who has long nursed a hatred of our friends, and who, like Grita, is happy to assist Kâna in exchange for securing her revenge.

We have mentioned Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha. It is also important for the reader to understand that he has fallen in love with the Dzurlord Ibronka, only daughter of Her Highness Sennya, the Dzur Heir. Khaavren, for his part, was outraged at Piro’s wishes to marry outside of his House, and, after harsh words between them, Piro, Ibronka, and their friends, including the remnants of a certain band of brigands who had first been enemies and after soldiers of Her Majesty, have set up as highwaymen in a region some hundred miles northwest of Dzur Mountain.

With the reader’s permission, we feel that, as we promised above, this is a good time to present new information: to wit, a general picture of what was occurring in the Empire during this crucial period, that is to say, what is usually considered the initial year of Zerika’s Reign.

The reader should, first of all, understand that a confederation as strong and as large as that created by Kâna and Habil would not simply dissolve as the result of a military defeat or two. Though severely damaged, like a wounded toe-lizard, it thrashed around a bit, pulled its head in, retreated, hissed, and survived. By the time several months had passed, Kâna had pulled back so that he could reasonably claim to exercise his influence over the western third of the Empire, with the exception of the Fingers, which, except for its few ports, was of little importance anyway. Additionally, certain pockets above the Great Sea of Amorphia claimed allegiance to the Pretender, but this is generally considered to be a fluke, caused by age-old resentment against a previous Phoenix Emperor who took mining rights from various of the counts of the district.

While the geographical regions of support for the two supposed Emperors are clearly identifiable, the breakdown among the various strata of society is less clear. Zerika’s support was strongest among the Lyorn, Tiassa, and Hawk nobles, a statistic that would seem irrational,
as these Houses stood to gain the Orb sooner with a Dragon on the throne. Yet Lyorns have always held that the Orb was sacred, and, in such questions, the Tiassas have more often than not followed the Lyorns’ lead. As for the Hawklords, many of them had interest in some of the iron-rich regions of the Southeast, and, as most of the smelters were near the Shallow Sea—that is to say, a region firmly under Zerika’s control—they hesitated to offend her.

The House of the Dragon was, as the reader might expect, split, primarily according to family ties of those serving in the various armies, and secondarily according to other interests; but for the most part, they tended to support Kâna, because he was, after all, a Dragon himself. Most of the Dzurlords also sided with the Pretender, because so many of their holdings were near the Grand Canal and dependent upon it, and nearly the entire length of the Canal ran through the region firmly under his control.

We should note here that, as the reader may observe, it is, in fact, the influence of commerce, trade, and the practical considerations of day-to-day life that tended to exert the most influence on the loyalties and allegiances of the Houses, not high-sounding considerations of ideals, such as is believed by historians of the romantic school. Yet, to give credit to those historians, it is often those individuals who form exceptions to these tendencies who exert the most influence on the course of history, and are, in any case, the most pleasurable to study.

But to continue: Additional support for Zerika came from the Iorich, because most of them tend to live in cities, and, as a general rule, her support was stronger among those whose income depended upon the sort of manufacturing that was transported by sea, whereas Kâna had considerable sympathy among those who depended upon overland transportation, such as the Athyra (many of whom had logging interests in the region to the west of the Pushta) as well as the Chreotha and Vallista. Of the Orca, those involved directly in shipping firmly backed Zerika, who controlled the most important seaports (not the least of which was proud Adrilankha herself), but the rest—which is to say, the majority—favored Kâna for the same reason as the Chreotha and Vallista: because he controlled so much of the interior transportation.

In many ways, transportation, as the reader may see, was a key issue; at least, it seemed so to Her Majesty. She was never ashamed to say, later, that she had studied many of the improvements instituted by the
Pretender and had learned from them. She immediately implemented and extended his system of posts, which included the delivery of mails and use of post horses by any peer, as well as those on Imperial business. While this was not tremendously successful as a means of garnering support among the more recalcitrant nobles, it quickly turned into a more general system for the delivery of mail, until we have the liberal, inexpensive, and efficient system that we enjoy to-day.

One of the more daring (and controversial) decisions of Zerika’s early reign was that, while she maintained the army, she did not increase it, instead devoting what funds she was able to garner from those nobles who pledged loyalty to her as individuals (decisions on approval by the Houses and the Council of Princes still being some years in the future) to the improvement of roadways, hoping to lure in this fashion more of the merchants.

By the time fourteen or fifteen months had expired, this support was still not especially noticeable. Everyone knew that Kâna was still formidable. To be sure, Zerika had received a pledge of support—that is to say, a promise of future recognition—from the the House of the Tiassa, but none of the others (except, naturally, the House of the Phoenix, which consisted of Zerika herself) had yet even gone that far, all of them preferring an attitude of waiting to see how matters would play out after the inevitable clash.

This was insufficient for Zerika, who continued negotiating with the Heirs and the Delegates, and making such decrees as she thought would win them over. While these maneuvers were not met with a great deal of success, it is certainly the case that none of the Houses ever gave serious consideration to recognizing Kâna from the moment Zerika arrived in Adrilankha.

She also, we should add, entered into negotiations with Elde and Greenaere, as well as with certain of the Eastern kingdoms. And, while she wished to send an envoy to the Queen of Landsight, she did not, at this time, have access to a ship that was able to make this journey. These negotiations produced two results: The King of Greenaere did, indeed, officially recognize her as Empress, and an envoy arrived from one of the Eastern kingdoms, asking for (and receiving) certain guaranties about the safety of those from that kingdom who had emigrated to Adrilankha during the Interregnum. While this kingdom did not, during this period, actually recognize Zerika as Empress, this was
due primarily to the length of time required for messengers to go back and forth from the East—teleportation not being possible for Easterners, and there being no human who knew the Eastern lands well enough to make the attempt.

Other than this, much of Her Majesty’s time was, as we have indicated earlier, devoted to planning for the new Imperial Palace. The chief architect was the Vallista Baron Fernbrook, who, though old, being over twenty-one hundred years of age, nevertheless retained all of his wits and most of his memories. In addition, representatives of each House were consulted, so that Zerika could give some measure of control to each of the Houses as to its own Wing. It is significant that even the Teckla received such an invitation, although through their representative they delegated all such matters to a Vallista named Sandlewood.

The ground was broken on the new Imperial Palace at a ceremony held on the first day of summer: the fifth day of the month of the Hawk.

During the subsequent months, proud Adrilankha came to life once more. The grain exchange and the silver exchange were cleaned, refurbished, and officially opened. Several banking institutions were either begun or re-emerged from a long quietus. In a particularly daring and successful move, the Empress announced that the Empire would once more accept the filing of protection from debts. This was daring because, in fact, the Empire had nothing like the resources to carry this out on any sort of scale. But Zerika believed, and, in the end, was proven correct, that this announcement would give sufficient boost to businesses that it would not, in fact, ever be used. Moreover, it gave the impression of a return to a normally functioning Empire.

The slaughterhouses in South Adrilankha began to work once more, mostly using the labor of the Easterners who had settled there during the Interregnum, as kethna and cattle were driven in from the north. This was good news to everyone except those toward whom the winds blew from these slaughterhouses. Another effect this had was that more Easterners, who had been living to the north and east of the city and barely surviving as free farmers, gave up their nearly worthless plots and moved into South Adrilankha to work in these slaughterhouses. Although this concentration of Easterners (and, indeed, many human Teckla) would eventually lead to social unrest, this would not occur for hundreds of years, and so is beyond the scope of our history.

As a sort of footnote, we should add that certain aristocrats, including the Dzurlord Shant, whose holdings were north of the city, lost some number of Teckla to the employment available in South Adrilankha, which proves that, contrary to claims of those who operated the slaughterhouses, some Teckla did leave the land to which they were legally bound. This was followed up in a few cases, but the infant Dragaeran police force was mostly unable to cope with anything in South Adrilankha.

This, then, is the general state of the Empire. As we open this chapter of our history, our friends are not yet aware of Kâna’s continuing machinations against the Orb.

 

 

Sethra
Lavode

BOOK FIVE

In Which Matters of Great Historical Moment
Such as the Role of the Orb in Determining the Emperor
Are Brought to a Head

Chapter the Sixty-Ninth

How the Empress, Attempting to
Work on the Design of the Imperial Palace,
Manages Those Who Interrupt Her

O
n the ground floor of Whitecrest Manor was a wide enclosed terrace, the twin to the open terrace on the other side where the Count and Countess of Whitecrest were accustomed to take their morning klava and watch the ocean. The enclosed terrace, of course, was used during inclement weather and had been the place where the Countess was accustomed to carry on her work—except that now it was the room where the Empress was carrying on her official business. The room was reached by a hallway with two entrances, one leading down to the parlor, and the other to a flight of steps that went up to the second story of the Manor. This second entrance had been sealed off, and a guard was posted at the first, with instructions to admit no one without permission of either Her Majesty or the officer on duty.

The officer on duty, of course, was generally Khaavren, and it happened to be Khaavren on this day who entered the room, bowed to Zerika, and said, “A gentleman to see Your Majesty. It is Prince Tiwall, of the House of the Hawk.”

“Ah!” said Zerika, looking up from the papers she had been studying, which papers were, in turn, a single entry in a seemingly endless list of details to be decided upon with regard to the design of the Imperial Palace. Before her were not only lists and diagrams, but several different models of the future structures, or portions there-of, one of which was a full five feet high and more than fifteen feet in length, and occupied most of the room.

This activity had taken up so much of Her Majesty’s time and effort that she was often impatient with any interruptions. On hearing who was there, the Orb, which had been circling her head with a beige color of distraction, first turned to a faint red of irritation, then, after
she had reflected, to a warm orange of pleasurable excitement. “Send him in at once,” she said.

Khaavren bowed and, as he had been trained to do for so long, did as he was told.

“I greet Your Majesty,” said Tiwall, a stern, forbidding gentleman of well over two thousand years, whose white hair, worn long and brushed back from his noble’s point, made a stark contrast to his dark complexion.

“Come, Your Highness,” said Zerika. “That isn’t so bad. You greet me as Your Majesty. Does this mean that I have cause to hope the House of the Hawk looks with favor upon my claim?”

Tiwall bowed. “I use the title because of my own belief, madam, that the Orb is the Empire.”

“Your own belief—what of your House?”

“Oh, as to my House—”

“Well?”

“They are considering the matter.”

“Considering it?”

“Your Majesty must understand that these are difficult times, and no one wishes to be hasty.”

“Yet, Your Highness has decided.”

“I have, and I beg Your Majesty to believe that I am using all of my influence within the House on your behalf.”

“I am glad to hear it. For my part, I shall be glad to use what influence I have on Your Highness’s behalf.”

“Oh, if Your Majesty means that—”

“Yes?” said Zerika, frowning.

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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