Perisalas rocked back and forth on his heels, in the Road Office, ignoring the usual noises drifting in from the Serenity Hall, staring down at the the neatly filled out road Sereniteer’s report. The former Mirror had been truthful and reasonably accurate in her description of the Heir in Exile’s group.
If he were given to such displays he might have knocked his head against the nearest wall. He sucked air through his teeth thoughtfully, turned and headed back to his office, his pensive humming occasionally interrupted by a sneeze. Liren’s fluffball had quite irritated him, more than usual, perhaps because of its breed.
Personally, when he had the rare time to actually sit at his desk in the Marble Palace, he preferred a hot-box for his feet instead of the animals the old court carried. It was more impersonal and he found himself glad for not having the emotional attachment to another creature he was responsible for. His job was quite enough responsibility for anyone.
He seized his sword-belt and slung it on as he called for two of the on-duty sereniteers of his escort. Dagasas was probably snug asleep in the barracks, having done his duty on that last tour... he ground his teeth... that last Minis chase. Who would have thought the boy would split off from his protection, his troops? Mahid or not.
“Accompany me, gentlemen. We have another questioning warrant to pursue.”
The Koren house in the Aitzas quarter was occupied by Yeolis who had not seen, nor heard of the former owners since they had apparently driven the two old women out during the sack. I shall wear out this pair of boots in the city alone, much less on the roads of the Empire, chasing phantom heirs that the current... my steel-Armed God... I voted for you and I shall be working for your sister, shortly... the Imperator didn’t particularly want found. The Imperator was known for his soft spot for children. Perhaps it should have been pointed out that Minis is no longer a child?
The records in the city offices revealed two things. Number one that only one of the children who were seized to look like miniature Shefen-kas’s had the name Gannara. One Gannara Melachiya. He filed that away in his mind for later. Number two... that a house was indeed registered to one Ailadas Koren. He noted the address, set a clerk to research the name Minakas Akam, and out they all went once more.
Bright Street. Rather large for a fessas house but certainly worthy of an impoverished professor, a side door.
There was no answer to his knock, so he knocked again. “Ser?” A rather breathless voice from the side door. He stepped to the railing of the front stoop and looked around the corner. A rather meek looking fessas woman stood at that door.
“’T owner, ser... ‘tisn’t home, ser.”
“May I ask who is addressing me?”
“Sera Finas, ser. These lowly ones... t''husband an' this one rent the basement apartment here, ser.”
“Is anyone else home?”
“No ser, just this one... this one works out of home, ser.”
“What is the owner's name, Sera Finas?”
“Ailadas Koren, Aitzas, ser... an a sister o' his is movin' in as well... tomorrer, ser.”
“Is he regularly out during the day, Sera?”
“He's at t'University, ser.”
“Ah. Do you know which department?”
“History ser... Political Histr'y this lowly one's thinkin'.”
“Thank you. Who else lives here?”
“A middle aged lady, an impov’rished Aitza. Kaita Miralean, she's a governess, ser... lookin’ fer work ser.”
“Is there a child?”
“There were, ser, with the two older boys... but they left ser.”
“Two older boys? Can you describe them? What age were they, what did they look like?”
“One a Yeoli boy, ser, second threshold maybe? Blond hair... t'other a fessas scholar, ser, little older maybe... spectacles. Polite boys.”
“When did they leave... what date, do you remember?”
“And they took the child... how old was he, what did he look like?”
“Under first threshold ser. Little bruiser he were. Very loud. I thought he were Ser Koren's grandson, ser.”
“All right then, thank you, Sera Finas. Oh - What time does Koren usually get home from the university?”
“Usually around dinner, Ser.”
“Thank you and good day to you.” She bobbed a nervous half-curtsy. He assigned one of his escort to wait in case the old scholar was missed at the University.
At the Department of History he was directed to the Political section and found a half-open door with a gentleman directing the placement of desk and slotting books onto half-empty shelves. He raised his glove to knock.
“Excuse me.” He said. The two students doing the heavy lifting froze as they took in the official livery.
“Ahem. Come in!”
“Greeting, you are Ser Ailadas Koren Aitzas?”
“I -- ahem -- am that gentleman, ser. How may I help you?” He did not look in the slightest surprised.
“My name is Perisalas Shefen-kas solas, Inspector to the Imperium, special assignment.” He handed the old man his warrant. “Do you have a class in the next bead or two, or are you free?”
He looked up from reading the warrant, adjusted his glasses. “Students... thank you. You may be dismissed.” The two students sidled out, taking in the two solas, wide eyed.
“I am free. Would you care to question me here, or shall I come this you?”
“Best that you come, Ser Koren.” Perisalas ignored the stares of the clerks and helpers at their desks, the rising whispers behind them. He was close to finding the former Spark of the Sun’s Ray. He could feel it, a rising excitement after several years of frustration. No more ‘he were twice taller ‘n a man, ser, inna moonlight an’ his horsen breathed fire, ser! I swear!’
I am now hot on your heels, boy. You won’t be a threat to the Imperium long. You made a mistake bringing your servants back to their homes because you have gone from being one anonymous person in eight million... to a name.
The old scholar settled into the seat in the same elegant little parlor with its mirror, completely at ease. Perisalas took mental note of that. “Kaf? Juice, Ser Koren? Something stronger?”
“Ahem. I could do with a cup of kaf, my good man...”
“Certainly, Ser Koren. Now... I am sure you know why I am here, despite the vagueness of the warrant. I would like to inform you that I have already questioned Serina Liren, and gained a great deal of information. It is best that you tell the truth so that your version confirms hers, assuming that she was telling the truth entirely. I should also warn you that most likely I am going to confirm your version with you under truth-drug, so as to not disturb a young lady with such a procedure, so it is crucial that you be entirely honest.”
“Ahem. Of course. Of course.”
His answers were similar enough that the questioning went quickly, until it came to the alias of the Spark in Exile. “Just before he left, Minis came and informed me that he was going to abandon the 'Minakas Akam' alias, realizing that he could actually be getting the real Minakas Akam in trouble.”
Perisalas sat for a moment, letting that sink in, letting his growing satisfaction cool. “There's a real Minakas Akam? What do you know about him?”
“Ahem. A young fessas scholar who worked in the Spark's household, the Heir's Library as I recall. A few years older than the Spark, he might be third threshold by now.”
“Do you know him? Did you meet him?”
“I do not recall. There were any number of library servants... the pages... trotting about setting the books to rights... I may have.”
Perisalas resisted the urge to begin ripping out his hair. The name, that lovely alias, that everyone agreed upon... evaporating. He’d have to set a clerk to check the records for the other boy... or man, for his own proficiency’s sake and be careful not to confuse the alias with the real name, in his report.
He asked Ser Koren to please lie down on the chaise, that neither the Serina, or the old man had deigned to notice in the room. Brushing off a white dog-hair or two, he did so and offered up his skinny old arm to the needle.
By the time the truth drug was in full effect Perisalas had learned far more than he wished to know about the economics and politics of 498 Past Age, a particularly turbulent year and apparently fascinating to Koren. He was a talker... not just a talker, a lecturer. Mercifully, he did not clear his throat once under the influence of the drug.
“Have you answered my questions about Minis Aan truthfully?”
“Have you tried to hide anything about Minis Aan from me?”
“Is there anything else I should know about Minis Aan that you have not mentioned?”
Perisalas sat quietly, thinking. His suddenly promising investigation had dried up once more, but now he knew the name of the Yeoli boy. Given that the Spark in Exile had risked bringing his servants home to the city, it was likely he would attempt a similar thing with the ex-slave boy. He would have to consult with the parent group who had formed to find all of the boys stolen... and place a watch on the familial house, in Yeoli, if his budget would stretch to pay an informant.
“Thank you, Ser Koren.” He said as the old man stirred. “My man will see you home.” And relieve Tazras of his futile post. “You have been most helpful. Thank you.”