“Dowager Imperatrix…” the servant stood, in front of a house-donkey cart full of padded boxes and a sealed note on a salver which he held before him. He cleared his throat. “Since the Imperial Pharmacist is unable to receive these reports and items this one believes that the Dowager might safely take responsibility.” He held out the salver to her.
She took the top note off the thick envelope also lying on the tray and noted that it was being passed on from her son and was addressed to her father and then to her if he were not there.
“… Grandfather, these are all captured from the first barracoon our forces have destroyed. These ‘shot-arms’ or ‘shot-pistols’ are referred to in Fehinnan as hand carron. Apparently they use a form of firework to fling lead shot or stone balls through people’s flesh like arrowheads. I deliver them to you for your inventive ones to examine. For any other information, inquire through the Under-secretary Matthas Bennen… he has the rest of the battle and after-battle reports filed.”
“Yes,” she said. “These need to be handled carefully. They need to be in the care and handling of the Office of Brilliant Innovation and Original and Novel Creation. They should be in the care of the Fireworks Master out of the City. I shall send my Innovators up there. You may use the Imperial laefetas for speed.”
The servant didn’t quite blanch. He was a Marble Palace Servant, after all. He bowed and very carefully turned the house-donkey around and slowly and smoothly drove down the middle of the hallway, clearly imagining the dangerous possibilities of his load.
The packet of reports was thick and Inensa broke the seal and pulled out the report on the new type of ship, reading as she walked to the Office of Creation. Since the first meeting to discuss the illness and explore possibilities, they had needed more rooms for various experiments that grew out of their discussions.
Ubifeksas had brought in a ten of his friends and colleagues and Minis had acquired a budget for their new research from Assembly.
…the new hull shape and sea-legs design works phenomenally… we achieved and maintained a speed of some thirty knots on a relatively calm sea. We successfully took a fleeing schooner full of our people as a prize and continue on our ‘smoke cruise’. The Admiral is pleased with us and we continue to take notes on minor tweeks and improvements that could be made easily and cheaply. Radical new ideas are falling out of our ship-board scholar’s head every bead and we are keeping him busy writing them down.
We are currently using the outermost boats as a prison for ship crews, but they are only appropriate for the short sailing distance from capture back to coast. Captain Filarias is performing brilliantly with this wild-card.
The Srians and the Niah and our forces are working together astonishingly well, though the Haians are still horrified at our brutal treatment of our enemies. We, of course, intend to firmly discourage this enslavement of our populace.
There will be a number of prisoners of war coming into the city… to the new Fehinnan ambassador’s care, since we no longer keep slaves. They nearly got away with one hundred seventy-three of our people, mixed Arkan, Lakan, Srian, and Haian girls and children.
Personally I’d have castrated and hanged the Captain of that ship, as a salutary lesson, but he surrendered and so we shall treat them politely...
She folded the note and tucked it into her private folder as she stepped into the Creative Offices. I am very pleased with the way that Irefas is dealing with this. I believe I know who this operative is, but I cannot be sure. Still, an excellent eye and a good hand, reporting clearly, though the personal feelings should perhaps not be so strongly portrayed.
On an enormous chalk board, two young innovators drew and erased lines, waved their gloves at each other. “Two hulls if you want speed!” Ilo was saying. -- “But you have to have some way of steering this… you can’t make a ship fly!” Amitzanas Murmiras waved his drawing stick so vigorously that the chalk flew off the end three foot long tool and broke on the floor behind them.
“If I might interrupt?” Inensa set the first action reports from the Dust coast on her desk and had their immediate attention. Had Ubifeksas been rubbing his chalky gloves through his hair? It looked like a faintly blue bird’s nest standing up all around his head. Murmiras had a kaf stain on his left glove and sleeve. “Your chase ship idea worked.” That drew everyone’s attention, from whatever odd thing they were doing, heads turning from all over the room. “Dimae’s Hound just saved a hundred seventy-three of our own,” she said to sudden whistles and banging on the desks, just as if someone had scored at faib, or won a race. “Calmly, Sers,” she said. “Calmly, please. Sofonisba, please set aside that contraption and sit here with me to read this.”
“Will this really make you feel better?” Tirchaer asked, nervously clutching at Viper’s reins and her mane. “I don’t see how my riding your horses would help you feel better.”
“Look.” Ili turned and slung one leg over so he sat on Killer’s bare back, legs half crossed. “You want to heal animals on the mainland and there are lots and lots and lots of horses, cows, oliphants and mamoka. Everything from scarf-snakes and wing-cats to flying pigs. You can’t be nervous of your patients.”
“Yes, I understand that,” she said, and tried to straighten up. “But that doesn’t explain how it will help you feel better.”
Ili sniffed. “Trust me. If you can ride with me, it’ll help me feel better. I mean you can feel how she’s standing, with foal, right?”
“Then you’ve learned something valuable. Hey… you should meet Fluffy! Torii Itzan keeps her. That’ll really make me feel better!”
“Who or what is a Fluffy?” Tirchaer gasped as Viper followed Killer out of the riding ring and across the roof to go down the ramp.
“You’ll see. Hey! Hey all of you!” He called to Gian’s class in the dog yard below. “Grab your horses, we’re going to go visit Mil Torii Itzan!”