The next morning I found a pile of clothing on the chair by the fireplace. Tunics made from wool with under tunics made from linen, wool trousers, leather gloves and a vest. All had an outdated version of the royal emblem on them and smelled somewhat musty. But they fit and they had no plas in them.
I put some on and went to see if Rhaenan was in her room. She was, sleeping. She awoke at my soft movement, a knife in her hand.
I thanked her for the clothing.
“Keep the shards with you. I’m going to borrow the map, if I may, and do some research.” She yawned, “In a little bit.”
“Of course. Be careful.”
“You as well, my lord.”
“Gestin. Please call me Gestin.”
“As you wish.” She drifted off to sleep again.
I gathered the shards and put them into my belt pouch and left the map near her sleeping head. I didn’t stay to watch her sleep, although I wanted to.
Yerston brought me breakfast and a summons from the Grand Councilor. He looked me over and shook his head at my fashion choice.
“Angestirian, my boy, how are you today? I heard you had a run in with the locals.” Grand Councilor Fadreel rose and waved me to a seat across from his desk. His office had many bookshelves full of both books and items of interest. The staff I’d seen him using leaned against the wall, its purple/pink orb swirling.
I pulled my attention from it and nodded.
“It’s a good thing Captain Vytar was with you. He’s such a loyal fellow. And you met and conversed with Technician Stygand. Good good.”
I realized I wasn’t going to be required to comment, so I continued to nod.
He held up a piece of paper.
“You may want to consider what you say to the heralds. They report it and pass it all around the city. Do you really prefer mules to horcines?”
His left eye twitched.
“I’m more familiar with mules, certainly,” I temporized. “The man who attacked me had been upset at the price offered for his stock from some ‘preferred’ merchant. Are there ‘preferred’ merchants?”
He waved that concern away. “Not really. All merchants are welcome in Crown City. To restrict trade would be bad for our economy.”
I returned his smile.
“I hear your pretty little Nord lady is feeling better.”
“Yes, she is. Thank you.”
We smiled at each other for a moment too long.
He sat back. “So, I hear you are going on a tour of the Technician’s area today with Stygand.”
“He said he would show me its wonders.”
“I so wanted to show you myself, but I am pleased that you enjoy his company. I’ve tasked him to impress upon you the importance of this revitalized technology to the future of Adnor. We are a country without much mystical power. Should your mother’s people decide to attack us, what would we do? The populace fears the Nords’ powers of mind control. Having technology will allow us to strike back should that attack occur.”
“Grand Councilor,” I asked after a moment, “Has Adnor been so threatened?”
“Not in so many words. But the incursion of Nords in our lands has increased. One of the most evil of their assassins has been seen recently. I have no doubt that we all are in danger.”
I could guess which evil assassin he spoke of and had to agree that someone was in danger.
A knock at the door allowed me the option of not continuing the conversation. A page announced Technician Stygand.
The Grand Councilor rose and limped a little as he walked me to the door and bid us good day.
Stygand looked me up and down, similar to what Yerston did, and said “You look very dignified in that old fashion. I bet you bring it back into style.”
I laughed. Tunics and trousers had never gone out of style outside of Crown City.
He lead me to a tower near the library.
“Speaking of style, you mentioned tin hats. I assume you meant the metallic liripipe hoods I’ve seen people wear. What brought that fashion on?”
He laughed. “They think the metal keeps the Nord from reading and controlling their minds.”
Surprised, I almost said “Nord don’t do that, but then thought about it. Nord could influence people, which I supposed could be considered mind control. Metal hats, however, would not prevent that. “What a strange belief.”
He nodded and opened a door that had a metal gate and a lever on the far wall. We stepped in and he closed the gate and pushed the lever down. The sinking sensation and the hum did not startle me, although I think he expected me to jump.
“What do you call this contraption?”
“A lifter. The ancients had them in their tall buildings. It saves a lot of time and sore legs from climbing all those steps.”
“I can imagine. What drives it?”
“An engine and a system of pulleys.”
I almost asked what powered the engine, but I felt that I knew.
“Besides,” he said, “the dome protects us from the Nord, among other things.”
“Surrounding the city. Grand Councilor Fadreel developed it. He is a quite a technician himself.”
“I had wondered about its purpose.”
Our downward progress stopped with a thump and he opened the gate and the next door.
“This is where we make elemental containment systems from the refined plas that the Flowstoners provide us.”
“What do the Flowstoners get in return?”
He snorted and pushed the hair from his eyes. “Money, certainly, but more importantly technology. For example, their land is arid. With the containment systems we make, they are able to transport water, which allows them to grow larger crops.”
They eat crops? I almost laughed at myself aloud. Of course Dvergr were like the rest of the peoples of the world and ate crops. I guess I assumed they ate rock or something. The stories I’d been told as a child, not necessarily from my mother, although she’d been present, implied that Dvergr were all around evil.
The well-lit and hot basement smelled of burning plas and made me cough. Technician Stygand handed me a familiar masque with silver disks, which I immediately put over my face. He lead me to a forge, where a Dvergr stoked the fire with wood chips. A large tank with a ladder attached to its side was connected to the chimney of the forge. The chimney funneled out through the ceiling. The Dvergr grabbed a shovel full of black rocks, scampered up the ladder, and dumped them into the tank. On the other side of the tank, a dark gray substance oozed from a faucet into a mold. Once the mold was filled, a Dvergr took it to a table where it solidified. The mould solidified and was connected to others and a cage emerged. I recognized it as the same type of cage that Zat had been captured in back in Southallow. I missed Zat.
Thinking of Zat made me use my elemental sight. I felt a moment of relief that it worked, followed by disgust. The forge had a fire elemental in it, and elemental sparks caused the lights to work. I controlled the urge to set them free.
Technician Stygand touched my sleeve and directed me back to the lifter.
Once inside, we removed our masques he asked, “What do you think, my lord?”
“And the black stone is plas?”
“No, the forge turns the black stone into plas.”
“The grey stuff?”
“And you can weave that in with wool?”
I wondered if he knew that the plas acted as a block to elemental magic.