Ch. 52. Ah, Getting To It

“Thank you, once again, Captain Starhand,” said Ionas Farseer.  “If there is anything that you wish to ask me or something you are curious about, then please feel free to ask.”

Peino nodded graciously as the lookout of the Calinda raised his glass and knocked off half the liquor, setting the remainder down within easy reach, as any right-thinking selkie would with a good, strong, salted mead.  The Prince of the Grand Navigators smiled at the way Farseer had responded to the offered drink.  A tad on the defense, perhaps, he thought, but he seems to know well the place in life he quit.  A proud and intelligent young fellow like this, it would be interesting to see what he might make of his career.

But there were ranks and there were ranks, and while a prince might presume more than a captain, it was as a captain that Peino sat in the Alderman’s Inn.  Thus he set aside his curiosity and gave his full attention to his peer, Captain Lafitte.

The eorman’s proposition caused Peino to raise both eyebrows, and his officers to exchange surprised looks.

“Indeed, Captain Lafitte?” said Peino.  “An interesting suggestion.”  Starhand paused, a little taken aback.  Lafitte’s words echoed a thought that had been awaiting attention at the back of his own mind, but one which he had suppressed as too complicated to address.  He spoke on with the care of a tightrope walker.

“I fear I have pressing business in Sesus from which I cannot vary or delay any further than the repairs to the Daughter will take.”  He could not and would not discuss the diplomatic chest under guard in the Daughter’s hold this very moment.  He was fairly certain that once that item was delivered, he would be free of obligation to the High Courts of Aria and Lyrion, but one could never guarantee the whims to which diplomats might be subject.

“I must confess, sir,” he continued, “I am not the expert on these cards, nor am I certain of their origin, or how many might be in circulation, or where they may have flown to.”  Peino poured himself another half-draught of mead and drank it quickly, letting the stinging liquid add to the warmth he already felt from it.  “My intention, once my business in Sesus is complete, is to hand these two to my noble brother, the State Magus of the Grand Navigators.  He is an expert, perhaps the expert in these parts.”  The look Peino gave Lafitte was calm but calculating, as if he was deciding what his words meant even as he said them.

“If you wish to investigate this matter further, you may do well to consult with him — though I do not speak for him and make no promises on his behalf, by any means.  You understand, of course.”  Peino paused again, and cleared his throat rather pointedly.  “However, my brother is a busy man and sparing with his time.  He won’t see just anyone without a reference to vouch for the visitor, and… well, it’s a puzzling position, sir, as we do not know each other.  Perhaps we should sleep on the problem.”

With that obviously strained speech, Peino left off.  These cards fairly screamed for an investigative quest, but the obstacles to such a thing were high and wide.  First there was his mission to Sesus and the moody and impulsive High King Iviar, with whom Prince Peino, Champion of State of the Grand Navigators, had never been on the best of terms.  If not for having saved the King’s son’s life a few years ago, he would likely not be here now at all.

Then there was the simple truth he had stated to Lafitte.  He did not have the first idea how to go about investigating the appearance of these two enchanted cards of summoning.  But his commander’s mind could not help but consider the question.  Such a hunt would likely need multiple champions, and this Lafitte seemed a likely enough fellow, but —

That brought him to yet another obstacle, which was that Lafitte was a total stranger whose connections and reputation were unknown.  Peino’s natural caution and reserve counseled against inviting him back to the Navigators, even as his instincts told him to keep the flying eorman in sight.  At the same time, yet another thought reminded him that some alternate way of getting Lafitte to the Navigators would have to be found, for Peino would be cursed if he would sail halfway around Aeldreth with dragons diving over his head the whole way, chasing that outlandish balloon.

“The Daughter is scheduled to leave on the dawn tide,” he concluded simply.  “Perhaps a course of action will come with breakfast.”

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