Things are not all what the seem to be in these unfamiliar lands and our heroes begin to wonder about what’s really going on.
By Christopher Robin Negelein
“I want to kill him!” Fen gripped her reins so tight that her leather gloves creaked. “There was the back of his head and I could hear the gears turning in that thick skull of his. I knew he was planning something.”
Uncle Monteriso nodded. “I never doubted you. It was a good call.”
“But now everyone thinks that I gave him some sort of signal. That I was part of his show.”
“But you know you weren’t. So let it go,” Uncle said.
Her pent-up frustration was ready to burst and she wanted to growl, grunt or something to let it go but that wouldn’t help. And knowing that Uncle Monteriso was right made it worse. She could maneuver around a big man for forever to find his weak spot and then surgically strike but she had no patience with Arwin’s foolishness. For all his talents, he was still a boy at heart — and boys loved attention.
Behind her, Ju and Arwin were talking shop. Their wagon train had grown by more than just a judge, though. The Governor, a general, and a wealthy merchant rode and all their entourages in tow.
They pass through deserted towns every day, while the mysterious Governor kept himself hidden. As the sun descended into the evening sky, the caravan would stop at another noble or official’s house.
Dinner entertainment stayed the same. Another local magistrate would demonstrate their latest apparatus, which was not much more than a moving statue, to be upstaged by Arwin’s realistic clockwork hawk. By morning, their wagon train grew again. Every official and noble wanted to attach themselves to the prestige of the Imperial Ambassador and his pet alchemist on their way to the capital.
On the other side of the desert, Imperial alchemists focused on the practical, mostly war and labor, not works of art. But none of them made apparatuses like Arwin. His hawk apparatus had no equal in the Known World.
If their clan, the Ríagáin, had been freemen instead of tied to the Ambassador’s house, then Arwin’s hawk could have gone to the highest bidder. But then again if their great-grandmother had resisted the Empire, she could have spent a childhood living out of a hut, then again maybe Clan Ríagáin would have been a head clan among the mountains.