A LONG excerpt from Heart Legacy. This was the original conversation between Draeg and Tinne Holly, took place later in the book, and is Too Detailed and Long. So it was cut and put up front
He'd disrobed and taken a waterfall, pulled back the bedsponge linens, when his perscry -- his personal scry pebble -- sounded in the quick blazer hum Draeg had programmed for Tinne Holly. Tinne was Draeg's contact with the cadre of nobles who'd sent him to find out what might be happening at D'Yew estate. And to discover if D'Yew or her Family was involved in attacks on others, as Tinne suspected.
The Yews had been the strongest and most conservative Family in all the FirstFamilies. Tinne and some other younger nobles of the FirstFamilies had thought that a fanatic fringe of the ultra-conservative Traditionalist Group had recruited them as well as being behind the attacks.
Though every group, political, religious, even sports related, could develop fantatics, the FirstFamilies hadn't had to deal with murderous ones for a long time . . . since the Black Magic Cult, nearly two decades ago.
Three weeks ago, when Draeg had been called into the company of his friends to undertake this spy job, the atmosphere had been grim.
Now he grabbed a long tunic and pulled it on, stroking his thumb on the scry pebble and saying, "Here."
The holographic image showed the head and shoulders of Tinne Holly, who seemed to have extra lines in this face than the last time Draeg had seen him.
"Greetyou, Tinne. News?"
"Yes, and of the worst sort."
Sucking in a breath through his teeth, Draeg said, "Murder?"
"Attempted, and did include death." Tinne rubbed his temples with forefinger and thumb.
"Who?" demanded Draeg.
"A workman in the new GuildHall." Tinne's mouth twisted. "It appears as if he brought in a celtaroon to let loose. Probably bespelled to find and bite a particular person. But celtaroons are notoriously stupid and difficult to control. The guy got bitten himself."
"Good luck for our side," Draeg said.
"Target?" asked Draeg asked.
"The man was scheduled to be working on the office of the new Captain of AllCouncils."
"Walker Clover," Draeg said harshly, "a former Commoner raised to Noble."
"Walker Clover." Tinne matched Draeg's tone. A few seconds hesitation on Tinne's part when the lines in his face deepened, then he added. "As usual, Walker had brought a couple of his children with him today and would probably have done so tomorrow."
"Cave of the Dark Goddess. Still after the kids?"
Tinne rolled his shoulders as if shifting a burden. "Who knows? Getting rid of Walker would be . . . a great blow on behalf of the Traditionalist Stance."
Draeg followed his logic. "Walker is the first born Commoner to rise so high politically on his own merits."
"That is correct. And the Traditionalist Stance doesn't want any more Commoners to be ennobled, despite the strength and potency of their Flair."
"Yeah. What went on?" Draeg asked.
"Zanth and Felonherb FamCats happened to be in the GuildHall." The ends of Tinne's lips curved upward. "They sensed prey, found and tore the celtaroon to pieces. Apparently they considered destroying the thing a competition."
Draeg considered that. "Just as well."
Tinne snorted. "I suppose, though if there was any spell evidence on the creature, it was demolished."
"Huh. Any chance of such a spell remaining?"
"We don't know. That is to say, neither our chief investigator in this matter, Garrett Primross, nor the Clover head of security, nor the Captain of the Druida City guards have been able to determine anything from the shreds of the celtaroon."
"FamCats who 'help' can be a pain in the ass."
"Also correct," said Tinne, who had one of his own.
"So the workman got killed himself. Can't say I'm too surprised. Staging 'accidents' is problematical. When did all this happen?"
"At the change of shifts in the GuildHall from day to evening, WorkEnd Bell. A lot of people coming and going."
"I understand," Draeg said. As far as he knew, all the Yews had been at one of their formal dinners. Tired of standing, he went over to the bedsponge and settled in against two hard, thick pillows that no longer puffed out dust when he leaned against them. "What about the dead guy? Do we have any info about him?"
"He is a known member of the Traditionalist Stance, a minor relative of the Equisetum Family in the north who had their estate confiscated three years ago when their previous crimes were uncovered."
Draeg grunted, frowned and shifted his gaze to the beamed ceiling instead of Tinne's expression that seemed to age before his eyes.
"What about the Yews?" Tinne asked.
Draeg raised his eyebrows. "I'm sure that you and the others realized that when I hired on as a stableman I would be living near the stables. I am, three rooms over the stables. I am not allowed in the Residence. However, I saw no glider leave the estate tonight."
"They must be embroiled in this," Tinne said. This time he sent fingers of both hands through his hair. "No one else hates my lady, my children, so, and we were the first targets and none of us Commoners. And the former D'Yew made threats--"
"Thirteen years ago," Draeg reminded softly.
"All of the FirstFamilies are known for holding a grudge," Tinne shot back.
"Got me there," Draeg said. "So you suspect the Yews are behind this. That the 'accident' of the broken balcony was really an attack on your wife and daughter, and your son's near miss at being hit by a glider a week ago was intentional."
In the holo, Tinne stretched until Draeg could hear his joints pop. "I do. I suspect the Yews. My wife has no enemies except for them. Aurea and Marin have no enemies at all. True enemies of ours should be calling feud and sending guards out to fight, but these are sneak attacks." His face hardened. "Only the Yews would sneak around like this. They don't have guards?"
"None that I have seen."
"They've kept themselves confined to that self-sufficient estate, not participated in society. We don't know what's going on there."
"Thus the reason you sent me in. Still no evidence on your part."
"No, nothing I can point the authorities to, either Garrett Primross as our unofficial guy or the Druida guards, let alone good reason to convince my father call feud on the Yews," Tinne snarled. Then his face smoothed into a haughty expression Draeg had only seen when the man booted someone out of his place of business, The Green Knight Fencing and Fighting Salon. Tinne's voice dropped into a good imitation of his sire, GreatLord T'Holly. "My dear SecondSon,"
Draeg winced. He was a SecondSon and he'd never liked being called that in that particular tone.
Tinne's eyes gleamed as he recognized a good audience, and he repeated himself. "My dear SecondSon, we have no good and solid reason to suppose the Yews were behind the accidents, nothing that would stand up to scrutiny of other FirstFamiles. We would be ostracized if we called feud. Our old feud and other . . . missteps . . . have not been forgotten." Tinnes eyebrows raised as T'Holly must have raised his. "And who, precisely, would I call feud upon? The current GrandLady has not been confirmed by her Family as D'Yew, and is, I recollect, the age of one of my Son'sDaughters, not part of society. Innocent. Untried in political affairs. That would be perceived so very well by the authorities and the FirstFamilies Council."
Clearing his throat, Draeg said. "The man has a point."
"He does." Tinne paced and the new scry pebble Flair tech kept him in Draeg's view.
"Your G'Uncle Tab would not have approved a formal feud."
Tinne stopped, stared at Draeg, his expression fading from T'Holly's to Tinne's more mobile one. "You said his name," he whispered.
"Who? Tab's? Yeah."
"I think that's the first time you mentioned G'Uncle Tab by name since he died seven years ago."
Heat crawled up Draeg's neck. He hoped the dim light in his room didn't reveal it to Tinne. "I should have gotten over his death sooner."
"There is no set time for grieving," Tinne said. "And, in some ways, you were nearer to him than I. I'd already found my love, my HeartMate, been blessed with a daughter and son. You were Tab's closest protégé, and you'd just lost your parents." Tinne frowned. "The losses kicked you into Passage, didn't they? And you nearly died? Took a ritual to keep you with us."
Draeg so didn't want to hear that, go over that again, especially since he wasn't done with Passages to free his Flair. He should have had another one last year, or maybe next. His Passages weren't as well regulated as other people's.
"Yeah, well for a proper and official feud, Tab would have expected–" Draeg closed his eyes, he should be able to remember this. His mentor had schooled him more than he'd wanted on feuds and duels. "A list of five good reasons to call feud including enemy actions threatening the Family fortunes, Family estate, or lives of the Family. The most important being the lives of the Family."
Tinne grunted. "Yes, a deadly attack on one of our Family members."
"That would do it, too."
"No evidence, only suspicions." Tinne resumed pacing.
"Your wife and children are protected," Draeg said.
"Yes, they have Holly guards." Tinne's mouth flattened. "And I bought them amulets from T'Ash that at the first hint of hurt will teleport them to Noble HealingHall. But none of them, not even Marin, like the guards accompanying them everywhere, and my daughter objects to wearing the same piece of jewelry every day."
Idly, it crossed Draeg's mind that he hadn't seen one bit of jewelry on D'Yew. He said, "We seem to have two different issues here–"
Tinne made a disgusted noise, chopped his hand in the air. "I've heard that. If the Yews were behind the attack on my ladies it would be revenge for harm to their house, because Lahsin killed the old bastard T'Yew in self defense and his unstable daughter went mad and withdrew into that estate and no one has seen hide nor hair of a Yew in society since."
Draeg inserted, "And if, as it seems, the Traditionalist Stance has a deadly fanatic fringe making 'accidents' happen to ennobled Commoners . . ."
"Or their children," Tinne slanted Draeg a glance, "which could include all you Blackthorn adoptees."
Draeg felt blood drain from his head, his breath shorten, and was glad he wasn't standing. "I will point out that all of us adoptees came from Noble Families to begin with. Dad was GraceLord Betony, my sister Doolee is an Elecampane–"
"But Antenn, your oldest brother was a Commoner." Tinne did point at Draeg. "He was Mitchella Clover's ward when both of them were Commoners. And Antenn was nearly squashed by that block of granite while working on the cathedral a month ago."
"That was an acciden–" Draeg stopped.
"You don't think the falling block was accidental."
"I think that your brother is a better architect and craftsman than to have left any tottery blocks of granite that might fall. I think that the near fatal balcony accident of my ladies had something in common with that block of granite."
Tinne strode back and forth. "That balcony did not just happen to break. Everyone knewAurea wanted to watch the parade** and that my wife Lahsin would be with her. And everyone knew Lahsin and I had rented it for Aurea as a NameDay gift." Tinne shuddered. "If they hadn't fallen together when it broke and Lahsin hadn't teleported them away . . . ." His fingers fisted. "Druida would have seen a true and bloody Vengeance Stalk."
Wanting to distract the man, Draeg went back to Tinne's previous statement. "What do those accidents have in common?"
"Construction accidents, building," Tinne said. "And three years ago, when the Traditionalist Stance first came into being, there was a builder ruined because of his association with that political stance."
Draeg found his jaw hurting from clenched teeth. "That noble was ruined because he refused to honor his contract."
"Ruined in one day. By your brother, Antenn Blackthorn-Moss, who is not beloved of the Traditionalist Stance since he ruined at least two Nobles and uncovered the murderous tendencies of their founder. Doesn't it occur to you, to anyone that a murderous founder might have drawn other people of like mind into the party? The Traditionalist Stance has a deadly fanatic fringe. I'm sure of that."
"And you think the accident with Antenn wasn't one."
"Antenn is a Commoner who is part of a FirstFamily. He may be considered as your adopted father's heir. Isn't that true?"
"And as for the rest of you, you who were Noble by birth already, you all moved upward into FirstFamily status and society and influence. Your good friends are from the FirstFamilies, you belong to FirstFamilies clubs like The Green Knight Fencing and Fighting Salon, and social clubs. You have access to the strongest Flaired people in the world. People who shape society and the world. That can cause a lot of resentment in those from older Families who haven't been able to climb so high, that Commoners are better connected than Nobles who've had titles for three or even four centuries. And Commoner women like Danith Mallow and Mitchella Clover have married into the highest strata."
"They're HeartMates of FirstFamily Lords, fated mates," Draeg protested.
"They're Commoner women who have married FirstFamily Lords, born children of mixed blood, Noble and Commoner."
Draeg's mouth dropped open at the wrongness of that statement. "Nobody cares–"
"Born children with odd Flair, perhaps. Born children who might be mutants."
"We're all fliggering mutants here on Celta. Probably were on old Earth, too. Nobody cares about blood," Draeg's words exploded, the last bit of calmness from his meditation vanished.
"Most people care about the strength of Flair, true, but I think those of the Traditionalist Stance care about mixing Noble and Commoner blood. And I think the Traditionalist Stance has fanatics, like this workman today who targetted Walker Clover or his children."
"Your're sure the workman was involved."
"He was found in an empty room with a Celtaroon. A hole in the wall had been drilled for the beastie to be placed, for it to nest. Signs in his workbox showed he'd stashed a celtaroon in it and brought it in."
"You think this incident is linked to the accidents to Antenn and your ladies."
"You'd rather think them coincidental? That there are two sets of deadly folks running around?"
"Other than that, why do you think the Yews are behind this?"
Well, Draeg wouldn't call him on that since Draeg trusted his own gut. But serious lack of evidence. He kept quiet and Tinne stopped pacing, said slowly, "Lahsin is suffering from nightmares, about the time she was T'Yew's child bride, caught in his Residence and with his Family who put DepressFlair bracelets on her." Tinne touched his own wrists that showed elegant marriage bands. "She's gone back to the MindHealer for sessions about that time in her life."
"And you think she's picking up on – what? – inimical energy from the Yews?" Draeg kept his voice even. He stared Tinne in his cold pewter eyes. "I can and will assure you that the current D'Yew is not involved in hurting your woman or a girl a year younger than she or a boy of ten."
"You're sure D'Yew isn't involved in any of the accidents or with the bloody Traditionalist Stance fanatics," Tinne Holly snapped, holographic gaze on Draeg blazer intense.
Draeg shot back, "All of D'Yew's energies are going into her Household–"
Tinne's mouth twisted. "And that doesn't clue you in that something is twisted in that Family, that they should demand such and drain her so?"
"–and in loving and caring for her animals. Her stridebeasts, new horses, and FamCat."
"She has a Fam?"
"That's right, one called Baccat."
Tinne grunted. "Fams usually don't hang around people who aren't loving to them." But his face set again. "Doesn't mean the rest of the Yews aren't up to something." Finally he hesitated, then said, "and I'm sure that the Yews are deep in the Traditionalist Stance."
"Maybe. We haven't established that connection."
"Except for my gut."
"Except for your gut."
"Three years ago people of the Traditionalist Stance said they had members in the highest households of Celta." Tinne pointed at Draeg again.
Draeg raised his hands. "Not me."
"No, no one in the Blackthorns, and no one in the Ashes. Both of your Families and staff have been rebuilt from one member these last twenty-four years." Tinne considered. "Probably not anyone in my Family, the Hollys. We're large, with relatives running our Residence, but we aren't so good at hiding agressive tendencies and sly sneaking." Tinne flicked a hand as if dismissing his relatives. "But we were never one of the ultra conservative Families who would be drawn to the Traditionalist Stance anyway."
So Draeg put into words the rest of the logic. "The Yews were the most conservative of the FirstFamilies, the bastion for following the old ways."
Ticking off FirstFamilies on his fingers, Tinne said, "From most conservative to least: the Elders, until he died and the new GreatLady from a minor branch of the Family inherited. The Yews, the Birches, the Ivys, the Hawthorns. The Hawthorns now have a young, progressive entrepreneur as a GreatLord, who is enriching his Family more than the last three have, if he had Family members who were of the Traditionalist Stance bent, I doubt they'd have remained that way. Since the contretemps three years ago, the Ivys have distanced themselves from the Traditionalist Stance. T'Ivy stated publically that he no longer belongs to the party. I believe him, though he might have people in his Residence who do."
"That leaves the Birches and the Yews."
"That leaves the Birches and the Yews," Tinne agreed, "and, I think, primarily the Yews."
"I hear you."
"Glad you do. Too bad others don't. Someone is putting gilt into the Traditionalist Stance's coffers, more than just those Nobles whose names are public. Significant gilt."
"Generational FirstFamily gilt?" Draeg asked.
"First Family gilt. And that's why you're there at the Yews. Thank you for that."
"Tinne, darling, Aurea and Marin want snacks with us!" called Tinne's wife, outside of the scry area.
"Draeg, come see me and report tomorrow night," Tinne ordered. "Later."