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Vlad Li Tam

Vlad Li Tams summer office was on the eighth patio of his seaside estate. The building was layered like a pyramid, each level smaller than the one before it until the eighth and last-the highest point in a

hundred leagues or more. There, reclined on cushions and smoking his pipe, he asked questions and gave answers as he saw fit each day, every day.


What news have we of my forty-second daughter? he asked, drawing in a lungful of the kallaberry smoke.


The aide found a string on his stack of pages and followed it to the appropriate message. She comes under the color of knotted blue.


Ah, he thought. An admonition couched in inquiry. She was a clever one. Hed named her for the water ghosts that once raced the oceans-the Jin of Elder Times. Quick and unseen and too deep to be caught.


Shed lived up to her name. What is her admonition?

The aide shuffled papers about. Her admonition is that the metal man is returning to Pope Resolute.


Of course, Vlad Li Tarse Rem thought. He is dangerous and in danger all at once. He didnt need for

her to say that she would accompany the metal man. He knew that she would. And what is her inquiry? Do you still mean for her to wed Rudolfo?

He knew his daughters well, and now he smiled. Once the new Pope issued his decree, Vlad Li Tam had known shed write and ask. Not because she thought his strategy mightve changed-though shed tell herself that. She would ask because there was a part of her, deep down, that saw marriage as the hunters snare-something to poach but not be caught in.


He laughed. Of course I do. Resolute the First will come to nothing. Lord?

He inhaled from his pipe and watched the green waters of the Inner Emerald Coast. What else do you have?


The aide pulled the dark purple thread-a color not on any message scarf but known to be that of silent kin-clave. Ive word from Resolute, said the aide, ordering significant credit transfers of guardianship custom to Sethbert.


How significant?


Certainly enough to offset part of the impact from destroying the major pillar in the Deltas economy. For a short while, anyway.


Vlad Li Tam smiled. He only needs it for a short while. The Writ of Shunning coincides nicely with Sethberts guardianship of Windwir. Its not a stretch to assume he intends to take the Ninefold Forest under his care as well.


But why? Vlad Li Tam did not ask this question out loud, though. He did not want his aide to know that he did not know-it was better for them to believe he knew everything.


Most days, he did know everything. But today, he did not know why Sethbert had turned on Windwir, why hed brought her down so utterly without any warning or posturing.


The plan was well conceived. The cousin conveniently away at the Papal Summer Palace. The apprentice paid for. The metal mans script rewritten. Sethbert had managed to bring down the city, prop up his economy and position himself to annex the Ninefold Forest and provide the muscle for an Androfrancine Remnant.


But why?


Rudolfo also rides for the Dragons Spine, the aide said, pulling another string. His Wandering Armys vanished.


Vlad Li Tam sighed. Hed known the army would vanish. Hed wondered whether or not Rudolfo would go to face the Pope. Now he knew something more about Rudolfo.


The aide shuffled paper. That is all of the unquiet business of the day. And the quiet business? Vlad Li Tam said.

Pope Petronus has voided our letters of credit in the Windwir Effort, with apologies. Vlad Li Tam leaned forward. Because Sethbert is tending to it?

The aide nodded. Yes, Lord.


Good. Tell Pope Petronus that I will keep his secret. For now.


I will send the message immediately. The aide stood, bowed and left.


Three days, he thought. In three days I will tell everyone that I am going to the Dragons Spine as well.


Vlad Li Tam inhaled the deep salt air. It was nearly as soothing as the kallaberry smoke. I wonder what we are making, daughter, he said to the sea below.


Rudolfo | Psalms of Isaak 01 Lamentation | Jin Li Tam