A Silent Game of Spies

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Canny old man, Rhutgard. Hiding away a daughter. That hadn’t been done in, what, decades. He couldn’t remember the last time, not recently, that someone had done that, either a son or a daughter. Harvick understood why, of course, preserving the bloodline through the daughter.

Harvick wished he had a daughter, or another son even, of age to spring out of hiding suddenly. That would be sure to piss of Varley. Oh, the jealousy…. Of course, knowing Varley as he was coming to, Harvick would have to lock this other son or daughter in their chamber all day, every day, or they would find themselves dead at the bottom of stairwell, having suddenly “slipped”….

That was right after the Twenty Years War, mused Harvick. What made Rhutgard decide to do such a thing…. He pulled the most recent book of history from his shelf and blew the dust from its leather. He knew next to nothing about Eastern history besides its changing of the guards, who fought whom during what war….

Harvick cut a few slices of bread, loaded his plate with cheese and fruit, and poured a goblet of wine. He pulled his boots off and laid back upon the chaise lounge next to one of his chamber windows.

Well, well, well, Eastern Shield, Harvick thought as he thumbed through the History of the Era book. Finally, he arrived at Romeny.

Damn. Rhutgard’s first wife and child died before she was fully to term. His next wife, while with child, was entirely bedridden and gave birth early, during which she died. His father, King Galvin, died while choking on a fish bone, of all the bloody things.

Rhutgard remarried once more and had two more – well, now the history would need to be updated, - three more children, two twin boys and a triplet girl. That was quite a line of succession.

Still, a bit dramatic – possibly simply coincidental – to be sending a daughter off so mysteriously. Was he reaching? Actually, in speaking of mystery, Harvick hadn’t heard a thing of Rhutgard’s first son – ah, there was his name, Merridon. Crown Prince. All it listed in the History was “Served 2 Years Posted in the Royal Romeny Army.”

Harvick rose an eyebrow. That was all? For a Crown Prince? All first-born princes were expected to serve a tour of duty in the military, be it Army or Navy. Even Varley had served his two years of duty. In fact, now Harvick’s eldest twin son, Tollard, would be expected to serve, since he would be the new heir to the throne. Though when it was written, “posted,” it was a euphemism for “served somewhere that little or no action would be seen.”

For Kendrick and Keldrick Firthing, numerous listings were inked in, such as “Assisted with Flooding Victims of Ivy Gate After Storms” and “Assisted in Building of MantleTown Hospice After Plague.”

Harvick sighed. What would they write of Varley’s accomplishments? Impregnating whores? Dismissing servants for bowing improperly? Importing massive amounts of silk? He swallowed several more sips of wine.

Since he had the book before him, Harvick decided to flip through the entries of other Shield countries.

His eyebrows drew down suddenly. During the same timeframe as the deaths of Rhutgard’s family members, the Queen of Shaw died, the King of Ghiverny’s brother, first in line to the Throne, died under the ice, while no one could reach him, and four of the Ghiverny King’s closest advisors died, all within a six-month period.

The Hardewold King’s youngest sister died of “Illness, Cause Unknown,” meaning the Healer didn’t know what the illness was. The Delsynth King’s daughter nearly died of a fever, but according to the entry, was listed as a “Miraculous Recovery,” which usually meant that the individual was on the brink of death before recovering.

Harvick glanced through the Northern Countries and found that only the great aunt of the Ambsellon King at the time passed away at eight-six in her sleep, listing of “Old Age,” and one advisor in Ormon passed away of the wasting disease.

In fact, no other deaths of note were listed about the Land, other than those fighting in skirmishes, who, of course, were not noted in Histories of Eras.

King Reaghann of Hardewold – only atop his throne a few years now – his father died of, choking on his food while dining, was it? How humiliating a way to die. The book here was not yet updated, but Harvick had read that from both his source’s pigeon and the official courier. Hmmm. Harvick looked into his wine goblet and swished it around a bit, arching an eyebrow. That suddenly smelled as fishy as the fishbone – food poisoning? Poison? Harvick looked down at his plate and swallowed uncomfortably. He was immediately going to hire a new chef and a personal taster. He was leaving nothing to chance. He would not have it said that he choked on his wine or some such nonsense.

At least King Munsolrysche had been slaughtered to death, stabbed multiple times by knife, even if it was by a woman, his own wife, no less. With a slight bit of humor, he knew an awful lot of men were suddenly eyeing their wives with a slightly different outlook – and hiding the knives.

Perhaps, Harvick thought, now that he knew of all the deaths happening around Rhutgard at the time, hiding his infant daughter seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Well, all the Land was fascinated with the thought of her, he knew. In fact, Varley was on his way to the Romish Court for their Spring Seasonal, in hopes of worming his way into her favor.

Ha! If the girl had even half her father’s brains, she’d see through him and send him back home, whining and whimpering and licking his wounds.

But in the meantime, Varley’s absence gave Harvick time to look over this new Navy Varley thought Harvick oblivious of….

Perhaps Harvick would send it to sea somewhere out of Varley’s reach.

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