This is the first half of the (current) CHAPTER FIVE, introduces the last of the major characters and begins to set the scene for the first major confrontation
“Oh Trelli! Time to come upstairs!”
Housemaid Trelli sighed and stopped cleaning the spoons. Of course with The Master and Mistress out of the house Young Master Migran would be taking, advantage of their absence. She knew this was all wrong and there might well be consequences, but what could a girl from an orphanage do? She was lucky to have a steady job and a roof over her head.
Up three flights of stairs and there straight right to the Young Master’s bedroom, door open and him standing there with a big grin on his face, gesturing to the bed.
“Are you ready Trelli?” he asked with a wink.
“Yes Master Migran,” she replied fatalistically.
“Well there you go,” he said.
Gesturing to the untidy pile of letters, notes and invoices upon his bed.
“You are so very good at filing Trelli; I don’t know what I would do without you. Father thinks I do all this by myself,”
Trelli smiled, indulgently and kneeling at the bed swept up the hillock of documentation, then settling into a cross-legged position on the floor began her usual methodical approach; invoices and bills to the left to be itemised, recorded and totalled, his own notes and scribbles of course in the centre, to be filed for his perusal and finally to the right her favourite, the information he had come by or in rare instances she had passed to him.
Migran having closed and locked the door was now seated at a desk examining Trelli’s previous organisation of the invoices and bills. By means only truly understood by himself he transferred household and family’s mercantile expenses and incomes back and forth to suit the never ending endeavour to reduce the family tax burdens. Unlike his elder brother Presidge he had not really inherited his father’s grasp of knowing what and when to buy and then sell to the best advantage, which included the skill of making folk feel they really should purchase at that time whatever it might be. His talents lay in the arts of numbers and in consequence to compensate for being in the shadow of his brother’s affable but nonetheless dominant personality, Migran had studied the vagaries of arcane tax laws.
Dear little Trelli worried about breaking any laws, which of course being a cautious little brown mouse she would; but he did not see things that way. He was not breaking any laws, as such, simply taking advantage of those vagaries. All in the cause of his true goal and that was an entrance into the shadowy world of the Jordisk. Although he felt they were making too much of the mysterious and dangerous part of their calling. Observations and evaluation was quite enough and he was making progress, true some family funds had been syphoned off, but he reasoned these were simple investments for the future; after all what business man wouldn’t be gleeful in knowing what was going on across the whole Oakhostian?
“What’s this Master Migran?” Trelli asked holding up five pages pinned together and looking very yellow, she sniffed them “S’ very old,”
Migran was not usually given to swift movements but surprised her by the speed of his exit from the chair to her side, hand taking hold of the five pages.
“Ah-Oh. Glad you found that. It’s an,” a pause she felt too long “Old document! And, it’s to do with,” another slight pause then the words spilled “Old tax laws which might still be in existence and can still be useful!” and he covered his withdrawal with a proliferation of expressions of gratitude to her for finding it.
Trelli reckoned on there being more than old papers.
She was ever grateful of being in a kindly household and having a secure job, she did not want anything to spoil that. Like many folk who are grateful of their lot in life she had a highly developed sense of purpose to maintain the said lot.
Three whole days of waiting for the fifth day of the decan; Ghitanixday and half-day when the more fortunate of the serving folk had a whole afternoon to themselves, and their ‘betters’ not wishing to be out-done also indulged themselves, with out of house pursuits. Trelli was scaling the stairs. Four years of dutiful service had made her familiar with all of the house’s little quirks and foibles; in this instance knowing that the lock to Young Master Migran’s was not secure, and if you jiggled a butter knife under the catch, just-so then it would ignore the rusty old mechanism and dutiful slip upwards. Not something she would normally even think about but…
After the two years she’d been his unofficial clerke she’d learnt something of the language involving taxes and it was all to do with ‘persons’ enacting, engaging or instrumental-ing. Until she had seen those five pages she’d never read of interfacial forces, or progressive capacity ratios; whatever they were. In matters taxation all the figures went in columns and did not have letters in the middle or with curved lines about them. She had a feeling he was dabbling, dabbling beyond his depth, and she did not want that sort of trouble coming her way. She could be implicated and from what she’d overheard when the family were at dinner that was not a good thing to happen to folk. And even if not implicated he would be and implicated folk brought ruin of their families with servants losing jobs. She liked Migran, he was a kindly, busy sort, but sometimes she felt he rushed without looking.
And she had to admit she was currently doing something similar, but justified her action under the expedient of, as The Master was fond of saying, ‘Being Alert to Possibilities and Potentialities’
The catch clicked, and she eased into the room, eyes upon the desk she stepped very carefully so as not to disturb any of the new batch of papers which would be awaiting her administrations. The desk was the one part of the room she was not allowed near, if she was in the room he was always between her and it. If she was asking to come in there was a lot of clicking and locking sounds before being allowed to enter. Securing things was all well and good, if you kept the keys in a secret place, but even blocking her view the sound of metal upon porcelain had on previous occasions given the game away and thus the inkwell not looking inky had to be the place and so lifted its cover.
She was rather pleased with herself, three small keys sitting at the bottom, she fished them out with a knitting needle and carefully set to work; firstly upon the cupboards on each side; more papers and a book with the lurid title “The Lustful Revenge of the Scorn’d Princess N’Y Hishleal of Old Roder”.
Five pages in, Trelli felt her face very hot and her palms very sweaty indeed; she’d never known such things were even possible between people. She steeled herself to put it back and to carry on with the search, even if her imagination was now intruding upon her resolution. She drew breath.
Karlyn begged the pardon of the bumble-bee she’d been chatting with; she tugged at her shirt and wrinkled her nose.
“There’s another one clean one? But all fuddled with cooking and dusting? That’s interesting,”
She mused down the road they. It was coming from the same place as where they were headed…
Trelli with new steadfastness continued her investigation upon the desk. The draws upon the left held two thick volumes, the contents being some more of those complex arrangements of figures, symbols and words. Whereas she could recognise the individual words the contexts left her quite perplexed. This much she could figure, there was a similarity between the content therein and that upon those five old pages. The sight was very unsettling, nervously she drummed finger upon the desk top, and heard a distinctly hollow sound, shifting a few sheets of tax work to one side she uncovered a keyhole, and not stopping now forged on to carefully work the lock and gently, very gently lift up the desk top, now obviously a lid and peek inside.
Something of a metal box shape, glinting, a faint shadow of her face suggesting an inlaid mirror. Nothing she’d ever seen before, and being a servant in a mercantile household allowed you to be familiar with all sorts of shapes, sizes and devices, but nothing with…
Small, glinting gems?
She dared not raise the lid higher for fear of causing something to happen; what she wasn’t sure but was certain it might. Nevertheless, both curiosity and an urge to keep her job secure found her reaching inside through the narrow gap to touch a metallic surface that seemed to modestly quiver beneath her touch. Once again whereas she didn’t have a clue just what it might be, she was fairly certain it was wrong and…
“Trelli! What in little hell!!!”