The governor’s office was a large stone structure at the base of the ramp. All wagons in and out of the town were inspected, and the cargo recorded. Marianne was responsible for reviewing the records while Arian was away, so it wasn’t unheard of for her to drop in unannounced. Marianne stepped into the two-room office. In the front room there were a number of chairs and a table with a pitcher of water on it.
Carina went to the table and poured herself a glass of water, while Marianne looked into the inner office and made her presence known. Santerson’s face went white when he saw her. Across the desk from him, with his back to Marianne was a man wearing all black. The two of them were conversing in hushed tones. Marianne stepped out of sight towards the table.
“Cari,” she whispered. “Follow this guy when he leaves, see where he’s from. He looks like one of the guys from last night.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” replied Carina, who downed her glass of water and left the office.
Seconds later, the man in all black walked past Marianne. He didn’t look at her, and when he passed he bumped into her, knocking her back a half-step.
“Pardon, goodman,” Marianne said after he passed. The title implied that he was of lower social status. “Perhaps you don’t recognize me, my name is Marianne Tilwin, I’m the Lady of Rock Keep.” She was offended by his lack of manners. Marianne didn’t often hold on ceremony, but running into someone without apologizing was rude, regardless of social status. She would have apologized had she run into one of the dirt farmers.
He looked over his shoulder, nodded his head and replied, “Sorry ma’am,” as he walked out.
Marianne walked into Santerson’s office and sat down without waiting to be invited.
“I apologize for the brutish exit, he’s a Mooredander. They’re not known for their social graces.”
Marianne had trouble keeping her mouth closed. “Why was there a Mooredander inside my village without my knowledge? Since when are we receiving foreign dignitaries in the village, rather than in the keep? And on what authority do you speak to a Mooredand citizen in any official capacity?” Her anger was building, but she attempted to contain it. This wasn’t the time to lose her head. “I hope that you have a satisfactory explanation. Your actions, at best, are grounds for dismissal from your position, and at worse, treasonous, and grounds for hanging.”
“I apologize for any miscommunication. I sent an official notice to the keep last evening about their unexpected visit. When I didn’t receive a response, I didn’t want the men to feel slighted, as your lack of reception would surely have done, so I organized a reception here and accommodations within the village. It probably wasn’t what they were used to, but I’m sure you’ll have no trouble smoothing things out with them. Since you’re here, I’ll arrange for them to speak with you. My official business with them is concluded. I’m sure they can be in the office here within the hour, if you’ll wait out in the reception room, I’ll send a messenger to find them.” Santerson’s tone was smooth, he was a politician through and though.
Marianne considered all of the implications of the situation. If Santerson was telling the truth, and someone at the keep didn’t relay the message to her, it would be easy enough to find out. Even if that was the case, when there was no response he should have come himself, and brought the delegation with him. Mooredand didn’t send people to The Rock Tail often, it was an auspicious enough occasion that Santerson should have told her.
If he was lying, he could have just set all of this up to elevate his own position in an attempt to gain favor with Mooredand for trade, or, slightly worse, he could have been attempting to weaken her position, in the beginnings of an attempt to take over the Keep. The worst case, of course, was that Santerson hired the Mooredanders to kill her, and the third man escaped and was informing Santerson of their failure.
“If you notified the keep and they failed to notify me, you still should have personally brought the delegation. At this point, I am suspending you as Governor. I will oversee the village, and ask Mister Brown to find an alternate job for you. I’m certain there is room in the dirt farm for you,” Marianne said.
“You can’t do that! Arian is Lord of the Keep. You have no right,” Stammered Santerson.
Demoting him made him a personal enemy of the family, but he lost access to any resources he could use to hurt her. If he was going to do anything, he would have to do it directly, especially after she had him working the dirt farm.
“I have full control of The Rock Tail while Arian is away. I absolutely can, and have done this, Luke. Your services are terminated, effective immediately. Please leave my office.” Santerson got up, gathered a few belongings from the top of the desk and his coat from the coat rack and left. Marianne got up and sat behind the desk, waiting for Carina to return. She busied herself reading through all of the paperwork in the office, searching for anything that showed some evidence of Santerson being involved in the attack.
Carina came in, covered in sweat, poured herself a glass of water, and sat down in the chair opposite Marianne. “What happened to Governor Santerson, my lady?”
“I removed him from his position on suspicion of treason. There was a delegation of Mooredanders here last night. He didn’t inform the keep, instead, he put them up here, in the village.”
“The man I followed was from Mooredand. He walked around the village, offering gold in trade for items. He seemed to be killing time. He entered a house on the far side of the village. I’d been gone a long time, so I ran back. I see you were busy.” Carina, realizing how familiar that all sounded, added a belated “My lady.”
“Luke said there were three. Today there is only one. It seems evidence is mounting against the former governor,” said Marianne. “I need to finish going through these papers, would you please send Mister Brown in? I need to make sure Santerson is working in the dirt farm, and I’m going to promote him to acting governor.”
“That is a good choice, my lady. Thomas Brown is a good man.” Carina got up and left the office, leaving Marianne to study the paperwork. She sorted the files into two piles, those that seemed in order, and those she needed to look further into. She was upset with herself for allowing the situation to get this out of control.
It was almost an hour before Carina returned. Marianne waved them into the office. “Thank you, Carina. Thank you for coming, Mister Brown.”
“Yes, my lady,” Thomas Brown replied. He was an older man, his face was tanned from years of working in the sun. He had a limp, from an accident in the corn field,
“Thomas, I have two things for you. The first, would you please find a place for Luke Santerson to work, preferably in the dirt farm? Secondly, I find myself in need of an acting Governor. Your name was the one that came to mind for the job. We’ll make it permanent when Arian returns.”
Thomas replied, “Yes my lady. I will see to it at once.”
“Thank you, Governor Brown. The council meets every fourth day, the next is the day after tomorrow. If you’d like, I’ll meet with you tomorrow and bring you up to speed on all of the duties and the stores for winter.”
“Thank you, my lady. I look forward to it. I will go see to Luke Santerson now.” Brown exited, leaving Carina and Marianne alone.
If there was a creature in the whole world less patient than Carina, Marianne didn’t know it. She paced for a while, then sat at the desk and cleaned her fingernails with her dagger, and then paced some more, all while Marianne poured over records.
“Carina, how many ships do we send to Mooredand every month,” asked Marianne.
“I have no idea, my lady. I try to pay as little attention to that as possible.”
“Just take a guess, based on what you’ve heard in the council.”
“I’d guess maybe three? I don’t know.”
“Nineteen. Three of Arian’s ships every month, plus sixteen hired ships. And according to this form over here,” Marianne said, holding another paper up, “We’ve been paid in iron for them, one hundred pounds of iron ore per ship. Have we seen any iron ore?”
“First I’ve heard of it.”
“So where is Santerson keeping the ore? We need to find him, right now before he can move it. There’s almost a ton of iron ore. That’s enough iron to buy an army,” Marianne said, standing up. “Come on, someone will have seen him.”
Carina took the lead, asking person after person if they had seen him, finally one man pointed towards the docks. “He bolted out of his house about thirty minutes ago, heading for the docks. He was carrying to heavy looking bags.”
“I’m sorry that I don’t get out as much as Arian does, what is your name, sir?” Asked Marianne.
“Alfonse, my lady.”
“Thank you, Alfonse. Would you and your family please join us for dinner at the keep tomorrow night?” Carina was already running towards the docks.
“Yes, m’lady. We would love to. It’ll be me an the wife, and our eight little ones, if’n that’s okay.”
“We’ll make it work. Thank you so much, I look forward to getting to know you. I’m afraid I must run now, by your leave.”
“M’lady doesn’t need my leave. Please go and catch him, I always knowed he was up to something.”
Marianne ran. Carina was fast, but Marianne was faster, even in a dress. After she hit the top of the ramp, she hiked her dress up around her waist and concentrated on stretching her stride out. She covered the ground at an amazing speed, catching and then passing Carina.
“My lady!” Carina shouted. “You’ll cause such a fuss, everyone can see your nethers.”
“I’d run stark naked if I had to to catch him, now keep up Cari!” Marianne laughed. She ran the same loop Arian did almost every day. If he was running, it must be for a good reason, she’d thought, so she better too. Marianne hadn’t ever told anyone where she went, although half a dozen people on the island had seen her.
Carina matched Marianne’s pace, although it was hurting her to do so. The closed on the warehouse just as Santerson was going inside.