August 27, 2005

Chapter 14

Margaret led Matthew down the hall to his new quarters as leader.

"Everything's been cleaned up in here," she said. "Gregory's personal possessions have been boxed for reuse and the library, and yours brought in."

She opened the doors, and they stepped in. The entry area held the same table and chairs Matthew remembered from Gregory's late-night summons, cleared of their usual papers.

Margaret handed Matthew a key. Matthew looked at it for a moment, then opened the second set of doors.

"May I enter with you?" asked Margaret.

"Of course," said Matthew. "I don't know my way around."

"I hardly know my way around it myself. He was very private. I've only been in here once a year, to ensure that Gregory kept up his notes for his successor."

They stepped through the doors into a small hallway that opened into a library. Printed books and handwritten books, diaries of all the previous leaders, shared the shelves. Margaret turned on the desk lamp.

"It sounded like Gregory spent most of his time in his quarters in this room. I understand that chair is well slept in," said Margaret.

Matthew was examining the books on the shelves. History, correspondence, even religion.

"This is only part of it," said Margaret. "The chief archivist can get you much more, even the sealed books. We certainly hope you don't take up religion, but..."

"No worry," said Matthew. "I'd rather be inside defending these walls than with those raiders attacking them."

Margaret laughed politely. "There's more to see, but I think you can figure it out. There's one additional key I have to give you," she said, and handed him a small black square.

"What do I do with this?" asked Matthew.

"Over here." Margaret led Matthew to a painting of the city under construction. "Put that here, and..."

The painting lifted, exposing a cavity stuffed with notebooks and paper. Matthew reached in and collected it all, putting it on the table.

"That's probably your reading for the next year," Margaret said. "Those are Gregory's notes about the things he felt his successor needed to know immediately. He was supposed to reorganize it next month - it gets cleaned up once a year - but I'm afraid your timing wasn't so good. Or his."

"It's going to be a long night," Matthew said.

"Start with the red pages tonight, and read the rest later," Margaret replied. "Your alarm is set to give you time to be ready for the morning council meeting. Make sure you rest a little."

Matthew sat down. "Thank you," he said.

Margaret left him reading.

It wasn't long before Matthew's face was nearly as purple as his uniform, as he stormed around the room with the red notebook. Skipping ahead to what Gregory had to say about him had proven to be a huge mistake.

"Matthew is smart, but dangerous. I never believed his denials that he had grown involved with the farmers' religion, and frequently wish he had been exiled with his friend John when we had the chance. While he is capable, his very skill creates new dangers. You must watch him carefully, ensure that he only receives information that is appropriate to his mindset, and be prepared to overrule him in any matter where he seeks to give too much to the farmers or give too much credence to their nonsense religion."

Matthew muttered. "I need to watch myself carefully, and only let myself have information appropriate to my..."

He snapped the book shut and turned to the papers. There, among complaints from other cities about goods that were never delivered and offers of assistance in return for fuel, was a four-month-old notice from [name], a tiny city well to the north:

"We have removed a group of religious fanatics, the 'Army of God', providing them with boats to cross the lake. They will probably not survive the 100km crossing, but you should know that in the event that they do, they will likely be landing within 200km of your city. We have removed their weapons and left their band of 30 with only basic provisions."

Gregory had scrawled "Why didn't they just kill them? Keep from Matthew" across the bottom.

Matthew shook his head. He hadn't particularly liked Gregory, but he'd had no idea that Gregory was this hateful, or that Gregory seemed to really dislike him. The unexpected problem of this "Army of God" appearing without warning wasn't unexpected. Gregory had had plenty of warning, but refused to pass it on to anyone else because he didn't trust them. The late night calls, the stories that didn't quite add up, and the years where it was impossible to talk to the council directly began to make sense.

Alice and William had reported similar problems, and sure enough, Gregory didn't trust them either. Alice had been a "disrepectful child, who thinks she knows much more than she does" while William "answers questions so slowly that I know he must be hiding things."

They weren't alone, either - most of the notebook seemed to be a long rant about everyone Gregory worked with directly, except possibly for Catherine. Catherine was "wise and understanding, sharing my concerns," but "has lately refused to go to the trysting rooms with me, and I fear she is keeping her distance for reasons of her own."

Maybe, Matthew thought, Catherine was starting to realize that Gregory was getting strange and dangerous, self-absorbed to the point where he was endangering the city. Or maybe not - she hadn't exactly welcomed Matthew either. It was going to be a long night's reading indeed.

Posted by simon at August 27, 2005 10:00 PM
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