Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty

I have felt terrible for days now for unloading all of my findings upon the Sheriff.  From what I hear he has been closeted for long hours at a time with the Chancellor.  I believe The Linder joins them but only secretly as to not create too much conjecture as to what the three men are meeting about.

What I found amounts to this, Ceena and Tonya - and their siblings - are descended from a violent family group that emigrated from the Borderlands into western Tentuckia.  The histories that I've been able to find claim their reasons were to purify themselves of the contaminated begatting they experienced following the Days of Destruction.  But I question this because regularly they intermarried with individuals that came from the very lands they claim they had sought to escape.  It would not be obvious for the casual observer of history, but with the help of Ceena's genealogies combined with esoteric historical texts I found cross referenced in the Linder Museum, the pattern becomes almost impossible to ignore.  Some surnames changed as generations progressed but usually not so much as I could not find them again with a little diligence such as cross checking tax rolls and census records.

I wish that Nat were here ... and yet I am glad he is not.  I could use his expertise in ancient documents but it would entail explaining things to him that I would rather avoid.  He already regrets not doing more to stop my marriage but he thinks more because of my age.  I have never shared with him most of the darker aspects of my original sojourn at Linderhall.  He would find it devastating and heap undeserved guilt upon his own head.  But the last thing Nat should feel is guilt.  He has watched over me and guided me for what feels like so long and has instilled in me a core of security that nothing can shake.

Which is a good thing because now perhaps I have a discovered a clue as to the origin of the deep seated hatred directed at me by Ceena and Tonya.  If I am translating the correspondence in my husband's old files correctly, it was hinted at that any progeny of Ceena and Tonya would be favored above any of my husband's other wives' children ... unless they were proven unable to bare uncontaminated children.  The only thing standing in the way of that would have been the Old Laws designating lines of inheritance.  It is my hypothesis that - at least in part - that was the reason for what I suspect were the poisonings of so many of my husband's wives and children.  The murder of the wife whom I replaced was either accidental or, sadly what seems more likely, is that she had begun to suspect that they were inhibiting her ability to conceive.

That is one of the things that I found so humiliating in Tonya's journal.  I believe it was their intent to do the same with me; however they reckoned without my training in herbalism and my insistence on fending for myself rather than being waited upon by the staff.  I also did not regularly - or willingly - seek out Ceena and Tonya's company and most of my meals were eaten privately in my own quarters, cooked by my own hand, or with Mizz Marta in hers and out of their reach to create mischief upon.

My husband's journal of that year has been denied to me despite my application to the Chancellor to read it.  I tried to not be offended by the denial of what should have been the right of a widow but it was not until a brief meeting with The Linder that I was able to put my feelings aside.

"My dear Widow.  I know this is not traditional.  And I know that it is unjust.  But please, take my word for it, that is not a volume that you wish to read."

"Guardian I have no illusion left where my husband is concerned and my only reason for requesting access is to examine it for clues that might help all of us unravel this mystery so that it can be put behind us as constructively and as quickly as possible.  If there are regional secrets contained ..."

"No.  If that was all I could redact them from the journal though thank you for giving me a more legitimate excuse for my actions," he said with a sardonic lift of his brow.

Stiffly I said, "Whether you are acting as The Linder or the Guardian, you do not need to legitimatize your edicts to me."

"Perhaps not," he sighed.  "But I have found being honest with people is a much better route than tyranny or subterfuge.  When I say that it is a volume that you do not wish to read I do not say that lightly.  Daren has informed me that you are admirably capable of separating emotionalism from facts in order to come to a constructive conclusion.  I honestly admire that and wish more were able to do so.  But the truth of the matter is your husband's journal is filled with ..."  He stopped and wouldn't meet my gaze.

"I assume the Sheriff has spoken with you of my findings."


"Is ... was my husband complicit in the ... misadventures of his wives and children?"

"You are ... extraordinarily perceptive for your age."

"That is not an answer."

The Linder sighed.  "I will be as honest as I am able at the moment."

"I do not need prevarications."

"And I will give you none but ... this is a terribly tangled web and it must be untangled gently or risk exposing certain families to censure that they may no longer deserve ... and I'm not certain they even knew what was going on to begin with."

"You suspect the involvement of the Vanburens as well?"

"As I said ... perceptive."

"Then let us return to my original question.  Was my husband complicit?  Did he know or take a direct hand in it?"

"Direct hand?  No.  However I believe at some point he began to suspect ... but he put it at the feet of the anarchists.  Much the same way my own father automatically seemed to choose them as the enemy."

"Could it be possible that too is part of the plan?  A ... a misdirection if you will?"

He looked at me but didn't answer so I knew that subject was off limits.

"Did he never suspect anyone in his own household?"

"Towards the end, yes."

"Did ... did he ... did he think it was me?"

"No.  No my dear, exactly the opposite.  And it is that part that I do not feel you need to read about."  At my confusion he opened his mouth and then closed it in regret.  "Widow, I do not care for the idea much less the reality of child brides.  I certainly do not care for the idea that my own kinsman would participate in the practice.  I like even less that he would intentionally maneuver people so that a specific child bride was chosen for his purposes."

I blinked in shock.  Swallowed.  But kept my thoughts to review later.  "He ... he in no way acted like he was even ... even ..."  I ended breathlessly and was forced to stop and catch my runaway thoughts.  "If that was indeed his strategy he must not have enjoyed the results of success."

"Actually I believe the problem lay in timing.  His addiction altered his perception and made him feel younger than he actually was.  It gave him a feeling of physical prowess that he did not deserve.  And it made him feel he had more time than he actually did.  He stated that he also had to be careful because of the existing treaties ... I believe that to be a reference to Ceena and Tonya's families so perhaps he was unconsciously aware of the danger they represented.  They're families are still very powerful and could cause a considerable amount of problems should they turn against us.  And then ..."


"He began to distrust them.  It was after ... after the night they struck you."

Trying not to lose focus for I hate the memories with a passion I said, "So he suspected but did nothing?"

"He suspected that they were involved with the anarchists not that they were ... devotees of the Darkfriars."  Looking troubled he added, "I will end on this one last note Widow.  My father's cousin was an ill man ... but he was sorry for that night ... that last night he spent with you.  He remembered bits and pieces of it and ... and described it, castigating himself for losing control.  And he had plans to make it up to you."

I did not respond. Could not.

"Do you ... suspect ... whether my sister wives had anything to do with his death?"

Obviously relieved to drop the other subject he said, "On the contrary, it appears through intercepted correspondence that Ceena and Tonya were quite concerned and then panicked as his illness did not abate.  It was they who insisted on sending for the best doctors in the region even going so far as to do it against your husband's explicit instructions."

I nodded slowly, "Which means that they had designs on what is now your position for reasons other than simply inheritance."

Back on more solid footing The Linder dismissed me with the thought, "Widow, issues of inheritance are never simple."


1 comment:

  1. I NEED those shelves in the picture!!!! NEED NEED NEED!!! lol!