Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Fifty-Seven

"How did the Harpers differ?"

"Solomon Harper made it a campaign to maintain the purity of our genetic ... let's call it our area's human genetic inventory ... with the same relentless vigor that he sought to maintain the inventory of heirloom seeds.  He considered both a sacred duty and it was that issue that began to create tensions.  He strictly controlled who his children could and could not begat with.  Even if they married for emotional or spiritual reasons, if there was a strong likelihood of corruption the begatting in the union was forbidden ... or the couple was given the opportunity to leave the community for areas that would be more lenient."

"That sounds ..."  the Sheriff shook his head.  "That sounds suspiciously like genetic engineering.  I mean I realize families still do it - look at what we are discovering as we investigate this mess before us - but to do it so blatantly ...  The Great Council would denounce an entire clan for that type of behavior and might even remove their status.  There's strict guidelines on how far that type of thinking can be taken.  No one wants a repeat of the era of persecution that existed following the Chaos."

"Yes and that is why my family did not bandy it about."

"I'm curious, did all of Solomon's children abide by their father's dictate?"

I gave a cynical bark of laughter.  "Of course not.  The Harpers are strong-willed by nature ..."  He gave his own bark of laughter at my words.  I nodded accepting his mild humor at my expense and explained, "There weren't many as strong-willed as Solomon but there were a few that went so far as to try and wrest control of the Harper compound from him.  His progeny or not, some paid with their lives and some were exiled and what happened to them has been lost to history.  There were enough children however that remained that the viability of the family was established through two succeeding generations and by the time Solomon was in his 80s and saw his great and great great grandchildren live to be viable that the family was remarkable for the fact when so many other could barely claim two generations living during the same decade."

"But that doesn't mean that trouble didn't occasionally crop up.  There was a grandson that did not agree with the way Harper was being run, was jealous of his cousins as well, and he allied himself with an outside group - the name of which was never discovered or has been lost - and that is how Solomon died.  He had continued to maintain his pre-Destruction labs as much as possible to continue discovering what he could about the various biologicals we had inherited from the war and the years following it.  Even the greatest of the man's admirers called it an expensive obsession.  He spent most of his time in those labs underground and someone sabotaged the gas lines that helped to power the complex of tunnels and caverns.  During the rescue attempt they'd get a few feet only to cause more cave-ins.  Then the winter after the rescue was called off there was a hard rain followed by a sudden freeze and the next thaw the ground above the main complex developed a sinkhole that eventually encompassed almost three square acres.  It took more than a decade for the ground in that area to stabilize as it swallowed more and more land.  Then the year my great great grandfather died - in fact it took his life - there was a huge landslide and the sinkhole collapsed on itself taking several men in the Harper family to their graves."

The Sheriff asked, "This is why your great grandfather gave up the Mayorship."

"Not really.  It was mostly an excuse.  He'd never expected to inherit and didn't want it.  It was a bit of a scandal at the time but the transition was smooth because the Waverly at the time worked with the citizens of Harper and the Mayor's Council to make it so.  And it didn't hurt that Harper needed a Woodsman at the time to replace the Guild family that had died during an epidemic the year before."

The Sheriff scratched the stubble on his chin.  "In all of your family's history you've never heard of a story or legend of some kind of ..."

"Devil resulting from a Linder/Harper begat?  No.  Never.  I suppose I can write and ask Nat but, it would have to be pretty ancient a story.  But if anyone knows he would.  Although I'm pretty sure that he would have mentioned it upon the occasion of my marriage.  I'll pen the letter tonight."

"No," the Sheriff said.  "I'll go ask him myself.  I've another important matter I wish to discuss with him anyway."

The look he gave me left me in no doubt what he referred to.

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