Ecdysis - Chapter 11

Published at 18th of June 2022 03:56:12 AM

Chapter 11

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“That was quite a tale,” Aikerim wiped the sweat from her forehead and looked around, “You are not to talk about it outside of these walls nor to the people not present here, if you care for your safety. This is both a threat and a warning: if this information spreads outside you might as well say good bye to Erf now for even I won’t be able to keep him safe.”

Sufficiently cowing these around her, she turned back to me, “How much does Albin know?”

“General details, nowhere as much as I’ve shared here. Our conversations were mostly about Emanai rather than my past.”

“I wish you would have said nothing at all, yet his possession of the Sphere makes me hopeful that he will try to keep this information hidden just as well. I will not divulge why it is important, lest I will be forced to keep all of you within the Manor for the rest of your lives. My daughter included. As most of you know, there are spells that could read the thoughts of wer and wermages. Very few know them and even less can cast them, I am neither, but their existence is…known.”

Aikerim sighed in the deathly silent room, “Fortunately, one must know what they seek inside the mind. Erf’s revelations are quite enigmatic and ambiguous by themselves, unless you talk about them to others, or know the reasons why such secrecy is important. You can talk among each other about it in general terms without delving too deep into detail. Erf has a ship, he came from far away and knows a lot. End of the discussion. Anything more will be discussed in this room. You should also make a similar room within your estate but I would be present no matter what.”

She leaned forward and stared me down, “Do I make myself clear?”

“Obviously, and I agree as well.” I nodded, sparing a glance at the blue glow inside her palm. Judging by the visible effort and the glow, Aikerim was spending all her powers on the security of this place. “I already got too much attention as is.”

“Good.” The blue glow disappeared, “At least I married my daughter off to someone with a status.”


“Are navigators like royalty of your people?” Aikerim wondered without paying too much attention to flustered Anaise. “A single Manor to rule the rest?”

“Not quite,” I tried to come up with an appropriate definition making sure not to touch any sensitive topics too deeply, “There aren’t specific families that all navigators hail from. We are picked based on psychological factors and aptitudes — you wouldn’t make a sailor from a person who is afraid of water, for example. When you have passed the selection, you are given the offer which many decline. After all, the task ahead is immense for very little reward.

“A captain has a lot of power in the sea, but that doesn’t mean you will be sailing a large warship. None do. Most of us travel, carry freight, and explore. The very very few that see their ships grow into large ‘floating cities’ usually find themselves busy with administrative work, rather than enjoying their privilege. But we should talk about that during our next conversation.”

She nodded, acknowledging the hint, “Nevertheless we should proceed with establishing your sadaq in the eyes of Emanai. Having my daughter within it would significantly strengthen your position in the eyes of the public. An attack on you would be an attack on Anaise and by extension — the entire Kiymetl Manor. More so if the sadaq is seen as hers, if in name only.”

Aikerim glanced around only to frown at the lack of surprise on our faces. “Daughter…”

“Erf is right,” Anaise responded, “They all deserve to know as soon as possible.”

“Which is why I wanted to bring it up today. You telling them yesterday had achieved nothing in value but made them feel threatened by you rather than me.”

“All my wives had been nothing but sensible so far and I know they will continue to be wise with their decisions.” I stepped in, “And if the emotions will run hot I will mediate between them all. It is my responsibility after all. We will discuss it among ourselves and will make a logical and sensible decision, for that you have my word.”

“Very well. I will hear your decision and the reasoning behind it once you do.” Domina put aside the topic and immediately launched into the next one, “I’ve given you Wrena as a master carpenter but there will be issues with smiths. Most masters in the city are beholden to Samat Manor. I can try to pressure them for one, but don’t expect someone of great quality or trust. My husband recommended taking someone from his family instead. They have plenty of blacksmiths among their Manor to keep their hooves properly shoed. As Domina, I agree with his suggestion.”

“Lack of a coppersmith would be unfortunate, but not critical. I…we need those that we can trust. Those that would be happy to see their Manor grow and prosper rather than be envious of your fortune. People who can swear an oath of silence to you just as Wrena did.”

My sadaq shifted as Aikerim’s tail swayed in pleasure, “To me?” She purred with a mock surprise, “my, how generous of you.”

“To you. I have no means of enforcing the oath so it would be nothing but words if they try to cross me later. Not only that but you provide me with land, starting capital, and labour while I bring my labour as well as the profits from our venture. Would I be able to do it alone? Perhaps, but nowhere near as fast while putting myself at a greater risk. There is no point lying,” I waved in the direction of my estate, “all that is the result of us working together rather than one directly exploiting the other. And I intend to continue it that way. Especially now, with Anaise to solidify our partnership.”

“So you finally grasp the real purpose of a sadaq.”

“I knew from the beginning that it was more about establishing long-lasting connections and agreements between the Manors, rather than mutual attraction. I do not seek it, but I am not going to discard it either.”

“While you might not, other Manors definitely will. Be ready for more offers in the future, especially once your renown spreads. My gut is telling me that you will have plenty of these.”

I frowned, “You want me to spend less time with Anaise?”

“I want your and therefore her sadaq to grow and prosper!” Aikerim growled, “While you can refuse such offers, know that many base their trust only on familiar relations. Your refusal will be seen as an unwillingness to trust them or a desire to betray them in the future. At best. At worst you would insult them most grievously. Pray that you would survive their wrath afterwards.”

“So that some Matriarch could waltz in by throwing a daughter or a niece at me? No thanks. I am not obligated to love someone, nor do I require their help. Navigators were made to survive and thrive alone, if necessary.”

“No one will force you to love them,” Aikerim swished her tail in dismissal, “These unions, if they even materialize, would be of a political necessity. Your status as a murk would actually work in your favour here — most would be unlikely to push for children. What you are likely to end up with is wives in name only. Advisers, if you may, that would trade their marriage for the ability to influence your sadaq from within. Intermediaries between yours and their families. No matter, there are more pressing things to worry about than the size of your future sadaq.”

“Right, manufacturing.” I nodded, “I don’t need the smith specifically for their art rather their knowledge of how metal both hot and cold works. And the dangers associated with it. A trustworthy blacksmith and a few apprentices would be plenty. A potter perhaps to make complex shapes and moulds. And metal, a decent amount of it — iron and copper specifically.”

“You need money?” Anaise frowned.

“Not money — copper itself. It has properties that I want to explore,” I scratched my chin, “These two are extremely important in bulk especially iron and through it — steel.”

“And how much do you need?” Domina hummed in thought, “Both metals have a significant cost and I know you won’t be satisfied with a single sword’s worth.”

“I would need a decent amount. Enough to build machines just like the loom out of iron alone,” I sped up my explanations, seeing the slowly bulging eyes of my listeners, “Quality is irrelevant, however. I don’t need sword steel for this, any iron would suffice even the unusable leftovers that smiths throw out.”

I knew that Emanai used bloomeries to produce iron and steel. A costly and lengthy process that required smiths to hammer the impurities out from the spongy bloom. Not only did it take time, but it also couldn’t remove harmful impurities like phosphorus and sulphur. And if the ore was too contaminated — the bloom would be useless. Easy to crumble and impossible to hammer away.

A waste. Unless you knew chemistry and could remove the impurities through other means, that is.

“Any iron waste would work. It would pay for itself once I set up the process of making decent steel. Or we can come up with other means of revenue if you decide to keep the steel for your Manor. I was thinking of making iron from ore but I saw the workshops inside Samat. There is enough metal in the city for my current projects.”

“So it begins…” Irje murmured under her breath.

Yeva coughed.

“Something tells me that I shouldn’t ask about your projects that are beyond the current ones,” Aikerim grumbled looking at my sheepish sadaq.

“Yes. Whole buildings made from steel would come much later,” I grinned.

Aikerim opened her mouth, stalled, and palmed her face in resignation, “And the potter? Are you going to build flying towers out of clay?”

“No, that would be silly,” I shook my head, ignoring unamused glares from all sides. “I need custom moulds for casting glass and metal, a potter would probably have applicable skills. And chamberpots.

“Chamberpots,” Aikerim’s voice was dripping with sarcasm, “How could I forget.”

“That is not a jest, Aikerim. While I do want to make better tools I also want to improve my everyday life. Not in wealth but in amenities I have access to. A thousand little luxuries of life.”

Yeva was losing her battle against snickers, badly.

Good for her, she did not look comfortable near Aikerim at the beginning.

“And my sister had requested a meeting, along with you.” The older werfox spoke, her hand busy massaging her temples, “It might be prudent to ‘lose’ you along the way, lest you cause an incident at the court of the Kiymetl Speaker. Perhaps Virnan Shah would stumble on our entrance.”

I pouted. Damn fox knew how to hit below the belt.


The kilns were already hot when we arrived. Shahin chose not to wait for us and organized the workers. The image of the aloof envoy disappeared. Her clothes, once vibrant and colourful, were coated with dust and grime. Yet she stood tall, unwilling to break under her new circumstances.

“It takes time to get them running,” She murmured at my raised eyebrow, wiping the soot from her forehead, “A day would be wasted, if you do not start them early in the morning.”

That was true. The ovens were large and rather complex, it took hours to get them to the working temperature. I was thinking of having them work non-stop but the lack of decent lighting stopped me short. Too much heat and danger — I had no desire to start losing people due to accidents because I wanted to save fuel.

“And what if you failed?” Yeva hissed, “Do you know why and how they work?”

“I have spent entire yesterday watching you lead and them — work,” Lamia turned toward my irate wife, “And I know a thing or two about ovens. I know the purpose even if the reason still eludes me. What does this complexity serve?”

I scooped Yeva into my arms, “It reuses heat to warm incoming air, making the resulting fire even hotter. It allows me to reach the temperatures I want with cheaper fuel. You are quite eager to start.”

“Yes,” She answered plainly, “If I were to spend time here I would choose work rather than waiting for one of you to come over.”

Judging by the scowls of the workers around her, this desire wasn’t that welcome. Or she just started ‘extra’ early.

“Erf,” Yeva whispered to me, “Why are you telling her all this?”

I placed a kiss on her forehead, smoothing her frown, “I will be very busy in the upcoming days, and so are you, most likely. If she is that eager to work with glass — let her. Nothing here is a secret she doesn’t already know.”

“I can stay here during the night as well,” Shahin offered amidst the horrified servants, “I know how to tend to the fires.”

“I believe I made myself clear yesterday,” Yeva growled back, “You have a place to sleep. Want more? Earn it first.”

Lamia glanced at me and I shrugged, “I won’t have people working at night and keeping the fire burning wouldn’t save any fuel.”

There were battles I refused to fight and this was one of them. Not only I didn’t want to undermine my wife’s position, and possibly face her wrath later, but I still was on the fence on how to treat the snake myself. Even I found myself thinking occasionally about Irje’s wound when I was talking to the lamia.

“As-s you wish.” Shahin bowed, “What are your orders?”

“What were you working on at this moment?” I looked down.

“Your flasks and other weird bottles,” Yeva spoke up in my arms, “As well as some glassware for the incoming Esca delegation.”

“Right. Then you should continue making these under the supervision of my wife. Work well and hard and you will continue operating the glass ovens and learn other techniques. I will need you to power some runes in the upcoming days, how long can you do that in a day?”

“With these?” She brought the shackles to my face, “less than a moment. If you remove them — a third of a day.”

Yeva froze inside my arms.

“I will keep in mind for the future, then.” My hand gently rubbed Yeva’s back. “You can continue.”

“Right.” She bowed and turned around, “Back to work, maggots!”

“Such a nice looking tail,” Irje finally decided to speak up.

She shook her head as the said tail disappeared between the oppressively hot ovens, “Wasted on such a sneaky snake.”

“Irje,” Yeva groaned, “Could you stop talking with your other lips? Down, girl, as Erf likes to say to you. For a valid reason too.”

“You don’t understand, Yev! Have you tried to grope her? She hides it well but not to my trained eye — she might be bigger than I am under all these covers.”

“Irje,” I flicked my horny cougar’s forehead. “We had a discussion about this. No violence, including untoward sexual advances on anyone here, especially slaves.”

“Hey I am joking!” she rubbed the red spot on her forehead, “That was for Yeva. Hey, are you sure you are fine with her around? We can switch in watching her.”

“Thank you Irje, but I have to do this.” Yeva straightened herself, “There will be plenty of wermages in our life from now on. Gods Above, one is already shagging our dear husband. I shouldn’t let myself be bound by my past.”

“You are already strong, Yeva,” I murmured into her ear while Irje laughed from her quip, “And soon you will be stronger. Your night is tomorrow and I plan on sharing my nanites then.”

“That,” She gulped, “somehow feels scarier than a wermage. I should get going too. Vera!”

I smiled as a tiny missile launched herself from behind the corner, probably waiting all this time for her call. The tiny girl collided with Yeva and gave her a hug.

Sending us a triumphant smirk of victory.

“Are you gonna sing again!?”

“Not now, we need to watch the snake. Perhaps, later.”


Her emotions were bouncing just as fast, barely a second later Yeva was dragged away from us while the kid was rattling like a machine gun about the importance of watching evil women. Somehow she managed to keep her tongue stuck out in our direction throughout the entire time too.

Little bugger.

“Little bugger,” Irje murmured.

I turned toward her and silently bumped her fist. A sign of camaraderie across the worlds.

“Let’s go?”

“Hmm? Lets, where to?” Irje’s arms enveloped my body.

“The city. Judging by Yeva’s progress, I will need another guitar. Judging by your shenanigans you need a nice paddle.”

“Oh my!”

“And a couple of toys: a dozen or two.”

“Erf, are you trying to excite me or scare me?”

I caressed her cheek, “Both Irje. I can be scarily exciting sometimes.”

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