Oren walked to the book shop, the same route from his house he always took. It was still dark this morning, but that did not mean he was not eager to open shop. It was not for the customers he was excited. Teman had been by earlier in the week and dropped off a collection of books from Erridda. He had been running that place as if he had always owned it. It was only now that he started bringing in craftsmen that the rest of Iseb realized the wealth of artifacts that Devlin and he scored in taking up residence there.
This delivery had been the books from the dungeon that a year ago he had had the pleasure of first perusing. Circumstances had changed for him since then. Martell and he now shared an expanded home, and they were expecting their first child. Oren’s father was teaching Oren how to manage the family business, which meant less time at the shop. In another month, they would hit up the caravan trail to look in on Avo. To help manage his store, he had taken on an apprentice to help with daily traffic.
Avo had changed slightly since he had last been there. Word was it currently was operating without the Tethinger Order. Tabia had come in to clean house, but at least those at their home had let the corruption spread far. Tabia tried to recruit Martell to form a new order under Varelle. Martell was honored but declined the invitation. So for now, the Tethinger Order’s former home stood vacant and Tabia reviewed its members looking for a new leader. Word had also reached Oren that Varelle had a new priestess in training.
The counsel of priests and the knight commanders had passed sentence on Lady Nattan. She was to be held at the Vocknuera’s dungeon. Her sentence was for life, though from what Martell and Oren had heard from Ba-shar, they may be retaining her on behalf of the Enchanters so that they may probe her for information on Casapan’s techniques.
Ba-Shar had been retired from field service in the Knights of Vocknuera and was now busy with training the new recruits. Oren had offered him a job working with the Tsuminoe and his caravan, but Ba-shar had declined. With one less arm, he felt his days in the field were over.
The Channelers and Enchanters had received word of Oren and some of what he had done. Both had requested to see the talisman that had allowed him to do such feats. He had declined and was certain both organizations were now watching him, if not directly then through some network of agents. On occasion, he had kicked out a few of the guild members from the shop, as they spent more time studying Oren than looking at the books they had expressed interest in.
The Neffians opened operations in Avo, against the wishes of the Lords. However, since the town does not technically have an official hall they can do little to continually harass them. The Neffians were quite frequently in the store, browsing books and researching whatever their masters had sent them in to look up. They seemed to harbor no ill will against Oren or Martell, despite the rocky relationship they had gotten off on. Oren was certain they were also keeping tabs on him, knowing full well he did not give them access to his personal collection.
The three loyal knight orders were working toward restoring Wind Gait to working order. The hope was to spread the teachings of Varelle and the other priests to the land beyond the mountains. Tabia told Oren that once the place was cleaned up they would look to the Velgreys to help establish a route to the regions across the hills. Oren reached out to Eston and was waiting to hear if he wanted a new post and a challenge.
Oren’s parents were now able to relax from their monitoring of Casapan and the Wolves of Dawsil. Though Oren was certain his mother was checking in on something occasionally, she was more frequently present in conversations. He had pressed her a couple times for a reason for the checking in and all she managed to reply is that it was a hard to break the habit.
Oren spent the afternoon paging through the books, his mind racing with the new knowledge. He was not certain at what point he dozed off with his face in the books, but when he awoke in his shop he it was dark outside. There was a woman in the corner flipping through the volumes. He went over to tell her it was time for him to lock up and leave.
He tapped her on the shoulder and jumped back at recognition of who it was in his store. Lady Nattan looked up and smiled at him. “O-ren you need not worry about me. I just wanted to thank you for your assistance in freeing me from having to compete with Casapan. The low born have no place in leading the world. You have done the Drémores a great service, much like the Velgreys have always done, despite what father said of your kin. In repayment for my life, I will leave you and your family out of my plans as long as you stay out of mine.”
“Are you not still in prison?”
“Why, yes silly boy, right where I need be for now. Plans like this take time and patience. Thanks to Casapan, I have time and thanks to you, I have a safe place to build an empire from. Unfortunately, you will not remember any of what I have said when you wake up. I really am in your debt and will never be able to repay it in full.”
Oren felt himself being shaken and heard Martell calling his voice.
“Oren, wake up. You have fallen asleep; you should really go home if you are not doing well.”
“Martell…I…think I had a nightmare but recall none of it.”
“It is no surprise; you are working too hard.” Martell replied, “Let’s close the store and call it a day early. You will feel better tomorrow.”