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Imager's Intrigue

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Imager's Intrigue

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Author: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Publisher: Tor, 2010
Series: The Imager Portfolio: Book 3
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: High Fantasy
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In Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, we met Rhennthyl, an apprentice portrait artist whose life was changed by a disastrous fire. But the blaze that took his master's life and destroyed his livelihood revealed a secret power previously dormant in Rhenn; the power of imaging, the ability to shape matter using thought. With some trouble, he adapts to the controlled life of an imager.

By Imager's Challenge, Rhenn has become a liaison to the local law forces. He finds himself in direct conflict with both authorities and national politics as he tries to uphold the law and do his best by the people of his home city.

Now, in Imager's Intrigue, Rhenn has come into his own. He has a wife and a young child, and a solid career as an imager. But he has made more than one enemy during his journey from apprentice painter to master imager, and even his great powers won't allow him to escape his past.



Unlike most people, I hated actually going to sleep and looked forward to waking up... in a way. When I'd been a struggling apprentice portraiturist years before, I never would have believed I could have felt that way, but life has a way of changing preconceptions. In my case, it had to do with the sleeping arrangements required of imagers. Although we'd been married for nearly five years--it would be five years on the twenty-first of the coming Fevier--Seliora and I had never slept the entire night together; not that we both wouldn't have wanted to, but the dangers of that were far too high. Even before I'd known I was an imager, I'd lit lamps and imaged things in my sleep, and once I'd even set a chest on fire. Imaging in a nightmare could easily have hurt Seliora... if not worse.

So I was pleased to wake, dress in exercise clothes and boots, and leave my discreetly lead-lined bedchamber with its lead glass windows and pad barefoot into the main bedchamber and look at her sleeping there. Then I slipped from the house and ran down the walkways to the exercise area where Clovyl put all those of us assigned to various security-related duties through exercises that ended in a four mille run. After that, I trotted back to the house and showered and shaved, in always cool if not cold water, so that I was clean enough to slip into Seliora's large bed before she actually rose and we got ready for the day.

On this Lundi morning, she was awake, waiting for me, and her arms felt wonderful around me. We didn't get to enjoy that moment for long because a small figure ran in from the adjoining room--meant to be a half-study, but serving as a nursery--and climbed up under the covers to join us.

"Mama, Dada..."

Before all that long, the three of us rose, and I washed and changed Diestrya while Seliora showered and dressed. Then Seliora and Diestrya headed downstairs while I dressed in my imager grays. As soon as I sat down in the breakfast room off the adequate but not excessively large kitchen, Klysia filled my large crockery mug with tea, strong tea that I'd likely need for the day ahead.

"More tea, too... please?" begged Diestrya from her highchair beside Seliora and across the table, offering me a winning smile, not that all her smiles weren't dazzling when she wanted something.

Klysia looked to me, then to Seliora. After catching the barest hint of a nod from my black-haired, black-eyed beautiful wife, I nodded. "Just a little, with cream."

Because I was the most junior Maitre D'Structure, a step above the lowest imager master level, Maitre D'Aspect, but below the two senior masters at the Collegium, both of whom were Maitres D'Esprit, our house was a modestly spacious dwelling with an upper level holding three bedrooms, two bathing rooms, the master sleeping chambers, which included my stark sleeping cell and the half-study serving as a nursery, and a main level containing the family and formal parlors, the dining room, the kitchen, the pantry, and a larger study and library, plus, of course, the front entry foyer and Klysia's quarters at the back. I had converted the northern upstairs bedroom into a studio, where I'd done portraits of Maitre Dyana and Master Dichartyn, and where I'd begun the preliminary work on one of Diestrya. That way I didn't have to use the drafty space I'd once been assigned in the Collegium workroom. Fortunately, because my days were rather occupied, no one had changed positions in the Collegium recently, so I wasn't required to paint another Collegium portrait any time soon.

Like all dwellings provided to married imagers by the Collegium, the outside of ours was of gray stone, with a gray slate roof. Inside, the walls were of off-white plaster, except for the main library, which was paneled with cherry and had built-in bookshelves that we had not come close to filling.

With the exception of the formal parlor and the dining room, the furniture in the house was a motley collection of leftovers from the previous maitre and pieces gleaned from sample works from NordEste Design, the business of Seliora's family. "Eclectic" was what Seliora called it, but it was still motley. The formal parlor furnishings, Seliora's bed and dressing table, and the dining room set, with its twin buffets and china cabinets, had all been gifts from her family, as all the linens and woolens had come from mine.

Breakfast was egg toast with berry syrup, sausages, and an oat porridge that Seliora had decided we all needed, particularly Diestrya. I had trouble not making faces in eating the porridge without a surreptitious dollop of the syrup.

"You don't look all that happy, dearest," offered Seliora.

"I'm not." And I wasn't, not when I'd have to spend the morning in one of Commander Artois's monthly meetings of all the District Captains of the Civic Patrol of L'Excelsis. "It's time for Artois's monthly lecture."

"It is the first Lundi in Feuillyt," Seliora said with a smile.

I still found it hard to believe that I'd been married to her nearly five years. At times that seemed more improbable than the fact that I was a master imager--Maitre D'Structure of the Collegium Imago of Solidar--as well as the only imager ever serving as an actual officer in the Civic Patrol, but how all that happened was another story for another time.

We were out of the house two quints before seventh glass. The morning was cool, even cooler than usual for the first Lundi of fall, and Seliora shivered in her cloak.

"Cold?" I asked.

"I should have worn a winter cloak." She smiled at me. "You were out earlier. You could have warned me, except you don't even notice the cold."

"I'll try to be better now that the weather's colder." I grinned at her.

She shook her head, knowing that I'd probably forget.

I carried Diestrya, as we walked southward toward the duty coach area closest to the Bridge of Desires, the stone span that crossed the River Aluse. After Maitre Poincaryt--the head of the Collegium--had worked out the arrangement between the Civic Patrol, the Council of Solidar, and the Collegium that had resulted in my being assigned as Third District Captain, I'd managed to get him to agree to have the duty carriage that took me to the Third District Station every working day make a stop at NordEste Design to drop Seliora off there. After all, it was her family's home and business, and, without her and her family, I'd have died years earlier.

"Moon!" Diestrya pointed to Artiema, full and low in the western sky.

"Yes, that's Artiema." I could also see Erion low in the east, just barely above the granite buildings of Imagisle turned whitish-gray by the white sunlight angling over L'Excelsis.

The first duty coach was the one reserved for us.

"Good morning, Master Rhennthyl. Good morning, Madame," said Lebryn, the driver, who was also an obdurate, immune to the personal effects of imaging on his looks or being.

I opened the coach door for Seliora, then handed Diestrya up while I climbed in, then held my daughter for the ride to NordEste Design.

"What are you working on today?"

"The upholstery design for a Mistress Alynkya D'Ramsael-Alte as a wedding present. Her father might be familiar." Seliora grinned at me. "She came to us because someone once was very kind to her at a dance."

I winced gracefully. That had been one of my early duties in security at the Council Chateau, both to watch for intruders and, as necessary, to make sure that the daughters of High Holders were not without partners. I'd danced with Alynkya at two of the Council's seasonal balls, the first when she'd been pressed to accompany her father, the High Holder and Councilor from Kephria, when her mother was ill, and the second when she had accompanied him after her mother's death. "Who is she marrying?"

"Councilor Suyrien's eldest son, Frydryk."

"She's probably too sweet for him."

"She seems to have a mind of her own."

That was dangerous for any wife of a High Holder, given that High Holders still retained the right of low justice on their own lands--and low justice could include what amounted to perpetual incarceration and other cruelties, even for a High Holder's wife.

Before long, the coach stopped before the building that served Seliora's family as factory, factorage, and dwelling. Located at the intersection of Nord -road and Hagahl Lane, the yellow-brick walls rose three stories, set off by gray granite cornerstones. The wooden loading docks at the south end of the building were stained with a brown oil and well-kept, and the loading yard itself was stone-paved. The entrance on the south side of Hagahl Lane, on the north end, was the private family entrance, with a square-pillared covered porch that shielded a stone archway.

Seliora leaned over and gave me a kiss before she left the coach, and I handed Diestrya down to her. "The newsheets are on the seat."

She always left them there for me to read on the rest of the ride to Third District, and she always reminded me, a ritual that I found somehow reassuring. I followed her down and, holding my shields, walked her up the steps. She used her key to enter.

Then I walked back to the duty coach and climbed in. As Lebryn eased the coach away, I picked up the first of the newsheets--Tableta.

The lead headline stated "War Looms in Cloisera." The story was about the increasing tension between Ferrum and Jariola. While the two had reached a truce after the undeclared "Winter War" of 756–757, whe...

Copyright © 2010 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.


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