33. 22 - Extract from the Diary of Asa Shadownight
Tom was moping about this morning. You'd think it was because Midnight made a bonfire of all the (very, very, very, very, very) complex and expensive wine last night (it's what I would have been moping about), but it was more because of the fact that he had a splitting migraine. I didn't stick around him long enough to measure his temper, but from the way he was snapping at everything - I assumed it was extremely short. Midnight and Khadir were talking politics as they did small chores around the house and kept an eye on the younger children. I didn't listen long enough, but it was all Sons of the Sword conspiracy theories and so forth. Never had much of a mind for politics anyway, but Annabeth sat by and listened to them talk. Khadir knew some and Midnight knew some, but neither of them knew enough. So when Vera came back later this afternoon, it was interesting to see how Midnight jumped her for answers straight after a very rushed welcome.
“Grandmother, please!” Vera laughed, “Let me sit down first!”
“Right,” Midnight said, “I'll get you some tea and itch my brain with a proverbial pitchfork for a few more minutes - because not knowing is absolutely killing me.”
Tom held his head and led her to a chair, “You sit down and lower your blood pressure, I'll get the tea,” he muttered, “Please, no more shoutin'?”
“Vera?” Midnight gestured to a chair opposite to her.
“The Sons of the Sword are as much a mystery as you've described, grandmother,” Vera said, sitting down, “But if it helps, they've worked contracts in Jerusalem for France, Tibet for Britain and the West Indies for Spain in the last year. And they asked for no payment.”
“No payment? But... That makes no sense, they're mercenaries... That's how they make their bread and butter...” Midnight stood up and took the tray Tom brought in, “I know I only asked for you to dig up information about the Sons of the Sword, but did you happen to hear anything about the Chess Pieces? They've become awfully quiet.”
“Unless you count the explosion at the Dome of the Rock, nothing,” Vera said.
“Sons o' the Sword were workin' with the Spanish in the West Indies...” Tom said, “That round about the time Kenobi came t'see Annabeth?”
“I don't know, grandfather, but the Spanish contract was the most recent one.”
“Cortés,” Tom nodded, “Cortés had t'be working with 'em. If we find him, we'll get a decent amount o' knowledge.”
“What about the uprisings in Spain? Navarre?” Midnight asked.
“Ye think that could be tied into this?”
“I think the Chess Pieces could be at it again, and it's only confirmed by a certain finding we brought out of a holding cell on a man-of-war.”
“Queenie? Nah, Midnight, she left 'em, remember?”
“I don't completely buy that, Thomas. She'll know something.”
“Well, what now?” Khadir asked.
“I was thinking one mission to find Cortés and another to observe the situation in Navarre. The Chess Pieces have a hold so long as there's chaos. Khadir - I want you to head back to Normandy, muster say 500 men and end that revolt. Don't favour Isabella, favour Navarre.”
“Pardon my austerity, but how what will the mercenaries get out of it?”
“Make a deal with the people of Navarre. Resources and goods. Do all the military strategising, Queenie told me it was a mess there. If you can, set up an outpost.”
“To add to your collection of mercenary states? Midnight, you haven't returned to Normandy in years and I'm an old man.”
“Just do it. For your little sister.”
“Why does that trump everything?”
Midnight shrugged, “It's an accepted double-standard, deal with it.”
“Very well. Expect complaints.”
“Who should I make the commander in Navarre?”
“Myra. She's Spanish and she knows what she's doing. Her move-forward attitude should gain you a fair sum of wealth in Normandy, and fewer complaints for me.”
“I'll leave right now, then,” Khadir hugged her and muttered something in her ear.
Midnight laughed, “I am not naming my child 'Ani'.”
“It's a good name!” Khadir protested.
“Yes. For a boy who wants to get bullied his whole life! I don't even know if I'm having a boy!”
“Try for a middle name.”
“Come on. For your older brother.”
“Khadir, that's not a thing... Maybe 'Uncle' for a middle name? Then every time someone asks why I can tell them this story and then... that other story.”
He shook his head, “Don't do that and I'll be satisfied.”
“Over the moon,” he laughed, “Until I see you again then?”
“Of course. And don't you dare die on me, okay?”
“Believe me, I'm not trying,” and with that he walked out of the room.
“And what about Cortés?” Tom asked.
“You should go after Cortés,” Midnight said, “You're the ideal naval-person around here.”
“Captain,” Tom corrected her, “We've been married long enough Midnight,” he laughed, “But I'm not goin'. Not this time.”
“Tom, the Sons of the Sword are up to something weird. This is more important.”
“For who? The world? I told ye, I don't owe the world anything. But I owe ye everything and I refuse t'leave.”
“I'm your wife. You'll never owe me. All your debts are paid by default.”
“No, they aren't.”
“Yes. They are. I owe you my life fifty-times over.”
“I owe ye my person. That's more than a hundred o' my lives.”
“It's not a competition.”
“But if it was, I'd win.”
“But it's not, so stop it,” Midnight said, “You have to do this, Thomas.”
“I'm not leavin' ye in this madhouse and that's final.”
Midnight sighed, “Then what do you propose, Thomas?”
“We can send Simon and Bex.”
“You can't send-”
“They're old enough, Midnight! Simon's a decent sailor and they both have talents t'spare. They can probably match ye in skill, and can handle both pistol and blade. Besides, my first-mate'll look out for 'em, make sure they don't run into too much trouble. And he knows Cortés. They'll find him, I'm sure.”
Midnight sighed, “Alright, fine. Find them and tell them everything you just said. Except-”
“The part about them bein' able t'match ye, I know,” and Tom walked out to find Bex and Aldrin.
“What about me?” Annabeth said.
“I suspect something fishy, Annabeth,” Midnight told her, “I don't trust your father or the people he's working for - but the decision is still yours: to stay here or to go to him.”