I’ve let another asset slip through my fingers. Phineas Ardentus is dead.
But not without giving up some secrets. I’ve found some new uses for certain toys, you see.
This web has names now, faces. And I cannot help but notice that those names were all attached to girls who were most carefully paraded beneath my eyes at my inauguration.
Saara. Petra. Charlize. Mariele. Claudine. Simone. Selene. Sibelle.
It makes sense now. The potential. The alliances. The politics of marriage. Because I bear the last name on the list.
The name of the kingpin. Apparently, I am the young prince now, poised to inherit his father’s empire. Or to be used to control it.
Four Warrant Houses with sources of illicit alien artifacts. One wealthy merchant with the connections to move them quietly. A thousand and one dealers and distribution channels.
And a single mastermind, controlling all of it. A quiet House that appeared to be nothing more than a large investment bank. Scholarships. Hedge funds. Ways to clean money, dodge the Inquisition, the Imperial Tithe.
Inquisitor Volgin asked for me. He’s either very clever or very stupid and lucky. Does he know what sort of animal is on the other end of the tail he holds?
Now what to do? I could dismantle this thing, feed them all to the Lord Sector. Or try to run it myself. Or wash my hands of the whole mess, run off to make my fortune exploring Rune, come back and marry Felicity Lockhart. Or Elizabeth Orleans. Or even that gossip-column girl, if I wanted an entertaining scandal.
It’s strange to have this much freedom after spending a life locked in battle with father. I’ve been biding my time, trying to learn more before acting. Now I have enough.
Except that I am…. curious.
What is “the Artifact” that Seldan wants to extract from the Damaris’s surface?