Chapter 47. The Home Advantage
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“Domina is waiting for you,” Sulla spoke to her once the daily crowd of Aikerim’s visitors finally started to disperse. “Alone.”

Despite Isra’s incessant clanking, Yeva’s inner courtyard was still quieter than the hum of a crowd in front of Aikerim’s atrium. She wasn’t sure how one could enjoy so much noise, let alone Domina with her large foxy ears, but Yeva didn’t judge. These crowds did represent Aikerim’s growing influence, and a certain percentage was directly caused by Erf or the rest of their sadaq.

At the same time, there were obvious attempts to moderate the daily crowd. Yeva managed to discern some conversations here and there that certain petitions and requests had to be done on a specific day while others were accepted only in writing. There was also a significant number of scribe slaves to record basic information for Sulla to sort out. Aikerim’s Manor was growing and the bureaucracy was growing with it.

Yeva quietly bowed to Sulla in thanks and walked into the open door.

“I recognise that look,” Domina said as soon as she saw her enter. “Merely a season ago, Erf walked through these doors with the same determination on his face. Desperation, even.”

Yeva couldn’t hold back her smile. “Thank you, Domina, for your praise.”

Aikerim chuckled. “And now you remind me of him even more. Are you here to purchase some slaves too?”

She nodded in silence.

“Someone specific? Family?” The red tail froze mid-air. “Do not tell me there is someone else in your life.”

Yeva shook her head. “No one specific. If there was someone before, Erf would have purchased them a long time ago. Our estate needs more hands. A lot more.”

“How much is a lot? Hundreds?” Aikerim arched her eyebrow. “Thousands?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“Is that a necessity? A thousand slaves is a significant amount to purchase. Never mind the money, Samat might simply not have so many available at all.”

“Not a necessity, no. But each person will increase our future potential. Now that she finished her rush work on the armour and weapons, Isra is working on the final parts for her second-generation lathe. The first lathe allowed her to perform tasks she couldn’t do before. This lathe will give her the ability to do them ten times faster. The next one… won’t be as effective.

“There will be some improvement, but each iteration of machines will be more and more complex while providing less and less benefit. Rather than working on things that require her entire set of skills, Isra will be forced to spend more and more time making things like screws and gears. She needs apprentices.”

“But a thousand of them?”

“I don’t want to grow our entire production around Isra alone. I also want to continue teaching her further without putting everything else on hold. This means skilled workers.”

Aikerim sighed, “And not the kind that can be bought or captured, right? Erf called them machinists.”

“Exactly. We will need workers that know how to work on machines, rather than with a hammer or a chisel. What Isra is doing right now is groundbreaking, but it will soon turn into routine work: the first perfectly round rod is hard and tedious — the next five thousand are boring. Obviously, not everyone can learn quickly, or at all. But even if we get ten machinists out of that thousand — it would be worth it.”

“And what about the rest?”

“Most will pick up at least something. And there will be machines that require very little oversight or they could be manned by workers with a single machinist to resolve occasional issues. I can always find something for the few that remain unless they are clearly unwilling to work and get paid.”

“Paid…” Aikerim repeated to herself and gestured to a nearby couch. “Come sit with me.”

She waited for her to sit down and then sighed, “Let me be frank with you. After saying good byes to my daughter, I spent the rest of my morning welcoming and entertaining innumerable guests. I am already tired from the flowery speeches and meanings behind words and I have no desire to continue this with you at the moment. Be honest — are you doing this for the benefit of your sadaq or are you doing this as some scheme to improve the lives of slaves?”

“Both,” Yeva answered honestly. “Our sadaq will benefit greatly no matter if the slaves are lashed or paid in gold. Lashes might give greater initial returns but won’t be able to keep up in the long term as the overall growth will be hindered. There will be pushback at least from me and Erf as well.”

Domina turned over and looked at her while lying on her stomach, swaying her tail left and right. “And what exactly are you planning to make in order to earn so much gold? Gold that you are essentially planning to throw away. I assume Erf trusts your household management skills since he left you in charge of the estate — you should know that even if your machines make ten times as much, you won’t sell it all for ten times the price.”

“While I am still in the process of comprehending everything that Erf has taught me, I wholeheartedly agree with your statement. Price is a product of supply and demand — if we simply increase the supply without changing demand, prices will plummet accordingly. Since I have no intention of crashing Emanai markets at the moment, I plan to use other strategies instead.”

Aikerim waved her hand to continue.

“There are two major directions. First is the new types of products that only your Manor can produce. I am sure there is plenty of demand for our glazed blue and white ceramics exactly because no one else is making them. While prices might drop locally, there are many markets across Emanai as well as beyond our borders for us to profit from. Then there is paper.”

“The one that Erf made to scribble his thoughts.”

“The very same.” Yeva smiled. “Compared to unique and expensive porcelain, paper would flourish as a cheap product. All Manors need to write things down. The only reason they don’t write more and resort to wax tablets or sand is the lack of supply caused by the labour-intensive production of animal vellum and parchment. Likewise, shipping writing materials from elsewhere would greatly increase their cost. Once you have machines to produce paper at a fraction of that price, every scribe, rhetor, and librarian will flock to the gates of your Manor just so they can give you money, here and elsewhere. That relationship between price, supply, and demand? It can work backwards too. Set the price cheap enough and demand will swell immensely in turn. While each piece would bring you little, the actual profit lies in quantity.”

“And what is the other direction? While I hear the merit in your words, and I’ve learnt to appreciate Erf’s inventions in the past days, the profits that you are talking about are seasons if not years away. They would depend on luck as well: not every shipment reaches its destination and not every city will buy the same products. Yet, you are asking for free hands and gold to pay them now.”

Yeva sighed, collecting her thoughts.

“I have the gold,” Aikerim waved her tail. “But I can’t give you my entire treasury, especially now when every Manor is sizing me up and looking for weaknesses. You can start slow and purchase more as the production improves. Shahin Esca has struck a deal with us as well. Amir Esca is on her way back with the signed agreements and you should expect the first shipment within three to four tendays. They are quite eager.”

“I had said that the new lathe would make Isra’s work ten times faster. But there is another way to look at it.” Yeva looked straight at Aikerim. “A similar machine can do the work of ten people.”

The tail twitched.

“Tell me, Aikerim Adal. I have heard that a Domina like you doesn’t just have a single Manor in the city — there are usually a few Manors and villas in the countryside that supply you with land-based wealth and products. You are likely buying plenty of wool and flax from other Manors, but they are washed, combed, and most importantly spun into threads by your slaves. Not just here, but in other Manors too.”

“I purchase thread as well; I do not have the hands to keep up with the new looms.”

“Well, Erf gave you looms. I will give you carding and spinning machines that require a handful of people to maintain and make you more thread or yarn than a thousand spinners working day and night ever could.”

“You should have started with this at the very beginning, you know,” Aikerim accused her.

“I could have, but I am stepping into dangerous territory here. The machines we are about to make can bring a lot of profit and opportunity but they can just as easily bring poverty and misery. Each machine will bring you profit but each machine would mean a hundred or a thousand spinners that will find themselves unemployed and starving.”

“What do you want me to do about it? I have my own family to care for.”

“If they are slaves — give them to me, to my sadaq. To Anaise specifically, if necessary. Even if I can’t free them, they will be treated as if they were. For the free but poor? Allow me to establish a school and a hospital — if I can’t employ them right away in one of our current or future projects, I will have them learn letters and numbers.”

“A charity school?” Aikerim frowned. “I didn’t expect you to seek public recognition.”

“I am not. You can name those establishments after yourself or your House. The knowledge that Erf and I are introducing is causing waves and I am trying to limit the damage these waves will cause. At the same time, I am also preparing your Manor for the future. You can take the smartest ones as scribes and calculators. Others would be taught how to operate specific machines and quickly repay your investment with their work.”

“It sounds to me that you aren’t planning to buy any slaves at all. Apart from the ones I have and the ones that would come with the Esca, what you are aiming for are the freedmurks and freedwer.”

Yeva nodded. “You are correct, Aikerim Adal. I have discussed this topic at length with Erf and he made me reconsider my original desire to buy every slave available on the market.”

The tail curled into an amused question mark. “Well, at least one of you understands that my chests aren’t bottomless.”

Yeva scratched her nose. “I do not think that he considered the cost of such purchases either. A total wholesale purchase of slaves might limit other Manors from getting any while it lasts and would significantly raise their prices. Unfortunately, with prices rising, the supply would quickly follow. Our indiscriminate purchases would make raiding worse as more and more slavers would set off, eager to earn guaranteed gold.”

“Well, this is the way of life.”

“This is the way of the current system. And this is how the current system breaks. Please be assured — it is not in our plans to attack Emanai from within. Quite the opposite. All of what we are doing now would happen without us anyway, just at a much slower pace. Erf or not, someone would invent lenses and numbers, paper and steel. And in doing so, they would cause great upheavals across Emanai exactly because they have no idea where these discoveries will take them.”

“An infinite race…” Aikerim murmured. “Tell me, Yeva, are you aware that some of them will leave? The ungrateful ones that would seek employment elsewhere as soon as they learn numbers? Don’t forget that the rest of Emanai are still using letters of virtana to write down quantities and measurements, half of my personal scribes are in the process of learning new numbers. Once other Manors hear about this, there will be plenty of offers.”

“Yes, and that would also benefit us in turn.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“By letting them leave, you will separate the wheat from the chaff. All who have fickle dispositions and dubious loyalties will be blown away like flakes in the wind. Do other Manors want to pick up our refuse? Let them have it — your floors will be cleaner in turn. We might ask for a few years of service as repayment if the ratio gets too high, but I prefer to weed them out early and have my trust in the rest increase.”

“Hah!” Aikerim smirked. “And here I was thinking that I would miss Erf’s ostentatious claims once he was gone!”

Yeva placed a hand on her chest. “You might be more right than you realise. He didn’t simply give me knowledge, he gave me a piece of himself.”

“He gave you a child?”

“No. Before he left, Erf did something that I had never thought possible: he took most of my worries away. He did it by letting me deep into his heart and soul. He allowed me to see and feel his thoughts and emotions; understand his feelings toward me, our sadaq, and everyone around. Now I don’t need to wonder about or fear Irje or Anaise even though I barged into Erf’s life, clawed a spot beside him, and clung to it with my life. He knew. I knew. And now I know that he accepted me for who I was because he was dealing with similar issues. Just as I, a blind murk of little worth, sought someone to protect me; he, a lone Navigator in a strange world, was seeking a confidant to rely upon.

“But just as his knowledge has changed me, so did his emotions and feelings. It would have taken me a few days to prepare myself for this meeting just a tenday ago. I still feel ill at ease around other wermages, but there is a certain…undertone of memories as I speak with you. Just as I am sure about his feelings toward me, I recognise his trust in you. Not only as a just Domina, but as the mother of his wife, someone who entrusted her first daughter to him, and, through her, the future of your Manor. I’ve felt the weight of his responsibility and his desire to prove to you that the risk Anaise took was well worth it.”

Yeva paused for a second and then smiled as she remembered something that bothered Erf a lot lately. “Speaking about Erf’s feelings — there is the third strategy that we can employ: our ability to produce comparatively large volumes of materials allows us to create products unthinkable to others. The new steel that Isra Haleh makes is flexible and strong, very strong. Imagine how much weight it could hold as it bends.”

“Are you suggesting steel werbows?”

“Hmm, we could, but those would require special bolts, better armguards, and greater logistical strain to pull off. I want you to imagine something even more outrageous. A cart that has its wheels suspended on fulad swords.”

Aikerim snorted.

“It is not a jest. Not just one or two swords either — multiple layers of steel strips can hold a lot of weight, while their inherent flexibility would make the movement smoother. Oxen and horses could carry more cargo per head or travel faster. As a Domina of the Kiymetl Manor, you know what this means for shipping costs.”

“Building carts out of swords…” The werfox shook her head and started laughing openly. “I understand the sense behind this… but swords!?”

“Well, each leaf will be thicker than a sword: we are serious people here,” Yeva acknowledged to the continuous mirth of Aikerim. “Of course, if you wish to make carriages so that people can travel in luxury and comfort then thinner, more flexible strips would be preferable. On the topic of comfort — they don’t have to be strips at all. Coil a wire like a snake climbing a tree and it is possible to make softer beds and couches.”

“No carts!” Domina proclaimed, grinning. “I don’t want to send armed guards just to protect the cart and not the cargo. You will get the buildings to teach and heal, as well as teachers and healers — I don’t mind having better educated workers but I will not have you waste your time trying to teach street rabble: you have promised to replace Erf while he is away and one of his tasks was teaching me his geometry and math. The new machines are priority as well — while buildings are easy to start building early, you will only have my slaves once they are replaced and not sooner.”

Yeva nodded. “Of course. The hospital, however, needs to be small and without any healers. Just a few rooms that are easy to wash and some helpers to assist on occasion.”

“That doesn’t sound like a murk hospital, nor a wermage one. What are you planning?”

“Have you seen Erf’s bugs? I see by your expression that you have. While they are rather weird to look at, some of them can secrete healing salves and are capable of curing many ailments.”

“Planning to sell these ointments, then?”

“Perhaps to the people outside your Manor walls, but that is not a priority at the moment. The main task of this hospital will be the treatment of those that work here. I want our servants to slowly get used to these bugs.”

“You are planning to swarm my Manor with them?”

“No. There are only me and Erf who can give them orders and it is not easy to control even a handful of them alone. But these bugs can grow and their skills will grow as well. Instead of a simple salve, they will be able to fix and heal grave injuries and even deliver babies with little risk to the mother and her child. Rather than forcing anyone to think they are being assaulted by some horrid creature, I want future patients to understand what those bugs are — sophisticated tools to treat them.”

“Are they good enough for all this hassle?”

Yeva scoffed. “I can’t judge wermage healing spells, but murk healers are crooks and charlatans by my standards. At the same time, those bugs are leagues ahead of me in skill and ability. They can turn back a recent death — that is how good they are.”

Aikerim waved her hands in the air. “Well, you promised me carts made out of fulad swords, why not some ugly critters that defy death?”

“Anyone in your Manor will be welcome to them, Domina.” Yeva smiled at Aikerim’s sarcastic antics. “I have the means to make life better for all around me. Murk, wer, and wermage. Yours and mine. I recognise that the beginning might be rough and bumpy, that many would think of me as too charitable or naive. I don’t care. This is a great opportunity to bolster our ranks with loyal people and work out any possible problems at the time when we can pick and choose who we will accept.

“Do not fear the murk power, Aikerim Adal. Embrace it. By the time other Manors realise that Isra Haleh or Shahin Esca aren’t the only ones worth paying attention to, your daughter will be halfway to becoming a Matriarch of the Eighth Pillar.”

A small smile graced Yeva’s lips. “His feelings are insidious. I now also know his love for her.”


Shahin Esca Yusuf-ja

Shahin clasped her fingers around the dainty cup, full of steaming kava, and sighed in delight. Her day started rather well. Any day in Samat when she had access to these beans was a good one, but today her luck was even better.

Isra Haleh was not working.

From the moment that Erf had decided to join the arms of Emanai, the smithy never stayed silent. One did not need to be an envoy to understand that something special was going on inside. But Shahin was, and she recognised the sudden shift in striking sounds and furnace sizes. After years of countless travels and visits to the seats of local power, Shahin knew of one place where anvils rang so high and furnaces were so big. The Midnight Mountains north of Emanai.

Not that it mattered as much anymore. She was savvy enough to understand that Erf was not related to the fulad-makers of Hsaca — this was just a confirmation that he used similar methods to achieve his results.

Quite staggering results, to be honest. Shahin was relieved to see that neither he nor Isra Haleh had tried to replicate the fulad steel itself. His swords that cut anything and armour that was strong, light, and resistant to rust would undoubtedly attract some attention from the mountain clans but not in a disastrous manner. The choice of steel was a sound one — the flexibility of fulad steel was known across the seas and sands, while Erf’s steel was distinguished by its sharpness. That would undoubtedly slow the rumours down: who would believe that some smith from a Manor building roads and carts could forge a sword to rival legendary weaponsmiths?

The clopping interrupted her moment of silence. Shahin finished her cup and glanced at Isra: the daughter of Enoch had forgotten to put leather covers on her hooves, making her pacing quite noticeable and her overall look even more frazzled.

“I see that you are concerned about something. This is the fifth time that you pace back and forth in front of me.”

“Easy for you to talk,” Isra huffed. “You have what? Fifty years here? A hundred?”

Shahin pressed her lips thin. “Fifty. Of Servitude. You are here of your own volition.”

“Exactly! And now my mother wants me to take the sash of a Domina! What am I supposed to do!?”

“Have you done all this just to play a jest on me?” she asked Isra, unimpressed. “To gloat about your successes as I am deprived of mine?”

“What success? I don’t want to be a Domina.” Isra started pacing again.

“Right. And a bird does not want to fly. Was it not the reason why you came to this Manor? To earn recognition through your work and take the place you saw as rightfully yours? You can swing your hammer while being a Domina just as well.”

“Not here I won’t.”

Shahin put her cup aside. “I admit, I had not expected you to develop such a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude in just a handful of tendays.”

Isra Haleh frowned. “You don’t get it, do you?”

The lamura held back a biting remark and instead calmly looked at the other wermage. “What do you mean?”

Isra started to say something but quickly palmed her mouth. “I shouldn’t be discussing this.”

“Then you should complain to Aikerim Adal or Yeva, instead of interrupting my morning with your marching.” Shahin shrugged.

“She did swear an oath.” A new voice entered their conversation.

Isra twitched in surprise while Shahin turned to greet the newcomer with a slight bow. “Yeva. Your steps are rather quiet — not many Collectors could compete with you.”

“There is nothing to compete for since I have no intention to throw my life away just to stab someone in the heart. I did manage to hear you wanted to talk with me?”

Shahin glanced at the silent Isra and rolled her eyes. “Enoch Matriarch offered Isra Haleh to become a Domina, but she wishes to stay here.”

Yeva frowned. “Is this something similar to Anaise getting a hand-me-down husband?”

Shahin tilted to the side at an unusual phrase. “Hand me down?”

“Like a bracelet or a necklace that your older sister doesn’t want anymore.”

Isra snickered, “I had a few of those.”

The lamura shook her head. “To answer your question — not quite. As you can expect, an offer this grand is not refused lightly, especially since it might be the only time a would-be-Domina will get it in her life. But something tells me that Isra Haleh will have plenty of opportunities to take that sash in the future. It might sour some of her current relationships within the Enoch, but it would not affect the Kiymetl — this is mostly an internal matter and they are being somewhat unreasonable toward Aikerim’s Manor with this decision.”

“Thank you, Shahin Esca.” Yeva made a tiny bow, startling her, and turned toward the other wermage. “Is that your true desire?”

“A title of Domina will not give me a fraction of what I can get here,” Isra scoffed. “Do you think any of my sisters have an anvil like mine? Any of my aunts? They don’t! Do you know what they do have instead? Offers and requests to listen for the first half of the day and wine to get drunk with their guests for some political clout afterwards!”

“Ah, I see why you would have an issue with it.” Yeva nodded. “Well, you will have none of that here as my husband promised. Just new tools to tinker with and work to be proud of.”

“New tools?” Shahin murmured. “So you are letting down your Manor and your mother just so you can play with new toys like a child?”

Isra grimaced, but stayed quiet, looking to the side.

“Shahin, that is uncalled for,” Yeva warned her. “If you are that curious to know why Isra is willing to stay, you can try asking directly — you have a better chance to learn it that way. Without annoying my smith in my presence.”

So Yeva did hear her questioning Isra.

Shahin shook her head again. “In your desire to appear gentle and generous, you are setting her up for failure. What will Isra Haleh do when her Matriarch personally asks a similar question? Stand in silence as she is doing right now? Enoch is giving her the title for a reason — and they will not simply shake their horns and accept a simple ‘no’. Do you want your smith to be degraded for her desire to work for you? Or worse — fail and have the title forced on her?”

“I agreed to this when I swore an Oath to Erf.” Isra crossed her hands. “Not like this will be the first time anyway.”

Yeva sighed. “You agreed to keep his secrets. Your new swords and armours aren’t secret anymore, just their methods of creation. Shahin Esca is harsh with her words but I have to agree with the meaning behind them. Keep our secrets but be proud of what you’ve made. There is a reason why your maker’s mark is on every piece, and not Erf’s or mine.”

“I might need to take some time to prepare.” Isra scratched her head and chuckled. “You know, I always thought about how I would walk into my Manor with a handmade sky-scythe or something equally childish and everyone would look at me in awe. Now, with the oath tablet weighing on my Spark, I realise how vague my dreams were compared to reality.”

“Then do exactly that,” Shahin intruded. “Say little and carry your crafts with you. Let your work do the talking.”

Isra Haleh grinned. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Yeva hummed. “Perhaps Shahin can assist you further in this matter. As a former Envoy, she should be an expert at grand entrances.”

“Me?” She looked at the murk girl with honest curiosity. Shahin was prepared for Yeva’s attitude to change once Erf was away, but her expectations were of a bleak kind. Rather than succumbing to her emotions, Yeva was taking a wise and rational approach.

“As an aide, not a teacher. Just help her prepare for this particular meeting rather than teaching her every trick that you know. Are you willing?”

“Of course, I am proud of my skills. I simply did not expect you to offer something like this so soon. Especially since I do not know the secrets shared with Isra Haleh.”

“Erf asked me to be objective and both of you swore an oath, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, I will have a lot more things to worry about in the near future and I can’t afford to oversee every little thing. Do not abuse your position and you will see your status grow. Betray me or my sadaq and all of this will be over. As the ancients once said: Quamdiu se bene gesserit, Shahin. As long as they behave well. I think this position is simple enough and easy to agree upon.”

Shahin bowed in silent agreement and arched her eyebrow, tucking the mention of an ancient tongue for later. “Does that mean I can ask Isra why she decided to abstain from her title and remain working under you?”

Yeva turned toward Isra. “Do you wish to try? Or was your decision based on a specific secret?”

Isra Haleh shrugged. “Well looking back at it, this new steel is really worthless, isn’t it?”

Yeva snorted and Shahin palmed her face. Perhaps this arrangement was not as easy as she assumed it would be. “I can see now why you were afraid to speak with Yeva.”

Isra frantically waved her hands. “I didn’t mean it like that! When I joined the Kiymetl, I wanted to continue my craft, to make something greater than anything I'd made before. At that time, I believed that I only needed to find the best metal and the skill to shape it to achieve what I wanted. Something like the werswords I made for Aikerim Adal, her daughter, and Irje. But as I was making them, I asked Erf what exactly made that steel so special.

“I learnt a lot from that conversation even if he said little. Rather than guiding me to the best, Erf pointed me to the many. He brought me over to the outcrop of gold ore, where I had found my tiny nugget, and showed me how deep it really went and how much there was inside if I had just kept digging. How can I return to my Manor with but a speck of gold in my hands and claim the title of a Domina?”

“And if the vein runs so deep that you will be digging it all your life?” Shahin asked.

“Then I will be?” Isra shrugged. “I don’t think Erf is interested in that gold. It is as if he is letting me mine it all just so he can get himself a cave afterwards. Perhaps that cave will be worth more than the gold I mined, but my family and I will walk away from this with wealth in our hands. This is what I really joined the Kiymetl for in the first place.”

“You spoke well, Isra Haleh,” Yeva acknowledged with a bow. “Know that there is plenty of ‘gold’ both for you and your future children for many generations to come, which is why we are so generous. The vein grows richer the deeper the cave is and we need all the hands we can get to help us mine it.”

She shifted and tilted her head toward Shahin. “Friends and companions, who are ready to stand proudly beside us; not slaves and sycophants for us to lord upon.”

“Your words are full of honey, but tell me, Yeva: if everyone is standing proud — who will be swinging a pick, soaked in sweat? And who will drag the ore to the surface, covered in dust and muck?”

“Who swings water hammers in a smithy?” Yeva immediately asked her in turn. “Who mills grain in a windmill?”

“You think that there are enough rivers across the lands and winds in the sky to do everything?”

“And what makes rivers flow across the land and winds blow across the sky then? What makes grains grow in the field?”

“These are the questions of philosophy.”

Yeva pointed at the sky. “The sun. Its warmth turns seawater into clouds, clouds rain in the mountains, and rain flows into rivers. Its heat makes air swirl and ebb like broth on fire, sending winds in all directions. Its rays feed the green of plants, making them grow fruits in turn. You hail from the sands of Yusuf — you should know how strong and harsh the sun can be. The challenge is to take that power and use it for work.”

“Are you not afraid of a Divine retribution? To force the sun itself to work for you?”

“No. Because I am not planning to whip the sun into obedience nor will I threaten it with a sword. Do you think sailors apologise to rivers for carrying them downstream? Do they apologise to the sea for holding their ships afloat? The sun doesn’t care whether its rays nourish a plant, dry out a puddle, or turn a milling stone. To your question about having enough, I will tell both of you a secret. Treat it as the secret of this Manor.”

Yeva stepped to the side and drew a square on the ground, about half of Shahin’s arm span in size.

“I will not talk at this moment about ways to convert heat into motion, but they exist. I even saw toys and trinkets on the market that use fire to twist and move. What is important is the size and scale. This square alone receives enough power from the sun to do the work of ten slaves. While it is impossible to harness all of this energy, imagine if you could harness even a tenth: each square like that is one murk slave. The city of Samat alone has a few million of such squares, squares that do not need food or a whip.”

She took a step into the square and turned to the silent wermages. “Now imagine how many squares like this are in the entire Emanai and tell me if this will be enough.”

“The question is,” Shahin slid around Yeva, forming a circle with her black and gold tail, “can you turn that tale into reality?”

“Me? One murk per circle?” Yeva scoffed. “If we have time and handy people on our side, like Wrena Kiymetl and Isra Haleh, Erf and I can achieve seven. Do you want me to repeat this in front of the Orb of Truth?”

Yeva was just like Erf, Shahin realised. There was that same indifference toward her tail, she knew that Yeva noticed her movement but did not flinch. The lamura was not sure how far these two were planning to go but she knew that there was only one way that Esca could keep up. A way for her House to prosper without suffering the future hegemony of the rapidly growing Eighth Pillar of Emanai.

“Then let me assist as well.” Shahin bowed to Yeva. “Beyond my current Servitude. Let me stand by your side not in penance for my past actions, but as a proof of goodwill among our Manors.”

“You are welcome, then.” Yeva bowed in turn. “Please start by helping Isra with her current problem, we have enough family drama as is.”

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Chapter was edited by: Xeno Morph and UnknownPlunger.