“Who, me?” Yosha stared at his eldest brother.
Hannes gave him a wry grin. “Yes, you. I need the help, and I think that you can fill the need. Heber will show you the basic system we use (whenever he gets back), but if you think of a better way to keep all this information in line and where I can get to it, feel free to mention it.”
The piles of paper threatened to avalanche off the table and had begun forming drifts on couches and side tables. Hannes had never cared for much furniture in his study, since that would take up his pacing room, which left little space to put the reams of information he wanted. Yosha glanced around, feeling as if the mounds were growing and he were shrinking.
“I guess I can try,” he ventured.
“That’s what I’m asking, Yosh. And once you get the filing system memorized, you can start looking at the information itself and tell me what you think. I can always use another perspective on things, especially since things are moving so fast.”
Yosha stilled, head bowed. “You want my opinion?”
Hannes walked around the table, careful not to disturb the papers. “I already said that. I’m not going to hold your hand like you’re a child, Yosha. You can do this, and I expect you to give it your best. I have to get to some meetings, which may not be as miserable as usual since Annat found out some things, so you can get started. I think Heber has a list of what piles are which over there.” He waved at a smaller mountain growing under one of the narrow ceiling windows.
Yosha bowed, having nothing to say to that. Hannes grunted and left the room.
Where to start? Yosha blew out a breath and took another, longer look around. He’d never done anything like this before, and Hannes knew it. And what had that jab about hand-holding meant? Yosha had never asked for pity or extra help, and he wasn’t going to start now.
He looked at the pile rising next to his knee. As good a place to start as any. He picked up some of the top pages and jumped back when the whole pile slid to the floor. An auspicious beginning.
The pages he held were wireless communications, mostly from the unit watching the mines where Luvaris had holed up. Yosha glanced around; there wasn’t a surface uncovered to put the sheets on. But there was quite a bit of floor space …
Soon he had piles of his own forming on the floor, one each for wireless messages, troop reports, formal petitions from citizens, formal petitions from guilds or other groups, messages from out-kingdom, reports from the generals, and more. Ten minutes into the task, he had to reorganize the wireless pile into three different wireless groupings and both petition piles into five groups. Then he began alternating the various pages in the stacks so he could tell where one set ended and the next began.
He did find the list that Heber had made, which required further redistribution of the sorted pages. However, he was able to find already-sorted stacks and move them faster to his new piles. When he cleared the third end table, he took a moment to look around with satisfaction.
“Good heavens! What’s happened?”
Yosha turned to find Heber standing in the doorway, arms filled with more papers, eyes wide as he looked at the now-covered floor.
“Um, Hannes asked me to help sort these,” he replied. Even though he outranked the servant considerably, Yosha felt the urge to duck his head and retreat. That, however, was unfitting of him. And it might not help build that “united front” image Hannes had talked about before.
“I see,” the assistant replied, covering his surprise and carefully navigating inside.
“Here, you can set those down on this table. I found your list, and I’ve been trying to put things together the way that you do. Oh, shoot, that keeps falling over. We need baskets or something to put these sheets in; piles just won’t do. Maybe some shelves with baskets on them, like the maids use for the laundering, and we could label them.”
Heber’s eyes brightened. “My prince, that is an excellent idea! I’ve been struggling to merely sort the pages, so much that I didn’t realize how many had piled up in the last months. I agree that we should get something, and baskets will be a start. We’ll have to ask the king, of course, before we start building shelves in here–”
“Or another room,” Yosha muttered, staring at the walls. It would be a shame to take down the tapestries that had hung in this room since his grandfather’s reign, and Hannes hated clutter. “Maybe a room in this hall could become a records room; that way Hannes could keep his study but still have the information at hand. I mean, he really only needs a summary at hand; he doesn’t have to have all of this underfoot all the time. Isn’t there a receiving room across the hall that we haven’t used in forever? Get rid of the furniture, and we could build rows of shelves all the way up to the ceiling. The cooks do that with the root vegetables and canned foods in the cellars.”
The secretary bowed. “My prince, those are genius ideas. I believe the king will agree with our suggestions, so though I will wait for his approval to begin, I will speak to the builders and the seneschal immediately. And I will ask the maids to bring in any baskets they have available so we can corral some of these papers immediately.”
“That sounds good,” Yosha replied, trying to keep his grin friendly and not macabre. Heber flinched slightly, but he recovered and smiled back. He bowed again and whisked himself out.
Yosha turned to the new stacks, letting his grin widen since there was no one to frighten with it. Sorting papers wasn’t glamorous, but Hannes would thank him for controlling the mess and making it easier to absorb all the information. None of those sneaky ambassadors would wool-pull Hyksas now! And just let Luvaris put a soulish toe outside those caverns; he’d be pounced on faster than meat in a dog pen. And Yosha would make it happen.
For the first time in a long time, Yosha felt worthy to be called a prince of Hyksas.