Hannes frowned at the page in his hand. Annat stood by, letting him think about its contents.
“Why didn’t Barna tell me about this?”
“Possibly because he has been busy with the new information acquired from our guest,” Annat suggested.
Hannes’ mouth twisted for a moment. “I guess that’s true enough. But he still needs to keep track of all his projects better than that. Hopefully we have enough time to deal with these energy spikes, but I would like to have known about this sooner. Seems like they’ve been working on whatever this is since we destroyed that first machine.”
“It would seem so,” Annat agreed. “I’m afraid I don’t have the technical experience to understand all of these details, but I, too, am worried. Luvaris’ techniques tend to be far more harmful than most.”
The king sorted papers until he came across the ones he wanted. “Our troops are too widely spread to spare any to deal with this. We barely managed the last offensive. What will it take to beat him?”
“I would that I knew,” Annat replied, mirroring his concern.
He shrugged. “Well, we can’t change what’s already done. ANy thoughts on this new activity? It match anything you’ve heard about?”
She considered for a moment. “Possibly, but it’s difficult to determine what is connected and what is circumstantial. We’ve seen a rise in raids by the Riven, including some Hollows, on towns and villages. They appear to be concerned with taking prisoners, to what end we can only speculate.”
“I would like to see more specialists trained to understand all these marks and squiggles,” Hannes grumbled. “I need Barna working on the Repellers and defenses and all, but I need people figuring out what Luvaris is up to.”
“Perhaps there are some simple tasks that Barna could assign to others without particular training, or with minimal training,” Annat suggested. “We could put out a discreet call for assistance.”
“Do that. Also, ask for help for Esthis, too. Maybe some blacksmiths would be willing to bang out her machine frames.” Hannes made a note.
Annat titled her head to one side as she considered. “Perhaps we could look for tinkers; those are men who know how to make or fix things in a hurry.”
He grinned at her. “That’s exactly who we need. And maybe some fine-metal workers, too. We need them for wiring and stuff. And their metals; put out a call for that. I think our citizens can do without buying nice jewelry for a while.”
“A fine idea,” Annat said. “I’ll even donate some of my gold and silver chains to the cause.”
“Really?” Hannes raised his eyebrows. “I know how much you enjoy your chains and hoops and all.”
“Who better to serve as example? Who better to demonstrate sacrifice?”
“And who better to deserve new baubles when it’s all said and done?”
“Of course.” She grinned back at him.
Hannes shared the humor with her, then sobered. “Alright, back to this matter. For sure, we’ll have to talk to Barna about managing his projects better. But first, what do we do about all these energy spikes? And all the people getting taken?”
Annat sat on a couch and leaned back. “Allow me to think aloud, and we shall work our way to an answer. We know that Luvaris is active both in his den and in the countryside. We know that we are going to be calling in additional helpers for Barna and the analytic engine development. Perhaps the basic training could involve going over the signals taken from the outpost near the mines.
“As for the country attacks, perhaps I could draw further on the idea of the tinkers. There are many traveling merchants, tinkers, mendicants, and the like who might be willing to send in information. Of course, I will have to put measures in place to discourage frivolous reports and agents of our enemies, but that will be my responsibility.”
“I trust that you’ll do it well,” Hannes replied. “Now I’m wondering about protecting folks around the kingdom. I don’t have soldiers enough, but every town of any size has at least a few swords and men who know how to use them. If I can distribute some guns to them, that might help. I could tuck a squad or two in a caravan and have them train some of the people in the outer regions, then leave supplies with them. Won’t help against Riven, but it would take out Hollows and any tainted that came along.”
“A fine idea. Let me get busy with my tasks, Brother, and you may get to yours.”
“Indeed. I have a younger brother with ears that need pinning back.”
Annat paused on her way out of the study. “Don’t be too harsh with him, Hannes. You know he wilts easily, and he’s only trying to please you. I’m sure this wasn’t because of mischief.”
“I won’t be too hard on him, Nat, but I will give him some things to think about. Right now, we have too much going on to worry about hard or soft feelings. Barna has to step up and take care of the things under his command. We all do. Luvaris won’t give us a second chance, and I won’t lose my family to mistakes that we could have prevented.”
His sister sighed. “You are right in that. Our tasks are too great for us to linger over them, much as we wish we could. Perhaps … well, I won’t tell you how to lead. I trust you to do what’s best for all of us.”
“Thanks, Nat. See you at supper, then?”
“As God wills.”