The sliver of sunlight shining through the cracks of the boarded-up windows fell on Augustus' eyelid causing him to wake. He awoke to a terrible headache, a mouth filled with dried saliva, and a pressure in his bladder. He stumbled up and went to the water room to relieve his bladder, a process that felt like it took longer than it ever had before in his life. Then he went to the kitchen where, he hoped, he would find some clean water to drink, but he also knew Sara might have left this morning in a hurry and not had time to boil the water.

Luckily, Heratio was his saviour. There was a big jug of clean water that Augustus hurriedly poured into a glass and drank all at once, then refilling the glass. It was just regular pre-boiled water but it tasted almost sweet as if it had been blessed by Aurelia herself. Heratio had followed him into the kitchen and said, "I knew to get that water ready, having seen how much you'd drank last night."

"You have my thanks," said Augustus, taking another drink of water. "Give me a bit of time, then we will head to the port. Although I would rather rest, there is too much work ahead of us. The drinking last night was a mistake."

"As you wish."

Augustus changed out of the fine clothing, that wasn’t his normal nightwear, into equally fine clothing that was predominantly white and grey, leaving the dirty clothes in a pile for Sara to take care of. Before he could leave the house he felt the urge and rushed to the outhouse to defecate. Heratio smiled as he ran and calmly grabbed a rag and went to the well to collect a bucket of water. He knocked on the occupied outhouse door and said, "I got a bucket of water and a rag just outside the door for when you need it. I'll wait in the reception room for you."

While sitting on his throne, face firmly resting in his hand as he leaned lazily to the side, taking deep breaths, he contemplated the other feces he would have to deal with. Yesterday, he thought to himself, was about dealing with the immediate threats. Today he would probe for information while trying to secure more resources for when he could turn to the offensive. He wasn't out of the woods yet, but having a separate estate made them safer than the others probably realized.

Denying Giovannus information was their best defence currently. If he sent assassins to the house and their target wasn't there, or even had set a trap, that would put Giovannus in a vulnerable position when the assassins were tortured and made to confess. As long as he could keep Giovannus in the dark he should be safe from direct action, at least for a time. Eventually, Giovannus would have people shadowing everyone that left the house, and once he was satisfied he knew the lay of the land he would strike.

Augustus closed his eyes and searched for the answer. How will he gain the advantage? His eyes darted back and forth behind his shut eyelids as he contemplated his options. Finally, he decided. He gave one last push before getting up to fetch the bucket and clean himself. He left the outhouse with a plan fully formed and met with Heratio in the reception room.

"Let's head to the port but first we need to stop at the magistrate building," said Augustus as he searched for his quill and a piece of paper. He slammed the paper on the table and wrote in large print Castor please arrange a meeting with my uncle Pascal. Today if possible. Then he put together a day pack which he slung across his chest and over his left shoulder. It was filled with documents, paper and a skin filled with clean water. "Alright let's go."

The two of them exited the house and walked through the well-kept grounds of the Castellian estate. They avoided the main road, instead of crossing through the fields of grass as Augustus checked over his shoulder hoping to spot if someone was shadowing them. They passed under an apple tree and Heratio leaped up and snatched some apples from their branches and handed one to Augustus with his grumbling stomach.

He ate it as they walked, then tossing the core in a big high arced throw at a bush some distance away. They continued through the gate that marked the boundary of the Castellian property and headed down the streets. They walked at a brisk pace, keeping to the main streets. A few times a cut through an alleyway would have been faster but they both knew not to tempt fate.

"How well do you know Gillivan?" prodded Augustus, trying to get a better feel of what he thought was their current largest liability.

"Very well," said Heratio, not breaking his attentive gaze that scanned the people walking past. "We have been friends since childhood. I know what you're trying to ask too, we can trust him. You have my word. He is not apt for the deception game, I'd say he's honest to a fault." Heratio let out a chuckle. "I've seen the man slit another's throat without hesitation, but ask him to lie for you and he'll balk. Besides his personal failings, I fully vouch for his integrity."

"That's good to hear. So he's not your brother to be clear?"

"Not that I know of. He could be a half-brother if one of our mothers or fathers were philanderous. Our two families knew each other well."

They rounded a corner to see the imposing magistrate building before them. They climbed up the marble steps and went in. The lobby was a large room, pews were set up for people to sit and wait for a clerk, sitting behind a long desk with multiple stations, to be free to address their issue. In the pews were the rabble of the city, here to petition an investigation or a grievance, or to ask that a ruling be overturned. The walls of the room were lined with statues and paintings of great magistrates who were long dead. Augustus strode forward, bypassing the wait to talk to a clerk that was only meant to deal with the issues of the higher class of the city or magistrates.

"I am Augustus DeCastellian, a lower-magistrate. I would like to talk to the record keeper of final testaments."

"Of course," the clerk responded. He didn't even have to check the registry. After all, he had just seen Augustus yesterday. "He will take you to the office." He pointed at a guard standing nearby who stepped forward.

Augustus and Heratio followed the guard through the network of hallways, and up some stairs, until they reached the office they were looking for. Inside was the magistrate that was the record keeper of final testaments. Dressed in the traditional magistrate robe, except with some extra blue lining that indicated he held a higher rank. He was a preato-magistrate, which was two levels above Augustus.

"Greetings Augustus, welcome back from wherever you were off to," said the record keeper after a glance at the visitors then quickly returning to what he was reading.

Augustus gave a rare bow, at least it was rare from Heratio's perspective. Even with his hefty name Augustus was of the lowest rank among the magistrates and needed to bow to show respect to those who outranked him. "Greetings Preato-magistrate," said Augustus solemnly. "I wish to document my last testament. I see you are a busy man, with important work to attend to, but I know what I want to document. I promise to be quick."

"Oh, I'm not so busy as to not do my duties." The preato-magistrate placed a thread in the book he was reading, closed it, then put it to the side. He searched through his things finding a box and placing it on his desk. "Write what you want on parchments then seal with your personal seal. Put them in the box then I'll place a wax seal, then you will place a wax seal. I'll store the box in a locked and guarded room."

Augustus wrote quickly, making multiple copies of the same letter. Then sealing them all with the wax drippings from a candle. Then he wrote the document that gave the instructions to the record keeper, again sealing with wax. He took out his stamp and pressed on each one, affirming that Augustus was indeed the author. In the box they went and again was sealed with the two stamps of Augustus and the praeto-magistrate. "It's done," said the preato-magistrate as he searched himself to find his key. "I'll go store it in the vault."

Augustus knew it was in the realm of possibilities that Giovannus would have influence over the record keeper, but he also knew that if the record keeper chose to dispose of that box and evidence that he had a final testament somehow arose, it would be considered a serious dereliction of duties. A fear Augustus assumed would override Giovannus' influence. If Augustus died, the final testament would be taken to be opened in the presence of a group of magistrates, who would deliver any letters inside the box and enforce the division of assets as instructed. With their business concluded Augustus and Heratio found their way out to the street without the need of an escort.

They continued down through the slightly sloping streets. At one point the change of elevation necessitated they go down a set of stairs, there they could see the ocean and the port. Ships were on the move, coming in and out of the city and carefully navigating to give each other enough space. Finally, they arrived at the section of the port that contained the warehouses and offices of the trading families. Augustus had been here many times, whenever he would shadow his father he would invariably have a meeting take place here, and even before the voyage to the Maysian Island, he had come here daily to make sure the preparations were taken care of.


Support "The Merchant Prince Book 1: Returning Home"

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