A Dangerous Climate (Saint-Germain #22)

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05.03.2019

Heer Lodewick Kerstan van Hoek stood in the window of the care-house using a magnifying lens to study the state of Saint-Germain's knuckles, shaking his head, ruminating on the damage he saw; when he spoke, it was in Dutch, so that their discussion would be private. "I don't know that I'd recommend removing the splint from your hand quite yet, Hercegek. I know you expected to be able to go to bandages by now, but I can't recommend it. Hands are tricky, and if they heal badly, well-it hasn't been quite four weeks since your injuries. Your ribs will have to remain wrapped for another month at least, and you'd be doing yourself a favor if you continued to avoid strain." He was somewhat taller than Saint-Germain, thin as a stork, longheaded, and scholarly of manner; his clothes were well-made, of Dutch cut in a deep-brown shade of fine wool, his chemise simple white linen with only bands to serve as a neck-cloth. His only ornament was silver buckles on his shoes. Nearly forty and showing his age, he regarded his patient narrowly. "Yet you seem a robust fellow; you've a good, deep chest and sturdy musculature. In spite of the beating you took, you're a strapping figure of a man, a good indication that you're recovering."

"A fortunate accident of birth," said Saint-Germain, inclining his head. His Dutch was a bit old-fashioned but not so much that he and van Hoek had any trouble understanding each other. Today he had donned a coat and knee-britches of cerulean-blue velvet; his waistcoat was dove-gray satin heavily embroidered in silver, and the leg-hose on his right leg was the same dove-gray. More for fashion than necessity, he carried a cane topped with a large, polished black sapphire, and, at Hroger's recommendation, he wore the English wig.

"As is so much of life-we see it every day," said van Hoek with a sigh. "I am going to bandage your leg again, but not splint it. The bruise on the bone has subsided and you have no inflammation of the ankle or the knee that I can observe, which shows that your circulation is not impeded. That's what I worry about-impediments to circulation." He nodded toward the most recent addition among those needing treatment. "Not like that poor devil. I don't think his hand can be saved. It was caught between rolling logs and was crushed in the palm. I can only hope that the hand doesn't putrefy, for if it does, he'll lose most of his arm. As it is, I fear he'll lose the hand, and soon. The bones can't be set, and the fingers will be useless."

"Can you do that procedure?" Saint-Germain asked.

"Remove a hand? Oh, yes. I don't like having to, however," said van Hoek, his eyes turning sad. "Such a loss is so final."

"A bad situation," said Saint-Germain, who paused thoughtfully before saying, "I have a remedy that may be of use to you. It aids in reducing the severity of putrescence in a wound, or from an illness. If you would permit me, I would like to bring some to you, for you and Ludmilla Borisevna to use. It would be small enough recompense for what you have done for me." Lacking a laboratory in Sankt Piterburkh, and with little likelihood of being allowed to build one, Saint-Germain had brought a generous supply of the sovereign remedy with him from Poland in hermetically sealed jars.

Van Hoek looked mildly troubled. "Not one of those compounds the peasants make, is it? Rancid fat and boiled nettles and who-knows-what in it?"

"I learned its ingredients a long time ago, and it has served me well through my travels," said Saint-Germain. "I had it from a physician of great reputation, but if you would prefer I not-"

"If Ludmilla Borisevna approves, I'm willing to try it out, and to thank you for caring about this injured man. So many of those in the Foreign Quarter are unwilling to extend their help to us that sometimes I despair. This is the only place where they can come if they're hurt; you'd think they would want us to-" He cleared his throat. "That is the trouble with this work. So many men are injured. We see only the supervisors, you know. The regular workmen are sent to the Russian priests, who give them pages of Scripture and bathe the hurt in Holy Water. Then they're left to their own devices. A great many of them die. Just three days ago, five men died working on the Naval Headquarters, where the Czar plans to have his Admiralty. A beam fell, crushing them. They were blessed and sent off to the other side of the river. There's a grave-pit over there."

Saint-Germain had heard about the incident, but said only, "How heavy are the losses among the common laborers?"

"Oh, quite heavy. With the long days, they're worked sixteen hours a day. They have poor food and bad water, and they sleep in tents on damp ground. The summer will be worse: Swamp Fever is everywhere in the summer, and not just the workers die from it." Van Hoek went back across the room, calling out in Russian as he went, "Kyril, if you would, bring me some bandages, the wide ones, if you please."

"I'll get them," came the answer from the other room, but in Ludmilla Borisevna's voice. "Kyril Yureivich is out buying pork for the evening meal."

The man lying in the sixth bed moaned and turned over, watching the two men with mild interest now that he could understand what they were saying.

"In that case, you may find this useful," said Saint-Germain, also in Russian, pulling out nine golden guineas from his purse hanging on his hip.

"Oh, Hercegek, this is too much," van Hoek exclaimed.

"It seems to me you have need of it," said Saint-Germain, looking at the men in the beds. "It would be my honor to help with the expenses of this care-house."

Ludmilla came into the main room, her poppy-colored European clothes protected by an engulfing apron. She carried a tray of supplies, which she set down on the table near the stove. "Hercegek," she said with a slight curtsy.

"Ludmilla Borisevna," he answered with a bow.

Van Hoek took a pair of scissors from the tray. "If you will put your heel on this stool, Hercegek, knee straight?"

Saint-Germain did as he was told; he no longer had trouble keeping his balance, but he was careful to remain still as the point of the scissors slid along his shin, cutting the splint away. He watched as the bandages were unwound, and the skin revealed. "Some bruising still, but otherwise nothing alarming." He had seen far worse on his body, but he still felt a sense of self-condemnation for allowing the assault to happen at all.

"What would you expect, given the severity of your injuries?" Van Hoek inspected the exposed flesh with meticulous attention. "There is very little puffiness remaining and the texture is good. I believe you are making an acceptable recovery. In a few days-shall we say three or four?-you may wear high boots if you like, but not quite yet."

"I look forward to that," said Saint-Germain with feeling.

Van Hoek achieved a smile. "If only all our patients recovered as well as you're doing, Hercegek, we would have no need of your guineas."

"All the more reason you should accept them," said Saint-Germain.

"Guineas? What do you mean, guineas?" Ludmilla asked, staring from van Hoek to Saint-Germain and back.

"The Hercegek has made the very generous offer of covering some of our expenses." He cocked his head. "I haven't accepted: this is your house."

Ludmilla regarded Saint-Germain intently. "Why do you wish to help us?" She was more curious than challenging, but there was a light in her eyes that showed she was alert to interference in her tasks.

"Because your care-house is much needed and no one else appears to be willing to help you. You are short on supplies-as is almost everyone in Sankt Piterburkh, and that is more than an inconvenience: it hampers your effectiveness. You need another dozen beds and additional staff, but you have not got either, and it is all you can do to deal with what you have, let alone any more patients; you work to exhaustion, which benefits no one. If you could afford these expansions, you would do more good, not only for the city, but for yourself. Since the Czar has not settled funds on your care-house, you're left to your own monies and the donations of others, which will suffice only so long; when you have no funds, you cannot give care to anyone. Under the circumstances, I thought you would find a few extra guineas useful. The ones I provided today will be equaled every month that I remain here." He inclined his head to her, aware that she was vexed with him for saying so much. "Heer van Hoek has not mentioned it, but I also offered to provide a sovereign remedy I possess against infection of all kinds. I would be pleased if you would accept both the money and the remedy."

"What do you know of remedies?" Ludmilla asked sharply.

Saint-Germain answered with unflustered calm, "I have traveled extensively, and during my travels, I have taken the time to learn as much as I can. I have studied medical techniques in Egypt, in Greece, in Italy, and in my native land." He had also studied them in China, in India, and in the Audiencia de Peru, but he did not mention this. "This remedy has been helpful in many cases where infection and putrefaction were present."

"Are you a physician?" van Hoek asked, startled.

"I have some capability in medicinal arts, although most of what I have done is in the realm of discovering treatments; I do not fill my days seeing patients, as you do," said Saint-Germain, telling himself that this was not entirely inaccurate. "I have made the remedy available to others, from time to time. I believe that many of them have found it satisfactory." He did not mention that the sovereign remedy he spoke of was made from moldy bread, or that he had treated the sick throughout most of his long life.

"More chemist than physician, then," said van Hoek, satisfied with this answer.

"It is where my interests lie," said Saint-Germain, who had practiced alchemy for more than two thousand years. He turned back to Ludmilla. "Well? Would you be willing to try the remedy? I have syrup of poppies, as well, and pansy-and-willow-bark ointment, and tincture of wolfsbane for spasmodic coughing. You may think syrup of poppies a bit old-fashioned, but I have found it to be quite reliable in the way that some of the current soporifics are not."

She thought about his offer, and finally said, "If you would like to bring what you have and instruct me on the uses of the remedy, I'll see what we can do with it. You can supervise its distribution, if you think it's necessary. If it proves effective, we'll want more. If it doesn't, then you needn't provide us with it any longer."

Van Hoek nodded in concurrence. "An excellent decision." He reached for the roll of linen and set about rewrapping Saint-Germain's leg. "This will be much more comfortable, Hercegek. I'll want to examine it again in a week, to be sure there are no secondary problems, but by the look of it, you'll be almost recovered by then."

"That is my hope," said Saint-Germain. He looked down at his splinted right hand. "But this, you say, will take longer to improve."

"The damage was worse, as is the case with your ribs," said van Hoek as if he had forgotten how badly the hand had been injured. "Ludmilla was right to splint it from the first." He paused in his wrapping. "There has been no infection. Is that on account of your sovereign remedy?"

"It has that effect," said Saint-Germain obliquely; no medicaments of any kind had ever had impact on him, although he had been given poison a few times in forms that had left him vitiated and suffering.

"Ah. Very good," said van Hoek.

"What do you want in exchange for it?" Ludmilla asked, keeping her tone neutral.

"Nothing. I've already received more from you than money can repay; the remedy is more a payment in kind," Saint-Germain said.

"But you've given us gold," she said reasonably. "Why so much more?"

Saint-Germain considered his answer. "Because you are needed and no one else seems willing to do your work." He inclined his head to her.

She heard him out, and waited as if expecting a longer, grander explanation. When he did not go on, she said, "Very to the point. Well, then, I imagine we'd be fools, Heer van Hoek and I, if we refused either offer."

"Then we understand one another," said Saint-Germain, and held his right hand out to be treated, splinted, and wrapped. He could sense the attentive eyes of most of the men in the beds on him, and he wondered what the rumors would be by the end of the following day, for surely the patients would report on what they witnessed, and their reports would be repeated and improved, until he would be unable to recognize his own simple act; only yesterday he had heard that his attack had been carried out by a gang of fifty ruffians who had slaughtered four of his companions and kidnapped another two. He waited patiently while van Hoek continued his ministrations.

"I saw your wife yesterday," Ludmilla remarked suddenly. "She was walking along the levee with a German noblewoman and her escort. It is still a bit surprising to see women of quality out on the streets in that way, but since the Czar abolished the terem, even Russian women take the air." She paused. "She is a very attractive woman, your wife, with a grand bearing. You must be very proud."

"Proud?" The observation took him aback; he disguised this with a wry smile. "I suppose I am, at that."

Ludmilla seemed puzzled by his response. "I've been told all European men of rank seek to wed women of whom they can be proud. Is this incorrect? Have I misunderstood?"

Keeping in mind the man he was supposed to be, Saint-Germain said, "No, you have the gist of it, Ludmilla Borisevna, although many are content to be proud of a wife's connections and fortunes; it is the hope of all that they will be well-matched in every aspect," he allowed. "When great Houses unite, it is a good thing for everyone if both spouses are inclined to think well of the bargain."

One of the listening patients laughed, and another swore quietly.

"Sadly, that is much the state of marriage, isn't it, Hercegek?" van Hoek asked as he finished securing the wrapping; he had left his wife in Antwerp with her brother's family and the promise that he would send for her and their three children as soon as the city was livable. "But it sounds as if you've made the most of your situation in that regard. There. That's done." He found Saint-Germain's fashionable cane and handed it to him. "Come back in four days so I can make sure the splint is properly aligned. And wear a high boot on your leg. I want to see if you have any secondary swelling from it."

"That I will," said Saint-Germain with an elegant bow in preparation for taking his leave.

Ludmilla offered a curtsy. "I thank you, Hercegek, for all you've offered us." There was a slight emphasis on offered, as if she had reservations about his willingness to live up to his self-imposed obligation.

"Then I will see you in four days," Saint-Germain told them as he went to the door. "Oh," he added as an afterthought, "if I can be of any further service, I would be honored to know what that might be." Ludmilla and van Hoek raised their hands as he stepped out into the warm afternoon sunlight.

Adolphus Gronigen leaned down from the driving-box of the light carriage. "Where shall I take you now, Hercegek?"

"Take me out toward the second levee, as far as you can go, then wait for my return. I want to have a look at that treadmill." He got into the carriage and settled back onto the upholstered squabs, then tapped the ceiling with his cane as a signal to be off. As the carriage threaded its way along the rutted streets, the signs of industry were everywhere: a road-crew was adding coarse sand to the street to provide a better surface for the wheels of carts and wagons; more houses were going up, as well as more barracks, and at the walls of the fortress, another gang of builders was reinforcing the stockade with split logs; another four administrative buildings were being erected; a load of lumber was being pulled along on a sledge by a team of stout Dutch draft horses the color of buttercups-they leaned into their collars and sweated as they went. In the river beyond, a dredging barge was aswarm with activity, while half a dozen boats tacked inexpertly across the water. The Dutch bell in the fortress' church chimed two.

Some ten minutes later, Adolphus reined in the matched grays and called down to Saint-Germain, "I don't think we can go any farther, Hercegek."

"Then I'll walk the rest of the way," said Saint-Germain, opening the carriage door and letting down the steps; he descended with care. "Wait here. I shouldn't be long." He blinked in the pale sunlight and shaded his eyes with his hand as he picked his way out toward the wooden walkway that led out along the levee.

"Ah!" shouted the supervisor of the huge treadmill as he caught sight of Saint-Germain. "Hercegek! A pleasure to see you up and well."

"Thank you, Mikhail Valentinovich," said Saint-Germain to the man who had been Vladimir Pavlovich Timchenkov's assistant and who had now taken his place. "It is good to be out." He pointed to the treadmill with his cane. "How is it running? Are you having any trouble with it?"

"One of the gears was damaged, but it's been replaced." Mikhail Valentinovich Tverin rubbed at his chin; he was a bit nonplussed to see the Hercegek so soon after his attack, but did his best to appear composed, offering a full report. "All four hoses are functioning well now that the filters you made are in place, and they no longer clog twice a day; the pumping is proceeding well. As you can see, we have five men on the treadmill, and we alternate them every two hours or so, as you recommended. No man has to do more than four shifts on the treadmill in any day. They don't collapse as often that way."

"A sensible change in methods, then," said Saint-Germain, watching as the men in the huge open wheel kept up their steady pacing. From a short distance away came the steady sound of axes and saws as logs were made into more planks to extend the wooden walkway beyond the treadmill. "Any other trouble?"

"You mean with gangs?" Tverin asked, a bit too quickly.

"If there has been more trouble with them, yes, otherwise, no. What other trouble do you have?" Saint-Germain asked urbanely.

"We're plagued with flying insects and with lice, but that's the way of summer," said Tverin, waving aside these nuisances with a chuckle. "Last week, we were given bad meat and half the men were sick for a day. No better and no worse than any other work-gang. You can see that Feodor Lavrentovich has his men making preparations for sinking piles. By the end of summer, we should have a dozen houses here."

Feodor Lavrentovich Odevsky lifted his head, batted away at the midges that teemed up from the marsh, and inclined his head. "God is good!" he shouted as a kind of welcome before using his heavy walking-stick to drub the shoulders of a man who was teetering with fatigue. "You! Keep working!"

"Leave him be," said Saint-Germain, leaving his dry place on the wooden walkway, and wading out into the mire; soft mud rose up over his shoes, darkening his leg-hose and bandages. "I think he may be ill."

"If he isn't, he will be," vowed Odevsky ominously.

"No, Feodor Lavrentovich. Let me look at him." He went squishily up to the laborer, a scrawny man no more than twenty-five but with the look of twice as many years. His skin was red, but it was not entirely from sunburn. "This man has a fever," Saint-Germain said.

Those around the stricken worker drew back; most crossed themselves, a few looked frightened.

"May lizards consume his entrails!" Odevsky burst out, raising his stick again as if to add more blows to the ones he had given already.

Saint-Germain stepped between Odevsky and the worker. "This man must go back to his tent. He needs fresh water and willow-bark tea."

"Oh?" Odevsky demanded, forgetting that he was addressing a nobleman. "And what example does that set the rest? They're all slackers. Give one an excuse to lie about and all the rest will do the same."

Saint-Germain bent down and picked up the workman, slinging him over his shoulder with an ease that commanded the attention of all the workers in that part of the drainage area; he did his best to ignore the surge of pain beneath the wrappings around his chest. "If he continues to work, he will die. I am taking him to the tents. You will accompany me and show me which is his. Then you will appoint someone to nurse him." He had not raised his voice or made a threatening gesture, but there was something about his self-possessed stillness that unnerved Odevsky.

"Yes. As you say, Hercegek." He did his best to abase himself as Saint-Germain trod off through the marsh, then followed after him, afraid to do anything that might inspire Saint-Germain to turn on him.

The stand of tents was near a scrubby clump of trees on what passed for high ground, a haphazard collection of what at first appeared to be canvas mushrooms set out around a fire-pit. Odevsky pointed to one of the round tents. "That's his, as I recall."

Saint-Germain bore the man to the flimsy structure, bent down to get himself and the man he carried through the opening, then looked at the cluster of open bed-rolls. "Which is his?"

"I don't know," said Odevsky. "Does it matter?"

"It may, if what he has is catching," said Saint-Germain as he lowered the man from his shoulder to the nearest bed-roll; his fine blue coat was smirched with greenish-brown mud; the worker was pale and his breathing whistled. "Well, do something useful, Odevsky-go get water for him."

Odevsky ducked his head again. "Yes, Hercegek," he said as he backed out of the tent.

Saint-Germain called after him, "What is his name?"

From beyond the tent Odevsky answered, "How should I know?" before he tramped off to the iron trough for water.

Shaking his head, Saint-Germain went down on one knee next to the supine workman, bending over him and trying not to wince at the pain from his ribs. Loosening the man's long, mud-caked smock, he laid his unsplinted hand on the man's chest and tried to discern the degree of fever in his lungs. The sensation under his fingers was like touching bubbles through a thin film; this was troubling. He bent and smelled the man's breath, which stank of onions and half-rotten meat. The man's livid color worried Saint-Germain, who realized that the laborer had become seriously ill and was nearing a crisis. If only there were a care-house where the man could be taken, he thought. Carefully he put his hand against the man's neck, and found the pulse thin and rapid-another bad sign. The man shivered as he tried to breathe.

Odevsky returned and held out a dirty cup with cloudy water in it. "Here, Hercegek. I must get back to my men or they will do no work." In spite of his emphatic tone, he waited to be dismissed.

"This man needs nursing. Choose one of your group-someone who is tired or hurt, whom you can spare-and send him back here to attend to this fellow." Saint-Germain put the cup to the sick man's lips, tipping a little water onto his lips and watching him attempt to drink it.

"As soon as I can, Hercegek." He bowed and left the tent.

More than half an hour had passed before another workman trudged up to the tent and another of the laborers stuck his head in. "Odevsky said I should come watch over Sviati," he said in the accents of the Moscow streets.

"Is that his name?" Saint-Germain asked.

"Who knows?" the other answered. "It's what we called him."

"He's still alive," Saint-Germain said, an edge in his voice.

"It's what we called him at the Two Knives tavern, in Moscow," the new-comer explained. "He and I and a good number of our comrades were taken up in one of Romodanovsky's collections of criminals. This was the third such sweep-we were sent here in October, when the snow was already falling and the marsh was frozen. We worked on buildings all through the winter, and now we drain the swamp." His laughter was harsh. "So I'm to tend him, am I?"

"If you would. He's quite ill," said Saint-Germain, getting carefully to his feet. He did not want to leave the stricken worker with this self-confessed criminal, but he sensed that if he refused to leave there would be dangerous repercussions, so he said, "I will return tomorrow with medicaments and to see if any others among you have taken this ague. Illness can spread rapidly if it is allowed to go untreated."

"As you say, Hercegek," the other man agreed insolently.

Saint-Germain pointed to the half-full cup. "He needs water, and he should be wrapped in a blanket. He may have a fever, but he is so cold that he shakes with it." Unaccountable unease was growing in him; he tried in vain to convince himself that this was the result of the assault he had sustained, and the ache in his ribs. He wished now that his right hand had healed. He knew he had to leave the tent.

"Poor old Sviati," said the putative nurse. "Don't worry. I'll take care of him."

Disliking himself for leaving the sick man with the man Odevsky had sent, Saint-Germain stepped outside of the tent and stood, undecided, for a long minute. He could go back in and confront the man from Moscow, which could lead to more trouble for all of them. Then he saw four men approaching, each one carrying a cudgel, and he understood that he could not walk away from this place with impunity.

The tallest of the four men raised his weapon and motioned to the others, and they began to run toward the cluster of tents; they gave a collective snarl, fanning out as they neared their target.

Saint-Germain moved swiftly to the largest clump of scrub and stood in front of it, his cane braced across his body; he tested his left leg and was satisfied that it would hold him up. As the men came closer to him, he saw that each of them carried a knife thrust through his belt, and all four had bared their teeth in a ferocious smile. He spun the cane in his right hand so that it hummed, and as soon as the nearest of the four was in reach, he slid his hand to the foot of the cane and slammed the black-sapphire head into the side of the man's neck.

The man howled, faltering, his eyes wide with alarm. He tried to reach for his knife, but Saint-Germain struck him again, this time in the abdomen, and the man bent double as he fell, the breath having gone out of him. His three companions moved farther apart as they closed in. "Timofei," one yelled. "Get the cane!"

The youngest of the three on their feet lunged at Saint-Germain and was met with the upswing of the jeweled knob; it smashed into his jaw and left him staggering, a trickle of blood spreading down his chin. Ragoczy shifted his stance to take on the remaining two.

"Kunrat, on three," muttered the most grizzled of the men, a whipcord-thin creature with a nasty scar on his cheek. "One. Two."

He never got to three: Saint-Germain's cane struck just above his ear and he went down soundlessly. Kunrat stopped, stared in disbelief, and as Saint-Germain took a step toward him, broke and ran.

Taking the better part of a minute to recover himself, Saint-Germain went to each of the fallen men and took their knives, concealing them in the small of his back under the waist-band of his knee-britches. Satisfied that he would not be attacked again, and curious that there had been no sound from the tent, he waited a little longer, then slipped back through the flap and found the man from Moscow bending over the sick man, a folded blanket pressed over the sick man's face. Saint-Germain used his cane again to prod the attacker in the side. "You have made a very bad mistake," he said in a voice that was almost cordial, and before the man could turn on him, Saint-Germain swung the cane so that the black sapphire in its head slapped down on the man's shoulder; there was a sharp smack as his clavicle broke.

The man from Moscow bellowed and charged Saint-Germain, only to be struck again on the top of his hip; he stumbled and fell heavily, hurling invectives and spitting with rage while he tried to get to his feet.

"Remain still," Saint-Germain recommended, going to his patient's side, and bending down; he saw that the whites of the man's eyes were pink and his chest no longer rose and fell.

"He was sick!" his murderer shouted. "What did you expect! He was going to die anyway."

"Hence the little diversion you arranged for me?" Saint-Germain asked gently. "One of your boys is dead, one will probably die, one will be sore for a week, and one had the good sense to run away: which leaves you." He studied the man for a short while, then said, "Pick up the body."

"What …?"

"I said pick up the body," Saint-Germain repeated patiently. "Pick it up and carry it to wherever they collect corpses to take across the river. Do it."

The man hesitated, then bent to lift the dead man; he cried out as his broken clavicle shifted. "I can't," he panted, pulling his left arm protectively across his chest.

Saint-Germain sighed. "Then you and I will walk back to the work-crew and you will select someone to do it for you." He nudged the man with the black sapphire. "Now."

The man stumbled toward the door, his face sagging with pain. As he stepped outside, he looked about; the first man Saint-Germain had stopped was sitting up, his knees drawn up to his chest, breathing gustily; his color was bad and he looked dazed. The other two men lay still. "Cunt of the Virgin!" Saint-Germain's captive swore.

"You can deal with them after you take care of the body in the tent," Saint-Germain said, tapping the man lightly on the shoulder with his cane, just firmly enough to remind the man of what could happen to him if he resisted. "Keep going." He wanted to get away from this place before more men came to find out what had happened; under their bindings, his ribs were aching, and he knew he could not undertake another fight that day, or for several days to come. "Keep going," he repeated as the man faltered.

The man did as he was told.

Text of a note from Hroger to Ferenz Ragoczy, Grofok Saint-Germain, written in Persian and delivered by one of Saint-Germain's Polish couriers.

My master,

The work-gang under Odevsky has been shifted to another part of the marsh, and I haven't yet tracked them down. The other work-gangs claim that this transfer is a punishment for pilfering food. As to what has become of the surviving men who attacked you at the tents, no one knows what happened to any of them. Some say that they ran away from their crew and joined one of the robber-gangs out in the marshes, others say they were drowned on orders from Tverin, or someone above him. I doubt anyone knows for certain, so we are left with rumors.

As you expected it would, fever has broken out in the camp, and the supervisors have finally decided to separate the sick from the healthy. I imagine that this won't be sufficient to contain the disease, and the precaution may be too late to stop the spread, but it will slow the epidemic. It would be well to warn the residents of the Foreign Quarter to guard against infection, as well as those living within the fortress. Everyone lives so close together, the risk of infection is very high. You might call upon von Altenburg in the morning to inform him as a first gesture in your proposed agreement of sharing information.

I am handing this to Vogel to carry it to you now; there is no reason to send him back to me tonight. I will continue to watch the walkway until the work-gangs arrive. I should return before six in the morning.

By my own hand at the eleventh hour,

Hroger

June 19th