Raiders from the Sea, Chapters 45-46.

“You are always a pleasure to do business with, Ms. Harper.”

 

Chapter 45.

SS- 22, (Marlin)

Commander Wergath Mialar had established an open door policy for his crew almost from the beginning. He hadn’t wanted problems to fester because the crew was afraid to tell the skipper about them. That wouldn’t work in a larger command, but with the twenty three sailors in the boat, strict chains of command were not a big issue in any case. So when his sound man appeared at his cubby, it wasn’t that big a surprise. “What is it Ears?”
“Sir, I think that these characters are playing a shell game.”

“How so?”

“Listening to a sailing vessel is tricky, but I’ve been doing it. For the last three days, they have been under glamor almost continuously. When they haven’t been, we haven’t been able to get close enough to get a full count.”

“We have seen that the banner of the mysterious squadron is still there.”
“Yes sir. I think that that’s the shell game. One of the ships had a habit of making a clunk clunk sound when they used their pump. It was fairly distinctive. Now it’s gone.”

“So you think that the special squadron separated themselves, but they were switching banners so that anybody looking at them might miss that the other squadron was missing.”

“Yes. The intel from the hidden city implied that one squadron was going on a different assignment and that that assignment was the important one.”

“You have made some good points. Good work. Get Sparky here. We want to call this in.”

Marlin’s radioman showed up and said, “Ears says that he has something he thinks is hot.”

“He wasn’t hearing something that he had been hearing before and we knew that some of these characters would pull off and go some place else. Here, I agree with Ears and send this. At least five Ravathrya ships have broken off and are under glamor.”

“I’ll send this now.”

RNS Enterprise

Captain Borug McRodden mused that you don’t truly appreciate something until it goes away. So far the gadget had worked superbly until the storm and the antenna had been damaged. The gadget had been at best an experiment and it had worked so well that when it was gone, Captain McRodden felt that he was blind. The antenna was on the deck and the crew was working to repair it as fast as possible. In the meantime, Enterprise was steaming at its full speed of sixteen knots to where the other Ravathyra squadrons were. With any luck, the antenna should be back up on the mast again and working soon enough. The wizards aboard were already working on a better mounting scheme. The head of the project, Balthasar Tormenor, was looking at the antenna and said, “Anything has a weakpoint.”

“Balthasar, this was an experiment. Frankly I was skeptical at first, but it performed well and helped to give the Ravathyra a very blood nose. The navy wants this and my report will say that. You have nothing to be ashamed of and thousands of children will sleep at night because the Ravathyra can’t sneak up and raid their towns.”

“I’m just a bit annoyed that it gave out just when those bastards are pulling off whatever it is they are trying. They dumped my grandfather on the beach after they arranged his exile. I wanted to be able to tell him that we stopped the bastards cold this time.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

“I need to get back to work. The sooner we get things put back together the sooner we are no longer blind. The admiral should have sent Victory out as well.”

“If I know the admiral, he thinks that his dad will come up with something clever with her.”

The captain left the crew to their work. At least he should be in the right place when he had his eyes back.

 

 

 

Chapter 46.

Empire House, The Port of Chatsrey, Beltian Republic.

Kulgha was surprised that Gwaerengwen opened her own door. As Gwen ushered him inside, he said, “I’m surprised that you came to the door, milady.”

“I still don’t have a staff from the empire, thanks to them being poached by my son and stepsons among other people, Barrister. Calladia is off with Robin, doing something and Tomas is taking a well deserved day off with the family. I just made tea, would you like some? My sister recommended the blend.”
“I think that I will accept.”

Gwen went back to the kitchen and returned with two cups and the pot on a tray. She poured the tea and said, “So what brings you here, Barrister?”

“Paeris Zylvyre is going to be transferred to the Stillingfort Prison in a five day for the trial and I wanted to ask you to go with me to Cleadgate and see how he was treated by the navy so that if the empire had any questions, you could answer them.”

“I will do that. Though the two groups in the empire are his family, who are asking that he be returned so that he can continue his career of pillage and piracy and just about everybody else who are wondering why he isn’t dead yet.”
“Considering the circumstances surrounding this, we have been moving amazingly quickly to trial. Both sides are ready and most of the preliminary arrangements are complete. We also have to wait for some witnesses who served on Paeris’s ship and joined the marines. Apparently they were on assignment and are returning. So we can catch the ninth twentieth train on triday.”

“That should be fine. Call in the morning and confirm with Tomas.”

 

Palace Park, The City In The Clouds- Princess Lelayme’s Castle- Esgalwathanar’s Castle- The Lower City.

Rosaniya turned to Lythienne and said, “This is going to be tough.”

“With Richard, yes it will. He picked up frugality from his dad and it just comes naturally. You are lucky that you still have the townhouse.”

“Not luck. I fought Richard for it. Of course once the kids came along, it was easier because then it became a home. Richard wanted to live at the farm and not care about appearances. I had been in debt too long for those appearances that I wasn’t going to give them up when we could afford them.”

“Does Richard know what the household accounts look like?”

“Somewhat. My problem now is that if I don’t spend money, the gold supply might have a shortage. So I make discreet expenditures that Richard doesn’t pay attention to. My wedding is the perfect opportunity to do that and get back at all the ladies who have been sniping at me over Richard. Their families have money issues and Richard makes so much money that even with the most over the top wedding possible, the Qinvaris won’t even notice. I don’t want to be blatant and people will assume that I have the best food and drink as a default, because it’s Richard. I want to do something that isn’t obvious and so outrageously expensive that most of the families would not even dream of doing something like that. Since the wedding pavilion is going to be here, I thought that the park would be a good place to start, but I’m out of ideas and we don’t have time for a huge statue or something.”

Lythienne looked across the park and said, “The swans haven’t been fixed.”

“What?”

“You haven’t seen them? There is that statue over there, the swans. But it isn’t a statue. When I was a little girl, the swans seemed almost real and danced if you put coins in their fountain. I used to love them.”

Rosaniya and Lythienne walked toward the rather tired looking swan statue. The gilding had worn off and the silver had as well, exposing the bronze and brass. One of the swans had fallen over. Rosaniya said, “This is where all those swan dances people perform came from, isn’t it? The people wanted this as part of the party and since this was broken, performed the dance or had them performed. I wonder why the family that gave this to the park never fixed this?”

Rosaniya looked along the bottom of the fountain until she came upon a plaque. “The Beinans made this. Do you know them?”

“No, but I know who can find out about them. Let’s talk to the princess.”

They returned to their carriage and went to Princess Lelayme’s castle. She was waiting in the parlor with some tea and a smile when they walked in. “So what are you two up to, today?”

“Spending my son’s money,” Lythienne said. “He gets all frugal, but when he has as much as he does, he can afford to splurge on his wedding. So top food, the fae circus and fireworks, lots of fireworks, that is if the Inquisition allows them and even if they don’t. But we want something over the top. There’s a statue in the park and I want to know why the swans don’t dance anymore.”

“They don’t dance because the Beinans were brought down low in the Turmoils, accused of heresy and exiled for the most part. The only one left is Lavidia’s potential in law, Folmon.”

“Good, that’s a start, Rosaniya.”

Lelayme grinned. “Fixing the swans is going to be expensive. That is, if you can find people to do the work.”

“Expensive is the point. This is Richard’s money and apparently he has too much of it. I think, Rosaniya, that we need to see Lavidia first, since she knows the man and where he lives, then Folmon and his wife to see if we can figure out where the family was exiled to. Folmon might also know people that can help with this. If the people are still alive, I will find them.”

“You seem to have a handle on this, Lythienne.”

“Practice. I had four girls to marry off and four over the top weddings that I was responsible for. I can do expensive. The hard part is going to get things going before the man starts screaming. Richard learned all those habits from his dad and we need to get on top of this before Richard realizes what is happening. In any case, getting the people who can do the work going is the important part. We need to get a handle on getting them started as soon as possible. Lelayme, would it be possible to get some exiles discreetly rescinded if we need to?”

“The Beinans made wonderful things and they are missed. I expect that some cases can be reexamined, yes.”

 

“If there are any stickys and the exiles are in the Republic, or for that matter the Kingdom or Fellowship, I can make arrangements. Will the Inquisition raise a fuss?”

“I will let Lord Waestoris know that poking too much into what you are doing will have both diplomatic and Richard issues.”

Thank you Lelayme. Rosaniya let’s see Lavidia.”

The ladies left a grinning princess behind and returned to the carriage. As they started toward Esgalwathanar’s, Lythienne said, “Rosaniya, I know that things seem to be moving fast, but I learned that from an important lady in my life.”

“Who?”

“Dan’s mother, rest her soul. She taught me that fast action and planning at the start is much better than panic and chaos at the end. We may not be able to make the swans dance again, but the odds are better if you start looking at the big problems first and the getting the large tasks done first. In the end, even if every little detail is not complete by the wedding, if the big stuff is done, it won’t matter.”

“I will have to remember that for the girls. I hope that neither of them get dragged under.”

“I can help with that. Over the top mermaid wedding, done that. Everybody loved it.”

Rosaniya laughed. “I am surprised that you did not suggest mermaids.”
“I thought about it, but we need a pool and I think that the people that run the park may not want one. We can ask. We don’t have time for it this time, but by the time your daughters have weddings, we may be able to pull it off.”

They reached Esgalwathanar’s house and were ushered into Lavidia’s office. She looked at them and said, “You must have some scheme cooked up.”

Lythienne grinned. “The swan dancers in the park. We’re fixing them.”

“So why come to me?”

“You know Folmon Beinan and can introduce us.”

“The Bienans built the swans. I see. Folmon doesn’t do that work because of Inquisition concerns.”

“This is Richard’s wedding. As far as the Inquisition goes, they can’t touch me, I don’t care what they think and if they give me any trouble, they will regret it. I want the swans dancing again and they will. So where does Folmon live?”

“In the lower city. Why don’t I join you and we can talk to Rebecca. Rosaniya, I like that carriage that you have.”

“Father bought them and was laughed at because the snobs thought that he should use sedan chairs. But on the farm, where we frequently went, the sedan chairs wore out people. So the carriages work better. Father ordered them small enough that they fit through the portals and I have them maintained.”

As they pulled out of the drive toward the portal, Lavidia asked, “What does Richard use?”

“He has a stable of horses that he rides. The farm makes sure that they are very good horses even if he balks at an enhanced horse. It is a matter of pride with the stables that Richard always has the best possible horse even if he doesn’t make a big deal about it.”

They jumped through the portal to the lower city and as they started down the street, Lythienne said, “Athur, stop for a moment. Tony! Come over here! I want to talk with you!”

“Mrs. Harper? What are you doing here?”

“My daughter in law is getting married to my youngest son. Of course I’m here. What I want to know is why your mother doesn’t know about your wife and children.”

“It is hard to send mail back home.”

“That’s no excuse. I know you better than that and that you would keep a way of talking with the business. I’m living at my daughter in law’s and you will bring your wife and daughter soon or I will be upset.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Ok, I will see you then. Athur, we can go now.”

Rosaniya and Lavidia were giggling over the encounter. Rosaniya pointed her finger at Lythienne and said, “Big tough Tony and he just let you do that to him.”
“The thing is that Tony and I go back to when he was filching cookies from the cookie jar. Once you get them as boys, they don’t change.”

They arrived at a modest home and workshop. A young man came out the door and said, “Mother, Rebecca and Dessielle are at the market.”

“Actually we wanted to talk with Folmon, Peri. You know Rosaniya and this is her mother in law, Lythienne. They want to discuss a repair job.”

Peri led them into the workshop and Folmon frowned as they all walked in. “Ladies, what can I do for you?”

“Folmon, this is Rosaniya and her mother in law, Lythienne. They want to discuss a repair job with you.”
“One of the family pieces? Miss Rosaniya, you have one, I expect.”

“Not my piece, though my sons would love to go over it with you and it does need repair. No, my mother in law here would like the swans to dance again.”

“I don’t think that is possible.”
“Why not?”

“First of all, I would need access to my old house in the Cloud City, the tools inside and the files for the swans and the Inquisition wouldn’t like it if I were going in there again.”

“We already discussed that with Princess Lelayme,” Lythienne said. “In any case, I don’t think that the Inquisition will want to mess with this if we are not too assertive about it. Is the house still yours?”

“Yes, but the Inquisition has a guard on it.”

“That can be dealt with. A man owes me a favor right now and wants to stay out of trouble. I think that he will be willing to persuade some Inquisition guards that a nice evening in a casino, say, would be a good place to take some time off.”

Rosiniya giggled. “Lythienne, you wouldn’t set Tony on them, would you?”

“I certainly would. He is very persuasive and generally nobody gets seriously hurt. Some guards will have some time in comfortable surrounding with nice attractive ladies and entertainment and we have access to Folmon’s house. If we do this right, the guard’s bosses won’t even know that we were there.”

“Benedicta won’t like you using Tony like that,” Folmon said.

“She won’t mind as long as it’s me and it pokes some hair shirts in the nose,” Lythienne said. “Folmon, if you need the workshop in the Cloud City, we will have it. Now, do you know where your exiled relatives are?”

“One is at Red Mountain, my uncle. The others were sent on the boats by the Ravathrya. My uncle built the swans with my father.”

“Good, if you give me his name, I will contact him. The rest are probably in the Republic which will make things a bit easier. Give me a list.”

“You can reach people in the Republic?”

“Easily. We can also have things and people transported back and forth.”
“Why are you doing this?”

“It’s my son’s wedding to Rosaniya here and she wanted an over the top wedding present that nobody would even dream of doing. If it gets your house back and some other things, that is all to the good.”

A lady came in with a young elf girl and said, “Lavidia, you brought guests. You should warn me.”

“Rebecca, this is Rosaniya and Lythienne. They are here to discuss a repair job with Folmon.”

“Repairing one of the family pieces? Good, it is about time that those people up in the cloud noticed that things are breaking down. Do you have one in your homes, Ladies.”

“Rosaniya does,” Lythienne said. “My home is a bit far away and the things that Folmon made were unavailable, so I do not. In any case the piece at hand is in the palace park and has been left for far too long.”

“I have never been there. The elves don’t like non elves up in the cloud city unless they are servants.”

Lythienne looked at Rebecca and said, “You are from the Republic, are you not?”

“Yes?”

“Would we, in the Republic, put up with than nonsense?”

“Certainly not. A public park is for everybody. We all can go and we all have a responsibility to help take care of it, because something like that belongs to everybody.”

“Rebecca, could you use a job?”

“Why?”

“I am here with my husband and I want some staff that are knowlegable about the empire and from the Republic.”

“You didn’t bring a staff with you?”

“We were sort of rushed and came over on a cruiser. My husband has an aide that handles his correspondence. I figured that Rosaniya would have staff, and she does. But they don’t have your experience.”

“I am a slave.”

“Not any more. For that matter your husband won’t sign an agreement? From what I heard, he isn’t exactly going to sell even if the Ravahrya push.”

“I didn’t want to sign because Folmon being married to a citizen of the Republic may have attracted the Inquisition. We did sign after the recent incident with Camus. A group of people in similar circumstances did and we all had a ceremony with Traelion and a nice party.”

“So, no slave. For that matter, slave is what somebody else does to you, not what you are. In any case I need people that have your experiences and can function here in the empire.”

“What about Folmon and my kids?”

“What about them? There is a portal nearby, I have a castle and a large, very large farm with people just waiting to feed us all sorts of wonderful things. When my sons do things, they tend to overdo them and I don’t think that Richard thinks about what he has built. You certainly know about the market next to the portal?”

“Yes, but it is a bit inconvenient.”

“We will make it work.”

“Then, milady, I am in.”

“Good. Where are your other children?”

“At a little school that the Nightmantle’s set up for people like us so that our kids would learn things like reading.”

“I want to get my project started, so we can’t go to the park today, but how about next nineday we get Tony and all the kids and take them to see the swans.”

Rebecca grinned. “We can make it a picnic.”
“Food will be provided, yes. Tell all your friends.”

The ladies left in the carriage and Rosaniya said, “You do know that the high elves consider the park a place of contemplation and quiet, along with a bit of a place for high elves to congregate and you are going to invade with a bunch of noisy half elven kids.”

“Of course. I knew that. It was like that when I was a girl. Dead and lifeless like it was today. I’m not sure why you wanted the wedding there.”
“Because it is a bit traditional and weddings happen after the park is closed for the day. In any case, I just love the idea.”

“I can arrange for a bunch of fae kids to pop in,” Lavidia said. “In fact let’s make the place as noisy and fun as we can. I’ll bring a mob from the estate and Rosaniya, there must be some mothers at the farm who could lose their kids for a day.”

“We should make one more stop while we are here. I think that we should talk to Benedicta.”

The other two ladies smiled. Rosaniya had the carriage stop in front of casino and Tony must have told Benedicta that Lythienne had talked with him earlier, because she was waiting in the doorway. “Hello ladies. Lythienne, I’m not surprised to see you here. What job is Dan doing now?”
“The President stuck him with attempting to straighten out the Ravathrya mess.”

“That is a big mess. Have you seen Richard yet?”

“Yes. Rosaniya invited us to stay in her home.”
“Be very careful, Rosa. She takes over and, watch out.”

“I’m seeing that. She wants to borrow Tony and the kids.”

“What for?”

Lavidia laughed“We are going to take the Palace park over and fill it with kids that the high elves will think are rather inappropriate.”

“In the upper city? Count me in. My in future in laws wanted the wedding there and the park committee turned us down because my daughter was “inappropriate.””

Rosa turned to her mother in law. “I just had an idea that we will need to talk to Richard about. We are going to build another park, across from the market and we will make it the kind of place where all the people can have fun and enjoy themselves. I bet we can get more people from all over the city and the empire to come and we can rub the sticks’ noses in what they are. But for now, we take over the palace park as much as we can. Benedicta, you can have the wedding at my house or down at the seashore at the inn. I can promise mermaid dancing, good food and good company.”

Lythienne added, “I also want to use Tony’s rather persuasive techniques to encourage some members of the inquisition that perhaps, rather than guarding an empty house so that the owner can’t use his workshop, they should perhaps seek entertainment elsewhere.”

“What workshop?”

“Folmon’s”

“I didn’t know that he had a place up in the upper city.”

“He did, but when the family was dissolved, the inquisition forced him to abandon it and kept his tools and files locked up. We are going to need those tools and files, so I need the house.”

“That could cost you.”

“I expected that.”

Benedicta grinned. “You are always a pleasure to do business with, Mrs. Harper.”

 

 

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