Raider From The Sky, Chapter 21-22

Esgalwathanar gets a visit from his other sister. Strom drops out of the airship.

Chapter 21.
Yllanan House, The City In The Clouds.
Leilatha looked down in the garden. Apparently a mare had gone into heat and the stallion had gotten out and chased her into the garden. Somehow neither horse was wearing a bridle and they were rather noisy as the pair played with each other, with much whinnying. The whole thing was annoying and the grooms didn’t seem to be getting things under control. At least the party was over and things were calm in the house for the time being.
Esgalwathanar was looking at Leilatha standing there with a new perspective since he was now a horse. Lazuli bit him and said, “Do you think she has figured it out?”
“I doubt it. She’s never been that deep a thinker.”
“I don’t think that she has realized that I am here yet.”
“You came in with the rest of the party and don’t have the army of maids and whatnot that a high status elven lady requires. The fact that we have been having fun up in the brush and forest rather than the bedroom may make it a bit harder for her to figure out that you are here.”
“I’m getting you used to your more fluid self. Transformation is part of what you are. I hope that I can restore your sense of mischief as well.”
“You have managed to do that a bit. Of course my daughter in law has been helping with that all summer. She has managed to make my sister rather flustered.”
“You haven’t mentioned your other sister. Where has she been in all of this?”
“Staying out of it, apparently. But Merialeth was just as much a victim of Leilatha as I was.”
“She has ties to the Inquisition.”
“She married Feno Waestoris, Alwin Waestoris’s brother. That family had always been the more moderate and practical side of the Inquisition. My mother arranged the marriage after Begonia was murdered.”
“That explains why she didn’t rush in, snooping.”
“Somewhat. She is also trying to arrange a marriage for her daughter in the typical leisurely elven courtship and working on that. I also haven’t been entertaining in my usual style this year.”
“Other than Lavidia’s things? We must do something at some point.”
“The season is over essentially. The only party planned that I know of is Rosaniya and Richard’s wedding. Rosaniya had to wait for that until the harvest was over.”
“Because otherwise Richard probably wouldn’t show up.”
Lazuli nickered. “I think that I understand why.”
“Having seen his father, I can see where he gets it from. I, at least, must be needed for something.” Lavdia was walking through the gardens with some grooms. “Should we make it easy?”
“Only if they bring carrots or maple sugar sticks.”
Lazuli ran off a bit as Lavidia came close enough to say quietly, “I think that you two should return to the house.”
“Only if you have something to tempt us,” Lazuli said.”
Lavidia held up two brown rods. “I thought that you would say that.”
Lazuli and Esgalwathanar walked over to Lavidia and started to chew on the sugar rods as the grooms put halters on. Lavidia and the grooms then took them to the stable. Once they were out of the garden, Lavidia said, “Your sister would like to pay a visit.”
“At least Merialeth asked if she could. Unless there is an issue, I don’t have a problem with it.”
“I don’t know her.” Lavidia said. “On the other hand, she is married into the Inquisition.”
“To the Waestoris. We will be careful and Peri and Flix have been too busy to make too much mischief lately. Merialeth was never a snoop anyway. When does she want to visit?”
“This afternoon.”
“That should be a good time and we can introduce her to the household.”
Lazuli laughed. “We can do that.”
When they reached the stables, Esgalwathanar transformed and took the tunic a smiling groom was holding and then put on a pair of trousers. After dressing he walked across the court with Lavidia. Lazuli had jumped into the house. As they went inside Esgalwathanar turned to Lavidia and said, “Did my sister give any hints about what she wanted?”
“No. But she did want to make sure that she could speak with you privately.”
“Is Flix available?”
“Yes. But that this is a bit different than Leilatha, where we knew where she was coming from right from the start. I won’t have Flix snoop unless you want him to.”
“I don’t think that I do. At least at this meeting. I may want Flix to keep an eye on my sister.”
Why don’t we discuss it over lunch?”
Lazuli, Lamruil and Flix joined the pair for lunch at small table overlooking the gardens. Lazuli said, “Do you want me there, ‘thanar?”
“Not at first. I do think that I will introduce you to my sister. I haven’t seen her in fifteen years or so. At best she was cordial, if a bit distant.”
“If your sister decides to stay, where do you want her?” Lamruil asked. “Between Leilatha and her demands and Lavidia, we are a bit short of space, especially if your sister brings an army like Leilatha did.”
“I can pull out,” Lavidia said. “At least I can have Peri and Flix move back to their rooms on the estate.”
“Don’t you dare,” Esgalwathanar said. “This is your household and being driven out now would be seen as victory by my sister, even if it makes no practical difference to you. I like having the boys and Jessamine here in any case. Lamruil, if Merialeth wants to stay, Leilatha will have to make adjustments. After all her lady in waiting is not family and Merialeth is family.”
Lamruil grinned. “If it becomes necessary, I will let the lady know.”
Peri popped into the nook with Dessielle and Flix. “Grandfather, Wyn said that we might be having a visit from your other sister. Are you going to want us?”
“I’m not sure. What are your plans?” Esgalwathanar said.
“We were going to the library at House Beinan and looking into some things for the princess.”
“Check back in four twentieths,” Lavidia said. “Can you do without Flix?”
“Flix, then you check back in two twentieths.”
“Ok mother.”
The three popped out again. Lazuli said, “I wonder what they are up to?”
“They have been digging in old journals for me and Lelayme looking for things surrounding the Turmoils and the events surrounding them.”
“I hope that you will have a report when they are done for the Council of Kings.”
“I plan to. There is a lot that I don’t understand yet.”
Lavidia went over the exiling and Ravathyra taking high potential slaves. “The Ravathyra seem determined to go on regardless of the consequences. There is something very deep going on.”
A servant came in and said, “Milord, Milady, the Lord’s sister is approaching from the portal.”
“How many people is she bringing with her,” Esgalwathanar asked with a frown.
“Just a sedan chair, so far.”
Esgalwathanar turned to the others and said, “Why don’t Lavidia and I meet my sister in the main hall. Lazuli, you can come, if you like.”
“I do. This should be interesting.”
The three went to the main hall as an elven woman and an elf girl who must have been her daughter came in. The woman saw Esgalwathanar, ran over and hugged him. “Essie, you look so much better. Sister hasn’t been able to make you miserable.”
“Hello Merialeth, so what brings you here?”
“First of all, I wanted to meet the woman who has been giving Lie all that misery this year. Also, there have been some rumors going around and you were at the center of them.”
“Such as?”
“We can discuss them in a bit. First of all this is my daughter Seldanna. We are planning a wedding and you seem to know the people that are responsible for fixing up the park. I wanted to see if I could get a timetable as to when they plan to finish.”
“I do. This is my daughter in law Lavidia and her Aunt Lazuli. We can see Rosaniya and Lythienne after we have our chat. Where would you like to have it?”
“Why don’t we all go to the green parlor, unless Lie is using it?”
“Do you want to just speak to me, or can the ladies come?”
“Considering that both of them are fae, I think it is just as well that they come.”
“We agreed that you and your brother could have discreet chat,” Lavidia said. “You are not your sister, trying to destroy the house.”
“No, I am not. I assume that you have purged her spies for the most part.”
“Yes. The house just had a bit of a financial crisis after I made a mistake and had some very expensive repairs done.”
“Do tell. The house seems to be fine. What repairs could be so costly?”
“The faery.”
“You had that repaired! That was mother’s favorite thing in the house. How did you arrange that? The Beinans have been exiled.”
“They are back as result of having their writs of exile examined, by your brother in law, in fact. Why don’t we all retire to the parlor and discuss this.”
They went to the green parlor and Merialeth asked, “So what happened with Gwen?”
Esgalwathanar said, “She was taken to the Republic by her half elven son, The Regency Council made her the ambassador after Paeris Zylvyre was taken prisoner by the Republic and she was kidnapped by Paeris Zylvyre during his escape from the Republic. Lythienne can tell you more. In any case, we annulled the marriage, more or less congenially.”
“There were some rumors for a while that you and Princess Lelayme were going to marry, but that went nowhere. Was Lie responsible for that?”
“She may have been a catalyst, but we were both ready to break it off in any case. We both knew that it wasn’t really going to work accept for the convenience of politics. Lelayme deserves better.”
“Well, whispers are going around that you are consorting with the fae again. These ladies sort of say that that is the case.”
“Lavidia is my daughter in law, as for Lazuli, she is a faery queen and a neighbor of the estate. We are discussing certain things.”
“I didn’t know that you had a son. Just Galassiel.”
“I picked up a bad habit from father and had relationships with mortal women. There were some consequences and I have sons. Most of them went overseas with Gwen and Galassiel. Galassiel had a young man that she was looking into. She has a tail offshore now.”
“So, the inappropriate relationship stories are true.”
“I don’t know what you consider inappropriate. In any case that was Galassiel’s decision and she certainly knew what would happen if she consorted with a seafolk man. Frankly, after my rather unhappy life, I am glad that she found somebody and is happy at last. I have, as a practical matter, more or less disinherited her. I would give her the estate as a dowry, but the estate is her mother’s in any case.”
“It was also wrecked in that raid back in Green. Yet you seem to be doing fine.”
“There was some damage, yes. My sons took over and managed to repair.”
“That brings me to the rumor that concerns me the most. You are involved with heresy.”
“You have been talking with Delion, haven’t you?”
“Yes, a bit. His zeal does get away from him. On the other hand, steel tools are heretical.”
“Making steel tools is heretical and rather impractical for elves in any case. Buying and using steel tools and things like nails is not.”
“There were some other businesses.”
“Delion looked into those. He had a limited writ from Justiciar Eithriel and everything has been approved by our House Inquisitor.”
“The family brings things from overseas.”
“Yes we do. I don’t know the details. If you want to see what is going on, we can visit. Or you can discuss this with our House Inquisitor.”
“I did, and he said that everything that he stamped may have been made by heretical methods, but was not essentially heretical. I was just a bit concerned that you might end up like father did or our brother did.”
“If I am killed or exiled, it won’t be because of heresy. In any case, I am fairly secure at present.”
“Lie could send her family after you. Meleris is looking for an excuse to come after you and some others.”
“That has nothing to do with heresy. The Ravathyra have had some setbacks and some things are becoming clear. I think that Meleris is more concerned that I am talking with Begonia’s relatives than the family is committing any kind of heresy. There is much that is happening.”
“I was concerned that you were so focused on what Lie was doing that you didn’t know about the potential knife coming from another direction. Alwin has been getting pressure from Meleris to push for greater diligence. Meleris is also rather annoyed about the assertiveness of the Inquisitors assigned to the estates, House Qinvaris and yours especially.”
“As I said, the Ravathrya have had some setbacks recently and both my house and Richard have ties to the Republic. I’m not surprised that Meleris is looking to exert some pressure. But going up against Richard or I has not been working out for them on the Regency Council.”
“Tell me about what has happening and, Lavidia, I want to know how you have been giving Lie hives.”
“It hasn’t been entirely deliberate,” Lavidia said with a grin. “I came to the city with Teiran so that Teiran could figure out the house finances with Lamruil for his mother right after the estate was raided and we were looking to be a bit stressed. Leilatha was right behind us, looking to set up residence and take over the household. Teiran’s mother delegated the townhouse to me and the battle was joined.”
“Lie was rather put out that she could not arrange something between the young Hienorin boy and her niece because your daughter grabbed him and took him off to the faery kingdom.”
“That was mutual, Aneirin was looking for a way out, our families have been neighbors and partners for a very long time and when my daughter showed up, Aneirin expressed an interest and they started to see each other. Frankly that was a welcome surprise all around.”
“Your daughter certainly wasted no time dancing in the garden.”
“She does that and out on the estate and in the faery kingdom, that happens. By the time she started to dance, she already knew that she had Aneirin’s attention and she was making sure that Aneirin knew what was going on.”
“Doing the same thing that Begonia was doing with you, ‘thanar, then.”
“You seem to think that the fae returning to your life is the reason that Meleris is pushing. Is there more?”
Lavidia said, “A lot more.”
“Tell me.”
Lavidia went through all the events, the contract against Esgalwathanar and the Ravathyra’s slave trafficking and suppression expeditions in the Republic and other blasted land countries. When Lavidia was done, Meleris said, “That explains things somewhat. Why don’t we discuss Seldanna’s wedding plans over tea with the other two ladies. Then I will return home.”
“You are not planning an extended visit?” Lavidia asked with a grin.
“Not unless it becomes necessary. I think that I will visit from time to time. I didn’t make it to your parties ‘thanar, though the people who did said that they were wonderful and I want to hear more about the Beinans being back.”
Flix popped in and said, “Mother, I am here. Do you need me?”
‘Just to send a message to Rosaniya that we would like to meet for tea this afternoon.”
“That is going to have to be at the farm today. They are out helping with the harvest. I will ask.”
Before you go, this is your Great Aunt Merialeth and her daughter, Seldanna. Merialeth, this is my son Flix.”
“Hello. Mother, I will be right back.”
Flix disappeared again and Merialeth laughed. “I think that the young man is a bit shy.”
“Yes. I’ve been a bit concerned as his brothers have found girls and you know about my daughter. I sort of discouraged him from meeting with some girls. So he has been a bit reticent lately when girls are present. On the other hand, he is young and a lot of his friends went to the Republic with their parents.”
“‘Thanar, just how many inappropriate relationships have you had?”
Esgalwathanar frowned. “Sister, I don’t think that that is your concern. I did what I thought I had to do to protect myself. The fact that it worked out better than I could have imagined is rather amazing.”
Merialeth grinned and said, “Lazuli, are you sleeping with ‘thanar?”
“We don’t share a bed.”
“I think that I see what is going on. ‘Thanar, you are complete at last. Lazuli, thank you for that. What my sister left was a tragedy that the rest of the family has had to live with. Lavidia, have you looked at mother’s journals yet?”
“Yes, I have. I’m a bit surprised that you had. Esgalwathanar couldn’t read them.”
“I was a potential candidate to take over the house, so they were keyed to me. Lie as well, but I don’t think that mother ever let her see them before she was married out. Mother, father and I all thought that Begonia was going to be a wonderful joining and her family and ours had been neighbors for a very long time. We expected that Ievis would take over the House and ‘thanar would be at the estate and the faery kingdom. But Ievis was playing around with the black stones and Begonia was murdered. ‘Thanar, you probably know more about that than you did.”
“I do, but I am not going to say just how much,” Esgalwathanar said. “I haven’t been one to take petty revenge in any case.”
Flix popped back and said, “Mother, Rosaniya is at the house today and can meet with you there. I need to be going.”
He disappeared again and Merialeth said, “I wonder if he thinks that I brought you, Seldanna for arranging a marriage.”
“Mother, you should be a bit more honest. You didn’t arrange anything, at least not until Mnementh and I were certain.”
“No, I did not. Your father and I were lucky that we loved each other from the start. I only had to look at all the bad examples, in my own family, for example, to see what the consequences of a loveless marriage can be like. Father should never have arranged that marriage between ‘thanar and Gwen.”
“There was a certain necessity at the time, Merialeth,” Esgalwathanar said. “There were people being exiled all over the place, along with the Turmoils, the House here needed money and Gwaerengwen parents needed father’s connections and access. There was also pressure from the Inquisition and others to get me married to an elf for reasons that we did not understand. I also think that mother was concerned that I would commit suicide. In any case why don’t I introduce you to Rosaniya.”

Chapter 22.
The Hidden City.
Byddri was watching as Strom hurtled through the air past him. He and Danni were acting as safety dragons as Strom was practicing jumping from the airship, which was flying high above. At first, Strom had wanted to use the parachute all the way down, but it was obvious that the parachute would be spotted and both Byddri and Danni were aware of how alert Camus Petris was about strange things. Also, Eryding was surrounded by low mountains and a river, so there were not a lot of places where Strom could be discreetly dropped into. The plan was to drop into an estate that was managed by a Ravathrya connection outside the mountains. Bryddri watched, prepared to dive and catch Strom, if necessary, but the chute opened and Strom landed safely. Danni flew down beside him and said, “I’ll get him. He’s getting the hang of this.”
“I know. Watch out. Here comes the sergeant and the squad.”
The other parachutists that had been practicing dropped past them underneath their chutes. Byddri wasn’t sure why they were doing that, but the marines were all volunteers and the admiral wanted people that could be dropped discreetly into the Empire.
The parachutists were followed by parachutes with wooden containers underneath. The navy was still trying to make a container that wouldn’t smash when it hit the ground. So far the results were a bit ridiculous, but the sheetmetal springs seemed to absorb enough of the landing that the containers didn’t smash up. Danni held Strom in her claw as she returned to the airship. Byrddri put his camera away and followed. Since this was Strom’s last drop of the day, the airship headed back to base. As Byrddri grabbed the trapeze bar and was pulled up into the ship, Mokem and Danni were grinning at him. Danni said, “Did you get pictures?”
“Of course, not that I can send them to the paper until this is over. The Commodore will like them for the reports.”
Strom came into the chamber and said, “I think we are ready. We can try next five day.”
The airship returned to the base and Kythaela was waiting with her usual satchel, pad and some mail, apparently. Byrddri wasn’t sure how she had managed to get a job in headquarters with the Commodore’s staff, but she had proved to be efficient and capable. She waved as they drove up in the GP and as they parked the car, called out, Danni, Byrddri, you have letters from home!”
Danni jumped up and squealed, “Hand them over!”
Kythaela did and Danni handed Byddri’s letter to him and tore open hers. She looked at it and said, “Mother wants to meet Mokem. She’s going to talk to dad about getting to the Yllanan estate and taking the ship here.”
Byrddri felt a bit nervous as he said, “They are coming here? Is that legal?”
“I wouldn’t know, but I suspect that the Admiral will not complain. At least not to dad. On the other hand, mom says that Uncle is not happy with dad because Rolin got to him first. So we will have to see.”

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