Raider From The Sky, Chapter 41-42

“Maeralya was the exotic elven spy lady from the Hidden City, having a secret meeting with the romantic commander after he sent that evil villain Admiral Ehlark Zylvyre and his entire crew of raiders to the bottom.”

Chapter 41.
The Hidden City.
Byddri looked across the harbor at something he never expected to see again, a Ravathrya raiding ship carrying Great Captain Paeris Zylvyre’s kraken banner. At the moment the ship was crowded over with people and strange cameras shooting what they called a movie. Byddri was being recruited for a role as a dragon by a rather excitedly speaking producer as he had Captain Pinch acting as his agent. Captain Pinch was playing hardball very well and finally the Producer met the Captain’s price. He left with mumbles of “Captain Penny Pinch” and when he had left the café, Jacob said, “You have to watch those characters. For instance I made sure that you get paid both for performance and cinemaphotography and if they want Danni to do either, they pay the same thing. Overall this is a very good thing for you.”
“Dragons can’t transform in the Republic, so Paeris never took any.”
“That doesn’t matter. People will pay to see dragons and that is what matters. I expect that some of the footage will be used to make a documentary about Paeris, but they will leave the dragons out and take shots of real places that Paeris raided.”
“You seem to know these people awfully well.”
“That producer was an idiot. He should have known who I was, because he should know who my sister is, who has made a big chunk of money making movies both with and without her tail. If he thought I was bad, he should be glad that my sister hasn’t come to visit yet, because they call her agent the shark.”
“Dormin isn’t that bad.”
Pinch looked around and called out, “Jane! Why are you here?”
“Somebody has to play the victim that is rescued by the hero from the villainous Paeris Zylvyre before Byddri destroys the ship in a fit of righteous rage.”
“Is that the script now? Byddri asked. “I thought that a cruiser was supposed to blow the ship up?”
“The navy and the movie people want you to do it, Byddri, since we are in the Empire. Also, you will be more impressive. The cruiser rescues the survivors from the sea. That is unless something changes. ”
Jacob smiled and said, “Byddri, this is my sister Jane. Needless to say she doesn’t have a tail right now, not that it has slowed her career down very much.”
“Speaking of tails, does that girl that mother keeps writing about have one yet?”
“We haven’t managed yet because I have been rather busy, being an agent notwithstanding. It’s a good thing that the admiral wants to keep the submarines discreet or I would be in front of the camera all too soon.”
‘You’re not safe. There’s some pressure from Congress, I expect that Admiral Harper wants good press and your subs have been front and center in this fight against the Ravathrya, especially you, since you pulled off that thing you did, right over there. Something that Thomas and I, along with a lot of other people, thank you for. Watch out, or Filverel and Douglass will be convincing Maeralya to hold off on her beach date so that they can get her for the movie they want to make about your adventures.”
“I don’t think that is going to happen,” Byddri said. “Maeralya has been after the captain here since they met.”
“How did that happen?”
“Maeralya was the exotic elven spy lady from the Hidden City, having a secret meeting with the romantic commander after he sent that evil villain Admiral Ehlark Zylvyre and his entire crew of raiders to the bottom.”
Jane grinned, “So that was what happened.”
“That’s more than a bit of an exaggeration, Byddri,” Jacob snorted.
“That was how Yrathea told me that it happened.”
“Yrathea is sixteen. Everything is romantic and over the top with her. We just had a clandestine meeting on the boat and Maeralya passed me some things, including the pictures of the squadron blowing up.”
“There are pictures of that?” Jane asked with a grin. “Filverel will definitely want to see those.”
“How did you get into the movies?” Byddri asked.”
“I was fifteen, had just gone through Change and Jacob suggested that some girls danced for the tourists at the pier in town for coins. I started and did very well. Then a director heard about us and wanted to do a mermaid dancing movie. In the meantime, Niphinae was hiring for her dance show in Chatsrey and liked what she saw. I have been in the business ever since.”
“Your husband isn’t.”
“No, he is not. I grabbed him off a boat when I was on vacation. He was doing survey work and annoying me by putting booms in the water. I Swam over to tell the crew to cut it out, Tom started to argue with me and offered me a date to explain what he was doing. That was a mistake, for him that is, because I made rather a nuisance of myself until he relented and took me to a beach. That took a rather fun year. It balances out, because movie work isn’t steady and I had to take breaks when I was having the kids, so Tom having more or less steady work helps sometimes.”
“Is that a reminder for me to not give up my other work?”
“Yes. I would keep doing what you have been doing. Right now you are in the center of these events and you have turned in good work. Jacob, now that you are done fleecing Douglass, why don’t you show me this wonderful little city.”

Chapter 42.
The Sanctum.
Sudyral was about to enter the grove with Iris when she spotted the pendant that he was still wearing and said, “That needs to come off as well.”
“Father said never to take it off.”
“I think that he will understand, and it will only be for a brief time. In any case, if you have been wearing it for a long time, any mage will not have a baseline to track you from. The shield prevented that. I understand your reluctance and the fact that your father gave that to you probably enabled you to escape as easily as you did.”
“All right.” Sudyral took the pendant off and Iris drew him into the grove. Almost immediately he felt the tingle on his skin and he could sense things around him. He sensed the huge source of mana and that it was his to command as he wished. He sensed the mages drawing from it and since it was an irritant, cut them off. He sensed that he could Jump wherever he wanted and then the sense of power went away and he was himself again. Iris was smiling at him and said, “The kingdom has an heir at last. I thought that you would test well and that you would have a connection to the land, Sudyral, but that was amazing. You did something during the test. What did you do?”
“There were some mages drawing from the mana pool and since they itched, I cut them off from it. They can’t use any power from it any more.”
“Since you can, why don’t you take Galaxa and introduce her to your parents. I think that they are probably worrying about you.”
“Let me get dressed and we will go. Does Galaxa have any clothes or should she go as a fox?”
“No, so fox it is. I don’t know about your mother, but your father will probably understand.”
Zanis was in the mages’ village when Saevel delivered the message from his bother demanding an immediate meeting. As Saevel was leaving, there were yells and screams all over the village and the mages started to rush around as projects and works were collapsing all aroud him. One cottage actually exploded, with the mage inside and there was a Construct rampaging around as it slowly dissolved. Zanis managed to get things in order and get some people from the castle to start to clean things up. Most of the mages were in a state of shock as their power reserves were almost nothing compared to what they had been even a short time earlier. At least only four of the mages had died and one was catatonic. By the time they had things squared away a twentieth had passed and it was obvious that none of the mages could draw from the mana pool anymore. It was if someone, or something had taken it away from them. When everything was as taken care of as it could be, Zanis went to the portal and ported to the Cloud City.
Strom watched Zanis leave through his binoculars. It was obvious from the screaming and explosions that something had gone very wrong in the mage’s village. Strom had not attempted to make contact with Gwen and had been watching the Sanctum, as he had heard the place called, for most of the day since he had arrived. So far, none of the mages had picked up on the fact that there was somebody watching and lurking around. Strom had been using crystals and getting pictures so that when he left, the people that would return would know what was here and could deal with it. Of course there was one mage that Strom was going to deal with, personally.
House Shahana Estate.
Sudyral completed his first Jump to the familiar parlor in the house. This was his happy place, with mother and father. Surprisingly both of them were there and his father was saying, “Can you put up with me for the winter, dear? Saeliihn threw me out of the House.”
“I think that we will survive. Did Rolin have anything on Sudyral?”
“No, but that isn’t a surprise. Sudyral has that shield and when Rolin’s thugs turned up, he did the smart thing and left.”
“What do you think that he will do?”
“Since he went up with that Strom character to look into whatever the Ravathrya have been doing up there, he probably headed South to use the next portal and look into things for us.”
“I wish that we hadn’t had to let the Ravathrya have a free hand up there for so long. The good thing is that my brother builds houses now and he wants timber. He has quite a business in the dwarf lands and already buys here in the Empire.We should be seeing him soon.”
“I gave Rolin a five day to find and return Sudyral, intact or I threatened to charge up there and look into things. When Rolin had that fleet of his, all those soldiers, and could crush us like a bug, I couldn’t do that. Now I can. There are some old friends who haven’t visited like they should and I want to know why. I also want to find Sudyral.”
Sudyral called out, “I’m right here, father.”
His parents jumped and his mother came over and hugged him. “Sudyral, how did you get here!?”
Vesryn had a huge grin. “I see that you visited a grove, son. Who is that with you?”
“This is Galaxa.”
“Welcome, Galaxa. How do my friends fare?”
Galaxa jumped down, transformed and said, “You must be Vesryn. We had a catastrophe when the Ravathyra came long ago and they almost destroyed us. There are thirty eight left in the kingdom and they were all children when it happened.”
Vesyrn cursed. “So that was what they were hiding. You look to be Sudyral’s age. Who is your mother?”
“Galaxa, when you return, tell your mother that my neglect was unforgivable. As you heard, I was afraid that the Ravathyra would crush me using their army and political clout, so I let them have a free hand up there. I had no idea that they would do something so stupid as to attack a faery kingdom, especially one with family connections like yours had. I was also isolated when my brother and sister were exiled to the Republic and the Ravathyra forced that viper on us. I will take this to the Justiciars, the Regency and the Council of Kings. Maria dear, I think that we must find something for Galaxa to wear. Sudyral, what happened to that Strom character?”
“He was going to rescue a lady from the Sanctum. Paeris Zylvyre kidnapped her.”
“Now things are getting very interesting. That explains the airship going up there. Did you and Strom get any pictures?”
“The crew of that ship threatened us if we did, but we did anyway. Strom put them in a thing that floated. He said that somebody would pick them up.”
“Then Admiral Shanelis has them. You know my first rule.”
“Never do what an enemy expects.”
“So how do you think that we should handle this?”
“Let Strom handle it. When he has the lady out, that will make a big noise. The mages can’t draw any more power from up there anyway.”
“Why not?”
“During my test, I realized that I had custody of the Well and I cut them all off. They can’t use it anymore.”
“Ok, but I want to add something to this. We keep Galaxa and the fae out of it, at first. You went back to the portal after Toross’s boys left, used the wrong portal and ended up at the Qinvaris estate a few days away. The Qinvaris boys got you tangled up in one of their schemes and instead of taking the portal, you rode here and arrived now. So I will apologize to Rolin.”
“Will Dan and Tarranth go for that?”
“What do you think?”
“I think that you need to speak to Richard Harper.”
“I don’t think that Rolin will expect that.”
Maria turned to Galaxa and said, “Let me get a look at you. I think that we need to find some clothes for you. How old are you?”
“Fourteen,” Galaxa said.
“Good, we still have things from when my daughter was fourteen. You look to be about the right size and we can make some adjustments. Transform again and why don’t we do some digging.”
They left and Vesyrn said to Sudyral, “I think that you are stuck with her. How did you find her?”
“I put out snares for rabbits and she was caught in one. She came to my camp rather angry with me for trapping her. I didn’t do it deliberately.”
“I was annoyed that you ran off like that. Why did you do that?”
“Strom was dropped from the airship. I saw that and wondered what he was up to. Then Strom told me and I realized where he was going. I could go with him and if I did, either you would stir things up looking for me, or I could find out what was going on up there. You’ve been telling me for years that something was wrong, and since Strom was not family, nobody would connect him to you. It worked.”
“Strom is supposedly dead. He fell off the coaster.”
“Or was pushed. That doesn’t matter. Strom is seafolk. We dropped off some crates with the rest of the things at the Sanctum and Strom was going to fall off the ship on its way back. I thought that I would be on the ship going back, but the crew was making noises about accidents and feeding us to the sharks, so Strom wanted me to use the portal and most importantly tell you and others what we found. The Ravathyra had goons at the portal, a seafolk man in the village helped me, because he knew that I could get what was happening to the people that needed to hear it and I started down the old road. I figured that it would take ten days or so to get to the next portal and Strom gave me an open key that wasn’t tied to me.”
Vesyrn grinned. “That sounds as if it would have worked, right up to the point where you trapped cute faery girls.”
“Did that happen to you?”
“No, I didn’t catch one. It had happened in the family and I was tested, something we were discreet about. Then about forty years ago my brother and sister were exiled and Saeliihn was foisted on us by the Ravathyra later.”
“Since she threw you out, are you going to anull the marriage?”
“Not right away. I will cut the House off, since I am still the head of the family. I also think that you and Galaxa should take a trip to see the family in the Republic and learn the other side of the business.”
“I don’t know how you did it, and I suspect that the faery kingdom was looking for a royal fae to take over, but you locked the Ravathyra out of something that was very important to them. Since you are the key, I want you and the lock well apart from each other. I will apologize to Rolin and loudly proclaim that I am exiling my illegitimate son as punishment for leaving the farm like that.”
“Your first rule in action.”
Ravathyra Castle, The City In The Clouds.
Zanis’s three brothers were looking rather grim as Zanis entered the room. Rolin looked at him and said, “So where have you been?”
“Dealing with a mess. When I get back, I will have to deal with a bigger one. The Well cut all the mages off suddenly. The results were not pretty.”
“How any did you lose?” Erlan asked with a frown.
“Four are dead and one is catatonic. At that, I think that we were lucky.”
“What do you think caused it?”
“I’m not sure, but we never did figure out how the Well and the fae were connected.”
“You destroyed the fae.”
“That was forty years ago and some of the kids probably got away. So why are we meeting?”
“I just had a rather nasty conversation with Vesryn Shahana. His boy apparently took the coaster up to the timber town, the captain made his usual, “You better keep quiet” noises, not realizing that the kid owned the place, and I sent Toross to take the boy home. The kid spotted Toross and split.”
“Why was the kid up there in the first place?”
“His mother sent up for some wood for a new barn. Apparently we never shipped the wood and she sent a slave with the boy to figure out why.”
“What happened to the slave?”
“Fell overboard on the trip back.”
“Fell, or was pushed?”
“He was encouraged, but he would have fallen overboard anyway. The man was a sot when he wasn’t being supervised by the kid.”
“So the kid wasn’t on the ship going back?”
“He was going to take the portal back, but Toross scared him off and he went into the woods.”
“So we have a Shahana kid, in the woods near the Sanctum and the Well, walking right through the old faery kingdom. Since Reptar is no longer a boy, it can’t be Saeliihn’s child. Whose child is it?”
“A slave from the Republic that Vesyrn shared blood with.”
“That explains everything. The fae were probably drawn to the boy, tested him, and since he is family, had fae in his past and high potential of the kind that we have been working to achieve, the kingdom locked right onto him. Instant royal fae and control of the Well. He didn’t like us and his first act was to cut us off.We will need to get our hands on the boy.”
“We can’t afford the stink that doing that would cause.”
“We could arrange an accident for Vesryn,” Erlan said.
Rolin looked at Erlan angrily and said, “I’m beginning to think that reaching for easy solutions is costing us. In this case, taking Vesryn out of the picture means that the kid gets the Well outright, as well as everything but the House itself and the timber town, which is set aside as a dowry for his sister.”
“We could fix that. Presumably Saeliihn is the executor and regent.”
“Actually Maria is. There are probably other traps waiting to drop. This is the mess with Richard all over again. Zanis, do you have people at the Sanctum that can look for the boy?”
“If he tested as high as I think he did, he probably isn’t near the Sanctum anymore in any case. Frankly we should have gotten a sense that the boy was in the area before the fae encountered him and we didn’t pick up a trace until the Well cut out.”
“Then all of you need to see what we have on Shahana property and start shutting it down. Because in four more days, the facilities at the Well and anything else we have on Shahana property is going away, confiscated or evicted.”
“I could arrange to start the process for exile on Vesryn,” Meleris said.
“On what grounds? The man has kept to the Proscriptions strictly and been a model elf, except for sharing blood on the farm. If you start exiling people for that, you all will look like terrible hypocrites. Didn’t you listen when I said that we can’t reach for simple solutions to solve our problems?”
A deep voice said, “I see that things have gone awry.”
The four turned to the voice and the voice continued. “I expect that the boy is at home already. I would wait and see what happens. If we must abandon the Well for a time, we have other resources at hand. Rolin, you are right about simple solutions. At least you can take heart that Paeris is still free. I think that we must withdraw a bit and watch what our adversaries do.”
All four men said, “Yes master.”
The hooded figure disappeared.
The Sanctum.
Strom had expected the Sanctum to be heavily guarded and full of the dangerous enhanced soldiers that had plagued the Republic until guns became so much more lethal in the last few decades. Instead, the place was essentially unguarded. When he looked at things, he understood why. The only ways to leave were the uncertain woods, with eyes that could be sent to the portals to the north and south, the portal, or the water with the sharks. When he spotted the mage responsible for the sharks he recognized the elf immediately. Zanis Zylvyre returned and immediately got to work helping the shattered mages repair whatever it was that went bust. Strom had to spend the time watching from outside the castle as a wonderful smelling dinner was prepared. Then he watched as the castle darkened. He was looking at what he was sure was Gwen’s window when the window opened and what looked like a large cat climbed out, padded across the roof and jumped down. Since he didn’t like mysteries, Strom followed the cat into the woods. After about a quarter twentieth the cat suddenly turned on him and said, “About time you showed up, Strom!”
“Yes. I’ve told the grandchildren enough stories about the fae. You should have figured out that I would be tested.”
“I must say that your cat looks wonderful.”
“Yes it does. But I will have you know that this cat is looking for another kind of tail. I love you, and you being here says that you love me.”
“Milady, you never seem to amaze me.”
“We can talk about that later. Right now we should talk with some people.”
“Some fae who were assaulted by Zanis Zylvyre. By the way, a certain mage’s name is Qildor. I think that you may return my library.”
“I saw him. He, and his boys are going to disappear in the noise when we disappear.”
“I hope that you don’t plan to be too destructive. Most of the people here are innocents who are stuck.”
“I figured that out. So, what happened this morning?”
“That is what we are going to figure out. From what the mages were saying, when I was helping clean up the mess, the contact with the big source of mana here, what they call the Well, was suddenly cut off. Since I sensed what appeared to be a test of a very high potential, I suspect that the local fae tested somebody and whoever it was had a better connection to the Well and cut the Ravathrya mages off, brutally. Since they were drawing power from the Well, they had varying degrees of burnout.”
“I saw that. It didn’t look like they were having much fun.”
“How did you manage to get those crates on the coaster and get on yourself?”
“I had the help of a young man. I sent him home. He was a half elf and found me out after I dropped in from the airship. I was supposed to be an itinerant slave smith. Sudyral convinced me that being a slave scribe being attended by a young lord learning the business would work better. Considering how jittery the crew of the coaster was about passengers, I think he was right.”
“So you were on the coaster. Was the submarine watching you?”
“Not closely. We didn’t want the Ravathyra to get the idea that we were already watching this place.”
“So my message with the dye worked.”
“Yes it did. Once we knew that Rolin had ordered Mauve silk, Deiran had two young fae scan all the coasters’ manifests until they found the coaster that had carried the silk. The navy followed it with a sub and a cruiser and this place stood out, so the sub took pictures. I arranged my infiltration by airship and here I am.”
“The airship flew over recently.”
“Getting aerial pictures, probably. This place is going to be getting a lot of attention, simply because the Ravathrya want it so much. The irony is that they don’t even own it.”
“They don’t?”
“House Shahana does, according to Sudyral. The Ravathyra pushed a daughter to marry Sudyral’s father, with the same kind of marriage that you had and used threats and the fact that the Ravathyra had all that clout to keep Sudyral’s father from looking into things up here. Sudyral’s father knew that there was something going on, but didn’t have a legitmate excuse to mess with his wife until Sudyral decided to attach himself to me and come up here and look.”
“How did he know to do that?”
“He saw me drop from the airship, found the crate we dropped and blackmailed me a bit. When he knew where I was going, we teamed up. It worked very well. I just hope that he got home.”
“He sounds as if he would fit right in with our crowd.”
“That much was obvious.”
Two foxes and a bear appeared. The fox on the right said, I see that you found your seafolk man. He has been prowling around a bit clumsily.”
“Yes I found him. He is not fae and would you be quiet in the water?”
“True, and he risked the sharks for you.”
“What happened this morning?”
“What do you think happened?”
“You tested somebody and they had a very high potential. Whoever it was, was annoyed at the Ravathrya and cut their mages off from the Well, which caused four of them to burn out, one to go catatonic and all the rest that were actually working on something to suffer severe power drains and headaches.”
“We found a young man of the family that owns these lands with us, at least my daughter did and we tested him. He indeed, had a very high potential.”
“Why was Sudyral here in the first place,” Strom growled. “He was supposed to use the portal. I gave him a key that was open and untraceable.”
“The Ravathyra sent thugs to watch for the boy. Apparently the captain of the ship you went up on was nervous and sent a message to Lord Petris. So the boy came south on the old road, looking to make his way to the portal to the south. He said that you probably would make a big splash and he wouldn’t even be noticed. After he was tested, he Jumped home with my daughter.”
“So, Sudyral got himself clear from this after really messing them up. It sounds as if he would have been just fine even if he hadn’t run into you. How did that happen?”
The fox giggled. “Galaxa, my daughter, was chasing rabbits and the boy had put out snares. Galaxa ran into a trap and then went to talk to the boy about the appropriateness of trapping fae. I think that my daughter caught the boy. I’m Iris by the way.”
“How old is she?”
Strom grinned. “Then they are just a few months apart. Watching them is going to be fun.”
The fox’s grin grew. “It was already.”
“I think that I must return,” Gwen said. “Strom, in the morning, we must figure out a way to make me disappear.”

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