The Rise of the Dark, Chapter 3-4

Speculation about the girl’s escape. Tarranth tries to cash a check.

Chapter 3.
Imperial Palace.
Lelayme walked into her father’s room, Maethanar looked up and said, “Any news about the girls?”
“They are on their way on a tour and shopping of the Fellowship and the Republic with Amarille Zylvyre.”
“Now there is a name that I have not heard in a long time. So why did Richard and the others let that happen?”
“Richard sent the boys along as well. I think that he likes the idea of the kids familiarizing themselves with the Blasted Lands and being more or less out of the picture. So we will be without Peri and Dessielle for several five days. Of course Richard will never admit to the other side that he knows where the girls went.”
“Of course not. He will make demands and make the lives of the other side miserable while all the while knowing that the demands cannot be met. Has there been any Regency Council action on this?”
“Not as of yet. At least Glynnii has not called for a meeting. Esgalwathanar has finally thrown Lielatha out of the House. He has also turned Lielatha’s dower estate to her daughter.”
“On what grounds did he throw Lielatha out?”
“She was part of the conspiracy to take Renna Shahana and thus the other girls. Since that was a direct action against the house he could put Lielatha out without taking a social penalty.”
“The Ravathrya ladies will probably start to spill trouble and discord anyway.”
“I imagine that they will, especially since Vesryn annulled his marriage more or less for the same reason that Esgalwathanar threw Lielatha out. Poor Saeliihn is going to be forced to live on her dower estate since the Ravathrya can’t support her.”
“A masterful blow and well done. After Renna was taken, Saeliihn had clearly stepped out of bounds and since she initiated the separation, he can’t be held socially responsible for the annulment.”
“I’m a bit concerned that certain parties will start to complain about inappropriate relationships coming out into the open. The ladies may be able to generate support if they can use the proprieties and the violations of the Proscriptions against us. For instance they can say that Sollor was only going after the inappropriate children and lower orders.”
“Sollor’s people went after Gwynnestri Aezeiros, who is high elf and while a second child, hardly the child of a slave and an elf. Sollor didn’t care who his victims were, apart from the risk he took taking them. I will talk with Kelvahn and see if there are any still open cases with High Elf children involved. Especially children out at the estates for whatever reasons. I bet that Gwynn wasn’t the first time and if that is the case, we can nip that social attack off right from the start.”
“Too bad that House Richflight yielded so little.”
“Sollor and Aelua were careful not to do anything related to the taking from the House and to not write anything down. That was one reason that they were so successful for so long. They had to be caught in the act and since they were misusing the portals and the Portal Service couldn’t monitor or discover the traffic, they didn’t know what happened.”
“Has anybody tracked down what happened to the tools that the Beinans left the Portal Service?”
“The Inquisition confiscated them, but the Inquisition does not have the tools now. There is no record of them ever having the tools.”
“Somebody has them. They were using them, or misusing them as the case may be.”
The Hidden City
Tom looked at the radio message from his brother and laughed. He handed the message to Qambois and said, “I hope the Fellowship is ready for them.”
Qambois grinned. “I think that the Fellowship will survive some teenagers. The other side is getting off easy.”
“Not that easy. The girls and Tarranth may be in the Fellowship, but Dan is still causing trouble in the Empire. I imagine that he and his friends will be causing all sorts of trouble.”
“Has the other side attempted to contact your brother as a result of the lost grain?”
“Not as of yet. At least, he hasn’t said that they have. That shot the commodore took hit them right where it is going to hurt the most. I normally disapprove of such things on the principle that if I hit somebody’s food supplies, they will hit mine, but in this case, these people do that anyway.”
“The boys’ research on the Blight has been interesting, especially for those so young. I look forward to meeting Tarranth and Peri when they arrive.”
“What’s going to be interesting is how they deal with the kid in the candy store effect. Richard keeps the boys on a fairly tight leash, but somebody is going to realize that the boys have unlimited funds if they need it.”
“What’s going to be fun will be how the banks handle Tarranth. I imagine that there will be something that he sees that he will not be able to afford from his cash and will want to draw on an account for it. They will not have experience with a boy that handles money like that on his own.”
“Richard wanted the boys to learn how to handle the business and so they have to handle a big chunk of the harvest and planting and have for the last two years or so. I hope that Colonel Anvilblade gets a report.”
The Zylvyre Estate.
Berry Foggyheart and Stargazer Driftboots looked at the house in the distance and groaned. After a day of having to explain to the Marshalls that Jumping into the Marshall’s station had been an accident and waiting in Fayspire the better part of a day to recharge and then Jumping to two more anchors where nobody had seen a sign of any girls, to the portal that had been reactivated and there was a recent logged port to Grimfrost, they had arrived at the last anchor, which turned out to be the witch’s house. Berry turned to Stargazer and said, “We’re going to have to go to the door.”
“I know. She will have chased the girls off, though. She does that to us.”
“We’re fae and turning to the dark, she says. Those girls are probably all nice and sweet and scared from what they were put through.”
“Other than having Durlan drag them here, they had a good time, from what we heard. Their dad was waiting for them and was taking them to the Camp to meet with grandpa. Ok, let’s go to the house.”
They started toward the house and about halfway across the field, the witch’s groundskeeper showed up. “Hello boys. You are being a bit obvious today.”
“Myghal, we were just looking for some girls that got lost for their grandfather.”
“As if you two would do something like that.”
“Could you tell us if the girls were here?”
“No I can’t. So get along boys, back to the hole you have someplace. Don’t try to poke around as I’ve been setting fae traps to catch some rather obnoxious fae that keep poking their noses where they shouldn’t.”
Berry turned to Stargazer and said, “Let’s go.”
They Jumped back to the Camp and Stargazer said, “Why did we just leave?”
“Because I couldn’t sense the girls or the Lady. She took them someplace.”
“What do we tell the Master?”
“We never saw the girls. The portal didn’t work. Who would want to go to Grimfrost this time of year anyway?”

Zirgoccol, Fellowship of Peoples.
It was late evening when Amarille herded her cats into cabs and to the hotel. Eldharc Anvilblade watched the crowd as they marched in and walked up to the desk as Amarille and Galaith arranged to check the crowd in. “Who is this crowd?”
“Family and their friends.”
“I thought that I knew your family and I didn’t see Gail or Vince in that crowd.”
More distant than that. These are Zanis’s granddaughters and their friends. You should see a bit of a splash over across the border.”
“How so?”
“They were taken as part of that little operation that they run and the girls escaped. I sent a message to the girl’s parents and they sent the boys. I think that we will be in the city for a five day or so.”
“This sounds fun.”
“Very. By the way, keep an eye out for one of the other members of our little group. We have press coverage.”
“How did that happen?”
“Byddri is the Press Service correspondent for the Empire.”
“That explains why stories from the Empire started to show up in the papers.”
“Yes. He’s very good for one so young. He’s off filing the hot story that he is sitting on right now.”
“Byddri sounds like a dragon name. Which aerie does he come from?”
“Windergar, but he lives in the Hidden City and uses a Republic passport.”
“So he must have an interesting life.”
“Very. He has been a post rider, joined the dragonguard, was kept as a slave in the hidden city, took pictures of the Republican fleet on its way in to take the Hidden City, has a very nice young lady and has all sorts of high level relationships in the Empire. He even managed to land an interview with Paeris.”
“I think that I will let Tom and Qambois recruit him into our little club, if he isn’t already a member.”
“I suspect that he isn’t already a member, but he’s deep in already and knows most of it. I suspect that the kids know a chunk as well.”
“The kids?”
“I’m fairly sure that they are connected at the highest levels in the Empire. Certainly they are on a first name basis with members of the Regency Council and they were telling rather interesting stories at lunch on the train. Did you know that the Inquisition’s library has disappeared?”
“We have rumors that it was raided by the Ravathrya, presumably for the Master. By Paeris, in fact.”
“The library was involved in a raid, with movie coming about that nasty pirate Paeris Zylvyre, who actually helped Peri and the Qinvaris boys make off with the contents of the library well before the movie crew showed up to destroy certain buildings and create the illusion of a raid.”
“Why were they talking about it?”
“At this point they knew that Paeris wasn’t going to expose himself to prove that he wasn’t involved, the head of the Inquisition knew all about the raid and the movie shoot and nobody is going to ask Mrs. Harper and Lady Qinvaris too many questions when they open a rather large new library in the Lower City.”
“This was one of her things? Certainly not. Of course by the time she is finished where all the books came from will be impossible to determine. I think I had better disappear before your young reporter picks up on me.”
Anvilblade exited the hotel and got into the waiting car. The lieutenant up front asked, “So who did the lady bring with her, sir?”
“The kids that were taken and escaped. They also have a reporter with them.”
“That dragon? He didn’t quite seem to know how to handle cabs, but he figured it out and caught a cab, probably to the Press Service.”
“He’s filing a story, about the matter at hand, probably. Apparently he lives in the Hidden City and is the Press Service correspondent for the Empire. In any case, have some people keeping an eye on the kids.”
“I’ll put some people on it. Do you want me to pull the reporter in?”
“Not unless you can do it with his cooperation. He’s probably as new to the Blasted Lands as you think, but since he’s filed copy, the Press Service will probably put a stringer on their Imperial correspondent and if the Press Service goes to a magistrate, we would be burned and our bosses wouldn’t like it.”
“True and if he resists, it would get ugly for the people taking him. I’ll have our people watch. He doesn’t seem to be the type to give anybody grounds to just bust him in any case.”
“He’s also ridden post as well as being a dragonguard.”
“I’m almost tempted to see if I can have some beers with the guy. He sounds like has great stories. Ok, here’s the El station. Go home before your wife gets mad at me, sir.”
Chapter 4.
The Richflight Estate.
Onvyr looked at the cart and grinned. When he and Elincia had arrived, the various people involved had been looking to come up with new ideas to send through the portal. Onvyr had them, along with a suppressed sense of mischief, a rather large sense of annoyance toward his father and quite a bag of tricks as a result of having a access to a large pool of mages and their sometime all too childish desire to show off more than a bit. While Onvyr shared that, more or less, because he was family, showing off would have displeased the Master more than a bit and Onvyr preferred to avoid being in the thing’s presence as much as possible. Saevel came over and said, “The next load is ready to go through, dad.”
Onvyr looked at his watch. “Launch it in twenty hundredths.”
“Why wait.”
“Because mage Delltia always puts his boys in the water right about now. This cart should go all the way to the water and spill the cans of chum in the water to mess up the boys somewhat. I wish that I had some bangs handy, but this will do.”

“We do, dad. Strom left a bunch at the Sanctum, figuring that the Inquisition would go after Uncle Paeris about them. But the Inquisition never showed.”
“What was in the boxes, Saevel?” The sergeant asked.
“I don’t know what you call them, but some pineapple things, some huge fire crackers, a funny gun and some ammo. I can get it if you want.”
“Why don’t I send the corporal with you with a cart through the portal, Saevel? Tidding, go with our friend here and recover the boxes. I know that Mr. Ironshield wanted them to embarrass the Great Captain, but since we know where he is, we can come up with a more proactive use for them. Maybe we can make the water around that place safe for the ladies.”
With grins chasing them, Saevel, the corporal and cart headed to the portal and the Sanctum. The others prepared to send the cart through as Adiun showed up and said, “We should plan to shift things to the Portal Service.”
“What for?” Onvyr asked.
“First, I want to move this portal to where it belongs, Second we have a large spare portal that I want to test for one way ports and third, the Richflights will probably be making noises about getting their estate house back, now that the Justiciars have cleared it of everything pertinent to the cases. Also the Portal Service is in the Lower City and you all will have people lining up with things to send through when they hear what you are up to.”
“I doubt that the Richflights will be back here,” Dan said. “Dad has probably bought the paper on this place already.”
“That is all the more reason that we should pull out and not make it obvious that he has the paper. More to the point, the Richflights may not notice at first that we pulled the shields and come back and take things that they had hidden here and we did not find.”
“Do you think that there are things we didn’t find, Adiun?” Mhaenal asked.
“I am certain of it. We not only didn’t find any paperwork for the “Prospects, we didn’t find any for the regular business that went with their activities. Things like papers for the horses they bought or for their fodder and straw. Things like that. None of that was here and they certainly didn’t burn it. There were some things for the animals that we found here, but not for the horses that they used. There were also no lists of the portal codes that they were using to get in and out of places and you wouldn’t want to make a mistake with those, so they must have had a record. Yet we found nothing that related to the kidnappings, either here or at the House. So the things must be hidden and there will be pressure to retrieve things so that they can be sure that we don’t have them.”
“We could do another search.”
“Why bother. We just leave and Flix and Dan have people keep an eye on the place and see who shows up. Then my daughter and her boyfriend place tags on the stuff and watch where they take it. That’s what we all want to know in any case. At this point we want to know where they took the people they took and what they do with them, and if any are alive, return them to their families and if they are dead, obtain compensation for those families. We have enough evidence that Sollor, his son and the rest were involved in taking certain kids. If they come back, you have writs against them. So staying here doesn’t help us and helps them.”
“You have a point.”
“There are some benefits as well. At some point Melaris is going to realize that we are doing some things that the stretch the Proscriptions. If we are doing them here, he can send the Inquisition and we can’t really oppose or deflect them. At the Portal Service, I can raise a stink and will. Since we found so many portals that have been tampered with and the Inquisition took the Portal Services tools to “examine them for heresy,” and never returned them, the Inquisition is going to need a lot of cause before poking around the Portal Service.”
“The Inquisition took the tools?”
“I found the receipt in the files. They were only supposed to have them for three five days, my father and I had just been exiled and there was a long series of messages back and forth about the tools until the Regency and the head of the Portal Service having a convenient accident. If Melaris tries to get tough with me, Kailu and Gorduin are ready to start an inquiry about the tools and demand that the Inquisition account for them and return them.”
Zirgoccol, Fellowship of Peoples.
Tarranth and Renna had been going in and out of shops all morning and while it had been fun, Tarranth was getting a bit bored as they sent things to the hotel. He had also dipped into the spending money that his dad had given him more than a bit. That was ok, because mother had told him to not worry about it and that if he wanted more, to just go to a bank and write a check to the foreign exchange account. Tarranth was hoping to avoid that here in the Fellowship and thought that he would be able to until Renna passed a window of a place that sold “Antiques” and cried out, “The Woodsprite!”
“The Woodsprite. This is something that dad loved and Saeliihn sold.”
Tarranth looked at the statue that was almost certainly a Beinan automaton and the sign underneath that said, “Ask for price.”
Before Tarranth could say anything, Renna had dashed inside and was talking to the people inside. The problem was that they wanted 750 gold for the automaton. They were also looking down their noses at Renna and Tarranth. Tarranth looked at the clerks and asked, “May we place a deposit on the Woodsprite?”
“Normally we would accept a deposit, but since you are from outside the country, we cannot expect you to send the balance very quickly and we can’t be expected to not sell the statue if a buyer should appear.”
“We will be back with the money shortly. Come on Renna.”
As they exited the store, Renna said, “I don’t think that they know what they have?”
“Elven statues are probably rare. The Woodsprite probably doesn’t work, especially here, but the Beinan automatons are precious to the families that have them and most of the families still have them, even when they sold everything else. For instance, the Woodsprite was given by my grandfather to my grandmother on the joining of the house and you will notice that it looks a bit like Bellflower.”
“I noticed that. Why is that important?”
“Grandmother’s aunt was Bellflower’s great grandmother and the automaton is of her. The Automaton was the symbol of our House’s joining with the fae on our land. Father would never have sold it and didn’t discover that it was gone until quite a bit later.”
“Let’s go and talk to the bank. I want to surprise your parents and this is a perfect opportunity.”
“We should find Amarille first.”
“I can handle a bank, especially for drawing about a thousand or so. You can make it up to me later.”
“Don’t worry, I will.”
They took a cab to the banking center and Tarranth pulled out the list of banks that Taenaran had given him that did business with the House bank on a regular basis. Then he confidently went inside Merryhorn Goldsmith, took out the ledger that he used for writing checks, took up a pen, wrote out a draw for 1000 gold and stamped the check with his House seal. Then he went to the desk and the well dressed dwarf behind it said, “May I help you, young sir?”
“I want to draw on my traveling account. Here is the check.”
The dwarf looked at it, looked at Tarranth and said, “I’m sorry, but we cannot draw this money without your guardian being present or an authorization stamped by the Qinvaris House bank.”
“I just stamped the check with my House seal. That is an authorization from the House bank. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for you, that is, my father is not here. May I see a manager?”
“I am afraid that they are all busy. If you would leave the check, we can send a message to the Qinvaris bank, but it will take some time to return.”
“We will not be in the city that long. You should receive notice that the traveling account is valid. If I could see a manager, I could resolve this.”
“I am afraid that that is not possible.”
“Very well. I am not used to dealing with things like this in quite this way. May I speak with the man responsible for handling the Qinvaris account and see if we can resolve this small matter?”
“I do not believe that I can interrupt him from his important business.”
Tarranth wrote a message and sealed it with his ring. “If you should talk with him later, hand him this and tell him that his important business is walking out your door and writing a letter to his father and Taenaran this evening. I think that he will be rather upset when he discovers that his important business came to the bank and you didn’t send the important business up to talk with him about a small matter. Good day sir.”
As they walked out, Tarranth said, “I handled that wrong, but that guy was an idiot. I’m used to Exchange Street. The problem is that the guys on Exchange Street have been seeing me since I was about ten or so and I got my ring at fifteen. So they all know who I am.”
“Will we get the money?”
“If we have to, I’ll hand the check to Amarille and let her handle it. But I want to see if I can make this work. I expect that it won’t be the last time that I’m here. The problem these characters have is that the next time, it will be for real accounts and the amounts will be rather larger. If I have to deal with gatekeepers for a thousand, what am I going to do when the account runs over a million? Here’s the next stop, Bank of the Fellowship.”
They walked in, Tarranth walked up to the desk and said, “I would like to see the man responsible for handling the House Qinvaris account.”
“Young man, do you have an appointment?”
“I do not, but this is a small matter that should not take up too much of his time.”
“I am afraid that you need an appointment.”
Tarranth wrote a short message, sealed it with his ring and handed it to the man at the desk. “Send this to him. Can you do that now?”
“I can take the message, but I cannot send this now.”
“Very well. If he chooses, he can see me at my hotel. I will be writing a letter to my father and Taenaran this evening.”
They walked out and Tarranth tried again at the other two banks that dealt with the House with similar results. He looked along the row of banks and on a whim, went into Axebrew and sons, banking. He walked up to the dwarf at the desk, who was wearing a rather flashy suit, the dwarf looked up at him and said, “Young man, I don’t know why, but you look like business to me. What can I do for you two?”
“I am Tarranth Qinvaris and I have spent the last twentieth trying to cash a small check at the banks that my family does business with.”
“How much?”
“One thousand gold.”
“Do you need it today?”
“It’s probably too late, so, no.”
“Hand me the check.”
Tarranth did, the dwarf looked at the check and said, “That’s the Qinvaris seal. I will have somebody check this account, but I wouldn’t have any issue with it. I haven’t seen this particular seal, but it looks legitimate. You must be one of Richard’s sons. I am Kammik Axebrew by the way. Why are you here in the Fellowship?”
“There’s a bit of a story attached, which should hit the papers, but my father wanted me to get some experience travelling.”
“I’m surprised that you didn’t have somebody to handle this for you.”
“The trip was put together quickly and dad expects us to be able to handle things ourselves. I just didn’t think that I would be dealing with idiots.”
“The other places put the family members that are very good at saying no and protecting the money at their desks. The idea that the scion of a Great House could show up with a check is not something that they think too hard about because their kids travel with an army of people to handle things like money issues. I have never met your father. On the other hand, I don’t hand my sons and daughters an army of servants and yes men and women to handle the details of their lives. Their mother wouldn’t stand for it. Why don’t I call my son over and have him take you and your very attractive girl on a guided tour of the hotspots while I see about arranging the money. Ruki! Get over here.”
A young man of apparent dwarven and elven ancestry showed up and said, “Yes father?”
“Rukrin, this is Tarranth Qinvaris and lady, I didn’t get your name.”
“Renna Shahana.”
“Two Great Houses, then. Rukrin, I want you to take these two and any friends they have and show them the city while I handle this small matter. Tarranth, why did you want the money in the first place?”
“We discovered an old family treasure that had been sold by my stepmother some time ago and I wanted to return it to the House for a Winterfaire gift for my parents.” Renna said. “It was rather expensive and we didn’t have the funds for it.”
“Rukrin, look into the details tomorrow. Tarranth, Renna, I am very pleased to meet you and have a good late afternoon and evening.”
Kammik watched them walk out and took the check to the counter. “Get the coin for this.”
“That will stretch us and we will have to borrow, uncle.”
“A bit. I expect though, that cashing this will be the smartest thing I ever did.”
“What if it’s a bad check or a fraud?”
“The boy was wearing the ring that he stamped this with. Good clothes but not too fancy and almost nobody would be stupid enough to defraud a Harper. Not for something like this anyway. Send the check to the clearing house. Get some details about the account if they are available and send a message to the family in Silver Mountain.”
“Do you think that Taenaran is testing the banks that the House does business with?”
“No, but this will turn out to be a bad day for them. I had the feeling that young Tarranth was not happy with the people that he was dealing with. Of course, I suspect that Ruki will share stories with Tarranth.”
“If it makes the sticks look bad, that is a safe bet.”
“Take the desk. I think that I want to go home and have a chat with my wife.”
Kammik went home and his younger two spotted him and called out, “Daddy! Did you see anybody interesting today?”
“Yes I did, actually. Some elves from the Empire. At least they were part elf.”
“Like us, then,” Kolgaela said. “Are they running from their families too?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t know about the young lady, but the young man has a happy family that I have heard about. Their mother and father had a twenty fifth anniversary wedding recently and it was a huge party. Let me talk with your mother.”
Kammik walked into the house and back to the kitchen where his wife and cook were working devilment together. “Kethrykllia, I had an interesting new customer today.”
“A Tarranth Qinvaris.”
“Since the Tarranth Qinvaris that I knew of is dead, this must have been the son of Rosaniya and somebody.”
“Richard Harper. An interesting man, who I have not had the opportunity to meet. He’s from the Republic, son of Dan Harper and Lythienne. He was taken by the Ravathyra a while back and House Qinvaris bought him. Six months later he was running the House and Rosaniya had played bad slave girl to get him into her bed and into the House.”
“Rosaniya’s parents were killed in the turmoils by assassins because some of the other Great Houses blamed them for the Blight. Rosaniya was left alone with a large farm, the potential for the Blight and no other House wanting to arrange a marriage. She apparently arranged one for herself. What was the young man like?”
“Calm in the face of great stupidity, used to dealing with things himself and rather frustrated that he couldn’t get a check cashed.”
“You arranged that, probably. How much was it?”
“One thousand gold. Considering that it was the end of the day and not one of our accounts, we will be stretched a bit. But I thought that it was worth the gamble. I told Rukrin to take him and his friends on the town this afternoon and evening. Let me see the paper.”
“Here. There has been a lot more news about the Empire of late. Apparently there is a correspondent there now.”
Kammik looked at the paper and there was a very interesting story indeed about a kidnapping of some girls including a Renna Shahana and Tarranth’s two sisters, which was total idiocy considering the stories going around about how Richard dealt with certain things. Kethrykllia called dinner and the kids wanted to know about the new customers, so Kammik told them about the pair. After dinner Kammik went into his office and dealt with sending messages to his relatives in the dwarven kingdoms until Rukrin came in and said, “That was fun.”
“How so?”
“They are a bit of innocents abroad, including the reporter that we had with us. None of them had been outside the Empire before very much. On the other hand, they had lady Zylvyre watching them and she had her grandkids mixed in as well. They were a fun crowd anyway.”
“How did the girls get away from their kidnappers?”
“You knew about that?”
“It was in the papers. Somebody was a true idiot.”
“The girls had all been tested by the fae and when the opportunity presented itself, they all Jumped to a handy anchor and that was next to the lady Zylvyre’s home. Since two of the girls were relatives, she decided to bring them on her trip to the Republic and when the families heard, they sent the boys as well.”
“Who were the boys, in addition to Tarranth?”
“Sylvar Aezeiros, Periwinkle Yllanan, Midnight Rosehollow and Myrdin Dawkins. A rather unusual bunch. I will take them around if I have the day, tomorrow.”
“You assumed that I would give it to you, didn’t you?”
“I thought that that was a safe assumption with Tarranth and the two Qinvaris daughters along, to say nothing of Miss Beinan and Periwinkle. The lady wants to talk with you or mother, if she can arrange it without the kids being present.”
“You have the day and an expense account, because this is definitely business.”
“It will be fun, but dad, you and mom were always big on teaching us to watch out for opportunities.”
“Don’t blow it for silvers. This could be big money for the family if House Qinvaris and the other Houses are annoyed with the stiff’s on Bank Street. They were idiots to let that young man even near our bank. Will the daughters be looking to cash checks as well?”
“They don’t seem to be big on jewelry. Nimue likes music and I took them to a symphony playing at the music hall. Alinis likes dance, so I’m hoping that we can hit the dance tomorrow. Dessielle and Chrissie want some unusual things for their sisters and brothers and I’m taking them to toy town as well. I think that I will ask the nuisances to pop down after lunch tomorrow and bring their favorite places and ideas.”
“What about the reporter?”
“Byddri? He has rather amazing stories to tell. He has ridden post in the Empire, served in the dragonguard, and lived in the Hidden city where he met his wonderful lady and contracted with the navy, the Press Service and has even been in a movie that’s coming up. He even managed to get an interview with Paeris Zylvyre while Paeris was on the run.”
“A very interesting character, then. Have you talked with your mother about dinner?”
“Not yet. Do you think that that is a good idea?”
“I think that your mother will be upset if you don’t manage to bring them here.”
“You have a very good point. I’m off to bed. I think that I have a busy day coming tomorrow.”
Kammik went to bed as well and Kethrykllia said, “So has my son managed to get the bunch here for dinner yet?”
“Not yet. I told him that you would be disappointed if he didn’t.”
“Rosa and I were friends before I was exiled, so yes, I want to meet her children, even if the relationship was inappropriate.”
“Like ours?”
“Your mother was a fool for insisting that your father cut you off like that simply because she wanted you to marry that dwarven princess. Yes it would have made the family stronger, until things fell apart. That was one thing I learned in the Empire. You can make all the arrangements you like, but those arrangements vanish like vapor when the flames start. My brother’s wife’s family did nothing when my parents were killed and I was exiled. I love you and you love me. That makes us both stronger. I am sure that Rosa saw something in Richard that most people would not see and the strength of their marriage is strong even if it is inappropriate.”
“What do you think of the kids all being tested by the fae?”
“We will have to ask about that, but there must have been reasons. For that matter, we must talk to whoever is responsible for the testing about seeing about our kids being tested as well and some others in our little community.”
“There have been rumors going around for a long time about the children of relationships like ours being taken for something. Not here in the Fellowship yet, but in the Empire. That may have been convenience and if these kids were part of that, then the people doing it may have had a bloody nose. I think that I will see if I can join the lady for lunch tomorrow and discuss these things with her.”
“The elven ladies club strikes again?”
“Well, our clod husbands won’t take care of things, so we have to.”
The Fortress.
The Master always entered his sister’s domain with more than a bit of trepidation. Where he had taken the effort to limit the effects of combining the traits of the fae and magery, his sisters had reveled in them, transforming themselves to suit their personalities and they both had bad habits including feeding on their slaves. When he entered his sister’s “parlor” she had just finished feeding off another rather beguiled idiot and her compelled slaves were dragging the emaciated cocoon away. She looked at him through the four pairs of eyes that her trueform had developed and said, “Herdir, do things go well?”
“They could be better. The grain barges were destroyed and some mages have left us.”
“Strengthen their compulsions, then.”
“Then they would become too stupid for their work. The grain is more worrisome.”
“How so?”
“Sollor conducted an operation and retrieved seven very good prospects. Unfortunately two of the girls were Onvyr’s daughters and he released them somehow.”
“I don’t know. Onvyr has gone through a portal and Zanis and Rolin spouted nonsense at me. They said that the girls had all been tested by the fae and could all Jump. The dark fae I sent could find no trace of the girls.”
“You could have a discussion with Rolin and Zanis.”
“I have. They said that either the boys didn’t look hard enough or they were lying. I doubt that the boys would lie over something so small. In any case, have you seen any sign of them in your web?”
“Not in the Empire. I don’t have the mana to support a web in the Fellowship. That has always been Ilbryen’s purview in any case. Have his sources produced anything?”
“Not as of yet. If the girls are in the Fellowship, that creates another set of difficulties.”
“If the girls did Jump, they may have Jumped to Amarille’s. She knows that something like me is out there and I cannot maintain a web near her home because she cuts the strands. Have you taken steps to replace the grain?”
“I sent people to make enquiries. They have not replied. The big problem is that the Fellowship may not have the surplus, the kingdom will not either, the Republic will, but the cost to ship will be high and getting it shipped discreetly will be rather difficult. In any case the Republic was responsible for the grain’s destruction in the first place.”
“You haven’t mentioned the Empire.”
“That is where the difficulties present themselves. The grain was purchased from House Qinvaris. Unfortunately, two of the prospects taken were the daughters of the House.”
“Daughters of the House? I thought that the family had arranged to encourage the Great Houses to only have one child and in any case, a pure blood elf would hardly be the kind of great prospect that you seem to think that these girls were.”
“Apparently, according to Zanis, the lady of House Qinvaris could not arrange a marriage because of the Blight and joined with a man from the Republic. He knew how to control blight and make the farms more productive. So much so that the man now runs most of the farms in the Empire and handles most of the grain. According to Rolin and Zanis, dealing with him without sending the girls back will be at best difficult and at worst dangerous.”
“I have not extended my web into House Qinvaris. They seemed to be a weak House on the verge of destruction.”
“Apparently that is not the case. In any case, one way or another, the location of the girls must be determined. I have sent the people that have negotiated the grain contracts and we will have to see just what they know.”
House Qinvaris offices, City in the Clouds.
Taenaran mused about the fate that had brought him to this position. When he had entered on his career on the Exchange Street, his goal had always been a huge office in his own building on the Street. Now he had all those things and they just didn’t seem as important anymore. Along the way, he had found a love, shared blood and children, lost one in a terrible accident that may have been the result of one the Richflight’s hunts and overcome all that. Now he was looking at
four rather desperate elves and wondering just how he wanted play these people. “We delivered a thousand tons of wheat and the same in rye and barley to you as we typically do. We loaded your barges, towed them to the locations that you specified and anchored them, something that was rather irregular. What happened to them?”
“We can’t say.”
“You have not paid in full for that grain as of yet and you want more? If you are trying to create a shortage, you a bit late for the year, in any case and rather stupid as the House maintains some reserves in case of incidents. I think that in this case, we must ask for the payment of the grain already delivered and payment in full at double the price for any further shipments.”
“May we speak with Lord Qinvaris? Those are rather outrageous terms.”
“Lord Qinvaris is busy with the matter concerning his family and will be unavailable for any business until that matter is concluded. Lord Qinvaris trusts us to deal with the business. Now if you had a legitimate reason for needing the grain, such as the barges were sunk in bad weather and could show me a report from the coastal authority of same, then I would be more lenient. But as of now, I have to consider that you may be hoarding grain and why you may be doing that.”
“Very well, we will pay.”
“Now that that is settled you can send your barges to the usual place and we will pick them up. You could also arrange for House ships to make the delivery, to wherever it is.”
“The barges are gone. Send the ships.”
“Ok. The shipping charges are included in the new price. Where do you want me to send the ships?”
“We must insist on sending a pilot and have him provide navigation.”
“That could get expensive as our insurer will not let anyone other than Qinvaris crews handle our ships. So we would have to self insure and you already lost your barges. Was it to pirates? I hope not.”
“Very well, we will tell you where to send the ships when they are ready.”
Taenaran watched the rather unhappy elves leave from his window. Richard came in and asked, “How did it go?”
“Too easy. They caved on paying and they are letting us run the ships. I figured that they would want to maintain the concealment. I do hope that they don’t try to kill our crews.”
“That depends on how much they want to eat next year. Did they make any hints about the girls, either way? Any offers to help?”
‘Not a whisper. Either they know that we know that the girls got away or they are hoping that we don’t know that they are connected.”
“Tarranth did a bit of a test of that little portal we sent with him.”
“How so?”
“He apparently had an interesting afternoon in Zirgoccol, on Bank Street for the most part.”
“He needed money already? He normally doesn’t spend like that.”
“I think that Rosa hinted that buying very nice things for Renna would go over well. In any case Taranth and Renna ran into the Shahana’s Beinan, which Saeliihn had sold off a long time ago. Renna asked how much the store wanted and it was more money than Tarranth had on hand, so he did what he normally does at times like that and went to the bank to cash a check.”
“What’s the problem? He has a House ring. All the banks here on the street will cash anything he writes and won’t even bother sending me a message about it unless it’s a lot more than a statue, even a Beinan costs.”
“They wouldn’t cash the check. The check was for a thousand, he went to all the banks that we deal with in the Fellowship and they wouldn’t let him talk to the person who handles our business. He did send messages including that he was sending a letter to you and me.”
“So he didn’t get the check cashed?”
“He did. At a little bank that was a partnership. The owner was at the desk, arranged for the cash, which probably stretched the bank a bit and sent his son to take Tarranth and the rest around the city.”
“Who is this character? He’s hungry and smart. We can work with that.”
“Kammik Axebrew.”
“The Axebrews are a big banking family in Silver Mountain. I didn’t know that they did any business in the Fellowship. But this could be a black sheep in the family running independent. I’ll check up on him. What was Tarranth’s opinion?”
“He liked the man’s approach, the fact that he was willing to take the risk over the check and that he seems to have a nice, if a bit small operation. He did mention that he hoped that cashing the check wouldn’t cause the man any troubles. I think that he thinks that the thousand gold was probably more than the bank deals with on a day to day basis.”
“I will definitely check the man out. Tarranth has good instincts and even though he’s young, knows his way around money. Both the boys do, in fact.”
“You were a bad influence on them. I hate to think what my daughters are like.”
“It’s a good thing that they probably were saving their spending spree for today. Hand me Tarranth’s report.”
“What makes you think that he sent a report?”
“Because after the people we do business with in Zirgoccol messed up a little thing like a check, he’s going to send more than a letter.”
“He did send his assessment of the various banks that we do business with on Bank St. He didn’t have details, but apparently he had quite a chat with young Mr. Axebrew as they were taking the girls around to things. Here’s what he sent.”
Richard handed Taenaran the report. Taenaran looked through it and said, “Ouch! Young Axebrew doesn’t pull any punches. Holding checks drawn on accounts, coming down hard on defaults, and just sloppy business practices. I think that I will send some discreet people in to take a look. Having Tarranth go on this trip probably saved us a pile already when these people screwed things up.”
“Keep things very discreet. I want to see how Tarranth handles things. On the other hand, these clowns messed things up over a thousand gold. What if Taranth had gone in with a need for a million for one of our larger operation’s payroll? I don’t want things messed up because some stiff just sees Tarranth as a teenager. The boys have had to carry a big part of the load and if I have to make an example to get through to people that the boys are fronting for me when they present a check, I will.”
“On the Street here, if Tarranth wants a million, the answer will be, “can we help you with that, milord.” But in the Fellowship, they don’t know that you trust him with things like that. So they turned him away for what he thought was a piddle check.

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