The Rise Of The Dark, Chapter 9-10

Reptar cleans up some water. A ship prepares to carry a load of grain.

Chapter 9.
The Retreat.
Rolin looked at the elegant steamer preparing to drop anchor, turned to Ilbryen and asked, “So now what?”
“I see that your visitor has arrived.”
“My what!?”
“The lady who is coming to talk to you for the Consul.”
“What lady, and why?”
“The lady Yllanan and she has been asked discreetly by the Consul to negotiate for over flights by Fellowship patrol aircraft looking for Republican airships, something that the Consul feels he needs.”
“So if this was discreet, how did you discover it?”
“The meeting with the lady was in the papers and the Consul’s office released an agenda.”
“The ship?”
“That is the Funlover, owned by Lady Orizana.”
“How long have you known about this?”
“Three days or so.”
“Three days in which you somehow neglected to tell me that the lady was coming.”
“I thought that I would keep the surprise.”
“Did it never occur to you that doing that when it involved things like lady ambassadors who know me all too well and is rather annoyed at me and Paeris and is arriving in a ship that is probably full of people with cameras was not the smartest thing that you might do?”
“If the lady gets to be obnoxious, we can always sink the ship later.”
Rolin wanted to slap some sense into the idiot and only the fact that, short of killing the idiot, nothing he did would get through stopped him. “Ok, First of all, the sharks are to stay out of the water within four hundred yards of the ship.”
“Why?”
“The Ambassador is seafolk and will need to live in the water. I imagine that her ship is set up for that and I don’t want the sharks poking around while the lady and any other seafolk aboard are Swimming.”
“You seem certain that there are more.”
“Very. It is unlikely that there would not be. I doubt that Galassiel is aboard, but there are other relatives and friends. In any case, blood in the water would be a very bad thing. Now go.”
“What will you be doing?”
“Saying yes to what Gwen wants and seeing if I can get her and that pretty boat out of the harbor again before the fleet returns.”
“I should be involved in the negotiations.”
“Then hurry and tell Delltia to keep his things away from that ship.”
Ilbryen stalked off as Rolin watched a tender being launched from the ship. The tender started to dump chum into the water and several seafolk with strange weapons dropped overboard. A bit later one of the crew on the tender pointed and a round object was thrown into the water. The water leapt up in a splash and there was a dead shark in the water. This happened two more times as Delltia ran up and said, “My boys! They are killing my boys!”
Rolin turned to the troubled mage and said, “Delltia, I would keep your boys out of the water for the next few days. Tell your fellow shark mages the same thing.”
“My boys must swim and feed.”
“Well, that ship is carrying the Imperial ambassadress and she is seafolk. She also has Regency Council protection and since we are on Imperial territory her people can take what measures they see fit to provide for her security.”
Delltia fell and writhed in pain as yet another of his boys was killed. Ilbryen returned and Rolin said, “You weren’t fast enough. It appears that the lady is dealing with the shark issues on her own.”
“How did she know?”
“She was at the sanctum for three moons, something you would have known if you had let me know so that I could set up a brief on what was likely to be required. Instead, you had to play games.”
The sharks appeared in numbers, drawn by the blood and their dying comrades and the incidental normal fish caught in the destruction as the explosions, shooting and dying sharks continued. The other two shark mages appeared screaming and Paeris appeared with a bit of a grin. “The lady does not like sharks at all.”
“You knew that she was coming?”
“Yes. I thought that Ilbryen would tell you. Apparently he didn’t.”
“He didn’t. He wanted to surprise me. Delltia is the one getting the big surprise.”
Master Mage Yelmenor ran up and said, “What is going on?”
“Watch,” Paeris said. “I think that they are about done.”
He went and kicked at Delltia. “It appears that Delltia has left us.”
He walked over to first one and then the other shark mage and said, “I think that we will need some new shark mages.”
The tender from the yacht circled a few more times, the seafolk that had slipped overboard returned with one being slightly injured and the tender returned to the yacht. There was some changing around of people and the tender headed toward the quay. As the tender reached the quay, Rolin spotted his nephew Reptar in an Imperial Navy’s captain’s uniform and a mortal in House Yllanan livery. The tender tied up at the quay and Reptar spotted Rolin. “I will be right up, uncle!”
He climbed to the top of the quay, followed by the mortal and the pair walked toward the group. “What are you doing here, Reptar?” Rolin snarled.
“That should be obvious, Uncle. I am captain of the Lady’s yacht. I am here to handle certain things, which shouldn’t be a problem because this is Imperial territory. The Imperial Ambassador would like to meet with you about some issues she is discussing with the Fellowship.”
“Isn’t being captain of a toy a come down for a captain in the navy?”
“Actually no. In the first case, the yacht is the only steam vessel in the navy at present. In the second case, the yacht is only part of my job. Since I would be traveling with ambassador in any case, having me run the yacht makes sense.”
“What was that mess all about?”
“The lady was concerned about the risk to her new grandchildren that are aboard and wanted to make sure that the grandchildren and other ladies with tails could Swim in safety. There were rather more sharks than we expected. I think that the clean up was rather thorough.”
“Who is that with you?”
“This is Tomas, the Lady’s Charge De Affaires. He is going to set up the time and location of the meeting and has the brief. We want to get your impression on the airship issue. You did object to aircraft over Eryding earlier this year rather strongly.”
“Byddri is not aboard the yacht is he?”
“No, he is not.”
“How did this come up?”
“The lady is taking the yacht on a cruise with the grandchildren and when we arrived in Kugrim, Consul Beira asked to meet with lady, proffered the proposal and wanted the lady to present it to you.”
“How did the Lady know that I was here?”
“I can’t say. That is confidential.”
Rolin looked at the bloody water and thought about the problems that the water would cause. He said, “I would like to get this resolved as soon as possible, but I think that there will be issues that I must resolve, so why don’t we agree to meet first thing in the morning.”
“Here?”
Somebody called out, “Cart! Cart! Clear the quay! The cart is coming in that direction!”
Everybody looked in the direction of the incoming cart. Rolin said, “We better move away. Reptar, we will meet at the end of the quay over there. I would get your boat offshore as these carts can be dangerous.”
The cart stopped and balloons raised a huge banner of the Grand Master Mage as sound came blaring out insisting that all mages return to the Academy. Tomas and Reptar grinned as they returned to the tender and the tender pushed off the Quay. The next cart went in a different direction and launched fireworks, followed by wagons and carts appearing with light shows, launching toys and more fireworks as the evening approached. When the tender tied up and the crew disembarked, Gwen asked, “So what is going on with that?”
“Milady, I have no idea,” Tomas said. “Rolin didn’t seem to be too surprised by the appearance of the things, did he, Reptar?”
“No he didn’t, other than worrying about the cart being dangerous. The things must be coming from a one way portal.”
“Why does the Grand Master Mage keep appearing?” Hoddy asked.
“Forty years ago, Zanis Zylvyre murdered most of a fae community,” Gwen said. “When the Grand Master found out about it, he was rather put out and is demanding that all unregistered mages turn themselves in for debrief and reassignment. I suspect that the mages here were not told and somebody is making it loud and clear to the mages that they had better return or they are in big trouble.”
“The Grand Master is a good mage, elf and man. I’ve interviewed him more than once and I am certain of that. On the other hand, I imagine that a mage committing mass murder would be something that really makes him angry. That would do huge damage to all that he is trying to accomplish.”
“Very angry as there was a crystal of the murder and my ex husband was one of those who investigated. The Grand Master watched the Crystal with King Aestaeros and both of them were more than a little furious.”
“I can imagine. They have both worked very hard to change the prejudices of the kingdom and the harder stances of the Church there and something like that could ruin all that in a hurry.”
Hoddy was looking as a huge ball emerged and suddenly flew apart in what appeared to be Winterfaire children’s crackers. “That was a good one. Where are all these coming from?”
“The Lower City,” Reptar said. “Somebody a very large budget. This is probably where the girls ended up and somebody wants to make Uncle Rolin’s life miserable.”
“This isn’t Richard’s style and Tarranth was with the girls, so this is Dan and his friends,” Gwen said. “I expect that the Lower City is right as well, especially with Dessielle’s brothers involved. I think that we will find out more at the Hidden City.”
They watched from the yacht until the show ended. The kids enjoyed the festivities. Tigger went below and hid from the noise until it was over.
The Portal Serivce.
Gracie and Yeldan came into the office laughing. Gracie said through her giggles, “You will never guess who just showed up at the Retreat, dad?”
Adiun frowned. “Not the girls, I hope.”
“The Ambassador. At least that was her yacht. We have pictures. They enjoyed the show. They also cleaned up the water.”
“Why were they there?”
“The gossip going around was that the Consul was worried about airships next year and wanted an agreement that the Fellowship could maintain air patrols over Ravathyra land, now that it was a chink in the Fellowship’s defenses. So the Consul asked Gwen to proffer the proposal. The whole thing had been in the papers.”
“I wonder if anybody has told the lady yet that if you want to be discreet about something like that, you talk with Qambois or our cousin. If the Consul talks with you, the thing will be all over the papers right after he finishes telling you to keep things discreet. The man leaks himself. Did they enjoy the show?”
“It looked like it. There was a tender ashore and an elf in Imperial Navy uniform was talking to Rolin after the sharks were dealt with. The mages all seemed to have strokes or seizures as well as the bodies were carried off after everything was over. In any case the sharks are not a problem in the water.”
“Is Sollor still there at the Retreat?”
“Yes,” Yeldan said. “He doesn’t really have a place to go.”
“That’s too bad. His place was burgled rather amateurishly the other night and I wanted know if he wanted his things back. I think that we will turn them over to the custody of the Justiciars.”
“When do we hit the Camp?” Gracie asked.
“There is a rather large shipment coming to the Retreat soon and I think that we should have replaced our stock of devilment by then, so, in a couple of five days. Why don’t you port down to the Hidden City and coordinate with Yrvien. She and the people down there may want to have some flights.”
“I want to see if I can talk with the Lady tomorrow when they come ashore,” Gracie said. “At least with some of her people. Perhaps we can find a discreet beach and transfer some things.”
“I will leave the planning to the experts.”

Chapter 10.
Qinvaris Port, Qinvaris estate.
Richard watched the sacks of grain slide down the chutes, the very sturdy stevedores swing them around and slide them down another chute into the holds of the ship. He turned to Marinus Crabfisher and said, “Marinus, you have a radio and don’t be afraid to squawk if you see anything fishy. I want your people back, whole and intact.”
“What if they use compulsions?”
“The entire crew, in fact all the crews are immune, so play along. If they look as if they want to do something permanent, my dad’s people will be next to a portal along with some more boys and Adiun’s people that can shoot and my brother will have a cruiser offshore and marines aboard. Taenaran is also calling the factors in about the time that you arrive and reading them the riot act. You will only be allowed to stay in their port for two five days unloading.”
“Richard, you are a terrible boss. I and my crews were expecting a nice leisurely stay where it was warm, especially with some nice Swims.”
“If you want to make a stop at the Hidden City on the way back, I can have Taenaran contract for some cargo.”
“Do that. I don’t like making a trip in ballast anyway. What is Gurragh doing with the sacks?”
“I have instituted a new policy. All sacks sampled for blight are tagged with the bin number and elevator that the grain came from. If a large customer has issues, I want to know which bin we have to turn into silage.”
Marinus grinned. “If that means that a fae can track the sack, you can be sure to find all the tainted grain and get a tally very fast.”
“Yes. Now that some fae are family and more are working for us, I want to add a service and keep the tainted grain from making a bigger mess. I had a few too many complaints last year.”
“I do remember Taenaran grousing about that at the wedding. He also had all the ships careened or docked and the holds repaired.”
“You will be getting new ships soon.”
“Steamers?”
“Not yet, but I commissioned four steel hulled barks from the shipyard in the Republic. These ships are new, but steel ships have fewer issues when you ship grain. I have already made arrangements with Lord Shahana to sell these ships to him.”
“Will he need crews?”
“I don’t think so. His brother can supply people. You all will not be out of jobs in any case. I didn’t think about volunteering you all.”
“Spring is our slow time anyway and we know the ships. A few extra timber runs will make my wife happy.”
“Happier than having you in the bower?”
“That’s great for a few five days and after that, she starts to worry that I don’t have work. Also, with the kids more or less grown, she can come with me.”
‘Not this voyage. Make it clear this time that wives and kids stay home. I will arrange transport to the Hidden City, but only the crews and men aboard this voyage.”
“You’re serious about this.”
“These clowns took my daughters and the other girls. If sending the grain in again wasn’t a perfect opportunity to get a good look at how they operated, I wouldn’t be selling them a seed. These characters agreed to all my terms when Taenaran handed them the quote. They either knew that their great secret was blown, or they are planning something stupid. I’m hoping that they knew that the Retreat is blown already and that they weren’t protecting very much, but I can’t be sure. I will port down to the Hidden City and get a brief from my brother before you go. If things get tight, burn the ships and Swim out of there. The ships are already being replaced and your lives are worth more than some sacks of grain. By the way, take a stack of crystals and get lots of pictures for your kids.”
Marinus grinned. “Since they couldn’t go this time, I think that I will have to.”

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