The Rise of The Dark, Chapter 25-26.

Gwynn has a party.

Chapter 25.
House Qinvaris.
Richard walked into the marines’ quarters. “Sergeant, may I borrow Ozzy for the afternoon?”
“What for?”
“I need to true a rifle.”
“I didn’t know that you shot.”
“I haven’t for a very long time. I haven’t wanted to ruin my relationship with my Inquisitor and I didn’t have a rifle. For some reason, my sister handed an old friend to my daughter to give back to me. I suspect that she thinks that I will need it.”
“You must, or you wouldn’t be truing the rifle.”
“Sergeant, since my daughters were taken, the other side, in numerous reports, has been blathering about how weak I was. Now I am having what was supposed to be a discreet meeting and the fact that meeting is going to happen has been sent to the enemy. Now I hope that they are clever enough to know that showing up is just plain stupid, but I can’t be sure of that.”
“We can increase security.”
“First of all, this meeting is on House Zylvyre property and placing an army on their property is rather impolite.”
“The lady won’t care and neither will Onvyr.”
“I know. I will care and that brings me to my second point. So far, everything I have done is seen as being a sign of weakness. This time, if the clown on the other side shows up, I want to demonstrate that the reason that I do things the way I do is not that I have to, but because I want to limit the blood spilled, both my people and theirs. There is a side of me that I don’t like and these people have been asking for it. If they show up, they are going to discover why that is a very bad idea.”
“Where is the rifle? Let’s get Ozzy and see what we can do. What ammunition does it take?”
“Is it a service rifle?”
“Dad had Mr. Ironaxe make it for me when I entered my Service.”
“An Ironaxe, in the service? What did you do?”
“End a war.”
“The Fellowship from the timing. Bloody Ridge, probably. One guy stood off a battalion. All the officers and most of the noncoms were killed. They called the guy the Ghost, because the Fellowship people never saw him. Just the dead. You are the Ghost.”
“That is classified. It was not one of my better five days.”
“You are a legend.”
“It needed to be done or the Fellowship would have had artillery above the HQ and rear areas, filled with rear echelon troops. I started with a platoon, and ended up with me.”
“Does your wife know?”
“I have never told her. Surprisingly, the one person in the Empire who probably knows is Paeris.”
“His raid on the town with the Agricultural station was rather expensive for him. He lost his flag captain, two of his three lieutenants, four of his midshipmen, his marine lieutenant, most of his marine sergeants and a large chunk of his crew before I ran out of ammunition. His troopers sapped me when I was trying sneak out of my hide after the second ship showed up. He was never sure that I was responsible, but he did arrange to have me sold for farm work. I think that he thought that was worst possible place he could put me. It was a relief actually, because I was so exhausted most of the time that I didn’t see the faces of the men that I shot, some of them younger than I was.”
“You bought time and allowed a bunch of people to escape.”
“I know. That doesn’t change the fact that not once did I try to not go for a kill shot.”
“Let’s get you set up. I think that I will go out with you and Ozzy.”
The Fortress.
Flingladui returned to her pavilion feeling full and satisfied. The trip had been successful and she had eyes in several Houses that had risen in prominence as well as new people in the palace. She had also discovered why she had not known of the dissolution of the House. The maid that she had compelled in Leilatha Zylvyre’s staff had gone with her to House Yllanan and the fae there had found and removed the compulsion. She had managed to obtain new links in both House Ravathrya and House Yllanan. When she returned, the new link in House Qinvaris had already sent an important and precious document to her, the five day planner showing that Lord Qinvaris and Lady Qinvaris were going to a meeting with a Fellowship banker at Lady Amarille’s home. With the precious document in her hand, she marched over to her brother’s quarters. He looked up from his desk and said, “What do you want, sister?”
“I wanted to demonstrate that my web was not what you thought. I received a rather interesting document recently.”
“The five day planner for House Qinvaris. Decaday is very interesting indeed.”
“How so?”
“Lord and Lady Qinvaris are visiting Lady Zylvyre on Decaday with Lord and Lady Beinan.”
“So? He will bring an army to protect him.”
“Actually he won’t. Lord Qinvaris is relying on discretion and secrecy as a protection.”
“Do you have verification?”
“What do you mean? The document came from a link on my web. Lord Qinvaris is meeting with a banker from the Fellowship and his wife.”
“Hand me the document.”
“Not unless you apologize.”
“Very well. I am sorry that I said that your web was in tatters.”
“Here then.”
She handed Stormfire the document and said, “Now I am off to savor my meal. I had forgotten how alcohol improves the taste.”
She left and Stormfire contemplated the document at hand. Four days. That was just enough time to set things up, but not enough time to get any confirmation on the intelligence. Everything he had been taught said that confirmation of a situation was important. Yet if he did not act on the information, the opportunity would be lost and his sisters would be making a big deal about his cowardice. He looked at the document again and went to the major’s office. “I received some intelligence that may represent an opportunity.”
He handed the document to the major. The major looked at it and said, “So Lord Qinvaris is meeting with this banker. Has there been anything from Ilbryen about this?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“Why are Lord and Lady Beinan involved?”
“I do not know.”
“What will they have for security?”
“Again, I do not know. Presumably it will be light as there was an effort to keep this meeting discreet.”
“The document looks genuine, but I would want some confirmation.”
“There isn’t time.”
“You seem to want to do this?”
“I was rather nasty to my sister about the quality of the information that she provided after the Dissolution of the House. She apparently took steps to correct her lapses and since she has, I am probably expected to use the information to perform the limited actions that I said I wanted to perform.”
“This is not taking some girls; this is taking or killing the head of a Great House that this House depends on. There will be consequences, severe ones, even if you succeed. What are your real goals?”
“To test the validity of my sister’s web.”
“That we can do. We trip the trap, if any, and run. We take a landdragon to attract attention and watch to see if the security was light or the dragon gets stomped on, hard. We have nothing to gain by taking or killing Lord Qinvaris. On the other hand what we are doing depends on the accuracy of the information that you have.”
“If we play this right, we can say that the landragon emerged in the empty lands and that we were pursuing it. We have a cover and a test. Since we are not going to make a major commitment, that works better for us. Prepare and I will go to my sister for the landdragon and my brother.”

Chapter 26.
House Aezeiros Estate.
Gwynn looked at her mother and said, “I’m not sure what to do. This is the first time that I have put something like this together, especially for guests like these.”
“Your friends are helping and you can handle it, dear.”
“Why didn’t you do this?”
“Because I want you to think of this as your house and I want you to get in the habit of entertaining. I had to go through this with your grandmother and she did the same thing. It was worse for me, because I didn’t have your magic chicken for the luncheon. Dessielle and the others are helping and you are doing just fine.”
“Don’t get all flustered, Gwynn,” Gracie said. “Dad and the other louts won’t care that everything is elegant and perfect and we sort of dumped this on you. On the other hand, Flix is a royal fae and you will have family obligations in the groves when the time comes. We all went through the same thing. You should see what my mother did.”
“What did your mother do?”
“Set up a thing for the heads of a chunk of the companies that come up with weird and strange stuff in the Republic and then dumped the party planning on me because she had “something that came up” at the beach.”
Gwynn laughed. “How strange was it?”
“You don’t want to know, but as long as things were kept well lubricated, things were fine and the house was not burned down.”
“So, no fires is the goal?”
“We had a fire; we just didn’t burn the house down. That was when mother insisted that dad put the lab outside the house. Since Sylvar doesn’t have a lab yet, you are safe. With this crowd a bit of lubrication and the magic chicken with some fixings and you will be fine.”
Adiun came over and said, “You’re telling Gwynn about that party that your mother dumped on you, aren’t you? I’m going over to the ruin now.”
“Yes. I still haven’t forgiven mother for dumping that crowd of bosses and millionaires on me. Especially since she made such a big deal about what stuffed shirts they were.”
Adiun left and Gwynn looked a bit surprised. “They weren’t?”
“You are probably thinking banker types. Well, most banker types. These characters were a bit different. First of all they all started by getting their hands dirty and second they liked to play. So instead of a boring party of old sticks trying to one up another, we had a bunch of well lubricated weird and strange messing with radios after the neighbors called the cops, who never managed to arrive until it was over because they were chasing radio calls all over the place.”
Gwynn laughed. “I don’t know what that is, but it sounds fun. Let me get this chicken in the oven.”
Sylvar was a bit nervous showing off his hideout at last, especially to his father, as well as the Beinans and the rest. He took them past mostly empty rooms to the library and the then to the shop, as well as the labs that still had mysterious machines inside. The Beinans and the mages as well as Hagmer and Iymbryl Phivyre from the Imperial Archive community and Yeldan Yllanan were all poking into things as Sylvar guided them through the ruin. Finally Sylvar came to the place, he rather dreaded, the hall filled with boxes where he had had his accident. Adiun and Wyrran scanned for traps and there weren’t any. The fallen box was still there and something inside had exploded and scattered the contents all over the hall. As they looked, Haemer said, “I’m going to take a sample, but I think we found the Blight. Those look like crossbow bolts that had an explosive of some sort inside. When Sylvar knocked the box over, one of the bolts exploded. His latent fae abilities probably Jumped him out of the hall and he transformed into that Chimera while he was out of it from the shock of the explosion. We treat this very carefully.”
“Wyrran’s little list of portals the master wanted to disconnect is going to be very useful,” Adiun said.
Dan picked up a crossbow bolt that had been thrown into the hall. “These were made in the Fellowship. When dad meets with Kammik, I will ask him to ask Kammik to track who made these down. I want to know if anybody has placed an order.”
“Won’t they come back for these?” Sylvar asked.”
“These are leftovers,” Dan said “They used the broken portal to set up the staging here and then used the post roads to launch the bolts into the fields. They made more than they needed so that they had spares in case they needed to hit more fields.”

“The Master wanted the portals disconnected well ahead of time so that there wouldn’t be any people watching the stocking of his staging points,” Wyrran said. “He is going to spread the Blight and create the Turmoils even though the Emperor is mad.”
“They discovered what dad has been doing,” Dan said. “Dad is probably messing them up more than bit and then there are all those losses that the Ravthyra have had.”
“I think that the ladies will be a bit upset is we don’t show for lunch,” Adiun said. We also should have things other than this matter to talk about.”
Dragonhall, Eryding.
Resod Khumkith looked at the pair of rather shaking figures in front of him and turned to their ladies. “Ladies, I don’t know what you did to put these two under my thumb again, but it must have been pretty remarkable. Both these characters know me all too well.”
“I knew that Mokem had been through your course, Flight Instructor,” Danni said. “We weren’t sure about Nathan.”
“The Academy wants all naval flight service officers to have flight training and be able to fly airplanes, so yes he has. Of course neither of these characters were dragons or dragonkin at the time. I must say that you ladies are a good influence on them. My wife was concerned that they would get black frames because of the stunts they pulled. So why did you bring them here?”
“Winterfaire is in three five days and we want to dragondance with them. So they and we, need to get in shape.”
“I don’t go easy on ladies.”
“We know. My cousin told me and Miss Beinan already knew.”
“Miss Beinan, did you talk with your father about this?”
“He and I went through flight training together back when planes were nothing more than wire, wood and canvas. That’s what he was flying when your mother captured him.”
“My father is here in the Empire at present. I didn’t know that you knew my parents.” Yrvien said. “They are living at the House in the Cloud City.”
“I will make a point to visit. I haven’t seen Halamar for a long time, for obvious reasons.”
“They don’t like you in the Fellowship.”
“That I could work around. But if I even mention that I’m going to the Fellowship to my boss, he tells the Admiral, the Admiral sends a message to his buddy and I get hounded by airline types wanting their pilots trained. If I can arrange to sneak in, it’s one thing, but when a vacation becomes several five days of work, that’s another story. Of course I’m at the age where I should retire anyway.”
“How are you with kids?” Danni asked.
“Fine, why?”
“We have a bunch of little flyers that are getting rather obnoxious and our mage teacher is getting on in years.”
“Now that has possibilities.” The flight instructor turned to the two lieutenants. “Since you two have these wonderful ladies to take care of, adequate just isn’t going to cut it. I need to get you up to satisfactory before all that college boy stuff goes to your head.”
Nathan and Mokem started to squeal a bit.

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