The Rise Of The Dark, Chapter 35-36, end of this book.

The girls have another party.

Chapter 35.
The Retreat.
Rolin looked across the retreat as Sollor drifted his way along the harbor front in his usual state of moderate inebriation that he had had ever since he realized that there was no way that he would be going home any time soon. His son and nephew were cooking up something, but Sollor had been left high and dry after all the files had mysteriously disappeared. The master mage responsible for the files had shown up to pester Berry and Stargazer about them until Camus made it very clear that he did not want the clowns from the Camp messing with his people and that included Berry and Stargazer. Frankly Rolin needed them to pass messages around and get operations moving to some degree of competency. At least the Republic had stopped sending submarines to harass the squadrons as they trained. Rolin was sure that the cruisers were watching again, but he had expected that. The Fellowship’s air patrols were a common sight and at this point everybody in the Retreat ignored them.
As Rolin looked out along the row of buildings he noticed a lady in a feathered cap that he had seen around before, some fae boys and a couple that were sort of paying attention to each other near the portal that Rolin was fairly sure that everybody still thought was dead. The door opened and Camus came in. “We finally have some people that can do a level of ship repair.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I asked the fishermen who fixed their boats and made some arrangements for those people to teach the slaves in the arsenal how to caulk and shave planks. We might have crew capable of repairing our rotted hulks. What’s going on over there?”
“Near the portal.”
A cart emerged and skyrockets lit the sky. Rolin looked and Sollor was more or less being dragged to the portal as the next cart appeared. Rolin laughed and said, “I think that finding Sollor may be a bit difficult.”
Camus matched his laugh as the next cart showed up. “I must talk to Toross about his people saying too much at home.”
Sollor was making his rather foggy way along the quay to his room when an elf woman and her servant appeared in front of him. He blinked and said, “Do I know you, milady?”
The lady flashed a Justiciar’s badge and said, “You don’t, but some people want to talk with you.”
Sollor turned to run and the servant had a strange and probably heretical weapon in his hand, “Lord Richflight, You can’t want to make a fuss, do you? Why don’t you come with us nice and peaceful?”

Sollor was about yell when a cart appeared and loud fireworks went off. The mortal said, “This place might get dangerous, Milord why don’t we head to the portal over there.”
Sollor barely resisted as the couple pushed him to the nonworking portal. “You may find it very difficult to get me out of this place. I have friends here.”
“Do you, milord? Maybe you are right, and I should just shoot you here.”
“We don’t want to do that, Tom. There’s Gracie and the others. Gracie, why don’t we go where they have good beer?”
“Sounds good to me.” The other seeming elf pointed a portal key at the portal and it activated. The mortal pushed Sollor through and he emerged in what must be the Justiciar’s Hall as the Adjunct who had helped to create the mess he was in said, “Remember me, lord Richflight? As of now, you are under writ and arrest. You may remain silent, though in your case, it won’t do you a lot of good. You and your lady are in a heap of trouble with several Great Houses and a lot of other people.”
Sollor wilted in defeat.
The Camp.
Wyrran had fought a bit with Adiun about setting the portal up in the camp. Adiun had wanted Gracie and Yeldan to do it and was willing to wait until they returned. Wyrran was willing to take the risk in order to get the portal installed while the Camp was distracted. Since Wyrran could point out that he could take a fully armed team and the fae, he was able to argue that getting the portal installed quickly would make the whole thing discreet, Kailu and Folmon did not want Adiun taking unnecessary risks, and since Wyrran was not married and his parents had been exiled, he was the obvious choice to make the installation. So, after the first wagons of chaos were sent through the portal, Wyrran and his team took the portal wagon through.
They emerged away from the usual entry point and proceeded to the long empty portal house as the chaos started behind them. In the darkness and chaos, nobody paid any attention to them except some fae children that greeted Wyrran and watched curiously as the wagon and its portal passed. Wyrran stopped to talk to the children and Rainflower asked, “What are you doing with this portal, MageWyrran?”
“I thought that the Camp should have its own portal, so I wanted to set it up. It’s a Winterfaire present.”
“Will everybody be able to use it?”
“I expect so. There are some things coming over there and I would keep an eye out for Father Winter, because he may have presents for you all.”
The children ran toward the exit point, those that couldn’t Jump and Wyrran caught up with the portal as the crew unloaded it from the wagon and moved it to the portal House. The portal went into the long abandoned portal house, Wyrran did some final checks, activated the portal and the collapsed wagon and the crew ported out.

Chapter 36.
House Qinvaris.
Hubys took the morning report into the lord as he sat down at his desk. “The report, milord.”
“You like doing that, don’t you, Hubys?”
“What milord?”
“Calling me that. I wouldn’t let you get away with it before Rosa forced me to sign the paper tieing us together.”
“That was a disappointment to me and the rest of the staff. If anybody deserves the title, it is you.”
“This is the last report of the year. Is there anything of note?”
“Elred and his people played with the spider last night.”
“Is everybody ok?”
“They are all fine. Aien was the lady’s “customer” and managed to get himself loose after shooting her twice.”
“I hope the Inquisition doesn’t hear about that.”
“I doubt that they will. All the people outside in that region of the Lower City were either guards, Justiciary people or ours and Lord Zylsalor’s people are hardly going to make a fuss over guns when they have them as well.”
“Is Aien injured?”
“Bruised a bit. Nothing serious.”
“So, what else?”
“Sollor Richflight was taken by the Justiciars last night.”
“Excellent! Who was responsible?”
“Young mistress Bryneiros and her rather inappropriate man arranged it with the Portal Service people and some others. Apparently they had information from Lord Shahana’s people and some overheard conversations from Toross’s people in Eryding. Toross and his people apparently upset some people in the Retreat.”
“Or somebody wanted to remove Rolin’s people from him. Anything else?”
“There were a lot of requests for certain books and their current locations from the spider lady. There have been a lot of messages returned. Your mother is going to receive Dan’s present this evening at the party.”
“Are the dancer’s ready?”
“As ready as they can be. The Flight Instructor and Lady Rosehollow made it clear that flying can be dangerous and forced the girls to practice and keep it simple and on the ground for the most part, this year.”
“So, all Rosa and I have to do is show up along with everybody else. It will be interesting to see what the girls pull off.”
“Your mother has been helping and she took Dan’s little distraction and adopted it.”
“Has Delion been sniffing around?”
“Not a bit. I suspect that the embarrassment at the border was a rather large setback for him.”
“I imagine that his superiors are keeping him on a tight leash. If that is it, hand me the report.”
Rosa came into the office and said, “Good, I have you both. Hubys, I am going to be at the park and the inn all day getting ready for the party with Lythienne and the girls. You are to make sure that Richard dresses properly before you let him go to the party.”
“What is wrong with dressing like this?”
“For the boys, they can get away with it, though I will push Dan to dress. Tarranth is going to be in costume with the rest of the dancers and transformed. I expect that Renestrae will work on Dan. In fact I will make sure that she knows. You, on other hand, milord are going to be center stage as what you are. We have had a big year this year and I want all our people to know that they have the kind of lord that can be everything that they need. You show up dressed the way you usually do and there will be trouble from me. So plan to dress up. Hubys, make sure that he takes a carriage and not a horse.”
Hubys had a huge grin as he said, “Very well, Milady.”
Rosa kissed her husband. “I need to go, dear. I will see you later.”
She turned around and left and Richard said, “I’ll be good. I don’t want to make trouble today.”
“I should hope not,” Hubys sniffed. “I will have a carriage ready for you at fourteen. That is if you are not planning anything else.”
“I have to make some arrangements as well. It is Winterfaire and I have gifts for my children and some others to arrange.”
“The usual things for the staff?”
“Yes. After all, they have done such wonderful things for us this year. In any case, we need to finalize things before the party, so why don’t we get started.”
The Fortress.
Phaerille and Alyndra were going through the stack of material that had come through the portal. Their mother had obtained new links in her web, but her daughters were tasked with making some sense of it all and they were having a great deal of difficulty. Alyndra turned to her sister and said, “What are these and why so many?”
Phaerille looked at the document, which was a list of different things. She noticed a name that was probably a ship and said, “This must be a list of cargo on a ship. The ship was in Eyrding.”
“Why would mother want this?”
“We can ask her.”
“She hasn’t transformed yet. She can’t talk.”
“Why not?”
“Her tongue is still ready to feed. I don’t think that it is safe to be near her now.”
“She wouldn’t eat us.”
“She wouldn’t? She ate our dads. Before she had us, even.”
“She does that. Let’s go through these and see is anything stands out.”
The girls went through the manifests, as they found out to call them when they found it on one of the lists. Most of them seemed to be for ships that didn’t carry very much or were lists that had things that were listed as “Unknown, from the Republic.” Those ships seemed to have been ships sent overseas. Not knowing what else to do, they organized the manifests by date and looked at the last three ships that had come from overseas. That list seemed to be farm equipment and other things for the Qinvaris, tools and things for the Shahana along with things marked personal for the family or books for a library. Alyndra turned to her sister and said, “Let’s talk to Uncle Stormfire and see what he says. We can talk with him, anyway.
The two girls headed to their uncle’s office where he was looking at a report. He looked up and said, “What can I do for you girls?”
“Mother can’t talk right now and is too dangerous to be near and we have all these manifests from ships that the web was sending. Do you know why mother might want them?”
“Where were the ships?”
“I wouldn’t know why your mother would be interested in Ravathrya ships. The only thing the family may have left are the coasters.”
“These weren’t Ravathyra ships. I think that they were Qinvaris.”
Stormfire blinked. “Then they would be interesting. Your grandfather was looking for something that the Qinvaris purchased in the Fellowship. Why don’t we look at the manifests?”
The girls brought out the Manifests and Stormfire said, “Most of this seems to be things that the Qinvaris will need for the planting and the Shahana need for woodcutting. But there are those books. Father was interested in some books that were purchased by the young Qinvaris that were not brought by road from the Fellowship. Maybe they were sent to where these ships were. Where did these ships load?”
Phaerille blinked. “The Hidden City? Why would a city be hidden?”
“The city was hidden as it was part of the Ravathyra’s raids on the Blasted Lands. The Ravathyra would take the slaves there and transfer some here and take the rest to the Empire to be sold. We will have to discover who is in control of the city now, since the Qinvaris seem to have no problems loading ships there. I wonder if these were the same ships that delivered grain.”
Alyndra frowned. “Ships delivered grain? I thought that we had barges that were loaded and we picked up.”
“The barges were destroyed by Republican warships, apparently.”
“Why did the Admiral let that happen?”
“He hasn’t told me and Ilbryen rattles on about monster ships that blew the barges up from miles away. The story is rather unbelievable, but I’ve talked to others that said the same thing.”
“What kind of ships could do that?”
“I haven’t seen them. They are new.”
“Apparently. We should ask Ilbryen more questions and your mother as well. What happened last night with her?”
“She can’t talk right now and she jumped in, grabbed a slave and fed off him. She didn’t even seduce him or wrap him properly. She just sucked his guts out and made a mess.”
“So your mother must have had a bad night in the Lower City. That has never happened before. She was supposed to be establishing new links in her web, not taking the risk that it would be exposed.”
“When mother is on the hunt, she doesn’t worry about things like that, Uncle,” Phaerille said. “She just looks for prey.”
“Why don’t we see if your mother has recovered? I will protect you if necessary.”
Stormfire led his nieces to his sister’s pavilion that had the remains of three bodies on the grass and his sister slightly transformed. She turned on them and said, “What do you want?”
“We were concerned about you and Phaerille and Alyndra had some things come through the portal that were rather interesting.”
“What? I am still a bit injured.”
“What happened?”
“My prey was not fully in my thrall and had a strange weapon. He used it and injured me even though I was transformed. I was able to leap away and escape before the noise attracted the guard. The Lower City is concerned about a murderer and restricting courtesans to places prepared for them. I made a mistake and should have been more wary. Show me the manifests.”
“Here they are, Mother,” Phaerille said. “They seem to be mostly tools and supplies for the farms. There were some books and unspecified family items.”
“Do you think that the Qinvaris used Eryding to get the heretical books through,” brother? That would be risking Melaris interfering.”
“We will have to ask Rolin about that. But if Eryding is House Zylvyre now and it probably is, Melaris may not be able to look into Eryding any longer and there may not be an Inquisitor on site. If that is the case, then anything could be unloaded and be free of inspection. On the other hand the books are specified for a library.”
“The question is what library. I will have to contact my web in the palace and find out what the library is about. But I must recover first. At least my web is bearing fruit somewhat.”
“We will write up a report for you, mother. Tomorrow, that is. We are going to the fae village for the Winterfaire party.”
“Very well, Enjoy yourselves, daughters. This can wait until tomorrow and I am healed somewhat.”
The Qinvaris Estate.
When Richard stepped off the carriage, the first thing he saw was Jimmy, as a landdragon with a mob of children on his back, laughing their heads off and being chased by still more. Jimmy and the entire mob stopped when Jimmy saw Richard and said “Hi, Lord Qinvaris.”
“Who convinced you to do this?”
“My sister and her friends, as well as Dessielle and my mom. They figure that I can watch out for the characters that took me and keep the kids out of trouble.”
“Very well, carry on.”
Jimmy started up again and the happy mob followed him. Richard’s father must have been waiting for him as he came over and said, “That was a success.”
“Who’s idea was it?”
“Rosa’s somewhat. Jimmy has been a bit despondent about his dragon since he doesn’t transform into anything else right now. On the other hand, with kids you see what happens. When Jimmy showed up, Dessielle and Rosa recruited him.”
“He seems to be having a good time.”
“Yes, and if Durlan and the rest show up here, they will not.”
“I doubt that they will be able to show up here. All the portals from the Retreat are tracked, as are the portals that are nearby that Sollor’s merry crew used. I need to catch up with Rosa and be the Lord as she wants.”
“Tarranth and Renna have a surprise gift for Renna’s parents and Dan and Renestrae have something for your mother that they won’t talk about. What are you giving the kids?”
“Since three of them have girl or boyfriends, I’m giving them estates. There are some places that have gone empty and I want to make sure that the family has their own places. Like you did with my brothers and sisters.”
Dan laughed “That was in self defense. There were too many of you all. Lythienne wanted a big family and we had one.”
“In any case, I want my kids to have their own places, even if they won’t be using them very soon. Dan and Nimue are off to college next year and I will want Tarranth close. I need to find Rosa.”
Richard left his father and headed toward the entrance to the new park that was more or less under construction. There was Nimue looking fully elven and elegant in a very nice dress with Sylvar greeting people. She saw her father and said, “Welcome, father.”
“Not in costume yet?”
“That will come later. We have greeting duty with Peri and Dessielle right now. Alinis and Maylin are managing the set up so that we are ready after the circus. The rest of us are on various party duties.”
“It sounds as if you all have things under control. I need to find your mother and do my part.”
Renna turned to her mother as she hauled her and her father to a canvas covered anonymous statuary. Tarranth was waiting as Renna said, “Mother, father, Tarranth, Sudryal, Reptar, Galaxa, Aqualia and I wanted to return something that my traitorous stepmother stole from the House. Tarranth and I found it in a store in the Fellowship and he bought it for me. The rest of us arranged with the Beinans to make sure that this was working properly.” Renna pulled the canvas off and Vesryn gasped. “We found the Woodsprite, the tangible sign of our House’s joining to the other side of the family. Now, like the survivors of that part of the family, it has been returned.”
Vesryn had a huge grin as he said, “I almost annulled the marriage when I found out that Saeliihn had sold this. I don’t know what she got for it, but it was hardly what this meant to the House. I am so glad that you found this. Was it expensive?”
“It was the cost of a piddle check,” Tarranth said. “The banks on Bank St. probably think that it was very expensive indeed as me trying to cash that check attracted attention that the banks really didn’t want on them.”
“I imagine that they thought of you as a boy.”
“How did you know?”
“Maria’s brother had some issues with the same banks when he sent Vincent, who is about your age to do some business. He was buying nails, because Republican machine made nails are cheaper than the hand forged nails that the dwarves still by and large use. He needed to arrange funding and had a hard time until he found a bank that could make the arrangements that the dealer suggested.”
“They acted like you thought and it was a bit of an annoyance. The screams the next morning when my notes hit the desks of the people handling the House’s business were rather loud and I had a bunch of very rich dwarves bowing and scraping to make amends. Renna can tell you the story now that we don’t have to keep this a secret.”
“Ruki already did,” Maria said, “though he didn’t mention the Woodsprite. Of course by that point he was chasing Nimeroni.”
Vesryn hugged his daughter and said, “Thank you for bringing this back to us.”
“Where do you want it?” Tarranth asked.
“I was tempted for a second to put it up at the Sanctum. But I think that I will return it to the House. That is where my Great Aunt loved to dance in the garden. So we will return it to its place of honor.”
“We can see if the Beinan’s can make one of Galaxa for the Sanctum,” Renna said. “Since she is going to be my sister, that will only be fitting.”
“That could be expensive, dear,” Maria said, with a smile. “On the other hand, I doubt that Folmon will be in a position to do something like that for some time.”
“I know that a new Beinan will be expensive, mother. But that will be the point. It will show the other factions that the House is strong again.”
“I think that a new Beinan in the Sanctum is very appropriate,” Vesryn said. “It will let people know that is where we are all family.”
“As far as Beinans go, I am going to have to commission something for grandmother,” Tarranth said. “Renna, we should have thought of buying bookstores.”
“We had lady Amarille and the others with us” Renna said. “Dan had staff to deal with things. We did all right once we were in the Republic and we had my uncle and your family to help.”
“True. Dan was also clued into that spy.”
Richard looked over the unveiled automaton, going through its rather magical dance and smiled. He sensed Rosa behind him as she said, “That worked out well. You dressed appropriately. Now you and I have to give some music boxes away.”
“Give music boxes?”
“Rebecca and I chose ten music boxes to give to our people like Osmond and Taenaran who did so much for us this year.”
“Rebecca isn’t here.”
“We are, so get moving. We have a ceremony to attend to before dinner.”
Esgalwathanar hugged Lazuli and said, “I’m glad that Lavidia had us come to this rather than us trying to arrange our own thing.”
“Most of the same people were coming here,” Lazuli said. “So it made sense.”
“I see that Bellflower and Saevel have found each other without too much trouble.”
“Along with several other troublemakers, some of whom I do not recognize. I wonder where they came from?”
“Why don’t we ask?”
The couple walked over and Esgalwathanar asked Saevel, “Where did your new friends come from?”
“We met them at the Camp,” Bellflower said. “Mage Wyrran installed a portal and we spread the word with the fae kids about the party. Nebula, Magpie and Flint are helping with that.”
“Should you be doing that?”
“We asked lady Qinvaris and she didn’t have a problem with us bringing some kids. We want these kids to learn about life outside the Camp.”
“That is a good cause,” Lazuli said. “The grove at the Sanctum will help them as well.”
The kids moved on toward the tables full of food and Esgalwathanar said, “The portal was subtle. If the Master can’t control who leaves, he can’t control what they find outside in the real world.”
“We saw how the fae there had been cut off from what they were and the destroyed groves. They will be able to access their true selves again once they enter the grove at the Sanctum.”
Yrvien found Danni and said, “I think that it is time.”
“Yes it is. Let me let the band know and meet you, Nathan, Byrddri, Kythaela and Mokem at the landing pad. I’m glad that Kythaela managed to pull my brother into our dance.”
“That took some doing, didn’t it? Of course he was going to be here in any case.”
They met at the landing pad that had been arranged for the various dragons that were attending, took off their party clothes, transformed and leapt into the air. The band started play enthusiastically as they flew over the party and started to dance. The three couples twirled around each other bathing the sky with the light of their flames as they flew through as series of loops and rolls. As the dance was approaching its end the couples were suddenly surrounded by young dragons in a virtuoso of performance of flying that ended with a column of flaming light and a cheering crowd. As they broke off to land again Yrvien said to Danni “Getting the kids involved at the end was inspired.”
“They were here anyway and that way they didn’t play games. This is something that we will have to do again.”
“Of course we will. Mokem and Nathan’s parents will insist on it.”
“I know. At our weddings, if nothing else.”
“You are invited to mine, of course.”
“You are as well. This is going to be fun. Let’s collect our two characters and get something to snack on. We don’t even have to transform.”
“The girls thought of that too. That cow on the fire smells heavenly.”
Kythaela and Byddri had landed last and unlike Mokem and Nathan, he needed to talk to people, so he and Kythaela dressed again. Flight Instructor Khumkith found them and said, “My wife will love it if you all do that again for your weddings. That was amazing.”
Kythaela grinned. “I’m glad that we all got past just being satisfactory. On the other hand, this was just a dance. You can talk to Captain Pinch and he will get in touch with his sister. Then we will be in real trouble because the movie types will want the dance on film and we will all have to train for that.”
“My wife can help with that and if you are already involved with the movies, she can help with that too.”
“I am,” Byddri said. “Kythaela is not, nor are Mokem, Nathan or Yrvien. Since they are all in the military, that may cause difficulties. But I imagine that arrangements can be made.”
“Yes they can. Those two lieutenants don’t know it yet, but the movie people will be all over them for their stories all too soon.”
“From the way the Harper kids were acting, definitely,” Kythaela said. “Airships and dragons were the new things to be excited about. As well as being movie stars. The kids were all over Byddri for that. We need to circulate, Flight Instructor.”
Resod laughed as the pair wandered off into the crowd. Byddri took pictures and talked with people, including the Regency Council members that were attending. He watched as Richard, playing Lord Qinvaris, presented music boxes and other gifts to the people that had made special contributions to the farm over the year. As Byddri took a picture Richard ended the gift giving with, “Paeris Zylvyre worked my farm and deserves something for the hard work that he contributed. Unfortunately, thanks to my brother and his friend over there being here, Paeris decided not to come. I think that Tomali having a still open contract on him had something to do with that as well.” That created a roar of laughter. Richard continued, “In any case, I just want to thank Paeris for his contribution even if it wasn’t something he planned to do. As for the rest of you, thank you all. I need to end this as my mother wants to hand out gifts, the mermaids are waiting impatiently for their turn and my daughters and her friends are after the mermaids, so I need to move on.”
Byddri took a picture of the mermaid dancing, which ended with a pair of whales breaching in enormous splashes. Then the girls and their boyfriends took the stage and performed their rather enthusiastic dance in a mixture of costume and transformation, starting on the ground and rising in the air in a twirling column of flame and light. As a flyer, Byddri could tell that the moves in the air were kept simple, but the effect was still marvelous.
After the Girls’ dance, Dan had a rather large canvas covered thing on a wagon brought out. He called out, “Grandmother, where are you?”
Dan and Lythienne emerged from the crowd. Dan continued, “Grandmother, at the book faire this year, you were looking for the books that you had enjoyed as girl because certain people had made off with them and supposedly destroyed them. They hadn’t and recently, while Renestrae and I were shopping, we found some books.” Dan pulled the cover off what was a very large standalone bookcase with glass doors. “We found your books, grandmother and thought that you should have them. These are all the books that had Naelana bookplates on them that we could find. We thought that our cousins and their kids should be read to, so we bought them all.”
Lythienne ran over, hugged Dan and breathlessly kissed him on both cheeks. Then she kissed Renestrae “So this is why I was buying toys. You were protecting these and keeping them secret.”
“Yes grandmother. We figured that the Inquisition might go after the books, so we made sure that you could give the kids nice presents and moved the books discreetly. The Yllanan’s already had this nice bookcase for them when I asked Lavidia about commissioning one.”
Maethanar watched the landdragon with the kids, turned to Hyacinth and laughed. “That was inspired.”
“Jimmy? Yes it was. He needs to feel that just because he may look like a monster, he doesn’t have to be a monster. I really want to do a mischief on that snake lady.”
“You, my daughter and Lady Beinan, who is off talking with all her relatives while her kids are here with the rest of them.”
“She and Folmon were planning that trip anyway. Rebecca said that Folmon needs to bring the family together.”
“Considering that the family now has a fae kingdom as part of it, that is going to be more than a bit scary.”
Lelayme found them and said, “Caught you, father. Did Peri invite you?”
“Dessielle did. Your brother was coming anyway, along with his children.”
“They’re over there with Jimmy. At least the youngest is. I hope that Jimmy likes being a babysitter, because after this, he is going to be in demand.”
“He’s going to be welcome at those families that have children, the families that are here, certainly.”
“Certain ladies have taken a hit this year. Glynnii was probably expecting Thalia to do something, Thalia was occupied with the dissolution and all the rest of it. Of course not having a budget may have had something to do with it.”
“The girls put this together and probably didn’t spend very much.”
“The band is well known in the Lower City, but not with the Cloud City and Rebecca is a friend of the leader, whose daughter knows Dessielle. They are playing for food. The fae circus are Midnight’s parents and family. The mermaids are part of house Qinvaris and the dragons were dancing for themselves, like Halamar and Andaphin are doing now. The rest is House Qinvaris and the others celebrating their remarkable year.”
The Grand Master Mage, walked up and said, “Princess, you must introduce me to Lord and Lady Qinvaris. I’m afraid that I have not been introduced properly and I want to meet them at last. I was not able to attend the thing they gave for the fae children.”
Lelayme curtseyed and said, “Grand Master, I can do that. The fae kids are here with the rest of them.”
“Being entertained by that landdragon. Where did they find him?”
“That is a story that I can tell as we go and find Rosa and Richard.”
Lelayme took The Grand Master’s arm and they walked into the crowd. The Grand Master quietly said, “Thank you for attending me like this. I imagine that your parents don’t get out very much together.”
“They have been getting together more often recently. I suppose that I should not have been surprised that you knew that my father was not mad.”
The Grand Master had a twinkle in his eye as he said, “I suggested that your father act as if he was going mad when he discussed certain things with me and his concerns about the Blight and potentially worse things. It didn’t hurt that when he tried to get people to look into certain things, some people acted as if he was going crazy.”
“That was a help at the time.”
“Have you found somebody yet?”
“Not you too? Mother keeps making hints ever since she started to show up with father again.”
“How did that happen?”
“Young Periwinkle Yllanan took it upon himself to track down mother and tell her how miserable father was. So she came back, chastised me for taking father out to a thing that Rosa was having in the park next door and then has been doing the same sort of thing ever since.”
“What was Lady Qinvaris doing that attracted Maethanar’s attention?”
“When Lythienne discovered that Richard was alive and had somebody, she came right back out of exile, with all sorts of clout, and tied into Rosa. Rosa wanted something over the top in the park for the wedding that she was finally arranging, and decided to rebuild the park. As part of that, she arranged a party to launch things off and coincidently bring as many rather inappropriate children and parents as she can.”
“Like this, but smaller.”
“Yes, with Lavidia’s and Rebecca’s help. At the same time, Lielatha wanted to have a typical elf picnic to help make arrangements for her daughter and niece. The thing was looking to be the typical boring elf picnic until Rosa shows up with her carnival and all the rest of it.”
“Couldn’t Lielatha drive them out?”
“Lielatha forgot something rather important, a park permit. Most of the time that wouldn’t matter, but Rosa arranged one and had every right to do what she was doing. So Lielatha had to sit there as other people were having fun, including most of her picnic as the various attendees drifted over to where people were actually enjoying themselves. Here’s Richard and Rosa.”
The Princess introduced the Grand Master to the couple and Richard said, “We are glad that you could come, Grand Master.”
“The princess was telling me about another thing that you did in the park.”
Rosa grinned. “That was me getting some people together to repair an automaton that had been broken in the park for a very long time and having a party to start things up. Lielatha being there with her thing was just coincidence, we had plenty of food and I didn’t mind some of the other people coming and joining in. Everybody had a great time, didn’t they, Lelayme?”
“With some exceptions, my sister, for instance.”
“That was her fault. Her kids did.”
Lelayme grinned, “They did, didn’t they? My brothers are here, but I don’t think that Glynnii is.”
“I didn’t invite her because I didn’t think that she would want to mingle with people from the Lower City, the Republic, Faery kingdoms, and other such places.”
“With that, I need to get to work. I have the king of Elysahone here tonight as well as Ghedrun’s brother and some others.”
“Were Indrut’s grandchildren with the rest of those young dragons?” Lyari asked with a grin.”
“You would have to ask Ghedrun, Grand Master. I think that we have taken enough of Rosa and Richard’s time, so we need to move on and you obviously know Indrut and Ghedrun.”
“Yes I do, thanks to having to arrange to place a mage that was under scrutiny in a discreet place for a while. Lord and Lady Qinvaris, I am pleased to meet you at last. I do hope that we can have a more serious chat soon.”
As they walked away, Lyari said, “We must see about getting Lord Qinvaris tested or into a grove.”
“Because he is leaking all over the place and that much potential could become dangerous.”
“His children have all been tested and were very high, according to Lavidia.”
“I think that I will have to talk to my people about testing and admitting people to the academy. Especially those that the Ravathrya have brought over. When was Richard brought into the Empire?”
“About twenty five years ago.”
“When I was starting my efforts in the mortal kingdoms. Of course, they are not as mortal as they would like to believe.”
“The killings were starting to pile up.”
“Not many know that King Aestaeros approached me first discreetly about what was happening. Too many from noble and other prominent families were being murdered as babies by the Church and he was facing severe unrest and potential civil breakdown if some means of stopping the Church was not found. So he and I made arrangements, discreetly at first and more openly later. Then Zanis’s little rampage was discovered. Thankfully, Justiciar Dawkins has been remarkable in his handling of both the investigation and the diplomatic side of things. If the Regency Council can spare Justiciar Dawkins for a time, I want to take him to the conference of kingdoms.”
“We let Zanis go.”
“That actually helped, because it left no doubt about his guilt. Also Zanis running showed that what happened was bigger than just a rampaging mage. Zanis being able to do what he did was perhaps a bit of a consequence of my laxness. I was working so hard to build new bridges that I missed the vipers at home.”
“Those bridges may become important. Look at what a chance relationship has done for the Empire. As for sending Gander, we can talk with Kelvahn about that. I think that we found Esgalwathanar and Lazuli. ”
There were two Phoenix’s dancing in the air above the bandstand and leaving a trail of light above the enthusiastic musicians. The piece ended and the pair disappeared. Lyari laughed and said, “We lost them again. We can discuss things with them at another time in any case. I think that the young lady wants us on the water.”
Nimue and the other girls, still in their half transformed, half costume dance outfits were pointing people at the beach below the park. When she reached Lelayme and the Grand Master, she curtseyed and said, “Princess, Grand Master, we have fireworks to close this down.”
“This was a wonderful get together, Nimue,” Lyari said. “Your mother outdid herself.”
“It was us, this time, Grand Master. “We’ve been planning this since the Yellowleaf Festival. The plan was to do a better party than the old stiffs at House Ravathyra could on a next to nothing budget. We managed.”
Byddri came up and took their picture. “Grand Master, Hoddy said to say hello if I ran into you. I am Byddri Flamefire.”
“The intrepid correspondent from the Press Service in the Empire and other things as well, chasing the story. You are looking for my perspective on recent events, since Hoddy probably hasn’t come from the Fellowship.”
“He’s busy chasing a scandal on Bank St. and couldn’t come up.”
“Why don’t you contact my keeper at the Academy, young Elenaril and set up a time. In fact, here she comes now.”
A young elf lady approached and said, “Grand Master, I think that we must return to the Academy before you get too tired. Edea is probably looking for us.”
Lyari sighed. “I think that there will be fireworks and then things will be ending in any case. Elenaril, this is Byddri Flamefire, correspondent from the Press Service for the Empire and the Hidden City.”
“Dragon Flamefire, I am glad to meet you. I had noticed that there were stories from the Empire in the papers and wondered who was reporting. You are quite the story chaser. I expect that you would like an interview with the Grand Master.”
“Yes. The events recently have involved him and the Academy and Mr. Orchaser said that I should talk with the Grand Master about what he is doing.”
“Why don’t we agree to meet for lunch at the Academy, you and your lady and set things up. I can also give you a tour.”
“That sounds as if it would work. Hoddy said that you were easy to work with.”
“I’m easy to work if you are not looking to hurt the Grand Master. Otherwise I can make your life more difficult. You have a good reputation already.”
“The press is new here and I need to step lightly, even if the people here don’t see my work.”
“Some of us do. I think you will be surprised at what leaks across. So, we can meet tomorrow then. Is this your lady?”
Kythaela curtseyed and said, “Grand Master, I am Kythaela Brownlow, from the Hidden City.”
“Not so hidden anymore, is it?”
“No, but the name stuck because we expect people from all over the Blasted Lands and other places to come and visit because the place sounds mysterious. Of course people come anyway, but we’re stuck with the name.”
“So how did you catch this young dragon?”
“With a great deal of persuasion as he thought that I was too good for him. He was wrong, but it took getting that collar off to prove that. Of course the wonderful things that we have done since have proved that and I had help from his family when they showed up. My family has been working on him for longer than that.”
“Kythaela, your mother just took pity on a slave,” Byddri said. “She made sandwiches for the dragons while she was spying on the Great Captain and the Admiral.”
“I will admit that we were spying, but that was hardly all of it. I did get your attention anyway. Grand Master, you don’t want to know what it took to get him to drop that “I’m only a slave” bit even after the collar was removed. That was after he had been telling my brothers about the things he got up to at the Aerie and as a post rider. I think that my brothers would be signing up with the post service if the airlines hadn’t caught up with them first.”
“I see that my forthcoming chat will be interesting indeed,” Lyari said. “The fireworks are starting, so we must enjoy them.”
The fireworks had, signaling the end of the truly remarkable year and the beginning of the next.

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