The Blight Returns, Chapter 1-2.

After the party, things are moving on. Ruki has a girlfriend.

Chapter 1.

The Hidden City.

Admiral Harper came into the Café and sat down at the table where the Dragonmaster was sitting. “Qambois, I think that I must return to Cleadsgate and my headquarters on the next ship.”

“Your vacation is over, then.”

“Yes, it is. More to the point, my wife wants me home or she is threatening to come out here.”

“That might not be a bad thing.”

“I know, but if I go home, Richard will have to go home as well. Since his kids are all rescued or home now, it’s time to pack this in or stomp those characters.”

“I am a bit disappointed that Lord Stormfire didn’t go ahead with that raid he obviously had planned.”

“I think that Rolin got to him and the fact that the grain was on the way took the wind out of his sails. Also, his cavalry commander is no slouch and did his job. So Stormfire had intelligence that Richard was setting him up and didn’t spring the trap.”

“Richard has let people move back.”

“Yes he has. Of course Stormfire will have to cross Zylvyre land to get at Richard and Richard has moved people in preparing for clearing the leased land and as lookouts. He’s also been talking with Ghedrun about dragon patrols. Now that winter is here, Stormfire will have to stay home anyway, at least with serious troops.”

“Are the major’s people going home with your father?”

“They are embarking in Eribelle as we speak. I asked Richard about them and he said that he had people that could handle Stormfire and his merry crew, people that the Major and his people didn’t see.”

“Then they must be very good indeed.”

“They are. Their boss made contact with the major just before he left that place they were staying. Apparently Rosa took in families that had been decimated by the Ravathrya and some others in the faction fights after attacks by the Assassin’s guild. Rosa’s House manager found people that could teach the various family members in certain things and told Richard about them when he became the defacto lord of the House. Richard made some discreet arrangements for guns and other things and the families do quite a bit of training out in the estates.”

“That is a bit frightening. House Qinvaris has a loyal and essentially anonymous group of spies and assassins that the House can deploy at need. That makes some things that I keep hearing about how to deal with Richard rather clear.”

“Richard says that he has only called upon them once and made it clear that unless the other side was actually in process of banditry and there was no other choice, that killing was a course of last resort.”

“He probably used them during the thing with House Sarfaren.”
“You would know more about that than I would. Up until recently, the family was more or less certain that Richard was dead. Mother was rather put out when she discovered that not only was Richard not dead, but he was the wealthiest man in the Empire.”

“I think that the problem was that he did not want to risk communicating or traveling through the Fellowship. Then things became a habit and he was rather busy.”

“That was understandable, but I think that he carried things a bit far. The Winterfaire party was amazing though.”

“Considering that the whole thing was put together by teenage girls, yes it was. Speaking of which, there are two of them.”

Tom’s nieces had just walked into the café. Nimue said, “Uncle Tom, we wanted to talk with you before you went home.”

“What about?”

“Daddy and that war.”

“I don’t think that I can talk about that. How did you find out?”
“Ruki told us about Bloody Ridge and Aunt Ialantha told us that daddy had stopped the war there when she handed me daddy’s rifle.”

“So you know the gist of it already. You must have some reason to ask for more.”
“You know that all of us have been tested and test very high for mana potential. Has daddy or any of the family been tested?”
“What brought that on?”

“We were talking to the Grand Master at the party and he mentioned that daddy had very high potential and probably hadn’t been tested.”
“I don’t think that mother even thought about getting us tested and in the Republic, getting tested would not be easy.”

“Well, you know about Sylvar and what happened and I was wondering if something similar didn’t happen at Bloody Ridge.”

“There is no way to know, but the mana levels are higher on the peninsula than they are in the Kingdom or the Fellowship because of the after effects of the Scourge. That is one reason that the Blasted Lands keep fighting there and the islands.” Qambois said. “So you think that your father tapped into some latent part of himself at the Ridge?”

“The Grand Master said that daddy needed to be tested soonest” Alinis said. “He talked to us at the party and mother and father about it the next morning. We wanted to let you know so that you could make sure to send our cousins for testing.”

“Most of your cousins are older than you all.”

“I know, and they probably won’t like the Empire very much, especially certain things like not having a car, but Nimue and I think that arrangements should be made. Nimue and Sylvar are going to have a grove started at their new place that daddy sprung on us at the party.”

“That was a surprise, wasn’t it?” Tom said. “Of course dad did the same thing for us. I think that mother wanted us out of the house and dad had some extra houses that we could move into. Of course we have other places now for different reasons. I will pass your invitation on to Elfroda.”

“Thank you Uncle,” Nimue said. “Sylvar should be here shortly and what is good to eat here.”

“They make a wonderful chowder, Nimue” Qambois said. “What happened to Sylvar?”

“He couldn’t come with me. He’ll be here later after lunch. His mother insisted that he be present at a thing at the House. She’s trying to civilize him somewhat.”

Tom and Qambois laughed.

The Mage Academy.

Byddri and Kythaela emerged from the portal and the obviously efficient Elenaril was waiting. “Good, you arrived right on time. Did you port up from the Hidden City?”

“The portal at the Hidden City is fairly restricted,” Kythaela said. “The mana levels are low and so the portal has power issues. Adiun is working on that, but with all the other portals and other things he has going, the Hidden City portal is mostly for official business. Fortunately the Press Service has permission for some access, but Byddri used our slot to hand over the copy from the party to a messenger to hand over to the mail plane. We stayed at the Dragonhall with Danni and the others.”

“How long have you known Byddri?”

“Since he arrived at the Hidden City about three years ago. As he said yesterday, mother fed the slave dragons and dragged me along. Byddri liked to take my picture, I was sixteen when we met and he was so amazing to me. Of course he took that slave bit to heart and put me on a pedestal somewhat.”

“Even at sixteen, you were one of the three prettiest girls in the city,” Byddri said. “I was the lowly slave.”

“That was the compulsions and the collar talking. Look at what you do, now that they are gone.”

“I had to be a bit discreet with our younger students,” Elenaril said. “We have a source for papers here and the stories get spread around. Especially stories about a certain dragon from the Hidden City.”

“Stories about me?”
“Yes, stories about you. After all, you interview dangerous pirates, ride airships, star in movies and have been in the Dragonguard and the post riders.”

“Paeris wasn’t that dangerous, especially in a way station. He was concentrating on outmaneuvering his pursuit, rather than making big mess. Of course he knew me from the Hidden City and knew that I wasn’t going to make a mess either, especially if I was doing something else, which I was. The Press Service was happy to get that interview.”

“I imagine that they were. Along with all the other things you send. So here is the classroom for the students that have just been tested. Their teacher, Mage Vianola was told to expect a special guest today, but not who you were.”

Elenaril led them into a large room with a rather frazzled mage lady and thirty or so young elves. Vianola turned and said, “Good, you started with me. These characters are rather excited to meet our special guest. Is he a mage from a remote assignment?”

“Not a mage,” Byddri said. “I was taught by a mage when I went to school, though. But the aerie doesn’t tend to create mages and the attachment to being a dragon is rather strong. I am Byddri Flamefire.”

The mage turned to the class and said, “Class, Elenaril has sprung another surprise on us. Dragon Byddri Flamefire is here to visit and take your questions.”

The class suddenly became very excited and noisy and Byddri started to answer questions about what he did and his job. An intrepid boy asked, “How did you get your job?”

“I got my job by being there at the right time and being ready. I had already been using crystals and taking pictures for some time. I had also ridden post and had been all over the Empire before I joined the Dragonguard. My skill at observation put me in the Hidden City and in a collar on a trumped up charge, but Admiral Rolin used my skills and when the Republic came, there I was, taking pictures. That caught the Press Service’s attention and they sent somebody to interview me. The Blasted Lands have a large exile population and Stories about the Empire sell papers. I also walk around the Hidden City and get stories from all sorts of places. The Press Service likes what I do and that I can talk to just about everybody in the Empire.”

“Will the Press Service need more people?”

“The Empire is a big place and yes, the Press Service would like me to find more people. Now as to whether they want a mage, that remains to be seen. But I think of what I do as a service and certainly, you will be expected to go all over the Empire. Remember that most of what I do is not talking to the high or the likes of Paeris Zylvyre. I talk to slaves and everybody else to find the story. Even people I would rather not talk to. Admiral Rolin, for instance.”

“You don’t like the Ravathrya?”
“They collared me and sent me to the Hidden City. While that ended well for me, being treated as mere slave was not pleasant.”

“Why did they do that?”

“Because Admiral Ehlark liked the idea that I would take pictures from the air. Of course, once I arrived at the Hidden City, Camus and Rolin didn’t pay much attention to that, Admiral Ehlark was at sea and I wasn’t able to patrol at the times I wanted to and couldn’t take as many pictures as I wanted. So when the Republic did send a submarine, I didn’t have a picture of the boat on the surface, Camus wouldn’t listen when I said that there was something strange in the water and Admiral Ehlark didn’t try to leave harbor at the night tide and sailed right in front of the submarine, getting his crews killed. Why don’t I show you pictures of the Hidden City?”

Byddri handed the pictures to be passed around as Vianola said to Kythaela, “You came prepared.”
“We had to do the same thing in the Republic, at Byrddri’s Aerie and Byddri is a fairly frequent visitor to the school in the Hidden City, so yes, we knew to bring pictures.”

Byddri answered questions and talked about his experiences for about half a twentieth, collected the pictures and it was on to the next class. Of course Byddri took pictures as well and when they sat down for lunch, Elenaril said, “You did very well. You didn’t push and you were willing to answer the questions that the students asked. I do hope that the Press Service is not planning on poaching mages.”

“Not yet, but I do think that some of the older apprentices might learn some valuable things riding the post roads.”

“Riding the roads used to be a thing that young high elves did before the turmoils and then many families thought of the roads as too dangerous, at least the families that we test for mage talent. That was especially true after the one child rule.”

“I found that the roads were not as dangerous as imagined. I was forced to work for a way station when I robbed it of some sheep that a shepherd was transporting. Typical young dragon thing and my father grounded me for a month and it turned out that I liked riding post and the friends I made. So did a lot of my friends. The Post Service likes young dragons or fae because most bandits would be idiots to take one on and once the word went out that there were dragons riding post, the bandits went on to other things. Some of my younger cousins still ride post. Of course exchanging into the Dragonforce may have issues.”
“The Flight Instructor isn’t that scary,” Kythaela said. “He’s going home in any case.”

“I have this feeling that he may be back. Or he may have inspired some of my cousins who will be taking over the dragonguard now that Nizig is hiring on with an airline.”

Elenaril laughed. “How did that happen?”

“A friend of mine’s brother in law was told that there were dragons coming off service, he sent a recruiting team and recruited them. So my cousin Nizig and some others are getting flight training. Of course some of my other cousins already fly for an airline after they were dumped in the Republic by the Admiral. We will probably have an airfield at the Aerie all too soon.”

“Since there isn’t a portal that close, that will make visiting easier,” Kythaela said. “Byddri are you worried about my brothers?”

“Somewhat. If they start to hang around the Aerie, the girls will grab them.”

“That would be a good thing for us. If they live up at the Aerie, then we and our kids will be safe at the Hidden City.”

“When is the wedding?” Elenaril asked.

“In Green. My sister’s is coming first, in Hlyda with the influx of seafolk relatives from the Republic and navy people. Then it is our turn.”

“How will your dad afford it?”
“It won’t be a problem. He plays the simple fisherman, but he doesn’t make a big deal about the fact that mom’s family has a big chunk of property in the city and that the Ravathrya essentially stole it. The Shahana have title to the property that the Ravathrya developed and we have the rest. My mother’s family was on the island with some other elven and mixed families from about the time of the mage wars when they were exiled. The Ravathrya came and arranged it so that we couldn’t leave and then the Republic sent dad, who didn’t have a radio to report home and started to fish in his boat to keep us all fed after the Ravathyra dumped us on the street. So mom played the fallen elf and dad played fisherman. Of course we all learned certain skills when we were kids. The family that spies together, stays together. Of course just about everybody in the Empire had spies in the city as well and most of the population was more than willing to poke the Ravathrya in the nose every chance they got.”

“It sounds as if you have a very interesting family indeed.”

“Yes we do, and mother is working to arrange to get my younger sister, my brothers and my cousins tested, now that we can. In the Hidden City being high potential doesn’t matter and the Ravathyra didn’t send people out with those scanners of theirs very often because they didn’t want a revolt and the Empire poking its nose in. I also don’t think that the clowns at the Retreat knew what all was going on at the Hidden City. That the people at the Retreat were trying to keep things separate as much as possible and didn’t seem to pay much attention to the Hidden City.”

“You two were a bit of a surprise. We’ve had reporters here before and none of them thought to bring things about where they came from. By the nature of things, the students and junior mages here at the academy tend to be isolated from the rest of the world and that can carry into the mage’s lives.”
“Not all mages,” Byddri said. “Our teacher at the Aerie is a mage, he travels and encouraged us to travel.”
“Sometimes he encourages your relatives to travel a bit much,” Kythaela said with a grin.”

“Those two don’t need encouragement, trust me.”

“Who are we talking about?” Elenaril asked

“My two nephews, Teonag and Brilbun, who excel at the dragon trait of poking their nose where they shouldn’t. Of course the rest of them aren’t any better, but they aren’t my relatives and my father didn’t bring the entire lot of them to the Hidden City.”

“Not that time,” Kythaela said. “You can believe that your father and Mage Aymon will have the lot of them visiting the hidden City and enjoying the beach when things get a bit warmer. Your mother is a bit tired of the snow and the cold in Hlyda and with my sister’s wedding coming, they will have the perfect excuse.”

“Were these the dragons that joined you in the end of that wonderful dance?”

“Yes they were,” Byddri replied with a grin. “Aymon brought them down for the party.”

“Ok, since we have finished lunch and you have provided me with an entertaining morning, I need to get back to work and arrange for your interview with the Grand Master, who seems to be looking for me.”
The Grand Master had come up behind Elenaril with a bit of a grin and said, “Granddaughter, I have never been able to surprise you, have I? In any case I wanted to greet the guests who apparently made quite an impression this morning. I am not used to being outshone by those so young.”
“They did an excellent job introducing themselves here, Grandfather. Better than I expected, especially with our younger students.”

“Of course, dragon Flamefire’s celebrity didn’t hurt. By the way, when is the movie going to be released?”
“They haven’t told me, Grand Master,” Byddri said. “I suspect that Jane will be sending mail around when it does. The movie theatre in the Hidden City isn’t finished yet anyway.”

“I will look forward to being in the Hidden City when they premiere the movie there. I missed the movie here in the Empire because I was away. I think that I will leave you in my granddaughter’s capable hands so that you may go onto the rest of the day.”

Eribelle.

The crate was being delicately loaded onto Enterprise’s aft deck as Captain McRodden watched with Aerendyl. Borg turned to the admiral and said, “I want to thank you for your hospitality during our visit.”

“It was nothing. This time has been enlightening and profitable in so many different ways. An old scourge and stain has been removed from the Empire, the other pirates are hiding or gone and my job is looking to be interesting in ways that I never imagined. I’m not even fighting with my father anymore.”
“Were you fighting with him? He’s always been fine with me and the crew.”
“There was a time not so long ago that we were fighting and almost not speaking to each other. Then Illianaro went south and brought back so many changes.”

“Mrs. Harper didn’t waste her time here.”

“Not at all. Even her shopping and all the things that she is going home with were good things. I imagine that the Lower City likes her very much as well as the frequently almost starving craftsmen out in the hinterlands. Isolation is a double edged sword and if the Empire isolates itself from the world, the world may isolate itself from us.”

“This bookcase was the biggest thing that we are handling, but I’m sure that there was more.”

“So am I. As I said, Mrs. Harper made a lot of friends in the Lower City.”

“She is also going to make some families happy at home and set trends, again. The Inquisition doesn’t know how lucky that they were.”

“Has she done things like that before?”
“Yes. There are a bunch of people that have felt her ire over the years.”

“Then it is a good thing that she is going home.”
“She will be back. With Richard and the kids here, she will be back and Mr. Harper still hasn’t managed to establish a permanent presence for the Republic.”
“Some parties on the Regency council are still balking, which is rather stupid, because they are the ones also complaining about Mrs. Harper and her antics. Some of us have tried to explain that it would only take a formal presentation and the Harpers would be replaced with a more typical diplomat, but they still refuse.”

The Sanctum.

“Are you sure that I should do this?”

“Richard, you agreed to get tested and Iris was available. A little cold won’t hurt you. Iris is right here and the Grand Master wanted you tested.”

“Why aren’t you going?”

Rosa frowned. “If you are going to be a baby about this Richard, I will go first. I probably won’t test as high, because I am full elf, but I will do this in any case. Come on, Iris, let’s show this big baby that he won’t be hurt.”

Iris was giggling as she escorted Rosaniya into the disrobing room. “Is he like that often?”
“You wouldn’t believe it. The man will do the most amazing things, but take him to a healer or something like this, he becomes a big baby. You wouldn’t want to know what happened when Nimue was coming along. The rest of the kids were a bit easier. Let’s get the test done before Vesryn shows up or Richard finds something to do.”

They did and Rosa laughed as Iris handed her the pea. “That explains why there is a spot on the old estate that I love so much and my grandmother was not quite what she seemed. I wonder where grandfather found her.”

“Do you think that your grandmother was fae?”

“When she was alive when I was a girl, she was a bit strange and both her and my grandfather would do strange things. Father didn’t want my brother and I too close to certain things and we spent most of the time at the House.”

“Where is your brother?”
“In the Republic, that is if he is still alive. Dan and Bill haven’t been able to find him and he may be living under a new name. The Blight and the assumed responsibilities for the turmoils was a terrible thing for the family. I imagine that my brother, dumped into the Republic without any real skills, with the possibility of assassins chasing him, wanted to disappear. In any case we have to collect my big baby before he gets distracted.”

Fortunately, the only people with Richard were Timber and Llorva, asking questions about the Republic for their forthcoming honeymoon later in the year. Rosaniya grinned and said, “So what are you doing for the wedding?”
Timber said, “It’s going to be here and in Green. The girls are handling it with Elincia acting as Llorva’s mother.”

“She’s just a bit older than you are, Llorva,” Iris said.

“I know, but I can hardly ask my mother to make arrangements,” Llorva said. “She and her old biddies club have gone all into moralizing the Lower City. I just hope that Bene doesn’t think that I had anything to do with that.”

“You didn’t,” Rosa said with a laugh. “That was Eithriel and Naexi, along with Lavidia, me and Lelayme. We never thought that the ladies would take to the crusade so vigorously.”
“You should have talked to me first,” Llorva said. “Mother loves to show how virtuous she is with things that do not affect her. Of course we know what she does when they do.”

“Richard, it’s your turn now, so go along.”

Iris pulled the reluctant Richard off as Timber and Llorva laughed. Timber asked, “Why are you having Richard tested?”

“Because of certain recent events at Llorva’s aunt’s and some latent things with Sylvar.”

“You think that Richard is a lost child?”

“Things happened at Amarille’s and other places that seem to point in that direction and the Grand Master was rather concerned. Richard didn’t transform, exactly, but there were some things happening. In any case, the Grand Master wanted Richard tested and I didn’t want to waste time.”

There was a pull at the mana that passed rather quickly and Rosa said, “I’m going to say that he passed.”

Richard and Iris emerged from the room and Richard said, “I understand why the Grand Master was concerned. Rosa, I think that we must give that place in the garden that must be a grove some attention.”

“My grandmother’s grove.”

“What happened to your grandmother?” Iris asked.

“You know, grandfather just said one day, “Tarranth, the place is yours now. Your mother and I are off on a very long journey and if we never come back, we died happy.” Then they went away and we never heard from them again. If they were as fae as I suspect, they could be alive, or dead. If they are alive, they are enjoying themselves and could be almost anything or anywhere. The Blight and the Turmoils struck right afterwards. Iris, Elincia wants us for lunch, so I think that we should head down the hill. Otherwise, we will have Saevel and Bellflower chasing us.”

 

 

 

Chapter 2.

Fayspire.

Dragoncaptain Fuseshdow looked at the document in front of him and at the Dragonleader and said, “Resignation denied.”

“Sir, my latest enlistment ends in six moons anyway and I have the leave time and other set aside time for three of that. We are not currently at war and I am fraternizing with a ‘Pug.”

“Dragonleader, none of that really matters. I am apprised of your relationship with Lieutenant Littlechild. I am surprised that he didn’t come with you.”

“He’s heading to the airship base to pack his things after he tenders his resignation at the Hidden City.”

“Directly to Admiral Harper, who will also refuse it.”

“Why?”
“Because we need you both right where you are, doing what you are doing. There aren’t very many members of our little club and unlike the people on nice linear career tracks, we have lost some things. Being able to bow out is one of them. After all, I expected to be able to and there I was, in the belly of the beast that is right across the border. You know what those things over there are doing.”

“Would it change things if I said that I was pregnant?”

“Are you?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I don’t either. Dragons have a certain degree of control over such things for obvious reasons. So you and the Lieutenant can share things without worrying too much about unexpected additions to your family. Frankly, if you were pregnant, being here at the base would be a better cover than suddenly resigning. The other side is going to be looking at us and we need to be prepared to hide our truths in a bodyguard of lies. On the other hand if you should visibly desert at the inappropriate time, we can work with that.”

“My mother wouldn’t like that. It would make trouble for dad.”

“Your father is another reason that I can’t accept a resignation at present. The fact is that we need somebody to ride herd on the Dragonmaster. That somebody should be a dragon, fairly young, well connected and have been around him long enough now that they have lost the awe about being in his presence. Frankly we couldn’t pick a better choice than you. Then there is your family being more active. I know that your Uncle Folmon is in the Fellowship right now looking over family facilities and for a college for his son. Of course he is also meeting with family and working on making connections.”

“He’s visiting the Aerie and my brother and sister as well as their kids. Then he is being flown to the Republic to meet with his uncle and the rest of the family there.”

“In any case, did you enjoy your little sojourn in the Empire?”

“Very much so. I even exposed myself to Flight Instructor Khumkith’s ministrations.”

“That was either a bold or crazy thing to do.”

“I needed Nathan trained up and the two characters sort of encouraged it.”

The Dragoncaptain grinned. “Now I know that both those lieutenants have been through the course once already. So the lieutenant either is in total thrall or is crazy.”

“The Flight Instructor leans toward crazy, but I’m leaning toward thrall at this point. Danni is fairly sure that it’s the fact that those two love us too much to complain. Since you will not accept my resignation, I will return to pushing slugs. By the way, there’s a training field out back that doesn’t get as much as use as it should, I have some airmen that I could assign some digging to and the Flight instructor gave me some plans.”

“He didn’t! I think that the slugs will feel the bruises already.”

Zirgoccol.

Ruki looked at the house and looked at Nimeroni. “This is going to be a surprise.”

“One that your parents will like. Just like I liked you.”

“It didn’t seem that way when we met.”

“I had to know if you were serious or not. You kept chasing me, so you were. You also weren’t after daddy’s business.”

“Not directly, but we will have to talk to dad about that. Your dad was seeing the same things that Lord Qinvaris’s people and my dad were seeing.”

“We can discuss this later. Right now, you sir, are going to introduce your rather inappropriate girlfriend to your parents.”

“Not just my parents, which just became a problem.”

Two young children charged out of the house and stopped. “Ruki, you are back.”
“Yes I am, squirt.”

“Who is this with you?”

“My friend, Nimeroni Claringbold, Kolgaela.”

“Girlfriend,” Jammunli said with all the wisdom of a thirteen year old.

“Nimeroni, This is my youngest sister, Kolgaela, and brother, Jammunli. My older sister, Umilythe is in college at the moment. These two are home from school.”

“It’s the Decafaire, Ruki,” Jammunli said. “We are out of school for another three days.”

“I wasn’t thinking. So it is. I have some things coming, but we came ahead of the train.”

“How did you do that?”

“I’m not going to tell you yet, squirt.”

“Well I am going to tell mother that you have a girlfriend.”

Kolgaela followed her younger brother into the house and shortly afterwards, as Ruki and Nimeroni approached the door, and elven woman and a dwarf came to the door. Ruki said, “Nimeroni, these are my parents, Kammik and Kethrykllia Axebrew. Father, mother, this is Nimeroni Claringbold, who seems to like me for some reason.”

“Welcome Nimeroni,” Kethrykllia said. “The house is not large, but it is comfortable. Where is your luggage?”

“On the train,” Ruki said. The train will get here in the morning from the salt flats. We Jumped ahead.”

“So you have both been tested,” Kammik said. “Have you dragged my son into a grove yet, Nimeroni?”

“Not yet, though my mother would like me to. Dad likes the idea of having a family bank.”

“We are not the large Axebrew bank in Silver Mountain.”

“Dad is aware of that. He does business with them. They like me there. Ruki went over everything and frankly there have been some things that dad wants to talk to you about. He did talk to Uncle Vesryn and Lord Qinvaris about the things.”

“That can wait,” Kethrykllia said. “It is lunch and I think we can make things stretch a bit. Ruki, you must tell me how you met this wonderful girl.”

Everybody sat down to lunch and Ruki said, “I met Nimeroni after we all returned from the Hidden City. I know that I was supposed to use the boat home from there, but Lady Qinvaris said that I could be tested at a place called The Sanctum that had a grove near a portal, so we went up. While were there, so was Lord Shahana, his brother in law and their kids, including Renna, who introduced me to Nimeroni, who acted as if I was something bad underneath her shoe. Nimeroni’s dad knew you, dad because he works with the princess’s husband. Sardida that is, the lady you didn’t marry. So anyway Victor and Vesryn showed me the business and Nimeroni started to warm up a bit. Things went on and we started to date and here we are.”

“Richard said that you were looking into the timberlands. He didn’t mention the young lady. Victor and Ashera are probably on their way here for a visit in any case.”

“They are with our luggage on the train,” Nimeroni said. “Ruki and I decided to Jump ahead since we could. Mother managed to keep my brothers and sister from doing the same thing. That grove at the Sanctum may be a bit too convenient.”

“Jumping will be a bit difficult here,” Kethrykllia replied with a grin. “On the other hand, my son and daughter there have three more days that need to be filled up and they know certain sections of the city very well.”

“My brothers and sister don’t have a lot of money left,” Nimeroni said. “At least not until they reach the Republic with their load and trade it off. The younger two Beinan children took them through the Lower City and they were able to see things that should trade very well at home.”

“Toys and whatnot,” Kethrykllia said with a grin.

“Yes. They’ve done the same thing from the dwarven kingdoms, but this was the first time that they had access to the Lower City.”

“Then we can take the kids to a bladder ball game,” Kammik said. “That usually works.”

 

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