The Blight Returns, Chapter 5-6

We meet Moonflower and Art, a wedding is planned, Gander is sent to conduct diplomacy.

Chapter 5.
Greymeath, Duchy of Skailand, Kingdom of Dolmon.
Brother Artamo looked at his partner and sighed. As a priest he had taken a vow of celibacy and Moonflower parading around in trueform as she did in town didn’t help that one bit. He whined, “Why do you do that, Moon?”
“Do what, Art?”
“Go around in trueform, apparently not wearing anything.”
“Because I don’t want there to be any doubts as to what I am. So what is our case today?”
“A second scan on the newborn daughter of the Duke. She failed the first scan.”
“So a touchy one, like the others we get.”
“I wish I knew why I get these rather than some of the older priests.”
“Because you are who you are. I’ve worked with some of those others and they are as likely to smash the baby’s head in as turn it over if they fail a scan. I don’t know where the Church gets those characters, but their zeal makes the Church a lot of enemies. Somebody was smart enough to have you, who cares about the kids, do the second scans and be willing to treat the matter with delicacy and concern. This is a bad thing all around, but at least you ensure that it comes to the best solution and not the worst. It’s time to go and I want to get this over with.”
“What happens to the children you take?”
“There are families that do not have children or want another, so they go to good homes and never know that they were not born fae.”
“What happens if a fae fails the test?”
“That is an interesting question. The interesting thing about the fae that fail, is that they become our lawgivers and scholars, the people that keep our lore and knowledge of who we are. They are cursed with a bright flame that burns out quickly, but that flame is treasured when we have it. They also travel and find things far from the fae kingdoms. My brother, for instance, is in the Republic with his family now. I will lose him soon, but his light shines on the family while we have it.”
“Here’s the carriage, so let us go.”
The Brother and Moonflower discussed fae life as the black carriage made its way through the town to the ducal castle. They were surrounded by stone faced guards and a rather stern major domo who escorted the pair to the main hall and the young Duke Skailand and his wife. The cradle was there as well and the rather upset Duchess picked up the child and said, “Let us get this over with quickly. Milady, her name is Violet.”
“A good fae name. Of course the name may be changed if she fails,” Moonflower said. “Brother, this is best done quickly.”
Artamo held the scanner and started it. The beep and red light told the story. He reset the scanner and asked, “Is there another child nearby?”
A servant went and brought back a rather active three year old. Artamo scanned the child, who passed. Then he turned the scanner on the baby again and the result was as before. He looked at the Duke and Duchess and said, “I’m afraid that the results are clear. In fact, your daughter has very high potential and I want you to have every child from now on checked twice, even if they pass.”
Moonflower took the child and Jumped, disappearing. Brother Artamo said, “I will take my leave.”
“Why do you do this?” the duchess asked. “Why does the Church take our children?”
“That is not for me to say. I am a mere traveling Brother, given a task that I would rather not have. At least I can have a clear conscience about the fate of your daughter. I have asked Moonflower many times about the fate of the children I send with her and she has always said that they go to good homes. I think that I will take my leave.”
Anasia looked at the departing Brother and turned on her husband. “Why didn’t you offer the Brother a bribe, Bernard? A nice little place with some servants and some land to support him in his old age might have changed things.”
“Anasia, I didn’t offer the Brother a bribe because I had the man checked and he didn’t seem to be either the corruptible or the fanatical type. I also didn’t tell him that your sister also had a child that failed.”
“She got smart and switched the kids after the first one, something that we will do as well. Violet is the last of our children the Church will see.”
“What if the Church discovers that?”
“Then the Church can start a war if they like. The guards and the people will support us on this. As will most of the nobility. Frankly, I think that the king would as well. The old days of everybody accepting what the Church told us about the evils of mages and what they do are long gone. Too many children have been taken or killed and it will stop.”
“I think that I will discuss this with King Aestaeros. At least the Church can no longer just kill the children.”
“That scourge is over, for now. Who knows when it will start up again? The Church could get away with their butchery when it was mostly peasants and other low families, but now the high and rest are facing the black butchers as well and the Church has not made a lot of friends with its mage hunts.”

Chapter 6.
The Hidden City.
The portal lit up and Dan and Lythienne Harper emerged with Richard and Rosaniya. The Lieutenant on duty said, “Hello Mr. Harper, Mrs. Harper, Lord and Lady Qinvaris. Down here to get warm?”
“We are taking ship to the Republic, Roger,” Lythienne said. “Is my son still here?”
“Ma’am, he left a five day ago. The dragonmaster is still here, but I think that he needs to go home as well or his wife will show up with the grandkids.”
“That might be fun.”
“Very, as a bunch of kids from the Lower City came through with some more from the Windegar Aerie yesterday.”
“Who was responsible for that?”
“Mrs. Flamefire and Beinan, along with Lady Yllanan. The kids were all at Milady Qinvaris’s party and their teachers wanted them here, so they all came. They are here for a five day or so.”
“We are taking ship tomorrow for the Republic, so we have the afternoon.”
“Enjoy the city, Ma’am.”
“We plan to, now that my son is not tied up in work.”
“You did manage to get him to take a honeymoon here.”
“Not long enough. I plan to keep him in the Republic for a moon if I can. We are off to the café, so we will see you some other time.”
Lythienne led the small crowd out the door and there was a surprise. “Do you want a taxi, Ma’am?”
“Young man, how did this happen?”
“My cousins were busy working at the airport and we had two GPs and a wagon shop. So we made some changes and my brother and I were put to work.”
“So you are Brownlows?”
“I’m Rolim Trismoira. My mother is Aunt Aelrie’s sister. There are a few of us elf families that are not related to the Ravathrya. Of course we aren’t exactly all elves either.”
“Well, we must take advantage of your service, young man.”
The four boarded the rather interesting taxi, Rolim loaded the bags and they were off. The drive was short and Richard paid the fare. Rolim said, “I will drop your bags off at the hotel.”
They walked into the café and Aelrie Brownlow was next to the water with her tailed daughter and Sarah Pinch making wedding plans. She looked up as the four entered and said, “Good, we caught you, Lythienne.”
“What for?”
“We want you to talk to Niphinae about setting up a show here at the Hidden City for Maeralya’s wedding.”
“That could be expensive.”
“I’ve talked to my husband and Lord Shahana about it, the business can cover it and Sarah can get the movie people here as well. We want to do mermaid shows here at the Hidden City and I thought that it would be better to have somebody with experience start things up rather than doing everything ourselves. We think that we can modify the old fort into a stadium for the shows.”
“I think that you all will have piqued my daughter’s interest. When is the wedding?”
“The thirtieth of Hlyda,” Maeralya said.
“That is the time that my daughter is working up a new show anyway. So that is good time. When we get home, I will discuss this with her and Jane. I’m surprised that you didn’t have Jane discuss this, Sarah?”
“I sent a letter, but you were coming here, Lythienne, so we decided to meet here today and meet with you when you came.”
“How did you know that I would show up here?”
“Who do you think arranged the taxi?”
“I see that Qambois has found my husband, so why don’t we have lunch and talk about your plans.”
Dan looked over at his wife and the other ladies planning something and turned to Qambois. “I think that we can all discuss things without being interrupted.”
“Your wives will be distracted by the wedding plans.”
“Somebody should tell Tobias that getting my wife involved in wedding plans can be expensive.”
“He knows. Of course the family business is covering a big chunk of it because there are improvements for mermaid dancing and other things. Also, Vesryn has a wedding coming up at some point all too soon, with the same people involved.”
“Renna and Tarranth,” Richard said. “The kids grow up so fast. Having the wedding here would make it easier for some of my family.”
“Vesryn’s as well. His brother and brother in law are both from the Republic. Also, the city is attracting visitors from the Blasted Lands because it is a taste of the exotic and the Empire without actually going to the Empire.”
“You are leaving as well, Qambois?” Richard asked.
“The crisis has more or less resolved itself for the time being, my wife is looking for me and my Aerie probably needs my attention. I will also have to make a report to the Senate and with Halamar in the Empire, some people are probably nervous that I am as close to the other side as I am. In any case, our lunches are here and I, at least, need to eat and prepare.”
“Prepare for what?”
“Two rather precocious young dragons have managed to prevail upon me to give them and some others a tour around the city with the aid of young Miss Brownlow.”
Hall of Justiciars, City In The Clouds.
Ilythyrra waved Gander into Kelvahn’s office where Kelvahn and Mage Pyrravyn were waiting. Gander blinked and said, “Pyrravyn, I am a bit surprised to see you here.”
“I’m wearing my other hat today. Officially I’m here with Kelvahn discussing something that may blow up.”
“Copies of that crystal of Zanis murdering the fae community may have gotten to the Church in the mortal kingdoms.”
“How? We made very few copies of that.”
“The Church has spies at the Mage Academy. They are cooks, servants and cleaners for the most part. Mages being what they are and the crystal being what it was, copies were made and handed around. At this point there is no way to know for certain how many copies there were and where they all are. But we are fairly sure that at least one was taken from the Mage academy.”
“I can send a team and start an investigation.”
“We are not requesting one. This was our mess at the Academy and we will deal with it. In any case, waving writs around at the academy is pointless.”
“Then why did you want me here?”
“We want you to go to the Conference of Kings with your report,” Kelvahn said. “Including the crystal.”
“Why me? I am not an elf.”
“First of all, diplomacy is part of the job and this is your case, so you go. Second, because you are not an elf, you will be able to throw the people that are going to want to discredit what you say off guard. They will have one template for a Justiciar and you don’t fit the template.”
“Ok, I’m going to want a team. Naexi and Tom at least.”
“That is expected. Jonny and we can probably persuade Rainlilly to go as well. Eddie and Myrdin for runners. We will send the High Guard that have been working with you as well. That will establish that you are the real thing and not something we came up with.”
“I’ll take a small portal as well.”
“That goes without saying. Pyrravyn, could we have some of the Mage Academy’s people that go in with the Grand Master?”
“The Grand Master is going as well and Gander can travel with him.”
“Ok, that will work. One more thing. Gander, go up to the Sanctum and get tested.”
“Aren’t I a bit old for that?”
“If you fail, that is ok, but I want you to have the ability to Jump out if you can. This has all the potential of becoming a firestorm and I don’t want my people caught in it if we can take steps to avoid it.”

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