The Blight Returns, Chapter 11-12

The Grand Master and the others enter Dolmon. Richard goes shopping.

Chapter 11.
Selnalion, Border of the Empire and The Kingdom of Dolmon.
Baron d’Ambray grinned as the bright and good looking elf lady entered his office. “Good morning, milady Zeastearos.”
“Fulques, why so formal?”
“Why not, milady?”
“Fulques we have been doing this for a long time now and every time we do this I have to persuade you to use my first name” Elenaril whined. “Do I need to go and talk to Astania first?”
“Do that. Of course she will ask if you have found somebody yet.”
“I haven’t and she does that every time. Ok, you can milady me all you want.”
“I was going to, Elen.”
“Urgh. You just love playing these games, don’t you?”
“Only with certain elves.”
“Only elves?”
“I may do it to some dwarves as well.”
“So is there anything that I should know about?”
“There is actually, and my cousin wanted the Grand Master to know about it. Some bishops have been going across the countryside, visiting Monasteries and showing a rather disturbing crystal.”
“Have you seen it?”
“I did manage to peek in on a showing. What happened there.”
“Mage Zanis Zylvyre and his family wanted unlimited access to a mana well in the timberlands. Zanis thought that the fae community had the key to the well and went looking for the community’s library. He was caught by the king’s son and the king’s son’s wife and killed them. There were witnesses and he killed the witnesses. That snowballed until he had killed most of the community. Then the Ravathyra took steps, including compelling family members to hide the fact that Zanis had done what he had done.”
“What has the Grand Master done about this?”
“First of all, Zanis is under Anathema. His family, what there is of it after the compelled members, including Zanis’s own son, dissolved the House, is under the threat of Anathema and Zanis and the other mages are to report for discipline. Since they have not, they are also under Anthema and facing execution when found.”
“Mage Zylvyre is still alive?”
“There are reasons and the Grand Master has brought people with him to explain.”
“Another crystal is being handed around with the Grand Master apologizing to the fae for the actions of Mage Zylvyre. Were your people involved?”
“Not at all. Would you like copies of that?”
“I would, actually. Who is the Grand Master bringing with him?”
“The Justiciar responsible for the case is with us. He heads the Justiciar’s office of investigation.”
“A typical stuck up elf then. I hope you know that he will have to be handled rather carefully.”
Elenaril giggled. “I think that I will let you discover him for yourself. Here is the list of people that we brought with us.”
Fulques looked at the list and said, “A dragon? That is new for you?”
“He’s traveling with our party, but not actually with us. His employer is sending somebody to work with him.”
“Does he know about passports and visas?”
“He can handle that. You probably have seen his work already.”
“You have intrigued me. I think that I will handle the Grand Master this time myself.”
“I was looking forward to Julien’s company. Be careful or I might steal him.”
“Mother may actually like it if you do that. I was going to bring him anyway.”
“Ok, I will leave you to your spy duties, then.”
Fulques laughed as Elenaril left the office. At least she was her usual competent self and was on top of things. The dragon was intriguing as were the hints about the Justiciar. Fulques looked at the list again and as usual, Elenaril left the various people’s titles off so that Fulques would have to guess who did what. That was part of the game they played. Of course he knew most of the people on the list, the others were mostly servants and one of the names was a Naexi Bryneiros. That was almost certainly his Justiciar. She was probably a relative of the Chief Justiciar and raised up recently in typical elvish nepotism and she was probably like many of the High families.
Gander was sharing a table with Byddri, Tom and Jonny when Esgalwathanar and Lazuli walked up to the table. He stood, bowed and said, “What may this servant do for you, milord?”
“How is the beer here, Gander?” Lazuli asked with a grin.
“Adequate, milady. Not fit for a lady of your stature.”
“Why don’t we see? Innkeep, two tankards for milord and I.”
Esgalwathanar and Lazuli joined the others and Gander said, “So how did it go?”
“There is a nasty bunch of characters spreading that crystal of the murder around.”
“The mages were afraid of that. That is one reason that I’m here.”
“We have a crystal of the nasty character admitting that he is doing that to incite people and use that to increase the Church’s power and conduct mass infanticide and murder. Here Byddri, I imagine that your friends can do something with this.”
Byddri grinned. “Why would you give something like this to me? I might do something inappropriate with it, like make a transcript and send it in. I’ve already sent in my interview of the Grand Master and a copy of the crystal of his apology.”
“That deserves a reward. Here is a copy of the letter the bishop sent to his archbishop.”
“I won’t ask how you got this, and since you are handing it to me and the thing is outside Gander’s jurisdiction, we don’t have to worry about standards of evidence. Here’s Hoddy. Hoddy, meet Esgalwathanar Yllanan and Lazuli Virstina.”
Hoddy bowed. “Welcome to Dolmon, milord, milady. So what brings the representatives of the Council of Kings to a place like this?”
“You knew who we were, Hoddy,” Esgalwathanar said.
“That’s my job. I work the politics beat and I have to know the players so that I can make up the score card. You two are rather heavy hitters for the minor leagues here.”
“We received some disturbing news about some rather nasty characters using recent events to create potential difficulties for the Council. So we are taking steps. We were handing Byddri some material related to that.”
“You got something on those clowns going around and showing that crystal in churches and monasteries.”
“You knew about that?”
“People tell me things and where the Grand Master is concerned, people know that I talk with him and they pass me things that they think that he should know about. There was quite a bit of concern about that crystal. I haven’t talked with the Grand Master about it yet and I don’t have that story, but the crystal is worrying people. The idea that mages would just attack people scares the hell out of people. Of course, the Church, or some factions of it, want to scare the hell out of people.”
“The Council of Kings is VERY concerned about the misuse of that crystal,” Lazuli said.
“Is that on the record, milady?”
“Yes it is, Hoddy. I have more experience with the press than some of the other members of the Council since my kingdom borders the Fellowship and I frequently have members of the press visiting, including you, in fact, though we hadn’t met previously. We just handed material from one of the bishops using that crystal to smear the Grand Master and conspire to commit mass infanticide and murder to Byddri. There will be more on that coming. The Council will not abide others using a tragedy for their own petty gain. That goes especially for planning to conduct mass murder.”
“Byddri, working with you is doing wonders for my career. What is the beer like here?”
“Adequate,” Gander said.

Chapter 12.
The Imperial Palace.
Princess Lelayme walked into her father’s room. “Father, Folmon just delivered a rather disturbing message and report.”
“What about?”
“He discovered where the crossbow bolts that are used to spread the Blight are made.”
“Then he persuaded them to no longer make the bolts.”
“He tried. He asked the right questions and the answers pointed to the company making or having made the bolts recently. If they had an open contract with a nondisclosure clause, then they possibly couldn’t say what they were doing.”
“What about the rest of it? The glass vials and the explosives?”
“The manufactures for those haven’t turned up. They may be made right here in the Lower City.”
“What about the Blight itself?”
“I have no idea. On the other hand, Dan is going to have people looking.”
“Where is Richard?”
“The Republic, with Rosa.”
“Then he may be doing something about this already.”
Harper Ranch, Beltian Republic.
Richard looked at the huge machine and said, “Forty.”
Hamilton Dalley looked at Richard and said, “Forty of what?”
“Forty of these for a start.”
“You want forty combines?”
“For a start.”
Dalley turned to Bill and said, “Are you pulling some sort of joke? I’m just the local dealer and if the plant sees an order like that, I could get in real trouble.”
“I’m probably also going to need sixty tractors, sixty of those unloading wagons, sixty farm trucks, ten fuel tankers, twenty GPs, a tanker and a ship, but I won’t be buying the ships from you, Ham.” Richard said. “No, I am not kidding. We can talk with your plant tomorrow and close this up. If I can get delivery in Daelbyrne of the tractors, four or five of the combines and the trucks, that would be ideal. I will also need people that can train people in the operation of the machinery.”
“What about the Inquisition, Richard?” Bill said.
“I will tell my inquisitor what’s coming and why. If he raises a fuss, he can stay at the market and I will make it clear that he was forced to stay there from Daelbyrne through the harvest. I will also purchase a house out of the country and manage things through proxies if necessary. I made one commitment to a little girl that I will never meet. The turmoils will never happen again on my watch.”
“That picture in your office, the girl.”
“I found that picture on an estate that had been abandoned because of the Blight. I also found the girl’s grave. Nimue had just been born and I made the commitment to that girl that is gone and the rest that while I was doing my job, there would be no bread riots in the Lower City or famine on the estates and the towns. If it takes spending some money, remaking the farms of the Empire and smashing the Proscriptions then I am willing to pay that price. Ham, call your plant and tell them that they have a huge order coming.”
“They will want to check you out, Richard.”
“That will not be hard. The hardest part of this isn’t the money, but how, if I pull this off, the entire structure of the Empire will be changed forever and what I will do with the people that I won’t need on the farm. The first thing to do is to keep ahead of the Blight and avoid the turmoils. When people are not hungry, making decisions will be easier.”
House Qinvaris Office, Exchange Street, City in The Clouds.
Taenaran looked at the letter in his hands and back up to Dan. “He tripped the lever didn’t he? Why?”
“He talked with Folmon Beinan, who found out who made the crossbow bolts. They probably have an order for some more.”
“So he needs a lot of money transferred to the Republic as discreetly as possible so that the Inquisition never gets a whiff that anything is different. I think that we can use our friends in the Fellowship for that and hide the transfers to the Republic in regular business. I’ll get started on this. We want to be super sneaky when we pull this off.”
“What do you want from me?”
“The other side is looking for a book. They think that you may have it. You know the book dealers in Zirgoccol now, make some trades.”
Dan grinned. “Will they buy into that?”
“Maybe not if you do that. On the other hand that thieving servant of yours, they will buy that.”
“It can’t be Hubys. Somebody from my personal staff. Now Corym started the whole thing off by pointing me at the bookstore in the first place. Corym is from a fallen House, knows books and has been known to do disreputable things.”
“With you, most of the time.”
“Well yes, but we won’t mention that. Not at first, anyway. So I talk to Tarron and pull some duplicate books, Corym robs me and starts a whispering campaign about how I will never miss the books and sells them. In the mean time, our compelled starts sending messages about stolen books. I will talk to Cory and get back to you.”
“Meet me in Zirgoccol. I’m going ahead with a team to manage this.”

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