The Blight Returns Chapter 17-18

Bishop Hamelin explains some things to Artamo. Richard pays a visit to his old workplace.

Chapter 17.
The Rectory, Enceshire, Kingdom of Dolman.
Bishop Hamelin held his hand forward as Brother Artamo bowed and kissed his Ring. When Artamo straightened up, Hamelin said, “Welcome Brother, I understand that you have had remarkable adventures and encountered some people of high estate.”
“Most of the circuit went well. I had ten failed second scans and passed all the children to the fae. It is there in my report. I also attended a presentation in the monastery in Terribelle where Bishop Penhallow showed a crystal of a rather nasty event in the Empire. The crystal showed some mages murdering a fae village.”
“That must have been rather shocking. What happened afterwards?”
“I left early in the morning for the inn at my next stop and met with Moonflower. We performed the scan, she took the child and returned. Shortly afterwards, four fae came into the inn, discussed the crystal with me and showed me a crystal of the Grand Master apologizing for the actions of the mages to the surviving victims and the entire Council of Kings. The thing that I wonder about is why they came and talked to a lowly brother like me about that.”
“They had reasons and there is something that I must tell you. I don’t think that you were scanned as a child. There is no way that you would have passed.”
“There were ceremonies. The Brother would pass the scanner and test the children of the year. We had very few failures.”
“I think that the Brother was arranging that. You know that the scanner can be made to repeat a test without actually scanning anything. He knew the families like yours that had members that went into the woods and when you all would be scanned, the scanner passed you. If you had not gone into the priesthood, you would have certainly gone into the woods.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I was born fae and failed my test. That meant that I had to be sent away from the Fae to make my own way. My kingdom already had a lorekeeper and I was sent to foster parents to learn the world and be a part of it.”
“Why does that happen?”
“Sometimes the ability to touch mana is not high enough to allow the abilities of the fae to work.”
“So you were defective?”
“The community and the family do not look at it that way. Those of us who do not have that touch develop other skills that the typical fae do not, such as the patience to spend long periods in deep thought and complicated problem solving. The fae say that the ones who fail the test have lights that burn brightly and fast. But the lights are cherished by the families and the communities while they have them.”
“How does this concern me?”
“Your mother failed her test.”
“How do you know?”
“I have traveled to Upper Timbercreek and talked with her. I did that even before I arranged for you to be assigned to me. She is your community’s, both communities’ lorekeeper. Didn’t you consider why there was a library in the house?”
“It was just there. I never wondered why.”
“You have been in noble’s houses. You may have seen their libraries. Have you seen any that were as large as your mother’s?”
“I never thought about it. After all, I am hardly a welcome visitor when I arrive.”
“I have been in many nobles’ homes and very few have libraries that even come close to matching your mother’s. How long has it been since you visited your home?”
“A few years. I have been performing various tasks and not been close enough to make a visit practical.”
“That was my fault, partly. Timbercreek is far from the centers of money and power where handling the rising number of failed tests required delicacy and diplomacy and you and Moonflower were a good team, which brings me to the matter at hand. I must ask you to renounce your vows and the priesthood.”
“What?!”
“It has to do with what Moonflower is and what you are. The other side of the failed tests for the fae is that the children of the failed fae tend to have very high potential indeed. High enough to attract the attention of a royal fae like Moonflower. Have you noticed that she parades around in trueform.”
“Yes, but she says that she does that so that people know what she is.”
“She does that for one person, you. The others are irrelevant and before you and Moonflower were partners, she dressed as a typical noble for the encounters and kept them as short as possible, joining the Brother at the assignment and leaving with the child immediately afterwards. With you, she parades around in trueform and spends long periods with you. You are bonded with Moonflower and she and the family have been rather frustrated with you.”
“How do you know?”
“Moonflower’s mother is my aunt and she has spoken to me about this. I was going to let you discover things for yourself and realize the path you must follow, but events and some rather nasty people have caught up with me. You and I have the attention of the Council of Kings now and they are starting to force the issue as a result of Bishop Penhallow’s actions. Considering what I know about my visitors, they have reasons. You have met them already.”
“Who?”
“Esgalwathanar and Lazuli. Esgalwathanar is a high elf that bonded with a royal fae long ago and hesitated about joining with the girl. She was murdered and Esgalwathanar had to live with a broken bond. Lazuli lost her husband in an accident and also had a broken bond. It wasn’t until they found each other and could repair the broken bonds that they became more or less whole again. Needless to say, when you and Moonflower bonded, there was a lot of concern about getting the bond complete before something happened. When the archbishop and Bishop Penhallow were not being so aggressive, I could be discrete and have you and Moonflower work things out for yourselves. I had planned to give you leave in Green in any case so that you could visit home. I would like you to do that now.”
“Getting there will not be easy in the snows.”
“It can be done and I think that it may be necessary. Go now and prepare. Talk with your mother about this.”

Chapter 18.
Agricultural Laboratory, Rivensdell, Beltian Republic.
Thadock Blackarm was going to call the gate and chew them out for letting a car on station when the car door opened and Dan Harper was the first to exit, followed by Mrs. Harper, Bill Harper and then a man that he had never expected to see again and an elven lady. His phone rang and Doris at the desk said “We have visitors. Senator Harper is here with family.”
“I saw them. The gate must have called you.”
“They did.”
“I’m coming right down. Did the gate tell you who else was in the Senator’s party?”
“No, why?”
“You will see.”
Thadock put the phone down and headed for the stairs. He arrived at the front of the office just as Doris was staring at Richard. “Richard Harper, I haven’t seen you for a very long time.”
“Hello Doris. I’m sorry that I up and left. I was given a one way ticket to the Empire by Paeris Zylvyre.”
“You made that ticket expensive for him. A lot of us want to thank you for what you did. Who is this lady?”
“This is my wife, Rosaniya. She sort of latched onto me for some reason.”
“She was smart. Mrs. Harper, you made a first class catch.”
“I know. He saved us all in the Empire.”
Thadock joined the group and said, “Richard, you’re fired.”
Richard laughed “What for, boss?”
“Not reporting in the morning after the raid and completing your project. I said that I would fire you if you didn’t report in every morning and didn’t bring your project to a conclusion. Where have you been for the last twenty five years.”
“Farming.”
“You look too good to have been farming. How big is your spread?”
“75%”
“75% of what?”
“The farmland in the Empire.”
“You are kidding. That would be thousands of square miles.”
“We need to do a survey to get a fully accurate map, but yes, that is what it is.”
“Senator Harper, you were up in the Empire. Is Richard kidding?”
“I saw the harvest, part of it that is. He isn’t kidding.”
“How did that happen?”
“Bung, or blight, as it is known there. When I was purchased as a slave, I was the only one in the Empire who knew what it was and how to use fungicides. That caught the attention of the overseer of the estate I was on, then the farm manager and then the estate manager, for whom I was running pretty much everything by the first harvest. It is amazing how scythes with catchers improve productivity. I also had caught Rosa’s attention, but I didn’t know that at the time. She and the farm manager arranged for her to become my bedwarmer and housemaid and we lived together for six months while I took over more and more of the farm management. Finally she tricked me into sharing blood and then sprung the little fact that she was Lady Qinvaris, we were married in her eyes and by the way, I was in charge of everything. Things grew from there as I planted abandoned estates, leased more and bought still more outright while introducing things like reapers, seed drills, fertilizer and now threshing machines, which wasn’t even me. The kids came along and that is my life.”
“I bet there is a lot more to the story, isn’t there, Rosa? What House are you?”
“We are House Qinvaris. There is a lot more to the story.”
“Why don’t I give you the VIP tour while you tell me the story? I would make Richard do the tour, but he has been rather late to work, and we changed a few things while he was lollygagging on that cruise.”
Thaddok took Rosa and the others on the tour and after it was over and Doris was talking with Rosa about Richard and his kids, Thaddok asked, “So Richard, why are you here?”
“Rosa wanted to see the place and more importantly, I wanted to hand you this.”
Richard handed Thaddok a rather large report and a box of crossbow bolts, of all things.
“Treat those very carefully. They contain the Blight.”
“The Blight was spread deliberately?”
“Yes. I think that the Republic is more or less immune, and the Kingdom is as well, but the Fellowship is definitely not. Also, the farms in the south of the desert may be far enough away from the Scourge that they have enough mana that they are vulnerable. Crystals won’t work here, but my son Dan ran some tests and we had a mana battery at the embassy, so we could view the crystals. The results were not pretty and I’m hoping that you can send Dan everything you have on fungal diseases.”
Thaddok took a quick look at the report and said, “You should send him down here. He does good work.”
“He’s doing some related work right now, but as soon as I can cut him loose, I will send him down.”
“Why now with this? The Blight hasn’t struck in a hundred years.”
“I’m doing this now because somebody placed an order for those crossbow bolts. They are going launch the Blight again and I need to be ready in case I can’t stop them.”
“It’s lunch time and I think that Doris has made arrangements and invited some of your old friends to a place on the beach. We will use the tram, those of us without the fancy cars.”
“We can let Rosa and my mother take Doris in style while dad and the rest of us put up with the tram.”
Doris had arranged for lunch at the place on the beach and as they stepped off the tram, Richard looked at the statue in the traffic circle and said, “That’s me.”
“Yes it is. You were lucky that nobody in the press here has spotted you. You saved a lot of people here and they appreciated that. I had to arrange return your rifle to your sister or it would have ended up in the little museum set up to remember the raid. The museum is housed in the ruins of Paeris’s ship. Some ex slaves from the ship run the place.”
They walked into the restaurant and lunch was fun as Richard’s old coworkers told Richard stories to Rosa. That lasted until lunch was about over when one of the waiters looked at Richard, did a double take, went over to the headwaiter and whispered in his ear. The headwaiter came over and said, “Excuse me sir, but Geoges here says that you are Richard Harper.”
“Yes.”
“The lunch is on us. Some of us were kids here when Paeris came and we are free because you did what you did. Will you be in town for dinner?”
“I am afraid not. My father here needs to be back in the city, so we are catching the afternoon train and returning there.”
“Very well. We welcome the hero of the city. Enjoy your meal and you must tell us when you return.”
Thaddok said, “That’s torn it. I was going to show you around town before you caught the train. How did you get the car?”
“It’s a company car,” Dan said. “We have a plant near here and I arranged to get picked up at the station. I had forgotten about Richard and this town.”
“Since we are finished, you need to get a move on before the noseys get here.”
They left the restaurant and a rather large man said, “Mr. Harper, may I have your picture for our museum?”
“Yes. Were you here that day?”
“I was a slave and a rower on the ship. We were left with the ship when the cruiser showed up. The Great Captain tried to burn the ship, but it was raining that day and only the sails burned very much. They hauled the ship on land and we turned it into a museum. Thank you for the picture with your wonderful wife. You must come soon and tell us the story.”
The man left and Richard and his family got in the car as the rest left in the tram. Rosa said, “Richard, we must make a point to make a rather more official visit for these people.”
“Are you sure?”
“I think that they like you very much and as long as we are in the country, they should see that you have done well. I will also arrange for my brother to print the book that Ialantha commissioned for the museum, if nothing else. I won’t let you hide yourself anymore.”
Dan and Lythienne grinned as Rosa badgered Richard into submission.
Thaddok had just reached his desk when the phone rang. “Boss, Mayor Wheelright is on the line.”
“Ok, put him through.”
“Thad, how come you didn’t let me know that Richard Harper was in town.”
“Abijah, I never had chance to. He showed up with Senator Harper and his brother, along with his wife.”
“He came with his wife? Where are they staying?”
“They aren’t. They’ve left already for the afternoon train. You can probably make the train, but you won’t have time for a ceremony or something. Vic at the restaurant tried to get them to stay and Ronald at the museum got his picture.”
“Vic called Ronald, who was essentially next door. Why don’t you and Oruni meet with Felicia and I for dinner at Vic’s. Do you think that Richard is coming back?”
Thaddok looked at the report on his desk. “He’s coming back all right.”
“Good, we can meet with Ronald and Vic and be prepared to greet him properly.”

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