The Blight Returns, Chapter 41-42

The Darkmage gets his book back. Byddri gets married. Rebecca and Folmon visit family.

Chapter 41.
The Fortress.
The Darkmage looked at the book in his hands, at his daughter and smiled. “You have obtained this.”
“Yes, father, I have.”
“Do you think that the other side knows what they had?”
“I doubt it. My link said that the only people looking at it were some scholars taking notes and they put it back in stowage with the rest of the books until a new library that the Qinvaris are building is completed.”
“A new library? That would explain the books that the young man has purchased.”
“What should we do with this?”
“Have your daughters take this and write down all the keys. Then we should put it with the rest of the family library. The source of the family’s power has been returned to us. Now, was there any news about the bank takeover?”
“The people taking over the bank are delaying actually taking action.”
“They are probably already too late. The Axebrew son that was the front for the takeover should have been bitten by now and removed from the picture.”
The Garden, The Empty Lands.
Meira watched her father work as she fed the goat that rotated the barrel that swirled grain around in a mash. When she was done, she said, “Why do I have to feed the goat this sutff when the grain is right there?”
“Meira, the grain in the barrel won’t be suitable and it needs to be kept supplied.”
“What is that dust you collect?”
“This is the Blight, a medicine for the Empire. With it, we make the Empire better.”
“Making the Blight is hard. You and the others work so hard for so little.”
“A little is all that is needed. If you are finished, why don’t you see your mother?”
Ruvyn Prenfaren continued his work. He and four others worked at making the Blight, far away from the farms of the Retreat. He knew why that was. The Master had ordered a cleansing and the gardeners were there to provide that.

Chapter 42.
Oceanside, the Fellowship.
Tony handed his mother a glass. “You ordered this, mother?”
“Thank you, Tony.”
“You and dad seem happy.”
“We were, once we realized that you were doing fine and had found somebody.”
“I think that she found me. When you and dad sent us over, I don’t think that you realized just what we getting into, especially with things cut off. As slaves we couldn’t exactly travel and getting messages out was a pain. Then Eirina became part of my life and my focus changed more than a bit.”
“That does happen and you have such wonderful children.”
“I’m not so sure about that. I know that dad likes Kicavir, Chrissie caught a fae prince and Sal and Chandrelle are good most of the time. On the other hand, they do have their moments.”
“As if you didn’t? You and your crowd, along with Lythienne’s drove us crazy.”
“That was dad’s fault. He was the one who exposed us to the Harpers rather than the honest criminals.”
“So tell me more about these characters that took Chrissie.”
“Durlan? Or his boss.”
“Let’s start with Durlan. Why didn’t you deal with him some time ago?”
“First of all, we tried. We didn’t know who he was and didn’t know about the portals, so he could get in and out of the Lower City before we could trap him. The boys, the guard and the Justiciars did make things hot and for the last few years, Durlan had a hard time in the Lower City. That was why he started to go after kids of High elf families.”
“Now that you know who he is, why is he still alive?”
“I don’t have the resources in the Retreat to deal with that, and he’s slippery. I expected him to come back to the Empire and he hasn’t.”
“Do you think that he has started up someplace else, here in the Fellowship, for instance?”
“Mother, he may be doing that. You will have to talk to Rosa and Rebecca about what they know.”
“I will, when I get back to the Empire.”
“You’re gong back?”
“Since I can, yes I am going back. I also have a little project. I don’t know why you haven’t set Eirina up in her old House or ours. Why haven’t you established her properly?”
“At first it wasn’t something we could afford and then we liked where we are. We have our friends and the rest of the family in the Lower City and Eirina doesn’t want to endure the sniping that she will get from the high elf harpies. In any case, I don’t want to make a big splash and hurt the business.”
“I think that you should pay a visit to the House with me and see the things that the Inquistion didn’t find. Our family’s respectability was more than a bit of a charade, funded by the money from things that were not precisely appropriate. Let’s just say that your father married me for more than my looks and you know I have always been a part of the business. Now that your children are growing up, being established will be important, both for you and the family.”
Tony had always known about the steel behind his mother’s elegance and style.Now it was pointed at him and he was fairly sure that Thaciona would not relent. She continued, “Perhaps the most important thing is to send the message to certain people that no matter what they do, the family will take back what is ours.”
“Yes mother.”
“Now, about the people who took my granddaughter, what should we do? Not the Richflights, since they are pretty much finished in any case and that was well done, but the bosses.”
“The Beinans, the Qinvaris, the Zylvyres and the Yllanans have all been giving them a hard time.”
“And you are not?”
“I need some more eyeballs in the empty lands. The Fellowship and down here is not my territory and I don’t have the resources.”
“Why don’t we talk to some people while we are here? Those people over there need to know that messing with our family is a very bad thing.”
The Qinvaris Estate.
Tarranth watched the seeding crew work its way across the field. Ailas Keaynore rode up and said, “We’re getting off to an early start this year.”
“You were there at that little meeting.”
“Yes I was. I would apologize for my jackass brother, but he hasn’t been my problem for a long time.”
“He’s an idiot. Dan put everything we found out there for everybody to see and he goes on about committing heresy because my brother breeds grain in greenhouses.”
“I hear that there is a lot of heresy going on down in the Empty lands.”
“There was. There will be here, if that makes you uncomfortable.”
“It would probably give Emmyth fits. He’s never been out here very much or thought about where his next meal came from. I’ve lived out here and seen it. My uncle lives out here too, and if Dan’s thing was scary, you should talk with him. He still tells the stories about he and dad cut wheat with everybody in the House trying to get ahead of the stuff that was killing it, just as it was getting ripe. He goes on about how it spread, especially how, when they thought that they had beaten it, the Blight started in a new part of the fields. When I told him about the test and showed him the book, he was furious, because he had given a post rider a drink just after the Blight started.”
“Maybe dad should come out and talk with him.”
“He wants to talk with your dad. He’s a bit skittish about making a splash, but I’ll tell him that your dad is ok to talk to. Why don’t you bring Renna and we can have dinner soon. He’ll definitely want to see the show that’s coming. As far as me being uncomfortatble, you all should know me better than that. Out here, if it can save time and work, people have better lives and even we don’t have mountains of slaves to do everything when harvest starts.”
“You know that I won’t argue with any or that.”
“How was your little trip through the Blasted lands?”
“If you think that dad is bad, the rest of the family just might be worse. It was a lot of fun.”
“I can’t imagine how much.”
“These guys look as if they are doing ok. I need to move on to the road work.”
“I’ll see you for dinner and tell your brother, “Good work” on the Blight.”
“I will.”
The Yllanan Estate.
Esgalwathanar looked at his surrounding family and friends and said, “I wanted start off my anniversary of a rather remarkable year by having my first thing next five day here. Fortunately, rather that having Lamruil set things up, Lazuli and I decided to let some experts set it up and have the girls do it. So I have sent out invitations and let Lavidia and the girls handle it. I thought that, since they were doing so well and wanted to do something anyway, why not let them do it.”
That sent laughter around the table and Teiran said, “That gets you and me off the hook for doing both your thing and Jessamine’s wedding this moon.”
“There is that. Of course, Rosa’s going to want to launch off the season anyway.”
“I doubt that the old sticks will want to compete with that,” Lavida said. “Now that she knows that she can, she’s going all out.”
“I will say one thing,” Esgalwathanar said. “The estate here is a totally different place than it was a year ago.”
“We’ve tried,” Deiran said. “Illitia is rather annoyed at us because we have so much business going back and forth. Steel parts come in and music boxes go out. Dye comes in and silk goes out. Don’t get me started on hardwood and furniture.”
“Right now, business is way up and we ship a lot of things to the Republic now that we have direct communications,” Teiran said. “That doesn’t include the businesses in the Lower city, the toys and whatnot. In any case, we had a very good year.”
“The changes that you all have made in my life have made my life so much more fun and full,” Esgalwathanar said. “Thank you all.”
The Lower City.
“Rebecca, what are you doing with that?” Adiun asked.
“The rifle? That is what I want to talk about. A certain snake lady has a bunch of my friend’s kids and I expect that she is wondering what I might do about that. What I’m planning to do is, starting with the “Culls,”is to remove collars and bring the kids home. I want to make it a family project.”
Adiun grinned. “All the family?”
“Yes. I’ve talked with Halamar, Andaphin, Jandar and your father. We want to make a statement that taking a Beinan is a really bad thing to do. My children are hardly the only ones in the family with high potential and the family wants to make it clear that, now that we are all acting as one, taking a kid from one is taking from us all.”
“I can’t argue with that. Joanlya will love it, now that she is here.”
“She is already all for this.”
“You talked with her, then?”
“She wanted to know if she could change some things in our old house. I didn’t have a problem with that. The thing is that I want to make a trip with Folmon to Red Mountain and talk with Evindal and Folmon’s sister. I want to make sure that they have small portals as well.”
“They do. I must have forgotten to make sure that you had the codes.”
“That’s just fine. I want to go up in any case and start things up in the Empty Lands in a moon or so.”
“So why bring the rifle now?”
“I was hoping that you would take care of it while we were gone. I don’t want the kids finding it by accident and while Dessielle and Charlie know how to shoot, the younger two do not. With servants in the House, it’s better that you have it at the house.”
“That makes sense. Are you worried about your younger two learning to shoot?”
“It is on our longer term short list and I want to have Eudora and Theoden to visit my brother and his wife in the Repubic for a time. So they can learn to shoot there, since the sergeant has gone home.”
“You don’t want to send them to Halamar’s?”
“Let’s just say that there is a niece a little younger than Theo that will be all over him.”
“You must know her.”
“Yes. The family has reunions in Oceanside. Ever since she could transform she has certain habits.”
“Ambush with lightly flaming to warm you up.”
“She did it to you.”
“She tried. There are advantages to visiting a grove.”
Adiun laughed. “I think that the family reunions just got a lot more fun.”
“They sound like fun already.”
“Talk to Joanlya and Gracie about them.”
“I will. Right now I want to talk to you and Gracie about the Camp and the other places down there.”
“Gracie has a map and we have a pretty good idea where things are. We haven’t found certain things. Recently though, we did find something that Dan wants, the library. We are going to visit in a while a bit later.”
“Maybe we can work together with this.”
“Why don’t we go to your old place, put the rifle away and talk to Gracie and about your plans.”
House Aezeiros.
Sylvar turned to his brother and said, “Here we go again.”
Inialos laughed. “At least the kids are having fun out there in the yard. Where did you get them?”
“They all met at the Winterfaire party. The dragons fly down to Elysahone and the Lower City kids port up or the Aerie kids port down every Decaday.”
“Don’t their parents worry?”
“Not really. Elysahone is a pretty safe place anyway and the Lower City is too, actually, other than the bad neighborhoods and certain areas. It’s not likely that Durlan is going to be seen in the city again, that is if he wants to stay alive. In any case would you want to take on a bunch of kids that includes dragons, fae and Beinans?
“Good point. Of course there’s always Jimmy.”
“Yes, Jimmy all by himself would be bad enough. He seems to like watching the kids.”
“I’m surprised that mother would let you bring them.”
“She wanted them. I think that she wants certain ladies to move on to other things.”
“They have been sticking to the moral crusade for a longer time than I would have thought for them. They are usually planning other campaigns.”
“They’ve lost their kids, at least the Ravathrya ladies have, and their budget as well.”
“Some of the other ladies have started to lose their kids too. The kids are looking farther afield and out in the estates.”
“Renestrae bringing her friend Nightrose didn’t hurt and Alok has a faery kingdom next to his estate. He wandered in and got caught.”
Sylvar laughed “Is that what he called it? Waterlily has a different story. He chased her pretty hard and for somebody with no useful talents, left all sorts of nice things that he thought that she would like.”
“Of course he did. He didn’t say that he had no talents, just no talents useful here in the Cloud City.”
“Ah, I see. So he was not a brilliant muscician or a witty speaker.”
“That is part of it. He is a good painter and can come up with wonderful things from stuff he finds in the Lower City. I think that the witty speaker part comes because, until his father leased the farm, Alok had to handle it.”
“Cows don’t care if your witty or not.”
“Nor do horses. I’m lucky that dad had you to keep an eye on things at the estate.”
Rydel staggered up in that seeming state of inebriation that the younger elves had all learned to acquire at these things. “I see that your mother has the kids again, Sylvar.”
“This is a benefit for the school.”
“Just the thing to scandalize the old crowd.”
“That it does.”
“Where is Nimue?”
“She’s practicing with the other girls. I am expected as soon as this is over.”
“With your sister, lucky her.”
“Yes. They are practicing for the thing at the Yllanan estate in three days.”
“One of the girl’s things? Can I pester you for an invitation?”
“Your mother will probably think it rather inappropriate,” Inialos said with a grin.”
“Bugger that. I imagine that the party will be fun and I can meet new girls.”
“The girls may not be strictly elvish,” Sylvar said.
“Bugger that, too. Mum has had her chance and sometimes an elf needs to take matters into their own hands.”
“Mother is waving at us, Sylvar,” Inialos said. “We need to circulate and do our duty.”
The three separated and continued to stagger and pick up threads and tidbits of gossip.
The Hidden City.
Now it was Byddri’s turn in the spotlight. It hadn’t helped matters that the movie had been released and that meant that Byddri was now a bit of celebrity. It also wasn’t helped by the fact that not only had his family all come down, but the movie people had as well. Or rather they had never left after Captain Pinch’s wedding. So Byddri was in the spotlight, whether he liked it or not. As he was getting ready, Jacob said, “It won’t be long now.”
“That is supposed to make me less nervous?”
“No, but as your best man, I have a responisibily to make sure that you don’t run.”
“A responsibility to who?”
“Kythaela. If you run, my reports will never get to the commodore’s desk on time.”
“That is a heavy argument.”
“Where are you going for the honeymoon?”
“Kythaela wanted to see it and we can fly in from the portal. Also, It’s far enough that I don’t have to worry about the little flamers until we get back.”
“Those two? I wouldn’t bet on that. They have probably wrangled open portal keys for themselves.”
“They also have little friends in the Lower City that they don’t want to fly too far away from. We will be safe.”
“With that, I think that it is time.”
Byddri was wearing his grandfather’s wedding robe as Kythaela would be wearing his grandmother’s. While not as strong flyers as they had been, and his grandfather having abdicated long ago, they were both rather royal dragons and impressive. Gialrag and Nylli were grinning ear to ear as they sat with Byddri’’s father and uncle. Byddri stood at the altar and watched as a dream, on her father’s arm, came down the aisle. Kythaela stood in front of him, questions were asked and answered and vows were made. Then the pair went to the front of the temple where Kythaela tossed the wedding baton, the pair shed their robes and transformed for their wedding dance. That started the party off in what became a rather raucus event that took over a large part of the city. Finally Kythaela dragged Byddri off to a cave and they watched the fireworks while making some of their own.
Thoryuhr, Red Mountain.
“Hi, Evin!”
Evindal grinned as Rebecca and Folmon walked into the office “So what brings you here? Other than the portal outside town, now that it is working again.”
“Strange about that,” Rebecca said with a grin. “One might think that the portals were disconnected deliberately. As to what brings us here, I wanted to introduce myself to your wife and Keishara. Also, I want to talk with the House bank about a gift.”
“The House doesn’t have a bank, at least officially. We do most of our business through Hardjaw Financial. Adittedly, Barseath Hardjaw is my son in law, so I would guess that they are the House bank.”
“Considering what has happened at Axebrew, I want to have some fae go through the bank.”
“I’ll talk with Barseath about that. I don’t think that he will have a problem with that. Might I ask what the gift is?”
“You’ve seen those calculating machines in the workshop. I thought that one should go to the House Bank. The House Qinvaris bank and Axebrew in Zirgoccol are getting one as well.”
“They are out of date, but I think that they will go over well as rather functional decorations.”
“I thought so. I thought about selling them, and we will, the machines that are parts right now, but the finished machines are just a bit big to just sell at an auction house. In any case, the auction house that I am working with has enough on its plate.”
“If you are clearing out the House, probably.”
“The first few auctions were rather unbelieavable. The response we got that House Bienan might be taking commissions in the future was also rather unbelievable.”
“Uzilsia wants to meet you and go down to the House, now that the trip is not a great journey to the portal.”
“She and your children and especially your grandchildren are welcome to come.”
“Are you sure that you want to risk that?”
“Yours can’t be any worse than the rest of the family or some of the other kids.”
“True. Let me take you to Uzilsia.”
Evindal called for his carriage and Rebecca asked, “How come they don’t have cars in the Dwarven kingdoms.”
“Conservatism and they don’t think that they need them. A lot of the dwarven kingdoms are underground, in played out mines. Since more dwarves are moving to the surface, that will probably change. In any case, dwarves don’t tend to trust things that they don’t make themselves and nobody has started to make the sheet steel that you need for cars. I’ve tried to persuade the ironworkers that rolling sheet would be profitable, but, except for tool thicknesses, they won’t.”
“The family plant in the Fellowship certainly does. Lots of Aluminum as well.”
“Now there is a business that I would like to be involved in.”
“Why haven’t you?”
“Electricity. We actually have lots of water that could be turned into hydropower, but the dwarves are concerned about dams.”
They arrived at a rather sprawling complex of houses, buildings and tunnel entrances cut high with rows of windows above. Rebecca said, “Quite a place.”
Evindal laughed. “It sort of grew. First of all, there are several families that came from the Empire as a result of the break up. Then we have had a century to grow and we have. Let me take you into Uzilsia. Wait, here she comes.”
A rather vigorous dwarf woman came out the door and said, “You brought Rebecca, Folmon. Rebecca, I am Uzilsia Beinan, who somehow became in charge of this mess.”
“How did that happen?”
“Since I wasn’t the prettiest girl around, it must have been because of my cooking.”
“That did work,Uzi,” Evin said. “Especially in those rough times when eating wasn’t always possible.”
“We were all short. But things worked out. Rebecca, why don’t I introduce you to this part of the clan. I understand that you have visited everybody else. Toollie! I see you! Don’t you dare think that you are going to get away with flaming Aeri! Now get down here, transform and get your uncle and aunt’s bags.”
A dragon flew down, transformed into a sixteen year old scaly boy and said, “Yes grandmother.”
As the young dragon grabbed their bags, Rebecca said, “Family reunion?”
“How did you guess?”
“I imagine that the Aerie part of the family and the dwarf part of the family would see each other and things happen.”
“Yes, my son did see a dragon and things did happen. Other than Toldro flaming Aierilaya, or trying to, it was a good thing.”
“Has she caught him yet?”
“I think that she has his attention. They are both very young.”
“My daughter caught a royal fae boy with a kiss.”
“You must tell me the story. Have things been chaotic at the House?”
“Yes, but that’s not Peri’s fault. The only thing he’s done is make off with the Inquisition’s library. Ever since, he has been put to work by Adiun.”
“Doing what? You do know that Joanlya has a great talent for mischief.”
“Reconnecting portals for the most part. There has been quite a bit of mischief and I want to make quite a bit more.”
“Why don’t we discuss that while I show you around?”

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