The Blight Returns, Chapter 57-58.

The sergeant gains some recruits. Admatius has some visitors.

Chapter 57,
The Empty Lands.
Stormfire and the major had watched the events of the last two fivedays in amazement. He and the major had responded to the actions of the aircraft, only to be told to stand down by his brother. So he, the major and a squadron had quietly watched as his sister’s monsters were subverted or destroyed. Since his sister had relied on terror and the collars to keep her things in line and never bothered to instill a sense of loyalty, focus and discipline in her soldiers, the monsters were all too easily subverted or deserted once the collars were removed. The motivated, experienced and well trained Republican marines had gone through the monsters as if they had not even been there, those monsters that put up a fight that is. All too many didn’t, walking up, having their collars removed and joining the marines in their trek to Innshys, a destination that they arrived at with a force of approximately twice the side of the one that had emerged and conducted the raid on whatever it was that Stormfire’s brother was hiding. The major watched the trucks pick up the tired and exhilarated marines and their recruits and said, “That is not how it is supposed to be done. Could I take your sister’s people over for a couple of moons? What is left of them, that is.”
“She’s never listened to me when I suggested that she provide training and some sort of discipline. She was always talking about the culls and the strong.”
“The culls that came back and beat up all the strong. Somebody provided training and once the marines showed how tough they were, the strong gravitated to them. Of course the fact that the monsters were told that their mothers wanted them back didn’t hurt.”
“My sister is lucky that the mothers didn’t show up.”
“I think that some of them did.”
A fae popped in and said, “Your brother wants talk with you.”
“Where?”
“The first place that was attacked.”
“Very well. Major, take my horse.”
Stormfire Jumped to the location of the first place that had been attacked. Herdir was there and said, “You were right, brother.”
“About what?”
“About my sister not being able to stop the raiders with her monsters.”
“I’ve been saying for a long time that there needed to be more than just collaring the taken and expecting them to perform. What was here, anyway?”
“This was where I had the Blight prepared.”
“The other side apparently figured that out. That was why they destroyed these places. Of course, the fact that all three of them were hit from the ground first says that the other side was looking for something.”
“They were too late in any case. The Blight was sent on.”
“Perhaps. The problem is that the other side now knows a lot about what the Blight does and how. If the Blight is launched we must be prepared to launch the project. Otherwise it will not matter, because when things are over, we will be destroyed.”
“We must discuss this with father.”
The Qinvaris Port.
The general looked at the sergeant and grinned. “Sergeant Tollins, this will go down in history. You are probably the only one ever to lead a suicide mission and not only bring all of your people back, but more men than you started with.”
“Not all men, sir. I think that Lissy likes me.”
“Needless to say, good job. Taking out three of those places was inspired. If you keep thinking like that I may have to make you an officer.”
“Sir, I’m not sure that I want that much trouble. As far as taking the other places out, once we were inside, it was easier to stay there and once we realized that the monsters just wanted to go home for the most part, it was easy.”
“If they wanted to go home, how come they stuck with you?”
“They had been in the Pen for a long time and didn’t have homes to go to. Especially if their moms were in the Lower City and we couldn’t find them. Some of them had been in the Pen for a very long time and their parents had disappeared.”
“Presumably you have told them that they will not be able to transform in the Republic.”
“Sir, the ones that didn’t revert when tested, which is most of the people that want to stay in the marines, are hoping that when they have very low mana levels, they will revert.”
“The major had them sign enlistment papers, so we’re stuck with them. I may talk to Admiral Harper about attaching them to the Protective Service. The President would probably like a monster squad.”
“Sir, they just came out of a bad situation and you want to do that to them?”
“Good point. “We’ll find some other duty for them.”

Chapter 58.
Chatsrey.
Admatius was preparing to leave his office for home when his secretary buzzed the intercom. “Mr. d’Dolmon, Mr. Harper is here with your niece and her boyfriend.”
“My niece? I don’t have a niece. I’m coming out.”
Admatius stormed out of the office and there was Dan Harper with two teenagers dressed as if they came from Dolmon. “Dan what are you playing at?”
“Admatius, this is your grand niece, Talissa and her friend, Jimmy. They Jumped down from Dolmon.”
“Jumped?”
“Yes, Talissa is Lazuli’s heir. You can guess what Jimmy is.”
“Why did they come to you?”
“Because the only anchor we had was to the Embassy,” Jimmy said. “They didn’t have a contact for you, but figured that Mr. Harper did.”
“Dolmon doesn’t have an Embassy, just a consulate and if they did, they certainly would not have a Jump anchor.”
“The Empire and the faery kingdoms have Embassies. We went to the Empire’s since I could get the anchor from some friends more easily. The lady there didn’t have you as a contact, but did have Mr. Harper and sent us there.”
“What is this about?”
“Uncle, I have decided that returning you to the family is my treasure,” Talissa said. “We need you and a lot of other people do too.”
“I have done talking about what happened.”
“It wasn’t the explosives,” Jimmy said. “It was a mage.”
“How do you know? You are just a boy.”
“A boy trained to sense mages and the effects of magery so that I can dodge them. I was kept in a place for three years where the dark trained me for things like that before I was released. I was the landdragon that was supposed to stomp opposition mages. Talissa was stuck as a landdragon until we arrived at the Deephollow fae kingdom and I stayed transformed because I was a famous landdragon and Talissa was a rampaging sheep stealing menace.”
Admatius started to laugh and said, “Dan, I must call Solana. I think that we MUST eat at Vikz’s this evening or he will not let either of us in the door when he hears about this. Talissa, Vikz’s is a very nice place, so no rampaging, please. Vikz does do wonderful things with lamb.”
“Lythienne already made the arrangements and we have the court with Vikz serving from the outdoor barbecue. Lythienne was making hints already. We will meet you there.”
As Admatius turned to go after making the call, his secretary said, “Admatius, where were you hiding those two?”
“Dolmon, apparently, Phriero. It looks like I will be making a trip back, all too soon.”
“You have been dead set against that.”
“I know, but once Solanna gets wind of this, I won’t have much choice.”
“Should I start looking into travel arrangements?”
“If you would. Through the Fellowship, I think.”
“That makes sense. Discreet as well.”
“Yes. I don’t want the Consul tracking me down for another one of his chats.”
“I cannot imagine why.”
The Qinvaris Estate.
The group of men looked at the field of ripening wheat and Ailas said, “Are you sure that you want to go through with this, Richard?”
“Ailas, this goes against everything that I think that I should do, but until the bastards actually start up the Blight, everything I’ve done is hanging in the air. So we leave these fields, conveniently near the road, ready to harvest, and wait. These fields were historically the earliest to get hit with Blight. This is where we can see if they are indeed going to launch, if we can spot the Blight soon enough and respond quickly enough. Once one of those bolts hits, we have two days more or less before the Blight spores. If we can contain the outbreaks inside those two days, we win even if they fire all 2,000 of the bolts we know are out there. If it turns out that we miss, better here, where we can contain the problem than elsewhere where we weren’t planning for it.”
“The Justiciars did a number on that winery and the Blight factories were bombed.”
“I know. The daughter houses were hit too. But the people that are supposed to launch the Blight are still out there and the operation was well compartmentalized. The Abbot managed to commit suicide and Brother Covirus didn’t have everything. There could be a hundred or two hundred with those bolts and we would never find them in the chaos that is the harvest. Paeris Zylvyre moved through the harvest undetected and he was the most wanted elf, ever. If he could do that, we can expect that others will be able to.”
Osmond grinned as he said, “There were a lot of disappointed people when they realized what Paeris had done, including my boys.”
“Your boys were busy building those threshers,” Richard said.
“They are bit annoyed that you put the threshers out to pasture in a year.”
“They can keep them around for the kids to play with. We may end up selling the things and the rest to the conservatives in the Mortal Kingdoms.”
“Now there’s a thought. I’ll put the boys on that. I just hope that we can pull through this. My father in law lived through the last one and he was the one pushing for things like those threshers. He was the first one at our place on a tractor.”
“Another one? My biggest boosters have been the elves that were out in the estates for the last one. A hundred years and they still remember.”
Kugrim.
“Jimmy!”
Jimmy and Talissa were mobbed as soon they got off the ship. Of course they were both landdragons at the moment, which made the whole thing rather amazing. Solanna turned to her husband and said, “After what happened at the Harpers, I’m amazed that things went so well.”
“The fact that the kids managed to get Jimmy and Talissa to transform and they couldn’t revert?”
“Yes. Of course that it didn’t hurt that Jimmy is as famous as he said he was. He was as mobbed by the press as he was by the kids. At least that allowed us to disappear into the crowd. The truck is here for the kids.”
The truck was and they were off, after Jimmy and Talissa were forced to entertain the kids and the press with a brief walk around the city. Of course the pair shared the truck with Admatius’s grandchildren all the way to the train. Jimmy turned to Talissa and said, “No transformations for the kids in the Blasted Lands from now on.”
Talissa licked his snout. “You enjoyed it, I know that you did. It’s your own fault, you know. You let those kids convince you to transform.”
“You did, as well.”
“After you did and couldn’t revert. I did it so that Tilly Carran could get our pictures.”
“So you did it to make me still more famous.”
“No, I did it so that Tilly could have live models for the next story.”
“A story with landdragons in it.”
“Yes, along with monsters and a princess.”
“Our story then. For the kids we will have.”
“For our kids, yes. You sir, will take no risks. I and our kingdom need you too much.”
Hall Of The Cleansing.
Herdir Jumped into the hall and it was empty. He walked through the empty corridors to the Abbot’s office, which was stripped and the walls torn out, evidently looking for anything hidden in the walls. Moving on, everything else but the winery that had been at the front for the order was stripped. Somebody had come and cleaned everything out and taken everything and everybody. Herdir Jumped out again. Even if he wanted to recall the Blight, the die was cast. It was time to talk to his father, his brother and his sisters. His brother was right, and win or lose, they were committed.
Burnbuldor, The Fellowship of Peoples.
The old dwarven town of Burnbuldor and the copper mines that were its reason for existence were the last stop on the Fellowship and Dolmon Railroad. As Admatius and his family exited the train, the rusted remnents of the construction effort were still on rusted side tracks waiting for the return to the construction effort that had never come. Several carriages were waiting at the station with a troop of royal guards and a man came out of the station accompanied by a woman and said, “Uncle, I am Aestaeros. This is Diona, my wife. My son Arnold is holding down the fort for me at the palace. I see that my daughter had an accident again. Of course she could probably transform here.”
“Daddy, I’m not wearing anything. Unless you or mother thought to bring clothes, I am remaining Talissa the landdragon.”
“We did dear,” Diona said. “We didn’t want to pay for more sheep.”
“Jimmy could pay for them.”
“How could Jimmy pay for sheep?”
“A movie crew is coming to Dolmon soon to make a Jimmy movie. So Jimmy could pay for a lot of sheep.”
“How did that happen?”
“Adriana and Laekces, two of Strom Ironshield’s grandchildren wanted to see a landdragon,” Jimmy said. “They, along with a bunch of the Harper kids managed to convince me to transform. To be honest, I didn’t think I could, and for anything other than a landdragon that was probably true. But I managed it and then couldn’t revert. So I spent a five day parading around the Republic with the kids, Talissa, who transformed herself and the press as landdragon Jimmy. Of course the movie people caught on, thanks to the kids’ relatives and wanted a Jimmy movie. Two actually, but the first one shot is of us in the big city. They are going to shoot the first movie in Dolmon which will be me rescuing Tallissa from evil mages, Churchmen and monsters and taking her to the faery kingdom.”
Diona giggled. “I want to see it already.”
Admatius said, “This is Solanna, my wife and the escorts of Jimmy and Talissa are my grandchildren, Simon, Ilyana, Travaren and Gisselle. These four were delegated to be the family representatives, come with me, make sure that Jimmy and Talissa don’t get into too much trouble, and take lots of pictures. It has been recommended by several people that I take them to a grove and get them tested, but I am not sure that that is a good idea at this point. They are enough trouble as it is.”
A lady that Admatius had not seen in a very long time appeared with an apparent high elf from his clothing. Lazuli looked around and said, “Welcome back, Admatuis. I apologize for the things I said the last time we saw each other. It turned out that somebody wanted those things. This is Esgalwathanar. I see, Tallissa, that you had an accident.”
“Jimmy did this time, in the Republic. It was the fault of some Ironshield, Yllanan and Harper kids and Jimmy being able to transform, once, and not being able to revert. I transformed in sympathy.”
“The Ironshield, Yllanan and Harper kids?” Esgalwathanar said. “Then it is perfectly understandable.”
“Why have you not reverted, now that you can?” Lazuli asked.
“We didn’t have any clothes and once Jimmy was spotted, it wasn’t really possible.”
“You could have reverted to trueform.”
“We didn’t really want to and there was no real reason to. Mother brought clothes, so we will transform and ride in the coach to Verssellan.”
Diona grinned and said, “Why don’t you stay the way you are right now. You can Change when we get to the d’Ambrays. That is if Lina will let you.”
“Jimmy, we transform now.”
The Lower City
Tarron looked at the activity and then at Tarranth. “Why are those books not going to the library?”
“Tarron, those books are things that we only have one of. Mother wants them sent to the Republic where Strom Ironshield has a shop that duplicates books for libraries. So we are sending these by the new ship that dad has to get that done. Then the originals will be put in the Imperial archives and the copies here and some other libraries. The Beinans are doing the same thing. The Inquisition has burned books in the past and lost a lot of the Empire’s history. So we are taking what we found and making sure that that can’t happen.”
“Until the library is turned over, it is your family’s and I see your point, even with the books from my old library. The book faire is coming soon and I was looking to see what I could bring.”
“Tarron, there are some boxes there for you. Mother’s brother is a well known children’s author and mother wants to make sure that he is as well known here in the Empire as he is everywhere else. So she brought a large pile of his books for the faire. We figured that it would be better that you deal with that than mother does. Then we have a stack of duplicated things left over from the caper with that character in Zirgoccol. You can use those or put them straight into the library. We have all those copies of History of The Empire that Delion bought that we lifted with the rest of them. We’re doing the Inquistion a favor with those.”
“What about the books on the Blight?”
“We want to hand those out, but right now, we don’t want to start a panic. Dad is talking to the bakers here today about potential flour shortages.”
Richard went to the front of the room and the men seated looked at him. Here in the room were the bakers and flour merchants for the Lower city, men, elves and something in between that Richard had known and worked with for well over twenty years. Attending this meeting were some of the Lords of the Houses or their sons who owned the bakeries. Richard did a quick scan of the concerned faces and said, “I guess that you all have heard the rumors.”
Eltaor Genna, high elf clothes covered in flour, which while unusual for a high elf, was a testament to how he ran his business, said, “Yes we have. You haven’t said very much about them, Richard, nothing at all, in fact. I would have expected you to squash rumors about the return of the Blight.”
“I couldn’t because it was evident that the Blight was indeed going to be launched.”
“The Blight is deliberate?” The, as always, well dressed Benny Jessen asked, Gold slave collar shining as his head bobbed.
“That was discovered late last year. The Justiciars wanted to keep a lid on things until they discovered who was doing it and why. House Qinvaris and House Beinan have been working on this since the discovery.”
“If the Justiciars wanted a lid kept on this, why tell us now?”
“I’m telling you all now because I wanted to reassure you all that House Qinvaris will meet its commitments if it is possible. I have taken every step that I can think of to ensure that it is indeed possible. That being said, the Justiciars and I think, that at this point, the trigger has been pulled and the Blight is going to be launched.”
“If the Justiciars are involved, why is one not here?”
“Because Alen got tied up with another mess involving everybody’s favorite Inquisitor and is running late.”
The room laughed and Martin Jubert asked, “What was it this time?”
“I didn’t ask. Alen just told me that he would be late and who was involved. At least he told me the identity of the Inquisitor. Here he is now. Alen do you want to talk about your latest run in with our favorite Inquisitor?”
Alen looked drained as he said, “Not right now. Since it involves the evil mage lady, some kids and Delion, I want a stiff drink before telling the story. What have you told them, Richard?”
“Just that the Blight was deliberate and that the Justiciars were involved with us and other houses.”
“Richard said that you thought that the Blight was going to be launched.”
“Gander and Richard’s people found a monastery in Astaire where they were setting up for it. We found maps, plans, empty vials and assembled crossbow bolts that we had been tracking. Most of the assembled bolts and a good portion of the Order were missing. It was fairly obvious that the bolt had been shot and was on its way.”
“Did you track where the bolts were going?”
“Not with any degree of certainty. They were transported in cases of bubbly wine to locations and then taken elsewhere. The monastery was attached to the winery and vineyard.”
The entire room got grim. Benny said, “So we could be facing the turmoils again. My great granddaddy wrote a journal about that and what happened to the little stall we had and how we all ended up getting sold into slavery. All we had was our bread recipe. Richard, whatever you need, I think that we here will give it to you. At least this time, we know what’s coming.”
“I have taken a lot of precautions and we have harvested quite a bit of grain in the south already. I have options on grain in the Republic, if I need it. That being said, the situation could get grim, but not hopeless. In any case, thank you for your support and not panicking. This time, the people who are going to do this will not be able to hide, the Justiciars know who they are and if the launch goes off, there will be nothing that will save any of them from me. I made a promise to a young elf girl who made the ultimate sacrifice the last time around and I will keep that promise.”
Versellen.
Tarranth had gotten the Jump anchor for the d’ Ambray estate from Lazuli, who told him that Admatius d’Dolmon was visiting there with King Aestaeros. Tarranth needed to talk with him before he was bogged down in the ongoing harvest and all the planning stages, so he Jumped down with Renna, all dolled up with Renna in a Balladrial latest. Their sudden appearance focused quite a stir even with Jimmy and Talissa out in the yard as landdragons surrounded by kids. Jimmy spotted Tarranth and said, “Hi Tarranth.”
Tarranth grinned and said, “What happened, the kids get at you again?”
“Sort of. Lina spread the word, the servants’ kids spread the word, and if the landdragon didn’t show up, all the kids in town were going to be disappointed, so there I was. Talissa insisted anyway.”
A woman walked over and said, “Welcome fae.”
“Not precisely,” Tarranthy said. “We have been tested and can do certain things. I am Tarranth Qinvaris and this is Renna Shahana, who is here to keep me out of trouble.”
“I am Baroness Astania d’Ambray and you know Jimmy and Talissa, apparently. So what brings you so far from the Empire?”
“My father sent me to see if I could arrange a meeting between him and Admatius d’Dolmon. I also want permission to start some things here in Dolmon on some property of Mr. d’ Dolmon.”
A man with an elf lady walked over and said, “Your father doesn’t waste any time. I’m Admatius d’Dolmon.”
“Mr. d’ Dolmon, I’m sure that my grandfather has given you the report. Since that report was written, it appears that the Blight will indeed be launched and we do not have identification of the people likely to do that, the bolts have been assembled and distributed and without knowing who each individual that has a crossbow and the bolts is and stopping them, there is no way to stop what is happening. The man who could is dead by his own hands. The daughter houses where the Brothers who are to launch the Blight are already taken out, but the people doing this are convinced that they are on a holy mission and that their lives are a penance for being able to touch Mana. I have Fellowship road crews and heavy equipment in Selnalion right now and I am hoping that you have changed your stance and will allow me to start work on the grade south and west out of Selnalion.”
“Who is paying for the work?”
“I am, from the budget for the road work that I have been doing all year.”
“That is a big job for somebody so young.”
“I was stuck with it. My brother is looking for a solution to the Blight and my father and mother are starting the harvest with the chaos of mixing two completely different technologies, including one that we have never used before.”
King Aestaeros managed to escape the people that had been talking with him and come over. “Hello Tarranth, I see that you are not wasting any time.”
“King Aestaeros, I apologize for just showing up like this, but time is the one thing that the family does not have right now.”
“Your father has said that. Why don’t you and my uncle find a corner and get things started. Donia can introduce Renna around. Uncle, Renna is a very good person to know for somebody in your business.”
“How so?”
“Her father cuts timber, a lot of timber.”
“Then I think that you are right about that. Young man, why don’t we see what we can do. I see that you have the Harper dedication already.”

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