Paeris Triumphant, Chapter 33-34

Sarya has a visitor. Wyrran and Kaylessa visit the Grand master.

Chapter 33.
House Ravathyra.
Erlan looked up as Glynnii entered the office. “The Emperor is dead and Ralnor, my dear half brother, has been revealed as fae.”
“I have had word of that. So what do we do now?”
“I need to have words with my brother and we will need to forward certain things in the coming Conclave of Houses. I’m not sure why they are even bothering, but we can take advantage.”
“What if your brother resists?”
“I think that we can make it clear that if he causes trouble, we will use other means. We may have to make our point a bit, so if the Master could demonstrate that he can, that will help things along. We have the perfect target.”
“Are you sure? I don’t have the resources to enter a conflict directly with Richard and I don’t think that the Master and his father are ready to go into open conflict.”
“We can at least exclude him from the Conclave of Houses since he is not an elf.”
“He is over the half elf that is the typical standard for that, since his mother is an exile and there is probably elven blood in his family going further back. In any case excluding him or even trying to, has a risk.”
“What is that?”
“The purpose of the Conclave is to allow those Houses that pay the tax to have a say in the significant affairs of the Empire. That is why the Conclave chooses the Emperor or votes to declare war on other nations. That has been diluted somewhat, but if Richard is excluded, by law, he is free to renounce payment of taxes.”
“We can change the law.”
“Not without a vote from the Conclave. The law goes back to the beginnings of the Empire. The definition of a Great House is that they pay their tax and have a seat in the Conclave. Most Great Houses go to great lengths to pay and maintain that status and if the House recovers, they pay their tax again. The Beinans are a case in point.”
“There is another family that should get our attention. Along with the Yllanans and the Shahana. In any case, I will talk with Thalia and my mother about arranging things for the Conclave.”
“The House is going to be short of funds.”
“Ask your friends in the Empty Lands. Because being able to show that we can arrange to have those things as the Conclave goes on will be important. I must go.”
She left again and Erlan started to get a headache. She had a point, but where the moneys were going to come from was a mystery.
The Hidden City.
Sarya had a surprise as she sat down to eat lunch with Albert. A very healthy and capable looking man in a full Justiciar’s tunic appeared with an elegant looking elven lady, Myrdin, Maylin and three other children. She realized that the man was her grandson, Gander as he approached and said, “Hello grandmother. I heard that you were here and decided to port down with the family.”
“This is a surprise. I would think that you would be busy investigating the Emperor’s death.”
“There really wasn’t much to investigate since we caught the mages red handed.”
“I’ve met Myrdin and Maylin already. Who are the rest of your wonderful family?”
“This is my wife Allissa and Sarya, Traelion and Avishera. Kids, this is my Grandfather and grandmother, Albert and Sarya Steelmaker. They are visiting from the Republic.”
“It is nice to meet you at last,” Alissa said. “We were planning to take the kids for a trip to the Republic in Green earlier this year and events intervened.”
“I heard” Sarya said. “You also have been sending those wonderful letters to my daughter and they have been passed around. The Lower City must be quite a place, though Gander, I am a bit surprised that you haven’t moved to the either your wife’s House or yours once you were raised to full Justiciar.”
“I don’t have a House,” Gander said.
“You certainly do. Since my brother was exiled to the dwarf kingdoms and I to the Republic and my parents are dead, the House is there, if my brother didn’t sell it. Since I would have been asked if he had, I doubt that the House is sold.”
“Father doesn’t live in the upper city either,” Alissa said. “Frankly, at this point, it works better for Gander to live in the Lower City as he and my father are approachable and they can be reached quickly from the portal if a crisis emerges. The bad part of that is that when something bad happens in the Lower City, they come to my father or Gander rather than Alen.”
“Do bad things happen in the Lower City?” Albert asked Myrdin with a bit of a grin.
“There was the spider lady,” Myrdin said. “She was feeding off slaves on the street. Tony and the guard, along with Mrs. Nightmantle fixed her up and she hasn’t come back. We also had the Richflight gang trying to take kids. But they were chased out of town. The Ravathrya tried to buy Mrs. Beinan and went after Mrs. Nightmantle. That was just stupid and the Ravathrya were sent to Grimfrost to cool off by Tony. Other than that, it’s the fae kids, but since I am with them a lot, I won’t tell you what they get up to in front of mom.”
“That is smart. You might get in trouble. I imagine a fae kids gang can get into all sorts of trouble.”
“They keep Alen and the guard on their toes,” Alissa said. “When it was just the kids from House Yllanan, it was bad enough. Unfortunately the word got out that the Lower City could be fun and I expect that the kids’ mothers in the faery kingdoms encouraged the kids to go to the school, so what was fifteen is now fifty, with most of the high fae kids in the city after school with the rest of the kids.”
The kids kept their great grandparents entertained through lunch and Albert took them on a tour of the city with Alissa as Gander said, “You probably want a detailed report about recent events, grandmother.”
“I would like to get a better feel for things from somebody that was there. I am surprised that the mages got away with what they did. You were never that careless and I know that Haramara certainly is not.”
“When the printers are done, you can have a copy of the report. I am having the report printed here for the Conclave of Houses.”
“You will be attending, I presume.”
“Kelvahn is insisting as my service gives me a Seat. I tried to argue that since I was paid by the Justiciary, that it didn’t count. Kelvahn pointed out that Traelion is also paid by the Justiciary and has a Seat. So I was stuck.”
“Why does Traelion live in the Lower City?”
“That is a bit tricky. His House was brought low for the usual reasons, but he was relatively immune because he was a Justiciar Adjunct. Kelvahn gave him the gates as a way of making sure that he could stay in the Justiciars and he moved to a house in the Lower City and had Alissa. My aunt, after buying me and having me do the investigations, started to throw ladies at me and Allissa stuck to me. We shared blood, had a marriage agreement and the kids. I don’t think that either one of us thought very much about moving to the Cloud City. We have our rather unorthodox friends there and not living in state has its avantages, not least of which is not having to deal with evil mage ladies.”
“I’m not sure that I want to ask who that is.”
“Since her daughter and her boyfriend work for me now, I’m not going to say who it is.”
“The Empire has changed a lot since I was exiled.”
“That was the Ravathyra’s fault, actually. I am sure that they never intended what happened to happen, but they caused the changes. With their constant causing elves to be exiled and then raiding to bring the children back, they created churn. Even though the people they brought back were brought back as slaves, they didn’t stay there. Lord Qinvaris is a case in point. Within a year he was in charge of the largest farm in the Empire and ever since he has been making the farm bigger and changing farming as well as making food cheaper. Even slaves eat well now and that has had an impact. Many of my neighbors have done similar things and grown as a result. Benny Jessen has made a fortune providing quality bread to the Lower City, but legally, he is still a slave. Of course he is not seen in the Cloud City, but they buy his bread. The Beinans are another case in point, even though Rosaniya forced Rebecca into the House in the Cloud City. All of that because the Ravthrya did what they did.”
“What do you think is going to happen now?”
“The Blight was a failure for the Darkmage. It was launched haphazardly and played right into Richard’s strengths. But the Darkmage and the Ravathrya will have to make their move and they may succeed even without the turmoils. Richard stepped on a lot of toes and basically tore up the Proscriptions. That will annoy a lot of the Conclave members who may side with the Ravthrya out of spite. The knives will come out and the guild will be seeing requests for contracts. On the other hand, Richard has the family in the Republic behind him and I don’t think that the Ravathrya really understand what that all means. He also has very strong allies that have good reason to hate the Ravathrya and others who will not want things to return to the way they were. How the Darkmage will play things and what he wants is a bit of a mystery.”
“I am not going to say very much about that. The Darkmage and I have been adversaries for a very long time and he certainly knows what I am like. In a way our story is like that of the first mage war.”
“You spurned him.”
“Yes. At the time, it was because Prince Narbeth and I were close until I was exiled and then Albert rescued me. Would you believe that the Darkmage tracked me down in the Republic and tried to get me to marry him?”
“Narbeth told me about him and you.”
“So you are talking with him. That is a good thing.”
“He’s sent me on a bit of a wild goose chase looking into the relationships of one Mirthal Vamys, who had all sorts of interesting relationships other than the sick ones that ended with the guild killing him.”
“Why did somebody go after him?”
“He liked little boys and girls just a bit too much. The evidence was all over his apartment in the palace.”
“That explains it. You had a case like that during your Service.”
“Yes I did.”
“Did Narbeth know about the unlamented Mirthal?”
“That would be revealing a confidence in an open case.”
“That hasn’t changed about you. So what else have you found?”
“Since this is not an official case, yet, just things that I discovered, Emperor Theodemar had the symptoms of taking small amounts of Clear before he died. His father died of exhaustion fighting the last Blight, but the required autopsy was not conclusive. I have talked with some of the high guard that were there and still alive and the death may have been encouraged. Of course there were all those trumped up and convenient exiles at about the same time, your exile included. I suspect that if you wanted to return, your writ of exile could be examined. At least it would be if things were not in chaos at the moment.”
“That is interesting. Did Narbeth want you to discuss that with me?”
“Your office was involved and while Narbeth didn’t mention that to me, it was fairly obvious that I would have to talk to you at some point because of all the information that had come through your old office.”
“Have you talked with Mariona yet?”
“Should I? I had a case involving her daughter recently.”
“We shared that office and yes, you should, if only to know where the dark corners are.What are her other two children like? I have already met Sylvar. What happened to him by the way? I wasn’t sure.”
Gander smiled. “He and his sister liked to look into things in an abandoned Imperial research lab on their estate. The Master had stored some of the crossbow bolts that were supposed to launch the Blight about fifty years ago, but Maethanar had gone mad and the Brothers were not sent to launch the Blight, so the bolts stayed where they were, probably because the Master thought that leaving them would be easier than attracting attention by removing them. In any case, there they were, in boxes, and Sylvar knocked one of the boxes over by accident. His latent fae abilities Jumped him out of there and he was induced into what the fae called a lost child while he was healing. He thought that the transformation was a result of some left overs from the lab and since he thought that his parents wouldn’t love a monster, or more likely would come looking for him and pay him more attention, he remained a lost child more or less until his sister bonded with a royal fae, he was introduced to Kulgha Ironaxe, and Nimue came into his life. As for the other two, Evin and Eithriel are trying to recruit the girl and the other brother seems to be yet another of the high elf dandies. I am sure, from what the estate people have said, that the dandy is more than a bit of a front.”
“If he was brought up by Mariona, it is. I would talk with her. You can tell her that you discussed certain things with me.”
“I will, if only to discover where certain things are buried. I have been charged with investigating a very cold case. On the other hand, my office seems to have a talent for it and I think that Narbeth needs something on his relatives so that they can be taken care of, the ones that are not already in deep trouble, that is.”
“How did that happen? Gwaerengwen asked me if Paeris worked for me.”
Gander laughed. “I could see why she would ask that. Sending her up to the Sanctum caused a lot of rocks to flip over. One big one was the fact that Zanis had murdered a large part of a fae community up there. The Ravathyra tried to hide that, but with Gwen up there, the Sanctum had a lot of people looking in that area for her. Rolin couldn’t just dispose of Gwen because she was too well known up there in the Sanctum and if that was discovered the Regency Council would have destroyed the Ravathrya. In any case, the murder was discovered by Lord Shahana’s rather precocious son and reported to his father, who still owned the Sanctum and to Lord Qinvaris, House Yllanan and Princess Lelayme. Esgalwathanar went up there with a member of the Council of kings and shortly thereafter, I was sent up with a team to investigate. A crystal had been made of the entire thing and Zanis was clearly guilty.”
“Has he been executed yet?”
“Not as yet. He is hiding in that Camp in the Empty Lands and I can’t just go and get him.”
“Why did you let him loose?”
“Because we knew that he was part of something bigger and at that point, I had Adiun Beinan monitoring the portals and tracing them. So, when Zanis ran, Rolin ran and then Paeris ported directly to the same place, we knew where the hidden enemy was. Of course the enemy panicked, especially after Sollor Richflight compounded things by porting the girls right into the same place and attracting Richard’s attention. That was probably when the decision was made to launch the Blight. I will give you a copy of Lord Qinvaris’s report.”
“There is probably one already on the way, but thank you in any case. I will trade my file on the Darkmage for that.”
“That will be useful in the near future. He’s going to do something. I’m not sure why they were not ready, but launching the Blight and having it fail is going to force them to take action.”
“What do you think that Lord Qinvaris is going to do?”
“Ten years ago, Aymon Sarfaren decided that he could make some extra money by raiding House Qinvaris wagon trains and taking House Qinvaris slaves off their farms. Two five days later, Aymon Sarfaren committed suicide, the House was crushed and in deep debt with all of the House Qinvaris people compensated. I doubt that House Sarfaren will be at the Conclave.”
“Was this done by some sort of violence?”
“Actually it was done by manipulating House Sarfaren’s finances, some discreet drops of documents and some timely arrests of Lord Sararen’s bandits by Justiciar Sarrieth who discovered just where they were going to strike next.”
Sarya laughed. “So rather than blunt force, financial mauvering and some discreet use of people skilled in certain things was how he does things. Did he hire the guild for that?”
“He has his own specialists for things like that.”
“How did that happen?”
“I don’t know. You will have to ask Rosaniya about that, if she will tell you.”
“I hear that you had some fun in Dolmon earlier this year.”
“That was fun, but Grandfather and the kids are back, so why don’t I take you all to see the mermaids dancing and dinner.”

Chapter 34.
Folmon looked at the pieces in the back of the truck and said, “That is quite a find.”
“I know,” Wyrran said. “The question is what do we do with it?”
“I have a place. One thing is that you will be going back into the Empty lands. Take Andy’s boys and guns. I will have Halamar talk to the Dragonmaster about this. We want to keep things discreet, but if the Darkmage is playing around with large projectors, we want to make sure that he doesn’t have all the pieces.”
“What about the portal board?”
“We can’t do very much about that and the boys are patching portals as fast as they can. We have an advantage that we have you and they don’t. You know more about the Empty Lands than just about anybody. Talk to Aired and Tarron about what you find, get pictures of everything and if you can, haul it away.”
“Kaylessa said that I should talk to the Grand master about this and I am afraid that she is right.”
“I think so. If you didn’t have reason before, you do now. The last thing we want is another mage war and it looks as if the Darkmage is setting up to do just that.”
The Imperial Palace.
Narbeth was going over the list of seats in the Conclave when his mother and sister came into his office. He said to Galan, “I think that my mother and sister want to discuss something with me. We can return to this later.”
Galan looked at the ladies and said, “Yes milord.”
He left and Narbeth turned to his mother and said, “Mother, this is a surprise. I haven’t seen you in the palace in a long time.”
“There was no real need for me to return,” Empress Shaerra replied. “That has changed and I wanted to arrange some things with you, that list you have being a case in point. “How many seats is House Qinvaris going to have in the Conclave?”
“Seats? One, I think. Just as any other House does.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. I checked the tax roles and there is more than one House currently on Qinvaris land that has paid their tax. As many as twenty, in fact.”
“I assume that you are discussing estates that House Qinvaris owns outright. Certainly the estates that House Qinvaris leases are still part of their House. What are you looking to do, mother?”
“You have the power to deny seats. We want you to deny those Seats.”
“On what grounds?”
“That they are no longer landholders and thus no longer eligible.”
“That will leave empty Seats. Either you want them to remain empty or you have some scheme to fill them. It will not change things very much in any case. What is in this for me? There is no possibility of contention for the throne and the rest is just minor things like pardons and such.”
“They might not be minor if you had the sword of anathema hanging over your head, brother,” Glynnii said.
“The mages that have not returned for reassignment you mean? They have had ample opportunity to do so at this point. Frankly you haven’t offered me anything for this favor in any case. I wonder what I would get from Lord Qinvaris for maintaining the status quo? I am sure that he could offer something. In any case the eligibility is not based on landholdings, but on the payment of their tax.”
“They are employees of Richard!”
“As the Justiciars are employees of the crown. Sister, if you want something, you must bring something to the table. Something realistic and concrete that is.”
“We can help you after you take the throne.”
“How? Do the Ravathrya have a revenue source that will reduce the tax? Will they provide things that the crown needs? Will they feed the Empire? In any case, we can take it up at the next council meeting. If you can demonstrate massive support for denying the twenty Houses their seats, then I will reconsider. Of course that proposal will become public. I am amazed that you haven’t tried to come up with grounds to deny Lord Qinvaris his seat.”
Glynnii’s face got significantly red as she hissed, “Remember, brother who put you on the throne.”
“Are you sure that you want to go there, sister? As far as I know, according to Justiciars Dawkins and Zylmyar, Uncle was killed by mages sent by the Master. If you were involved in that in any way, and I was to believe that, I would be forced to take that fact to the Justiciars. You have always been the better plotter, sister. Surely you can do better than that. As I said, I will take your proposal to the council. Is there anything else?”
Glynnii blanched. Shaerra said, “There is no need to throw unsustantiated accusations out. What Glynnii was talking about was laying the groundwork for making it clear that Ralnor was too fae to eligible for the throne. As for Richard not being eligible for his Seat on the Conclave, we are a bit stuck, because if he doesn’t sit, he will not be obligated to pay his tax. On the other hand the loss of the twenty seats and some others that have eligibility issues, such as Lord Yllanan will be to our advantage.”
“Lord Yllanan is a full elf. That has never been in question.”
“His heir is fae. Royal fae, in fact.”
“The law doesn’t actually exclude the fae from having a Seat. In any case, young Periwinkle will not be sitting this time. So we can put that off for another time. Frankly, considering the state of the high houses and the families at present, playing games with eligibility will not end well. For instance, House Wysalynn’s heir is young Myrdin Dawkins and House Ravathrya has no heir at present. Many Houses are in similar straits. We can fight that fight mother, but unless you want to crush the tax base and create uncessary turmoil, the fight will be pointless. Consider that if Richard’s people are ineligible, Richard will withdraw from the Conclave and renounce the tax. Considering what happened when Richard spent some of his money earlier in the year, I don’t want to think what would happen if he took all his money and moved it elsewhere.”
“A slave shouldn’t have money,”Glynnii said. “We could make the point that Richard was a slave when he made most of that money and confiscate it.”
“Then the money was Rosaniya’s. The difference is rather immaterial.”
“There is another small matter,” Shaerra said. The Imperial House will need to entertain for the Conclave. For that we will need an increased in the House budget.”
“That I can authorize. That is your responsibility in any case. I would be careful about doing anything that would annoy Rosaniya in that case. If there is nothing else, Galan and I need to get the list done, so I will see you another time.”
The ladies left that angrily and Galan returned to the office as Narbeth pulled the crystal from the shelf behind his desk and changed it. “What did they want?”
“To deny seats to the Houses that Richard supports.”
“On what grounds?”
“That they are not landholders and do not have estates.”
“They pay tax. We checked that.The reason they don’t have estates is that they are part of House Qinvaris’s banking and management, as well as running things like the market. So they don’t need to maintain estates. This isn’t like it was before the turmoils where an estate was needed for revenue. For that matter there are other Houses in the same boat. Did they try the Richard was slave angle?”
“No, they didn’t use that one. Frankly, after all that has gone on, playing these games is stupid from their point of view.”
“Why did they want to in any case?”
“I suspect that they want to arrange pardons for Rolin and Zanis before moving ahead to the next step of their plan. I think that we will need more of these crystals.”
“Did they say anything that was actually treasonous?”
“Glynnii got very close to admitting that she was responsible for my uncle’s death. Shaerra glossed it over. Let’s get this done.”
The Mage Academy.
Wyrran and Kaylessa were escorted into the Grand Master’s office. He looked up as they were announced and said, “Wyrran, you have attracted a wonderful lady to yourself.”
“I am certain of that, master. What she sees in me is a bit of a mystery. It may be that she grew up with portals, so she doesn’t expect anything different.”
“I’m sure that she sees more than that in you. Kaylessa, your father and grandfather gave us an important gift. Very few remembered the portals of old, before the mage wars and even fewer were able to make a portal that works in these sorry times.” The Grand Master had a glimmer in his eyes as he continued, “So who are you two robbing?”
“Should I tell him, Wyrran?” Kaylessa asked with a grin. “I wouldn’t want to corrupt the Grand Master.”
“Tell him, Kaylessa. He almost certainly knows already.”
“We are robbing the Darkmage.”
“So he has surfaced again.”
“Apparently,” Wyrran said. “He had been looking for something in a book, according to some slaves that have been emancipated, found the book and recovered it. The book was one that Dan Qinvaris purchased with the rest of the store and was found in the books that were not gifted to his grandmother. The spider lady paid one of the Qinvaris’s people to recover it.”
“Of course my sister stole it back and covered up the fact that she did it by burning the Darkmage’s library down after cleaning it out,” Kaylessa said. “Do you have any idea the pressure that puts on me?”
Lyari laughed. “So you must rob the Darkmage or his associates of something and not be seen as doing it.”
“Yes, and it can’t be something small. One little thing won’t do. Of course there is one thing, but we have to find it first. The master control board for the portals. We’re working on that already, but taking the actual board without the Darkmage’s people knowing that we did it would be something that would top what my sister did.”
“That is an amusing speculation and other than introducing this wonderful lady, why did you come, Wyrran?”
“Kaylessa wanted to talk about the second mage war.”
“That is something that I, and most of the mages that survived do not like to talk about, especially since we lost that conflict. The Inquisition has taken steps to hide the war and to our, discredit we let them.”
“Kaylessa and I have been discussing the war. First of all because so few people know about it and second because of what the war hid. First of all, how did the Ravathrya end up with title to everything?”
“Because they pushed through an act that let them claim abandoned property at the Conclave after the thing was over. I was trying to put the Academy back together and come up with a code that would allow mages to be trusted. So I couldn’t exert the energy to block things like that. The people were dead and gone in any case.”
“Not all of them,” Kaylessa said. “I made the second mage war a class project and talked with survivors in the Republic. More were scattered in the islands or ended up in the bowers. A good portion of the Hidden City is made up from the descendents of survivors. How did it start?”
“I had sent some mages to investigate fish diseases when some dark mages torched a guard station at a way house from the same direction as the mages I sent. The guards fired projectors at the mages while they were attacked from behind by the darkmages. There were some other mages nearby and things escalated. A mage managed to escape to a portal and return to the Academy and rather than coming to me, called out that mages were under attack in the dining hall that was filled with mages. So, for the first few twentieths there was no organization, planning or even knowing what was going on. By the time I was able to port to a portal, things were in total chaos and the army had not arrived. We were fighting monsters, enhanced soldiers and the darkmages. The enemy did not hesitate to fake badges or uniforms and attack towns and estates that were not involved in any way. In the end, we were forced to retreat and then when we returned from our camp near where lady Amarille is living now, what we found was destruction, people forced to flee and the dark mages seemingly gone. The only places remaing were the fishing ports that are now the Retreat and some stone structures that were uninhabital. We had refugees heading to boats or through the Fellowship to ships to the Republic or over land to the Kingdom. The darkmages had placed a barrier on the road to the Empire.”
“I’ve seen the results of that,” Wyrran said. “One thing that has struck me is that while most buildings were destroyed, care was taken not to destroy any libraries. They were ransacked, but not burned or destroyed. It was if the Darkmage was looking for something and did not want to inadvertently destroy it. He was also digging up vaults recently.”
“He was looking for things long buried?”
“Yes. We had a bit of a run in with his people when we were poking around there the other day. I think that I will let your granddaughter tell you the story since she works with the Justiciars and won’t reveal things that I shouldn’t.”
Lyari laughed. “Evidence of nefarious activites that you were engaged in, I presume.”
“Not us,” Kaylessa said. “My cousin has permission to do whatever she wants until a certain case is resolved, so we can go into the Empty Lands even if the Ravathyra don’t like it. Why don’t we show the pictures that Wyrran and some others have taken from their expeditions.”
The Grand Master looked at the various pictures and said, “The Darkmage will not be pleased that you broke into that vault. He will want the contents. Wyrran, I am surprised that you haven’t turned them over to the Academy.”
“Uncle Folmon dealt with them,” Kaylessa replied. “He has something set up already with my father. I don’t know where it is for obvious reasons.”
“It looks as if Aymon and you are keeping the children entertained and learning, even the fae children. That is a good thing.”
“We are stealing those from the Darkmage as well.”

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