The Darkmage has a visitor.
The Imperial Palace.
The Darkmage had taken up the habit of checking the progress of the mana flow for the Amplifiers before taking his rest in the evening. The progress had been slow, but steady, heading to the minimum of 80% that the Amplifiers would need to start up. The Darkmage had planned the actual startup at 85% to ensure that things would work correctly. He checked the progress and the mama flow has gone down to mere trickle and in fact the suppressor was draining the Amplifier’s hard won reserve slightly as the load was increased by a portal being used, something that had become almost continuous. If the mana flow was not restored and quickly, the entire project was doomed. He would have to deal with this in the morning. Troubled, he walked past the guard and up the stairs to his quarters. He opened the door and there was a white bear on the bed. “Hello cuddles. Why don’t you come over here and have Snuggles keep you all warm?”
The Darkmage looked at the apparition, turned around and ran back down the hallway and down the stairs. “Guard! There is a bear in my quarters!”
The guard raced upstairs and into the Darkmage’s quarters, only to stop. He turned and said, “Milord, there is no bear there.”
The guard from the back staircase came, looked and nodded his head.
“There must be!” The Darkmage looked and there was no bear. He turned to the guards and said, “Stand here in the hall this evening.”
The Darkmage did not sleep very well that night.
Snuggles slipped out the door that a smiling Kevnik held open. She disappeared into the crowd at the carnival and through the portal. The carnival looked fun and she would have to come another time.
Marneg looked at the pair that came through the door and mused that when you worked for Beinans, life was never dull. The elf in mage’s robe and the young lady with the look of a Bienan approached and the young lady said, “I’m Kaylessa Beinan, this is Mage Wyrran and we would like to speak to Licient.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“We couldn’t really make one as we haven’t wanted to install a telephone at our little hideout. Or rather we could get away with installing telegraph, but RTT and FWS haven’t wrung out an agreement for phone service across the border and FWS won’t hook up a line.”
“Let me call up, Miss Beinan.”
Marneg dialed Licient’s number and said, “Mrs. Galat, I have a Miss Beinan and a Mage here that want to talk to you about something.”
“Send them up.”
“Ok, will do. Miss Beinan, you want the 25th floor. The elevator will take you up.”
Kaylessa and Wyrran went to the elevator and the operator said, “What floor?”
“Twenty Five, young sir,” Kaylessa said.
The elevator rose up the building and when it reached the floor, the operator said, “25th floor, residence of the office manager. Please don’t think that she is a dragon to be slain, mage. She signs our checks. Will you be long?”
“I’m not sure, why?”
“If you were only going to be a short time I would hold the elevator for you, Miss Beinan.”
“Go ahead, young sir,” Kaylessa said. “We will call for an elevator when we need it.”
Wyrran grinned and said, “Your last name has magic affects.”
“Why thank you, Mage Wyrran. My family must be good for something. I think that this is Licient.”
A woman was waiting for them and said, “Miss Beinan, Mage Wyrran, what brings you to our office today? I am Licient Galat.”
“Mrs. Galat, it is nice to meet you at last,” Kaylessa said. “Rebecca has said good things about you. What we are looking for is to see if two exiles work for the company and where they work currently.”
“May I ask why,”
“We want to keep this discreet,” Wyrran said, “but they shared a lab with me at the Academy and were working on things related to something that has become a rather large issue for the company and quite a few people.”
“Yes. My specialty is portals, but there were two mages that shared the lab with me in the Academy that were looking at the sort of things that the supressors did and were later exiled. Adiun said that the company practice was to hire such exiles off the boat when they showed up.”
“How long ago?”
“About twenty to twenty five years ago. I am not sure when the exact dates of exile were.”
“What are their names?”
“Cornaith Binorin and Guillis Qikian.”
“That was easy. Of course you must not have caught up with Terry and Starflower, who were looking into that for you. Mr. Binorin heads radio R&D for Kaylessa’s grandfather. Guillis is here, working with his team on underwater detection devices for the navy. His shop is in Fayspire.”
“I suspect that Terry and I have been going past each other,” Wyrran said. “I have been doing some related things and taking advantage of the portals being restored to look for the last suppressor. We haven’t found it yet.
“Why do underwater research in Fayspire?” Kaylessa asked.
“Because the space was available and certain things were easier to do there. The salt flats are not that far away and corrosion is a big deal with the navy. There is also a large salt water lake for testing that the Republic can’t poke into.”
“I see. Wyrran, why don’t you see your friend in Fayspire after talking to Yrvien.”
“Because Halamar is in the Empire right now, the Dragonmaster is plotting with Mrs. Steelmaker and Admiral Harper in the Hidden City and neither you nor I have the clout to go directly to the Consul’s office and take your friend off his current contract. I, on the other hand, need to go talk to my brother about peeling one of his top people away, along with his whole shop and get them working on this. That is not going to be easy. So, I go to Kugrim and catch the boat while you talk to Yrvien, have the Dragonmaster’s office reassign your friend and get him started. The good thing about that is that he right where we need him already. Licient, Dad will be by to talk to Uncle Jandar abou the arrangements and the money. That won’t be an issue and I will tell my brother that dad and and Uncle Folmon said that this has the highest priority.”
“There is your Uncle Jandar now,” Licient said.
Jandar had left his office with some staff and spotted Kaylessa. “Kaylessa, this must be Mage Wyrran. Why are you here?”
“I thought they were just looking for some of our people,” Licient said. “Instead they are looking to disrupt the company, change contracts and move some senior people around.”
“Kaylessa, now why would you do that?”
“Wyrran, tell him.”
“Lord Beinan, I am Mage Wyrran and Adiun has given me the mandate to find and shutdown the suppressors. I knew some mages that shared the lab with me long ago at the academy that were working on things related to the suppressors. I came here to see if they worked for the company and they do, in senior roles. Adiun and Folmon have said that the supressors have priority, as has Halamar. Kaylessa is the one shaking up the company in any case.”
“She knows how to do that. How did you get involved with her and the suppressors? It’s lunch time and I suspect that there is a very good story there, so why don’t I take you and Kaylessa to lunch.”
“I want to make arrangements to go to the Republic,” Kaylessa said.
“The ship leaves tomorrow anyway,” Licient said. “I will have the travel office book a cabin and then we can go to lunch. You can take the overnight train to Kugrim. I imagine that you have all sorts of stories about the clowns responsible for things in the Empire.”
“Enough to keep us in back for a year,” Kaylessa said.
The Qinvaris Market.
Snuggles emerged from the portal to a circle of grinning admirers. Shael looked at her and said, “He didn’t want to cuddle, did he?”
Snuggles had huge smile as she said, “I don’t know why not. He was skinny and must have been cold. He just turned and ran.”
Richard and Vinny emerged from the portal, followed by Rosaniya, Rebecca, Folmon and Esgalwathanar. He looked at Tarranth, Snuggles and the rest of the laughing crowd and said, “Tarranth, this has you all over it.”
“Not me, dad. Peri and I can’t take credit for it. That was Jorge, Shael’s and Snowball’s idea, with Snuggles.”
“Why did you all do that?”
“I started it by restoring the portal in Grimfrost, Lord Qinvaris” Jorge said. “Iezzen and I crashed the airplane and met Shael and Snowball, who talked to Snuggles. I talked to Peri and Dessielle and another friend who works in the palace to arrange Snuggle’s exit and Tarranth and Renna helped arrange the market part so that Snuggles wouldn’t cause a fuss when she left if she had to keep running. Since the Darkmage didn’t have any guards upstairs and the way to the little door was clear before the guard in back could get there, the only one who saw Snuggles was the Darkmage.”
“How did the lady here get into the Darkmage’s quarters in the first place?”
“One way portal. We’ve been using that one way portal for the Camp and other places for moons now and just about all the boys and girls at the Portal Service know how to set them up and have the code for them on their keys. So that part was easy.”
“The palace is shielded.”
“So was the Fortress. We cracked that and the palace needs to have its shields renewed. I was able to get an exit without any trouble at all.”
“I want to buy you all dinner at the inn here. Young man, you do realize that you have done a very good thing tonight.”
“Driving the Darkmage crazy, or even better, making him look crazy, is a very good thing. Since he and your friend were the only people that actually saw the lady here, he will have a hard time making people believe that she was there.”
“So we can’t send more stuff,” Jorge asked.
“I imagine that Tarranth here and Peri can help with that. I, of course, know nothing about strange apparitions in the back upstairs palace hall. Tarranth or Peri, you may want to see if you can find Prince Ralnor. I imagine that he has some ideas on how to create strange things in that hall. Peri, I imagine that your relatives will be very interested in this.”
Peri grinned. “Yes they will. It’s not as if the Darkmage has not been warned.”
Victor had been concerned that the tunnel would be blocked, even though he was fairly sure that the monsters had used it. Instead, when the tunnel had been investigated, it had proven to be in very good condition for something that had been left for centuries. The road on the other side was a different story, as it emerged from the tunnel into a cut that was filled with fallen rock. Fortunately, Victor had a solution for that, that being a bulldozer, power shovel and explosives. Make the big rocks into little rocks and haul them back through the tunnel. While that was going on, Victor and his team pushed ahead down the ruined road, following the path that the monster army had taken in the other direction. The road went down hill to where it joined a river, some parts ruined by floods. The group went up the hill to get around the damaged section and as they reached the top, in the distance was a huge mountainous building, reaching to the sky and miles across on its base. The sun reflected acoss the black walls of the structure and the shine of miles of windows. Timber took one look at it and said, “That is amazing.”
Victor looked at the structure and said, “Yes it is.”
He took out a crystal and took a picture. “Tarranth’s numbers may be off, just a bit.”
“Should we look into it?”
“Not right now. I want to have better support. We have already seen armies come, probably from that place or nearby. We will want to check this place out, though.”
Keerla was in the dome again. She loved looking out over the hills and Mountains far from the Sanctuary. She had a dream of going far outside the Sanctuary, but that was unlikely to happen as only the Protectors and now the army were allowed outside the shield. The Shield protected the Sanctuary and the people living there from the mana drain of the corrupt. Soon the time would come that the Darkmage would strike at the corrupt and defeat them. The Project had started, most of the Protectors and the Army had gone and Keerla had been left alone by her father, who was leading the army as it supported the Darkmage and his efforts, sweeping across the ruined and corrupt Empire to restore what was. Keerla saw a movement on the path that the Protectors had gone. Perhaps they were returning! She focused in with the crystal on the movment and instead of the Protectors, it was a strange group of men on horses. They were looking at the Santuary! Somehow the Protectors had let that happen. As she watched them, Kast suddenly said, “Mistress, your mother will be looking for you.”
She turned to look at Kast and said, “Is it that time already?”
Kast Kerleu looked at his mistress and sighed. “Not quite, mistress. We could stay a bit longer and use the quick tube, but then your mother would know where you have been. If we use the stairs, I can tell her that you were taking a constitutional.”
“Before we go, take a look at this.”
“What is it, Mistress?”
“Riders, and I have never seen any that look like that.”
Kast looked and the riders were all the kind of mixed bloods that would be Protectors, but none of them looked like they were part of the Sanctuary. “I would not know, mistress. Would you like me to discuss this with the librarians?”
“Copy the crystal and do that. Be discreet about it as always. We don’t want to disturb mother, now, do we?”
Kast smiled. “No we do not. Why don’t we go and you attend to your mother and your tutors while I make a discreet trip to the librarians.”