The Darkmage Conquers, Chapter 16

The Darkmage had a problem convincing people that he had a guest.

Chapter 16.
The Imperial Palace.
After he broke his fast, the Darkmage went to find his sons. When he found Stormfire, he screamed, “How did you let that bear in the palace!”
“What bear?”
“There was a white bear in my quarters!”
“I haven’t heard about any bears. Why don’t we investigate with Lady Zylmyar and see if there has been any animal brought into the palace that escaped.”
The Darkmage followed Stormfire to Lady Zylmyar’s office where she was getting the overnight brief before joining the Conclave. Stormfire said, “Lady Zylmyar, my father apparently found a bear in his apartments last evening. Have there been any incidents involving animals here in the palace?”
“A bear? The empress won’t allow her grandchildren to have any large pets here in the palace. Out on the estates it is a different matter. What color was the bear?”
“White!” the Darkmage snapped.
“Then the bear would have to come from Grimfrost and there was no mention of Lord Biqen bringing a bear with him. Myriil, did anybody see a white bear?”
“Not last night, milady. There were no reports of a bear at all.”
“Father, could you have been having a nightmare?” Stormfire asked.
“I would have to have been in the bed, with the talking bear!”
“The bear was talking?” Lady Zylmyar asked. “Did you talk about any fae in the Hall with your guards?”
“There was nobody in the hall. Stormfire, you will increase the guard at night. Milady, you will investigate. I need to talk with my other son.”
The Darkmage left and Stormfire said, “I apologize for that, somewhat.”
“If the suppressors were not active, I would point him at the fae,” Haramara said. “There are some bears from Grimfrost who talk, but the portal is probably still out up there and since they can’t Jump, getting in would not be easy. On the other hand, I would tell your father to be careful about talking about things that only he saw in those quarters.”
Stormfire left and Myriil said, “Do you want me to ask Lord Biqen if he has any bears here in the capital? His head cook is a bear and she comes down about this time of year.”
“Do some quiet investigating, would you? Getting a bear in here is a pretty serious security breach and if the four terrors hear about it, we will be dealing with all sorts of things.”
“If somebody did pull something off on the clown, I wish that they had told me, so I could watch. Of course considering who the clown pissed off, he shouldn’t be surprised if things start appearing in his quarters and other places.”
“You don’t think that the Portal Service was responsible, do you?”
“I don’t know what to think, but Adiun Beinan is probably pretty pissed, has a bunch of fae working for him and all sorts of things that he can do with portals. If it isn’t fae Jumping, there are very few people that could pull something like that off and they all point to portals. Of course the Darkmage is under a lot of strain and could have been seeing things.”
“I need to get to the Conclave, so keep me updated.”
“Will do, milady.”
The Darkmage found Herdir and said, “We have a problem.”
“What?”
“The mana source for the Amplifiers cut out yesterday.”
“That shouldn’t be possible. Somebody keyed to the source would have to go there and close it. That is quite a journey from even the nearest portal and both Zanis and Onvyr are here.”
“Was Onvyr here yesterday?”
“Yes, he was. In any case he doesn’t even know that he is a key. Zanis knows somewhat, but he would hardly damage the project like this.”
“We may need to send Zanis to unlock the source again.”
“That will not be easy. If he goes, he will be in enemy territory as all of the portals at the Camp are still dead.”
“Let us talk to Zanis about this.”
Artamo found Gander as he was exiting the Conclave for lunch and said “The Embassy says that you wanted to talk to me.”
“Yes, I do or rather I want to ask your permission to send some people to your father in law.”
“What about?”
“His neighbor.”
“What about them?”
“That winery has turned about to be rather interesting, not for what it did lately, but for what it may have done in the past.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to say, but I want some help for the people I send from people that know that winery and maybe the changes made to it.”
“Why would there be changes?”
“Because the way something was made was changed by things made overseas.”
“The winery is part of House Trahorn. Do you want to talk to Niossae about things?”
“Not quite yet. It is likely that there is a House tragedy involved as well as some other things and I don’t want to reveal too much to the wrong parties. If it appears that I am investigating some matter for the fae, that will be seen as certain parties as me doing something that does not involve them, as does investigating the Blight and some other things.”
“I will write a letter of introduction.”
“Good. May I invite you and Moonflower to dinner at my home in two days? Alissa and the children want to meet you.”
“I think we can do that.”
“Robin and Calladia will be there as well.”
“Robin is here?”
“Robin and Calladia have had some issues getting to the Lower City and Robin needs to discuss some things with you without it being obvious that he has returned.”
“From the Republic. That is not hard to imagine.”
“Actually, they could Jump to Robin’s kingdom. The problem was that all the portals near the kingdom had not been restored. The Portal Service boys got to the area and powered them up again. So, Robin can talk to you, his new boss.”
“I didn’t ask for the job.”
“That happens. At least you didn’t take Paeris Zyvlyre’s low class, one way cruise service and get drafted by your Great Aunt.”
“Is that how you got your job?”
“Yes. The good part of the current situation is that the small portals don’t work and my great aunt has to be seen to be here, so she and my grandmother can’t just meet together.”
Artamo laughed. “I look forward to the dinner.”
Fayspire.
Wyrran turned to Terry and said, “I’m glad that I caught up with you at last.”
“We’ve been going around each other, haven’t we?”
“Yes we have. Thank you for tracking my old lab partners down and talking with Guillis. I think that taking this to him cold would not have ended well, even if I did have permission from the navy to set aside his work.”
“How did you manage that?”
“The Dragonmaster’s office manager after Yrvien called her. The magic word around the Fellowship has become, “suppressor”, so I can draw on all sorts of resources now.”
“Yes you can,” Yrvien said.
“I’m not sure how it ended up that way. Somehow, I went from working in the Portal Service as my mage assignment to I’m not sure who I’m working for.”
“Welcome to the family. That does happen. Don’t worry, we have good people to figure that out. In any case, you have the hot potato right now and the famly needs you doing this. Adiun can handle the Portal Service boys.”
“Here we are,” Terry said.
Terry parked the car and they went inside the rather modern building. An elf in a suit was waiting beside the desk and said, “Wyrran, you don’t look changed a bit. How did you get the clout to do what you did?”
“That was an accident, Guillis. I was in the right place at the wrong time.”
“And now, you are my boss.”
“I didn’t arrange that.”
“I know. Where have you been all these years?”
“Zanis Zylvre dragged me off and compelled me so that I wouldn’t leave. I spent the time over there in the empty lands digging up portals and other things and repairing the portals. Adiun Beinan returned to the Empire and started to reconnect the portals that Zanis’s associates disconnected. Ilthuryn Grevaris insisted that I march out and disconnect the portals that Adiun had reconnected and Adiun trapped me, sent me to the Grand Master for reassignment and the Grand Master sent me right back to the Portal Service where I am probably taking over the shop. Of course the clowns set the supressors off and that started another series of problems.”
“Yes they have. What have you been able to put together so far? I have hardly been able to do anything along those lines since I was exiled and my class notes and other work were taken by the Mage Academy to keep the Inquisition’s sticky fingers off of them.”
“We can get those,” Terry said. “Plus any other things you need from the House or the Academy.”
“The Academy would just let you have them?”
“We have ways,” Terry said, mysteriously.”
“Don’t make a big deal about it, Terry,” Wyrran said. “Guillis, when we realized that the Darkmage was going to do what he did, the Academy library was moved to the Imperial archives and I have an achivist on staff, looking into things already. So getting the material from the Academy is not an issue.”
“The Imperial Archives? Other than a small one in the palace, they disappeared.”
“They were found by an intrepid fae prince who makes a practice of digging such things up. Why don’t we go over what we have and make some arrangements for space? I want to move the suppressor work here, because where we were doing it needs to be kept secure and if we keep increasing the traffic in and out, the Darkmage may get suspicious.”
“What about a portal?”
“We can move one here and probably will. There is one right across the border at Innshys already.”
“Where is Innshys? I keep hearing about the place.”
“Across the border,” Yrvien said. “It’s a small place where interesting connections tend to happen.”
The Tunnel.
Adiun had spent quite a bit of time looking at the large ruined portal and had then taken the short truck ride through the tunnel. The snow and cold were starting to make an impact as the fallen rocks that had been removed from the cut were now being used to repair the road where it had been washed out. The truck stopped and Adiun joined Victor as he was looking at the mountainous building in the distance from a camoflauged blind that he and his team had built. As Adiun entered the blind, Victor said, “I see you came up.”
“Folmon wanted me to. Have you tried to get close?”
“Not yet. I don’t want to trip them off and have another fight in the Timberlands. We can retreat to the tunnel if we have to.”
“Any sign of monsters?”
“Not really. In the distance, close to that place. Between one thing and another, their mage and monster supply must be pretty low.”
“Why are you repairing the road?”
“Uncle Vesryn wants to be able to move timber from here in the spring. He figures that if the people over there send another army, we’ll just squash it and if they send somebody to talk, he wants the timber anyway and will say so. If there are some trade possibilities we will want the road anyway.”
“That makes sense. Will you want a portal?”

“At some point. I don’t want to just leave one here and it will take some time to build up a place that needs one. If things change, Uncle Vesryn will let you know. By the way, you can have that big portal if you want it.”
“I may. I may want to take it apart, if nothing else. The shell and field coils are broken, but that could possibly be fixed. The power draw is something that concerns me. Do you think that the people over there have seen you?”
“Considering what they sent to us, I would want people over here looking. They haven’t. We will keep an eye on them.”
“I’m glad I came to see this. When we get the suppressors shut down, we can look into that place.”
The Sanctuary.
Keerla was back in the dome. She had managed to steal a bit of time every day and watch the strangers. The strangers had set up behind some fallen trees and branches that they had moved to create a hide. If somebody had not known that they were there, the thing would have been hidden. Kast had gone to the librarians and other than saying that there was an old Imperial road, a tunnel and that House Shahana now owned the Timberlands across the mountain, there was very little that they knew. They did say that there was an old Imperial mana well and a faery community there that had been related to the Shahana and the Vestina. So what she was seeing were the Vestina or Shahana. If course, since mages and Protectors had gone through the tunnel to help the allied Ravathyra and the Dakrmage secure the mana well, she wondered what had happened. Since very little seemed to be happening, she scanned around and there was a troop of cavalry approaching! The army must have won!
Kast coughed and said, “Mistress, it is time.”
“Very well. We must tell mother that a troop is returning. The army must have won its fight and the Empire is being returned to what it was. I see a cavalry troop returning.”
Horsecaptain Belanor Iliwynn sighed as he saw the Sanctuary in the distance. The sentries had waved him past, not knowing what that meant. He and his troop entered the camp that trained the army under the shadow of the Sanctuary and dismounted. He handed his horse’s reins over to the sergeant and headed to headquarters. Colonel Ensys came out and called out, “What news! Has the army done well?”
Belanor sighed and pulled out the army’s banner. “The army was defeated.”
“How?”
“I haven’t looked at the crystal. Apparently quickly and easily. A major from House Glynynore gave me the banner and the crystal. Here is the crystal.”
The horsecaptain handed the crystal to the colonel. The colonel looked at the Horsecaptain and said “Why did you leave your post?”
“Because the major was certain that he could deal with me, came from the north and not the south and I felt that since the army had been defeated, that news needed to be brought here before the enemy got here.”
“Do you think that they will come?”
“I don’t know, but the major mentioned prisoners and demands for compensation. My people have not had any reports at all and no messengers were sent. The enemy has strange flying machines and almost certainly knew that the army was coming. We received no word of the eastern army before I was detached and as I said, no messages were sent.”
“Why don’t we watch the crystal and make up a report?”
They did and the entire thing was frightening. The Colonel said, “The real thing is a lot different from the games or training. The general tried, but he was just not prepared for the shocks, one right after another. Did you encounter those flying machines?”
“Smaller machines, that were relatively harmless. Nothing like those things. The machines that I saw were unexpected, but other than some probable accidents, not that dangerous.”
“The rest of it?”
“All of that was a surprise.”
“The troops on the other side do not seem to be wearing Imperial uniforms.”
“I don’t know what was going on there. As I said, until this crystal was handed to me, there had been no reports whatsoever. If this crystal was not handed to me, we would know nothing until the enemy showed up at our doorstep.”
“They may already be here.”
What do you mean?”
“There has been some activity to the east along the old Imperial road. Without cavalry, I haven’t wanted to risk exposure. Once we make our report to the High Lord, I want you and some Protectors to look into them.”
“We sent a fairly significant force of Protectors and mages through the tunnel. Did they not return?”
“Nothing has returned or sent messages. We knew that the small portals would be down for a time as part of the project. They have been down longer than we anticipated. Let us make out report to the High Lord and the council.”
The Colonel and the Horsecaptain went to the quicktube station and entered the waiting tube car. The quick tube deposited them near the High Lord’s quarters and they passed the stationed guards, who saluted them as they passed. The High Lord’s Chambelain saw them approach into the office and asked “Is there news?”
“The army has apparently been defeated,” the Horsecaptain said.
“Are you sure?”
“A House Glynynore cavalry officer handed me the Army’s banner and a crystal showing the House Qinvaris Militia general asking for our army’s surrender. When the army did not surrender, it was crushed in a twentieth using unknown weapons and superior tactics.”
“The Empire is weak and corrupt. That is why the army was sent. What about the Eastern Corps, that was supposed to meet with our Ravathrya allies and sweep to the capital.”
“I do not know. There were no messengers sent from either army. The only reason that I have that crystal is that the enemy wanted me off the road.”
“You left your post?”
“There was nothing to leave and I felt that getting the news of the army’s defeat was more important than dying to hold a position that no longer meant anything.”
“The army could not have been defeated that easily. The general was the best ever at the games. I enjoyed watching his battles and the adroitness that he used to maneuver his forces.”
“View the crystal and judge for yourself.”
The colonel placed the crystal and activated it. Khatar Presydark looked at the entire thing and the rather shocking conclusion. He turned to the officers and said, “That can’t be real.”
“I have the army’s banner, which was handed to me by the enemy,” the Horsecaptain replied. “It even had the holes you can see here. The crystal is real.”
“I will take this to Lord Durhir. Wait here.”
The Chamberlain went to the High Lord’s chambers and went inside. Durhir looked at him and growled, “What is it, Khatar?”
“The Horsecaptain has returned with a rather disturbing crystal. Apparently the army has been destroyed.”
“Destroyed? Forty thousand men and our greatest general, destroyed?”
“I saw the crystal myself and that is the only way to describe it.”
“How?”
“See for yourself.”
Khatar started the crystal and the thing played out to the end. The High Lord looked at Khatar and said, “That general held a high degree of confidence about what was going to happen.”
“He was apparently correct. At first I did not believe that the crystal was real.”
“We have received no word from my father. The small portals still do not function. My father did not provide any intelligence about armies that were that capable. The Empire was supposed to be struck by the Blight, shattered and the Imperial Army dispersed and shattered with the portals in our hands. Yet this capable army was assembled, with weapons that we knew nothing about and placed, apparently without our army’s even knowing that it was there, right where it could inflict the most damage and maneuver to destroy our army. What about the Protectors at the coast or the eastern corps?”
“I do not know.”
“My Father, my brother and sisters were supposed to send me a true picture of the Empire before things were launched.” Durhir put his head in his hands. “Go.”
“What do I tell the Colonel and the Horsecaptain?”
“Tell them to return to duty. Thank them for bringing this to me. I can’t even have a discussion about this with father. This was a disaster and he had me send my people in blind. We will probably have our enemies on our doorstep all too soon.”
“Your father must be doing something. The supressors are still on.”
“We can’t even turn them off since none of them are here.”
“There are those strangers to the east. Should I look into them?”
“Maybe you should see what they want. If nothing else, they can tell us something. Unlike my father, who has told us nothing.”

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