The Darkmage Conquers, Chapter 19

Gander’s Investigation continues

Chapter 19.
The Imperial Palace.
The Darkmage looked at the statue and grinned. Zanis must have opened the source again as the Amplifiers were heading back up slowly again. The Darkmage was not going to risk the source being closed again. When the mana store passed 80%, he was going activate the final part of the plan and make the past defeats irrelevant. He left the statue with a bit of a lift in his step. He found Herdir and said, “The supressors are storing again.”
“Zanis must have opened the source again. Hope that it stays open long enough.”
“It must. This has gone on long enough.”
“Even if things work out as we expect, things will be difficult. Once the Amplifiers are started, we will have to work quickly and we have no armies.”
“We will. Be prepared.”
Paeris found Erlan as he exited the Conclave for lunch and said, “There you are, uncle?”
“What do you want?”
“We have those things we obtained recently and I wanted to know what you wanted me to do with them.”
“Let’s go to a place I know and chat about that.”
Erlan led to Paeris to the nook where he frequently met with Glynnii and pulled a sheet of paper and a pen from the holder on the table. “What would you like for lunch, a sandwich or a salad?”
Erlan wrote down the orders and waved the servant over. The servant took the sheet of paper, nodded and went to make the lunches. Erlan said, “The servant here is deaf, so we can speak freely. So what did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to talk about the ledgers and the rest of it. I was wondering when you want them back.”
“As soon as it can be done discreetly. Why don’t you put them in a shipment to the House.”
“I can do that. I suspect that aunt needs to replenish the cellars and I will provide some vintages from the Fellowship that are quite good.”
“Do that. That will work out well and both Lielatha and Thalia were discussing the cellars with Nueleth and the cellars have been depleted by the ongoing Conclave.”
“That will work. How soon do you want the ledgers?”
“As soon as things can be arranged, as long as it can be arranged discreetly.”
“I will get to it, then.”

Gander was let into Narbeth’s office and Galan followed. The Emperor looked at him and said, “You must have something.”
“Quite a bit, actually. The interesting thing was that the unlamented Mirthal led to interesting places.”
“How so?”
“Mirthal was member of a little club of like minded people with similar habits and Paeris, who was rather disgusted by his fellow club members. They came to unpleasant ends in a series of incidents or rather dangerous behavior that was encouraged by friends of Paeris. The interesting thing was who started the collection for Mirthal and the contract with the guild.”
“Why is that interesting?”
“That was the tie to Theodamar and his death. I think I have most of the loose ends tied up and before I kick off the end of this, I wanted to coordinate with you.”
“Do you think that timing is important?”
“If I kick off the last two interviews, that will let your mother know in no uncertain terms that something is up. So far we have been able to keep things under wraps and I can pursue some things without kicking things over, but these two interviews are crucial.”
“How so?”
“We have built the rest of the case, but the last two interviews will nail down the lid.”
“Why don’t you time them for the last votes of the Conclave? When my sister is getting her little list voted on and mother and my sister are distracted, you should have a free hand and you can hand the thing over after the votes are finished.”
Gander grinned. “That will work.”
“I will say that you have been a pleasure to work with on this. You took even the thing with Mirthal seriously.”
“That was the interesting part. When we started to look into his past associations and the events surrounding the faery princess Begonia, as well as talking with the Great Captain and some other things I knew about, things cracked open. I need to make one more stop and I will have it all.”
“I look forward to the report.”
Gander left the Emperor’s office and Galan said. “Do you think that he has it?”
“I believe he does. Who started the collection for Mithal’s contract? I doubt that mother or dear sister would.”
“I will ask around, discreetly.”
“Gander mentioned that and there may be things involved there that were not obvious.”
Gander was patrolling the hall when he found what he was looking for, the lunch cart. The cart had two servers who took the trays into the various apartments and a senior servant, who checked things off the list. The servant looked at Gander and said, “What may I do for you, Justiciar?”
“The lists, what do you do with them?”
“I make up a list every day from the various resident’s preferences and orders from their staff. I file the lists and at the end of a five day, go through them and note the changes.”
“Are there files for the lists?”
“My grandfather started the files long ago. I have files going back to the last turmoils.”
“Including the late emperor?”
“Yes, I have the requirements for both of them, why?”
“Could I send some of my people to go into the lists?”
“You will have to talk to Lord Farthya. I would not want to violate the resident’s trust.”
“I will do that. Thank you.”
Gander went down the hall whistling a little ditty from the Clown of Villesbaskes.

The Hidden City.
Gwen laughed as Galassiel teased her husband, who was trying to look all official as he embarked passengers for the Republic. She turned to Strom, who was sitting at a table in the café with a stack of papers and said, she takes after her father.”
“Does she really?”
“Yes. While the marriage was loveless because I could not make him complete, there were certain things that I loved about the man. While he rarely showed it, he had a gift for mischief.”
“Is that why his sons and grandsons do things the way they do?”
“Yes. Of course that wasn’t helped by the faery kingdom next door. The bower was a bit more staid, at first. Watch out, by the way. I think that we have prowling granddaughters in the water and they are looking to get you wet.”
Strom put a shield over the work as they were hit by a spray of water. A voice from the water said, “Darn, she caught us.”
Gwen turned and said, “Good try, girls. Why don’t you go chase boys?”
“The boys we want haven’t come down from the Empire yet.”
“Go on Swims and enjoy the beaches then.”
“Yes grandmother.”
The gaggle disappeared into the water. Sarya came in and said, “I timed things perfectly.”
“Yes you did, if you were looking to stay dry. So what brings you my way?”
“I was hoping to ask you to allow me to use your assistant as a discreet contact with Dan Harper.”
“That shouldn’t be impossible. She and Robin are up in the Empire at present, working for the new fae ambassador.”
“I know about them, somewhat. They made a splash in Dolmon about this time last year and joined. What are they investigating?”
“From what Calladia has reported, by a rather circuituitous route, Robin was looking into a House that made Clear using some Brothers in a winery. Since I left the Embassy and the files behind, I’m not sure if it was the same winery involved with the Blight. Having monks run a winery in the Empire is a bit strange, but if they were making Clear, that makes certain things understandable.”
“Gander sent some people down to the Rebublic, including my grandson, Tom to look into Clear, among other things. Paeris Zylvyre was a supplier of certain things until Gander and Lady Trislana let Paeris know that providing such things would get him in trouble with his father. For quite a while, Paeris had quite a little business going.”
“That would have helped in the past.”
“He stopped some time ago. That was actually Gander’s first case. I had a report about it.”
“From Kenia?”
“I would rather not say, especially now. Have your communications improved?”
“Somewhat. At least messengers are going back and forth through the portal.”
“Excellent. How do things stand in regards to the supressors?”
“The Emperor can’t order them shutdown until the Conclave is over and even then has only limited authority, though the fact that the suppressors are causing the Blasted Lands and the fae so many problems makes the issue an international one. The Empire is not used to dealing with such things, but Lelayme is talking fairly regularly with Dan Harper, Prince Brouzen and Halamar Beinan, who are all still at the palace or offshore on Brouzen’s yacht. The Kings of Astaire and Dolmon are there as well.”
“That is good to hear. I hope that you have made it clear that my country and the other Blasted Lands countries will not tolerate any attempts to hold diplomats hostage.”
“I didn’t have to as some others made that point when things first started. Even the Darkmage balked at starting a war with the rest of the world right off the bat.”
Galassiel popped up and said, “Brendan is off again.”
“Do you miss him when he goes off like that?” Sarya asked.
“If he were on the Yllanan run, I would go with him. He’s acting as second mate on the liner to Chatsrey, so there isn’t really a space for me and I want to be here anyway. I’m a bit worried about father.”
“He may annoy the Darkmage. I imagine that the faery kingdoms are not happy about the suppressor and father does take things on himself.”
The Lower City.
Gander walked into the Xilkian’s glassworks. Jonik Xilkian spotted him as he entered and said, “Justiciar, here to have a set of glasses made for your promotion?”
“Not quite yet, Jonik. Alissa will probably want new all too soon as we are being forced to entertain more often.”
“Tell your lady to come to me and not try to go to the House. I will not pad the price. So what brings you by here this day?”
“Those vials you made for the Blight.”
“That was a foul mistake and I told the House so.”
“Was that the only time that you made such vials?”
“Not hardly. The rest couldn’t be used for the Blight, but they are used for other things.”
“Do you know what?”
“You would have to ask at the House, but I have seen similar vials used for medicines.”
“Thank you, Jonik. This has been a help.”
“What are you on the chase of this time? The spider monster is dead.”
“Yes she is. I can’t say, but you will probably discover all too soon.”
“If it is like your other cases, the tale will be entertaining. Tell Allissa to drop by and we will discuss patterns and prices.”
“I will do that.”
Gander made his way out of the warren of workshops and manufacturies that populated this part of the Lower City. He had the feeling that he was being tailed and he turned toward the casino. He wasn’t wearing his Justiciar’s tunic, but that didn’t matter here in the Lower City. As he passed a guard station, he waved in the familiar signal.
Elre Wynjeon had had his people pick up on the rather unusual Justiciar. The lady had asked that he look into the rather improbable Justiciar and so far, the man had just been puttering about the Lower City, running errands before his evening meal. At this point Elre wasn’t going to try to pick up the Justiciar and risk the backsplash from the Justiciary. Since he had a Seat, the Justiciar couldn’t be investigating anything in any case, let alone something that would pester the lady. She was just concerned that the Justiciar had been investigating the late Mirthal Vamys and that there were some loose ends that needed to be tied. The lady was careful to keep things tight and not allow any sloppyness. Mirthal had been a loose end for a long time and his bad habits and the scandal over the girl had been the perfect excuse. Then the prince had set the Justiciars to poking into the case supposedly in the belief that the unlamented Mirthal was innocent. As far as the Lady had heard, The Justiciar had treated the case as it deserved, but the Lady wanted to be sure. If the Justiciar was indeed picking at loose threads, it wouldn’t be the first time that Elre had made arrangements for an accident. He watched the Justiciar enter the casino.
Carl looked at Gander and said, “You aren’t allowed at the tables anymore, Justiciar, so why are you here?”
“Carl, I may have picked up some followers from the upper city.”
“Working for the clowns?”
“No, better than that. I may have attracted the attention of a lady at last and she’s sent her people to look into what I am up to. If you would let Tony know, I would be grateful.”
“Will do. Do you want these characters taught their manners?”
“Not at present. I think I know who they are and if I’m right, if the boss makes a move, I can take advantage. Frankly these people’s timing is off, because I already have almost all of what I need for the case and with the Conclave, I’m using my all too competent and loyal subordinates to do most of the work.”
“Ok, I will tell Tony. Are they after the kids again? Not that it will do them much good, as they are all in Elysahone.”
“I don’t think so. These people just want to take over. I have been asked to make sure that they can’t.”
“A little job like that then. That’s right up your alley.”
The Empty Lands.
Phaerille looked at the camp and then said, to Alyndra, “This has actually been fun.”
“I think that some people are coming. Dragons anyway.”
The dragons landed and transformed. The lady said, “Hi, I’m Yrvien Beinan and this is my friend Nathan. A friend told us that you two were looking for new opportunities.”
Berry and Stargazer came over and Stargazer said, “You must be our pickup. Wiz said that somebody from the Beinans would probably be handling it.”
“I was the dragon on the spot, my father is playing with his friends and high level diplomacy and I could get here easier than a GP, though that seems to be on the way as well.”
“It was two GP’s and a truck actually,” Nathan said. “They are bringing camp materials.”
“Where are you taking us,” Alyndra said.
“To a new life, Yrvien said. “ In the near term, to Kugrim and the Republic for the slaves. You four can go with them or we can make other arrangements.”
“What about our grandfather, or our mother?” Phaerille asked.
“Your mother is dead. Didn’t the Great Captain tell you?”
“He and us have been busy doing things and not together. What happened?”
“Your grandfather, in fit of pique, murdered the son of Delsanra Sarceran, Kailu Sarceran.”
“That was stupid,” Alyndra said. “Why did grandfather kill a mob boss?”
“So you know who Delsanra Sarceran is.”
“We were responsible for looking at the way the Empire worked. While we sometimes couldn’t get mother and the others to understand, we knew who certain people were. Kailu Sarceran was the gangster who ran the Portal Sevice.”
“Kailu ran the Portal Service, but he wasn’t connected to the rest of the family’s activities. He took on the Portal Service to keep the portals operating.”
“That makes what grandfather did even more stupid. Why did he do such a thing? Did Lord Sarceran attack him?”
“Your grandfather was looking for my uncle Adiun and MageWyrran as well as all the portals, tools and supplies that my uncle took with him.”
“Mage Wyrran works for the Portal Service? That probably made him happy. He used to go out into the Empty Lands looking for portals because our uncle and the other mages were demanding things from him and wouldn’t let him train people for the portals. Since the project was going to need the portals, we never understood why Uncle didn’t let Wyrran teach his classes. The only people that knew about portals were the fae that disappeared with him. Mother must have gone on a hunt and Lady Sarceran arranged for somebody to be prey and kill her. That almost happened earlier in the year.”
“I wouldn’t know. Here’s the truck and the rest. So be prepared to get going to a new life.”
Zanis was exhausted and covered in road dirt when the Camp finally appeared. The Camp seemed rather empty as he went to the portal House. A lady in a feathered cap said, “The portal is still dead, Mage Zanis. We will have to use the road portal.”
She mounted her horse and headed in that direction. Zanis and his squad followed and when the lady reached the portal she turned and said, go ahead, Mage Zanis.”
Zanis did and found himself in a cell. His squad had not followed him to the cell. A jailer appeared and Zanis snapped, “Where am I”
The jailer grinned and said, “The Hall of the Justiciars, Mage Zanis. Enjoy your stay with us.”
The Tunnel.
Khatar Presydark rode toward what had become a rather large and obvious camp with the Horsecaptain. The weather the last few days had prevented him from riding out to the strangers until now and this was the farthest that he had been from the Sanctuary since he had arrived, so it was with chills that did not come from the weather that he arrived at the Stranger’s camp. Some men came out for the Horsecaptain’s and his horses and he was waved into a tent where there were a half elf, a young half elf and a fae man. The half elf said, “You are here to negotiate, I presume.”
“I am Victor Shahana, this Tarranth Qinvaris and Timber from the fae community. I am here to negotiate for the rights to cut the timber in the region. Timber is the House’s chief forester and Tarranth wants to negotiate the return of the prisoners from the army and some concessions and compensation for the people lost during the raids by your armies.”
“The other things were not mentioned previously.”
“We understand. My House opened contact and Tarranth’s party had not arrived as yet.”
“What would you want?”
“That is an interesting question,” Tarranth said. “I doubt that you have a lot of boullion or coin here. We don’t want or need slaves and we hardly need grain you probably don’t have. What we may want is access to any history and a chance to go over that city in a building you have. We also want to run a telegraph station and keep a trading post nearby. Also, any monsters will be turned over so that they can be reverted and any slaves from the Blasted Lands turned over as well.”
“The Protectors? Why do you want those?”
“Because a lady friend of my mother’s wants all of them returned to their parents with their monsters removed if she can. She has a writ to that effect.”
“Without the Protectors, we would be essentially helpless.”
“Like the people of Leandell? That was the town your monster army ran into. Fortunately we got most of the people out, but we still lost two hundred people and my dad is not happy about that. The people in that town weren’t doing anything to hurt you or your city and you sent those things without any demands, writs or any attempt to negotiate. As far as that goes, unprovoked attacks are out of bounds, but that seems to be you people’s style. You are lucky that winter is coming and that dad is busy at the Conclave. Right now, the onus is on you people to demonstrate that you can be good neighbors, now that you have made yourselves known. We have a lot of your people that we want to send home. I imagine that they have families that miss them.”
“You don’t want them as slaves?”
“What for? Farm work? I already have to find work for the slaves on the farm that I already have. I could probably find something for them to do, but I would rather not bother. In fact, I’m not even supposed to be here. So getting this resolved quickly is in my best interest. If dad has to deal with you in the spring, things are not going to be as nice. Frankly tripping lost child effects and putting the kids through that is just wrong. I don’t know what kind of parents you have, but we take doing that to kids rather seriously and if you do things like that to kids, then you really should think of another way to protect yourselves. In any case, that is non negotiable. The kids get their lives back if they can and you stop making more monsters.”
“If we do not?”
“Then the Beinans can do whatever they want to you. If you don’t know who they are, I would be worried. Of course you become dad’s problem too and after the Blight was launched by your friends, he is not going to go easy on you. You saw what the House militia did to your armies. I really don’t want to have to call them out in the middle of winter, but dad will, come next year.”
“I must return and my principles must consider this.”
“Don’t wait too long and every one of your “Protectors” is fair game until you come back. Any that are outside that is.”
“Lord Shahana, we have a deal. As for you, young man, you are rather hard.”
“Hard is having armies of monsters come sweeping down out of nowhere and attacking one of the family’s towns without warning. You are lucky that the Conclave is ongoing and that you are dealing with me. Dad is rather annoyed that a bunch of our people were killed and eaten and that armies rampaged through our property. You sent those armies and we had to deal with the mess. I don’t know what you thought you were doing, but what you did was get a bunch of people hurt and you can ask your friends why doing that on Qinvaris land is a very stupid thing to do.”
“Before I return, I want to know why you want so much timber, Lord Shahana?”
“It’s not Lord Shahana. That’s my uncle and cousin. As to why we want to cut on this side of the tunnel, my uncle and the fae community are concerned about over cutting and we are selling to a large variety of markets. We don’t want to find that we run out of supply.”
“I would like to bring some people to see how you work.”
“Why don’t you come back in the morning and you can see the timbertown. We can also show you what happened to your monsters.”
“Very well.”

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