The Darkmage Conquers, Chapter 23.

The Amplifiers are finally started. The Project’s end game has started.

Chapter 23.
The Imperial Palace.
The Darkmage looked at the suppressor and then activated the Amplifiers at last. The Amplifiers started and then showed a low power setting. He tried to increase the power, but without a better mana source, there just wasn’t enough. In any case, he had the capital and now the Project could be complete at last, establishing the old Empire. His family would be restored to their rightful place at last.
Narbeth noticed the compulsion pressing on him, trying to force him to obey the instructions of the Darkmage. He could resist, but the next vote showed a disturbing trend in certain directions. He waved a finger at Galan and said, “It has started.”
“I know. I can’t feel the compulsion, really, because I had them as a boy, thanks to living next to a fae kingdom and the things we used to do, but it’s obvious.”
“I’m worried about what will happen when the Darkmage actually starts to give orders. Behave as if you are under Compulsion and spread the word around to do so to all the staff.”
“Very well. I am so glad that we arranged for the children and our wives for the most part to be away.”
“Yes. The downside is that the requests by my dear sister are about to come up for vote. In fact the pardon for Zanis is next.”
Galan left and the proposal came up for vote. There was some debate and it was obvious who was not under the pressure of the suppressor by who was making the rather vigorous arguments against pardoning Zanis. Unfortunately, the vote for pardoning Zanis went in favor of the pardon and Narbeth called on Kelvahn and asked, “Is mage Zanis in custody at present?”
“Not in the custody of the Justiciars. If another entity has custody, they are not saying. I can honestly say that I do not know where he is.”
“I will post the announcement of the pardon then. You will let your people know. The Conclave is adjourned for the day.”
Narbeth headed to his office and inevitably his sister was there before him. “What do you want, sister?”
“I just wanted to tell you to prepare for the new order. I have a list of things that I want you to do for us.”
She handed him the list. He looked at it and said, “Very imaginative. You are assuming a lot. Take actions against House Qinvaris for hoarding grain? I doubt that you have any evidence that the House has hoarded grain.”
“That slave is taking advantage of the Blight.”
“There is no evidence of that. Now the next item, what are you going to do when House Qinvaris doesn’t plant? I doubt that they will abide by a strict adherence to the Proscriptions and they do not have the slaves or peasants to do so. They haven’t for over twenty years now.”
“That will be their problem.”
“This one, I cannot allow. You want me to allow confiscation and destruction of libraries without due process on the order of an Inquisitor? The Conclave has aleady voted on that and related things and the Houses that still had libraries were fairly clear that they would not allow the Inquisition on their estates to pillage their property without a criminal writ. Since it is very hard to commit any kind of crime with a library, the Inquisition will have to forgo stealing any more libraries. The next is even more interesting. You want to turn the Portal Service over to House Ravathrya? The Portal Service is a Crown property and has been since it was initiated. Why do you want the family to give that up?”
“Mother and I feel that the Beinans have taken the portals over.”
“They may have, but that was forced on them by circumstances. The Portal Service’s Director was murdered by your associate, the Crown hasn’t been able to find a replacement during the Conclave and the Beinans had taken over operations on a temporary basis to prevent the system from collapse. It’s obvious that they are doing a good job at that, because the Portals were returned to service very quickly even after the suppressors were active, with the city here being back up the same day, essentially. In any case, we would have to find the Portal Service to tell Adiun Beinan to turn things over. That will not be easy at present unless you or your associates know something that nobody else does.”
“That is another demand. We want a writ for theft of the Portal Service by Adiun Beinan and House Beinan.”
“That would only be valid if Adiun Beinan had stolen the Portal Service in the first place and that he was not authorized to move operations in case of an emergency, which he was. We can hardly ask Kailu to verify that, but I suspect that Adiun will have such authorization in writing for Gorduin. That is if Gorduin doesn’t have that already, which he probably does. Since the Portal Service and the portals are visibly operating, Adiun Beinan can hardly be said to have stolen it.”
“He has control of the portals!”
“Of course he does. That is his job and he has the mandate to do so until he is replaced. I understand that a replacement was found and had started to work, but like a lot of things, that was disrupted. Very well, sister, we will take these things under advisement and when the new council is formed, we can discuss these things again.”
“We will definitely do so.”
“Do you have anything else?”
“Yes, the foreigners have to go.”
“Which ones?”
“All of them!”
“Now that is a bit difficult. For instance, the Fae have an Embassy. As for some of the others, I think that they will have to be addressed on a case by case basis. For instance Dragonmster Flamefire is here in his role as head of the Dragonguard and he is certainly allowed to have family. The fact that he is also representing the Aeries is a possible conflict if the Aeries had not been allies for centuries. Halamar Beinan is Lord Beinan’s uncle and thus is family. Representitive Harper is Lord Qinvaris’s father. Prince Brouzen is Lord Qinvaris’s brother in law. I find it hard to call the families of Great Houses foreigners in any case.”
“What about the press? They should stop their snooping.”
“I haven’t been bothered by the press. Dragon Flamefire, Mr. Orchaser and Mr. Toothgrinder have all been discreet and when I have talked with them, been polite.”
“They are poking their nose in the Conclave’s business!”
“Sister, you can take the press up with Itireae. They have been her responsiblitiy.”
“Mother will hear about your reacaltitrance.”
Glynnii flounced off and Narbeth grinned. His mother would have to be dealt with, but not at present. In any case, it was time to deal with the oncoming storm.”
Dilya turned to Daylight and said, “I’m glad that you are here.”
Daylight grinned. “You chased me hard enough.”
“Weren’t you chasing me?”
“Somewhat, once I knew that I should. In any case, mother arranged to have you tested and sprung you on me. Your mother made sure that I wanted to come back.”
“We will have to start a grove here, for the fae that don’t have one here. They came from the Empty Lands when those groves were destroyed.”
“At least that thing hasn’t seemed to be able to compel the people here.”
“If we had plain old mortals and slaves the suppressor would have worked. But the people here mixed each other so much that we could all play with compulsions as kids and so trying something as weak as that just won’t work. I wish that we could turn the thing off, but we’ve tried and it keeps coming back on. At least father closed our mana source so that it can’t draw on it.”
“I suspect that that is one reason it was put here in the first place and your portal was disconnected. We saw that with the others. Of course the mana sources were closed off or drained for Eryding, here and the capital. That may be why it took so long to start the things up and they didn’t have time to allow the things to store up mana because the Master neglected to tell the rest of the family that he had used crazy fanatics to launch the Blight and that they had made a mess of things.”
“Things worked out in the Blight. Lord Qinvaris and the rest dealt with it.”
“They made the mess for themselves. Then they were stuck with it since they couldn’t run or hide anymore since we all knew about them. So they launched their take over. I just hope that this doesn’t make a bigger mess for everybody.”
“Let’s go and make sure that we pull as many of the compulsions as we can. It may not seem like much, but at least we can start.”
Pedar looked at Iris and said, “Thank you for freeing me from that.”
“Versyn and Maria asked me to deal with this if it became necessary. We didn’t have too many at the Sanctum or the Timbertown, thank the gods. The suppressors had a weaker influence there. Tell me who the key people are and I can free them as well. Then we wait.”
“Aye, we wait. I expect that the Darkmage will send somebody with orders all too soon.”
The Beinan Estate.
Aimer grinned as he looked at the board. Soon, the Darkmage and the Master would have to use the portal network. One of them would try to port to the temple and Aimer was watching for that. He had unlocked portal 1000 from the board when he could sense the compulsion. With the need to coordinate and control the portals, the Master would have to use the portal to go to the temple and when he did, Aimer would have him, or his portal key anyway. Wyrran had made the keys, but even he could not identify them until they were used. Portal 1000 tripped an alarm as somebody ported to it from the palace portal. Aimer grinned as he imagined what the Master thought as he encountered the empty village.
Portal 1000.
Herdir emerged into the empty temple and cursed. He went to the entrance of the temple and the village was seemingly empty. He marched over to the old Portal Service building and into the room where the board had been. The board and the control over the portals that the board had given the Master were gone, along with, apparently the entire staff and everybody else that had lived in the village. There was a sheet of paper on the wall and Herdir tore it off to look at it. There was a flash and when he looked at the paper, written on it was a writ for a fine for meddling with Portal Service property and an even larger fine for compelling Portal Service personnel. The crystal that had flashed was well out of reach unless Herdir wanted to transform. Being alone, he headed back to the temple and ported back to the palace.
Magpie had watched the whole thing from the second floor of the old Portal Service building. Once the Master was gone again, he retrieved both the crystals that he had planted and ported to the Beinan Estate to hand them to a grinning Adiun.
The Tunnel.
Vince looked at Timber and said, “It’s started.”
“I felt it. I’ll check around and see if there are any compulsions that need to be cleared. Some of the people here from the company may not be resistant.”
“Better safe than sorry. I don’t know if the things can transmit commands, but I would rather not find out the hard way. Better to deal with this before it gets to be a problem.”
“That’s for sure. At least we have collected most of the Protectors and the rest don’t want to play.”
“I think that Vinny had something to do with that. He is too good at running them down.”
“Frankly, while I was glad to have him, I am happier that he’s watching out for Lord Shahana and Lord Qinvaris back in the capital.”
“So am I. Of course Jimmy and Tallissa are watching out for her parents and the others.”
KNS Steelfire.
King Aestaeros looked at his daughter and said, “I want you and Jimmy to go ashore with your mother and port to Freywick and go home from there.”
“We could protect you.”
“Yes you could, which is why I want you to go with your mother. You can protect her and your brother from the things that may be coming. You can sense and remove compulsions and I don’t know how much the supressors have affected Dolmon.”
“You are staying?”
“Yes I am, at present. If you and your mother are away, the succession is secure and if I stay here, my voice can be heard and I can work with Jimmy’s father and the rest to help deal with the coming mess. Or I can escape and come home.”
“Are there things you have been hiding?”
“I’m not going to say, because keeping things discreet has been important and if the kingdom knew certain things, they might not think that the family was human, which would be a bad thing. Tell your Great Uncle everything. I have given your mother a report in any case. Your job is to keep an eye out for darkmages and their spies.”
“I won’t have Kavrala.”
“Not at first, though she may return with Aien at some point. She is watching Dan Qinvaris with Aien for me and Richard. They may need their talents more than you will and you and Jimmy may end up in the Fellowship in any case if Dolmon and the other countries are taken over.”
“Do you think that they will be?”
“I am afraid that the Darkmage’s greed is not going to be satisfied with the Empire and he will be looking for slaves to replace Lord Qinvaris’s reapers, let alone the farm machinery. If he can coopt the Imperial army or raise a slave army large enough, soon enough, then the Mortal Kingdoms are vulnerable. The Darkmage may want Dolmon as a second front against the faery kingdoms and the Fellowship. Queen Lazuli is going with you and your mother for just that reason. Jimmy, your job is to keep my wife, daughter and great aunt safe and keep an eye out for trouble. Can you do that?”
“It shouldn’t be a problem, your majesty.”
“I wouldn’t exepct it to be. You have already proven yourself able and intelligent and able to keep my daughter in and out of trouble without any real problems.”
“Well he has, hasn’t he? In any case I want you on the boat as soon as possible, so join your mother and expect to pack lightly. You all can travel without servants and a caravan and that may be important.”
“Yes father.”
Jimmy and Talissa left and Dan laughed. “They should be just fine.”
“So will my wife, but like me, she doesn’t like to reveal certain things. The family has strived to be seen as part of the people even with our rather unorthodox relatives for a very long time.”
“Were all the royal funerals real?”
“I don’t know how I should answer that. As far as I know, my father is indeed dead, as is my mother. I was very little when my grandfather left the scene and if he and my grandmother are out in the woods, he has never made himself known to me. On the other hand the only reason one great uncle is dead is that some mages arranged that and my other great uncle is certainly not in any way shape or form feeble. On the other hand it can be assumed that he shared blood, just like you did.”
“I will keep certain things from Sarya in any case.”
“I am sure that she knows enough already.”
Dan laughed. “So am I, but I will try in any case. Why are you staying?”
“Because if I stay, I can see how the Darkmage functions directly and when the time comes, give an accurate report to my fellow kings. Adnamatus has already gone ahead, but he has portals that the Darkmage probably doesn’t know about, his people still here can get messages quickly if the Darkmage tries to put something together and he has a kingdom that is still recovering from the Blight.”
“We can certainly use you and Halamar, Brouzen, and Artamo are glad to have you.”
“So is Narbeth. I can raise spontaneous stinks and act like an irrational childish mortal and the other side will buy in. If the Emperor is placating me, he can hide other things in the noise.”
“Don’t get too clever. We don’t want to attract the Great Captain’s attention.”
“If Dolmon had a port, I would be tempted to recruit him. Unfortunately I do not and I do have a treaty with the fae and the Marshalls regarding fugitives and it would be all too easy for your son and his friend to track the Great Captain down again.”
“That is actually working out for him, as Kulgha has managed to clear him of quite a few things that he stood accused of. Of course my son and Kulgha are enjoying living in Richard’s House while being paid to investigate the Great Captain and work to resolve his case.”
“I imagine that the judge is rather annoyed that the Great Captain has run.”
“Actually there are two ladies rather annoyed at the Great Captain as they have to be at home while their husbands are here. Those two are very lucky that the ladies didn’t want to haul the kids out of school and bring them up for the Conclave. Of course the Empire is lucky as well.”
The guard captain grinned as the four that had left on the bus a five day ago got off the bus with their loads of newspapers and books, along with boxes that were probably filled with things like mechanical clocks. They at least, had apparently done well as they hauled their loads to the old portal. He called out, “Feel free to come again! The store gets the paper most days!”
They deigned not to notice him as they ported out. Jarod drove up in his GP and said, “I think that the suppressors went active. Have you felt a compulsion?”
“No, but the guard has them placed and pulled by a mage early on in training for obvious reasons. So the things have gone active? When the fae kids show up have them got through town pulling any they find.”
“Already did. There weren’t very many, because just about everybody here was immune for various reasons. I’ll put some fae together and go up to Nytfnas and check the mayor and people there.”
“Do that. I know that Lord Qinvaris runs his senior people through compulsion training as well because of the thing with House Sarfaren. There’s Saevel. Saevel, ride over to your aunt’s and tell her that the compulsions have started.”
“I know. Bellflower and I are heading over there and I and my sisters are supposed to go to Zirgoccol with aunt. That way mother doesn’t have to worry about me.”
“We will miss you here, but your mother is right.”
“I’m worried about dad, but compulsions won’t affect him anymore. Here’s Bellflower, so we need to go.”
They motored off toward Amarille’s and Jarod said, “We could have used him and that bike.”
“We could, but we know that the clowns are going to look for high value hostages and Saevel certainly counts.”
“Yes he does. Of course chasing him down to take him hostage will not be easy.”
The Sanctuary.
The horsecaptain and his little troop emerged from the portal and the Horsecaptain breathed a sigh of relief. “That went well, didn’t it sergeant?”
“Yes it did, sir. These books and the newspapers will tell the High Lord what he didn’t know.”
“I wish that we could have bought the full copy of that History of the Empire, but we did not have a cart, carrying it on the bus back would have been a bit impractical and we were short of funds.”
“We have enough for the time being. There were some jokes going around about how easy the history is to get in the Empire as the Inquisition kept confiscating it and the inquisition’s library was stolen and the books dumped on the market.”
“The library was stolen?”
“Or burned. One story was that a Ravathrya Great Captain raided and burned the place and the other was that some young fae and scalawags made off with the books during the harvest and arranged a movie shoot to cover it up. Since several new libraries are about to open in the Empire and there was a movie, you can guess which story is true.”
“Let us take these materials to the Chamberlain and then we can get some rest. You all did a very good job with this.”
“I’m not sure, but I think we had guardian angels watching us.”
“That guard captain knew that we would be on the bus and returning. I was hoping that going to the Fellowship would throw the people who might be watching us off, so when the bus appeared, I had us take it. I wanted us away from the portal as fast as possible in any case. Now that we have the bus service schedule, that will make things easier for us, since we do not have portal keys for the other portals.”
“We will have to buy some the next time.”
“For what we want, the post service busses will work better in any case.”
The squad found a cart and loaded their haul into it and started off to the chamberlain’s office.
Keerla watched them leave and turned to Kast. “They went through the portal and came back with things. I wonder if they saw father.”
“I’m sure that your grandfather will tell you. As to what they did, I will get a report if you promise not to try the portal alone and without telling your mother.”
“Mother wouldn’t let me use the portal.”
“It is dangerous for a youngling out there. Especially for a place we do not know.”
What’s this?”
Keerla picked up a piece of paper. “Bus schedule? What is a bus?”
She handed the paper to Kast and he looked. “These are cities in the Empire. There doesn’t seem to be a bus to the Cloud City, but there is a bus to the Lower City and most of the other cities. This is apparently a Post service run by House Glynynore. See, here are the fares for each stop.”
“Why don’t they use horses?”
“Looking at the schedules, this is much faster. You can go from one side of the Empire to the other in three days or so. Why don’t you wait here while I take this to the Horsecaptain.”
As Kast hurried off, Ailen and the others appeared and Keerla asked Ailen, “When you send the cart through the next time, ask for a bus schedule.”
“What’s that?”
“I will show you when the fae kids send it.”
“What will you give me for it?”
“My pass to the shows for a five day.”
“With you?”
“Maybe, or you could take Neia. In any case, you can have five days of your choice.”
“That is a deal. I couldn’t get all the days I wanted. Would you mind if I got more than one of those bus schedule things?”
“Get as many as you want. I imagine that the librarians will be interested.”
Kast caught up with the Horsecaptain and said, “You dropped this.”
The Horsecaptain looked at Kast and asked, “Who saw this?”
“Keerla and I. She was very interested in the idea of travelling all over the Empire. I asked her to not to use the portal without permission from her grandfather and her mother.”
“Have any kids gone through yet?”
“Not as yet. I think that some of them are tempted and only the fact that they don’t have money is stopping them.”
“Thank you for returning this to me.”
“It was my duty. I would hope that you can convince the Chamberlain to hand over the materials you collected to the Librarians when things are finished.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem.”
“What is going on out there?”
“Nothing catastrophic, actually. The Blight was launched, but apparently did not have a great effect on the harvest in the Empire. The Emperor was killed by some mages who were arrested immediately afterwards. The Conclave was raided by the Darkmage, but continued anyway and Exchange Street is closed for the duration, which is causing some anxiety on Bank Street in the Fellowship. There is a great deal of concern over the supressors and a great deal of pressure in the Senate to take direct measures if the supressors are not shut down. There is some speculation as to what the Darkmage’s plans are and what various countries and others are planning to do about them. But nothing that seems to be definite and there were articles on things like Winterfaire shopping.”
“So the trip was interesting.”
“Very. I will prepare a report. I must go and get these things to the Chamberlain’s office.”
The Arsenal.
Wiz came into Paeris’s office and said “I’m feeling pressure to do what the Darkmage commands. I’m guessing that he launched things off.”
“I know. Of course he is our boss.”
“We haven’t exactly been doing things the way he wants. At least the way Ilbyren wants.”
“Are you concerned about that toady?”
“Not really. The elf has been a pain to deal with. He doesn’t want to do anything without instructions and when he does do things, messes them up. This place was a perfect example.”
“I know. At least we managed to get things squared away before things cut loose.”
“Do you think that our bosses will be able to pull this off?”
“I have no idea. On the one hand, the Darkmage and his kids were planning for this for a very long time. On the other hand this has been as poorly executed as it gets. The only thing we can do is watch and wait. At least you can leave.”
“You gave me a shot. You did that for the rest of us. We won’t just leave.”
“Even knowing my reputation?”
“Most of knew that before we signed up with you.We knew that you abandoned some crews when things got hopeless, at least for you. You did what you thought you had to do.”
“Abandoning those crews was not by my choice. The problem was that if I didn’t go back, my father’s other Great Captains, the Great Captains from the low family that went to that rather nasty little school my father set up would have had a free hand and made things even worse than they were. If I stayed alive, I could protect the one that mattered the most to me against my own family.”
“Why did you kill your daughter?”
“I thought that I had to keep certain things silent. Of course, she was being silent about those things as well, something I didn’t know at the time. My father was pressuring me for an arrangement to cement an important alliance and if word had gotten out that that I had dallied with a seafolk woman, my father would probably gone after the seafolk more than he did. So I collected the shark mage and tracked down my daughter. At first, I thought that I could to drive her to the surface and kidnap her, or even just talk with her, but the sharks were like those fanatical monks and the Blight, unguided weapons when they are launched and rather indiscriminatory. Once things got bad, the only thing I could do was hide what I was. The whole thing was a stupid mistake. My greatest, in fact.”
“Do you think that Mr. Ironshield will come after you?”
“That is an interesting question. At one time, I think that he would have. Now, I don’t know. In any case, he has reasons not to. On the other hand if the opportunity presents itself, I am sure that Mr. Ironshield would arrange my death without a qualm and frankly, I wouldn’t blame him.”
The Qinvaris Market.
Richard watched as the GP drove up and Horatio Chickering got out. “My first and second battalions are here. The rest are staged at the old granaries and near the city gates. All of the troops are immune to compulsions. I hope that we aren’t needed.”
“I won’t have you come in unless the Emperor or Vullas asks for support. I don’t know what Narbeth has planned and I don’t want to have it appear as if I was staging a takeover.”
“They already did.”
“Then they did the smart thing and let the Conclave go on anyway until their gadgets tripped off. What concerns me is what happens when the compelled are told to do things the way the Darkmage wants rather than the way they need to get done.”
“There are hordes of compelled out there and we can’t lift all of them, even in our own people. There simply are not enough fae or mages to do that and since the suppressors are still active, the fae can’t Jump. The supressors, and getting the portals back up slowed things down.”
“We couldn’t help that. I just want you ready in case thinge get bad. First priority is our people’s lives, compelled or not, then the grain supplies, then everybody else. Regardless of what happens, I have the landdragons with me and they can get through just about anything to get you a message even if the telegraph goes down. On the other hand, if you see somebody attacking the market or the estates, don’t hesitate and wait for orders from me, deal with them. I don’t know where the army is going to stand on this and the Darkmage may hold the Cloud and Lower City hostage to ensure that the army does what he wants, so be alert to changes. If there is a mess, we can clean up later and I will take the heat.”
“What is the progress on getting the suppressors shut down?”
“The Beinans are working on that, but now that they are active, there could be consequences. Mage Wyrran and his people are concerned that if the supressors go down hard, there could be a massive mind blast that kills or renders a good chunk of the Empire mindless. We just avoided one disaster, I don’t want another one. If Mage Wyrran or his people ask you for anything including an attack on someplace, give it to them.”
“Ok. What if the the Darkmage’s people mess up with the deliveries?”
“Have the guard and militia take what action is necessary. When the Conclave ends, which is going to happen fairly quickly now, they will probably come after me, but not Tolith, Taenarion or the committee. I’ve tried to keep the focus on me in the Conclave so that the Darkmage has been looking at me and not the others. That goes for the Dowager Empress and Rosa, somewhat. The girls are all away, as is Tarranth. So you won’t have to worry about them unless they have to return. Hopefully we can keep things from going too far off the wall. I think that I’ve said what I need to say. To make it clear, the House is under Standing Order Four unless I or Hubys change that.”
“Standing Order Four. Potential threats are to be watched and direct action taken if necessary to prevent loss of life or taking Qinvaris people as slaves. Property damage is to be disregarded unless the damage is a serious threat to the operations of the House. What about the new machinery?”
“That has all been moved to the garage complex in Elysahone, outside the Empire. You can make clear that the machinery is not at present inside the Empire and that you will take steps to protect the sovereignty of Elysahone per the mutual assistance agreement that the House has signed.”
“Richard, you are as twisty as your brother.”
Richard laughed. “I had to be. We all did. Think of an entire childhood, negotiating with him for the things that boys do. If we didn’t learn to keep up with him, we were all in trouble.”
“I think that I’m clear in what you are planning. I’m not sure why you don’t just stomp the clowns.”
“I could do that, though, with the suppressor and the compulsions that might get messy and the idea of using machine guns on the compelled is not something I like to think about. But if I do, things will probably not end there and there will be other battles to fight with people looking to discredit what I did. If it looks like the situation changes, Hubys has authorization for Standing Order Three and can take whatever action he think necessary to preserve the House. So killing me will not end well for them and I will try to make that clear. In any case, the Empire needs the House to plant next year and that means that the clowns will have to let us operate the way we do or there won’t be an Empire. Get going so that I’m not seen plotting with my general.”
“Do you think that we were watched?”
“I’m sure that somebody is watching me to see if I do something stupid. Not all the spies are the result of the late Flingladui and her web.”
“Bye then.”
Chickering drove off in the GP and Richard went into the market, did some shopping for his office and headed to the portal.
Saleh Yelnelis cursed at the departing GP. He had worked hard to establish himself alongside the market as part of the scenery as a visiting merchant looking into a shop so that he would be in a position where he could poke into the meetings that Lord Qinvaris had. Unfortunately the noise of the GP and the fact that the windshield was at a poor angle meant that he couldn’t use the glass and a sense string to listen to what the two had been saying. He had been thwarted as he had in most of the previous attempts, all of them seemingly by accidents. He watched as the landdragons followed behind Lord Qinvaris through the portal. With the pair and sometimes trio as bodyguards, mage attacks would probably end with Lord Qinvaris surviving and the mage dead. In any case he was going to have to report.
Cory watched the darkmage that had been trying to infiltrate since before the raid on the Conclave. The mage had been rather frustrated by his inability to effectively spy on the events here. He had no way of knowing that he had been spotted when he arrived and that he had caught the notice of a good portion of the people who were selling things here at the market and not like Snuggles, who while being obvious, was now a valued customer here. Of course her little visit with the Darkmage had cemented that. With the Lord and the darkmage gone, Cory returned to chasing compulsions. The word had gone out to those who could deal with them to pull as many as possible before the hammer came down.
Dragon Captain Fuseshadow looked at the fae across his desk and said, “You want to do what?!”
Walnut sighed. “This is a bit hard to explain, but the Darkmage has tripped off the feature in the suppressors that Amplifies compulsions. Since Fayspire is so close to the border and the suppressor in the fortress, I and my team want to make sure that this base and the army base are clear of compulsions.”
“Why you and not the Marshalls?”
“The Marshalls are checking the army. They called on my people after we checked in at Innshys. We were sent down from the Sanctum to help here and Nytfnas.”
“Dragons are immune to compulsions.”
“That is certainly true, but I doubt that all the trainees or pilots are dragons and if a darkmage infiltrates, you don’t want a significant number of the people turning against you.”
“Why are you concerned that they will?”
“Unlike the compulsions placed by a mage or fae, the suppressor imposes a constant compulsion to obey the instructions of the darkmages. So the darkmage or even somebody with the right kind of key can compel base personnel and use them as a waiting disaster that goes off at the right time.”
“You have made some very good points. Talk to the lieutenant and get started. This will probably not be your only airbase.”
“I expect not. Unfortunately until the thing started up there were no compulsions to pull. The thing has been overwhelming and it will probably get worse before it gets better. Let me get started.”
The fae left and the Dragoncaptain picked up the phone. This was a headache that he needed to pass on discreetly, if he could. At least the Marshalls were on top of things. He called the Colonel’s office and Ozga picked up. “Ozga, this is Kushuur. I need to talk to the Colonel.”
“What is this about?”
“We may have a big problem that needs to be handled discreetly. I will explain to the colonel and then come down when I can. The Dragonmaster will need to be informed if he doesn’t already know. Hold on, Dragonleader Beinan just came into my office. Dragonleader, could you wait. I think that you will be wanting to talk with your boss.”
“Dragoncaptain, I already was. Fortunately he was in Zirgoccol and not out at the Hidden City. I think that you already know why I am here.”
Colonel Anvilblade came on the phone and said, “Have the fae shown up yet?”
“They were just here. I was calling you about them.”
“The Dragonmaster has been working with the fae Council Of Kings and Beinans on this and he called me when things tripped off. I hadn’t called you yet, but all our stations on the border are getting the visits as soon as we can arrange them and having at least important personnel cleared of the compulsions. Once that is done you are to provide anything the Dragonmaster’s people or Beinan’s need. That will be a Service wide order coming down from the Consul’s office.”
“Ok, I got it. Let me talk with Yrvien and get the latest brief.”
The colonel hung the phone up and Kushuur turned to Yrvien and said, “You are moving fast. Where’s Nathan?”
“Hitting Four squadron, since they know him. Walnut obviously got here before I did.”
“What happened?”
“The Darkmage started what the mages call the amplifiers up. The good thing is that he was forced to start them at a low power setting since the Sanctum mana source is closed, the Salt Flats source has a lot of drains on it now, the source in the Lower City had a heavy load on it already to maintain the Cities and the portals and the source in Elysahone was shut down by the royal family other than for established uses. So the Darkmage had the choice of waiting for the reserves to build up or starting the amplifiers. The bad news is that the Amplifiers in the low power setting could still blast the minds of a lot of people and a forced shutdown could be almost as bad. The good news is that we know where all the supressors are and can, if necessary, shut them all down. The strategy is to take advantage of the fact that a good portion of the people in important places are immune to compulsions and do what the Darkmage wants to prevent him from thinking about sending mass compelled to overwhelm places.”
“That could get ugly. My family still tells stories about the mage wars when the original Darkmage sent the compelled looking for dragon slaves that he could collar and then place under compulsion.”
“We are looking to avoid that. Fortunately, most of the slaves currently in the Empire are already immune and my family created slave collars with certain protections in them, including protections from random compulsions to make it harder to steal slaves.”
Kushuur laughed. “That was one way to handle it.”
“Yes it was. The family made very good money making collars with special features for certain families including ours. After all we did not want bandits making off with the family’s valuable talents that we worked so hard to develop. The family is rather strict about that.”
“Very, if the stories from the turmoils are true.”
“You can talk with my Uncle Folmon about those. He was there and suffered the greatest sacrifice, though his father’s suicide, while necessary, was a great loss to the family.’
“You have grown a lot since you left here.”
“I have been rather busy. Since matters are in hand here, I think that I will take my leave. Here is the report of what we know about the Supressors as of yesterday. The family facility here in Fayspire is in charge of the effort.”
“How did that happen?”
“The space was available and who would think that there would be an effort involving mana and mages at a facility dedicated to making detection and listening devices for destroyers and submarines.”
“You are dismissed. Get out of here before military discipline breaks down where the trainees can hear about it.”
The Dragoncaptain laughed as the Dragonleader left and then started to look at the report, which was remarkably well prepared and had sources going back to the mage wars. He could see why the suppressors were being coddled. There was still a rather large crater where one of the darkmage’s supressors had been destroyed during the mage war and that had been in the middle of a rather empty space. If any of the current supressors went off, a lot of people were going to die and more become mindless.

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