The Republic Besieged, Chapter 29-30.

House Qinvaris deals with raiders. Alinis makes a discovery

Chapter 29.

House Nerihorn.

Raenisa Nerihorn looked at her husband and oldest and now only son and said, “Why did it take you both three days to not tell me that Folas was dead?”

“How did you discover that?” Filverel Nerihorn growled.

“I discovered that because Lady Qinvaris sent a note asking me to send somebody to take care of the body. Apparently my son was engaging in rather inappropriate things and was killed for his trouble. Apparently several other members of the House were involved as well and were also killed. I don’t know why you all were over on Qinvaris lands, Uthorim, but that ends now. From now on, you stay here and out of whatever it is.”

“Father and I have a debt to pay,” Uthorim said.

“Then you work at the counting house or do something relatively safe like pester Great Captain Zylvyre for the money he stole. What made you think for an instant that you could take slaves from Lord Qinvaris and not get discovered? In any case, you have an obligation to the House to stay alive. You should have told that to him already, Filverel.”

“Raenisa, you don’t understand. What we are doing was the price that we paid for not having to deal with the Blight. The debt was originally incurred by my grandfather and with our neighbors, we were not struck. The payment was that the House’s services would be available if called upon.”

“I think that the death of my son clears the debt to the Darkmage. Frankly, considering what was said at the tea by the Empress, if you continue, the payment will be more than the House, or any House can afford. Lady Qinvaris has asked that the Houses involved in this thing withdraw their support before Lord Qinvaris feels it necessary to go to war against us and the other Houses.”

“The Darkmage will destroy us.”

“Do you truly believe that he can? We all saw the antics at the Conclave, his rather stupid actions and their consequences. At this point unless the Darkmage has something much larger than we have seen, working with him will only dig the House into a deeper hole than it already is and even if the Darkmage succeeds, the Darkmage will probably not take steps to save the House.”

“The Darkmage needs the portal on the estate.”
“Then he can use the thing. On the other hand, The Darkmage has drained us already.”

“That is our debt.”

“With the death of our son and the others, the debt has been paid.”

The Qinvaris Estate.

Durlan looked throught his binoculars at the called up militia and said, “This is done.”

Wyrran looked at the militia in the town and said, “They could be compelled.”

“Wouldn’t matter. By the time we were close enough to give orders, they would be shooting at us and you can bet that the people in charge have had their compulsions pulled if they were not immune in the first place. For that matter, there is no guarantee that these characters or somebody else wouldn’t act compelled and then not stay compelled. This is done. We’re not dealing with half awake guards any more, we’re dealing with the Qinvaris on alert and looking for us. Let’s go back and talk to Lord Stormfire, because from now on, if we keep going, we will be dealing with Qinvaris guard and militia looking for our hides. Damn that Folas. All this crap because he couldn’t keep it in his pants.”

They rode across fields, dodging patrols on the roads with GPs and managed to escape to the post road and return to House Nerihorn.

Richard looked at the map and said, “I’ve seen things like this before, but House Sarfaren is gone.”

“It might be Durlan,” Evin said. “He’s probably involved, has experience and there were some connections that House Sarfaren had with House Richflight. If the Darkmage wanted people, Durlan would be the obvious elf to run that.”

“I’ve started to evacuate the compelled using the canal and portals, and we have patrols, all of whom are immune to compulsions, on GPs as well as horses. What surprises me is that these clowns are doing something like this. I expected that the Darkmage would send out his darkmages to do this, but these people should know better. At least I think that we’ve put a damper on it, for now. I do hope, Evin, that you made it clear that there are writs coming to some Houses.”

“I am surprised that you haven’t been using the same sort of people you did when you handled Sarfaren.”
“They are all on the Peninsula at present and staying there. I wanted them to help the people on the Peninsula and hopefully stop that idiot Headbasher before he got to where the Darkmage wanted him to go. So they are there, and the rest of them are covering other things at present.”

Jimmy and Talissa came in and Jimmy said, “We’re back.”

“Where do those portals go, Jimmy?” Evin asked.

“They go to Ishendell. The Darkmage used the compelled and the monsters to push people out of the old city while causing as many deaths as he could. The Fellowship army is just sort of sitting there, the Republican army is trying to get the civilians on ships and away to Milport and the Fellowship or the Republic if they can, and the Darkmage has his people collecting all the bodies.”

“Another old nightmare from the mage wars come to life,” Richard said. “The Darkmage is going to make inanimates again.”

“Your cousins said the same thing to General Ironcutter. There is also a giant portal like the one at the Nerihorn estate and I think that the Darkmage has a mage that is a portal expert fixing it. Talissa and I did some poking around while we kept the Fellowship soldiers away from Jhaerithe and some Republican soldiers recovering a truck and every body they could. They held a huge mass funeral for them before we left and burned the bodies.”

“Burned bodies cannot become inanimates. The family learned those stories from my grandmother. My kids are probably learning them now. Inanimates would show up in what is now the the Republic until the wars started on the Peninsula and Ishendell was taken. The inanimates would come from the Empire and were probably victims of the Blight or the turmoils. Since Ishendell has been occupied by one or another of the Blasted Lands, the inanimates stopped appearing and the raids from the Ravathyra started. Before guns, the inanimates tended to make a bloody mess and kill a lot of people. I think that inanimates are one reason all three Blasted Lands armies became enamored of flamethrowers, since inanimates need to be burned to really stop them and they can’t shoot.

“General Harper, your cousin Norman that is, sent a message to the Republic to have more flamethrowers sent over. He didn’t bring very many because he thought he was going to be chasing General Headbasher back up the Peninsula. We brought a report for you, the Emperor, Queen Lazuli, King Aestaeros and your dad, if he shows up here. They think that he will.”

“He’ll probably port to Eryding, the House, here and then to Innshys. He’ll probably want to talk to Qambois and the Consul about the mess on the Peninsula. How hard was it to get back?”

“Easy, because Talissa and I used all our training and the tricks we have. I think that they think that they were attacked by a bunch of landdragons and all sorts of things.”

Evin and Richard laughed as Lazuli and Esgalwathanar came into the room and Lazuli said, “I’m glad that you two made it back. You were wherever it was longer than I expected.”

“Ishendell, where we helped a lady recover a truck and Jimmy had to do landdragon duty and calm some kids down whose parents were missing as they were being boarded onto ships and taken to Milport” Talissa said. “There were quite a few scared kids, mostly from the Fellowship who came down for vacations and were stuck because of the fighting. So we watched the kids until they got on the ship.”

“What about the rest of it?” Esgalwathanar asked. “Where did the portals end up?”
“In Ishendell,” Jimmy said. “They also have a huge portal like the one at the Nerihorn estate that I think that they plan to do the same things that Adiun did to the Empty Lands. They did some of that from the portal at the Nerihorn estate.”

“They are also collecting bodies,” Richard said. ‘I think that the Darkmage is planning to set inanimates on the Blasted Lands again.”

“The Council of Kings may have something to say about that,” Lazuli said.

“I don’t think that the Darkmage cares.”

“We will have to work to change that. We did make one discovery. We found the Mana source that the Darkmage is using to power the large portal and the suppressor here.”

“What House is it on?”

“Yours, Richard,” Esgalwathanar said. “It was one of those estates that had been ruined in the last turmoils, raided by starving people, probably because it was on the border of blighted estates and pillaged for the grain. You came upon it and like so many others, started to farm it.”

“There may not be a family tied to the land at this point.”

“There is probably a mage, working for the Darkmage. With no home to go to, he or she would probably stay with the Darkmage because they wouldn’t have any viable alternatives. Whoever it is may be at the Camp.”

“Performing the support tasks, but not told why they are there, under compulsions and without any income to support them.” Richard grinned. “I can fix that.”

“You would give the mage the same sort of deal that you gave Folmon?”

“Yes. There is even a fund for that. I didn’t want the houses on the estates and if I can help the families recover somewhat, that actually helps me as empty towns and houses are an invitation for bandits to set up.”

“I suppose that makes sense. It has never been a problem before, at least not for most Houses.”

“You have more than one estate, but they are all occupied. Mine, on the other hand started out unoccupied and to some extent remain that way. The improved roads and the fact that the portals now all work may change that. But for now, any estate that I can arrange to have people living in it is good for me.”

“I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t approached me about managing my estates.”
“I have talked with Llorva somewhat about her fields. The estate on the water is orchards and the estate inland is hardwood for your mill and furniture shop. So they haven’t needed my services.”

“I hadn’t really thought of if that way.”

“I’m not greedy in any case. At this point I have enough to manage and Teiran and his brother certainly know to talk to my people and have for things like the pies, preserves and fruit that they sell at the market.”

“So how do we look for our lost mage?” Evin asked. “The mage academy and the registry are still scattered.”

“We could ask Adiun. He found those two mages that worked for Beinans. He knows how to find them. Of course that means talking to Folmon.”

Adiun walked in and Evin laughed. “We don’t have to. Adiun, we were just going to look for you.”
“I see that Jimmy and Talissa are back and I came to find out where those portals go.”

“Adiun, they go to Ishendell,” Jimmy said. “There are some strange things going on there and another of those big portals. I have a report for you and Folmon from Generals Harper and Ironcutter on everything. There is a supressor down on the peninsula that they want you or Wyrran to arrange to pick up.”

“Adiun, where do we go to talk about lost mages?” Evin asked.

“You need to go to the Grand Master and then to House Ulajyre. I believe that the Grand Master is there already. What is it about?”

“There is another mana source on an estate that I bought that probably has a run of mages in the family and a mage in the Camp like Onvyr was,” Richard said.

“Why didn’t he leave with the others?”

“He may not have thought that he had a family to go home to and was afraid of the Grand Master’s wrath. Once the Amnesty period was over, he may feel that he was stuck. In any case, I want to have him or her checked out.”

“That sounds like a job for Terry and Starflower, who are at the estate. I will go and have them look into that. What if there is no family left?”

“Then we talk to somebody at the palace about registered marriages and descendents.”

“Definitely a Terry and Starflower job as they can look for exiles if they have to. What House was it?”

“House Aetoris.”

Dan Harper walked into the room as Adiun started to leave and said, “Richard, what are you up to?”

“Some idiots started to make off with my people again. Jimmy and Talissa just got back from the Peninsula.”

“How did you two get down there?”
“We used the portals they have set up,” Jimmy said. “We ran through the portals, scared some sentries, prowled around Ishendell and went to the Republican lines where Jhaerithe spotted us and brought us to Generals Harper and Ironcutter. We have a brief for you and the Dragonmaster.”
“Was there anything strange going on?”
“They were collecting bodies,” Richard said. “They are also working on a giant portal.”

“Inanimate raids then, just like the Mage Wars.”

“Yes. Also, Durlan was collecting here on my property with the assistance of the local bad boys, who should know better.”

Adiun said, “Mr. Harper, I need to get Terry and Starflower going, so I need to get to the estate. We can talk later.”

Adiun left and Dan said, “It looks as if you are on top of things. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on here.”

“Neither were we, until Jimmy went through the portals. Most of us were rather skeptical about Jimmy doing that, but he did very well.”

“We took a lot of pictures of the Fellowship army, the city and what they are doing,” Jimmy said. “We left the crystals to be printed when we arrived, so they should be ready soon. The battle has stopped for the time being.”

“What about civilians?”

They are being evacuated using the ships used to bring the army over from the Republic. A lot of them were killed by monsters and compelled sent through the portals.”

“Did you get pictures?”

“Of as much as we could. It was pretty terrible, from what we saw.”

“Excellent. I am going to discuss this with the Dragonmaster and the Consul. Queen Lazuli, may I take these two with me?”
“As they are now?”

“That would be rather inconvenient. I would hope that they revert their transformations.”
“I should make you take them like this, but if you did, you would be mobbed and I think that we want this to be discreet. Jimmy, Tallissa, go transform and find some clothes. I suspect that Mr. Harper will want to be on his way fairly soon.”

“I do want to be in Fayspire in time to catch the next train. We can use the taxi from Innshys.”

“I have a car there, dad,” Richard said. “Mostly for Dan’s use, but I don’t see any reason that you can’t use it. May I send some messages with you?”
“I already have some with me from Rosa and your mother. I dropped some off from Tarranth, Nimue and Alinis.”

Jimmy and Talissa left to change and Dan said, “I also brought your nephew Bill with me, Richard.”

“He just graduated from the Federal Service Academy and they stationed him in the Hidden City and here. I think that somebody thinks that there will need to be somebody to pass things back and forth. The thing with Dowager Empress and the fact that so many exiles were affected by the suppressors drove that home.”

Evin grinned. “Bill was the suck,er the eager volunteer who wanted to join the Justiciars, wasn’t he?”

Richard sighed. “Yes and now that he is here, you all can get your mitts on him. I imagine that Kenia is already talking to her various prospective girls.”

Dan grinned. “Various prospective girls?”

“I was lucky and she didn’t spot me or Denny, probably because Gander was on the same load. Kenia was one of the bigger users of the Ravthyra one way cruise and not ashamed to use daughters or nieces to lock prospects into the Justiciar family. Gander is a case in point.”

“I will warn Sarya.”
“That won’t help. She’s in on the deal. You didn’t know about it? Bob and Tom did.”

“I will remain silent on the grounds that if I keep flapping my mouth, I may get in trouble. It looks like Jimmy and Talissa are very well dressed and ready, so we must be off to catch that train.”

Tim Lion turned to his cousin, Kicavir and said, “That clown over there is worth how much?”

“Durlan? He’s worth half a million silvers from the Fellowship and more from various people here in the Empire. His cousins there are about the same, if we can collect them and bring them to the Marshall’s station, alive.”

“I feel rather like a snitch taking him and turning him into the cops or the Marshalls, for that matter.”

“Look at it this way, we do this and Uncle Andy will like it.”

“We could turn these clowns over to Uncle Andy.”

“We won’t have to. We just take these clowns to the Marshall station and they do all the work afterwards.”

“Grandmother said that this was your game, so we will do it your way.”

“I want Durlan as much as you do. After all he took Chrissie and just left her without even teasing her a bit. Frankly he’s a bit of an embarrassment because he could get away with all his crap for so long.”

“What about the rest of them?”

“They are a bunch of spoiled rich kids who are about to get a dose of reality and it is better that we catch them than the Qinvaris guard or militia because if the guard or militia do it, getting shot while trying to escape is a high probability.”

“That’s a bad thing?”

“For most of them, probably not, but grandmother is concerned that we don’t destroy some Houses by accident.”

“How would that happen?”

“Some Houses only have one child in their high families and if their golden boy is playing games he shouldn’t, getting a case of the dead would be bad thing for that House. On the other hand, we can haul them off to Uncle Andy’s and make the Houses squirm a bit.”

“Get them to pay up.”

“Actually we want those Houses out of certain businesses and to clean up their acts in the Lower City. Justiciar Dawkins did some of that already, which is another reason to sweat these characters.”

“You seem to be awfully buddy buddy with the cops.”

“Dad told me what the Republic is like and things are different here, the cops are more like arbitrators and the Houses involved did some nasty stuff while they had heavy protection. In a way, we are the cops sometimes.”

“Like Uncle Chris works in the prosecuter’s office.”

Kicavir laughed. “I think that I need to arrange a trip to the Republic.”

“That was the plan and Chrissie and Midnight went instead with Sally. Grandmother wanted us for this.”

“So we make this pay. Think of it this way. If we nail Durlan, we will make a lot of friends.”



Chapter 30.

Castle Hill Park.

With her classes over for the day, Alinis was back at the temporary storage in the park maintenance shed going through the crystals that had come from the vault. She had started to look at them and enjoyed the many happy pictures from the ancient Empire and the Mage Queen, her husband and their children. The next crystal on the list was larger than the others and Alinis hoped that the mana battery that she had would be enough to operate it. She activated the crystal, the Mage Queen appeared and said, “Aren’t you a very lovely girl. What is your name?”

“Alinis. How can you see me and know what I am saying. Are you in the crystal?”

“Now that is an interesting question. I suspect that the real me is long, long dead. The building here does not appear to be of elven construction or part of my home. We appear to be surrounded by items from my vaults. What family are you, dear?”

“House Qinvaris.”

“An Imperial House with a farm and a shop for flour and groceries.”

Alinis started to giggle. The image of the Mage Queen looked at her with a rather puzzled expression and said, “What is so funny?”

“The farm has grown somewhat. The shop has as well.”

“In any case, I doubt that House Qinvaris is the entire story. Did your father or mother come from this region of wilderness.”
Alinis’s giggles went to hard laughter and the Mage Queen looked rather puzzled. “What IS so funny?”

“If I pick up the crystal, will you come with it?”
“The crystal is where I reside, yes.”

“Ok, then.”

Alinis took the crystal to the door and outside. The image of the Mage Queen looked around and said, “Hardly wilderness, but not elven either. How did the Empire let something like this grow?”

“The Empire split up after the Mage Wars. This area was drained of mana and became a place where all the other countries sent the people they didn’t want. Those people and our families built this and since there was no mana they did this.”

“Not something to be ashamed of at all. What is it called now?”

The city is Chatsrey. The Country is the Beltian Republic and was founded two centuries ago. The old families have been here longer.”

“They do not rule? My descendents, that is?”

“No, they do not, at least not like they do in the Empire, with slaves and so forth.”

“There are slaves in the Empire?”

“Most people are slaves. Of course on our farm, that doesn’t really matter. Daddy would like to emancipate everybody, but the Regency Council won’t let him, so we handle that through the House. Of course the slaves do not pay tax, since legally they are property. Daddy was a slave until recently. He came from here.”

“So your father, who was probably one of my descendants, shared blood with your mother, who kept him as a slave.”

“She didn’t want to, but daddy didn’t want the Inquisition coming after mom when he was violating the Proscriptions and mom didn’t want to make a stink until some clowns tried to buy daddy and mother wouldn’t sell. Actually our farm manager didn’t want to sell his boss.”

The mage queen laughed and said, “I sense the mana drain getting low, so I will return to my rest. I hope that we will speak again.”

“Should I keep you a secret?”

“For the nonce. If people know that this crystal exists, then they will be looking to me for advice and I am not of your world, so my advice will not be of the quality that they may need.”

“I will keep you our little secret, then.”

The crystal went dark and Alinis grinned. She set the crystal aside and went for another mana battery. She resolved to do two things. Ask Tarranth for the crystal and talk to the Bienans about a bigger mana battery. This was going to make her history class so much fun.

House Ulajyre.

Lyari looked at the two in the hall and grinned. “Terry, Starflower, so what brings you two here?”
“Master, we want your permission to look into a probable Mage’s file.”
“A mystery then. So why is this mage important?”
“Because he or she is probably the key to a mana source that the Darkmage is relying on like Onvyr was.”

“What House was it?”
“House Aetoris, which is currently another of those abandoned Houses that Lord Qinvaris took over. He wants to find the mage and set him or her up at the estate. Also, if we shut down that mana source, the Darkmage will have problems running certain things and the suppressors may shut down at last.”

“Then we must go and talk to Vestele about this. If there is an exile involved you two may have to travel.”

“We expect that,” Starflower said. “The horrors, looking for an exile in all those Republican beach towns in the south.”

“I see that you have the right approach to this. Let us go see Vestele.”

Vestele had an office where she was overseeing the dispersed mage Academy activities. She grinned as Lyari entered with Terry and Starflower. She looked up from a rather amusing report of some misbehaving boys, said boys being from the mage academy, Lower City fae and Windergar aerie who were all going to school in Windergar at present. Apparently the boys had all played hookey and gone skiing together, along with a massive snowball fight. The Academy teacher there at Windergar was rather upset and had sent a report. Aymon had sent a report as well with a bit of a different point of view. She handed Aymon’s report to Lyari and said, “Boys will be boys.”

He looked at it and grinned. “Indeed. I think that we may lose some of the older boys to caves. Still, sending the boys to Windergar was good thing.”

“I have been talking to Folwin Glynynore about getting some of the boys to ride post after Dragon Byddri made the suggestion. That is while there is still a post to ride. The older boys have already switched to trucks. So what brings you two here again?”

“We have been tasked by our terrible bosses to track down some potential mages,” Terry said.

“Do you have a name?”

“Not a full name, but we are looking for members of House Aetoris, that may have been exiled or is at least one of those mages in the Camp,” Terry said.

“Why do you want to track mages down from that House? That House is fallen.”
“We know. But there is a mana source on the property and we are hoping that a mage that is a key is still out there. Lord Qinvaris would also like to have the estate occupied again.”

“I will have to check, but I think that I have some information on that House. If I recall, that was an interesting case because both children of the House were accepted as mages. Lady Aetoris wanted her son to be assigned to the House, but there was a scandal and I will have to find the details. I will start with those mages that were recruited by the Ravathrya and still have not returned or been accounted for. You two keep our Grand Master here with your latest adventures.”

Starflower grinned. “We can do that.”

Vestele left as Terry and Starflower told the Grand Master about their efforts to support the getting the suppressors shut down. Terry said, “The magic word at Beinans is suppressor. Anything you want, just wave the word and you get it. The accountants and contract people are going to have fits figuring it all out. Especially since Beinans has contracts with The Fellowship, the Republic, the Kingdom of Hammer, all of the fae kingdoms, House Qinvaris, along with several other Great Houses in the empire and all of the dwarf kingdoms to do the work.”

“Not the Mortal Kingdoms?”

“They have not been as affected. Since Gander cleared out all the darkmages in the Mortal Kingdoms, there isn’t as much a worry about random mages marching compelled armies off. Both Dolmon and Astaire are taking steps with their fae neighbors to remove as many compulsions as they can.”

“Presumably they are doing that as well in the Fellowship.”

“Yes, and Starflower and I were part of that in Zirgoccol. We did the company and then the Senate, army headquarters and military intelligence, at least most of it. There were some volunteers looking to see if compulsions could be resisted and looking for ways to detect them.”

“That sounds like productive work.”

“Yes, especially with darkmages in the city. Cory and Nightrose are working with the Dragonmaster’s people and military intelligence on that.”

“It sounds as if you have been doing interesting and productive things.”

“Yes we have. Of course the most interesting has been Jimmy and Talissa’s little romp down on the Peninsula.”
“I am surprised that Queen Lazuli let those two go down there.”

“Jimmy made the case that he and Talissa could use the portal, very few people would want to argue with a landdragon, and if they did shoot at him, he wouldn’t get dangerously wounded. He was right.”

Vestelle returned with a folio and some files. “I have the information you wanted. It was as I remembered. Siveril Aetoris was exiled after a bit of a scandal involving compulsions.”

“I think that I remember his graduation work, which was was on Amplifiers and related devises,” Lyari said. “The scandal was another of Shaerra’s things. There was a trumped up charge that Mage Siveril was forcibly placing compulsions on people. I had to fight to keep the Inquisition out of the student laboratories. The mage’s parents went into exile with their son. Vestelle, has Tomas sent the list of exiled mages and their locations that we requested?”

“It is here, at least the preliminary list is.”

“Terry, Siveril would be a good recruit for Wyrran in any case, considering what Wyrran is working on presently. He was the other two’s journeyman advisor.”

“Wyrran only brought Cornaith and Guillis in because he knew them and he’s never mentioned Siveril,” Terry said.

“He may not have known Siveril, or they may not have gotten along” Vestelle said. “That was all some time ago.”

“What about the other mage, the sister?” Starflower asked.

“Syllia was assigned to the Ravathyra and like the others, her location was unkown.”

“So she is more than likely at the Camp. Terry, I think that we can start there.”

“Why did you think that she did not return?” Lyari asked.

“We talked about that, and what Vestelle here said supports what we were thinking, somewhat,” Terry replied. “We think that for some of the mages, they feel that there was no place else to go. So, along with the compulsions, they felt no need to leave. Starflower, we need to move on to the Camp, so we need to talk to Magpie next. Grand Master, Lady Ulajyre, thank you for your time.”

The pair left and Lyari laughed. “Vestelle, I think that somebody is going to get a nice surprise and another House will be restored.”

“I think that you are right, if those two have anything to say about it.”


The Imperial Palace.

Itireae looked at the ladies gathered for the tea and sighed. She turned to Faylen and said, “This is not going to be pleasant.”

“At least you are trying. The lady would be tempting them further into the mess to poke at Lord Qinvaris.”

“Thereby giving Richard bad choices. Well, here I go.”

“I am surprised that you hired me.”

“Galan suggested it as you know the ins and outs of the palace and can teach my grandchildren certain things that they may need.”

“I worked for the Dowager Empress. How can you trust me?”

“I trust you because you tried to restrain the Dowager Empress. Very few others did.”

Raenisa Nerihorn came up to the Empress and curtseyed. “Thank you for doing this, your majesty. None of us were told about what was going on down there on the Peninsula.”

“I am glad to help. You all were not responsible for what happened and your estates will suffer grievous losses to feed the Darkmage’s inanimates when the time comes unless you break off your connection to the Darkmage.”

“I think that I managed to convince my son to stay off Qinvaris lands, especially when it was evident from the Justiciar’s report that Folas had been in the act of committing rape when the events surrounding his death occurred.”

“Did Folas know the girl beforehand?”
“He may have. On the other hand, he was always more than a bit wild. I have no idea what he thought he was doing.”

That does happen when boys are doing things that are rather disreputable and things get out of hand. On the other hand, if this gets worse, Lord Qinvaris may take steps and that will be unpleasant for those on the other end of things.”

“I told Filverel that his debt to the Darkmage has been paid. Apparently he and the other families think that they owe a debt to the Darkmage for not being struck by the Blight. They see what they are doing as paying that debt.”

“Have you discussed that with the other ladies?”

“Yes I have, and the fact that Rosa has been upfront with me and some others has helped somewhat, because it makes clear just how much that payment may cost. We do not want our Houses to be sacrificed on the altar of the Darkmage’s dreams.”

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