The Republic Besieged, Chapter 31-32

“I’m more concerned about something that the Beinans might send through.”

“That makes a lot of sense.”

Chapter 31.

The Peninsula.

General Headbasher looked at the upgraded security at the portals and went to find Colonel Waterside. “Horgas, what is going on at the portals?”

“Landdragon prevention.”

“Landdragons were coming through the portal?”

“They came, they prowled around and they left, through the portal. I didn’t believe it, until I saw one of them.”

“So they were not normal landdragons.”
“I suspect that they were two rather famous landdragons doing some looking around for some relatives.”

“Jimmy. The others haven’t reached that level of eminence yet.”

“I suspect that it was Jimmy the first time. The next, it might be something worse.”

“Then your taking precautions makes sense. We don’t want Jimmy or any of the landdragons wandering around the camp.”

“I’m more concerned about something that the Beinans might send through.”

“That makes a lot of sense.”

Anerth Beinan flew silently over the villa that had the suppressor inside. When he was sure that the villa was empty, he called out to his cousin in Dragonspeach, “Come on in, the place is empty.”

Bruzzid motored quietly up in the rather disreputable looking boat and he and his crew stalked up the dock to where the suppressor had been hidden while Anerth flew cover. They put the suppressor on the handtruck, lugged it back to the boat and put the suppressor aboard and the boat left, leaving no trace of it’s being there.

The Empty Lands.

The Darkmage exited the Camp portal, called for a horse and went to the fortress looking for his son. He found Herdir in his office, looking at a map. Herdir looked up and said, “Hello father.”

“Have you found and recovered the devises?”
“Father, all the vaults I checked had been opened and cleared.”

“What about my granddaughters?”

“They went to open vaults and never returned. Either they were captured by the enemy or they joined with the enemy. I suspect the latter.”

“Do you have any idea where the Project elements went?”
“Not at all. They may be in the Fellowship or at the Beinan estate, but I don’t think that they are in such an obvious place.”

“The things have tracers my grandfather put on them.”

“Since I didn’t know to look for tracers, I didn’t attempt to trace the parts. In any case, with the suppressors active, looking for tracers is impossible.”

“We can shut the suppressor here down briefly and I will sense for the trace of grandfather’s things.”

The Darkmage shutdown the suppressor and reached out to look for the parts of his grandfather’s devises. Now that they were out of the the vaults, the traces showed that everything was still in the Empty Lands near the water. The Darkmage turned to his son and said, “I suspect that our enemies were trying to hide things under our noses.”

“That was why we could never find the things at the Beinans. They were never there. So what should we do about it? If we start an expediton, they will probably guess and move the things before we could possibly get there.”

“Have the Great Captain make himself useful. He can retrieve the devises and take them to Ishendell.”

“We have gotten very little from the Great Captain of late. I will take the proposal to him.”

Flint looked at Nebula and said, “I can Jump.”

“Somebody shut the suppressors down. At least the one at the fortress was shut down.”

“Now I can’t Jump.”
“They turned it back on again. I expect that somebody was looking for something.”

“So, what do we do?”

“We run all the paper to Fayspire before whoever it is shows up and see if we can arrange trucks for the rest from Fayspire. Then we tag everything left. The first thing I do is port to Fayspire and tell Mage Wyrran.”

“That makes sense to me. We get the things that we don’t want the clowns to even know about first and the mages and archives people out. We don’t have the captain and his people and we didn’t set up for a battle. Let’s get this moving.”

Zirgoccol.

Qambois grinned as he looked at Jimmy and Talissa. “Dan, you brought my two favorite landdragons here. “Welcome to Zirgoccol, Jimmy and Princess Talissa.”

“Why thank you, Dragonmaster,” Talissa said.

“What brings you to my office today?”

“We went on a trip recently to Ishendell and Mr. Harper thought that we should share what we saw” Jimmy said. “We also have pictures and a report for you from General Ironcutter and Senator Parrott. Things were ugly. General Headbasher refused to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ishendell and the Darkmage used portals to drop compelled and monsters throughout the city. The estimates of the dead are more than ten thousand people, split half and half between Republic and Fellowship citizens and their families. General Ironcutter entered the city with his troops to evacuate as many as he could and beat back the monsters and compelled, taking heavy casualties in the process. That part is there in the report. Talissa and I took a lot of pictures.”

“Did you take pictures of victims from the Fellowship?”
“Yes we did,” Talissa said. “Especially after the general wanted Jimmy to be with some kids whose parents had disappeared in the mess. Jimmy did that while I took pictures. The kids felt much safer with Jimmy there until the general could get them on a ship and off to Milport. The general has been getting people on the ships as fast as possible to get as many people as he can out of the combat zone.”

“Excellent. You may have saved me some trouble as you can provide proof of what actually occurred. There are some that have said that what happened was the result of General Ironcutter’s lack of concern for the People of the Fellowship.”

“The people on the Peninsula didn’t think that way,” Jimmy said, “especially the people that had been at the hotels and the airport. They all said that the general acted at great risk to his troops to get as many people out of the city as possible and used his trucks to take every civilian, not just Republican civilians out once he knew what was going on. Senator Parrott said that the general and his soldiers did everything they could and fought the monsters and compelled until every civilian they could find was safe.”

“Senator Parrot has not always been a friend of the Republic.”

“He certainly is now and wants to form a tribunal for General Headbasher’s crimes.”

“We have quite a bit on that already. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Dan, thank you for the report. I imagine that President Cloudrunner is rather annoyed at us.”

“I was the voice of reason in the room and it was good thing that Congress is in recess right now. Jarfaet is feeling the heat from the hotheads and after Ishendell, the heat is getting to blast furnace levels. The president wants Headbasher’s head on a platter.”

“I do not blame him one bit and I suspect that you and Sarya both told him that the Fellowship has not sanctioned the general’s actions. Unfortunately, the Consul has not wanted to send another Army general and put them at risk and one of them is in the Republic at present.”

“General Creek should be arriving on the Peninsula shortly. He went to Jarfaet, personally apologized for the actions of his country and got permission to travel to the peninsula on a Republican ship. He wants to be in position to take command of the army if you can get people there to arrest General Headbasher.”

“I can arrange that. I am surprised that he would take such direct action.”

“I was as well, but what he did cooled quite a bit of heat. I haven’t spoken to the general personally, but he was rather ashamed of what the Fellowship had done, according to Hoddy.”

“Hoddy is in the Republic?”

“The Press service wanted him there. I think that they think that if Hoddy is in the Republic, Byddri will show up as well.”

“Where is Byddri?”

“I wouldn’t know, actually. He left the Hidden City with Kythaela. So he is in the Empire someplace.”

“You and these two intrepid young people have an appointment with the Consul, so I will not keep you.”

Cory and the others that were in Zirgoccol with him had been watching Mage Blackspire get more frustrated as events unfolded and the support for the general’s actions was collapsing at a tremendous rate. While the Blasted Lands had historically been at war with each other rather frequently, atrocities had been rare and all three had apparently set rules and abided by them, until now. The situation had been made even worse for the general as a substantial number of those killed had not been Citizens of the Republic, instead being Fellowship vacationers, college students and airline workers. With the changing circumstances, the support that Blackspire had been building for war with the Republic had drifted away like sand and he was left with two or three supporters like Senator Tollings who still wallowed in their self delusions. Cory watched the meeting and when it was over, left after the pair had gone on their separate ways, only to find Senator Tollings’s car and driver waiting for him as he left. The window rolled down and Tollings said, “Young man, who do you work for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Gerald’s has a group of fairly regular customers and very few others. Yet it seems that every time I am having lunch with a certain associate, you are there, and at no other time. So who do you work for?”

Cory cursed under his breath. He had figured that Blackspear wouldn’t pick up on him and had never considered that the Senator would. He thought about his options and said, “Somebody who wants you and some others to not make a big mistake.”

“By talking with my friend there?”
“Do you know who your friend works for?”

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“The Darkmage.”
“He is a myth.”

“I wish that I could say that. Are you aware of events in the Empire?”

“There was the Blight, supposedly, the Emperor died, in an air crash surprisingly and the Darkmage supposedly took over the Conclave with everybody’s favorite boogey man, Paeris Zylvyre. Somehow, the Conclave went on, regardless.”

“The Blight was real. I was there when some monks launched it in Astaire and the other Mortal Kingdoms after they failed to in the Empire. The Emperor came to help and was killed by mages sent by the Darkmage. Your military intelligence and the Dragonmaster both have copies of the reports with documentation, as does Halamar Beinan.”

“What about the takeover of the palace and the Conclave?”

“I was there when Paeris Zylvyre closed off the retreat and turned a probable defeat into victory. You do not have to take my word for what happened. The Imperial Embassy in the Republic will be glad to send you the report.”

“I can hardly send messages to the Republic at present.”

“Have you tried?”

“That brings me to my original question. Who do you work for?”

“Senator, I work for somebody that trusts me to not betray their trust in me. Since I don’t think that you knowing who I work for would be in their best interest, I will leave you with what I have said. If you would like to investigate, feel free. The Dragonmaster’s office and Military Intelligence know who I am and who I work for. I bid you good day.”

Cory dodged the reaching driver and walked quickly to the corner of the street before the driver could pick himself off the sidewalk where he had fallen after overextending himself reaching for Cory and wrapped glamor around himself to make himself invisible. If the senator actually did talk to the Dragonmaster, that would only be a good thing.

The Retreat.

Paeris stepped off the boat and the pest was right on top of him as he headed to Rolin’s office. “Where is my sister?”

“In the water someplace, I expect, looking for a beach so that she can get together with her boyfriend.”

“What do you mean?!”
“Figure it out for yourself.”
“You seduced her. She was flashing that tail she has around to her friends.”

“Actually she seduced me. Made some very nice dates to accomplish that too. I was unwilling at the start, but your sister is a good cook, knows her wines and is intelligent company. Actually, we had several dates together before she got what she wanted. I was reluctant for reasons that should be obvious and she convinced me that it was the right thing to do.”

“I will tell the Master!”
“Go right ahead. He’s right here. Master, you seem to be looking for me. Ilbyren wants to discuss his sister’s actions with me with you.”
“What did Cithrel do?”

“Manage to get a tail for herself by doing a very nice job of seducing me. I was reluctant at first, but she made some rather effective arguments and some excellent meals and convinced me to do what she wanted. Ilbyren is upset that I didn’t ask his permission to let his sister seduce me.”

“You are hardly the first man that Cithrel has seduced.”

“I am aware of that. But I was lonely and the arrangement suited us both. I had some evenings of intelligent conversation and she acquired a tail, with all that goes with that. Increasing the number of seafolk here only helps us and if she and the lieutenant find a beach, and get together, then I have a potential crewmember that will not drown and Cithrel has a bond. A bond is a precious thing. So what can I do for you?”

“You are aware that the Beinans have been acquiring things from my father. I want you to take them back.”

“Don’t you have people for that?”
“The place where the things are is near the beach and my father is in a bit of a rush right now. I figured that you could take your people and look to see if the things are actually there and if they are, take them back.”

“So where is it?”

“Why don’t we find someplace private and discuss it without any more interruptions.”

“Uncle’s Rolin’s office is available. He is still at the capital at present.”

“Let us proceed then.”

Paeris led the Master to Rolin’s office and they went inside. “So you have a task for me.”
“As you know, my father started to dig up the Darkmage’s various devises and the Beinans made off with most of them. The Darkmage had placed tracers on the various parts and we tracked them to here.”

Herdir pointed to a location up the shore near a point.

“How come you didn’t find them earlier?”
“Because they were shielded in the vaults and then the suppressor was masking the tracers. We turned the suppressor here off for a brief time.”

“I hope that no fae picked up on that or we may have some difficulties.”

“Such as?”

“The devises being moved again to protect them. Or defenders brought in.”

“What will you do?”
“I will take a look in any case. I have some Swimmers and we can go over tonight and take a look. If things look clean we will go ahead in.”

“Excellent. If you should run into Phaerille and Alyndra, their grandmother would like to see them at the Sanctuary. My father is looking for them as well, but they will probably run if you told them that.”

Wyrran looked at the piles of the Darkmage’s things and sighed. Thanks to the war, he hadn’t been able to get nearly the number of trucks he wanted and he was fairly sure that Great Captain Zylvyre was on his way. He hadn’t thought to have the fae check for tags and there was a better than even chance that they wouldn’t have found the tags in any case. So far, the smaller devises were gone, as were the research team, all the paper and notes, and just as much as he could carry away. The large projector and some other things would have to stay. Wyrran and Jorg Beinan had removed certain things from the various devises, but Wyrran was sure that with the Sanctuary’s shops available, replacements could be obtained, that is if the Darkmage did not have them already. Flint came in and said, “Wyrran, some boats just ran by. They looked like the Great Captain’s. They didn’t stop though.”

“Ok, we pull everybody to the portal. Jorg, when you get to Fayspire, hold the trucks. You and your people clear out. Flint, Nebula and I will wait next to the portal to see who shows up.”

Wiz led his team of swimmers up to the ruined castle. The castle was empty, until they approached the portal house and the portal activated. He turned to Wave and said, “They cleared out. Signal to the Great Captain.”
“Who do you think it was?”

“At a guess, a bunch of Beinan’s people. The last of them ported out after they saw us coming.”

“Why didn’t they shoot it out and defend this stuff?”

“They didn’t have the people to do that available quickly enough. When we look, we will find every scrap of useful information and everything they found that was important will already be gone.”

“Let me signal to the Great Captain.”

Wiz’s team poked around, but other than the bits and pieces of the Darkmage’s things there was very little left. The Great Captain showed up and said, “They pulled out fast enough. There must have been fae who sensed that the suppressor had shutdown and gone right back up again. So they figured that somebody was coming for these things and rather than fight a pointless fight, pulled out. Wiz, I’m afraid you are going to have your work cut out for you.”

“Why?”

“Because the clowns will expect you to fetch and carry the things that your former employers pulled from these things.”
“Why me?”
“Because if a darkmage appears in Innshys where the portal to the Sanctuary is, that darkmage will be shot almost as soon as he exits the portal, if he isn’t arrested and turned over to the Grand Master. So our bosses will need somebody to handle those things and that is you.”

“You make sense and I expect that you are right about things pulled from this stuff. At least they fixed the dock to this place. This was a nice hideout they found.”

Paeris looked at the repaired side buildings and the ruined castle and said, “Yes it is. On the shore, not too far from the Fellowship, road into the place, plenty of space to park trucks and other vehicles and room for all sorts of clandestine activies. With the portal and the road, easy to pull things out if they need to.”

“I wonder why they looked for it in the first place?”
“At a guess, they were hiding portal operations here and Mage Wyrran moved those someplace else. But that is hard to tell and we don’t need to speculate. Let us start work. Send somebody to the Camp and have them send some people here to help clean things out. The longer we are here, the more time your former bosses have to come up with a response.”

The Qinvaris Estate, Istrosia Region.

The boys shouldn’t have been surprised at Durlan’s wiliness, but after a five day of playing games with him, they were beginning to respect his ability to avoid the traps they set. Even with GPs and Durlan only having horses, the boys could not set up a good enough ambush to lock the elf and his team down. Durlan was very sensitive to nuances and if there was even the slightest thing that he didn’t like, he would abort. Today, though was going to be different. Today was market day in the town of Iyanalion. The trick was to have the trap ready and invisible. Fortunately, they had recruited Alinar Harper and he had come up with wagons and stalls that the boys modified, so that they looked like regular market stall, they were nothing of the kind. Alinar also helped them with the guard and setting up so that the crowds did not panic or get made off with. With the beginning of market day, all that remained was for Durlan and his boys to show up.

As they approached Iyanalion, Wyrran turned to Durlan and said, “I don’t like this.”
“Neither do I, but the Darkmage is screaming for people to be sent through the portals and we are short.”

“I don’t like it that you brought the clowns along. Some of them will work out, but too many of them are like that idiot Folas.”

“Don’t remind me. I think that the idea of the Justiciars poking around scared them somewhat.”

“The families don’t want to lose their side businesses to Justiciar Dawkins. In any case, here we are.”

The team rode into town and split up. Durlan looked and there were Inquisitors about and rifles or other firearms absent. After a fairly detailed scan of the market square as it filled up, Durlan blew a whistle with his fingers. He drew out his Darkmage token and said, “Servants of the Darkmage, hear me! Line up near the town gate.”

The Inquisitors must have been compelled as well as two of them were the first to line up next to the town gateway. The rest of the marketers lined up at the prodding of Durlans people. When everything was ready to go, a voice said, “Now!” suddenly the various members of the team were dragged off their horses with nets and held. Durlan spurred his horse toward the nearest exit, only to have it blocked by what appeared to be market stalls. He quickly yanked on his horses’ reins, pulling the horse’s head around and spurred his horse, heading to the next exit, only to find yet another of the fake market stalls. Wyrran joined him as he headed to the main entrance and called out, “It’s just us! All the others have been taken!”

The main entrance suddenly had two GPs blocking it and men with rifles. Durlan and Wyrran looked at each other and put their hands up.

Richard grinned when he looked at the message. Durlan and his team were not the only team that the Darkmage had to go after Richard’s people, just the most effective. Now that was at an end. Rosa came in and said, “Why are you smiling so much?”

“The Lion boys captured Durlan this morning, along with his entire gang and some scions of various Houses.”

“What are they going to do with them?”

“I imagine that they have plans for them.”

Stormfire looked for the returning retrieval teams. So far, as evening approached, over half of them had not yet returned and the numbers of slaves retrieved was low. He turned to the major and said, “Father is not going to like this.”

“There was nothing we could do and you warned him that playing with Lord Qinvaris was playing with fire.”

“I did, but it will probably be us that get’s burned.”

The Peninsula.

General Ironcutter watched as the ship slipped its lines and was pulled away from the dock. That was the last ship loaded and taking the civilians away from Ishendell, as well as the heroic militia and volunteers who had helped keep things from being a total disaster. The militia and volunteers had fought and bled with his regulars and he would have liked to have kept them, but he needed his army mobile again. He watched the staff car heading toward the enemy.

General Headbasher watched the car approach. He had known that this moment would come, the moment where somebody would be sent to relieve him of his command. The car stopped and General Creek got out, followed by a pair of officers from the JAG and two fae. The general walked over to General Headbasher and said, “General, I am here to relieve you of your command and turn you over to the Judge Advocate’s General’s office on charges of treason and violations of the rules of war.”

“I’m afraid that I cannot do that, general.”

“What did you just say?”

“General, I am not going to turn myself over to those in league with the enemy.”

“What makes you think that for one minute I am in league with an enemy?”

“You were in the Republic when things started. You must have come from there and that means that the Republic must have let you go. So you are in league with them.”

“Yes, I was in the Republic, visiting my daughter who lives under sea. What of it. Until you started this mad escapade, neither country was at war. Thanks to some pleading on my part, the two countries are still not at war. In any case, you are guilty of taking independent action and moving your forces without authorization from the chief of staff or army command, let alone the Consul. Then there is the little issue of you assaulting another country without those tedous little details like declaration of war and responding to an actual attack.”
“We were responding to an attack. There were a series of operations conducted in preparation of an attack on the Fellowship.”
“With two divisions? General, I must accept your command. I have been ordered to take over your command and return it to quarters immediately and have the various officers put through the process of investigation.”

“I and my army are staying here. Go general, before I order my troops to open fire.”

“That will be treason, general, just so that you are aware of that. If I depart now, you will be facing capital charges and your officers with you.”

“That is as may be. Go now, general.”

The general entered the staff car and as it drove off asked, “Is he under compulsion?”

“It is hard to tell,” Bluebird said. “I tried to grasp and pull the compulsions, but they may have been in place for a very long time and very subtle.”

“I was afraid of that. I was certain that General Headbasher was under some kind of compulsions, but this is probably more of a reinforcement to the things he already believes. The problem is that his senior officers are all of the same sort of mindset. This will not end well for anybody.”

 

 

Chapter 32.

The Sanctuary.

Keerla brought Byddri to her grandfather’s office and said in her usual bubbly fashion, “Khatar, this is Byddri Flamefire from the Press Service.”

“Welcome Dragon Byddri. I have arranged to get the papers here and your articles are insightful and thoughtful. You also seem to be able to talk to just about everybody. So, other than Keerla, who is sneaking out on you, what brings you here?”

Byddri laughed. “Keerla is exposing my wife and bank account to something she calls the “mall.” I expect that the bank account will squeal a bit. As to what brings me here, I wanted to have a chat with you and Keerla’s grandfather about the events and decisions that led up to sending the army down to the Empire. I also wanted to see this place and my bosses wanted pictures and my impressions when they heard about it. The story may not be in the papers as quickly as I would like as the rather dramatic opening of the vaults in the Republic has sent quite a few stories to the back pages and the conflict on the Peninsula even more.”

“I see. I think that Durhir would be willing to discuss things with you on a bit of a quid pro quo basis. Would you be willing to share your experiences in places like the Republic?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, I have not as yet spent a great deal of time in the Republic. That was supposed to change, but the Blight, the Emperor’s death and the Conclave required that I be in the Empire.”

“Are you a citizen of the Empire?”
“I am not, actually. I grew up in the Windergar Aerie where I was born and one day, as young dragons do, decided to steal some sheep from the Post Service. I was caught, in trouble and as punishment, I was grounded and had to ride post for a month. That month turned into almost four years of riding all over the Empire and taking pictures of the places I went. Once I became too old for the Post Service, I joined the Dragonguard, Admiral Ehlark spotted my skills with crystals, arranged a trumped up charge and had me dragged down to the Hidden City where I spent another five years and met my wife while playing fun and games with the Great Captain. The Hidden City was taken over by the Republic, the navy contracted for my services and the Press Service also contracted for pictures and then when they realized that I had contact with just about everybody in the Empire and was able to get pictures as well, they hired me as the correspondent for the Empire.”

“Why don’t I take you on tour of this city and explain how it was founded and why things are the way they are. Then we can have a chat with Durhir and you can ask your questions.”

“By the way, if your school children would like to have me visit, we can arrange that. I have done it in the Hidden City of course, Elysahone, The Mage Academy, the Lower city and even the Republic.”

“That is an interesting proposal. I imagine that Keerla will introduce you to her librarian friends all too soon.”

“She already discussed that with me.”

“I am not surprised.”

Fayspire.

Magpie caught Wyrran as he was leaving for the portal and said, “We watched the castle after you left. The Great Captain showed up in his boats after the other characters signaled that it was clear.”

“We got everything we could out. Did the Great Captain take everything?

“They had a barge, a truck and a crane. It wasn’t a big deal for them. I wish that the captain was still there.”

“So will the captain when he hears about this. That doesn’t change the fact that what he was doing on the Peninsula was more important. We had the captain on loan. We did the right thing and the Darkmage won’t know exactly what we know and just what needs to be done to make all those things work again.”

“You seem awfully blasé about this.”

“Magpie, you should know me better than that. But I can’t do anything about other than the things we already did and the fact that the castle was in enemy territory was always a bit of a risk. When it was the portal operations, there was nothing to track there and the risk was low. With the Darkmage’s things that was a different story and as the situation developed, I suspected that the Darkmage would have a way of tracing those things and would send somebody to look for them. I figured that he would come over land and that we would have plenty of opportunity to evacuate everything. He sent the Great Captain instead and we lost the Darkmage’s toys all over again. The difference is that we have gone over them and can work on countermeasures while he has to transport them to Ishendell and then make them work.”

“I still feel bad about leaving everything.”

“So do I, but I knew that I would probably have to when the suppressor cut out and then was activated again. That had to be for a reason and I suspect that the Master either sent people to the sites or went himself and saw that we had cleaned them out. So he was looking and his father showed up and tracked the tracers that we couldn’t look for. What we did was a risk and we did the right thing. Getting into a fight with the Great Captain over something that we don’t really need is idiotic. The Darkmage can have those things and try to make them work, which he will.”

“We could have blown them up, right in the Great captain’s face. We had explosives.”

“I thought about it and decided not to. For one thing, if we had, the Darkmage may have gone back to the Sanctuary and had new things fabricated, or worse, may have more someplace and have gone and taken them to Ishendell. If he were smart he would have started to do that anyway when Andy was digging his stuff up.”

“Wyrran, if the Darkmage were smart, none of this would have happened the way it did.”

Durlan looked at his cousin and said, “I knew we were pushing our luck.”

“I want to know where these kids came from. They had our number right from the start.”

“I think that we pissed off the big lady mob boss when we took her granddaughter and she set her boys on us.”

“That would explain it. They had the collars that we couldn’t get, the guns, the trucks and all the rest of it. The Qinvaris people all seemed to be friendly with them and they were tight. So this is the Qinvaris, the mob and the Beinans. I wonder where we are?”
“The truck is stopping, so we will find out.”

Marshall Lightning Limegrace grinned as the truck pulled up and the back was opened. Sometimes the nicest presents showed up even after Winterfaire. He waved to his team and called out, “Durlan Richflight and your little gang. Sometimes the nicest presents show up. We are all ready to greet you, at last.”

Looking at the woebegone faces on the Richflights, Lightning’s grin got even wider.

Tim looked at Kicavir and said, “I feel guilty doing that.”

“Don’t feel guilty over these clowns, trust me. They have been responsible for a lot of grief for a very long time. Just think about what they were planning to do when we took them.”

“It just feels wrong, somehow.”

“Was it fun?”

“Yes.”

“Then it wasn’t wrong.”

“What are we going to do with the rest of them?”

“We have a nice little place all set up for them. Durlan and his people set it up for us. It has roads, portals and everything. All we need to do is let grandmother handle the negotiations.”

“Why did you scan them with that scanner thing?”
“I was measuring their mana potential. Considering that they were all high elves, it was pathetic.”

Zirgoccol.

Vafealine looked at Senator Tollings as if he was a rather disgusting insect and said, “The Dragonmaster is unavailable at present.”

“Perhaps you can help me, Mrs. Brewhide. A young man, probably at least a half elf has been observing me in some private conversations. Do you know anything about that?”

“Senator, our people here are all stretched dealing with the suppressors and the little thing down on the Peninsula. They would have very little time to be looking into your doings and since watching the sausage being ground is not in our mandate at this office, don’t have time to care. Of course, if you were involved in those things, I would hardly tell you that the young man was working for us. Do you have a picture?”
“I do, actually. My man noticed him before I did.”

The senator handed Vafealine a rather poor picture of what was probably a half elf. She took it and said, “I will see if I can find out anything about him.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Brewhide. I don’t want my meetings to get all over the City.”

When the senator was gone, Vafealine went to the Dragonmaster’s office and said, “Cory was a bit sloppy.”

“The senator had a picture?”
“Rather poor and if we didn’t already know who it probably was, it could be just about anybody.”

“What did you tell the senator.”
“The truth, which is that it wasn’t one of our people.”

Saevel was glad that he was with George and not Bellfower today when he spotted the darkmage going through bookstalls. Saevel and George had been playing a game to find the book that would be the most likely to be confiscated by the Inquisition. They had decided to do this when Saevel told his cousins the story of Delion and his clowning around at the bookfaire. So they were prowling the old bookstalls looking for things that would give the Inquisition hives, but were perfectly ordinary here. When they had started George had complained. “Saevel, you have an advantage. You have lived with the Inquisition all your life.”
“I don’t, actually. The Inqusisition was kept away from the Sanctum by my Uncle Melaris, who never came to the Sanctum either. So I haven’t actually seen an inquistitor until recently and didn’t even know what the Inqusition did. I wasn’t at that bookfaire and Delion didn’t do his clown show at the last one. I just heard the story.” Saevel held up an old book on crude steam engines, “This one counts.”

When Saevel sensed the darkmage, he looked around until he spotted the elf poking around the stalls. He quietly said to George, “That character over there is a darkmage.”

“What should we do?”
“If he seems to be looking for me, you run and get a cop while I play games for a bit and then run. If he’s looking for something, we find out what it is and then tell the Dragonmaster.”

The boys poked through the stalls, looking at books and laughing at the Inquisition potential. They also bought some books and George slid closer to the darkmage as he was at a stall and poked around as the darkmage was asking questions. He joined Saevel again and said, “He’s looking for books on old Imperial stuff. He’s in the wrong area. I know where to go.”

“How?”

“Steve’s classwork was on that stuff and I have his books, since he is going to college and I bought some more, so I know where to look.”

George led him to section of the bookstalls where things were rather dusty. Saevel said, “I wonder if Dan knows about this?”

“Why?”

“He’ll clear these characters out. He has all those libraries to buy for. Did the Darkmage want a particular book?”

“He didn’t say. There he is.”

The Darkmage talked to a stall owner and after he left the stall owner called out, “George, I think that your brother has a copy of Principles of Mana Devises doesn’t he? That elf there is looking for one.”

“I don’t think that my brother will give that up unless there is big money involved.”
“I think that that character would pay big money.”

“I will talk to him about it.”

“Who is this?”

“My cousin from my grandmother’s family, Saevel. They are visiting.”

George pulled Saevel away and said, “Now we know what he is looking for. The problem he will have is finding a copy. Steve’s classwork took a long time because he wanted a copy, the library copy was locked up and he needed a special researcher’s access to even look at it. He found one, finally, but that was lucky and I know where to check to see where there might be another one.”

George dragged Saevel deeper into the warren of stalls where things were practically dark and across the street that had ratty stores with dust on the windows. He went to one and knocked on the door. The door opened and a wizened goblin smiled and said, “George, you and your brother do not need appointments. Come on in.”

George dragged Saevel and said, “Saevel, this is Zubrol. He’s an expert in old Imperial books. You should send Dan here.”
“Who is Dan, George?”
“Dan Qinvaris, Zubrol. He found the stuffed shirt places and didn’t know to come here.”

“That is why I have been making so many sales to Mr. Bidove of late. He prefers other methods to obtain his stock and that source has dried up. So he came to me for restock. Who is your new elvish friend?”

“This is my cousin Saevel. He and his sisters are visiting. Anyway, do you have a copy of Principles of Mana Devises?

“I do not believe so, but let us look. I did make a purchase recently from the family of an exile who had managed to get his library here from the Empire. You already have a copy, so why would you want another?”

“I don’t, but somebody else is looking for one and they are people that grandmother doesn’t like.”

“Shall we look in any case?”

They started in through the piles and found it, along with quite a few things that were Imperial, but would give the Inquisition hives. Saevel kept the mood light with Delion and other Inquisitor stories as they searched until there was a pounding on the door and Zubrol went to answer it. He returned and said, “I think that your elf that your grandmother doesn’t like just arrived. I told him that I was with another customer and that he could call and make an appointment. I also told him that I deal with book dealers almost exclusively and did not necessarily know if I had a particular book. Rather an obnoxious person.”

Saevel and George laughed and Saevel said, “His timing was just a little off, as look what I just found.” He help up the leather bound folio. “I think that this is it. Zubrol, may I use your phone?”
“I trust you, but who are you calling?”

“I am calling Dan Qinvaris, or rather the house. He has libraries to fill up.”

Zubrol’s eyes gleamed. “Libraries? Where are they?”

“The Empire. His grandmother, Mrs. Harper, wants libraries for both the Lower and Cloud City.”

Saevel made his call and after about a twentieth of more poking, Cory and Aien showed up and Saevel let them in. Cory grinned and said, “So Saevel, what have you discovered? Other than more bookstores for Dan to pillage, that is. ”
Saevel held up the book and said, “A darkmage was looking for this.”

Cory looked at it and said, “A book on devises. They must be having issues in Ishendell. Mr. Lorefinder, may I use your phone? A certain big buyer just got out of classes for the day. We missed this street the last time we were here and I may have cost somebody quite a bit of his money.”

Zubrol handed Cory the phone and said, “Will Lord Qinvaris be bothered by the dust?”

“Not at all. You should have seen the places that we used to crawl into digging into stuff. Don’t pay any attention to phony sneezes and his whining about the dust. I think he’s going just a bit too much into the spoiled rich kid thing.”

Blackmoon had gone along the rather dusty and poorly arranged bookstores looking for the book that the Master had wanted and not found it. All of the dealers recommended Lorefinder as the Imperial specialist, and he returned to find a very fancy car, a rather snooty young elf with girlfriend and minions, who were apparently making off with most of Lorefinder’s shop. The elven princeling said to his elven princess, “Grandmother will be so pleased. These will fill some holes that the libraries had. All these books about the old devises.”

Blackmoon looked at the book in the prince’s hands, the stack of books next to him and prepared to launch magefire, only to see what must be a bodyguard look at him and move to cover the prince. For some reason, Blackmoon was certain that his magefire would fail and that if he did use it, the reprisal would be swift and fatal. He retreated from the scene.

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