The Republic Besieged, Chapter 33-34

A lady is rescued. Byddri visits the Sanctuary.

Chapter 33.

Chatsrey.

Lyrei looked at Alinis from her crystal and said, “You miss your mother, don’t you?”

“More than somewhat. Realistically, we haven’t been away that long, but I worry about her and daddy. I worry about daddy and the Ghost.”
“The lost child effect can be dangerous. On the other hand, your father has been tested for his potential by the fae, who are more in contact with it than a typical mage is, and passed.”
“The Grand Master insisted.”
“The Grand Master seems to be very wise.”
“He is, and probably the true example of the best that a mage can be. He has gone into places where mages would be killed if they were known and with his humility and sheer goodness, changed that, at risk to his life. He changed the way people think in those places so much that Grand Master dolls are very popular in the Mortal Kingdoms. Of course now they make Emperor, Lord Qinvaris and airplane toys too.”

“I imagine that your father does not like being a great hero.”

“He’s sort of stuck with it now.”

“So what did you want to learn about today?”
Alinis brought out her notepad and picked up a pencil in her right hand. “Did the Cloud City exist in your time?”

“I’m not sure what you are talking about, exactly? What is the Cloud City?”

“The Cloud city is a belt of castles and palaces in the capital that are in the mountains above the Lower City section of the capital. The imperial palace and the market have the largest plateau, but some of the castles are older than the palace. I was wondering when the idea of putting castles up in the mountains started. It must have been when the portals were first used.”

“Yes, that is exactly right. That would be about a hundred years or so before I was born. I think the Lord Yllanan built the first one.”

“That would be Esgalwathanar’s great grandfather, probably. That explains some things about the family. Building that castle of theirs must have been expensive.”

“The House still exists?”

“Yes. In fact they have invaded the Republic, so to speak, after conquering the next door faery kingdom and the next door bower. Esgalwathanar did some inappropriate things with various mortal women and had a bunch of sneaky kids who bonded and married the neighbors. There are certain areas of the Empire that sane people should avoid and the Yllanan estate counts. So House Yllanan started it and others followed. Was the Imperial Palace built then?”

“I suspect not while I was alive. The palace that I knew was in the Lower City.”

“That may be what they call the residence. The crown prince lives there now. I think that the current Emperor did not want both his sons in the palace with his mother.”

“From what you have said, she was frightful.”

“We were safe from her because mother would have nothing to do with her right up to the Conclave when mother colluded with Prince Narbeth’s wife to rather humiliate the lady. Mother and grandmother did not want Shaerra in the palace with the power of the head of household restored fully to her. So my sisters, our friends and all the things we could come up with were brought in to make the Conclave as much fun as possible and humiliate the Dowager Empress and her Ravathrya allies. We did very well at that.”

“You know that your father is in a risky position right now as he is a direct challenge to the Emperor.”

“Daddy is aware of that and takes steps to mitigate that as much as he can. There was a point where he discussed secession if certain people, the Dowager Empress being one of them, were handed too much power. The Darkmage hasn’t helped at all.”

“I expect not. I spurned Usunaar because he wanted the keys to my power and shared blood with Harald, a decision I never regretted. Unfortunately he refused to have an imprint like this made, saying that when he was gone, he wanted only to be remembered for his deeds.”

“He has been. Harald the Good is still revered in amazing places. His name is known and you were only known as the Mage Queen. He must have been a truly amazing man.”
“Like your father, I suspect. He was clever and powerful at the same time. He built my home and the vaults underneath it when it was obvious that Usunaar was not taking no for an answer. We did not know to what lengths Usunaar would go and what he would do. The land here still suffers from that. What is your next question?”

“Was the Sanctuary built when you were alive?”
“What is the Sanctuary?”
“A huge city in a building to the north. It was discovered when the city launched armies at the Empire.”

“Yes it was. The thing was an experiment. Some elves wanted to fly high into what they call space where there is no air. They did some flying and realized how expensive it would be to bring everything they needed to live up there. So they built what you call the Sanctuary to test to see if a closed system could be made to work. The test was a failure and the building more or less abandoned. It apparently didn’t stay that way.”

“The Darkmage’s family, at least part of it, went there when the family was declared Anathema after the Mage Wars. I think that there were other people living there already. The current Darkmage was probably born there and left to pursue the Project, whatever that is. My brother has pictures of the building and has been near it. There is also apparently a rather interesting girl who is a member of the Darkmage’s family and escaped to ask her uncles why they messed up so badly. Was anything else launched into the sky?”

“Yes, but I expect that anything left has degraded in its orbit and fallen back to the world or is nonfunctional. One thing I hope is nonfunctional is the projector mirror.”

“The projector mirror?”
“Yes. When we were struck by mage fire, the mage fire was launched by a large projector and reflected off a mirror in orbit.”

Alinnis went over and flipped through a stack of pictures until she found what she was looking for. She came back and showed the picture to Lyrei. “Is this part of it?”

“That would be Harald’s area of expertise, but it could be, why?”
“Because the Darkmage was digging this up. If he was, he had a reason. The good thing is that he probably needs a very strong mana source to power this and those are few and locked up by our friends.”

“That is a very good thing, because there is no mana here for shields.”

“The larger buildings are all immune anyway. They have steel frames to hold them up. The mage fire will just disappate on the frames.”

“I would still be wary. I see that power levels are low, so dear, I must return to my rest.”

Lyrei disappeared, leaving Alinis to her thoughts.

The Camp.

Terry and Starflower had recruited Gracie and Yeldan, as well as some of the culls for their expedition to the Camp. They also recruited the fae kids with Terry making some hints with his brother and his store and arranging deliveries of trade goods that the fae kids had not thought of yet which made them and the Sanctuary kids happy. At this point, House Zyvlyre and House Shahana had a large building under construction to act as the portal market and area around the portals had a shed and a series of bustling rows of market booths and stalls. Gracie looked at the crowds and said, “I’m almost tempted to skip the way we were planning to go in and port from here.”
“Let’s use the road portal anyway,” Starflower said. “We have Ralph and Vance, the horses and that way we make a discreet entrance outside the crowd.”

“That way we avoid the temptation to shop.”

“We can do that afterwards.”

They ported through to the empty road portal, without even a guard watching in the booth set up and headed to the Camp. When they arrived, other than the fae village, and some mages doing various things, the Camp was empty. A slave came up grinning and said, “Welcome to the Camp, milady.”
“Where is everybody, Jomney?”

“Ma’am, most of the mages left with Mage Zanis and haven’t returned, most of the slaves went off hunting for the Darkmage’s devises and never came back and the fae have, for the most part, been going back and forth through the portals.”

“Do you all need keys?”
“Ma’am, it would be a big help not to have to ask a fae to go to the store for us.”

Gracie reached into her satchel and handed ten keys to Jomney. “Here’s a late Winterfaire present. These are standard keys with the locations here added. I was going to hand them over earlier, but I have been busy.”
“With all the goings on at the palace and that stupid war on the Peninsula?”

“Those things, yes. So use the keys well.”
“Why are you here today?”
“We were looking to talk to a mage named Syllia Aetoris.”

“She’s here, poor lady. She gets depressed this time of year.”
“May I ask why?”
“She has no home to go to. She also doesn’t think that her skills are appreciated. We appreciate them, but few others do.”

“What are her skills?”
“She is an expert on developing resistance to compulsions. We like it because she shows us how to resist when some clown makes a stupid demand and leave us with the mess. So we resist doing it their way and do whatever it is the right way. She also did a lot of investigation of that Supressor thing. Is there any way to turn that off?”

“It shouldn’t affect you. You already are compelled to serve the Darkmage.”

“I know and I can’t even feel the thing. But the fae kids can’t jump and they miss that. Then there are my kids and I want them to be free of the compulsions and able to do things like port up to Innshys like the others.”

“We’re working on that, Jomney,” Terry said. “That is one reason we want to talk to Mage Syllia.”

“Then you want the first building there. The mage’s quarters are the third on the left after you go in on this side. Why don’t I take care of your horses while you have your chat?”

Jomney took their horses and the group headed to the first building When Jomney was out of earshot, Terry said, “He knew who you were, Gracie.”

“Yes he did. It pays to cultivate people, especially people that most people think are beneath their notice. This place is full of slaves, every one of which is a pair of eyes and ears.”

“Is Jomney spying for somebody else?”

“I’m hardly going to ask. I suspect so. I don’t think it is for the family, but I could be wrong. It could be for Qambois or military intelligence. I don’t think that it is for Mrs. Steelmaker. I do want to ask one question before my mother or sister thinks of it.”

“What?”
“I want to know where all that money that Paeris made off with is. It is probably here and if my sister hadn’t been tied up with Wyrran and mother with helping dad, they would have made off with it already.”

“Is the House in trouble?”

“No, but that wouldn’t stop us. We want the money for leverage anyway. If we have it, we can offer it back, though right now I am rather annoyed at certain clowns and tempted to give it to a good cause, Rosa’s university, for instance.”

“Consider us in,” Starflower said. “A good caper is sort of required as part of the bonding in my family and this would probably be a good one, considering the probable weight of the coin and the amount of effort it will require.”

Gracie grinned “I was hoping that you would say that. How about you two boys?”

Ralph and Vance grinned. Ralph said, “I think that we can arrange for a bunch of us to help with some profitable heavy lifting that will piss some people off. We can recruit the portal fae and the Lower City boys for this, now that the Portal network is all back up and these clowns haven’t seemed to want to raid the Faery kingdoms like we thought.”

“I wouldn’t stop watching for that,” Terry said. “On the other hand, if we do this right, we should be in and out without a problem. I think that this is our door.”

There was a bit of crying as they knocked on the door and an elf lady opened and said, “who are you and what do you want?”

“Lady Aetoris, we want to have a rather discreet chat with you about some things, Gracie said. “May we come inside?”
“What is this about?”

“Your estate in the Istrosia region.”

“Not mine anymore. It hasn’t been mine or my family’s for a long time now.”

“That may not be as final as you think. We also want to offer you a way out of this place.”

“The Grand Master’s amnesty has expired. Since I didn’t have a home to go to or any family support, I stayed.”

“We just talked to the Grand Master about this,” Terry said. “He is willing to talk with you and he understands your circumstances. The amnesty was for those mages who came here willingly and were given a second chance. I see a Grand Master doll on your shelf.”

“It was cute, so I kept it. So what is the real deal, here?”

“Since you are being so blunt, I will lay it out. The suppressors are making a lot of problems for a lot of people. Enough trouble, that if you were to help to cause them to shutdown permanently, you would be paid a very large sum of money by my employer.”

“Your employer is?”

“House Beinan.”
“A fallen House hardly has a great deal of money.”

“The House was not fallen so much as dispersed,” Gracie said. “The House has a contract with most of the world at this point to get the suppressors shut down.”

“What can I do?”

“There is a mana well on your old estate. You can close it or restrict access. Right now, that well is being used to power a large ancient portal, the suppressor and probably some other things. The other sources of power for the supressors are all locked or have locked power draws. If the supressors lose the power from your well, they will shutdown and without your well to draw on, the supressors will not be able to power up.”

“What if the Master comes after me?”

Terry laughed. “One of the Master’s Viper Teams is missing and we know all the names and have pictures of all of the members that are left. Since there were no outstanding writs against them, they cannot just be taken out, but at this point, all the players know who they are and if they show up, they won’t last very long. In any case we can arrange a very nice ocean front bungalow far away from any of this for your comfort until it is over.”

“What if I want a full time bodyguard?”

“I am sure that can be arranged. At least for as long as this lasts. Why don’t we port to the hotel in Innshys and discuss this at length.”
“I want a portal key.”
Gracie pulled a portal key out of her satchel and said, “Done. Full open key, privacy and tracking locked and indefinite time limit. Shop till you drop and take it all home.”
“You know, I am not sure if this is real or some elaborate trick, but I think that I will go with you.”

“You do know, with that key and the things that Jomney said you were expert in, you will have job offers,” Terry said.

“Why?”

“Do you know how much being able to resist compulsions while not removing them is worth in certain circles? I imagine that the Dragonmaster, Mrs. Steelmaker and Lord Bryneiros will all be bidding for your time.”

“For what?”

“Training spies, of course. A pulled compulsion is obvious and if you are trying to remain discreet, not having a compulsion that you should have is a dead giveaway. By the way, I pulled yours and you are now immune to the supressors. Why don’t we go?”

They collected their horses from a smiling Jomney, went over to the Camp portal, waited their turn and ported through to House Ulajyre.

 

 

Chapter 34.

The Sanctuary.

As part of his looking into background material on the Sanctuary, Byddri had asked the head librarian, Tamrissa Gilris why the city had been built and had discovered a marvel in somebody’s lost dream. Apparently in the ancient days of the Empire, elves and dragons had gone high in the sky and even to the moon. Tamrissa showed him books and crystals of the voyages and the efforts of the elves and dragons to move off the world and into the universe. Byddri had returned several days in a row to view it all and when he reached the last one, Tamrissa said, “Here is the report on this place. I made a copy off the crystal it was stored in, so you can keep it. This was an experiment that failed. It was supposed to be closed up and see how a habitat in space would function, but the experiment failed because the shell was breached and people started to go outside the city. Knowing what I know now, the experiment was doomed from the start. Even those of us who have generations of family living here want to know about the outside. You have seen it at the market in Innshys already.”

“I brought you a gift. That is if you do not have a copy already.”
“That is?”
“A copy of History of The Empire, due to be changed all too soon.”

“We have a copy already. Keerla bought it for us. We can always use another one for use.”
“I figured that you could. I also had copies made of all the pictures that I have of the places that I have been and the events that I have seen, with the articles attached, if I did one.”

So that was why you brought that cart.”
“Yes. There is also a set of Elf Carron’s books that my wife insisted that I give you. I think that she is helping Rosa spread her brother’s books where ever possible. I also want to extend an invitation from Tarron Joran, the Lower City librarian and Aired Phivyre the head of the Imperial Archives to have a chat at the Innshys hotel.

“I would love to chat with those two gentlemen and see their workplaces.”

“That is a bit difficult at present as the Archives are closed during the current troubles and the library has its stacks out for reproduction in the Republic and that task has grown with the addition of the Mage Queen and six of her children’s libraries.”

“Why the need for reproduction?”
“The Inquisition had the habit of confiscating and destroying or supposedly destroying every library that they could find an excuse to do so. The last head of the Inquisition stopped that practice and some intrepid young fae and others made off with the confiscated libraries, found other libraries, collected them together with the library in the Lower City and sent everything down to the Republic to make a set for the Central Library in the Republic, Ironaxe Library, Fellowship University Library, The Royal Library in the Kingdom of Hammer, the new Imperial University Library, The Lower City Library and the House Qinvaris Library.
“So whoever it is, is taking no chances that the things will be lost again. Excellent. Tell the gentlemen to send a message to me and arrange a date with them and their wives. I look forward to meeting them. As for the Inquisition, I will make it clear that they are not to be allowed near any of the libraries here.”

The Peninsula.

General Ironcutter had an army that was prepared to dance, only to find that his dance partner had retreated into Ishendell and the lines that the general had built to defend the city and had been driven out of. Unfortunately General Headbasher had been immune to demands that he be relieved of his command, including direct orders from the general Chief of Staff, Chief of Staff for The Army, the Consul and the Chief Justice. The four divisions of General Harper’s reinforced corps had arrived, with still more trucks, the marines had marched down from Riverside, pushing the essentially broken Fellowship Fourteenth Division in front of them right into general Ironcutter’s mobile forces where the Division was destroyed with most of the remaining soldiers surrendering. Of the two corps and six divisions General Headbasher had started with, he was effectively down to two divisions in strength. The situation was hopeless, yet there he was, waiting. Generals Harper and Ironaxe joined the general and he laughed. General Ironaxe looked at him and said “what is so funny?”

“Your brother and General Harper’s cousin. I think that your brother may be needed to get General Headbasher out of his predicament.”

“He’s busy preparing the case against Zanis Zylvyre and chasing down evidence about the Great Captain. This clown will have to settle for an idiot defense council.”

“What bothers me is that he is sitting in the city, with his back to the water, waiting.”

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