The Republic Besieged, Chapter 35-36

Galan and Narbeth attend a meeting

Chapter 35.

The Imperial Palace.

Galan was grinning as he put the stack of reports on Narbeth’s desk. “Here is the material for your big day.”

“What is so important about it?”

“This is the first meeting of the new Imperial Council.”

“You seem awfully happy about that.”

“I, as a lowly servant, will not be attending.”

“I could fix that. I have always thought that the council needed a secretary and whoever it was would come from your office.”

“You wouldn’t!”
“Actually, now that I think about it, the idea gets better. We’ll set up a table for you and when the meetings are over, we can have a drink together at that hole in the wall down there in the basement.”

Galan frowned. “Normally, I would scream, but I find that I can’t disagree with you, other than drinking in the bar in the basement. Itireae would close it down if she thought that you were drinking there on a regular basis. We can bring the beer to the Imperial apartments the first few times until she sends us down there to drink.”

“Now that is why I have you here. In all the chaos after my mother’s death, I’ve forgotten who has what. Why don’t we go down the list?”

“Ok, you replace Ralnor as head of the council. Erlan Zyvlyre has your old seat. Prince Zaos has the foreign office. Garrik Shanelis has the Admiralty and General Kellan has Justice and the army. Vulmon Krisfir has Princess Glynnii’s seat and Iolas Orijeon, Princess Enania’s. Filverel Nerihorn is exchequer, Cohnal Glynynore, interior and Lathlaeril Quidi, trade.”

“There is my mother’s legacy. A High Inquisitor to represent the Inquisition, Erlan Zylvyre in the Chancellor’s seat and a lord whose House has very little in trade to run our overseas trade. At least Vullas was replaced by his cousin and we have Cohnal as interior. Those choices are rather interesting.”

“I suspect that Lord Qinvaris pulled strings to get those two, Vulmon as well.”
“House Krisfir has no connection to House Qinvaris.”

“The House does have connection with House Yllanan and House Shahana and businesses in the Lower City.”

“I think Richard and his friends did a very subtle job to keep my mother from making things a complete disaster. My mother and the Ravathrya did get Melaris in charge of the Inquisition.”

Galan laughed. “That has put the man in the position of trying to hold back the tide. The reports from Innshys are getting interesting.”

“Innshys? I don’t think that I have ever heard of the place.”

“That was where they set up the portal to the Sanctuary. It is also where the fae kids from the Empty Lands go and right on the border with the Fellowship on Zylvyre land. Two years ago, it was ruin in a jungle. I suspect that by next year, it will be an important city in the Empire. In any case, Melaris sent two junior Inquisitors to stop the heresy coming into the Empire, the guard captain wouldn’t let them stop any trucks and so, they just counted the number of trucks passing each way every day. It was well over a hundred.”

“The Empress is here, so go and get your table set up. What do you want, dear?”

Itireae was grinning as she said, “Just to give you some moral support and go over some things that may come up. Galan, I want you to stay for this next bit”

Narbeth asked, “Such as?”

“The disappearance of quite a few High elves from House Qinvaris lands.”

“The disappearance?”

“Yes. I checked with Kelvahn and the Justiciars don’t know what went on, Rosa denies that her House had anything to do with it and has writs for the return of her people, something that she is rather annoyed about and she said that if the various high elves had been caught by House Qinvaris, she would have let the families know, with writs attached. In addition to that, Erlan is going to complain again about House Beinan trespassing on his property and stealing things.”
“The Empty Lands?”
“Yes.”

“Frankly, I am tempted to declare all that land abandoned or try to track back to the original owners. The Ravathyra were supposed to develop and restore the Empty Lands when they took over and haven’t. So a big chunk of the Empire is empty. If House Beinan wants to retrieve abandoned property and Erlan’s people can’t stop them, then the Darkmage deserves to lose his things.”

“I’m just giving you the latest gossip.”

“I know, and it isn’t you fault. Anything else?”

“The Council will have to choose a new director for the Portal Service.”

“Who does the old gang want to put in that job? I hope that whoever they want knows certain things or they might as well hand everything over to Mage Wyrran.”

“Handing everything over to Wyrran would be the logical thing to do, but they want Lord Nerihorn’s brother, Tathaln to take over.”

“Galan, make up a list of appropriate candidates. It won’t be easy.”
Galan grimaced. “I know. Kailu made the job look easy when the Portal Service was dealing with near collapse and he constantly had to be a diplomat, squeeze the revenues and deal with things that the Service could not find the technical expertise to deal with. The job was thankless and the office was full of the Great Houses’ less competent family members until Kailu was able to purge them. On the other hand, Tathaln might be an interesting choice. He took positions outside the family and has worked for me. He was very good and insightful. There was a bit of a scandal and the Dowager Empress forced me to send him away.”
“What was the scandal?” Itireae asked.

“He would not marry the woman his parents arranged for him. He signed a marriage agreement with a slave instead and the family more or less disowned him. Let me look into him. I suspect that he is not the stooge that Erlan thinks that he will be.”

“I will check the Dowager’s files,” Itireae said. “I don’t think that people realize yet that I have them and Faylen.”

“That was clever on your part, dear.”

“I never blamed Faylen for your mother, and she gives me access to the things that your mother knew in the dark. I will not use them the same way that your mother did, but if I have control of those things, your sister or someone else does not. Also, knowing what I have will restrain certain people.”

“Cultivating people like Allisa Dawkins hasn’t hurt.”

“No it has not. Now that I have dropped my gossip, I need to arbitrate a business deal.”

“What is that?”

“The business won’t come up in the council meeting, but it concerns the heirs of some Houses that have disappeared while trespassing on Qinvaris property and misbehaving, something that I told you about which will probably come up in the meeting. Two sisters have managed to make the lot of them their guests and want to negotiate certain things before returning the misbehaving boys.”

“Rosa doesn’t have a sister.”

“Rosa is not part of this, directly. Some of the people on the estate may have partipated or provided resources, vehicles and whatnot, but the House itself stayed out of things. Rosa does not want to get the House and thus Richard too deeply involved and when the ladies proposed a deal, she accepted.”

“That was clever.”

Itireae kissed her husband. “Yes it was. Now I must go and you have a council meeting to set up for.”

When Galan and Narbeth arrived at the meeting, Narbeth’s son Zaos and Admiral Shanelis were chatting with Cohnal Glynynore. Zoas looked at Galan and said, “That is who that little table is for. That was clever, father.”

“I thought so. Galan is rather nervous. Why are you all here early?”

“It was suggested by Aunt Lelayme, when I found her, which was not easy, that coming early was a good thing to do. I suspect that Garrik’s father and Gorduin suggested the same thing. Did mother get to you with the little agenda that she told me about?”

“Yes she did. Apparently there will be complaints about heresy on Cohnal’s roads and other places, complaints about missing kidnappers who just happen to be scions of Great Houses and the theft of abandoned property on Lord Ravathrrya’s land.”

“That sounds like the list she gave me. Cohnal had a suggestion about the Empty Lands, based on what Richard did with Innshys and House Zylvyre.”

“That is, Cohnal?”

“My father had interior in the last council and they gave Erlan’s father a mandate to develop the abandoned property in the Empty lands and a five year time limit. Your father died and the Regency came along, so that never happened, but I think that if Erlan wants to chastise the Beinans about removing things from abandoned property, something that can be covered in the writ they possess, then Erlan had better demonstrate that the property is not, in fact, abandoned.”

“Galan and I were discussing things along similar lines and if you present that as an alternative, I will support it. I think that the rest are here.”

The various members of the new Imperial Council walked in and Narbeth greeted them. Lord Nerihorn looked at Galan’s table a bit askance, but said nothing. The various members sat down and Narbeth called the meeting. When he was done, he said, “I see you all wondering about Galan and the table. That is a little innovation on my part, so that I, or whoever calls the meeting does not have to take notes on what was said and resolved in the meetings. Galan also has copyists who can write copies of the meeting notes for all the members. He has actually been providing that service for some time during the regency. Galan can also act as a messenger if the council should need something as evidence. As this is the first meeting, I want to pass around some reports for the last meeting of the Regency council that my staff has prepared, as well as a report on recent events here for those of us who were not present. Galan hand the reports out, if you please.”

Galan did, Iolas Orijeon looked at the reports and said “These are done with heretical means. I want it up front that the Imperial Council will not tolerate heresy.”

“Galan had the documents printed, outside the Empire, in Fayspire, so none of the heresy occurred inside the Empire.”

“Then the documents of the Council will be insecure,” Erlan said.

“That puts Galan’s office in a quandary as my wife will not provide funding for the army of copyists needed to provide the reports to the Seats in the Conclave, I have been told by various Seats that they want reports of the Council’s doings and liked the way that Lord Qinvaris prepared and handed out his reports. If you want the reports to be done here in the Empire, an Imperial printing house can be set up. Galan has proposals from House Beinan and several others to do so.”

“That would be heresy!” Orijeon screamed. “That is something I cannot tolerate!”
“Then the documents will continue to be printed in Fayspire and trucked to the portal in Innshys, if not all the way here.”

“More heresy. The trucks must stop.”

“You can take that up with the Houses that operate them and Lord Glynynore here, who will be unlikely to give up his trucks, busses and the investments he has made to his roads. For that matter, if you did manage to get all the trucks, busses and cars off Cohnal’s roads, you will have all sorts of writs concerning blatant obstruction of business. In any case, the regency council, in one of its last acts, allowed the use of motor vehicles on private roads and the Conclave voted to confirm that for all the roads outside the Cloud City. So the trucks stay. Now as to an Imperial printing house, shall we take a vote? I vote aye”

The vote around the table had Garrik, Erlan, Zoas, General Kellan and surprisingly Lathlaeril Quidi vote aye. Narbeth said, “The measure passes, next order of business?”

Erlan had a very serous expression on his face as he said, “I will leave this to Inchel and Kelvahn to provide a full report, but there have been significant theft of old Imperial artifacts from my property by poachers from the Fellowship.”

“I discussed that with my aunt and Kelvahn and it turns out that the poachers were a man looking into the kidnapping of his daughter by the Richflights and the Beinans and some associates exercising their writ against the children of the Darkmage and recovering Darkmage and Mage War artifacts for the Mage Academy, which they have a mandate to do as part of a very longstanding arrangement. Since all such artifacts are to be turned over to the Mage Academy, they are hardly poaching.”

“Considering the condition of your property down there, Erlan, it could be considered abandoned in any case” Cohnal said. “So, as I see it, the rules of abandoned property pertain and if the Beinans are looking to develop there, I have no problems with that. If you were to show the council a development plan, I would change my mind, but that region has been empty for almost two centuries now and as far as I’m concerned, the Empire is losing because of that, which is why the abandoned property law was formulated in the first place, by your grandfather, in fact, who promised to restore that very land.”

Looking around the table, Erlan tabled the issue. The meeting moved to finding a new Director for the Portal Service, Lord Nerihorn proposed his brother on temporary basis and the measure passed after Narbeth was committed to look for potential candidates. The issue of the missing heirs was not brought to the meeting. After the meeting ended, Narbeth said to Lord Quidi, “Lord Quidi, would you have time for a chat in my apartments? I do not know you at all.”

“Certainly, your majesty. What is it you wish to discuss?”

“You surprised me with your vote over the print shop. I would have thought that you would have gone the other way.”

“I imagine that Erlan was surprised as well, since he did too.”

“Erlan voted for the print shop.”

“He had to, since he raised the concerns, which were legitimate. As for me, that’s a bit complicated.”

“You have no outside trade which makes your position in the council rather strange. I expect that Erlan and his friends expect you to want to squelch trade.”

“Selnalion.”

“What?”

“My House owns a section of Selnalion and the adjoining area. It is a bit distant from the home estate and trade never amounted to much. I made noises about other Houses’ seaborne trade and I think that Erlan thought that I wanted the Emprie returned to isolation. The truth was that I certainly knew about Admatius d’Dolmon’s railroad plans and the great tragedy surrounding the cessation of construction. I was, and still am a stockholder in that railroad and I owe Lord Qinvaris a very nice gift for arranging to have the line completed at last. If I let Iolas bully the council about heresy right off the bat, I will not be able to quietly push for the railroad on into the Empire to my estate and our hardwood, fine metalworking and pottery shops. Nor can I install the new machines that I sent my son to buy in the Republic and the new kilns, so that I can be competitive with Republican elvish porcelain.”

Narbeth started to laugh. “My mother messed up again. She assumed that you would want to shut the trade down.”

“Not hardly. My wife and mistress would have a collective fit if I did. To say nothing of those rather large sons I have.”

“I think that this chat is going to be very interesting indeed.”

Itireae looked at the rather crowded parlor and said, “Ladies, welcome to my home.”

“We are here because we received messages that you knew where our sons had gone, your majesty,” Naesala Torlana said.

“Actually I do not. I have been asked to arbitrate for those that do have them. They want certain things in exchange for them.”

“Who are they?”

“I have been asked to keep that private.”

“How do we know that our sons are still alive?”

“You should have received pictures with the messages.”

“How could you involve yourself in something like this?”

“It is simple, actually. If your sons had not been taken, they would have been arrested or killed while in the act of taking Lord Qinvaris’s people. So whoever has your sons has saved you a lot of grief. They want payment for that. Otherwise, they turn them over to the Qinvaris and the Justiciars.”
“So House Qinvaris is behind this! They will pay.”

“Actually, House Qinvaris is staying out of this arrangement in spite of severe provocations. Your Houses are all sitting under a hammer and this arrangement is the only way out for your Houses. Here is what is expected of you all. Faylen will hand each of your expected price for the return of your sons. You have a moon to comply or the interested parties will take what actions they see fit.”

“This is against the law!”
“Yes it is. Frankly, if it were me, the whole lot of your sons would be on the execution block and Qinvaris would be ruining your Houses. Your sons took a great many of Lord Qinvaris’s people and he has been very forbearing under the circumstances in allowing this other party to handle the matter. Included in the things that Faylen is handing out are writs for the crimes that your sons would have been under if this party had not intervened.”

When it was over, and the ladies had left, Itireae looked at her mother and Faylen and said, “Do you think that I was too tough on them?”

Meira laughed and said, “I doubt that they liked the dose of reality. You made it fairly clear that their sons had been caught playing with fire and what they were all doing. Faylen, what do you think?”

Faylen grinned “Milady, you should not be asking me that. Those boys were raiding towns for the compelled like the second mage wars. My family fell because of those wars and my brother and I joined the guild to stay alive. The ladies Sarceran are giving those ladies a way out of a very bad thing and Lady Qinvaris is letting the ladies do that. Considering that their sons were working with Durlan Richflight, they have lot of nerve telling you that what you were doing was illegal.”
“Actually, none of what I am doing is illegal” Itireae said. “I am simply negotiating a settlement in a dispute. What the ladies are doing is illegal, not because they took the boys, along with Durlan, but because they want to give them back.”

House Ulajyre.

Lyari looked at the mage in front of him and said, “I apologize, Syllia.”

“For what, Grand master?”

“For many things. For spending so much time away from the Academy working to restore the reputation of mages that I never saw the vipers working to destroy that reputation in my own Academy. For being so busy building bridges that I did not see the foundation of those bridges being collapsed. For not ensuring that when mages were assigned that the assignments were not traps to bind you all with compulsions. For allowing mages to be exiled on trumped up offenses and sent to places where their abilities were useless. Most of all, for not being there when I should have been. In any case, you came and I thank you for that. Has young Terry told you why I wanted you?”

“There is a well on my family’s estate and you want me to close it.”

“That is the immediate reason. Of course getting you and any others away from the Darkmage’s clutches is only a good thing.”
“He may come after me.”
“We are aware that he may try, though at this point, the number of people that he would want to “go after” is rather large and many of them are not the kind of people that “going after” is a safe propostion. For that matter, the list of enemies he has made in the last little time is rather amazing.”

“What would you have of me?”

“Now that is rather interesting. We no longer have the one way portal at present where you can assist on coming up with clever ways to harass the Darkmage, so I can’t assign you to that.”

“Coming up with clever ways to harass the Darkmage? Isn’t that rather dangerous?”

“The Darkmage survived the experience, but they did try to make him think that he was mad, or least have everybody else think that he is mad. Have you kept up your experiments with compulsions?”

“Yes, though I think that the people in Camp would have preferred that I strengthen and not weaken compulsions.”

“Then I will send you to the Hidden City where your skills will be surely appreciated by all the spies there.”

“Where is this Hidden City and why are the spies all there?”

“The Hidden City is an old Ravathyra raiding base and the reason that the spies congregate there is that it has travel to all over the world and people exchanging things. A truly remarkable place where the Darkmage and his minions dare not go.”

“I said that I wanted a full time bodyguard.”

“I am sure that can be arranged. The Justiciars have some new recruits that may be suitable.”

“I am not sure that I want a member of the Justiciars as a bodyguard.”

“I think you are thinking of the Justiciars of old. They have much improved of late.”

The Hidden City.

Gwen looked at the pair in front of her and grinned. “They have set you on another task, haven’t they?”

“How did you guess,” Terry said. “We could just be going on vacation in the Republic.”

“Frankly I doubt that. I doubt that either one of you are the type that would go on vacation until the job is complete and the reports I receive say that the job is hardly done as yet.”

“No, it isn’t, unfortunately,” Starflower said. “We are chasing exiled mages again. This time it was our turn, rather than Kaylessa’s.”

“Do you have a name for our exile?”

“A mage name Siveril Aetoris and his parents, who were both healers that worked at the palace,” Terry replied.
“Have you talked with Tom or Naexi about them?”

“Yes, and since they didn’t seem to be directly involved in the Emperor’s death, they didn’t take the time to look them up. They were fairly sure that they were in the Republic. Gander’s people are going to go through the Dowager Empress’s files and exiles to see how many may have been exiled to shut things up, but they have been busy with some rather misbehaving high elves.”
“Do tell.”
“There are fifty of so Houses that have estates that were not struck by the Blight. The reason for that is that they made a deal with the original Darkmage to provide support when the Darkmage wanted it. The Darkmage wants slaves and dead bodies. I am sure that you have heard more stories about the Mage Wars than we have, since I hadn’t had a chance to go to Castle Hill and try to open the vault. But even I know about the stories about the inanimates and there is an ancient huge portal in Ishendell. That I have seen because my parents like to go there for vacations, normally starting about this moon.”

“I think that I see how the misbehaving boys fit in, but tell me anyway.”
“The boys, with training and supervision from Durlan and his gang, raided House Qinvaris for the people compelled by the suppressors. They took quite a few, before some boys that had been sent up to get tested and drafted by their grandmother caught most of them and turned Durlan over to the Marshalls.”

“I think I know who you all are talking about, as the lot of them came through here, on their way to the Empire and the Sanctum and most of them haven’t come back.”

“Some of them may not come back, alone,” Starflower said. “They all tested very high and the fae girls were already starting to look interested. In any case their grandmother, her sister and some other ladies drafted most of them into their schemes.”

“That accounts for some of them, but what about the others?”
“The lot of them came from the Steelmaker, Lion and Ironshield families,” Terry said. “Do you think that any of them would back off from a caper if they thought that they would get away with it and there was money at stake? I think that the lot of them knew that most of them would be tied up, since they all went to the Empire and they each only needed one to go back home to open vaults. They figured that their relatives would latch on to them and get them to help. From what I saw, they were enjoying themselves immensely, along with the Lower City kids, the Portal fae and the rest of them.”

Gwen laughed as Strom came into the cafe and said, “What are you two up to now?”

“Chasing exiles for our bosses,” Starflower said. “We found a mana source and a mage in the Camp, who couldn’t close it and we are looking for her brother and her parents.”

“That is a good thing. The Darkmage has moved into Ishendell with his Fellie friends and nobody is sure what he is doing.”

“Jimmy and Talissa went in to take a peek and took some interesting pictures. We have a packet for you and Mrs. Steelmaker.”

“Where are you staying? Presumably you are on your way to the Republic.”
“We are staying at the old hotel. The exiles are in the Republic, or at least we couldn’t find them in the Fellowship and we checked the Beinan’s office in Red mountain and they were not there either.”

“Let me message ahead and tell Tomas that you are on your way,” Gwen said.

“We are not citizens of the Empire, so why are you helping us?”

“The matter involves exiles which is a rather large part of the embassy’s business as well rejoining a family, another part of the Embassy’s business. So we are glad to help. The fact that it is part of the effort to shutdown the suppressors and stop the Darkmage only says that any help from us is a given. I don’t think you appreciate just how much getting the suppressors shut down means to the Blasted Lands. This stupid war only makes things worse.”

“I know,” Terry said. “Especially since the war is part of this thing that the Darkmage has created. Thank you for your assistance. House Beinan appreciates it.”

“See, it was an Imperial matter, regardless. House Beinan is certainly an Imperial Great House. When is your joining?”

“Next yellowleaf,” Starflower said. “There are my brother’s, Peri’s and Flix’s to go first. Mother is watching the grove as a hawk when Terry and I are around, so we can’t do it impromptu and we would be in real trouble with all the parents if we did, so we have to wait.”

“When you get to the Embassy, watch out for kids trying to get you to transform to trueform,” Strom said. They did that with Jimmy and Talissa.”

Terry laughed. “We’ve seen the movie. Landdragons in Chatsrey.”

“That did happen. The movie people will be annoyed that Jimmy didn’t tell them that he was going to take on the army. That will be another one.”

“I will be wary,” Starflower said. “Terry will not have much difficulty since he doesn’t have a trueform yet and there is no way that we could join outside the grove at Rosehollow.”

Gwen laughed and said, “Enjoy the city, then. I’m sorry that you had to be couriers, but with the suppressors still active, a lot of things are in disarray.”

“We know. There’s Yrathea, so we will be off.”

“Watch out, she is on the hunt for a faery prince.”

“I may want to arrange that. She certainly has the right attitude. Of course she may be disappointed in the reality. Most of the Faery Princes are rather adverse to work. At least they were until various hard working types showed up after being tested and caught the girls’ attention. Suddenly work looked like a good thing.”

Gwen and Strom’s laughter got louder as the pair left with Yrathea.

 

 

 

Chapter 36.

The Arsenal.

Herdir looked at the row of Darkmage artifacts and said, “Why did you bring them here, Great Captain? Were you concerned about pursuit?”

“Not at all, other than the typical air patrols, since there probably wasn’t time to arrange for a plane, the radios still don’t work and this was all on House Ravathrya property in any case. The problems start when we try to deliver these things to your father.”

“How so?”

“There are several ways to do that, but all of them involve more than a certain element of risk. For instance, I could use the Ravathrya ships to haul the things, but that would take about ten days and if the glamor slipped near the Peninsula, the ships wound be boarded and searched, which would be the end. I can’t use the boats and a barge because our adversaries know what they look like, the darkmage’s things won’t fit on the boats and if they are spotted, we would be chased down and either have to dump the things in deep water or be boarded, the end. We could use trucks through the Fellowship, but the Dragonmaster might pick up on that and with a traffic stop or two, stop us. To say nothing of going down the entire peninsula to Ishendell through what is a war zone and through the Republican lines. That will be rather difficult.”

“I see your point. Should we take the things to the portals?”

“On the Post roads, right through Qinvaris lands? We risk another traffic stop, that is if we get the things past my mother and her friends. I doubt that we would be able to take these things past Innshys.”

“Then what would you suggest?”
“If radios were working, I wouldn’t even think of doing this, but since they do not, we can probably pull this off. It is still risky, but I’ve gone through all the options and there are risks to everything I could think of. First of all, you and I need to see what is not needed by your father. Those we send to the portals through Innshys at the appropriate time. We’ll get some trucks, run them through the Fellowship and through Innshys like all the other trucks. If they get through, great, but if one or two get caught, we can at least use them to distract the enemy.”

“What is the rest of your plan?”
“I will tell you after you return from you father. We may need some things, like shutting down the suppressors. Let me put things together while you get a list from your father.”

“Very well. I will tell my father your conclusions.”

The Aetoris Estate.

Syllia looked around at the old estate, rather battered, turned to Rosa and asked, “How much clean up did you have to do?”
“Some. Not as much as you might think as the shutters were closed, the roof sound and the house ignored other than at harvest, where it was a handy place for the team to stay. House Qinvaris will want to lease the barns and some of the former slave housing for the harvest. That is typical and we can afford to be flexible.”

“After the turmoils, my parents couldn’t bear to come here. My uncle and aunt had lived here, died in the raids and the rest of the people here did as well, or starved to death. Of course I hadn’t been born then. I’m only fifty. My brother is older, but I haven’t seen him in a very long time as he was caught up in that stupid thing and exiled.”
“Why did your parents go with him?”
“You will have to ask them, but I was out of communication at the Camp, we had already sold our House in the capital and my parents were healers. They may have been afraid of the Dowager Empress.”

“I will take you to have a chat with Justiciar Dawkins about that. Your parents probably worked in the palace if they were as good as you said that they were. The Dowager Empress was responsible for the deaths of both her father in law and her husband. So they had reason to go when your son was exiled.”

“I wish that I could see them again.”

“I imagine that Terry and Starflower are working on that already.”

“I’m sorry that I could not close the mana source.”

“That was not unexpected. That is one reason that we want to talk to your brother about this. He may have been pressured to lock the source open or it could have been done by a relative long ago. In any case, you are out of the Darkmage’s grip and that is a good thing. Also Mage Wyrran and the others will work with you on this, looking for a solution. We all want the suppressors shut down.”

“What about the people they took.”

“Something will have to be done about that. Of course they should have known better. I just hope that we can convince these people that poking my husband is a very bad thing.”

“Lord Qinvaris is a rather mysterious man. I am not surprised that you shared blood with him.”

“That is very insightful. Far too many see that he was a slave and miss the man rather than the title.”

 

The Peninsula.

The Darkmage looked at his son and frowned. “Why are you here, Herdir?”

“I wanted to talk to you about your things, father.”

“You recovered them?”
“Yes, the Great Captain recovered almost everything.”
“Then they are are on the way here?”

“That is the difficulty. All of the paths to this place for the larger pieces lead through the enemy. The Great Captain has a plan, but wants to know what things may be lost to the enemy as a distraction.”

“Contact your brother and have him provide protection.
“Father, that would mean moving troops to the Empty Lands, and then back again. I stopped and talked with my brother. We simply do not have the compelled to do what you said and the loyalists that we send to gather them disappear. Haven’t you noticed that the compelled have stopped coming through the portals?”
“I was going to discuss that with your brother. Could you use the army from the Sanctuary?”

“Father, that army is gone. It was lost some time ago. In any case, that army would have to use the same roads that we would through the same enemies that had just defeated it.”

“Yes that army did fail us. I will have to have a rather sharp discussion with your brother about that.”

“I have, and he is not happy with us at all. He feels that you failed him. He is rather annoyed that you did not inform him about the changes in the Empire before he committed the army that he had built and forced him to lose the trust of the people in his home.”

“I told him what he needed to know.”

“He doesn’t think so. Keerla made sure of that. In any case there is no army available from the Sanctuary.”

“So what is the Great Captain proposing?”

“He hasn’t told me. He said that he would explain his plans when I returned with a list of things that are expendable.”

“If I said that none of it was expendable?”
“I would establish priorities. I think that the Great Captain wants at least somewhat of a diversion from what he is doing and we can’t send false artifacts at this point because mage Wyrran and the Beinans have seen them all already.”

“How did the Great Captain recover the artifacts?”
“By moving quickly as I anticipated and he arrived before the things were removed. At this point, I expect that the Bienans think that they know enough about the things that actual possession was not required.”

“Do you think that the things have been rendered inoperable?”
“I would be astonished if the things were not.”

“I have spares for some things that you can recover and we can ask your brother to fabricate at the Sanctuary. Very well, I will make a list of priorities. Then I will have a discussion with your brother.”

“At this point, he will not be able to do very much. Our allies are waiting for results at this point and have lost the things they most value, their heirs.”

“They owe us a debt.”
“Perhaps the Dowager Empress could have persuaded them. My brother could not.”

“Let us make your list and alternatives for everything we can.”

“Is the shield generator ready?”
“It is almost prepared for startup. We should cover the army and the portals nicely. In a couple of days, this place should be secure.”

“The large shield generator should be slipped through to the portals first. While the Great Captain is probably right about the risk, I think that the first few loads on trucks can be slipped through before our adversaries relize what we are doing, or can wait for what the Great Captain is doing. I am a not adverse to a double diversion.”

“If you are sure that the risk is unavoidable.”

“I believe that it is.”

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