The Republic Besieged, Chapter 43-44.

Jhaerithe gets her car.  Hijinks go on.

Chapter 43.

The Peninsula.

General Ironbender looked at the artillery fire hitting the shield and the shell explosions just disapating. General Harper said, “Now we know why swords were used in the ancient Empire. With those things, just about anything faster than a crossbow bolt just wouldn’t work. I wonder why the armies in the north didn’t use these?”
“They may not have had them, the armies were in motion and there probably wasn’t enough mana to run them,” Ironbender said. “I wish that we had committed to going in two days earlier.”

“There was no way to know. At least they are in pretty much the same boat unless they come out of that thing.”

“That frightens me more than a bit. At least we have flamethrowers.”

“You also got most of the civilians out. That was important.”

“I just wonder what that character was up to. I handed him Ishendell and now I’m beginning to think that that was a huge mistake.”
“I don’t think he has all the pieces yet. By the way, congress has approved another leaf for you.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“That was for them to determine and frankly, yes you do. Dennis is being promoted as well.”

“Now, there is somebody who deserves it. I’m glad that he’s staying for the time being. His daughter is taking some of the Qinvaris trucks back up through the Fellowship, now that we are covered and the rest are being loaded on the Phyrra Petrie as we speak. The ship is going home in the morning.”

“I am going to have to do something very nice for my cousin and that isn’t going to be easy.”

“That is for sure.”

Innshys.

Haldir frowned at the truck that stopped for gas and then headed on to Nytfnas. He didn’t know what bugged him about the truck, but something did. For one thing, the drivers were elves and didn’t seem to be fully comfortable with their truck. One of them forgot to put on his gloves and burned his hand while Haldir watched. The other seemed to have difficulty with the dealing with the gas jockey wanting to check the oil. Haldir quietly took the registration down and put out the word to watch the truck. He had barely gotten the message out when another, similar truck showed up. He took the registration down and watched as two more of the trucks showed up. At the end of his shift, he took all the registrations and sent a message to the Justiciars and Military Intelligence in Zirgoccol. He had just finished when Kharis came in and said, “Captain, did you notice those trucks?”

“I spotted some trucks. What was strange about these?”
“They didn’t come from the Fellowship, at least not originally. Niargo spotted them crossing over from the Empty Lands using one of Lady Amarille’s back roads. There were six that Niargo saw.”

“I saw five of them. The first one was probably past us when I was patrolling the market. I sent word up the line, but if they aren’t obviously doing something wrong, the guard probably won’t bother them.”

QSS Phyrra Petrie.

Marinus Crabfisher loved his new ship. Admittedly he missed the sails and the things that went with it, but there were advantages to a steam ship. Not least of which was unlimited hot water for showers. As he walked onto the bridge, another innovation that he really appreciated in sour weather like today, Tide Wavecutter, his first mate said, “Good morning, Captain. We made fifteen knots all night and we should see the point by morning.”

“Our wives will be glad to see us home.

“That’s for sure.”
“Anything else?”

“We spotted another of those Ravathrya ships last night. That was three of them.”

“I wonder what they are up to.”

“I have no idea, but I tried to call it in and the radio is fuzzy at best.”
The lookout called down through the voice tube, “Boats ahoy! Off the starboard bow! Closing fast!”

Marinus went to the bridge wing, looked through his binoculars and cursed. He wasn’t sure how the Great Captain had managed to get the boats out here, but he had and there was no way that the Petrie could avoid them. Tide joined the captain, looked at the boats and said, “Do we abandon?”

“If it were just the sailing crew, I would say yes, as we are all seafolk. But the engineering crew is not, so we stay. Let’s see what the Great Captain wants. Send all stop.”

The boats pulled alongside and there he was, Paeris Zyvyre himself. “Good morning, captain. I expected a long chase and you all wet with your crew. What led to this bit of common sense?”

“The black gang is not seafolk. I didn’t want to leave them to you all alone.”

“That is a worthy thing to do. Since I cannot trust you, all off watch crew will be confined to quarters once my people search the ship for weapons and we transfer some deck cargo. Then I am afraid that you will have to return the way you came for a little delivery.”

“If I refuse?”

“Then you all get a nice trip to the Retreat with Taser and I do it myself, with the axiom that I will not care about this fine vessel at all. So I will run it up against the beach instead of the quay at Ishendell.”

“We part company at Ishendell?”
“Yes.”

“Are you aware of what is going on there?”
“Not entirely. You seem to imply that it is bad even by my standards.”
“Very. I’m not sure why you are doing what you are doing, but things are ugly and likely to get worse.”

“Why am I doing what I am doing? I am a monster, of course. That was what my family and the Darkmage demanded of me. Why don’t we keep things moving? The day is not getting any longer.”

As the ship started again, Tide asked the captain, “Why did you give in so easily?”
“Can you think of a better way to see what the Darkmage is doing? The ship is expendable, the trucks are expendable, and being able to stop the Darkmage may be crucial. If the Great Captain wants us along for the ride, we take advantage of that.”

“This is the Camp all over again, where we used the grain to look inside.”

“Yes, though our wives will kill us for going through with it.”

“Our kids will love the fact that we were pirated by the Great Captain so we better live through this.”

“We also bring the cargo home. Look at it this way, if the choice was between the Great Captain and Jhaerithe, which would you choose?”

“Good point.”

Way Station 1568.

Tim, Kicavir and Alinar were sitting in the waystation and Tim said, “We could hijack the trucks.”

“Don’t say that too loud and not on the Post Roads,” Kicavir said. “The grief isn’t worth it. We just do a little number on the trucks, at least some of them and see what they have as loads. Then we think about alternatives.”

Jonny and Greg came into the station and looked at the group. “I see trouble being plotted. I will have you all know that the trucks will be here, momentarily.”

“Should you be telling us that?” Tim asked.

“Why not. If they are innocent trucks, then you people wouldn’t dare think about doing something stupid like hijacking them on the Post Road and if they are not innocent, which they are not, there is a writ against the Darkmage’s activities in this area. Anyway, some mismarked road signs and cooperation from a well known zealous Inquisitor who just happens to be visiting relatives in the area and we should be able to bust these characters. Then you hijack the trucks and the loads.”

“You boys are cops. Should you be cooperating with us like that?”

“We are justicial slaves who will be properly chastised by the lady for overstepping our bounds and assisting that overzealous Delion when he asked us to. The fact that you all were planning to hijack the trucks and we couldn’t stop you because the Inquisition won’t let us carry guns anymore was rather unavoidable.”

“Kicavir, when I get home, nobody is going to believe any of this.”

“It’s easy to understand if you know that it is politics and the other guys are other side of the issue. The Inquisition doesn’t want the Justicial slaves carrying. They need to carry to do their jobs. If obvious criminals get away with something because the Justicial slaves were not armed, then the Lord Kelvahn can point to the Inquisition and say it was their fault.”

“I see. It’s still weird.”

“I know,” Jonny said. “Fun though, isn’t it? Why don’t we prepare a welcome for some trucks?”

The Post Road Near Elysahone.

“We go right here.”

“The sign says left.”

“The road to the right is new. So we go that way.”

“Ok, Darkclaw.”

Blackstream turned the truck to the right. Tim cursed and said, “That guy was clever, looking at the road like that.”

“Don’t worry,” Al said. “I have it covered. This sign hasn’t been changed. They just turned onto a Qinvaris road that we improved for the combine trailers. They should have turned left as they will find out, soon enough. Of course this was one truck we didn’t know about. The next one should be coming soon.”

The next one did, and then the first one, the pair in front still arguing, reappeared. Tim looked at Al and said, “how did you know?”
“Iyahil is about four miles up that road, but the road hits a canal and other than some dirt roads for the rice paddies and the canal towpath, that road is the only way out. Iyahil is a grain terminal for the canal with some of the old threshing sheds and some grain elevators as well as a store and feed shop for animals. The population is pretty dense, but it’s rice there.”

“They could have compelled slaves.”

“We’re still a long way from the Nerihorn estate and I think these characters think of themselves as above that job. Let’s get the GP and drive along to the telegraph. It looks as if these characters are not going to get themselves too lost.”

“I hope not, until we get them lost.”

“It would be a pity if the Darkmage’s things got lost, now wouldn’t it.”

Seagate.

Lythienne looked at her husband and said, “So nice of you to show up, dear.”

“I was taking Byddri and the boys to visit the various places next to Romarod’s”

“That was fine for the afternoon, but you could all have made it here for dinner.”

“The boys wanted to go back to Romarod’s and I had to get Tarranth out of the hoosegow.”
“What happened?”
“Tom, Al and their subordinates went out to see the launch with Tarranth in his own car that he borrowed. They came back to meet with me and Byddri. Tarranth was with Derry who had to Swim out to the boat because he is on the recovery team and Tarranth started to drive back, alone. He was pulled over for being in the restricted area and they asked for his license.”

“Uh-oh. Tarranth doesn’t have one and in the city, he can get away with waving his diplomatic passport.”

“Yes, exactly. He tried that again and that landed him in jail as some sort of spy. He made his one phone call to Romarod’s and I had to go in and clear things up. Tarranth is going to have to take the test and get a real license as soon as he gets back to the city. Nimue and Sylvar already have them and Alinis is a bit young to be driving. Anyway, by the time that was all squared away, we just stayed at the hotel for the evening. I see that the boys are enjoying themselves.”

“There is enough mana here that they can transform and they are at the age where they are starting to notice girls. You are forgiven.”

Syllia leaned into Bill a bit as her brother approached. Bill whispered, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

“I’m a bit nervous.”

Siveril walked up and said, “Hello sister. I haven’t seen you for some time. Who is this?”
“Bill Harper, my bodyguard.”

“He’s a Harper. Keep this one.”

“You haven’t changed a bit. Did mother tell you why I came?”
“You want the mana source at the old estate closed up. Grandfather told me that the key was to think of rabbits. I left the thing open as part of a deal that wasn’t kept, since the Empress trumped up that charge and sent me here.”

“You can go back.”
“This is home now, both for me and my wife. It is past the time that it would have been practical to visit the estate with her, since she has returned to the water and so we may visit the shore, we can’t visit the estate for very long.”
“The portals work, so that is not the problem it once was.”

“You tempt me. In any case, make the old place your home. Take Bill here and rebuild the family.”

“You are assuming a lot, brother. We just met recently and he was appointed my bodyguard.”

“What organization uses Harpers as bodyguards? That is more than a bit of overkill.”

Bill laughed and said, “The Justiciars.”
“You aren’t wearing a collar, so you aren’t a slave. The Justiciars let you join?”

“Yes they did. I think that you have to be a Steelmaker to get the good jobs.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loud. The old lady has ears everywhere. Sister, what has happened in the Empire since I was exiled?”

“A lot of things. I was kept under compulsion, so I missed a lot of it as well. Byddri was there for most of it.”

“Unfortunately Byddri is up there right now, enjoying the thermals and taking pictures.”

Starflower turned to Terry and said, we could go flying, you know.”

“Not with the two flamers up as well.”
“Good point. Why don’t we rent those amulets and suits and go for a Swim. There are no predatory Meris’s here.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. Syllia has nieces. But we can find strange things for our parents and do some touristing.”

“That will work.”

Innshys.

Richard and Rosa were waiting with huge grins as the Qinvaris caravan returned, lead by a smiling Jhaerithe. She stopped the GP and said, “I got most of them back.”

“Who’s driving them?”
“Most of the boys who took them down. Things have settled down and the fun and games were over, so they are coming back with the trucks. Uncle says thank you for all of it.”

“Where’s your father?” Rosa asked.

“Still on the Peninsula, keeping the Republican Army’s trucks running. They gave him a leaf and recalled his reserve commission officially, so he was stuck. Hopefully, mother won’t be too mad at me for allowing him to stay, but they really need him and he wanted me out of it after Ishendell. I have a report for you, uncle, about all of it.”

“You missed Winterfaire and we have something for you, as thanks for all your hard and dedicated work. Here it is.”

“Blue! You knew! Daddy must have told you! Thank you, thank you, thank you very much!”

Everybody laughed as Jhaerithe went bubbly, ran over and hugged Rosa. Richard said, “It wasn’t your father, it was your uncle Norman who wanted to make sure that I knew. Of course the car was for your work during the Blight.”
“What are you going to give Daddy?”

“That is a big question right now. Norman wants to have a nicer version of that militia hat he wears done, with proper leaves on it. Norman’s logistics officer is pushing to make Qinvaris militia hats standard issue for his drivers and mechanics. Tell your mother that she and Dennis have a month in the Republic, including a week at the Crystal Palace on me.”

“That sounds wonderful. We can meet all the relatives that actually like us, get some beach time and I’ve heard rumors about the Crystal Palace. Now I want to go back down and smash that idiot, General Headbasher. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to be easy. Why don’t I get all these boys to park the trucks at the estate and port home? Then I and some of the boys can share what we saw. I will take this on a nice drive tomorrow.”

“Jimmy and Talissa told us some of it. They haven’t tried to go back. Lazuli and their parents won’t let them. I won’t let the other landdragons try it either. On the other hand, Adiun and his people have a lot of practice with portals and they are setting up. The general hasn’t had the experience that Rolin and the Master have with somebody dropping chaos into things. Of course your brothers are helping some boys mess up one of the darkmage’s deliveries.”

“That sounds like fun. I don’t think that mother will let me be involved, though.”

“Not right now,” Rosa said.

 

 

Chapter 44.

The Nerihorn Estate.

Moonspear looked at his brother and said, “I think that we are in trouble.”
“Why?”
“The girls’ moms are with the girls.”

“Maybe we should just head back.”

“We agreed that we would take the girls and get them tested.”

“Ok, at least we should see what they want. We can always run and come back later.”

The pair crept forward and one of the ladies said, “Boys, we don’t bite. I am Sylvia and this is Raenisa. We are the girls’ mothers and we wanted to see if we could arrange a chat with your mother.”

Moonspear turned to his brother and said, “See, I told you, trouble. Ma’am we could have you meet at our lorekeeper’s home.”

“That sounds like the perfect place.”

“We had nothing to do with Folas’s death.”
“I know,” Raenisa said. “I would like to take what we have and discover why this House and the others have had this stupid long running feud with our neighbors. In any case, I insisted that my other son go to the Republic for an education in banking and finance. Lady Qinvaris suggested doing that and I have family that has been exiled. As for Folas, that girl had been turning him down forever and I think that things got away from him when he thought that he could get what he wanted because she would be compelled. The fact that she was the guard captain’s daughter and almost certainly immune to compulsion didn’t seem to enter his head. I told the boy that if he wanted to impress the girl, he should find out what she liked and do those things. As he was a second son, I would not have forbidden shared blood and a marriage agreement. Instead the boy did something utterly stupid.”

“We might have led Folas into dangerous things, but we would not have killed him.”

“As I said, I want to find out why this stupid feud goes on. I am aware that my sons collected faery pelts with some of their friends and I am aware that some of their friends had died in the forest, with the bodies left at the border. Moonspear, Moonglow, I hope that I can find an end to that, especially since we are going to be family.”

“We will tell mother. One problem we do have is continued cooperation with the Darkmage. We have been watching what he has been doing with the aid of this House and the others and they are dangerous, not just to the fae, but to all. The people sent through that large portal were used as war fodder, to be expended on the Darkmage’s enemies’s weapons. The bodies have not been burned or buried properly.”

“The stories of the horrors of the Mage wars tell of the inanimates,” Sylvia said. “You apparently believe that the Darkmage has the ability to create inanimates again.”

“Not me. A lot of people think so.”

“That brings us to why we came this evening. You boys make sure that the girls get to your grove and get tested. Then keep them in the woods.”
“Keep them in the woods?”

“Considering what my husband has done, there is a very good chance that the House could be embroiled in a lethal conflict,” Raenisa said. “I did not realize fully what was going on here on the estates and I know that Lady Qinvaris is pushing hard to restrain Lord Qinvaris’s hand. On the other hand, the boys from this House and others did go over and use the compulsions that the Suppressors had placed to force many of Lord Qinvaris’s people to go through the portals to wherever it is and that they are not coming back. If the girls are in the woods, they will be away from what happens when it does. So go now, before you are discovered.”

Nightflower was waiting in trueform with a pair of horses for her boys and the girls when they arrived. She looked at the four and said, “Things must have gone well.”
“They did, mother.”

“Then the girls can get lost in the wood for a night and return knowing how to do some new things.”

“Mother, their mothers want to meet with you at Marcus’s and the girls are supposed to stay.”

“Interesting. How about we set up the meeting for a five day? Moonspear, why don’t you return and invite them to lunch then while Moonglow, you help me with our rather mischievous animals.”

“You two better behave if you know what’s good for you?”
“You don’t frighten us, cousin,” the mare said.

“I don’t, but I can lock you and Niossae here in aversions until the joining in Green.”

“We’ll be good,” Niossae said.

“I thought so.”

Alea giggled and said, “That sounds like Niossae Trahorn.”

The stallion stamped its hoof. “Neeeigh!”

“That is definitely Niossae.”

The stallion vigorously shook his head as the girls mounted on the sidesaddles.

Nightflower transformed into a wildcat and led her son and the horses deeper into the woods. Moonspear caught up with them and said, “A five day is fine mother, as is lunch.”

“I will tell Dalia and prepare then.”

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