The Republic Besieged, Chapter 45-46

The Petrie returns to Ishendell. Sarah Nerihorn entertains.

Chapter 45.

Ishendell.

General Ironcutter looked at the approaching ship and wonder why it had returned. The ship slowed and turned toward the quay behind the city, sliding underneath the rim of the shield. The ship was inside the shield before he could decide what to do.

Paeris was on the port bridge wing as the ship slowly, engines astern and rudder hard starboard, nudged the quay. Captain Crabfisher immediately called for the anchors to be dropped and lines thrown over the side. Paeris’s people handled the lines and the ship was quickly tied fast. Paeris turned to the captain and said, “You are an excellent ship handler.”

“This is the first time that I have tried this with a ship this big. She’s going to have some dings on the Port side until we can get her docked.”

“Let us get the deck cargo and me ashore and you can go on your merry way.”

“I am surprised that you are letting us go.”

“That was the deal. Because you surrendered so easily, my job was much easier. As I said, I expected a long stern chase with your crew sliding overboard at some point and taking a long Swim. Instead you stopped and saved me all that grief and the need to provide a black gang for this ship, something I would have been rather stretched to do. I suspect that you did things that way because you knew somewhat of the truth behind my reputation.”

“I also didn’t have any women on board.”

“For obvious reasons, my reputation there was more than a little exaggerated.”
“It wouldn’t matter with this not a lady. Nobody crosses her. I am so glad that she moved from ships to trucks and that we managed to keep the ship and the cargo afloat.”

“She sounds formidable.”
“Very. Her dad is Richard’s cousin and her mother is tough as nails because she was left out at the estate to fend for herself. Unfortunately, Jhaerithe takes after her mother.”

Paeris laughed. “Then it is a good thing that she was not on board.”

“Just so you know, every ding on those trucks in the hold is coming out of your hide.”

“You were responsible for docking the ship, so why is it my fault?”
“Because she can’t get at you and she can get at me.”

Paeris laughed. “I see that the gangway is run out, so I will make a report while Wiz and his people get the deck cargo ashore.”

“Sometimes I wish that we had had a bad storm and that cargo had all fallen overboard.”

“Frankly, so do I. I do know two things. One is that my very capable adversaries have been all over these things, and second, the Darkmage has had a nasty habit of having new surprises in his mage’s satchel and even if these things were not delivered, there may be nastier things that the Darkmage can fall back on. I am off.”

Marinus watched the very strange heavily burdened elf head into the ruined city.

 

The Darkmage watched the devises being unloaded as darkmages supervised the transfer to trucks and moving them to the warehouse where the devises would be tested and readied. The Great Captain walked up with Herdir and the Darkmage said, “The shipments on trucks were unnecessary.”

“It’s a good idea not to put all your eggs in one basket for things, especially when your eggs are being watched by the enemy,” the Great Captain said. “Things could have gone badly if Captain Pinch had been out in his boats, the cruisers were out or the Suppressors went down. When things like this go well, they look easy. But when they don’t, then how you planned matters.”

With the devises unloaded, the various members of what were probably the Great Captain’s crew left the ship, the anchors raised, lines were let go and the ship started to swing away from the quay. The Darkmage turned to the Great Captain and cried, “You let them get away!”

“That was the deal I made. I do hope that you tell the general to refrain from shooting at the ship.”

“Why did you do that?”
“That was the deal I made, as I said. The captain surrendered rather than making things difficult for me and I said that when the deck cargo was unloaded, they could go on their way.”

“We could have used the ship!”

“Do you really want to get in deeper water than you already are with Richard and his people? As for using the ship, look, it has acquired an escort already.”

A destroyer had charged toward the ship, bow wave obvious and when both ships were well away from the city, they stopped and a boat transferred to the Petrie. Shortly afterwards, the boat returned to the destroyer and both ships proceeded on their way, disappearing over the horizon. “I used the ship to do what I needed to do. My people and I will return to the Retreat. I am leaving Wiz and his team to assist you.”
“Is he a mage?”
“By no means. On the other hand, he is not that well known by the other side and won’t ruffle any feathers in Innshys.”
“Why is that important?”

“Because these devises have been in the hands of the Beinans for moons now and they just gave them up. I doubt that they are functional and if parts are needed from the Santuary, somebody is going to have to go and get them, which practically, means going after them through Innshys and the portal there in amongst all the kids and others there. Your darkmages are likely to do something stupid and get themselves arrested or shot.”

“My darkmages can handle themselves.”
“That is the problem. The first time they “handle” themselves, the mess will be enough that any others will be arrested or shot to prevent the mess that came from some idiot “handling themselves.” In circumstances like this, it is better to not have to get in the middle of something in the first place. In any case, Wiz is available and I suggest that you take advantage of that.”

Paeris waved to his rather assorted people and headed toward the portals.

Herdir walked up and said, “That went well.”

“Do you trust the Great Captain?”

“Not at all. On the other hand, if he says that he is going to something, he probably will, if not in the way that you expect. The trick with the Great Captain is to expect that and take advantage.”

“What did you do?”

“As he planned, with some twists and drawing on the reserves, somewhat. I handled the things that he knew about the way he wanted, but the things he didn’t know about are being handled differently.”

“We will lose some things on the roads.”

“Of course we will. There was a reason that I used Darkmages as drivers and the same disreputable trucking company that Durlan used. One thing that is definitely coming in the not so disreputable loads is one of the spare supressors.”
“There is one here already.”

“Father, I went through that building you said it was in to check to see if it was operating correctly and what the status of the Amplifier was since none of the people here were affected by the compulsions. The Suppressor was not there in the building and there were traces that somebody had removed it some time ago.”

“That explains why the enemy general was able to evacuate so easily and why we did not obtain the material. Presumably the Suppressor was removed before we arrived. Did you put a trace on it?”

“It must be shut down and very far away, as the trace showed nothing. Both this Suppressor and the Suppressor in the middle of the Peninsula are gone.”

Leolynn Estate- the Post Road, Istrosia region.

Neldor Leolynn looked at his son in law and said, “Delion, I hope this isn’t one of you’re your usual circuses.”

“Stopping heresy is serious business, Neldor.”

“That may be, but you aren’t. All these people and how did you get a Justiciar Adjunct from the office of Investigation?”

“Lady Trislana is an old friend of mine and her daughter agreed to look into this.”

“This seems all too pat for a tip from a junior Inquisitor up the road. Well, I will watch and enjoy the show. Milady Trislana, are sure that you want to be involved?”

Siora Trislana grinned and said, “I know exactly what I am doing.”

“You brought all these Justicial servants.”

“Yes I did.”

“My son in law has a reputation for fiascos. It is well earned.”

“I am aware of that reputation. Inquisitor Delion, why don’t we get set up?”

Darkclaw was getting more than a bit frustrated. A lot of the roadsigns had not been right and he and the Darkmage’s caravan had made all sorts of wrong turns and ended up in Ina Dorthore, a hundred miles and a day out of the way, before he went to a major post way station and obtained updated maps. Apparently the Post roads had been moved in the last year and the sign crews had not caught up. With the increase in the use of trucks, that problem had been made more severe and the sign painters were working hard over the winter to get the new and correct signs up. With the updated maps, the caravan was back on track in the light snow. This road seemed to have little traffic going the other direction and a detour sign appeared out of the dim light of the snowy day. Blackstream made the turn and a truck going the other direction flashed its lights at them. “What was that about?”

Suddenly there was a flapping noise in the back, Darklaw looked in back and the canvas cover covering the load was flapping loose. He said to Blackstream, pull over at the next waystation and we need to fix that.”

“Ok. We can refuel at the same time. At least we know why that truck was flashing its lights at us.”

The waysation, next to a portal emerged out of the snow fall and Blackstream pulled the truck over to the gas pumps. The gas jockey came out and Darkclaw said, “Fill it up” as he and Blackstream started to work on the tarp. The other trucks in the caravan showed up and two of them were having problems with tarps. The portal activated and an Inquisitor came through, heading to the bus station. He took one look at the uncovered loads on the trucks, turned around and ported back out. Darkclaw cursed and said, “Get the tarps fixed, the trucks gassed and back on the road. We have trouble coming.”

The caravan managed to get back on the road before any more Inquisititors showed up and things were going well until yet another detour sign and then suddenly a road block. An elf in Inquistor’s robes stepped up on to the running board and said, “Inquisition! Your trucks are subject to inspection!”
“This is a Post Road. We are not subject to inspection until we reach our destination.”

“This isn’t a Post Road, this is House Leolynn, so you are subject to the House and I am allowed to chase heresy. Step out of the trucks with your manifests.”

“What do we do?” Blackstream asked.

“Play along until we see what they have and then toast them. We are almost where we need to go, so we do what we have to, fast.”

The darkmages exited the trucks and were herded to a table where all of them professed no knowledge about their loads. The Inquistor in charge said, “I will have to confiscate these loads. They are obviously heretical.”

Three large cars were passing in the other direction slowly when suddenly, they stopped, men with guns stepped out and pointed them at everybody else. One of them said, “Thank you Inquisitor, for stopping these characters for us. We’ll take these now. You boys tell the Darkmage that the lady sends her regards.”

Men got into the trucks, started them up and drove them off down the road. The cars turned around and followed. The Inquisitor turned on the justiciar and screamed, “why didn’t you stop them?!”

“My people didn’t have guns since your boss has banned Justicial slaves from carrying firearms and as a full blooded elf I can’t carry. So we were not armed to deal with people with guns.”

“At least you can arrest these elves for heresy!”
The Justiciar laughed. “If we had actually seen any heretical things, we could. But the evidence just went up the road. On the other hand, you all should take a walk about two miles up the road to the portal and use it before the Inquisitor here thinks of a reason that you might be liable for arrest.”

The Darkmages marched unhappily off into the falling snow and Blackstream turned on Darkclaw. “Why didn’t you order us to attack them?”

“I did not order an attack because while they did not have guns, they were not unarmed or unprotected against mage attacks. The gangsters did have guns and this way the Inquisition does not have the devises.”

“The Darkmage needs the Devises!”
“I am not so sure. The Lady did not tell us, but why use us, the Darkmages and not regular trucks and drivers.”
“To keep the Devises safe!”

“I am not so sure. In any case, we no longer have them. Let us proceed to the portal and port to Ishendell.”

Greg went to get the GP as Jonny said, “There were only six trucks. I think that we lost some.”

“How many?” Siora asked.

“Four maybe. There were the six that they spotted in Innshys and we spotted four more probables moving with them. Greg, go and see what happened to the Detour sign.”

As Greg drove off, Neldor arrived out of the snow with some smiling slaves to replace the fencing that has been used as a road block and as the slaves got to work on the fence, Neldor said to Delion and Siora, “That had to be deliberate.”

“Why, father?” Delion asked with a grin.

“Gangsters just show up in cars, in the middle of a snowstorm and hijack the trucks right in front of the Justiciars.”

“They had guns and we did not,” Siora said. “The Inquisition is imposing a policy about arming slaves with guns. While that does not affect Houses like Qinvaris, who will ignore the Inquisition on their own estates, the Justiciars are hampered because we have to operate in other estates and in front of the Inquisition. The issue will be brought up at the next council meeting.”

“Delion, have you been up to something the entire time?”

“What do you think, father?”

“I feel much better about my grandchildren. Where are they, by the way?”

“Out of the mess.”

“Good. This looks like it could be very bad. Those characters were mages and I don’t think that they are the kind of mages that abide by the Grand Master’s restrictions.”

“No they do not.”
“Why did you risk that?”

Delion grinned. “We were not unprepared. I had my force shaft and shields and so did Lady Trislana. As for the slaves, the Justiciary has them for a reason and mail shirts and swords are normal equipment even if they do not have guns at the moment.”

Greg returned and said, “The wind blew the detour sign over and a truck hit it before the other four trucks came along. That was a good thing as we would have had that other truck in the middle of things.”

“Do you think that the other trucks can be intercepted?” Siora asked.

“In this weather, having to use portals and with no time to setup and arrange for GPs on the other end, it would be chancy and they are mages. I went to a way station and sent ahead, but setting it up before the trucks get to the Nerihorn Estate would be tricky and we could miss the trucks in the weather. I will start things up, but I don’t think that we will get things together in time.”

Greg started to put things together with Jonny and the others, driving off toward the portal in GPs. Neldor looked at the activity and said to Siora, “The Justiciars have good people.”

Siora grinned and said, “Yes we do. They have to be good, because we are so few. I think that Greg is right and the other trucks will stay ahead of us. Of course that doesn’t mean that they are getting away clean.”

“Why not?”

“The trucks have been identified, the loads have had their pictures taken and the darkmages have all had their pictures taken. I think that they don’t understand the risks of sending things through a portal that the Portal service is monitoring.”

“I’m not sure I understand fully. Delion, you must tell me the entire story after this was over. Milady was the thing clownish enough for you?”
“Oh, yes. This will do very well.”

The Nerihorn Estate.

Eddie watched the trucks arrive. Since he was a fox at present, he was unnoticed. The trucks turned onto the Nerihorn Estate and charged up the road to the center of the estate. From where he watched, he could see all four park in front of the portal shed.

Stormfire watched the trucks line up and as the drivers got out, he said “Where is Darkclaw?”

“He isn’t here already? He was ahead of us in a snow storm and we just kept going until we arrived. This was our last checkpoint. We didn’t see what happened to him.”

Stormfire cursed. “Ok, get these trucks through the portal. I don’t want you here if any pursuit should show up.”

Magpie was on a beam above the huge portal with a tracer as it activated. He grinned as the code that allowed the portal to penetrate the shield in Ishendell and form an exit appeared. There was no need to do the heavy lifting when your opponents did it for you.

Chapter 46.

The Lower City.

Sarah Nerihorn grinned and said, “Welcome to my home.”

“Rather modest for a lord of your husband’s estate,” Joanlya said, as a maid took her and Adiun’s coats. “This is my daughter Gracie and my other Daughter Kaylessa. I am Joanlya Beinan and this is my more famous and reputable husband Adiun.”

“I am Sarah Nerihorn. As for the house being modest, we like it. When I married Tathaln, he was essentially cut off from the family. There is a long story behind it that I will not go into now, but the consequences were that we moved to the Lower City and this house, which was in rather poor shape when Tathaln bought it. It does have some advantages, and the portals being open make it an even better place.”

“Do you know Rebecca?”
“I do in fact. My grandchildren go to the same school that Rebecca and some others’s children do. Rebecca’s children have been away with family, but since they are in the spotlight during the last thing, that is understandable. Do your daughters have somebody?”

“They do. Yeldan is dealing with an issue relating to the snowstorm, fallen wire and telegraph service cut off and your husband knows about Mage Wyrran.”
“I was hoping to meet him tonight. Where is he?”

“Out of the country chasing somebody,” Adiun said. “You can blame the Inquisition and the Dowager Empress for the exiles. He is also talking to my father about portal issues and some other related things.”

“Well, come in, come in. I want to meet our new family.”

When the party was over and the guests had left, Sarah turned to her husband and said, “I wonder if your brother knows just how big a favor he did for us?”

Tathaln grinned and said, “You share some interests with some of the ladies. After all, you robbed me.”
“Yes I did, as a starving waif and escaped slave. That worked so well for us both. Now the trick is going to be to introduce certain things rather discreetly. I also want to find more about Mage Wyrran. He seems to be a rather interesting character.”

The Hidden City.

Sarya and Kythaela watched as the plane landed, taxied and parked in front of the empty terminal. The door opened and the various travelers exited, most of them smiling. Byddri saw his wife, walked over and said, “That was a lot of fun.”
“Do you have pictures?”
“Yes I do, a lot of them. The boys and little flamers do as well. I think that you would have liked Seagate. The rockets would probably not have been your cup of tea, though the show was rather spectacular and the little flamers wanted a ride.”

“Things went well here and I talked to my grandmother and some other relatives about things that were here before the Ravthrya came. I also ported up to the Sanctuary and talked to the Librarians about some things. This airport and the airship hanger are part of something that the Ravathrya and Darkmage used and then hid.”
“How did they hide it?”
Kythaela pointed at a cove at the edge of the flat place and said, “They let the water in. The place where they launched things was in a pool of water and if you left the doors open, the water covered it. Without mana, nobody was going to pump it out again and the Ravathrya being here prevented that anyway.”

“I came prepared and so did the boys. We figured that we would have to do some underwater work. Mr. Harper also convinced Syllia’s brother and some other seafolk to come here and look into things. They are following along by sea.”

“How did that work out?”

“Very well, all the way around. I want Miriam to talk to Syllia’s father. He would probably be a good place to park fae healers and her other apprentices, even if he is not a doctor.”
“Why not? Other exiles have become doctors. Rather famous ones, actually.”
“Elas doesn’t want to take the residency and leave the Flight Surgeon in the lurch. I helped that somewhat by passing a piece in on their work. Hopefully some young medical students will want to work out there, in the middle of nowhere, but where new and very exciting things happen.”

“I see, so the problem is taking the time to do his residency when he is needed for important work.”
“Yes. One problem is that there isn’t much need for a healer until things go wrong and then you need healers very badly.”

“So tell me about the rest of it.”

“Let me get home, settled and we can go to the café with the rest of the family. The little flamers were very impressed.”

Sarya looked at Tom, Dan and Lythienne and said, “You just missed the Petrie.”

“What happened?” Tom asked. “I hadn’t seen a report yet.”

“Paeris borrowed her, used her to run some things to the Peninsula and then let the ship and her crew go.”

“That was interesting. Did the captain explain?”

“Somewhat. The captain stopped rather than forcing Paeris to have a long chase of the Petrie and didn’t evacuate, because while the topside crew was seafolk, the black gang in engineering was not, so the captain did not want to leave them to Paeris. Also, Paeris made a deal where if the captain and his crew handled the ship, they would probably keep it, whereas if Paeris did, the ship was going to end up on the beach.”

Tom laughed. “That was actually a pretty fair deal, for a pirate. Why did he want that ship in particular?”
“The captain said that the Great Captain took the Petrie because the ship was known and would probably be able to slip any cordon we had. He was right.”

“I will have to speak to my people about this.”

“Don’t come down on them too hard. It could have been worse. The Great Captain exploited something he knew to get something that the Darkmage needed, but probably is going to have to work hard to make actually work.”
“Sarya, if things go much further like this, even I am going to believe that Paeris is working for you.”

“The Great Captain has had my full attention for a very long time. Unless I was a total idiot I would have a feel for how he thinks. For that matter, I have experts to tell me things and people watching things. As for the Petrie, I can see why he did that once he had the Darkmage’s things and you had Mage Wyrran with you all the way back from the Republic. He must have told you that he and his people pulled things from the Darkmage’s devises to render them inoperable.”
“Actually, I was tied up with fleet issues on the flight back and didn’t talk to Wyrran.”

“That was hardly my fault. How is Romarod doing?”

“He and Lizzy are talking again and he’s getting consistent launches. He did one for us while we were there, in spite of Suppressor issues.”
“Supressor issues that far south?”
“General Creek found one and hauled it down to the Beinan radio research facility down there. The Beinan people neglected to tell Aydiun that they had the thing and when the others synchronized, this one did too, but the thing had a short mana draw because it was still drawing from Ishendell and so it would cut in and out randomly and the Beinan people there didn’t know why they would shut it down and it would come back up again. Wyrran dealt with that and set up coordination with the Beinan people down there to share what they find.”

“I see. That explains some things on the Peninsula. There was a remarkable lack of compulsions in Ishendell, which saved a lot of lives. We owe General Creek for moving that, even if he didn’t let us know.”

“I think that he didn’t want to raise a big stink about it and this was just after the suppressors were discovered. He was going shopping down there at Beinans for microwave stuff and took it with him to see what they could do. We can talk to Qambois about it.”

“We are going to have to have some way of dealing with the old Imperial technology that people are digging up.”

“I know, even after the Darkmage is gone. Too many people have seen the stuff and what it can do.”

“Why did Dan and Lythienne come with Alinis?”

“Why don’t you ask them? It’s actually a related issue. I think that we get the taxi next. Al went with the boys to start plotting their expeditions.”
“They should talk to Kythaela about those. She talked to her great grandparents and some others with me and they had some interesting stories that I will share later.”

Dan walked over and said, “Do you two want to go with us in the taxi or wait until the next one?”
“We’ll go with you. Why did you bring Alinis?”
“We want to introduce you to a very special lady later and Alinis has become her custodian.”
“Who? I didn’t see anyone that I didn’t know on the flight.”

“I will leave that for you to discover. It can wait until we have someplace private. This is to be kept confidential.”

“How confidential?”

“I haven’t told Jaerfet about it.”

“That is confidential. How did Alinis get involved?”
“She discovered the lady by accident, which was a good thing, because if this had gotten out, the Darkmage may have gone berserk.”

 

House Quinvaris Port.

Richard looked at the ship and the results of the ship’s recent adventures were fairly evident. Fortunately, the ship would not need immediate attention that would require her to travel to the Fellowship or Republic and visit a drydock. She would need some paint before venturing out to sea again, but that could be done at Eyrding. Unlike what had probably happened at her last berthing, the ship was slipped gently into her berth and moored. Richard walked down the dock as the gangway was run out and stepped quickly to the deck and then up to the bridge. Marinus turned around and said, “I can explain.”
“I got the message from the Hidden City. The Great Captain hijacked you. I’m just glad that you made it back.”

“Yes the Great Captain did. So any damage to Jhaerithe’s trucks is Paeris’s fault.”

“Did you berth the ship at Ishendell? I don’t imagine that this happened at sea.”

“It is in the log and that is as far as I am prepared to go. I did what I had to do, under duress and very trying circumstances, with the Great Captain having his sword at my back, ready to run me through.”

“Was he even wearing it?”

“I think it was on his boat. But he was ready to run me through and take over. What captain wouldn’t, for a chance to pull maneuvers like that and get away with it? After all, I can blame the Great Captain and he isn’t going to have to deal with the owner, boards and such. He’s a pirate after all.”

Richard laughed. “Jhaerithe has her car, so you are safe. I’m glad you made it back ok, and the rest of the crew did as well.”

“Once it was obvious that I was more or less willing to cooperate, things went very well and Paeris kept his part of the deal. Once our unorthodox deck cargo was unloaded, we were free to leave.”

“That deck cargo may prove to be less useful to the Darkmage than he might think without Wyrran and his people to put it back together again.”

“Paeris is aware of that. He told the Master that, but the Darkmage wanted his things, so he is getting them, at least most of them. There were several truck loads that went overland that were at risk.”

“Most of them were intercepted. Some made it to the big portal at the Nerihorns and made it through.”

“Those loads were supposed to be a diversion from the Great Captain’s little escapade anyway. I think that the Great Captain was outsmarting himself somewhat. Of course his friends probably didn’t help. What happened to the darkmages?”

“They were let go, so that they could tell the Darkmage of their failure after the trucks were hijacked from Inquisitor Delion and the Justiciars.”
“Who was the lead Justiciar?”
“Siora Trislana.”

“That explains a lot.”
“Why?”

“Let’s just say that there are names showing up as screenwriters in the Republic writing high elf comedy and that is just the sort of thing that would make for big laughs.”

The Hidden City.

Sarya sat down at her desk and said, “So what is the big secret?”

Alinis brought out a rather large crystal from the satchel that she had been carrying istead of a proper purse and activated it. The Mage Queen appeared and said, “I am Lyrei. You must be Sarya Steelmaker. I am glad to meet you.”

Sarya looked at Dan and Tom and said, “I understand why you wanted this discreet. How did Alinis become the custodian for Lyrei here?”

“She was going through crystals and activated Lyrei,” Dan said. “She kept Lyrei a secret until she found another crystal of a spacecraft launch and discussed large Projectors and something called a Projector mirror. I hinted that the observatory may find artificial objects if they look, but they haven’t gotten back to me yet.”

“Do you think that an operable Projector mirror exists? That explains why you brought the boys back so quickly and the messages you sent earlier. There is evidence that somebody, with the Ravaythyra’s assistance, used the launch pad and the large mana battery to launch something about the time of the second mage wars. The pad was deliberately flooded afterwards and the Ravathrya took up residence here after the mage wars. Kythaela has been talking with her older relatives, some of whom had been mindwiped.”

“Some of Romarod’s people are coming with Syllia’s brother to look into things here. Byddri and the boys are going to poke around.”

“Al can hardly wait and has people coming too. Lyrei I am sorry that business matters have forced me to neglect you. So why did you come to me?”
“I asked Alinis to bring me to meet you because the real Lyrei and you share some experiences. I, as a seeming, do not suffer from impatience and the conversation here has been very interesting. What is this place?”

“This place was once a small island village called Thehe Serin.”

“This is Ithelgir then.”

“It was called that as well. Then recently, since the Ravathrya insisted it not be named to hide it, became known as the Hidden City, which everybody today knows it as.”

“So a completely different place than when I knew of it. Alinis, when we are done here, put me where I can see this place. Now, Lady Sarya, what I share with you is that we both chose similar men after rejecting similar men and I wanted to share my experiences with you.”

“The fact that you spurned the Darkmage is legend.”

“Not to the real me. For me it was tragedy.”

“Were the Mage Wars a result of that, or was there a deeper reason for them. The legend has probably overtaken the reality. But it seems unlikely that the Darkmage would do what he did because you spurned him.”

“The Darkmage was a romantic. An able mage, but in the beginning, very naïve about certain things and caught up in tales of an Empire of old. He was hardly the only elf caught up in that dream and the abuse of the others, the mortals, dwarves, fae, dragons and seafolk by high elves was raising tensions. The others withdrew and started to form their own kingdoms.”

“The Mage Wars and the Blight caused the Secession.”
“I don’t know about that as that all happened after my death. Is the current Dakmage the same way?”

“Yes, he is. I am not sure what he saw in me. Of course the Empress arranged my exile.”

“Did that attract the Darkmage’s attention on the Republic?”
“No, I don’t think so. He came to me in the Republic after I had started to date my husband and wedding plans were being arranged by my late mother in law. He offered me a return to the Empire, but I had already found a new home. So he went away and for a long time I was distracted by my children, my job and other issues. Then the recent events happened and he was forced out of the shadows and into the light. So far, he has made quite a mess of things and he is lucky in having one capable servant who I have never quite been able to figure out, Paeris Zylvyre.”

“The Darkmage I knew had a capable servant as well, up to the point where the servant proved to be his undoing, somewhat. Paeris must be from House Zylvyre. They are strange folk and while they can be molded to a master’s service, they are never truly happy with that. Watch this Zylvyre carefully, especially if the Darkmage should betray him. Is the elf married?”
“He bonded to a mermaid, who was killed. I did some checking and everybody is certain that it was an accident.”

“That is truly tragic. Were there any children?”
“A daughter, who the Great Captain went to find and who was murdered by associates of the Great Captain. The Great Captain blames himself, with a good deal of evidence for that. On the other hand, the shark mage that performed the act was rather strange and was in the presense of darkmages both before and after the incident. The shark mage is dead, and the other witnesses, including the lady’s husband are not sure why the great captain did what he did. Are you hinting that the Darkmage set that up?”

“If he discovered the bond, he may have, especially if the Great Captain is as capable as you say.”

“The Darkmage did insist that Rolin Zylvyre expend the entire Ravathrya fleet to retrieve Paeris. I had never considered that the Darkmage would go to such great lengths earlier.”

“My mana level is running low, so I will bid you good day for the nonce. Be wary of the Darkmage. I was not, to my sorrow.”

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