The Republic Besieged, Chapter47-48

Raenisa wants some people out of the woods. Denny has some plans for some cans.

 

Chapter 47.

The Hall Of The Justiciars.

Gander walked into Kelvahn’s office, dropped a rather thick report on his desk and said, “Here it all is, in all of it’s ugly glory. What a bunch of idiots, the lot of them.”
“All fifty Houses?”
“Yes. Apparently before the first Blight, the Darkmage jr. approached them with a deal. The Houses would be spared from the Blight if they provided assistance to the Darkmage and his allies at need. Would you believe that they all signed contracts under mage seal and kept them?”
“Obviously, they are part of the report.”
“Yes, along with a lot of the same sorts of things that the Dowager Empress was involved in. That doesn’t include the long running feud that ten of the Houses had with their neighbors, the Treehollow faery kingdom. We found quite a stack of faery pelts and some of the boys may have been selling them. Not recently, which is a good thing, for them. I do know some coats that some of the clowns wear came from faery pelts, from multiple fae. I have testimony from the families in Treehollow, but that feud wasn’t one sided by any means and while the fae were not likely to kill the various idiots involved, they didn’t hesitate to lead them into fatal accidents and then dump the bodies on the border.”

“How come Evin didn’t pick up on this?”

“A lot of the things happened on the estates and Evin had the Richflights, the Ravathyra and random bandits to look out for. I checked and the Richflights had one of those contracts. The feud was kept more or less private. I doubt that there were ever more than forty on each side and most of the fae kept away from that border and certainly never went on the estates. So most of it was quiet and since the Blight wasn’t hitting the region every fifty years or so, they didn’t suffer the same sort of depopulation that most of the Empire did and had fewer problems of the sort that Evin typically dealt with. He’s kicking himself about that as well.”

“So other than handing me this, why did you want to talk?”

“This is a political hot potato like I have never seen and, like it or not, I have to deal with it. With what I have, all those Houses would be crushed, just like House Sarafen was and the clowns deserve it. They sat fat and happy while the rest of the Empire suffered, knowing what was happening and did nothing. They held things in trust for the Darkmage and when the time came, secure in their prosperity, they set out attacking their neighbors and we were lucky that the neighbor was House Qinvaris. The problem is that I have a Seat and everybody knows that I am close to the Emperor and vote with Richard. This could be seen as removing the opposition all at one shot just before the Conclave that everybody knows is coming. Yet these clowns actively committed crimes here in the Empire, committed theft of House Qinvaris’s property, or how Richard sees it, his people and assisted in acts of war against another country who will call the Empire into account, considering what happened at Ishendell. The clowns haven’t seen that come home to roost yet, but I will be taking a copy of this report to my grandmother. I don’t really have a choice. The Republic, and for that matter, all three Blasted Lands, have very old policies about dealing with the kind of people that do things like Ishendell. Two years ago, there was some concern about what may happen in a war with the Republic. That war was avoided. If there is not some kind of sanction like the Ravathrya suffered, the Empire is going to find out, the hard way.”

“Take this to the Emperor and tell him the same things you just told me, especially that last. You are right about how hot a potato this is. I imagine that Evin backs up your conclusions.”
“Yes he does, except the part about the Republic which he doesn’t know enough to have a feel for the politcs. This isn’t a raid by pirates, no matter how well supported they were. This will be seen as active military operations against a state of the Republic and the deliberate commission of an atrocity.”

 

Fayspire.

Tim looked at Kicavir and Al and said, “Now that the trucks are unloaded, what do we do with them.”
“How about we put them right back in their owner’s lot,” Al said.

“Why would we do that?”
“This goes back to when Durlan was “borrowing” trucks from the same character. The trucks would be picked up from someplace, then Durlan would “steal” it, use it for what he wanted and then leave it. I’m going to bet that the character is going to declare the trucks stolen like he has before and commit some fraud.”
“How did you find out about this?”
“I can’t say, but the report was going around and crossed my dad’s desk so that we would know to look out for trucks from that outfit. So why don’t we make some friends and give a tip to some people.”

The Treehollow Faery Kingdom.

Raenisa turned to Sylvia and said, “Lady Qinvaris has proven to be a useful friend. She pointed me to the carriagewright that makes the small carriages that can fit though portals.”
“You will have to introduce me to her. I have seen the Qinvaris lands and you can see that they pay attention to keeping thing as orderly as they can. The people there are allowed to choose their own paths, education is available for everybody and the estate is prosperous.”

“I think that we are here.”

The carriage entered a small village surrounding a rather large house, with wings and additions under thatch and tile roofs and smoking chimneys. The ladies’ daughters, dressed simply, were waiting with a fae lady who said, “Welcome, ladies. I am Nightflower and you know these two. It should not surprise you that they have both been tested and passed. My sons decided that work was more important than a ladies’ luncheon, which for the two you know, is rather remarkable for them. My daughter and her bonded are working at the capital acting as the Imperial ambassador for the fae Council of Kings and my sons are helping with certain issues.”

“Artamo, correct?” Raenisa said. “By way, this is Sylvia and I am Raenisa. We share Filverel and just about everything else. I apologize for my idiot sons. Sylvia’s son, Ayen is sixteen and hasn’t made an ass out of himself or raided the neighbors. For some reason, he likes to read and play with ever more expensive toys. He was actually a big help with that portal and getting it to work, but that was a mistake.”

“Yes, Artamo bonded with my daughter. It turns out that he has relations in most of the faery kingdoms and that made him a good choice for the position. He went to the capital to express my husband’s displeasure of the continued operation of certain devises. Why don’t we go inside?”

The house was surprisingly normal and Nightflower said, “This is our Lorekeeper, Marcus and Dalia, who manages the kingdoms outside business and contacts. She is going to get some assistants soon, as the job is going to grow rather larger and House Trahorn has become part of that.”

“House Trahorn?”
“Yes, the young heir and Daylilly, my niece, bonded and that means that the House is now family. My husband is happy that he will have the wine he wants and unhappy that the place is no longer a challenge and very unhappy with the great mischief some of the Justiciars pulled off there at House Trahorn.”

“Was that related to the Dowager Empress and her downfall?”

“I am not sure, because I have not had a chance to have a long sit down with my daughter about that and she knows all the Justicairs involved. I suspect that much was connected, as is what we are going to be discussing.”

“Yes, the feud.”
“Let’s sit down and discuss the feud and the Darkwood.”

“The Darkwood?”

The ladies sat down in the warm and comfortable parlor next to the fireplace and Nightflower said, “The Darkwood is the key to all of it. The story involves a bond, a lost child and a bit of a tragedy. About two centuries ago, House Nerihorn had a daughter. The then younger Lord Nerihorn had shared blood with a girl that came out of the forest and took her as his wife.”

“Like my brother in law,” Raenisa said. “So they had a daughter and considering the gossip going around, she was of high potential. The Lost Child must refer to the sort of thing that happened to Mariona Aezeiros’s son, Sylvar. The girl was startled and transformed. I talked with Mariona and she introduced me to Lavidia when it was obvious that there was something going on between Alea and Moonglow. I notice that you did not waste any time testing the girls and I thank you for that. So the girl had a Lost Child incident and probably thought of herself as a monster of some sort. Did the parents neglect her?”
“They were exiled for the usual reasons.”
“The Darkmage pulling some strings. Two centuries is before Shaerra’s time, but there were other Ravathyra and they had influence. So the girl was probably left alone on the estate. I will have to look at the House Journals and get some details. So she was caught in a lost child, bonded, went to a grove and was freed.”

“She caught in a lost child, bonded, her brother went into the woods looking for her and she fed him.”

“Faery food?”
“Yes. He went mad and unfortunately, escaped. Meanwhile the girl would not enter the grove out of guilt. She went into what has become the darkwood and stays there to this day with her bonded out of guilt. Your family and some of the other families blamed the fae for the cousin’s madness and the other cousins started the hunts, with my husband’s family and some others retaliating.”

“The stupid git is still moping in the woods? We will have to see about that.”

“What can you do about that?”

“Is there any way to mitigate the madness?”

“You would have to talk to a healer about that, why?”

“This explains so much. First of all, while mad, the brother is still very much alive and one of my responsibilities. He is not a large responsibility, come to that and amuses the children at the House. He comes up with the most clever things and is very in touch with the world. Is there a fae healer that I can talk with?”

“Miriam of the Marshalls may be the best for the first contact. I imagine that the old elf does not know of the feud.”
“No, he does not, which may be a big part of the problem. Something like that would probably force him to lose the madness. So a healer, and maybe a grove for Alinar.”

“You seem to be moving very fast.”

“I have had to and frankly I am rather frustrated about the secrets that my husband was keeping and the constant, “You don’t understand!” whenever I bring certain things up, Alinar being one of them. I suspect that like most such things, the boys were being boys and didn’t really care for the reasons why they were feuding as long as they could have their little fights.”

“Sylvia, you haven’t said very much,” Nightflower said.

“First of all, my son wasn’t drawn into the feud, thank gods and second, Alinar will not come to the estate. We’ve tried, when it was inconvenient for him to be in the House because he needed to be watched in one of his bad spells and Raenisa was entertaining those you must not offend, that is Lielatha, Thalia, Shaerra, Glynnii and their ilk. Fortunately, I could take him to the Lower City and the toymakers and he would be happy. We have a toy making shop at the House and my son and Alinar make things there. That helps a lot. But if Alinar were free, that would be a good thing.”

“Is Alinar the father of either of your children?”

Sylvia blushed. “That is a House secret. A bedwarmer is one thing, children from somebody who is mad is another.”

“Your son should be tested as well, soon. Lunch is here, so we should not insult our cook of the day and eat.”

“Who is our cook of the day?”
“My daughter ported in to feed us the magic chicken she has learned to make from Gwynestri Aezeiros. Gwynestri bonded to a faery prince and says that the chicken was the reason. I have my doubts about that, but we shall see if the chicken is magic. I see that Moonflower dragged your girls to help while we were having our chat. Here they are with lunch.”

After lunch was over, Nightflower said, “I will contact Miriam, though getting here may take a bit of time as she lives in the Republic. This was very productive.”

“Yes it was,” Raenisa said. “Of course, the next step is getting a stupid pair of gits to a grove. You can tell them that if they don’t come out, somebody is going to make their story very public. I have been talking to Rosaniya.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I sent my son to the Republic and as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, my husband may need to consult with the people in the Republic about growing tax and trade issues. So I may stop in and meet with Rosa’s famous brother and drop a tale in certain places. Since it is romantic and mushy, it will go over well.”

Nightflower started to giggle and said, “If that doesn’t work, we can always inflict Jimmy and Talissa on them.”

“Let’s do that too.”

 

 

Chapter 48.

Desert Howl.

Feno looked at the two Projectors on the truck and then at Tarranth. “Why did you bring those here and how did you get them?”
“Getting them was easy. I just asked my uncle if I could have them and he said, go to this warehouse and talk to the chief and pick out the ones that I wanted. The navy has an abundance of these things. I have another one on the way that is bigger. That Projector came from the fort at the Hidden City. As to why these are here, I want, or rather House Qinvaris wants, to run tests on making buildings immune to these things and I talked to Ayduin about who could do that discreetly. He said that here would be a good place and I signed a contract.”

“You can do that?”

“If I can get Renna out of the water, we will go over what happened in Zirgoccol the year before last. The story kept us in a very expensive, very fancy goblin restaurant for a month. So yes, I can do things like that, and since my brother Dan had all that fun with greenhouses and the Blight, it is my turn.”

“What do you plan to do?”
“Build typical walls and shoot these things at them and then build more walls with screens, steel columns and sheet steel and see what happens. Fortunately Admiral Shanelis was in the Republic and I talked with him. His seafolk son in law comes from the area, so you can expect a visit from the admiral. He lost some projectors when he fired them at an ocean liner. I want to see what it takes to protect buildings and other things from projector fire and exactly what caused the admiral’s projectors to fry. These two are just the first load and some will be fried before the tests are over. Actually, you get to have all the fun while I go back and keep my grandmother happy by being a student.”

“I assume that you have a copy of the contract with all the details. Let’s go to my office and get this squared away.” Feno grinned. “This looks like it is going to be a lot of fun. Are you sure that you don’t want to supervise.”

“I’ll drop down here when I can, but I don’t want too much attention attracted to this and since my little trip and fall, I tend to get pesky reporters showing up.”

“Good point. My kids insisted that I take them to Castle Hill, just like the rest of the kids. Have you been leery about touching random walls since then?”

Tarranth held up a pair of gloves. “Are you kidding? If I were to do something like that again, I would never hear the end of it. Grandmother says that one new museum is my limit.”

Feno laughed all the way to the office.

Ishendell.

The Darkmage looked at the huge Projector and said, “Well?”

“We don’t have some critical components, father,” Herdir said. “Also, we here are not expert at these things. It will take time.”

“How much time?”
“That will be difficult to determine. For one thing, my brother is reluctant to authorize the fabrication of the parts without a face to face with you about the ongoing progress of the Project.”

“Is he willing to come here?”

“I will send a message. There are some other difficulties as numerous writs against us have been sent by exiles in both the Republic and the Fellowship as a result of the attacks here. So I can only transfer through Innshys to the Sanctuary with a certain degree of risk. As for you, you will probably be arrested on sight and handed to the Marshalls for transfer to the Republic.”

“Do what you can.”

“I have sent Wiz to manage the fabrication. Are there any parts in the Sanctuary and elsewhere that you could point him to?”
“There are, and I think that it is time to reveal them. I will give you a location of the vaults.

The House Beinan Estate.

Tathaln Nerihorn exited the portal with his mad uncle and nephew along with Nardual and was met there by Folmon and Adiun Beinan. Adiun looked at Alinar and Ayen curiously and asked, “Who are these two?”

“Experts on old portals. This is my uncle Alinar and nephew Ayen. Alinar is the victim of an accident with Faery food long ago, but when, like today, he is lucid, he is very good with certain things.”

“You are the Beinans,” Alinar said. “They took your House. Not this place apparently. You have a shop in the Lower City. I had Ayen order some things from you. You are as good as your father was.”

“Thank you,” Folmon said. “I used the House’s coronation gift as my masterwork. You can see it at the Imperial Palace Park.”
“The automaton dollhouse. I have seen it already. Ayen took me one day. It is a truly wonderful thing.”

“Why don’t I show you around?”

“There was an unfinished commission that is probably here. I will have Ayen send you the particulars. It was commisioned in my youth as a gift to my sister, who was lost in a tragedy.”

“Uncle, we don’t want to bother the Beinans with that right now,” Tathaln said. “I will have the details of the commission found.”

“Do that. Now that the Beinans have a House again, they need the work and even if my sister is gone, we will have the memory.”
“Why don’t I show you two around while Adiun and your nephew talk business,” Folmon said.

Folmon led Alinar and Ayen into the bowels of the estate house as Adiun turned to Tathaln and said, “Why did you bring those two?”
“Because, as I said, on his lucid days, Uncle Alinar is very good at certain things and two, I thought that he would enjoy the day.”
“The boy is his son, isn’t he?”
“That is a family secret. We bought a maid to tend him from the Ravathyra and things may have happened.”

“Has he been tested yet?”

“That is in the works. Since it is not my family other than Ayen asking me to bring Alinar today, I won’t say very much.”

“I have somebody for you to meet today. Wyrran is back from the Republic. I also have a bit of a show as well.”

“Excellent. I did as you suggested and talked with the Emperor’s office about certain matters and I will not press for Wyrran’s return.”

“I am sorry that Wyrran missed your wife’s thing, but he was chasing some subordinates that thought that time in the Republic included beach time, which admittedly, it did in this case, as the exile we were looking for had been dragged under.”

“Was the reunion satisfactory?”

“Yes, and we are waiting for an appropriate time for maximum surprise. Why don’t I show you the portal traffic board and introduce you to some more of your employees.”

“The traffic board is here?”
“One of them is. For the time being, I will not reveal where the other one is, for obvious reasons. Once suppressors are shutdown, we can go over things.”

“You are a bit more trusting than you were the other day.”
“I had you checked out, you received high marks and I was told that you and your brother had a long standing argument, your uncle there being part of it. What exactly happened to him?”

“To make a long story short, he had a sister, who disappeared in the woods next door to the estate, he followed her, she had turned into some sort of monster and fed him a bit.”
“Faery food.”
“Yes. Of course the family locked him up as mad, and his cousins and some other idiots started hunting fae rather than asking obvious questions. To be honest, Alinar can be quite out of it, but for the most part, he is like you saw. Put a complicated problem in front of him and it gets even better.They say that before the accident happened, he and Folmon’s father went toe to toe with each other in fun and games. The House library, which the Inquisition has not seen unless my idiot brother has shown it to them, is as good as the Beinan House library was.”
“Still is, but it will not be in the Empire, at least not the originals. The library should be returned this moon. Here is the traffic board and Aimer Eilris, who is responsible for traffic monitoring. Aimer, this is Tathaln Nerihorn, the new administrator.”

“Welcome, Lord Nerihorn. I am sorry that I was unable to attend the get together, but Aduin, Wyrran and I want to keep the fact that the Portal Service has the board and where it is a bit discreet for the time being. When other things are resolved, this board will be moved to the Portal Service and a space that is being constructed for it and the second board will be at the remote location.”

“That is perfectly understandable. So, has the traffic been smooth?”
“Never better, except for some portals in the south. Those have been temporarily locked down, but unfortunately, the local Houses have keys and have been using the portals to go to illegal portals near Ishendell. Those illegal portals are going to get a surprise today.”

“Illegal portals? Should I be talking to the Justiciars?”
“They were taken from the Empty Lands. The locations of the portals stolen from the Lower City is known and they have all been removed from the Fellowship. There may be more illegal portals in the Fellowship, but until they power up, finding them is going to be rather difficult.”

“I see. The Justiciars already know about the illegal portals already, I presume.”
“Yes,” Adiun said. “We have been working with them and the authorities in the Fellowship on this as the illegal portals were used to kidnap some young people by Durlan.”

“Durlan?”
“Durlan Richflight, who was taking young people here in the Empire and when the Empire became too hot for them, moved on to the Fellowship.”

“That Durlan then. I understand that he was caught recently. My wife appreciates that. So do my neighbors in the Lower City. What is the surprise?”

Adiun grinned. “Why don’t we go and see? You remember that large portal. The Darkmage was a bit careless and is about to find out that he made a mistake.”

Aimer followed them back downstairs and across to a large shed. They went inside and a mage walked up and said, “Adiun, we are about ready.”

Adiun turned to Tathaln and said, “Lord Nerihorn, this is Mage Wyrran Xyrhyra, currently deputy operations Director.”

“Mage Wyrran, you are hard person to get in contact with,” Tathaln said.

“I apologize for that somewhat. I have been given a fairly large task and that means that I must travel and be far from my office.”

“In the Republic?”
“I needed to talk to somebody discreetly and it turned out that there was some work being done on my project that I was not aware of.”
“The Suppressors. How did you get diverted to that?”
“I had some lab partners during my Academy years and knew some things about the Suppressors. This was right after they were turned on and we knew very little about them. I thought about the effect of the Suppressors, how portals operated and built a detector to find Suppressors. Things went on from there as I was put in charge of the effort to arrange their shutdown.”

“How is that going?”

“That was the reason for my trip to the Republic and we may be able to get the Suppressors to force a shutdown. They are running stressed in any case. What we want to avoid is a mindflash or explosive shutdown. We may be able to accomplish that now.”

“Excellent. The small portals are a Portal Service revenue source, so having them able to operate is a good thing.”

“Actually, there are other things that we are lucky we have not had an issue with so far. The portals themselves are strained. We’ve been lucky and I talked with Aydiun about it, but the portals nearest the Supressors are at risk. The good news is that the Suppressors were never able to get the full draw they required and have not distorted things like we expected. The bad news is that the Suppressors are near high traffic portal locations such as the Imperial plaza, Elysahone and Innshys.”
“Innshys? I have never heard of that place. It is a high traffic location?”

“It has become so. The old portal to the Sanctuary is there, there is one large portal that the Portal Service installed and it is on the main bus and taxi service to the Fellowship. The main road from the Fellowship also passes right through town and traffic is growing.”

“I think that we will have to have a sit down about traffic and shifting portals around after the Suppressors are shut down.”
“The traffic situation is rather chaotic as the Darkmage’s people had shut down so many portals and there were places like Elysahone that were off the map, literally,”Adiun said. “That is why Elysahone, a major road junction, seceded. I had two large portals and a portal office installed there and we may need to add two more at the new airport.”

“I haven’t visited Elysahone as yet. I have heard good things about it from my grandchildren.”

Folmon brought Alinar and a very happy Ayen into the shed and Wyrran said, “I think that things are ready.”

“What are we doing?”
“In order to test this large portal and poke the Ravathrya, the Richflights and the Darkmage more than a bit, we set the portal to launch wagons of surprises through to the Camp, the Retreat and the Fortress. We did some other things, most of which were on the behalf of the Grand Master and trying to recover me and my brother mages from the trap we were in. I see that the boys are ready and that our other guests have arrived, so, Jorge, you may begin.”

A grinning Jorge tripped a lever and a weight started a wagon rolling toward the portal, which activated. Four smaller carts were rolled toward four portals that shared the shed with the large portal and they went through the portals. Two of them returned and the boys grabbed the crystals they carried and handed them to a boy who ran out of the shed. Adiun said, “We should know what is on the other side of the portals. They must have damaged or destroyed the other two carts. Other wise they would return.”

Wagons started to roll, one after the other through the large portal. Alinar looked at them and said, “Won’t the wagons pile up on the other portal?”
“This is a one way portal and each wagon has a different direction and landing point than the last one. We did quite a bit of this to poke the Camp and the Darkmage’s other Locations until it became harder to have the element of surprise. Here, it is rather different and various people in the Lower City and other places were coming up with all sorts of things. This time, we don’t have to really worry about hurting the other side, so we put in some bigger booms.”

Richard came over to Adiun and said, “You are going all out with this one.”

“I didn’t want the Darkmage to think that we had forgotten how to do this and once we had the transporter for the big portal and could bring it here, all I needed was the code to crack the shield and Magpie collected that. Of course, even if the clowns figure out that this portal is here and somehow stop me here, I have a big surprise just about ready, at your place, actually.”

“What are you sending through the portals,”Ayen asked.

“Since there are no kids on the other end and any mages there are far past listening to the Grand Master, I’m sending booms, skyrockets, golem bears, real bears, skunks, a tiger, some bees that are going to be rather sore, balloon crystals and to make their shield unhappy, balloon bombs.”

“What was that?”

“That was GP chassis, a machine gun and a thing that makes the machine gun go around in circles.”

“How will you know how effective the thing was?” Tathaln asked.

“Not all the animals in the animal wagons are exactly animals. The pictures must be back for the other portals.”
Some boys were making adjustments to some carts and then sent them through the smaller portals. “That should deal with anything on the other side of those portals.”
“If I had some militia here, I would be tempted to send them through,” Richard said.”

“Hold that thought,” Adiun said. “I think a TAV would fit through the large portal and that would be a rather nasty surprise.”
“We don’t have any TAVs here. TAVs would be a nasty surprise on the other end.”

“No, we do not. That will take some thought, as The Republican army will not want to spare any and the Fellowship army is rather short at present.”

The last wagon made its way through the portal and shortly afterwards, a bear, a lion and several wolves returned with cameras and crystals through one of the small portals. The bear said, “We have good pictures, Adiun. The suckers never knew what hit them. One of the skyrocket wagons ran right into an ammo dump. The chaos was incredible.”

Ishendell.

After the chaos was over, the Darkmage said, “I suppose that it is too much to hope for that they had stopped doing this. I must talk to Stormfire about taking some troops and visiting the Portal Service.”

“There will be nothing there and the people at the Portal Service will know nothing about this,” Herdir said. “I doubt that lord Beinan and the others would launch from a place that we knew about.”

General Headbasher walked up and said, “You seemed to be used to things like this. I take it that this sort of thing has happened before.”

“Frequently at the Camp,” Herdir said. “There were no toys this time, but the rest of it was familiar.”

“Why did they do it, other than to create general chaos that is?”

“Some of the balloons you saw had crystals and tracers on them, there may have been infiltrators and I think that certain people were making a statement that they were not out of business.”

“Why didn’t they do this before?”
“The portal they used was at the Portal Service and partially dismantled. We found it when we were looking for Adiun Beinan. At the time there was no way to move the portal, the Portal Service was vulnerable and we were no longer staying at our base. The method only really works when they have an exit for the portal that is fixed. I suspect that our use of the portal at the Nerihorns gave them the location and the code to crack the shield. So they took advantage.”

“Yes they did. That puts me in a quandary. If I move out of the shield, Ironcutter is going to smash me and if I say put, I will keep getting hit by this, over and over. I think that I will move most things away from the portals and the exit point and place obstacles around the exit point area so those wagons don’t go very far. I have this feeling that we will be seeing this again.”

General Ironcutter was looking at the dim images of chaos when Denny and Norman joined him and Denny started to laugh. “Somebody neglected to tell General Headbasher about some things.”
Do you know what that was?”
“After dark, have the boys look for tracers. Those balloons you saw will have crystals on them.”

“So, just what was going on?”
“At a guess, Adiun Beinan has his big portal back and just used it in one of the most terrifying military tactics ever, one way portal attacks.”
“One way portal attacks? Like the attacks we had here in Ishendell?”
“Yes. The way I heard it described, from some of the people who were doing it, if you have a portal exit, you can set up a one way portal so that consecutive exit points are in different places and point in different directions. Other than dispersing and moving things, there really isn’t a way to defend against it and the other side can just send booms and other things through the portal.”

“You knew about this? We should have talked with you about some things. The attacks with the compelled came as a complete surprise.”
“I’ve even seen a launch from the big portal at the portal service. They were sending a lot of wagons through the portal, loaded with every idea they could come up with and I supplied quite few old wagons to the cause.”

“I think we need to know more about this, Denny,” Norman said. “Tell us how this got started.”

Denny did and the two generals and the staff laughed as the story spun out. When Denny was finished, Norman said, “What would you do to prevent an attack from something like that?”

“I talked to Adiun and Wyrran about that. First of all setting something like that takes specialized knowledge of how portals locate things. It is very tricky to get a port exit in exactly the place you want it without a portal trace from another one way port. Most of the portal boys have seen it done and can code for that, because they were working with Wyrran, Adiun and Adiun’s daughters to show them how. Also the tactic is useless if the target moves even slightly. The constant resetting of the portal would take too long.”

“Could you get together with General Ironcutter and the staff and work out some plans? We are as stuck as the enemy, I imagine that General Headbasher is looking at logistics issues and they have a portal to use to send things through.”

“I can do that. Of course one thing that General Headbasher should understand is that the tactic is do or die. Because there is no retreat once you are dropped. For a wagonload of suprises, that isn’t important. For an army that is always a consideration. My plan would be to make sure that supply is not concentrated and buy as much time to respond as you can.”

“Get right on it. I have this feelling that we will need it.”

Denny suddenly had a grin. “Astaire.”
“What?”

“It will take a bit of time, but Mrs. Harper and some other ladies sent a lot of left over rations from the last campaign here to Astaire and I was responsible for handling distribution. A certain portion of those thirty year old rations were not fit for human consmumption unless there was no other option and I had them set aside. There is a new railroad in the Mortal kingdoms and I could probably get those rations shipped here. We place them in an obvious spot and maybe our friend over there will want to raid our supply dump.”

The others grinned. “Better the Fellies than us that ends up eating that stuff,” Colonel Steelmaker said. “You just know that if this had been really serious those cans would have been fed right back into our supply lines by some idiot purchasing sergeant and some opportunistic character. If General Headbasher doesn’t take the bait we can always arrange for the cans to have an accident.”

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