The Republic Besieged, Chapter 49-50

Durhir asks some questions. Jimmy and Talissa have fun in the woods.

Chapter 49.

The Marshall’s Station, Chatsrey.

Miriam came into Tomali’s office and said, “Dear, your mother is here and I think that we should go up to the Empire.”
“What for?”
“You could probably get an update on the Great Captain and I just received a letter from Rosa about a very interesting potential case.”

“That being?”
“A non fae who ate faery food.”

“Did he survive?”
“He is still alive and not in a faery kingdom. That is why I want a look. These borderline cases are interesting and if the man had been tested, he probably would have passed. In any case, I can get a look at a case well after the accident. There is also a lost child involved as well. I also want to do some recruiting for Desert Howl, both dragons and fae if I can.”

“Dragons?”

“Yes. I have been tasked with getting dragon healers to medical school as well by Andaphin Beinan, a lady I really could not say no to.”

“We can Jump to the Hidden city now that the Suppressor down here was shut off, so the Empire isn’t that big a trip and my mother has the kids at the beach, so why don’t we pack and go. I can check in at the Embassy and see what the Great Captain has been up to that hasn’t hit the papers yet.”

Ishendell.

Durhir exited the portal and looked at the remains of the chaos that surrounded him. His brother was waiting and Durhir said, “I am here, where is father?”

“We will go to him now. He wants to know why the replacement parts have not been made available or fabricated.”

“I want to know some things before I ask the Mechanitiars to expedite. Most importantly I want to know that there are plans that do not involve getting great numbers of my people killed. From what I see here, I have grave doubts about that.”

“This was a minor nuisance. In any case, we need things from you.”
“The last time you needed something from me, it cost the Sanctuary its army and Protectors. I think that you can understand why there is a large degree of reluctance on my part. It seems to me that others are bearing the cost of the Project and you are reaping the benefits. More importantly, the whole thing has turned into a disaster and I was left holding the bag of crap while you and father will not even talk to me about it, let alone address the people of the Sanctuary. It was easier to get Lord Qinvaris to talk to the council than it was father. The Council wants to cut you off until father comes and explains. So far, I have avoided that, but I want an explanation.”

Herdir and Durhir entered the Darkmage’s office and the Darkmage said, “Why are my parts not being sent or even fabricated. The Project is at risk.”

“The parts are not being fabricated because the council and I want some answers regarding the army and what happened.”

“Ask your questions. I am disappointed in the failure of your army to obtain the Sanctum and cover for us at the palace.”

“Father, you sent me no information about what I would expect, told me that you launched the Blight and the Project and then required that I dispatch the army. You provided no intelligence and led me to believe that the Empire was weak and in the midst of the turmoils. Had I known what was really going on, I would have never dispatched the army in the first place. Did you know that the Blight had failed and that there were no turmoils before the army was launched?”

“You failed. You can redeem yourself by providing the things that I require.”

“Father, if that is your final word, the Council will cut you off. I will expedite the things that you have already ordered and the rest will wait until you appear before the Council and account for your actions.”

“YOU WOULD DEFY ME! I AM YOUR FATHER! I MADE YOU AND I CAN UNMAKE YOU!”
The Darkmage reached for his power to kill his son, only to find himself blocked. Durhir shook his head at his brother and said, “That is the end. You all will get no more support from the Sanctuary. The things that you have already ordered will be delivered, but no other orders will be accepted. For any additional business with the Sanctuary you can go through our agents at House Beinan. I will tell mother that you no longer allowed in the Sanctuary and why. Good day.”

Durhir left and Herdir turned on his father. “Father, that is one more time that your temper became our undoing. Now we are cut off. If you do not have some reserve, we are not going to be able to make the Devises operable. We needed our brother to cooperate and you just tried to murder him. So now, we are stuck.”

“There is a reserve that I was going to use later. It is on the estates that we protected from the Blight. I will tell you where the things are.”

“Why did you not tell me earlier? We risked much to recover the devises and it was unnecessary.”
“As I said, I planned to use them later. In any case the Projector will still require time. Go with your brother and collect the items. I will tell you where they are.”

 

 

Chapter 50.

The Imperial Palace.

Narbeth grinned as Gander entered his office. “You didn’t have to wait a five day, you know.”

“I had some more things come up and I wanted to discuss this with my grandmother.”

“Strange as that may seem, I can agree with that. I have seen the report and you were right about what a political hot potato this is.”
“If it were one or two of them, I would hand the writs out and hire an executioner, even if it made me look like those Justiciars in the plays. But with fifty, if this gets out, it will look as if I, and you, by extension, went out to clean up before the Conclave we all know is coming before the opposition could get its act together after I destroyed the Dowager Empress. The sad thing is that I was just looking into the Darkmage’s activities and some reports and clean ups that I had. But all those Houses made those deals and then for centuries, sat fat and happy while the Empire and the rest of the world were inflicted with the Blight and the rest of it, voting over and over with the Ravathrya and then the Empress.”
“Itireae has been quietly pressing those Houses to send their heirs to the Republic for some education and get them out of the conflict. I would also talk with Dealsanra and Thaciona about the way they have rather forcefully taken a good portion of the heirs out of the game.”

“I knew about that already. Not officially, of course, because if I get officially involved, it moves beyond doing some business. The fact is that my people let the boys do what they did to get the heirs and the rest to stop taking Richard’s people before Richard had to visibly notice. That cost Stormfire the people he was “recruiting” from House Qinvaris before the body count got too serious. Rosaniya is going to handle compensation and she is not going to go easy on the boys and their Houses, but Evin and I didn’t actually catch Durlan and the others in the act and if Durlan should show up at the Marshall’s Station, I knew nothing about that.”
“I will discreetly let the various Houses know just how much trouble they could be in.”

“It’s worse than you might think. That is why I talked to grandmother first and if you could find a way to meet discreetly with Dan Harper, it would be in the Empire’s best interest to do so. All those Houses visibly provided support for the Darkmage, who committed atrocities in Ishendell and is almost certainly planning to commit more of them. The Republic is going to demand those House’s be sanctioned, seriously and visibly. The President hasn’t done that and will not until the thing on the Peninsula is over, but the demand will come. It is an automatic consequence when an atrocity is committed and all three Blasted Lands countries have laws concerning things like that. The Darkmage is heading the Empire into a war that it really doesn’t want and will probably cause the Empire to tear itself apart in the process.”

“Thank you for giving me yet more nightmares I didn’t need.”

“That is the price of your Seat, I’m afraid. I’m just a stupid cop and get to see the nastiness. I will bid you a good day and get back to the mess.”

Gander left and Galan came in. “Was it as serious as I thought?”
“It was worse, actually. The Republic will be demanding heads over Ishendell. Apparently it is policy.”

“The Republic wants heads, something for which I can’t blame them for very much and the clowns are all deep into it with their debts to the Darkmage, who will take them right to where ever he is going. We are caught in the middle with a council that has members neck deep in this. Does that sum things up?”

“Yes.”

“Wonderful.”

 

House Nerihorn.

Raenisa went to Alinar’s apartment and knocked on the door. “Sylvia, are you decent?!”

The door opened and Sylvia was wearing a very filmy negligee. “That depends on who you talk to. For Alinar, he thinks that this is quite decent. Downstairs may have some issues.”

“Have you talked with Alinar about certain things?”
“Somewhat. I don’t want to push too hard and put him in relapse.”

“I don’t think that you could. Both of you get dressed. We are going to have a visitor and take a bit of a trip.”

“Who?”

“The fae doctor Miriam has arrived.”

“Then we should get dressed. Is she at the House?”

“Yes, so you two need to get ready.”

I will get ready. Where is my son?”
“At the Beinans with the rest of them, plotting the next portal campaign.”
“That is a bit unlike him.”

“I think that he has discovered girls.”

“Girls in general or a particular girl?”

“I’m not sure yet. In any case, he is enjoying himself.”

Raenisa returned downstairs to the parlor and said, “They will be right down.”

“They?”
“We bought a maid about twenty five years ago to take care of Alinar. She takes care of him very well.”

“How do you avoid the scandal?”
“She is my husband’s bedwarmer out on the estate. Sylvia has never warmed my husband’s bed and he would certainly never share blood with a slave. On the other hand, Alinar and Sylvia got along very well right from the start.”

“So she takes care of him. Does he still have bouts of madness?”

“Occasionally. In the beginning, I am told that he was very hard to deal with. On the other hand, being arbitrarily locked up does tend to do that.”
“Tell me how it happened?”

“This goes back a couple of centuries. His sister, Starrose was assaulted by something, and went into the Lost Child, which is another problem to deal with.”
“Presumably she was found and went into a grove and was tested, found a bond and reverted.”
“Actually Starrose, and note the faery name, found a bond and they were having fun when Alinar looked for his sister, made a camp in the fae forest, she found him and fed him. He went mad, but escaped and set off a feud that I haven’t been able to convince the boys to give up and the stupid gits, in shock, retreated into some deep and dark woods, acting like monsters.”

“What did you do about it?”
“Nightflower and I are setting a pair of famous landdragons on them.”

“You recruited Jimmy and Talissa?”
“They are going to get lost in the woods, lose their horses and walk into the dark part of the woods. Since the gits don’t read the papers, I hope, they won’t know who they are.”

Miriam laughed and said, “You are very direct.”

“It comes from having to deal with some rather thick skulls.”

“Are you talking about us, Raenisa?” Sylvia asked.

“Somewhat. Miriam, this is Sylvia and Alinar. They go crazy together.”

“So you are the famous fae doctor who wants to get a look at me,” Alinar said.

“Now that I see you up close, I am not so sure, though getting you two to a grove would be a good thing.”

“Would you believe it if I said that the madness may have been a Lost Child defense mechanism.”
“What about?”
“You probably know about the Darkmage and his ilk.”
“More than somewhat.”

“I don’t know if the downfall of the Dowager Empress has made it to the Republic yet, but she was hardly the first of the Ravathrya with their grip on the centers of power and there were good reasons that the Darkmage did not want relations between the fae and their neighbors in that region. So when my father married a fae, they were sent over the sea by the Ravathrya and my sister and I were left alone.”

“If one of your parents was fae, even if she failed her test, faery food should not have stressed your contact with mana and driven you mad,” Miriam said.

“No, but having magefire thrown at you when you are sixteen after meeting with your sister and her bonded who were scared silly into Lost Children because we saw something we shouldn’t have would make madness a way out.”
“What did you see?”
“There is a reason that old portal is still there on the Estate and kept more or less active.”
“Ayen worked on that to get it running.” Raenisa said.
“Yes he did. There were things I was hoping would get removed from the estate. So far, they have not and the problem is that having an Animator and knowing about it is an instant Anathema for the House and exile or execution of the family. Remember that Foluin Beinan and I were best friends and I helped him with things. I knew what certain things looked like and my sister, Nightfire and I all saw the thing tested, on fae. My uncle had the House then and there was no way that he did not know. So my sister and her bonded disappeared into the darkwoods and I was driven mad.”
“Did you know about the feud over you?” Raenisa asked.

“Should I lie and say that I did not? Or that the feud, while my cousins made a lot of noise about me, was about other things entirely. Remember, I was sixteen at the time, locked up and watched for a hint that I had not actually been driven mad. I actually used very diluted doses of Clear to accomplish that in the beginning.”
“You did not become addicted?” Miriam asked.

“Clear affects mixed bloods differently than pure bloods and since I had not been tested, I could not raise the mana to the level that it would drain me. Remember that at that time, I had very few good choices. I had to play the charade until they stopped looking at me.”

“Does Filverel know about the Animator?” Raenisa asked.

“You will have to ask him. For all that we share the same House, we do not speak to each other. I suspect not as he is not sitting on it every moment of the day and you know how he is. He has given the Darkmage and his monsters a free hand, but not actually looked into what they were doing, even after his own son was killed.”

“We will have a chat about that at some other time. Right now, you and Sylvia need to visit a grove, just to be certain that there are no lingering effects after Miriam gets a good look at you both. So it’s forward march to the portal and the Sacntum, which I understand is rather cold this time of year. Or we could port to the Trahorn’s estate and use your own grove. That is your choice.”

Alinar looked at Sylvia and said, “Treehollow?”

Sylvia grinned and said, “Treehollow.”
“Good, because Nightflower is waiting, your daughter is waiting, my daughter is waiting and once you are tested, you can help with your sister.”

“That will not be easy.”
“I have expert assistance going in already. When I have all of you out, you will talk to Justiciar Dawkins about what you saw.”

“That could be dangerous to the House.”

“Since my husband did the right thing and doesn’t know what the Darkmage left on our property, not as much as it could have been. Things are bad enough and the House has made some very bad enemies.”

Miriam laughed as Raenisa pushed the pair to the carriage, the portal and Treehollow. As they emerged from the portal, Raenisa said, “One last thing, Alinar. You and Sylvia are signing a marriage agreement. I do not want the children in my House to be wandering around legally without their fathers because of the potential for scandal. If the scandal keeps certain ladies from returning to the House, that will be fine.”

Alinar looked at Sylvia and said, “How did we get into this?”
“We made a mistake and let our daughter and her daughter get together. We were done for the hundredth they found boys.”

Alinar grinned. “Boys I have not yet met.”

“We will fix that.”

The Treehollow Faery Kingdom.

Princess Talissa of Dolmon screamed at her servant, Jimmy, “I’m tired and cold!”

“Princess, I am doing the best I can. This trail should lead back to the road and the rest of your servants.”

“How did we get in these woods anyway?”

“You saw that bird and wanted a closer look.”

“You were supposed to catch it.”
“Princess, I am not a huntsman and I did not bring a net.”

“The horses ran away.”

“You didn’t hold them tight enough and that animal startled them.”

“Landdragons will startle anything.”
“It wasn’t a landdragon.”

“You didn’t see it. What was that?”

“What was what?”

“Over there!”

Starrose had discovered the rather noisy pair a twentieth ago and had been following them as they strayed deeper into the Darkwoods rather than taking the correct path and heading back to the road along the border that lead to Dolmon. Starrose couldn’t be sure about the princess, but her family had had relations with the fae and the princess had been pointing more or less in her direction when she was pointing something out. The question was what to do with the pair. Starrose quietly backed away and once she was sure that the pair wouldn’t see her, ran to where her bonded was making the meal for the day over a fire. “We have visitors.”

“We do?” Nightfire asked. “Darkmages looking for us?”
“If they are, they are the youngest and strangest Darkmages ever. I think that they are the princess of Dolmon and a servant. They may have gone to the Empire to visit somebody.”

“How did they get here?”
“The princess apparently was attracted by a bird, had her servant chase it and then proceeded to lose their horses.”

Nightfire grinned. “So, do we have them as guests or scare them away? We have not had guests or, for that matter, darkmages for a very long time.”

“No Faery food.”

“No. Frankly we are out, in any case. My sister has not left a basket in some time. I think that she is trying to persuade us to come out.”

“So roast pork for dinner.”

“That will do. Shall we test their mettle?”

“They might surprise us, or they may be what they seem to be, a spoiled princess and her barely competent servant and companion.”

Nightfire banked the fire and they left the camp looking for their visitors. They found them still battling the light snow and the path, looking rather miserable. Nightfire said in the silent speech that the pair had developed, “They seem to be what you said.”
“So how do you want to do this?”

“You chase and I pounce.”

“That will work. Let me get set up.”

The pair split up and Starrose went beside the trail and then started back down the trail toward the princess and her servant. The princess must have been looking in their direction and seen her or heard something as she went “EEK! Run Jimmy!”

She ran past her servant who drew a rather large knife or short sword and then followed the princess. The servant must have sensed Nightfire because at the last moment he grabbed the princess and dodged Nightfire’s pounce. The pair managed to get up and run down the path, forcing Starrose and Nightfire to follow. That didn’t help the pair very much as there was a sharp bend in the path and they were stopped by brambles and brush beside it. Jimmy dropped a satchel that he had, the pair turned around and Jimmy held his knife with a bit of a shake. Nightfire and Starrose stopped and started to circle closer. Then Nightfire said, “Come, have dinner with us.”
“We aren’t dinner?” Talissa warbled.

“Not at all. We just wish to share a meal and some talk of the world.”

“Very well.”

“Then follow us.”

Jimmy picked up the satchel that he had dropped and Nightfire led the pair as Starrose followed along to the camp. Nightfire said, “We don’t have very many guests and we don’t need furniture, so grab a log, Jimmy, while I stir up the fire.”

Jimmy did and Princess Talissa sat down. She looked at Nightfire and Starrose and said, “You don’t seem to be animals, so what are you?”

“Do you know where you are?”

“We are in the woods beside the road between Trahorn and Dolmon. I’m not sure if they are part of the Empire or Dolmon. There is a village where we were planning to spend the night.”

“Neither. This is the Treehollow Faery kingdom and you should know, princess, that such places can be dangerous for mortals.”

“So you are something out of the stories, cursed by the fae?”

“Something like that. When you reach the village in the morning you can ask about what a lost child is.”

“So what is your story?”

“You can ask about that in the village as well.”

“You are lost children? That will make for a good story. Do you get news from outside your wood here?”
“From time to time, we get visitors.”

“Then nobody brings you newspapers?”
“What are they?”

Jimmy was grinning at Talissa as Talissa said, “You have no idea who we are? Jimmy, I think that our other selves are not too famous after all.”

Nightfire looked at Starrose with a bit of a mystified expression. Talissa looked at them and said, “You are not the only lost children, you know. Have you gone to a grove?”

“No, for reasons, we have not,” Starrose said.

“That is sad. What do your families think about that?”

“Nightfire’s sister is rather disappointed with us and I have not seen my brother in a very long time. My parents were exiled.”

“Would you like to see your brother?”

“That is not possible.”

“There are a lot of things that are possible. Now, I am getting hungry and you had your little bit of fun, so it is our turn.” Talissa started to unbutton her dress and continued, “You really should have read the papers.”

Talissa and Jimmy disappeared and Talissa’s voice said from the lean to, “I will leave my dress here and get it later.”

Starrose and Nightfire looked in a bit of a shock as a landdragon put the dress down and then went over to the fire, grabbed the entire roast pig and swallowed. Jimmy’s voice said from behind them, “Talissa, you greedy thing, you had to eat all of it! I was hungry too.”

Starrose and Nightfire turned around and another Landdragon said, “Boo! I would run if I were you. You are starting to look tasty. My dragon doesn’t always care what it eats and accidents can happen.”

Starrose and Nightfire looked at each other, at the dragon and ran. That started a night of being hunted all over the darkwoods. When they had evaded the landdragons for the moment, Starrose said to Nightfire, “This has to be your sister’s doing.”

“I know. The grove is looking to be a better idea. You can’t Jump and I can’t sense them as well as they can sense us. I wonder how they happened. Oops, they found us again.”

“Let’s head to the edge of the woods. Where are we?”

“Not too far from the village and the grove, on the edge of our wood.”

“Where are they?”

“Over there. Wait, over there.”

“Which one?”

“Either, both, I’m not sure.”

Firecrackers suddenly went off all around them. Starrose said, “Let’s go that way.”

“The grove is there.”

“And those two have us hemmed in.Maybe we can grab a sheep in the village to bribe them with.”
“I think that my sister already did.”

“Let’s try that way.”
The pair went through the woods until a fae woman appeared in a clearing. “Hah, I have you two at last, brother!”

“What do you mean, Nightflower!”

“Look at where you are. You should feel the test right about now.”

They did and it was all over very quickly. Nightflower grinned, set a bowl of peas down and said, “I will leave you two to get something over with. Then you can join your brother and his wife at the huge party. They were here in the grove yesterday.”

Nightflower disappeared as the pair started to get warm. Nightfire kissed Starrose and said, “I guess we grow up, like it or not. We should have done this a long time ago.”

She kissed him back. “Funny that it took those two to drive us here.”

“I want to know their story, but we have other things to do right now.”

 

 

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