Lord Palen’s Tragedy, Chapter 1-2

Since the story was running long, I pulled another book out. something has gone boom and a lot of people were killed. Lord Palen learns the ultimate cost of his debt to the Darkmage.

Lord Palen’s Tragedy

Chapter 1.

The Nerihorn Estate.

Melaris had planned to arrive at the Nerihorn estate in the early morning. The plan was simple. Delion, who Melaris knew almost no one took seriously would arrive on one of his usual circuses and then when he had been allowed to look for the minor heresy and be humiliated, yet again, the real raid would pounce. Military force was going to be provided by his nephew, Delseran and Delseran’s platoon of High Guard. Lord Orijeon would write the writ and when they were inside, the search would begin. That fell apart almost immediately. First of all, Delseran and his platoon were out of the country, stationed at the embassy in the Republic as a result of the Inanimate incursions. So Melaris had to beg a captain in the army for troops and a squad was going to be provided. Then Delion was nowhere to be found. So a junior Inquisitor was set in the role. Then there was the portal issue. The Junior Inquisitor had suggested hiring some busses and driving in from Inmethemar, but that had been shot down vigorously by Orijeon and Keaynore. So there they were, parading down from the Trahorn portal, the only portal that the Inquisition could use and would arrive at the Nerihorn estate just about lunch time, surprising no one. The thing was turning into a fiasco worthy of his sister in law. The parade arrived at the gate and a Justiciar and a platoon of High Guard, more house guards and Qinvaris militia, with a GP mounting a very large gun on it from across the road were waiting for them. The Justiciar looked at the parade and said, Lord Zylvyre, what is all this?”

“The Junior Inquisitor says that there is a heretical machine in the estate house. It is some sort of floor cleaner purchased from the Fellowship.”

“You all came all this way for that?”

“I have a writ to search the estate for heretical devises and documents!” Orijeon bellowed after exiting his sedan chair.

“Let me see the writ, milord,” The Justiciar said. “If the writ is not signed by Emperor himself, it’s useless in any case. As of this morning, this estate is under Imperial shield.”

“We believe that the documents are under extreme Proscriptions,” Melaris said. The Inquisition has the right and obligation to search and confiscate all such documents.”

“Do you have any evidence?”
“We have this,” Keaynore said, holding up the picture.

The Justiciar started to laugh. “Didn’t any of you actually read one of those copies of History of The Empire that Inquisitor Delion picked up? That picture is from the section on the Mage Wars. It looks as if it was taken from a class report.”

Nightwolf grinned at the unfolding clown show he was looking at. It took everything he had to not break out laughing. His mission, with his team had been to create a diversion to attract the attention of the various guards and soldiers. Stormwolf had apparently been injured again and had lost his pack to a boobytrap in Ishendell, so Nightwolf had been recruited. Nightwolf had been worried that the mission had been discovered when the High Guard, Nerihorn House guard and Qinvaris Militia, complete with at least one GP with mounted machine gun had shown up. Nightwolf was surprised when they all collected at the gate, but the arrival of the Inquisition’s clown show explained everything. He activated the small portal and deactivated it and then headed with his team back to the abandoned Qinvaris estate house to start their journey to the Camp, their role in this complete. Unlike Stormwolf, who would have made a big mess on the way back, Nightwolf and his team were going to be careful and not make waves.

Stormfire hadn’t heard any shooting at the gate, but the small portal had activated, so the raid was on. The trucks proceeded on the back road from the Trahorn estate to the vault. The vault was unguarded, as the spies had told them it would be and Stormwolf used the combination to open the vault, only to find that the combination had been changed. He used the override combination and the vault opened. He pointed at the men setting up ramps from the truck and said, “Hurry.” Stormfire’s team spread out, the submachine guns that they had secured from the Fellowship army and practiced with at the ready, keeping their eyes open for potential visitors. As far as Stormfire was concerned, if he could get out before a patrol or anybody else showed up, that would be ideal. He was sure at this point that somebody, at least, knew about the devises and he knew that he was lucky that the things had not been under heavy guard. The devises were being loaded, one by one and Stormfire cursed as a boy came up the road and then disappeared.

Eddie had wanted to see the vault at least, for himself and since he knew the estate fairly well, went looking for it since the Inquisitors hadn’t shown up. He was marching up the wagon road when he spotted the trucks at the vault and Stormfire with some enhanced soldiers and monsters guarding the trucks. At the same time, Stormfire and his men were raising machine guns, so Eddie Jumped to the front gate. Evin was arguing with the Inquisitors, but Eddie was sure that Stormfire was clearing out and whatever the Inquisitors knew wasn’t going to matter if the armed devise went off. “Evin, Stormfire is raiding the vault!”
Evin looked at him and then turned to the High Guard officer and the others and said, “We should have expected this. Place Melaris and the rest of these clowns under arrest. The rest of us need to get to the vault. Eddie, this is going to be risky, but see if you can get close enough to Stormfire to tell him that one of the things is armed. We may get lucky and Stormfire will have an arming key with him or he will at least leave the armed devise here. The last thing anybody wants is a premature detonation.”

“Yes Evin!”

Eddie jumped to as close as he could and ran toward where Stormfire’s people were loading the last devise. He called out, “Lord Stormfire! I need to tell you something!”

“What do you want, boy?!”

“One of the devises is ARMED! The key is set to the Armed Position!”

“Come here, boy, and explain. My people will not hurt you.”

Eddie walked up and said, “The Nerihorns found these things two five days ago. Lord Nerihorn sent his son to find everything he could about the things and when they checked the arming key positions, one of the devises was armed. That was why the devises were still here.”

“How do you know this, boy?”

“I was reporting in to the Chief Justiciar after coming here last night and telling Lord Nerihorn that the Inquisition was sending a raid and the key and moving the devises came up. If you have a way of stopping your trucks, stop them now. If you have an arming key, find the one that is armed and set the devise to safe.”

“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because the Justiciar thinks that you don’t want one of these things going off here any more than we do. I’m going now.”

Eddie Jumped back along the road. A Qinvaris GP passed and opened fire with a machine gun on Stormfire’s men as two more passed, men with rifles got out and fired at the cab of the truck, killing the driver. Stormfire’s soldiers Jumped away, ran or died. Trucks with men arrived and the House guards, Qinvaris militia and High Guard spread out. Alinar arrived with Adiun and Folmon and looked at the devise on the truck. They took one glance and turned on Eddie. “Did you tell Stormfire?”

“Yes I did. The shooting started right afterwards. This one isn’t armed, is it?”

“No, it is not. Did you see which way the trucks were going?”
“Down the back roads, toward the Fellowship.”

The Zylmenor Estate.

The compelled driver drove the truck down the bumpy road as fast as he could with members of the assault team riding in the back. None of them knew of the tiny rather corroded spring that was the only thing between them and instant death. The fuse was intended to trip when it detected being ported. Porting the devise would cause the elvenmetal coil to transmute and pull the pin that would pierce the foil that separated the two elements of the binary primer explosive. The pin was held by the spring to prevent a premature detonation. With the bumps in the road, the metal pin bounced up and down piercing through the metal foil and tearing at it. Finally there was one bump too many and the pin went through the metal foil. Millithousandths later, the primer worked as it was intended. The truck and all aboard disappeared.

Lord Othorion Zlymenor had been a fervent supporter of the Proscriptions, the Inquisition and the contract with the Darkmage. His father had been opposed after the assault on the palace and was at the House in the capital. Lord Othorion’s son was in the Republic at present on an enforced college stay, forced on Lord Othorion by his mother after Inialos had been caught taking Richard’s Qinvaris’s slaves for the Darkmage. Still, Lord Othorion was certain that right would prevail and had been willing to sacrifice much to pay the debt to the Darkmage. In a flash, he did.

The devise had been designed so that the Primary would launch the Secondary two thousand feet into the air before the mana draw started to maximize the neutron flux. The age of the devise, the fact that the Primary’s Plutonium core had degraded over time and the truck meant that the devise only reached five hundred feet before the draw and the neutron flux initiated. That meant that the ten square mile Scourge was just more than one square mile. That was enough to kill the Zlymenor estate house, Lord Zlymenor and his wife, and everyone else in the estate village immediately before the blast wave reached the estate house, shattered the windows and tore the roof off. All of the other plant and animal life on the estate was also dead. Along the border of the Fellowship, two farm houses and the families were subjected to extreme radiation burns and would die within a day. The villages in the neighboring estates as well as the House Palen estate house would suffer the same fate. Lord Palen and his lady were not at the estate and his son was taking classes in the Republic as well. His daughter was on the estate and died a horrible death in her home due to radiation exposure with her husband. In the end, over 2,000 people died in the Scourge. It would take decades for the farms and hardwood stands to recover. The lacquered fine cabinet and box business that had been the pride of both House Zlymenor and House Palen never would recover the level of artistry that the made the products of the estates so sought after. The secrets and skills that had been built up over centuries and handed down hand to hand died with the craftsmen on the estates.

The Fellowship.

Stormfire had Jumped to the rendezvous point at the truck park where the five trucks that would switch with the trucks carrying the Devises were waiting, false loads that would cover the Devises ready. He was certain that the last truck was not coming but the first had already arrived and the team that he had arranged at the truck park were making the transfer. The second truck arrived and then there was a flash in the distance, followed by a towering mushroom of smoke. He had decided to leave the truck with armed devise here, if it arrived. Without an arming key, there really wasn’t very much else he could do and he wasn’t sure that he believed the boy, even though the boy had had detailed knowledge of what was exactly inside the vault. The boy had been right and Stormfire looked at the consequences before returning to the task at hand. The third truck arrived and Stormfire prepared to make the transfers. He wasn’t sure what the consequences were, but the fact that the devise had gone off meant that there was no longer any doubt that the Darkmage had them and that he intended to use them.

The Nerihorn Estate.

Melaris looked at the various people with guns and other weapons surrounding him and realized that whatever was going on, it wasn’t just heretical papers from a school child’s report. The young mortal had been talking about actual devises, not some paper. If he played this right, he could possibly recover from all the losses the House had suffered, depending on just how many were involved. After all, all of them, all the way up to the Emperor were culpable in not reporting the devises to him and not turning them over. He would have been pleased to accept them and turn them to his own purposes. He wasn’t sure what “armed” meant, but the fact that the devises had not been turned over was a capital offense. He said to the guard watching him, “You know, all these people are in deep trouble.”
“Really? It seems to me, that you are the one here with the guns pointed at you.”
“That just puts them in deeper trouble. If you help me resolve this, you will get yourself out of the trouble.”

“Let you go, you mean?”
“I was thinking of providing resources for my people. We are the Inquisition, after all and we were here on a legitimate search.”

“Based on a picture in a school report? You inquisition types are all a bunch of idiots like that Delion character.”

The conversation ended as Evin walked up and said, “Lord Zylvyre, you better have a very good reason for being here, right now.”
“We were conducting a search for heretical materials. It appears that the search was justified. You are in a great deal of trouble, that is if you knew about the Devises.”

“I did not know about the devises until just after I arrived here and was told about them by Lord Nerihorn. I was told that this estate was under Imperial shield and that the Inquisition was not to be allowed on the estate under any circumstances. I sent a message to your office stating that before I left to arrive here. I find it very providential that you and these clowns show up at exactly the right time to provide a diversion for the Darkmage.”

“We would be hardly colluding with the Darkmage.”
“Tell it to some trash hauler slave in the Lower City, Melaris. He may actually believe you, though I doubt it. I and Gander’s people are going over this with everything we have and if it turns out that there was an iota of evidence that you planned this with the Darkmage, I will take your head personally. Because, if what everybody here is saying is true, you just put thousands of lives at risk and not in the Republic, but here, right now.”

Suddenly a flash lit up everything, even in the middle of the day. Justiciar Sarrieth looked at the mushroom shaped cloud and said, “It’s much prettier than the picture. I hope, for your sake, Lord Zylvyre, that the death toll wasn’t too high.”

 

 

Chapter 2.

House Qinvaris.

Alinis gave Fireoak the Jump point to the hall at the House and they Jumped. Hagre smiled as they arrived and said, “You brought your young man at last, princess.”

“The House knew?”
“Yes. It was your own fault, of course. You placed the young prince’s model car in your father’s office and his name was on it. So your parents went to visit with his parents. Was your quest productive?”
“It may be a disaster. Is mother here?”
“Your father is here in his office and your mother is in the parlor.”

Fireoak Turned on Alinis and asked, “Alinis, just what is your House name? You didn’t tell me and I have this feeling that you aren’t off a small farm someplace. You knew Jimmy and Talissa, and Talissa’s parents, the king and queen of Dolmon, Chompers knew who you were and you said that “daddy would send people looking,” all over the Empire. You knew the Bienans, Lord Yllanan and for all I know, the Emperor. So what House is this?”

“You will find out anyway, but this is House Qinvaris. I didn’t want to tell you before you knew me and not the princess. My sister had problems with her boyfriend over that and I wanted to avoid that for good reasons. I also wanted this to be our time and our quest, not something that daddy was involved in, though it seems as if he was poking his nose in all the time anyway. How did that happen, Hagre?”

“When you left, your grandmother sent up some material about the Scourge and you did leave that car in your father’s office. Why don’t you take our prince here to meet your mother? I will get your father. Was Chompers too unreasonable?”
“Not at all, Hagre. I need to see mother and do send daddy. It’s fairly important.”

Alinis pulled Fireoak to the parlor where her mother was reading and Rosa grinned a very wide grin. “Alinis! You brought your prince to us at last! Why are you here?”

“Chompers wants to talk to dad. I’m not sure how to say it, but something very bad may have happened at the Nerihorn Estate and Chompers was afraid that daddy may be there.”

“Was there a reason I should have been?” Richard asked as he walked in. He hugged his daughter and turned to Fireoak. “Welcome Fireoak, to our family. I have been hearing very good things about you.”

“From who?” Fireoak said a bit depreciatingly.

“Your father, who realizes that he was keeping you confined more than he should have. He knew of your talents and was acting to hide them and you more than a bit, but he hadn’t really thought about how that was caging you. He also let your brothers get away with a bit much. How did things work out with Chompers?”
“He wants to see you, daddy. One of the devises at the Nerihorn Estate went off. He thought that you were there and could be dead.”

“I wasn’t and we didn’t want to start an evacuation and give certain things away. How did you know that the devise went off?”

“We all felt it when we were at the lab that Chompers has been hiding.”

“You got in. I told Chompers that you would.”

“I had Jimmy and Talissa and there were two post riders who showed up and rode through. Chompers started after them, Jimmy and Talissa showed up and then we followed them in. We never saw Chompers until he came with Jimmy and Talissa after Jimmy and Talissa ran him ragged.”

“I did warn him about them. How many hogs did they eat?”

“I don’t know. The thing went off and Fireoak and I came here.”

“Ok, Fireoak, I want a very long talk with you, but right now, I have to get to the estate and put a plane in the air. We need to find out just what was Scourged and how much damage was done.”

“I understand, Lord Qinvaris. I don’t think that Lord Nerihorn thought that the Darkmage would do things the way he did. We were hoping to find a way to get the Devises away and we weren’t fast enough.”

Richard left and Alinis asked, “Where are Uncle Bob and Kulgha, mom?”
Rosa grinned. “They went back to the Empire when we discovered that there was an armed devise. Richard wanted some of your uncle’s ordnance specialists to look at the devise. That has become a moot point now. So, Fireoak, tell us all about your adventures in the Republic. You didn’t visit Castle Hill Park?”
Fireoak grinned “I did, but the dungeons were closed, so we didn’t go down and my parents showed up, so my cousins and I were stuck taking my brothers and sister other places until I left. There were some letters from my cousins hinting that very good things would happen if I were to Jump down for a visit, but mother squelched that and some of my cousins came up anyway to get tested.”

House Nerihorn.

Ayen and Tiriana emerged outside the House and entered. The major domo, Haryk Herfir came out of his little office and frowned at the expression on Ayen’s face. “What happened, young lord?”

“The estate and possibly the faery kingdom, or part of it may be dead.”
“What?!”
“Everybody on the estate and everything alive may be dead.”
“Are you certain?”
“Not yet as going there is probably dangerous. I need to see Aunt.”

Raenisa was with Sylvia, Myalaela and her daughter making some plans when Ayen walked in and smiled when he saw his mother. “Mother, is dad alive?”
“Why would he not be?”
“The Devise at the estate went off. We were someplace and felt it”

“I haven’t felt a sudden hole in me, so your father is very much alive. In fact, here he is.”

Alinar had just emerged from Jump and said, “Ayen, you seem to know.”
“The devise went off.”
“Yes. Stormfire came to the estate at the same time those clowns from the Inquisition showed up and used some trucks and Jump points he had to get in and to the vault the back way, while the Inquisition was trying to come in the front. Stormfire got away with four of the devises and the armed devise went off someplace between the estate and the Fellowship.”

“Just what are we talking about?” Raenisa asked.

“Ayen was going through the Darkmage’s vaults and found five large devises on carts, as if they were meant to be run through portals. There was a reference to a manual for dismantling the devises and Ayen went to the library at the Sanctuary and found the manual and a lot of information on the things, including the fact that the devises were the Scourge and where the arming lock was. On one of the devises the lock was set to “armed.” Stormfire came for the devises, put them on trucks and used the farm roads to exit. The armed devise went off at some point, but we are not sure where that was, at this point. Ayen, how did your adventure go today?”
“The place was what we thought it was. Chompers was run ragged by Jimmy and Talissa, but the devise went off just when we were inside the building, so I came home and Alinis went home as well. We stopped in at Beinans on the way to tell them. So help should be on the way. What happened with the Inquisition?”

“They were trying to search the place by waving around a picture from that packet that Mrs. Harper sent. The picture was of the explosion of the Scourge, and not only had that picture been in most of the reports, it was also present in History of the Empire. Justiciar Sarrieth pointed that out. He also arrested the Inquisition when Stormfire showed up.”

“Did they find out about the Devises?”
“Eddie showed up to warn everybody that Stormfire was there and Justiciar Sarrieth sent him back to tell Stormfire that one of the Devises was armed. He was hoping that Stormfire would leave it or stop the truck it was on, but that didn’t happen and the thing went off.”
“At least it didn’t go off on our estate and kill everybody.”

“We’re not sure what was wrecked and how many were killed as yet. Dinner is ready. In the morning, I want to talk with that landdragon about how soon we can get to the estate or whatever else was destroyed.”

House Ravathyra.

Erlan looked at his brother and said, “You look like you have had a very bad day.”
“I have. Emmyth Keaynore received a tip that young Lord Nerihorn was collecting Proscribed material on the Scourge from the Sanctuary and still more material had been received from the Emperor’s office. He also had a picture that came from the material. Since Alinar Nerihorn was probably involved, I felt that a forceful raid would improve the Inquisition’s position and the House would recover some of what was lost. What I didn’t know was how high the collusion on the heresy went and just who all was involved. So, after a mess more or less like one of Lielatha’s we set out to Nerihorn’s. We were met by High Guard, Nerihorn’s guard and heavily armed Qinvaris Militia waiting for us with Justiciar Sarrieth. He told me that the estate was under Imperial shield and the Inquisition was not to be allowed to search the estate under any circumstances.”
“That seems to be a lot to cover for some material that was probably easily replaceable. Especially since it was all obtained by the boy and if the Inquisition could have used the material and it sounds as if they could, no real harm was done.”

“I was hoping for political leverage. In the beginning, I never thought to ask why anyone would want such specific information. I should have.”

“Why were they looking for the information?”
“They had five of the devises that are used to create a Scourge on the estate. They had been stored there by the Darkmage.”

“They should have told you about them and had you send people to remove them.”

“Yes they should. In fact it is a capital crime to not do so and the Emperor is culpable on the crime as he was notified, as were Folmon Beinan, the Grand Master and Almer. They made the judgment that the devises were unsafe to move and that since I had a long career of collusion with the Darkmage, I was not to be trusted with the knowledge that the devises existed until proper procedures and facilities were in place to render the devises safe and dismantle them. Knowing what I know now, that was the right thing to do. One of the devises was “Armed.” I discovered that because Stormfire showed up at the vault, removed the devises and made off with them. A young mortal reported that and Justiciar Sarrieth immediately sent the boy back to tell Stormfire that one of the devise was armed and dangerous to move. They were hoping that Stormfire would either disarm the devise or leave it behind. Justiciar Sarrieth also ordered my and all my people’s arrest on suspicion that I was a diversion for Stormfire.”

“Were you?”

“No. At least Emmyth and I could honestly say under truth spell that we received a tip and acted on it. Things were dicey for a bit though.”

“Why did they let you go?”
“I have no idea, especially since I could call the Conclave, potentially unseat the Emperor and have the heads of Lords Nerihorn, Beinan and Qinvaris, the Grand Master and Alwin. There’s one caveat to that, though. First of all, Alwin can argue that the Inquisition has no facility to deal with such devises or had the information to deal with such devises, that the devise that was armed was unsafe to be moved and that since he was notified, the Inquisition was notified.”

“That seems to be a fairly shoddy case.”
“I would agree, except that they were right. The devise went off. I saw it. I imagine that everyone for a hundred miles around saw it.”

“Where?”

“I have no idea. I will find out in the morning. The possibility is that at least one estate was killed and that if the Inquisition’s connections to the Darkmage are known, the Inquisition was culpable.”

“Do you think that they have evidence of that? Beyond you and that mess with the portal tools, that is.”
“I’m not sure. Kelvahn came in and talked to Iolas about a quid pro quo arrangement concerning his people’s guns using Bidove’s name and hinting that he knew a lot more.”
“Did Iolas go for it?”
“No.”

“That was stupid. First of all, Iolas would have had Kelvahn in a compromised situation and second, now we are in the position that Kelvahn can use that connection if we call a Conclave and if it turns out that Kelvahn has a good case, then the actions they took were justified. Do you think that Kelvahn had somebody taking notes about his session with Iolas and that somebody also got information on your meeting with Emmyth?”

“I hadn’t thought about it, but they obviously knew that I was going to show up. The problem is that we don’t know how much they have. If we call a Conclave, at this point, it could be us getting burned.”

The Imperial Palace.

Narbeth looked at Evin and said, “How bad was it?”
“Bad. I’m not sure how many died, because we don’t want to be exposed to the Scourge and the documents we have say that going in right after the Scourge goes off can expose you to some of it. So we are holding off, for now. What I do know is that House Zlymenor’s estate is dead, House Palen’s estate is partially dead, including the estate house and some farms in the Fellowship are dead. I tried to make sure that Stormfire knew, but the truck was in motion and he probably didn’t have an arming key in any case.”
“How many devises did he end up with?”
“Three. We stopped one of the trucks before it could leave, and the armed devise went off. The good news is that Melaris can’t make the argument that we were wrong when we said that the thing was too dangerous to move.”
“Do you think that he was setting up a diversion for Stormfire?”

“No. first of all, some monsters were spotted near the estate and I think that they were the original diversion. Second, Elenaril put them under truth spell and it was just as they said it was; a rather ridiculous tip about some documents.”

“Why did you let them go?”
“First of all, Melaris and the Inquisition are slippery and if you don’t have very good evidence, they’ll slither out of the situation. Second, they have no clue how much we know about Bidove’s little operation and they will be floundering to get some information, now that Bidove is gone. Locking the clowns up, as much as they deserve it, was going to be more trouble than it was worth and Alinar and the rest couldn’t hide the fact that they knew about the devises with all those witnesses and the devise going off. So there was no point in arresting the clowns.”

“Thank you for giving me a report about a very bad day.”
“I will have more, including pictures when Richard has a plane up in the morning. Once I am sure, I will notify the Houses. I’ve already sent people to tell them that their estates are sequestered.”

Zirgocoll.

Qambois was taking a nap after a peaceful day, when Iniel, the woman who had captured his heart all those years ago and shared his life ever since woke him and said, “Vafealine just called. There was something that looked liked the Scourge in the Istrosia Region of the Empire. There was some spillover and the Provisional Troopers think that some farms are dead.”

Qambois sighed. “Tell Vsfealine that I will arrive at the office shortly.”

Renestrae and Dan were enjoying each other’s company when Hubys came in and said, “A message through the small portal for you, milord. “There apparently was an incident in Istrosia.”

“Did dad say what?”
“The incident involved the Scourge. He said that more details would follow. Here is the message.”

Dan looked at it and said, “This is very bad.”

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