Lord Palen’s tragedy, Chapter 5-6

The dark oracle is consulted. Jorge goes to collect a report.

Chapter 5.

The House Petris Estate.

Isarrel grinned as Erlan and Melaris entered her parlor. “What brings both of you to see me?”

“We are at a quandary because of the events of yesterday,” Melaris said.

“What happened yesterday?”
“The Inquisition had a tip that young Lord Nerihorn had been collecting top level Proscribed documents.”
“How did the young elf access such documents?”

“He retrieved them at the Sanctuary.”
“How did he know to look there in the first place? The Sanctuary hardly has any contact with the outside world.”

“The Sanctuary does now,” Erlan said. “I’m not sure exactly what happened, but a portal was set up, trading started through it and a rather precocious young elf lady went looking for her relatives, the Darkmage and his children that is, and made all sorts of friends and contacts. So getting to the Sanctuary is a matter of going to Innshys and waiting in line.”

“The question we didn’t ask before we set out to search for the documents was why the young elf was looking for them and how he knew what to look for,” Melaris said. “Information about the Scourge isn’t exactly easy to come by.”
“How did he know where to look?” Isarrel asked.
“The young elf was cleaning up the Darkmage’s left behinds out of vaults and found five devises that were used to create the Scourge.”
“The Inquisition was not notified? House Nerihorn was risking much doing that.”

“They were, but they could take the stance that the Inquisition did not have the competency to handle the devises properly and point out that the Inquisition was cooperating with the Darkmage.”

“Do they have proof of that?”

“They may have some. Kelvahn went to see Iolas about a quid pro quo arrangement concerning Kelvahn equipping his slaves with firearms, something that Iolas managed to get banned before the council met.”

“Did he discuss that with you before turning it down?”
“No, unfortunately. I would have told him to make the agreement. That would have compromised Kelvahn somewhat. It also would have given the Inquisition an indication of how much they knew. Right now, the Inquisition is on shaky ground where the Darkmage is concerned because of the matter of the Portal Service’s tools.”
“What went on there?”

“During the turmoils I had the Portal Service’s tools taken for “inspection” and turned them over to the Master. When Adiun Beinan was brought in to repair the Portal Service, he looked for what happened to the tools and found a receipt with my seal on it. I was pushing the Portal Service to find out where the portal was that the Portal Service was using to harrass the Retreat and the Camp with one way ports. The harrassment came up before the Regency Council and Gorduin used the matter of the tools to deflect that. Shortly afterwards, Mage Wyrran was sent out to disconnect portals with some of the tools that had been taken from the Portal Service, was captured by Adiun and I was dragged into Alwin’s office, suspended and told that the tools had better show up in a day or I was facing a writ against me. I went to the Camp to collect the tools, since, without Mage Wyrran and his team of fae boys, the Master had no one who could use them in any case and took them to a portal to send them the Hall of the Inquisition. They never arrived.”
“What happened to them?”
“I have no idea. Mage Wyrran’s notes and any other portal related materials disappeared as well. I suspect that it all went to the Portal Service, along with Mage Wyrran, who was just as pleased as could be to be appreciated and be working with his hero, Adiun Beinan. In any case that was a link to me, at least, and the Darkmage.”

“Who all do you think was notified about the devises?”
“Alwin, Folmon Beinan, Lyari, probably Adiun Bienan and the Emperor. Those are the important ones. Richard and some others were probably told later.”

“Do you think that the people involved had any other concrete evidence that there was a connection between the Inquisition and the Darkmage.”

“That’s where things get murky and where Kelvahn’s offer comes in. If it was just discovering the Bidove connection, it was one thing, but if the Justiciars know more than that, or have a clear connection between Iolas and the Darkmage, we could be in trouble.”

“What would have happened if Lord Nerihorn had notified you of the devises immediately as the law demanded?”

“We would have demanded the devises be remanded to Inquisition custody. The various parties would have insisted that A. the Inquisition have facilities and knowledge for handling the devises and B. that the various parties have guarantees that the devises were handled correctly. Since Alwin already knew that the Inquisition did not, at present, have the knowledge and facilities for properly handling the devises, there would have been an impass as Lord Nerihorn would insist that without the knowledge of how to handle the devises, moving them would be dangerous. I would probably have insisted and that would have been a mistake.”

“Why?”
“I’m not exactly sure what the boy meant when he went to tell Stormfire that the devise was “armed,” but the consequences were fairly clear and I am surprised that you did not notice them. The armed devise went off. Somewhere south and east of the Nerihorn estate, at least one ally’s estate is probably dead. It may be more than one. The flash and explosion were probably visible from here.”

“How did that happen?”

“Simultaneously with our raid looking for documents, Stormfire went to the vault where the devises were stored, opened it and placed the devises on trucks, including the devise that was armed. 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. Stormfire was either told too late or could do nothing about it. In any case, the devise went off and someplace was Scourged.”

“I see your quandary. If you pursue the case against them, you are in the position of where they can say that yes, they violated the law, but events proved that doing so was the correct action to take, yet if you do not take action against them, they may feel that they have no choice to take action against you unless you come to some sort of agreement. I would make the agreement if you can. If you call the Conclave over this, with real dead and the Justiciars having real evidence of collusion with the Darkmage, you will be finished in any case and from the way you have reported the facts of the situation, all the parties did, in fact act correctly to deal with the situation. Lord Nerihorn didn’t withhold the Devises from you because he wanted to use them himself but because he shared the suspicion that far too many have that the Inquisition is allied with the Darkmage. If the devises had been turned over and you had handed them to the Darkmage as he would have demanded and the Darkmage had used them, what would happen to the Inquisition?”

“The Republic would have demanded that the Inquisition be investigated top to bottom and anybody with any culpability be turned over to them” Erlan said. “They were already threatening war over Ishendell. If Melaris had turned over the devises, they would have demanded our hides and gotten them. As it is, politically, I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but we would be in a very bad position if the Conclave were held right now. Melaris, I would have to agree that even if you have to dump Ioalas and probably Emmyth and anybody else tied to the Darkmage, I would do so. At this point Kelvahn is going to set Justiciar Dawkins and his people on the Inquisition and I don’t see a way to avoid that. We will probably have to accept Alwin on the council and give Kelvahn’s people their guns back at the minimum before this is over. You were just lucky that the Master hadn’t asked you to set up a diversion.”

The Portal Service.

Tathaln looked at Jorge and said, “Why are YOU here? Did things end in Ishendell?”

“Not yet. We found an old portal and I wanted to get together last night with Adiun to set up a schedule so that we could get a port in at Innshys other than at the middle of the night. I ended up at home and came here to see if he was here or at the estate.”

Tathaln laughed. “That may be a problem. Wyrran wants to move some portals around to ease the traffic load through there, but events have intervened. For now, the best solution would be to talk to Keerla and get one of the Sanctuary portals unlocked, use that and get in line to go anyplace else.”

“What is happening? I couldn’t find either Adiun or Wyrran.”

“They are out at a facility on Lord Qinvaris’s estate. Yesterday, Stormfire made a play for five Devises on my family’s estate that are used to Scourge a place and made off with three and left one when Alinar’s people shot the truck it was in. The last devise was armed and went off. Two estates and some farms in the Fellowship are dead. I’m just back from the estate and the mess.”

“That’s why Stormfire was setting up the one way portals. He was sending people to someplace where there was no portal to set up his raid. He probably knew that we were watching him and listening to him, so he went off on his dad and then when they were someplace where we couldn’t listen, set that up. Is there any idea as to when Adiun will return?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Ok, I will go to the Nerihorn estate and get a report for the people on the Peninsula, then see Keerla and port back to Ishendell.”

Jorge left, Kaylessa looked in and said, “I missed him, didn’t I?”

“Why did you want him?”

“I wanted to know if Ishendell was over.”
“He said not as yet. They found a portal in the ruins, but the only thing he could connect it to was the portal at Innshys and that was busy all the time. He wanted to set up a schedule so that the people in Ishendell could use the portal.”

“Did you tell him to talk to Keerla? She could unlock one of the other portals. Wyrran also said that there were more of those old portals in the Empty Lands. When Wyrran gets back, I will talk to him about setting a portal up for them.”

Chatsrey.

“Bob! You have returned to us. Why have you returned?” Sarya was grinning at the returned chief prosecutor. “Judge Greenwod said that you and Kulgha had interesting go around at the Sanctum.”

“Richard and Rosa maneuvered me out of the House, albeit for good reasons. Apparently the Darkmage left five devises on the Nerihorn estate. One of the devises is armed and Richard wanted me to come down and ask Tom to send his top ordnance people up to see if they could defuse it without the key.”
“That’s a moot point now, according to my people in the Fellowship.”
What happened?”
“Yesterday, an estate was Scourged, another one partially Scourged and some farms in the Fellowship Scourged. My people don’t have all the details yet, but it seems that the Darkmage’s people went in, got at least some of the devises and made off with them. One of them, presumably your armed devise, went off.”

“Then I was too late. I would send to Richard directly if you can. He knows Lord Nerihorn and can get the details faster than anyone else.”

“I’ll do that. Tell me more about Zanis’s trial. Did you make a good case for keeping him alive?”
“There really wasn’t one. His wife came out of the woods and there was a bond that the family kept secret. So he wanted a way out and took it. I did make a spirited defense against Kulgha’s overwhelming strength.”

“Why did you take the defense?”
“I took defense because it was a challenge. Kulgha and I have had it easy the last couple of years and we needed to scrape the rust off. So a good challenge and peek into House Ravthrya was an interesting change from here in the office.”
“The House doesn’t know it, but the heir to the House is here.”

“Young Rolin is here?”
“Actually his dad is here, but Tinesi and Rolin are here as well. Tanyl tripped a lost child and is a landdragon. He was on a deserted island and isn’t in that much of hurry to go home. He’s shot one movie already.”

Bob laughed. “That will poke his family, what’s left of it, in the eye.”                

“Yes it will. What are they like, close up?”

Bob told Sarya and she laughed all through the stories. When he finished, she asked, “Has Kulgha gotten Paeris off yet?”

“Now, that is an interesting question. Actually we came a lot closer to that than we realized, once we had Paeris’s logs. The worst was the trading depot, which made no sense as far as the raids went. For one thing, unlike the Yllanan, the Leomaris’s have close ties to the Imperial House through Princess Saphielle. So hitting them was likely to hurt the Ravathrya more than help. There are other things like that to chew on and Paeris has not had his reputation cleaned up, which probably makes him happy. Of course we have to catch the elf again in the first place.”

“What are you going to do now?”
“Drill down on some of the things in Alinis’s report and the others. I never thought that the reports that old lady Battleaxe had us do would be useful. I need to get back to my office, because I expect that my boss has more work for me.”

Bob left the laughing Sarya and headed to his office.

Anemone turned to Tinesi as they watched the play and said, “That is a cruel thing to do to him?”
“What, collaring my landdragon and putting him on a leash? Pets get a leash and a collar. Who knows where he will go otherwise. If he doesn’t like it, he has the Jump point home, we can go to a grove and he can lose the Landragon, at least in the evenings and for dates. The tourists like it anyway, and so do the kids, as you can see.”

Tanyl was lying down below them, surrounded, as he usually was, by the kids from the embassy and varied connected and related families as well as some from other families attending the play. The play was a romance between a dwarf and an orc, with feuding families, endless sword fights and swooning women until the ending with the couple forced to take axe and hammer to their crazy families and finally finding a temple that would marry them and end the feud. As the curtain went down the crowd clapped and cheered. Tinesi went down to collect her rather large husband and Anemone collected Delsaran, out of uniform and the two smiling High Guard soldiers, who were supposedly guarding Tanyl, but were just there on yet another easy duty.

Nigtar almost wanted to scream. The boy was out of school and away with his girl to the play with a crowd of other children. The problem was their rather large pet, who was probably sensing him and certainly would if he tried to take the boy and there were the High Guard escorts as well. Another opportunity lost. The fact that he had to sit through this mediocre performance was just added pain to his suffering.

Sergeant Pemaer watch the probable darkmage walk down the street. The Claringbold staff had warned him about the character and he had quietly mentioned him to Tanyl on their first outing. The fact that he kept coming back was more than a bit worrisome. Tanyl looked at the sergeant and nodded.

Victor Shahana was escorting a rather flustered Lelayme to his mother’s home. “Lelayme, my mother does not bite. At least she won’t bite you.”

Telka Shahana watched her younger son bringing the elegant but rather flustered elven woman to the door and laughed. She had loved Jassin from the moment they saw each other after he had gotten lost near where he was dumped ashore fifty years and four wonderful children together. Victor took after his father, but that hardly mattered. She went to the door and hugged the princess. “Welcome Lelayme, to our home and our family!”

Victor grinned and said, “See, I told you she didn’t bite.”

“Victor, what have you been saying about me? In any case, I wouldn’t bite a treasure that you brought home, unless it was some of those animals you brought home from the wildlands. This time you have brought us a princess!”

Telka smiled as Lelayme blushed and started to feel comfortable here at the family’s home.

 

 

Chapter 6.

The Nerihorn Estate.

Jorge emerged from the portal into a crowd of Justiciar and Imperial servants waiting to go in the other direction. As he walked toward the house, a High Guard soldier stepped in front of him and demanded, “Who are you and why are you here?”

“Jorge Umeven, Portal Service and I’m here to see Justiciar Dawkins’s people or Lord Nerihorn and get a report for the people on the Peninsula.”

“Who can vouch for you?”

“Justiciar Dawkins, Tom, Naexi, Lord Nerihorn and Adiun Beinan all know who I am. I don’t know who all is here, so just point me to who is in charge. I will get the report and leave.”

“Who are you collecting the report for?”

“As I said, the people on the Peninsula, that is Captain Tollings, General Harper, both of them, General Ironaxe and General Ironcutter.”

Iezzen was walking by and said, “Jorge! Why are you here? Is Ishendell finished?”
“No, but we found an old portal that worked, so I ported to Innshys and wanted to see if I could arrange for some times that the portal there would be available so we can send things back and forth. Since I was in the Empire, I thought that I would get a report about what happened here, since we spotted Stormfire and his people using the one way portals. Just what did they do?”

“Came after the Scourge. Come with me, I think that there are some people that will want to hear about what you saw.”

“Who?”

“Justiciar Dawkins, General Kellan, Justiciar Bryneiros and the Emperor, for starters.”

“Ok, but I need to talk to Keerla about the portal setup and then head back. I was just hoping to pick up a brief so that I could hand it to the captain and send it to army and navy people there in the Peninsula.”

 

“The report isn’t finished anyway. Let me take you in and you can catch the Emperor and the others up on the details of what is happening down there and what happened here.”

The High Guard soldier asked, “Dragon Flamefire, you can vouch for him?”

“Soldier, this is Jorge Umeven, the guy that went to Grimfrost with me and sent a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters. I can vouch for him. He is definitely crazy.”

The soldier laughed. “He’s that character? So what crazy stunt is he doing now?”
“Being dropped into Ishendell to watch the portals that the Darkmage had,” Jorge said, “which is why I need to keep moving. Let’s go, Iezzen.”

Iezzen took Jorge into the house and to a room where Gander was making a report and said, “Look at what I found being accosted by a guardsman.”

“Who is this, Iezzen?” The Emperor asked.

“Jorge Umeven, the Portal Service’s top crazy and that is saying something. We flew up to Grimfrost together and he sent somebody cuddly into the Darkmage’s quarters at the palace.”

“So this is that Jorge. Why are you here, Jorge? I don’t think that you are crazy enough to go into the Scourged area.”

“We found a portal in a tunnel in Ishendell and it can only connect to the old portals, with the only active portals being the portal that is open and three that are locked in the Sanctuary and the portal in Innshys. The problem is that the portals that are open in Innshys and the Sanctuary are always busy, porting back and forth to each other so I either wanted to set up a time where we could use the Innshys portal or unlock one of the Sanctuary portals and use that.”

“You obviously used the portal to get out of Ishendell. So the portal must work somewhat”

“I was able to use the portal late last night. I went to Adiun’s last night, he was not home, went home, and this morning, checked Adiun’s, House Beinan, the Beinan estate, the Portal Service and came here to get a brief on what happened when Tathaln told me about what happened. We’ve been watching Stormfire and his brother set up the illegal portals for one way operation, but I couldn’t get close enough to mess them up and we were mostly concerned with the big portal. Apparently Stormfire had a different plan.”

“He assembled his team at one of those abandoned estate houses on House Qinvaris land, obtained some trucks and drivers and removed five devises that are used to Scourge an area. One of the trucks was stopped and one of the devises went off.”

“How many?”
“We’re not sure. We have pictures taken from planes.”

“Don’t go into the Scourged areas.”
“How do you know?”

“We found some tablets in those tunnels in Ishendell. The city had been Scourged and there were pictures and other information. One thing that was evident was that without special protection, going into those areas is lethal for at least five days.”

“Jorge, I know that you are you supposed to return to Ishendell immediately, but we need what you discovered on those tablets even more. Could you write up a set of guidelines for the Scourged areas?”

“I can do some of that. Jorge, the other Jorge that is, passed the tablets out to the army for the generals to view.”

“Is the special protection available in Ishendell?”

“There was a locker, but that one was empty.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

An elf charged in and said, “Your majesty, why am I not allowed on my estate?”

“Lord Zlymenor, your estate is dead.” The emperor said.

“What?!”

“Yesterday, Stormfire attempted to retrieve five devises from a vault here where they were stored. The devises were used to Scourge an area. One of the devises was armed. As the truck carrying that devise went through your estate, the devise went off. Your estate was subjected to the Scourge and is dead. There is nothing alive on the estate at present and according to information that we have and that Jorge here has just confirmed, the estate will be lethal to enter for at least another five day.”

“Why did this happen?”
“The devise had an arming lock on it that was set to “Armed.” Stormfire either did not check the devises or did not have a key with him, so he moved the devise when it was dangerous.”
“Why were the devises not turned over to the Inquisition by Lord Nerihorn?”
“Lord Nerihorn brought in Lord Waestoris as well as some others to imspect the deivises and Lord Waestoris as well as the others made the decision that moving the devises without the knowledge to handle them would be too risky to undertake and that if one of the devises were to go off, the likely loss of life would be great. Lord Nerihorn set his son to find everything he could about the devises and one thing that was discovered was that one of the devises was armed. The armed devise had been the last devise placed inside the vault and blocked the other four. That made it imperative that the devises not be moved and that it was better that as few people as possible know about the devises. Your estate, milord, was not adjacent to Lord Nerihorn’s estate and so you were not notified. Unfortunately the Darkmage was not concerned about the safety considerations or Stormfire did not check the devises before removing them. So the armed devise was placed on a truck and moved to your estate where it exploded.”

“Was the Inquisition notified?”
“Lord Waestoris was notified because, as a past head of the Inquisition and head of research, he was in the best position to make a judgment as to whether the devises were safe to move and if the Inquisition had available facilities to handle the devises safely. He stated that the Inquisition did not have, at present, that knowledge or those facilities. Since there were security concerns, Lord Zylvyre and others in the Inquisition were not to be notified until the facilities were available and the devises ready to be dismantled. There was some concern that an overzealous Inquisitor would attempt to move the devise and have it do what it did.”
“Why did Lord Nerihorn not stop Stormfire?”
“Lord Zylvyre brought a contingent of Inquisitors to the estate and diverted the estate guard. The decision was made to watch for a portal entry attack, but apparently Stormfire either knew that or decided to use resources differently and not port his people directly to the Nerihorn estate. Stormfire assembled his force on an abandoned estate and advanced through the Trahorn estate on back roads with trucks to secure the vault and the devises. Young Lord Nerihorn had changed the combination of the lock on the vault, but Stormfire must have had an override and was able to access the vault.”

“Are you certain that everything on the estate is dead?”

“We have sent aircraft over several times and there has been no trace of movement and the plants are browning rapidly. Bodies can be seen and none of them are moving. I’m sorry, milord, but you will have to wait at least five days before anybody goes onto the estate and that will only be if it is necessary in an emergency.”

“I could call the Conclave over this, your majesty. On the other hand, all the steps were appropriate and only the Darkmage and the Inquisition’s interference created the disaster. By law, the devises were supposed to be turned over to the Inquisition. My now almost certainly late son would have done so, to aid the Darkmage. I, on other hand, will wait for the final report on this from the Justiciars. My son thought that he had a debt to the Darkmage. The Darkmage has collected, in blood.”

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