Lord Palen’s Tragedy, Chapter 27-28

Alinis introduce Lyrei to her parents. Dan has to deal with a predatory lady.

Chapter 27.

House Qinvaris.

Alinis emerged from Jump, startling Hagre a bit and asked him, “Where are mother and father, Hagre?”
“Your father is on Exchange Street at his office and your mother is here. Where is your prince today?”
“At the Kingdom. We were there for a few days while Fire was showing me around and his mother was asking me about all her relatives. He will meet us for dinner. I just want to have some people start to clean my house.”

“We can do that. In fact, doing that now means that we have the available hands to get it done quickly. Why do you want to do that now?”

“We stayed there recently and I want to know more about the place and any old treasures that may be hiding. I’ve been vaulted out in the Republic and if I find things here, I can be discreet about them.”

“Go on to your mother and come back to me later and we can make the arrangements. She is in her office. I will tell cook that you and your young prince are here for dinner. Are his parents coming?”

“We weren’t planning for them, so I don’t think so.”

“They would be welcome if they came.”

“I’m off to see mother.”

Alinis left a smiling Hagre and went to her mother’s office. Rosa turned as Alinis opened the door and said, “This is a surprise, Alinis.”
“It is? I sent a message this time.”

“No, and Fireoak and his parents are joining us for dinner tonight.”
“I didn’t think that they were coming.”

“We made the arrangements yesterday. So, I understand that you want to clean up your house.”
“Yes. We stayed there when we were going to raid Chompers.”

“By the way, Chompers’ bonded and his family wants to meet you and your friends. So you can expect to go to lunch there soon.”

“I have something to show you and daddy when we get a chance. Since Fireoak’s parents are coming for dinner, I can show it to all of you.”
“Is it something that you found in the Republic?”
“It will be impossible to explain unless you see her for yourself. You will understand when you do.”
“You have intrigued me. So where are your brother and sister?”

“At the ranch right now. Everybody is fairly sure that the Darkmage is going to use the Scourge against Chatsrey when he can.”

“Jorge found ten more devises in the Camp and brought them to the lab the day before yesterday. We were lucky that Stormfire went after the devises on the Nerihorn estate first. Richard thinks that Stormfire wanted them out of our hands when the attacks started on the Republic. The Shanelis also found five of the things in an old vault on their estate.”

“I want to talk about that. Apparently my house is the old estate house. I need to get together with Hagre and start the clean up.”

“You go and do that and we will talk at dinner.”

Rosa grinned as her daughter left. She had grown into quite the young lady.

Fireoak arrived with his rather nervous parents and Hagre greeted them with a grin. So did Alinis in the phoenix costume and semitransformed shape that she had worn at the big Winterfaire party. Lorilei grinned and said, “That is an interesting outfit, Alinis.”
“We made these for the Winterfaire before last. My sister and I, along with my friends, wanted a flying dance. Mother insisted that we all get an accelerated session from the Flight Instructor before actually flying.”

“The Flight Instructor sounds like a famous pilot from the Republic. How did he get involved?”
“Dragonmaster Ghedrun had him come up to get the dragonguard in shape and his buddy Halamar Beinan introduced him to daddy. So we had to collect bruises before actually flying. These costumes scandalized the old sticks, so we accomplished our mission. Mother and daddy are waiting, so let me escort you to the parlor. I have a surprise for you all.”

Alinis escorted Fire and his parents to the parlor and after drinks had been passed around, said, “Daddy, mother, while looking at the crystals from the Mage Queen’s vault I made a discovery. She has been a help to me and I wanted to introduce you to her. Fire said that his parents know about these things and that there is one in the kingdom, so they know about these crystals. Let me turn her on.”

Alinis activated Lyrei’s crystal. Lyrei appeared and said, “I am Lyrei. You must be Richard and Rosaniya as well as Strongoak and Lorilei.”

“What are you?” Rosaniya asked.

“I am a seeming, an imprint of the lady that is now known as the Mage Queen. She created me to aid her children and then they never came for me, so I sat in the vault until Alinis turned me on.”

“So, unlike Kellam, you have a lot of time left,” Strongoak said.

“Kellam?” Richard asked.

“Our Lorekeeper has a very old crystal like this. But Kellam is near the end of his time and well aware of that, so he can be rude and would hardly be very conversational even at the best of times.”

“I have almost all my time, yes” Lyrei replied. “Also my main task is to provide aid against the Darkmage, so now is when I choose to use my time.”

“Seeing you explains Alinis’s classwork report,” Richard said.

“Not all of it, I believe. I was restricted and couldn’t tell her about certain things, so she went looking for them. Unfortunately she found them.”
“The Darkmage went looking for them as well. It was good thing that Alinis made the connection between the devises and Chompers. That helped move things along.”

“So why did you come up, Alinis?” Rosa asked.

“Lyrei hinted that my house was the old estate house and that I should look for more information about just how many of the Scourge devises were made.”

“You should talk to your great grandmother about that, if you can find her.”

“Isn’t she dead?”
“Actually, they came to visit,” Richard said. “They live in Treehollow. But I expect that you will have to be prepared to play games to find them.”

“Why did they come out of the woods?” Lorilei asked. “Old fae usually do not.”

“My grandfather saw the House flag on one of our estates and wondered why it was there,” Rosa said. “It was probably there during harvest to tell the crew which estate was being used as a camp. We don’t fly flags from most of the estates and if the estate is occupied, the people living there fly their own flags. In any case, they visited the Treehollow lorekeeper and then visited us. Alinis, I will be upset if you set Jimmy and Talissa on my grandparents. You and Fire can come up with things on your own, but the two landdragons of mischief are right out.”

“I think that Alinis has accomplished what she set out to do tonight with me, so I will shut down now,” Lyrei said.

Lyrei disappeared and Steeloak laughed. “She doesn’t want to waste her time, even though she has a significant amount. Alinis, you have found a remarkable thing, I will have you know.”

“I understand that. I loaned her to Mrs. Steelmaker when grandfather said it was a good idea and she gave her back.”
“Those must have been interesting conversations,” Richard said. “They both spurned their respective Darkmages. Alinis, it is dinner, so perhaps you should change into something more appropriate. You can have Balladrial make a costume for Fire soon.”

Alinis went to change and Steeloak said, “The dance must have been remarkable.”

“It was,” Rosa said. “The girls also wore the costumes again for the Conclave and the presentation of flowers. At least they wore variations that did not include transformed elements. There were limits to what I wanted to show at the Conclave and the costume you saw would have given Shaerra scandal material. I was very careful to make any violations over the Proscriptions along the lines of material things and keep anything fae out of sight of the Dowager Empress.”
“That must have been some battle,” Lorilei said. “She used to have her fingers in all sorts of things and I was told that if I disappointed certain customers, other uses could be found for me. What happened to the lady?”
“Justiciar Dawkins was set on her and exposed everything that she had ever been involved with,” Richard said. “The report made rather a rather amazing presentation to the Conclave and the Dowager Empress committed suicide after the Justiciar finished the report.”

“She didn’t use some means to ruin or stop the Justiciar?”
“Justiciar Dawkins was a slave sent over by his grandmother and purchased by lady Bryneiros specifically to develop certain skills in the Justiciars, that being the ability and training to perform investigations and more importantly train others in those skills,” Richard said with a grin. “The Dowager Empress saw the Justiciar sitting there with the rest of us in the Conclave, while his people were by and large following leads and looking into things. The Dowager Empress was so used to the Justiciars doing their own legwork that she never considered that Justiciar Dawkins had a team of Adjuncts to do that for him. Gander was rather disappointed at the end because because the Dowager Empress’s right hand and the tails he had working for him couldn’t figure out that Gander was talking to people that the Dowager Empress should have been nervous about, in their old roles.”
“Who were they?”
“The Imperial mistress, Lymseia Reymyar and the old palace healer. Lymseia Reymyar shared blood with the Lower City baker and the healer ran an apothecary shop. Finally the right hand went after Gander’s wife and discovered that there would have been no way that the Guild would have gone after the Justiciar in any case.”
“Why not?”
“At one time, a member of the Guild royalty called the Dancer accepted a contract from the Empress on a Justiciar named Traelion Wysalynn. Instead of the Dancer fulfilling the contract, they danced another kind of dance and ended up married. They have one daughter, Alissa. Lady Bryneiros started to throw girls from the Justiciar family at Gander so that he wouldn’t want to leave and Allisa and Gander stuck. Alissa is the current Dancer. The likelyhood of the guild messing with that family is nil.”

Steeloak and Lorilei laughed. Alinis appered in a more staid version of the phoenix costume and as Fire’s jaw dropped, said, “Cook says to tell you all that dinner is served.”

All through dinner, Fire couldn’t take his eyes off Alinis and when it was over, Rosa smiled as Fire and his parents Jumped home and said, “I think that you have him, dear.”

Alinis smiled and said, “I was trying. We’re going to be working and dirty for the next little time and I wanted to remember why he was doing it. Also, I’m going to have to go through the Flight Instructor’s course with him and I want him to know why he is doing that.”

Richard laughed. “That sounds like a very good idea.”

 

 

Chapter 28.

Zirgoccol.

One thing that Dan had figured out fairly quickly was that when it came to the social strata of the Zirgoccol social scene, Irongrinder students were slightly below the status of worms as far as his neighbors were concerned. If it weren’t for Renestrae, Dan would have arranged wild parties for his class at every opportunity. Renestrae, on the other hand, wanted to present a better image for the House, so Dan kept where he was going to classes more than a bit of a secret. Renestrae’s partner in keeping certain things secret was Umilythe Axebrew and the pair of them, along with Nightrose, used Dan’s money to put up a good front. Of course that wasn’t helped by the fact that Dan had caught the attention of Lori Hammer. Rene wasn’t sure how Lori had moved into Dan’s orbit, but she had appeared, always on the arm of some high status youngling who was a legitmate guest at things, who always seemed to disappear as Lori tried to work her magic on Dan. Both Umilythe and Kethrykllia had warned Rene about Lori, who had an exile mother and was actually older than Rene was. Umilythe had had a rather nasty fight with Tom when he had run into Lori who had charmed him somewhat until Tom had explained that he was fully aware of what Lori was and that being charmed by attractive elven ladies after something or somebody else was not something that he was unfamiliar with. That was when Umilythe pulled her rather voluminous file on Lori and her relatives and sat down with Tom, Dan and Rene and gone over it. The recent hints from Dan’s cousins hadn’t hurt at all. Since Rene was holding yet another thing, the battle was going be joined tomorrow. This afternoon, Dan’s cousin Nalaea was coming with somebody really special, as she had put it in her letter. Rene grinned as the car pulled up and Nalaea emerged with a seemingly ordinary man. Nalaea ran up the stairs, hugged Rene and said, “Rene, meet Roger. Roger, this is my soon to be cousin, Renestrae Glynynore. We rescued her from terminal boredom.”

Roger bowed and smiled. “Did they really, milady?”

“More than somewhat. Of course they were hardly the only ones. Why don’t we go inside and you can catch me up on events. Other than places being Scourged, that is.”

They went inside to the parlor and Rene asked, “Nalaea how did you meet Roger?”

“He pulled my sister over. He is a trooper in Fayspire and my sister was driving her new car.”

“I didn’t pull Jhaerithe over. She was waving her very attractive tail and that car of hers around to distract me from the fact that she was moving a bunch of big machines down the road that she shouldn’t have been.”

“Jhaerithe was moving machines in Fayspire? She does like large toys, so that isn’t out of the question, but why was she distracting Provincial troopers to do that?”
“These machines were five of the new TAVs that the Fellowship had lost on the Peninsula. She was smuggling them to the House shops so that the Qinvaris could repair them. I spotted them and Jhaerithe spotted me doing it. Then her brother couldn’t figure out some issues with them and since I had spent my Service as a lieutenant working with the things, Nalaea recruited me.”
“Part time,” Nalaea said. “I could only get you part time thanks to an idiot and the thing going boom.”

“If you are on duty, why are you here, Roger?”

“I have a five day leave, since the Consul wants to promote me to reserve captain and award me Consul’s thanks this evening because of my work during the evacuation of 2nd Army from the Empty Lands.”

“What did you do?”

“I was the liaison between House Qinvaris, your brother, the Portal Service and the Fellowship Army. Nalaea and I kept things moving and kept arguments from blowing out of control.”

“Through Innshys? That must have been tricky.”

“We added two one way roads for through traffic, and that kept things moving through town. General Creek sent the recommendation for promotion in. In any case, we have the ceremony and dinner at the Consul’s tonight, I take Nalaea through the city tomorrow and head down to Oceanside the next morning so that Nalaea can meet my family and I can arrange to have some things shipped to the estate.”

“Dan has class tomorrow, but I can go with you. Nalaea, what has been happening with the family, other than you getting pulled over?”
Nalaea and Roger caught Rene up on all the various doing of the family and Rene said, “We are eating goblin tomorrow for lunch.”

“I know that you can afford it, but I wasn’t expecting to go any place fancy tomorrow,” Roger said.

“Afford it? I need to advance my in back story bank and you will do just fine. What is Alinis’s prince like?”
“We haven’t met him yet,” Nalaea said. “At least I haven’t. He’s been in the shop, hasn’t he, Roger?”

“He has, but not while I was there. I was up at the lab that day getting an education on large booms.”

“Why?” Rene asked.

“Because I have an engineering degree, albeit from a rather disreputable college and both the troopers and the House wanted me to know how to deal with the things in case the ordnance people can’t or need to return to the Republic.”

“Why would they need to? The devises are here.”

“Commander Bronzerock is concerned that if the devises are actually launched, most of them will be what they call a dud. That means that he will be dealing with devises like the one that went off in the Republic. So I, some Beinans, Nalaea’s brothers and some others were taken through the process of handling the removal of the Primary from a devise and safing it.”

“Was your disreputable college, Irongrinder?”

“Yes, I am a pounder. Nalaea and I need to prepare for the ceremony, so I will give you the details later.”

Umilythe’s classes were over for the day, so she walked in right after Roger and Nalaea left to for the ceremony. Rene smiled as she walked in and said, “You missed Nalaea and her boyfriend.”

“Will they be back?”
“Yes. So should we get started?”

“Why don’t we?”

Elora Hammer looked across the usual crowd and wanted to fume. Her campaign to conquer Dan Qinvaris was not going as smoothly as she had planned. She had hoped that the fact that he was from the Empire would make him vulnerable to her wiles and that the seduction would be easy. The problem was that hussy Umilythe had locked onto her stepping stone, Tom Orivalur and told Dan’s lady and Tom’s mother about her, which had put a brake on her seduction of young Tom. Dan’s other friends had all been Irongrounder slugs and not worth her mother’s ire to seduce. Now she was stuck here, at a thing that the Consul’s wife was holding for the various soldiers who had brought 2nd Army home from the debacle that it had put itself in. She did her duty and circulated, picking rumors up for her father until she spotted Roger Bloodfoot. She hadn’t seen him since that scandal during his Service and daddy telling her that she wasn’t supposed to see him under any circumstances. She had been introduced to Roger eight years ago, when he raced motorcycles for what had been a losing team until he and his pounder friends had taken them to the Fellowship Cup two years in a row. Lori’s brother had managed the Hammer Motors team that suddenly found itself with real competition and he had set his sister on the Slipgreaze team’s new rider.

Of course Lori had known Roger’s as a child in the orbit of his older brother Chald, but the young man Roger had been an interesting prospect. Lori had made a mistake and been too forward with the young man and his alarm bells had gone off, so instead of Roger chasing her, she had started to chase him, and failed. Then Roger had graduated, gone into Service and the scandal had happened. Roger had disappeared and now, suddenly he was back. He was holding a pair of drinks, looking inmaculate in his dress uniform and Lori weaved toward him, only to see him hand one of the drinks to an elvish looking lady in a Balladrial original who had all his attention. Lori wove away toward one of her former lovers that she occasionally shared a bed with who wrote from time to time for the social pages. He was always up on the latest gossip. Doug looked up and said, “Hello, milady?”
“Do I sense a bit of sacasm Doug?”
“Perhaps, or at least a bit of whimsy over what once was. I see that the one you never caught has returned for a bit. I lost a substantial sum of money over that.”

“Who is that with him?”
“I’m not sure yet. I think that she is from the Empire, but I can’t be certain. Her dress certainly is. She must know somebody to have an original Balladrial. Should I do some poking around?”

“I would. We can share gossip later.”

Nalaea had spotted the predator on the hunt and when Roger handed her drink to her, she said, “A lady was on the hunt for you. That is a bit of a surprise.”

Roger grinned. “Was she half elf?”
“At least.”

“That was probably Elora Hammer.”

“So the thing with the TAVs was not the first time that you encountered them.”
“It goes back to my racing days, the racing that I did to help pay for college and the fact that our second class team of Irongrinder losers suddenly wasn’t. My friends and I put the Slipgreaze team on top for two years running with a tiny budget and our own guts and determination. Lori latched herself on as a groupie after we won our first cup and went after me, big time. At first I just ran scared and then we got the word about her and it became a game. I was the one that she couldn’t get to warm her bed. We even had a stake in that because the betting that she would succeed was huge and the odds were that she would get me into her bed at some point. The thing is that it wasn’t until the end that she stopped treating me as an object and I may have been interested in going forward. By then I was in the Service and all the things that followed.”

“So you are saying that I should watch out for her?”
“Not as concerns me. You never treated me as a play toy and you certainly are far more interesting than she is. You are all the things she is not.”

“You can thank my mother for that. She made sure that my sister and I knew that playing those games had consequences, especially when the word got out. You aren’t my first relationship, but they were all honest and I didn’t play the field or behave the way she does, with men being notches on her bed.”

“I wonder what piece of meat she is attempting to collect now. Let’s make sure that Rene and Dan know about her. She likes to hunt big game and Dan is the biggest game in town.”

Lori didn’t stay for the dinner and joined Doug at a quiet little place they both knew. He grinned as she was seated and said, “I have some information on your Roger’s new friend. She is Nalaea Harper, age 25. Her father manages transportation for House Qinvaris.”

“That was fast.”
“Actually it was fairly easy, as her father was the one responsible for General Irongrinder escaping General Headbasher’s clutches and creating the debacle in Ishendell.”

“So how did she meet Roger?”

“That, I don’t have yet. They were together working on getting what was left of 2nd Army home and she was handling the Qinvaris side of things while your Roger was handling the Army’s. That was fairly obvious from the event tonight. He also was a Provincial Trooper up at Fayspire until recently. This is an interesting thread of gossip that you have led me on. I thank you, milady. If nothing else, it will sell copy.”

After the event and the dinner, Roger and Nalaea returned to Dan’s palace, where Rene and Dan were waiting in the parlor. Dan grinned and said, “Nalaea, I think that you have a winner. Dad was saying good things about him. So catch us up on all the things going on.”

Nalaea mirrored Dan’s grin as she said, “Mother likes him. So does dad. Of course dad and Uncle Richard met him while we were working on getting the Army back where it belonged.”
“I understand that Alinis has a boyfriend.”
“We haven’t met him yet, as he is bouncing all over the place with Alinis. I expect that we all will, all too soon.”

Nalaea told Dan about the events surrounding the devises, her sister bringing the TAVs back from the Peninsula and meeting Roger. When she finished, Roger said, “Those TAVs are going to make waves and I want to warn you about a Zirgoccol predator. She is related to the TAV issue and I had an encounter with the lady a long time ago.”

“Who is it?” Rene asked.

“A lady, and since Nalaea is not a lady, I can use the term and not insult Nalaea, named Elora Hammer. I had my run in with her during my racing days and she hunts aggressively on behalf of her various disreputable family members.”
“So you know her,” Dan said. “I have this feeling that a lot of men know her rather well.”

“I actually wasn’t one of the notches on her bed, something which made some friends of mine a nice piece of change. She has a high success rate and goes for big game.”
“Why did she go after you, then? I doubt that you were big game in college.”

“I wasn’t. I was a pounder and worked my way through college somewhat. But I was also very good at getting bikes to go very fast and very good at riding those bikes. Some friends of mine were also of like mind and we sort of pushed the Hammer Motors team off the top for a couple of years. Theo Hammer set Lori on me to infiltrate and be a distraction. Then Lori failed and that was when things actually started to get interesting until I chose my buddies’ lives over Lori and a nice job at a motorcycle company.”

“The TAVs.”

“Yes. I don’t know if old man Hammer pulled strings so that I got that assignment. I do know that he wasn’t happy with what happened and is not going to be happy when round two hits.”
“Round two?”
“Jhaerithe pulled five of the TAVs out of the combat zone and your cousins and I rebuilt them. General Creek also has testimony from the crews that survived and the report that I wrote of their performance. Your uncle also has a report on what he found. Suffice to say, General Creek was not happy with the reports and what he saw.”

“Umilythe handed us a rather large file that she had collected on Miss Hammer after she played games on Bank St., messed up a relationship that Umilythe was developing and trashed her reputation somewhat” Rene said. “The Hammers were pursuing better credit terms and Lori went after the boy, took him to bed and then once the loan was done, created a scandal to break off the relationship. Umilythe was eighteen at the time and rather shattered. When Lori first showed up and started to go after Tom, Umilythe got rather nasty and Tom couldn’t explain that dealing with the likes of Lori was part of his role in the family. After all, Taenaran has a bad reputation and Dan’s needs to be protected somewhat. In any case, we all knew what Lori was. She’s still chasing Dan a bit and can’t understand why I’m not worried.”

“I want to see the file,” Nalaea said. “I have this feeling that Lori is going after Roger again and I want to be ready. Does she take stronger measures against rivals?”

“You would have to ask Umilythe about that. I have the feeling that doing that sort of thing is discouraged here.”

“That is a good thing, for her. I wouldn’t want to tarnish Roger’s reputation and he was just promoted to sergeant at the troopers.”

“I thought that he was quitting,” Dan said.”
“So did I,” Roger replied. “Unfortunately Stormfire’s little boom and the fact that he has more of them upset that a bit. My term is up, but the Consul has declared a national emergency, so I am still required to be on duty. I think that the promotion is sort of a result of that. Nalaea arranged for some Qinvaris guards to take my patrols in the afternoon, so that I could work on the TAVs. Then 2nd Army was dropped into the Empty Lands and I was needed to liaison with the House and coordinate the trucks. Fortunately I had done things like that for my father during the season at Oceanside.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I was a teenager, every year, every ninday during the season, there were traffic jams like you wouldn’t believe. For three days, people going to the hotel and home, especially at the beginning of the season with the college kids and their breaks. After handling that traffic, moving an army is no big deal.”

That filled the parlor with uproarious laughter.

Lori arrived at home and her father looked up from his chair and asked, “Anything interesting happen?”
“Roger Bloodfoot was one of the honorees. He has connected with the Qinvaris, apparently and was helping with the evacuation of 2nd Army.”

“Connected how?”

“He is dating a Nalaea Harper. She is related to Lord Qinvaris in some way and her father handles transportation for them.”

“How did they meet?”
“Doug didn’t know. He probably pulled her over in Fayspire. That was where he was serving as a trooper, apparently.”

“Are you planning to go to the Qinvaris thing tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure. My campaign for the young lord is going nowhere.”
“Go anyway. There are rumors that a young Miss Harper made a big splash on the Peninsula and may have made off with some Type Three TAVs.”

“I doubt that the Qinvaris would know how to deal with something like that.”

“The Qinvaris bought a lot of machinery last year and everything they needed to support it. They proably are looking for the kinds of skills that Roger has and if he was sitting there in Fayspire and they found him, he knows the Type Three TAV as well as anybody does. The fact that he exposed the issues that created the scandal in the first place was a lot of egg on our face and if the Qinvaris won’t buy from us, nobody else in the Empire will.”
“Why do those backwards elves matter?”
“Because they may not stay backwards and there is a lot of money to be made in providing the vehicles that they will need. If they don’t buy from us, you can bet that there are several outfits here and in the Kingdom, to say nothing of the Republic that will step up with open order books. Massey Deare was waving that combine contract around and that caught a lot of people’s attention. House Qinvaris isn’t buying this year, so far. That doesn’t mean that others won’t. If the Qinvaris continues to buy from the Republic, those outfits will have established business right across the border and that will make it easier to sell here. So keep trying with Qinvaris. It’s important.”

“I will, father. I think that we will have to find somebody for me soon in any case. I can’t play twenty forever. I don’t think that Dan is it, though. Lady Glynynore has a firm grip on him and has apparently known him for years. So there is no hope there.”

“What about the other brother?”

“He has never been here that I know of and the rumors are that he has a relationship as well. Also Umilythe Axebrew knows me and since I went after her boyfriend and messed her up a bit, she probably has a file on me. Frankly father, my encounter with Roger reminded me that there are more important things than playing these games, especially when the crowd here knows what I am. It was fun in the beginning, but there was a cost and the bill is coming due. I am going to my cold bed, so good night.”

House Qinvaris Office, Exhange Street

Richard looked at the letter his so, or raher Rene had sent on Dan’s behalf and laughed. When he finished the letter, he went looking for Taenaran, found him deep in a discussion with Kammik Axebrew and said, “You didn’t tell me about Miss Hammer, Taenaran.”

“Didn’t I? Kammik knows all about her. Why don’t we tell you about her, Tom andUmilythe, as well as Dan.”

“So she chases men.”
“Very much so,” Kammik said. “Denny should know about her, so we should tell him.”
“Why?”

“The one she couldn’t get to her bed was Roger.”
Richard Laughed. “Roger? While Roger seems capable, why would somebody like that chase Roger so hard?”

“Because Roger bumped her brother’s motorcycle racing team off the top spot, two years in a row with a small company sponsor and the Irongrinder motorcycle club team.”
“I’m in trouble.”

“Why?”

“Because when Rosa hears about this, I’m going to have to go to Zirgoccol and I suspect the trip is going to have to be splashy, expensive and I’m going to be bringing a crowd.”

Taenaran and Kammik started to laugh their heads off.

Zirgoccol.

Orick Woodcutter walked into the Dragonmaster’s office and said, “Things got just a bit interesting.”
Qambois looked at Woodcutter a bit curiously and asked, “Concerning what?”
“An old case of ours that has come back and the predator who is going to be on the hunt again.”

“Considering who was at the reception last evening, you are talking about the not so young Miss Hammer and the recently promoted Captain Bloodfoot.”
“Did you lose money on that bet as well?”

“No, I did not, because whatever the lady’s powers of persuasion, I doubted that young Mr. Bloodfoot would be terribly attracted to her. She offered an essentially unchallenging life to somebody who enjoys facing challenges, at best, and more likely a turn in her bed and a messy breakup afterwards.”

“The lady is well known for that. She’s also been rather hungry the last couple of years. She is hunting Dan Qinvaris, but that is hopeless.”

“So how does that old case become part of it, other than Mr. Bloodfoot returning to this den of iniquity and corruption.”

“Mr. Bloodfoot was seen with a Miss Harper.”
“I think I begin to see, but I do hope that Miss Harper is not obtaining the same sort of habits as Miss Hammer.”

“There are two Miss Harpers. The younger sister, Jhaerithe, is the girl you are thinking about. This is her older sister, Nalaea. She apparently recruited the lieutenant from where he had ended up after the Hammers rather limited his career prospects.”
“Where did he end up?”
“He started with the Provincial Troopers and was assigned to Fayspire. Young Miss Harper, Jhaerithe, that is, paraded the TAVs she absconded with right in front of him and he spotted them. Then the Qinvaris people were discovering the little issues with the Type Three TAV and looked up Trooper Bloodfoot.”

“I think that I begin to see. Keep on this. Senator Hammer has been able to exert his clout for a very long time, but he may not know precisely what he is dealing with.”

“Lord Qinvaris?”

“That would be bad enough, but the young lady’s father could be worse if certain companies restructure operations a bit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mr. Harper became visible during the recent crisis. His brother runs Harpoil. Dennis has been in the Empire running transport for Lord Qinvaris, but his brother could probably use him and Harpoil certainly has a presence here in the Fellowship.”

“Service stations. I bought gas at one this morning. I see your point. I will keep an eye on this.”

Rene was grinning as she herded her skeptical charges into Wriang’s. Roger had taken Nalaea and Rene to shop in places that Rene was going to have to bring Dan to, as they hadn’t discovered them yet. Of course Roger was looking to save money, but he had an eye for the unusual and sisters and brothers to buy Winterfaire gifts for. He also took them along a rather disreputable row of greasy places where they specialized in motorcycles. Rene was fairly sure that Nalaea had a motorcycle in her future and that it would be something rather unique. The bikes here in the row of greasy places were not so much manufactured as built, by various builders to the customer’s specications. The various shops all knew Roger and it was evident that this was a place where he was highly regarded. As they drove off, Rene said, “I think that you are planning a bike for Nalaea, aren’t you, Roger?”
Roger grinned and said, “I’m not sure that I should say in front of her.”
“They were obviously glad to see you.”

“I put a hole in Theo Hammer’s trophy wall. On West Street, that is worth a lot. I think that they are hoping that I will come back and do it again.”
“Are you?”

“I’m not sure. I have other concerns and taking the kind of stupid risks that I did in college will not just get me hurt. Also, winning on the track takes practice and time.”

“We can get my brothers involved,” Nalaea said. “You don’t have to ride yourself, we have a huge shop and space where we can build a track. In fact my brothers will be asking about that all too soon. You haven’t met Tarranth and the rest of the family troublemakers, but you will. As for a bike for me, that sounds like a wonderful idea. When did you start to think about it?”

“When we met. I think I fell in love with you right then and there. The thing is that it wasn’t for your looks, but you. Lori is certainly pretty, but she isn’t you.”
Nalaea smiled and turned to Rene. “See, he says the right things. Of course he knows by now that I’m not afraid to get dirty.”

“Here we are at Wriang’s”

They emerged from the car and a rather stuffy looking goblin smiled and said, “Welcome Lady Glynynore. I see that you have brought some new people. I presume that you have new stories.”
“This Roger Bloodfoot and Nalaea Harper and yes they do, Stalb.”

“Mr. Bloodfoot, you, at least, do not have to concern yourself with being in front here. Wriang is a big fan of the motorcycles and will be pleased to meet you. You have not raced in some time.”

“I was on my Service and then joined the Provisional troopers, so racing was not possible, I’m afraid. I am only in town for a visit.”

“Lady Glynynore, you know the way.”

Stalb opened a more or less hidden door and as they passed through, he suddenly looked and said, “Has Miss Hammer been following you, milady?”

“Is she here?”
“Yes, but her custom is not something that we enjoy. Tell Wriang that she is here, if you would.”

They went to the back and Wriang smiled and then the smile got wider. “Lady Rene, you have managed to surprise me today. Mr. Bloodfoot, I am pleased to meet the man who could make a hole in the Hammer trophy wall. Are you returning to the track?”

“Not at present. I have been riding for the Provincial Troopers and have a new job. I am going to presume that you want my stories from my racing days.”
“I would, but I think that there are other stories as well and I would not want to be accused of creating boredom for the rest of the kitchen. Perhaps we can set aside an afternoon for my questions. You look as if you have something to tell me, Lady Rene.”
“Lori Hammer just came in behind us.”

Wriang frowned. “I see. Do you think that she is following you or is here for another reason?”
“She may be chasing me a bit, Wriang,” Roger said. “Why don’t I start the stories with how I was not one of her many conquests? Racing was involved.”

“This will be very interesting indeed. Tell us then”

Roger did, going through all of the antics as he described how Miss Hammer was never able to get him where she wanted him. The entire kitchen was roaring with laughter by the time he was done.

Lori had been given a table as far from the kitchen as possible and she was seething by the time that Doug appeared. He looked at her and said, “Is somebody in trouble?”
“They would be if I had a handle. Lady Glynynore brought Roger and that elf slut of his here.”

“Were you following them?”
“Not really. I thought that Lady Glynynore would bring them here for lunch as she is fairly new in the city and well known here. They went straight to the back.”

“That elf slut, as you call her turned out to be rather interesting.”
“How so?”
“Her father is Dennis Harper, as I said. He was brought over after being taking by the Ravathrya and purchased by the Qinvaris’s slavemaster. While Richard Harper shared blood with Lady Qinavris, Dennis Harper shared blood with another elf lady and took over the House Qinvaris transportation and related things. In the meantime, Dennis Harper senior started a little business called Harpoil. He went to the fire five years ago. Dennis’s older brother, Micheal runs Harpoil, but Dennis is a full partner and the Glynynores went to him to set up the service stations in the Empire.”

“Where does Roger fit in?”

“Right now, I’m not sure. There were some classified things going on during his Service that you would know more than I would. House Qinvaris probably hired him for his skills. I could ask around the office, but the Empire is handled by one reporter and he probably has other stories to chase.”

Lunch came and the excellent food was ashes in Lori’s mouth.

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