The Conclave of Consequence, Chapter 9-10

Jorge meets relatives. Jorge’s grandfather comes to the Empire.

 

Chapter 9.

The Imperial Palace

Itireae grinned at the arrival of the ladies that had joined her for this little tea. She was determined to make this Conclave a great beginning of the season and she expected the ladies here would all make the kinds of contributuions that would make that possible. Rosaniya glided over with another lady and a young half elf and courtseyed. “Your majesty, this is Eletha and her daughter Nalaea.”

Itireae smiled and said, “What is your House, milady? I do not believe that we have met before.”
The lady smiled and said, “I am not a lady, at least not according to my brother, who has the House. I live with my husband on the estate near Allaneas and work for Rosa and Richard.”

“What do you do for them?”

“My husband runs the Qinvaris vehicles, wagon and machinery, as well as the shops. I help with meeting payrolls, dealing with purchases and other small tasks. My daughter here helps with that, when she isn’t chasing motorcycle troopers.”

The Empress laughed and said, “Do you consider that inappropriate?”

“Not at all. It turns out that our new family was rather amazing.”

“Why are you not chasing your motorcycle trooper, Nalaea?”

“I’m here with Aunt Rosa to meet you, your majesty, and the other ladies while Roger is with Charlie Beinan in the Lower City shopping for Elvenmetal helmets. I think that I’ve already caught Roger in any case. We’re here today, heading to Oceanside to recruit Roger’s brothers tomorrow and the next day and returning to Zirgoccol, since Roger has to work with his grandfather on some things. My sister and I are going to be bouncing back and forth for a bit doing things for mother and Aunt Rosa setting up for the Conclave.”

“You didn’t have them working the last time, Rosa. Why not?”

Rosa frowned. “First of all, Eletha and Denny were closing down the harvest after dealing with the Blight, the mess in Astaire and the rest of it. Also Nimue and Alinis wanted to do most of the Conclave and Eletha’s four were busy.”

“My mother in law may have been another reason.”

“There is that, especially since Eletha had some scandals in the past. That was one reason she stayed out of the capital. I see some other ladies arriving, your majesty. I think that we must not monopolize your time.”

“We must have a chat later, Rosa. It was nice to meet your new family here. Eletha, you are welcome here in the palace.”

Rosa and her group move into the general mass as the next group of arrivals was introduced and Itireae chatted with them. Frustratingly, she was not able to have another chat with Rosa and the others and find out more about the intriquing Eletha and her daughter. The four menaces attached themselves to poor Nalaea, pumping her for information about her boyfriend, apparently. When the tea was over Itireae looked at her grandchildren and said, “You all focused on that young lady. You do know that you are supposed to chat with all the guests. Why were you all focusing on her, in particular?”

“She’s Roger’s girlfriend.”

“Why is that important?”

“We’re hoping that we could convince Roger to come to the Conclave with his motorcycle and do a show. He does that for the kids in Innshys sometimes.”

“What does he do?”

“Sometimes he comes to Innshys for lunch when he is on patrol and does some things on his motorcycle for the kids after lunch. He’s a famous motorcycle racer.”

“Running a motorcycle will upset some people, especially during the Conclave. I will discuss this with Rosa, but I think that we will not have motorcycles at the Conclave. After the last Conclave, we will want to avoid that kind of controversy.”

The four disappointed children left and Itireae called for Faylen and Mhaenal. They came in together and Itireae looked at them with a bit of a grin. “What have you two been up to?”
“What makes you think that we have been up to anything, your majesty?” Mhaenal asked with a frown that was rather unconvincing.

“I have spies, you know. Both of you have been seen conversing of late.”

“We have been. I am new here and Faylen has been here in the palace and is responsible for your inside security. There will naturally be things that we discuss.”

“What did you want to discuss, your majesty?” Faylen asked. “I don’t think that you called us in to discuss our little chats.”

“No, I didn’t. I want to know about a seeming relative of Rosa’s, Eletha and her children and husband.”

“Lady Qinvaris only close relative, her brother, lives in the Republic,” Mhaenal replied with a frown. “Her father was an only child.”

“The relative may be one of Richard’s”

“That hardly seems possible, your majesty,” Faylen said. “Richard was brought over as a slave.”

“There is a possibility that one of Richard’s relatives was brought over and shared blood with a lady who as more or less exiled to her estate.”

Mhaenal frowned. “Another case of a slave who isn’t, then. Did Rosa say what he does for the House?”
“He runs the vehicles and machinery.”

“The machinery that had all the changes over the last year and that the House seemingly had no great difficulties dealing with when the House made those massive changes. I will ask around, especially at my brothers’ estate. They lease the estate to the Qinvaris and probably know everybody. Do you consider them a threat?”

“Not at all. The menaces seem to know the young lady’s boyfriend and the family seems to be one that I should cultivate. I doubt that Rosa would have brought the lady here if she didn’t want to pique my interest. There will be Seats that are going to lose their status and they will need to be filled. Also ask Evin about a Provisional Trooper named Roger. Apparently he spends a fair amount of time in Innshys and the menaces have met him. They were chasing the lady’s daughter.”

“Very well, your majesty.”

The pair left Itireae to her thoughts.

Ryul Heiwenys watched the rather large man in Republican Marines uniform approach the desk and said, “You don’t make sense. What is your business here?”

The man looked at him with a grin and said, “Why don’t I make sense?”
“Because you look like one of those Ravathrya enhanced slaves and yet you’re wearing a Republican Marines uniform with captain’s stars. In any case, what is your business at the palace?”

“I sent some people to talk to property registration about a discreet matter and they said that I should discuss some property that my grandfather still holds here.”
“Your grandfather was an exile?”

“My grandmother was. My grandfather was ship’s captain and later admiral. He lost a lower leg, gained a wife and a lot of kids. The loss of the leg didn’t slow him down very much, my great grandfather has apparently gone to the fire and only had my grandmother and her brother. I’m looking into my grandmother’s dower estate, rather discreetly, so that my great uncle doesn’t know that I’m doing it.”

“Here’s a pass to the property registration. At least you didn’t have an army to deal with.”

“I think I know who did. Thank you.”

Jorge followed the directions on the pass and entered the property registration office. The rather stuffy elf looked down his nose at him and said, “We didn’t ask for a laborer. Why are you here?”

“I’m Jorge Tollings and I want to look into a property issue relating to my grandmother, Thaola Shalar. You have been talking to Archivist Phivyre about some researches and the property issue came up. I wanted to follow up on it and see what the status of the property is.”

“What is the property issue?”
“The property at issue is my grandmother’s dower estate. My grandmother is living in the Republic and I want to see if the estate is being taken care of.”

“Do you have anything from your grandmother relating to the issue?”
“No, unfortunately. I was sent to the Empire and the Peninsula before this became a concern and I haven’t had a chance to send a letter home. I was hoping that I could keep this discreet.”

“I must require something from your grandmother or the Justiciars. Is there a conflict with the potential current holders?”

“I wouldn’t know. My interest at present is to keep this as discreet as possible.”

“I’m afraid that I cannot release records to individuals without standing. I need some proof of standing.”

Jorge looked at the elf, who stepped back a bit, and said, “I will be back.”

Galan looked at the rather large man that had entered his office as the High Guard soldiers stationed there, saluted. The man returned the salute and turned to Galan. Galan said, “The High Guard seems to know who you are, but what can I do for you, captain?”

“I’m Captain Tollings. I imagine that the word has gone around about me when I arrived. I checked in at the High Guard office when I arrived. I needed to check in my sidearm and let the High Guard know that I was here. I suspect that a foreign military officer that looked like I did would cause the Guard some concern, wouldn’t it, Sergeant.”

“Not you, sir. That is unless we thought that you were planning to disrupt the Conclave and I doubt that you are.”

“Sergeant, not unless something drastic happens.”

Galan laughed and said to the captain, “Why have you come to this office?”
“This is a bit tricky. I needed to come to this office because I’m not sure how the clearances work here in the Empire and I don’t want spread certain things around. My primary task concerns the recovery and dismantlement of the Scourge devises. I’ve been told that all such matters are under Imperial shield and something has come up that involves both the devises and personal matter.”

“How so?”

“I have a map of where some of the devises were stored and we have list of properties owned by Houses Ravathyra, Ravhana and Luyarus at the beginning of the Mage Wars. My great great grandmother was married from House Luyarus and received an estate as her dowry. The estate was passed with some others to my great grandfather who gave it to my grandmother as her dowry. My grandmother was exiled, rescued by my grandfather and has lived in the Republic ever since. I want to search the estate, preferably without making any waves.”
“That should not be impossible.”

“I have tried to contact my great uncle about it, and my messages are ignored. I tried to go to the property registration just now and they will not give me the information on the property without something from my grandmother. I’m hoping that I can have this office clear that up sooner than it would take for my grandmother to respond.”
“Are there any other reasons?”

“You must understand something about my family. My grandfather doesn’t like the Ravathyra. I was one of the Ravathrya’s most successful raiders for some time. My grandfather doesn’t like me very much even though he knows that I was collared and didn’t have much choice about what I did. I can’t exactly tell grandfather exactly why I want to search the property for obvious reasons using the mail and I really don’t want him stomping around looking over my shoulder when I am looking for the Scourge and other ancient things.”

Galan laughed. “Stomping?”

“Grandfather has a wooden leg to replace the leg shot off by a projector when he was rescuing my grandmother. He still stomps around on it wearing his old admiral’s coat.”

“He sounds like a character.”

“That he is. Thank the gods he’s no longer in congress. In any case, we don’t want him here. At least I don’t.”

“Why don’t we do this? I will give you a temporary pass to review property documents, which will keep Nieven, who was probably your obstruction happy and you get a letter from your grandmother asking you to take care of the property for her. We will risk her and your grandfather coming to the Empire.”

“Ok, but you will be sorry, especially if he comes up through the Fellowship.”

“Why?”

“I think that I will let you find out. You can guess who his friends are. In any case, he will make the Conclave more fun. At least he isn’t in my chain of command and can’t order me to destroy House Ravathrya.”

“We wouldn’t want that. Too many would squawk.”

“I have enough on my plate, so Rolin and the others are safe. If Ehlark were still around, he probably wouldn’t be so lucky.”

Galan laughed and said, “I’m sure they sleep better knowing that.”

Galan wrote the authorization and Jorge left. Galan turned to the sergeant and said, “You saluted the captain.”

“We knew who he was. He was ready to back us up when the Darkmage hit and was told to stand down by the major. He also got a bunch of kids and families out from under the Darkmage’s thumb and really gave him a bloody nose down there in Ishendell. In any case, he deserved the salute.”

“He is not an elf, let alone a high elf.”
“That doesn’t matter.”

Galan dealt with some matters concerning the forthcoming Conclave and the Council meeting coming up at the end of the five day for the next two twentieths. Nieven Sylphyra came into the office and said, “You gave that man approval to look into the property records. There must have been a reason.”

“There was, and the matter is under imperial seal.”
“Apparently that young lady from the archives has been working for him and pointed him at something. Her researches have been interesting.”

“What House is operating the dower estate?”

“House Aravaris.”

“So the captain’s great uncle is Gantar Aravaris. I asked the captain to send a message home to his grandmother. If she comes to the Empire, Gantar may be in trouble.”

“I think that the captain was trying to avoid that if he could. Cilly from the archives has stories about the captain.”

“If you knew who he was, why didn’t you just get him what he wanted?”
“First of all, that would have been outside the rules and second, if I had, he would have stopped at the property he was looking into and not have done the deeper search that he did once he had the authorization. Also, I wanted to introduce him to you.”

“Nieven, you play the rules like a fiddle.”

“Why thank you, Galan. I live to serve.”

Nieven left as Galan laughed and the Emperor called Galan into the office. “So what is going on out there?”
“What would be going on, your majesty?”

“I wouldn’t know. It didn’t reach my office.”

“Nothing of serious note. A rather unusual captain from the Republic was looking into the property records for his exile grandmother. I will have a report when I have the details.”

“Make sure that you do.”

The Lower City.

Zelphar looked up from the ancient process of forming elvenmetal when young Charles Beinan entered his shop with a man of undetermined orgins wearing a strange uniform. He smiled and said, “So, young Charles, what brings you to my shop today? Did your young lady like the dragon?”

“Zelphar, she loves it. The glasswork and the things I did here paid off. I managed to finish it before Winterfaire.”

“So who is this fellow?”

“This is Roger. He is looking for some special helmets and I knew that you made them for the High Guard and some others.”

“I make them for the High Guard only now. So, sir, what do you want the helmets for?”

“I ride a motorcycle for Provisional troopers in the Fellowship and I have been attempting to make the point that our riders should wear helmets after some friends and I started to wear helmets that we found on our old Ravathyra raider when a friend of mine had a fatal accident on a motorcycle. Steel helmets tend to be too heavy and I want to look into making helmet shapes that deal with the wind better at high speeds. I asked my future father in law, Dennis Harper who made the helmets that I had purchased some time ago for my racing team in the Fellowship, he pointed me to Charles’ father, who drafted Charles here.”

“I see. I remember making some special helmets about six or seven years ago. We still get some orders for them. Was that because of you?”

“I started my racing team in college on them about then, the racing board mandated them for all the racers and I imagine that they still order them. Since I will be living in the Empire, I thought that I would come to the source and see if I could discuss improvements and point some friends at your shop so that they could buy helmets.”

“Now, that is very interesting. The Ravathrya are no longer buying them, and the army does not wear them, by and large. The High Guard does, but I can always use more business. Why don’t we discuss this? I am Master Zelphar Carleth, by the way.”

“Sergeant Roger Bloodfoot, Provisional Troopers at present. I brought some drawings to show you what I was thinking.”

Roger pulled the drawings out of the drawing tube he had brought with him and started to go over the issues that he had with helmets and his design ideas. After at fruitful twentieth and a placing a purchase order through House Qinvaris, he left, Zelphar turned to Charlie and said, “Thank you for bringing him to me. I had wondered a bit about those helmets that I had made. Is he joining your House?”
“House Qinvaris got him first. We should have picked up on him down in the Fellowship. Of course having the Harper girls looking didn’t hurt.”

“Has he met their mother yet?”
“Yes, and she likes him. They had a big party in Oceanside recently. Apparently Roger’s family lives on an old Ravathyra raider that Roger’s grandfather captured and Roger raced motorcycles to pay for college. I think that I will look for a bike.”

“I would take that up with your lady, young Charles. She may not be too pleased if you do stupid things.”

“I will. Of course talking to Roger first means that I won’t be doing something that stupid.”

Axilya Wysalynn watched as Vasati Cairalei walked up the path to the house. She opened the door and said, “Uncle Vasati, come in. What brings you to my home?”
“I wanted to say hello and pass a message to certain people.”

Axilya made a little wave as she closed the door and said, “We should be discreet. Fortunately the grandchildren are not here right now. So what message do you want to pass?”

“A certain lady was making inquiries and she may be bringing in her own resources. Tell your brother to watch out for the Dark Fae.”

“I thought that they were exterminated in the Mage Wars.”

“The Darkmage and his family were also destroyed until they showed up again. The Scourge devises were supposed to be confiscated and dismantled and yet there were five of the things. That certain lady will be bringing things out, now that there have been setbacks and the Dowager Empress is dead.”

“What about telling my husband and son in law?”
“Do that. The lady will almost certainly be looking into your son in law, since he was the reason for the Dowager Empress departing so suddenly.”

“Why the warning, uncle?”

“If you are prepared and alert, the lady may retreat somewhat. On the other hand, things have started again and she risks all if she does not act. I must go.”

Axilya watched her uncle go and then returned to the kitchen. She doubted that the mysterious lady would act quickly, but the fact that her uncle was concerned about dark fae was worrying. On the other hand, fae in general were now frequent visitors to the city, that is if they didn’t live in the city already. If the dark fae wanted to dance, she would make it a dance that they would not forget. She started to write a series of messages to her brother, niece and daughter.

Oceanside.

When Nalaea entered the shop, the contrast between what was happening now and her last visit was amazing. The empty and quiet shop of her visit was full of young men and women busily working away on what appeared to be brightly painted walls and mermaid statues. Lori was actually modeling for yet another one. Chald spotted Nalaea and came over with another man. “Nalaea! What brings you here. I’m not sure if you have met my brother, Vince.”

“I think that we passed each other at the party. You two are exactly who I want to talk to.”
“Where’s Roger?”
“Your grandfather trapped him in Zirgoccol when we were passing through. We don’t have any Jump points and had luggage in any case. I wanted another day with Roger, but Roger had some Justiciars with us that he wanted to introduce to your grandfather and he couldn’t pull himself loose.”

“So why do you want to talk with us?”
“Because you are fast at what you are doing right now. It’s my sister and I, along with Alinis for the Conclave this time around, since Nimue is still in the Republic and performing for her aunt. We may get them both for the mermaid dancing, but with the two Conclaves so close together, doing something new will get the family social points and our opposition doesn’t have a clue that you all exist yet.”

“What’s the budget?”

“Aunt Rosa spent over four million silvers for the last Conclave and that was when Nimue and Alinis were going cheap. Much of that was park related and part of that was establishing the new university, but we can afford a nice budget.”

Vince whistled and said, “We’ve never dreamed anything so big.”

“The family had a fae circus, an airshow, brought in a goblin restaurant and did some other things. We may want some of those things, but since we have you, we want new ideas. We also don’t have a lot of time, since we only have a bit over two five days. We also have to share the park next to the palace with the Imperial family this time, so there is that. So, are you in?”
“Do it, Chald,” Lori said. “Nalaea, this sounds like a lot of fun. Mother is going to love this.”

“Lori, I may want to talk with your brother as well as my cousin and some others and see if we can run a race. I had four rather eager young princes and princesses wanting to see Roger and his motorcycle. We can set up the track on the new roads next to the market.”

“I think that we can convince my brother. Will the Inquisition be a problem?”
“I think not. They have their own issues right now.”

Chald looked at Vince and said, “I think that we are stuck.”

“It sounds like a fun thing anyway and we can learn new things,” Vince said with a grin. “Nalaea, will we get a good chance to talk with the Beinans?”
“That will be arranged. Charlie Bienan is already recruited for his House. We also have a bunch of crazy Yllanans and some others on the way, some of whom were here with Alinis at the party. We will want some Projector expertise, but Tarranth and my Uncle Tom can provide the Projectors. In any case, I want to draw on your talents and experience in doing certain things quickly and flim flam.”

“We’re in,” Vince said. “This is when I take my vacation from the Troopers in any case. Chald and I set up for the year and get some of our cousins to run what we set up. We can make whatever we do for the Conclave work for us. In any case, this is an opportunity to really get to know you all. It looks like Roger got a winner. Chald, since you know our new sister, why don’t you and she set up a plan while I keep things working here. We can get together over dinner and finalize things. I have this feeling that we are going to have to work fast.”

“We do,” Nalaea said. “We’re used to that at the House. Fortunately we sort of knew that there was going to be a Conclave soon.”

 

 

 

Chapter 10.

The Hidden City.

Sarya came into the office where Tom, Captain Pinch, Captain Bushbury and Commodore Billings were going over a large photographic mosaic. Sarya was grinning as she said, “My cameras must have worked.”

Tom looked up from the mosaic and said, “Hello, Sarya. Yes they did. We only lost one. The camera, that is. We recovered all six payloads and the rockets all performed as planned. The nose cone with the camera that was damaged sprung a leak and the lenses were ruined. The film magazine was intact. I had my photo people go over the damaged camera, but the lenses were a total loss, I’m afraid.”

“Did you find Paeris’s little hideaway?”
“Look for yourself. We have mosaics of most of the islands and this is the only one with smoke from a fire. It looks as if there were some ancient Imperial buildings here and the lagoon is big enough for a small ship. Captain Pinch has one of his boats on the way to take a discreet look with some Swimmers.”

Sarya looked at the mosaic and said, “Very interesting. What about the other islands?”
“Two of the others have bowers offshore, so they were non starters as far as what Paeris wanted and the rest didn’t have an anchorage capable of handling the coaster and being protected. I think that I need to send a cruiser out and establish communication with the various people out there. We’ve been ignoring the islands between the Leomaris trading post and the Hidden City and now we are paying for it. A few discreet radios and Paeris wouldn’t have been able to do what he did.”

“This does look interesting. I think that you have found Paeris’s new secret base and most importantly, he doesn’t know that you have.”

“It was hard to hide Skychaser. I’m having her sail south, pick up some more rockets at Uncle Romarod’s and then conduct some launches with some press viewing the launches and the ships staffed with weather types. The other nose cones had weather and high altitude instruments and officially, Skychaser was using surplus resources to do some high altitude weather research.”

“Paeris will figure out what you were really doing eventually.”

“I’m sure that he’s looking for me to try something. He certainly knows that the cruiser was watching Flying Fish and that there are only so many places he could have taken her. But if he doesn’t figure out that we used the rockets, he won’t be looking for us to be getting Swimmers into his hideout and keeping a submarine nearby.”

“That’s a big if,” a voice growled as Tom winced and a figure stomped into the office.

Tom, jumped a bit, turned and said, “Why did you show up, Admiral?”

“I wanted to find out how that little experiment of yours worked. It looks as if you got what you wanted. I also wanted to annoy my grandson a bit.”

“He’s busy doing an important and very classified task for me.”

“Chasing the Scourge in the Empire.”
“I won’t ask how you discovered that, Harald.”
“I get the intelligence reports and read them. Sometimes people want my input.”

Tom turned to Sarya and whined, “Have you been feeding this old peg leg anything?”
“Not me, Tom. You can guess who it was, since they were closer to home. He has clearance for everything anyway.”

“I’m going to have to have a chat with dad. I know he likes his experts, but there is going too far.”

The old admiral looked at the various officers and said to Jacob, “Captain Pinch, I am Harald Tollings and my wife and family very much appreciate what you did here. You gave the old bastard what he deserved.”

“He made it easy, Admiral.”

“You made the fight we had to get those boats worthwhile.”

“You fought those boats in congress.” Tom said.

“Yes I did. Wesley was making rather extravagant claims and there were still some bugs in the first boat. He got the money in the end and the old sticks were happy. Then I was booted out.”

“You quit, so that you wouldn’t give me the satisfaction of making you eat crow.”

“Gentlemen, I think that there are more important things than long ago settled budget fights,” Sarya said. “Harald is no longer in congress in any case.”

“He was in too long.”

“ENOUGH! You can have your fun later. Right now, I am here to get an update on things.”

Both admirals looked rather abashed and Sarya said, “So Paeris doesn’t know what is going on?”
“Probably not,” Tom said. “As far as I know, he never discovered Uncle Romarod’s rockets. If he did, he might think that I would use the Hidden City as a launch pad, which is why I didn’t plan to.”

“Where is your uncle?” Harald asked.

“Taking a tour of the ancient launch facilities, since he came here. My cousins and some Brownlow relatives are taking him on the tour.”

“I will want to see those as well.”

“I will arrange it. The Darkmage was the last one to use the pad, so he knows about it already. I don’t think that he was paying attention to my uncle’s activities.”

“My son told me that Jorge has a lady. Naesala and I haven’t met her as yet.”

“You will like the lady, Harald,” Sarya said. “Even if she is a cat most of the time.”

“I hope so. I’ve heard good things about her. Where is the café that I have heard about? Sarya, Naesala is meeting us there.”

“I will take you, Harald. That way you can get out of these gentlemen’s important work.”

Sarya led the old admiral out and Tom breathed a sigh of relief. He turned to the others and said, “He was his typical self. I am glad that he didn’t show up here earlier.”

“He does have that affect, sir,”Commodore Billings said.

“He was right about one thing. We have to be careful that Paeris doesn’t pick up on what we are doing.”

“I expect that he knows that we are up to something,” Jacob said. “That trick with those punts was impressive.”

“Not if you were on the other side of it,” Billings said with a rather depressed look on his face.

“We’ve always known that the Great Captain was sharp. It will probably be my turn next.”

House Aravaris.

House Aravaris’s Major Domo was thinking of calling guards when the apparition before him walked down the street to the House from the portal. The only reason that Elwin Wyndove hadn’t called the guards was that he wasn’t sure that the man was coming to the House and he didn’t think that the guards would handle the matter very well. Then he saw the captain’s stars and grinned. A rather lost relative was visiting at last. The man stopped at the door and said, “I am the lord’s great nephew, Jorge Tollings and I would like to speak with my great uncle about some discreet matters that have become rather urgent.”

“What matters?”
“I will discuss them with my great uncle. I wasn’t going to deal with him directly on the matter of my grandmother’s estate and I have been discussing things with your people, discreetly. Unfortunately somebody contacted my grandmother and things need to be dealt with more quickly than I anticipated.”

“Come inside and I will see if the lord will see you.”

Jorge did and Elwin went to the lord’s office. “Milord, your great nephew is here.”

“My great nephew?”

“Apparently he is your sister’s grandson.”

“He is here?”
“Yes, and he says that things are rather urgent.”

“Does he know that I sent a letter to my sister when he started to send messages?”
“Apparently not. Since you did not reply, I suspect that he looked into the title of your sister’s estate and started the process of taking possession, or at least going over the place as his messages said he wanted to do.”

“He has avoided direct contact until now. Bring him in. I want to meet him in any case.”

Elwin returned to the waiting Jorge and said, “The Lord will see you.”

Jorge followed the major domo to his great uncle’s office and showed him inside. Jorge bowed and said, “Milord, I am Jorge Tollings.”

“My great nephew, apparently. You are from the uncivilized lands that my sister was exiled to and have associated with some bad people. So why are you here?”
“I was going to avoid direct contact with you, milord, to keep things discreet. Unfortunately somebody who probably worked for a certain lady sent a message that reached my grandmother and she is on her way here.”

Gantar had a bit of a grin as he said, “I doubt that I have much to worry about regarding my sister. What did you want with the estate?”
“I wanted to perform a discreet search for some things and remove them for disposal.”

“The same sort of things that were on the Nerihorn and Shannelis estates?”

“Yes.”
“If you had said that, Jorge, you would not be in trouble now. As far as I’m concerned, you can wait until your grandmother arrives and then we can search the estate. My lady wants to meet your wonderful cat and the rest of the family.”

Jorge’s jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

“You didn’t think that your grandmother wouldn’t contact me about something like that? Or that I wouldn’t respond? Your grandmother has been sending me messages ever since Lissia showed up, wanting me to chase down Lissia’s family for her. Lissia did that for herself, thank goodness. In any case, my lady expects you and Lissia to join your grandparents, my children and their children for dinner tomorrow. We also want to meet Lissia’s family. As for searching for the devises, I presume that you have information that the House does not. Did you bring it with you?”

“I didn’t bring the information, because I don’t want to be walking around with it for obvious reasons.”

“Come early tomorrow and you and your uncle Scalanis can go over what you have. Scalanis will not want those things on the property.”

“I will bring everything tomorrow, Uncle.”

“Good, you are admitting that you are family.”

Jorge smiled. “I sort of have to now. I guess you are stuck with disreputable me.”

“I wouldn’t know about your reputation. I only just met you. Why were you so worried about your grandmother?”
“It wasn’t my grandmother that I was worried about, it was my grandfather. I didn’t want him stomping all over what I was trying to do, or pestering my boss, which he can do. In fact, he’s probably doing that right now, which is why they haven’t ported in from the Hidden City.”

“How do you know that they haven’t?”

“Where are they?”
“Out at the Yllanan estate, seeing Lissia’s mother and her stepfather. Now tell me about your plans. I think that you want to do more than just search for the devises.”

“I have a good idea where they were, thanks to some things that we found in Ishendell.”

“You know by now that Ishendell was an old family property.”

“Yes. At least I know that it was owned by House Luyarus. I didn’t discover my relationship to the House until I started to check the property records looking for properties that had been owned by the House. That was where I discovered that grandmother owned the estate.”

“How did you discover House Luyarus?”
“We encountered a tablet in Ishendell with a very courageaous lady making a report just after the city was scourged. I will bring it tomorrow. The House had the city shield generator and headquarters deep underground. There was a connection to the tram system and the Ravathrya and Ravahana used it to raid the headquarters and shutdown the shield generator. The city was Scourged immediately afterwards. That is on the tablet as well. The Lady watched her House die and then went out to recover what she could.”

“My lady will want to hear the story. I understand that Ishendell was a mess.”

“Yes it was. I did manage to get the refugees out of the Darkmage’s clutches. I will tell you the story tomorrow. I was just going to warn you about my grandfather, but apparently the admiral was ahead of me.”

“If you need resources, we have some businesses in the Lower City and access to more.”

“I will remember that. So far, I haven’t needed very much, and I’ve been working with House Beinan and House Qinvaris on the Scourge.”

“Your bosses are providing things as well. I think that I will save the long discussion for tomorrow when we are all here.”

“I knew that I should have been on the lookout. I just didn’t realize that I should have been looking out for relatives.”

“Jorge, you know your grandparents. You have been in and out of the Empire for a couple of years now, doing interesting things and fighting dark enemies. You knew that I existed and not once did you think to look me up.”

“Uncle, I was supposed to be clandestine and discreet.”

“When you do your work that is true, but otherwise? At least you will no longer be a stranger.”

Elwin came after Jorge left and Galant said, “You were the perfect stiff elf for that. What do you think of my nephew?”
“I think that he is carrying a rather large burden and task, which tends to focus his attention. He should have come to us sooner. I suspect that he feels cut off from the family in the Republic and that the Empire is an enemy somewhat. As for his skills, the results speak for themselves.”

“They do, don’t they?”

Jessen Bakery, The Lower City.

Axilya grinned as her daughter walked in with her basket. “Hello dear. How is Gander doing?”
“He’s rather nervous right now. He has a lot on his plate with the various investigations ongoing and another matter has turned up that the Office may get involved in.”
“What do you mean?”
“There is evidence that the Orcenchief was murdered, using Clear. Fellowship Army Intelligence discovered the evidence and passed it to Colonel Bloodfoot. The Colonel’s grandson wanted to discuss it with Gander.”

Lymseia joined them and said, “What conspiracy are you gossiping about today?”
“The Orcenchief being murdered.” Alissa said.
“He was over a hundred. In fact he was a customer, long ago.”

“Apparently he had enough elf in his ancestors that Clear would kill him. At least the Fellowship believes so.”

The bell on the door of the bakery rang as it opened and Kavrala entered and saw her aunt and cousin. “There you two are.”

Axilya smiled and said, “You received my message. Did you come from Zirgoccol or Dolmas.”

“Zirgoccol. Talissa and Jimmy are more than likely to cause others trouble than get in trouble, at least trouble that I could handle. Aien and I are switching off with Malden and came home on our mothers’ orders to finalize some things for later in the year. Dan has Roger and Nalaea as well as all sorts of new family and friends anyway. So what was the concern?”
“Your uncle is concerned about a return of the Dark Fae.”

“I assume that you told father.”

“I haven’t seen him directly as yet. I sent him the same message that I sent you.”

“I may have to talk to some landdragons if the Dark Fae come out of whatever hole that they have been hiding in. I take it that Uncle is no quoting the Conclave again.”

“As far as I know, he is, with perhaps some exceptions. Of course the Darkmage and his children had better be cautious. They have so many writs and other charges against them that they are fair game and the bounties on their heads could keep the guild going for a long time. House Palen, House Zlymenor and House Nerihorn will probably arrange a joint contract for Lord Stormfire.”

“That will be another big one. If Uncle gets a request, tell him to talk to me. I will quietly tell the committee that there may be some mutual interest there.”

“Who do you think that the Dark Fae will go after, mother?”

Axilya grinned. “That is an interesting question. Lymseia, who do you think is pulling the strings? Shaerra is gone and the Darkmage is hardly competent.”

Lymseia frowned. “Things have been fairly quiet recently. The biggest change is Isarrel Petris moving to the House from the estate.”

“That is interesting. She has been historically apolitical, yet she decides to return to the capital just in time for this Conclave, where the Ravathyra are facing further losses and the Darkmage’s gains, such as they were, are going to be wiped away. Then we have these new players. Alissa, have you cultivated Faylen at all?”
“I think that she is rather afraid of me. Kavrala might be a better conduit as Faylen was watching Alinis Qinvaris for a time while the Scourge matter was blowing up.”

“I hope that the Justiciars are chasing those things down,” Kavrala said.

The Justiciars, the Republican navy, Houses Beinan, Nerihorn and Qinvaris are all chasing the things down, along with assistance from a lot of others. Captain Tollings of the Republican Marines is more or less in charge of that.”

“He can function here in the empire?”

“As long as he plays by the rules, he has an Imperial mandate to chase the things down and his people have the skills to handle the devises. So far, he has been rather remarkable.”

Alinis’s house, The Qinvaris estate.

Esgalwathanar turned to Vesstan and said, “Look who’s here. Hello flight instructor. Why are you here?”

Resod grinned as he joined the pair and said, “I’m here because a pair of rather foolish younglings want to submit themselves to my training program and I’m here to make the arrangements. I take it that you are here for the same sorts of reasons.”
“No, actually,” Vesstan said. “We’re here because the same two younglings made an exchange with us and we need to collect our part of the exchange.”

“What was the exchange?”
“Alinis and her young fae prince wanted some things to make an old landdragon’s life interesting,” Esgalwathanar said. “Vesstan and I want access to the prince’s skills to make some things for us. Vesstan needs to talk to his cousin and his sister, but something has arisen that may require that we need those things, or other people will.”

“I won’t give Fireoak too many bruises then.”

“The more bruises, the better,” Vesstan said. “If the message is correct, there may be some new players.”

Resod frowned and said, “That is not good news. The other side does not play nice. My sister lost her son and his wife in Ishendell. The kids got out, though.”

Alinis looked at all three of them as they came through the door and said, “What are you all conspiring about?”

“Your bruises, missy,” Resod said. “I’m all ready for you and your boyfriend. These two probably have plans as well.”
“I don’t know why these two elves are here. When do you want to start us, flight instructor? I’m going to see if I can pull my cousin and her boyfriend to the training as well.”

“How about in three days.”

“Ok, we will make time. The Conclave is going to make things tight but Fire and I want to get the training before the Conclave. Getting Nalaea and Roger is going to be trickier.”

“I’ll have the kids warmed up.”

Alinis turned to the other two and said, “I’m guessing that you want to talk to Fire. I’ll go and get him.”

She disappeared and returned with Fireoak. “Fireoak, this is the flight instructor. We are going to be in his not so nice ministrations for the next two five days.”

“I’ve heard about you, flight instructor,” Fire said. “On the other hand, my two brothers didn’t exactly go easy on me either. Lord Elstina, we have been busy with a rather large thing and I haven’t had a chance to get back with you about your request.”

“I understand, youngling. The thing you sought became a bigger deal than you two expected, didn’t it?”
“Much bigger,” Alinis said. “I’ve had to drag Fire along on my things, with our parents adding to the problem with little jaunts to Zirgoccol and my new relatives getting married, so Fire and I were distracted more than a bit.”
“How did your efforts with the landdragon work out?” Esgalwathanar asked.

“We got in. Of course by the time we did, I had Jimmy and Talissa to help and young lord Nerihorn and his Beinan girlfriend were working with us. Also, Byddri provided a bit of a distraction.”
“Byddri?”

“Apparently Chompers was rather obnoxious when he talked to Byddri and Byddri made arrangements with his ex boss to run post riders through Chomper’s place. The first pair went in just before we did.”

“What happened then?”
“We reached the radiation laboratory and then the thing went boom. We’ve been working on chasing the booms ever since. Lord Yllanan, I hope that you don’t have any of them on your estate.”
Esgalwathanar frowned. “Alinis, I don’t think that there were ever any vaults or ancient Imperial facilities on my estate. We were never a great power in the Empire and my father and grandfather had to watch their steps and play by the rules. Unfortunately, both Peri and Flix are in the Republic right now and Teiran, Lavidia and I want them there for their educations. The other boys are all in the Portal Service or doing related things. Jimmy and Talissa don’t know it yet, but they are going to college in the Fellowship this fall. Lazuli, Aestaeros, Diona, Jimmy’s parents and I all agreed to that. We can’t afford to have them unprepared.”

“Why don’t we talk about what you want from Fire over lunch,” Alinis said. It is lunch time in any case.”

House Aravaris.

Lissia grinned at her rather nervous fiancé as they escorted Lissia’s mother, stepfather and rather precocious stepbrothers and sister into the House. There was a group waiting and Jorge turned to Lissia and said, “Lissia, this is my great uncle, Galant. I’m not sure if you have met my grandparents yet, but this is my grandfather Harald Tollings and grandmother, Naesala. I’m not sure why they are here.”
“Jorge, the president wanted me to act as the Republic’s representive during this Conclave” Harald said. “I don’t have the rather close relationship that Dan does and I don’t have to hold back if the Ravathrya need to be slapped. I’m glad that you are here if I need to do some slapping.”

Grandfather, I can’t just go around and shooting people. On the other hand, I already have an agreement with the High Guard that if the Darkmage shows up, I can shoot him and his people during the Conclave. The Empress does not want her ball interrupted this time.”

“What if your former boss shows up?”
“If the Great Captain shows up, I will deal with him. Of course he knows that I’m in the area and will probably take steps. In any case, let me introduce you to Lissia and her family.”

Jorge did and the evening started. As the ladies had their chat and the various kids discovered each other, Jorge, his grandfather, great uncle and uncle Scalanis met in Galant’s office. Galant said, “Jorge, you said that you would bring what you have today.”

Jorge held up some canvas bags. “I had some helping hands, that is my fiance’s brother and sister to bring these. I brought the tablet with Lady Luyarus’s last message so everybody can see it. She was a true heroine, going out in the face of the Scourge. She was hoping that the tablet would be found by the Justiciars, but they were infiltrated and distracted when things started. I’m not sure if she died from the effects of the Scourge or afterwards. If you all want to port to Ishendell, I can show you around when I get a chance.”

“What makes you think that there are more devises on the estate?” Scalanis asked.

“We found a lot of information in the old headquarters including the disposition of family resources. There are still things buried in Ishendell that nobody has found and on the estate there is a vault that should have ten devises that launch the Scourge that the family was maintaining as deterrent.”

“The devises were not used?”
“As far as I can tell, no. The House was left more or less destroyed by the Scourging of Ishendell and I’m not sure exactly what happened, other than Harald striking back. Things are rather sketchy during the Mage Wars and while I have a lot of resources, I have had to focus on keeping the devises out of the Darkmage’s hands. That is what my orders are. On the other hand, if I find the devises, we have the facilties to dismantle them and ensure that no more people are killed by one of the things.”

“Show me on the map where you think that the vaults are. The Conclave is coming and my family is going to be forced to be up front and center. I will tell the folk on the estate to cooperate with you. There are some ancient ruins and my sons will probably be all over you, helping to dig things up. I certainly did my share, back in the day.”

Jorge smiled. “Your boys and some others will all want to get involved. I will try to be careful and not recruit them accidently like the last batch.”

“What did you do, Jorge?” Harald growled.

“It was a mistake, but some of the boys that were refugees in Ishendell became involved in the things that I was doing and between seeing me play games with the Great Captain, working with the other Jorge and two young dragons, the lot of them are sticking with me until this is over.”

“You seem to have a talent for attracting unusual people. Did you do that for the Great Captain?”
“No, because I couldn’t recruit when I was collared. On the other hand, there was Byddri and the Brownlow boys that would have joined up if the Great Captain had let them. The Admiral didn’t trust them. He didn’t really trust me, for that matter. Here’s where the map said the vault is.”

Jorge went over the map and where he thought the vault was, where a road was going to need to be cut and other things until dinner was called. Lissia kept the various family’s attention with tales of Jorge’s dering-do and after dinner, Jorge ran the tablet from the headquarters in Ishendell, which left the family in awe of their ancestor.”

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