Conclave of Consequence Chapter 11-12

The dark fae arrive. Jorge finds more devises

Chapter 11.

Selnalion.

Haladavar watched the caravan of Wanderers enter the city. The caravan was sent to a camp on the green near the center of the city and Haladavar returned to his inn to wait. After about a twentieth a group of Wanderers entered the tap room and one of them loudly called out, “Jerthad, this is a surprise! Has the road treated you well?”

The group joined Haladavar as he said, “Tolbas, it is good to see you well. The road has done well by me, but there have been changes on the roads here in the Empire.”

“Changes? How so?”

“The caravans have been replaced more than a little by infernal machines like the kingdom and the Fellowship.”

“What?! Where was the Inquisition on that?”
“Weak and not willing to take a stand with working folk.”

Haladavar went on a seemingly well lubricated tirade against trucks, the new post road system and the Qinvaris and the Glynynore until he started a fight with a group of elves and men wearing House Qinvaris tunics and was thrown out of the inn. The travelers left shortly afterwards. Iefyr looked at his cousin and said, “Following that character here paid off. Did you get the crystal of these new characters, Talen?”
“I got them. Do you want pictures?”

“For my stepmother, House Shahana and the Hidden City. My stepmother may want you take a set of the pictures to the palace. If they were real Wanderers, they wouldn’t be talking to Haladavar and they would know that the Empire was using trucks long before they got here. Also, they should know that the Qinvaris is not hiring for the planting as they usually do. If they were looking for farm work, they should be heading to Astaire and not the Empire. There’s something fishy going on here.”

After his meeting with Haladavar, Tolbas went to the hiring hall and found the building almost empty. He knew that he was a bit late, but that had meant in the past, that his family would have the benefit of a bidding war by various Houses desperate for planting labor. Now, the hall was essentially empty and the only Houses looking for farm labor were far from the capital. House Qinvaris was certainly not hiring. Another Wanderer clan chief said, “It’s off to Astaire for me, then.”

“You didn’t expect that you would find work here?”

“I was using the new road in any case. We will camp in Astaire, work the planting there and my boys will cut trees in the north. I was just looking to see if there was work here to pick up on my way north. We have our troupe in any case. I must be off.”

Ayre turned to Fulques and said, “Thank you for pointing that character out, baron.

Fulques grinned and said, “We are neighbors after all and we owe you over that matter with a certain lady landdragon.”

“That turned out well all the way around, except for a certain cranky landdragon on the estate.”

“Is that Landdragon an associate of yours?”

“A bit. He has helped with training for a very long time. We will have to find a new friendly monster for that. Our cranky landdragon has a bigger job. Of course, if this character is what we think, he may come up against that landdragon and his family. That will be too bad for the character.”

Fulques laughed. Ayre added, “Chompers will be a surprise and I expect that these characters are not prepared for what they could be dealing with.”

“They could just be an innocent clan of Wanderers.”

“Yes they could. But Wanderers should know better to come this way. That is if the clan leader talked to the other clan leaders. He’s also late. After last year, the Lord wants to know about strangers like this.”

Tolbas walked into the large House Glynynore way station to get the road permit and road path for his journey. There was a row of desks with elves dealing with various matters and he walked up to the first open desk. The elf behind the desk said, “So where are you travelling, clanmaster?”

“The capital.”

“For the Conclave? I would recommend that you place your caravans on trucks and use the busses. You can get to the capital in two days and save the way station fees. We can board your animals here.”

“I’m not sure that I can afford the loss of the ability to have our troupe play in the villages.”

The elf brought out a map. “Here is the route for caravan travel.”

“It seems to be longer than these roads here.”
“It is. The post roads for animal use follow the canals because House Qinvaris shares the waystations and the canal boats use draft animals and the towpaths as well. The other roads are heavily used by motor vehicles and most of the waystations were closed or are used for other purposes.”

“How do the post riders manage?”

“They use the canal roads or the busses when they can. Most of the post goes by truck in any case.”

“I had not expected this in the Empire.”

“We are still trying to catch up. So what is your decision?”

“I will take the canal path and the ways that I know.”

“Let us begin, then.”

It took a twentieth and quite a bit of argument to get the path. Tolbas had to pay a premium and there was going to be a fair amount of delay, but the task was done and he had his path. The House Glynynore elf had brought up the fact that the trucks and busses would be cheaper and easier several times and indeed had given him the estimates and path for the alternative. Tolbas had played the stubborn and adamant clan leader and he hoped that House Glynynore didn’t pick up that there was more to it than that.

Jandar Iliyarus watched his latest client leave the office and took the paperwork and the money to receivables. Then he wrote a brief message on a form and dispatched it through the small portal in the office. This caravan would get an escort.

The next morning the caravan made its way out of Selnalion and headed down the road to the canal towpath. There were two riders that watched it leave. Walnut turned to Yddren as they watched the caravan and said, “Have you ever thought that we are just a bit too good?”

“This should be an easy trip to the capital.”

“Slow. Also, that carvan has shields.”

“So they are fae?”

“Yes, which is strange. When we get to the way station tonight, I think that I will make a quick Jump home and talk to my brother, the Marshall.”

“Has he recruited you yet? We’re getting old for the post rider job and we both have girls talking weddings.”

“He’s trying. Of course so is Lord Glynynore, since he wants a fae on staff for bigger jobs and thinks that if I stay, you will too.”

Yddren laughed. “I just may. Of course we are already doing the bigger jobs. There’s something fishy about these characters even if you discount the fact that the caravan has shields.”

“I know. We better watch our steps or we will be in trouble with our ladies. This isn’t another Chompers where he didn’t want to kill us.”

The Imperial Palace.

Galan looked at the stack of reports on his desk with a huge grin. It paid to have competent friends. Faylen had told him about the rumors of dark fae returning and here on his desk were the reports of a strange caravan that had come in through Selnalion and attracted the attention of just about everybody. Not only did he have a report from the Innkeeper that he had quietly cultivated long ago, he had short reports from House Qinvaris, House Glynynore and perhaps as a result of the Empress’s long friendship with Nueleth Zylvyre, Houses Shahana and Ravathrya. He took the stack of reports and his grin into Narbeth’s office and said, “Our Dark Fae were rather sloppy.”
“How so?”
“I don’t know if Faylen’s associates told everybody about them, but I have reports concerning a strange caravan entering through Selnalion from just about everybody.”

“After the Blight, I’m not surprised. Let’s take this to my wife and see if she can arrange a little tea so that the various people know to coordinate over this. Who all sent reports?”
“Nueleth’s stepson, House Qinvaris and House Glynynore have so far sent things to my office. Evin hasn’t, but he’s probably looking out for these characters. Apparently they attracted the attention of just about everybody separately. The interesting thing is that the Wanderer’s clan chief was met by Lady Petris’s major domo in a rather disreputable tavern in Selnalion. The elf went out of his way to cause a disturbance with some House Qinvaris people coming in for a quiet drink.”

“Why don’t we take this to my wife? Faylen was a bit concerned about strange characters sneaking around. Itireae is concerned that the menaces and their friends will pick up on the dark fae and want to play with them. Let’s go upstairs.”

Itireae grinned as her husband and Galen came into the Imperial apartment where she and Faylen were happily making preparations for the conclave. “What brings you here today, dear?”

“Galen has received some messages about some new arrivals in the country. Apparently a clan of Wanderers attracted a lot of attention in Selnalion recently. They met with Lady Petris’s major domo, didn’t want to use trucks and were rather disappointed that House Qinvaris was not hiring for the planting this year. Some of the caravans were apparently shielded.”

“You seem to have a handle on these people already, dear. What do you want from me?”

“I was hoping that you could get some ladies together and make sure rather discreetly that they were all coordinating together. It might be important. Faylen, have your associates sent you a report from Selnalion?”

“Not as yet, your majesty. I will hand it to Galen when I get it.”

“Do that, or I will spread the fact that you are dating somebody rather inappropriate to your associates.”

“Who would that be, your Majesty?”

“You know all too well, and I want to keep the blackmail value, so I won’t say. I’m sure my wife has all the details already. Galen and I need to go. Here’s a list of the various people that sent reports about our visitors. Do please make an effort to keep the fact that the visitors are coming from the menaces and their friends. I don’t want to frighten the innocent dark fae.”

Faylen laughed. “Innocent, your majesty?”

“Babes in the woods. They should have stayed in their grove, rather than coming here. Somebody is about to get a rather hard lesson on why don’t want to annoy certain people.”

The emperor left and Faylen asked, “Who was the emperor talking about?”
“Somebody who emerged at last and moved into the House,” Itireae replied with a grin. “She probably thought that she was bringing in these people discreetly, but as you saw, it was rather obvious. You can find the lady if you watch our usual opponents.”

“I will do so.”

“You can discuss her with Nueleth. Now, we have to arrange a luncheon to coordinate things for the Conclave.”

 

 

Chapter 12.

Windergar Aerie.

Resod looked at the well turned out Trooper and grinned. He could tell already that this one was going to be a challenge for the various dragonboys on the training course. He looked at Roger and said, “Trying to impress me, Trooper?”

“No, Flight Instructor, sir!”

“Now why did you wear that pretty uniform? It’s almost as good as mine. It would be a shame to dirty it up.”

“I brought coveralls and can change, sir!”

“I don’t think that I will let you, since you brought all these friends. I didn’t know that the Troopers needed my ministrations.”

“Flight Instructor, you know certain people with clout in the Fellowship better than I do. Miss Harper made a mistake and asked my grandfather for some training time for me. He discussed that with some friends you both share and my commandant. So here we all are.”

“Well, since you are trying to impress, the course is there and I like dirty uniforms, so get going. Otherwise your lady goes first while you change out of uniform.”

Resod had been told about the sergeant in a message sent by Halamar. Watching him run the course, the sergeant was everything Halamar said he was. In fact, he came through a bit out of breath with his uniform intact. Nalaea wasn’t a slouch either and only came out slightly bruised. The rest did better than expected. He lined them up and said, “You all actually managed very well. You impressed me, probably because you are not a bunch of college boys with mush in your heads.” Resod smiled and the various students quaked a bit. Young Fireoak looked very nervous. “The boys there are probably annoyed, and I want them to earn their pay, so you all have to do it again.”

The various students groaned.

The Aravaris Estate.

After almost a five day of work the vault was reached and dug up and Jorge used the combination he had discovered in Ishendell to open it. Once the vault was open, Commander Bronzerock sent his people in and Scalanis asked, “What would you have done if you hadn’t had the combination?”
“I have experts for that. Just who they are, I’m not going to say as my grandfather has friends who would be interested.”

“Jorge, they are probably your old pirate associates,” Harald said.

“Grandfather, baiting me will not work. They may have been former associates, or not. You certainly know who was recruited with me when I joined the marines. Yes, I did keep my team from the Great Captain’s ship and yes we train in certain things when we can. That doesn’t mean that I won’t recruit specialists when it is appropriate and I have friends that you don’t know about. I’m not going to do your digging for you and you can poke your friends for dirt on me.”

Two youngling elves ran up and said, “Uncle Jorge, we found another vault. The lieutenant says that the combination doesn’t work.”

Rob came out of the vault and said, “That’s five. Do you think that the other five are in the other vault?”
“Why don’t we find out? Eddie, go to Innshys and tell Gizmo, Nardual and Elmar that we will need them. Gentelfolk, why don’t we join the lieutenant?”

Eddie disappeared into Jump and Galant asked, “Where did you get that scamp?”
“Eddie? He’s a Justicial slave with connections to House Bryneiros. He’s their scamp. I just have him on loan. He’s part of the team that the Justiciars have assigned to me.”

“So you could get writs if you needed to?”
“Yes, though I want to avoid that. I’m not going to drop a hammer on somebody unless they obviously knew about any of the devises and were holding them for the Darkmage. As for the rest of it, if you tell your friends that helping me is helping them, I would appreciate it. After two estates were Scourged, I doubt that anybody sane would want these things on their property.”

The group followed Jorge’s nephew and as they walked along the path, Harald quietly said, “That sounded like you are having a bunch of criminals show up.
“Grandfather, what leads you to believe that? They are specialists that I have available at present. There’s Eddie.”

Eddie had reappeared and said, “They are on their way. They will meet you at the vault. I Jumped ahead from the portal.”

Eddie disappeared again and when they arrived at the vault, there was quite a crowd and two GPs loaded with equipement. Lieutenant Stone saw them approach and said, “The combination didn’t open the vault, sir.”

“Let me try. It may be that you have to be family to open it.”
“Like Tarranth Harper?”

“I wasn’t going to bring him up, but yes.”

Jorge tried the combination and the vault remained closed. “Apparently not, or the lock has no power. Nardual, what do you think?”
Nardual looked at the lock, turned to Gizmo and said, “I think it’s dead. Do you have a way to power this up?”
“I don’t see one and without making a trip to Beinans and talking to some people, I wouldn’t know where to start. Captain, do want the vault to close again?”

Jorge turned to his uncle and said, “That’s up to you?”

Scalanis grinned. “I did ask what you would do if you didn’t have the combination. What is your next option?”
Jorge turned to the grinning Elmar Qincyne and said, “Elmar, this is all yours. Try not to disturb the contents.”

“Jorge, watch and learn.”

Jorge turned to the others and said, “We will want to step back in a bit while Elmar does his work.”

As the various people cleared things away from the vault, Harald said, “Jorge, I was starting to think that you had outgrown your pirate days when you haul in the biggest safecracker out there.”

Elmar called out, “Fire in the hole! Fire in the Hole!” and turned the knob on the compact detonator. There was a whump on the vault door and everybody walked up as the door slowly fell off its hinges and hit the ground with a thump. He turned to Jorge and said, “I’m getting better at these.”

Jorge pointed a light in the vault and the familiar shapes of the Scourge devises appeared. Jorge counted five and said, “That’s ten. Uncle Scalanis, grandfather, meet three members of my team, Elmar Qincyne, Nardual Xyrlee and Gizmo.”

“Gizmo?”
“He professes to not remember his real name. Since he was enhanced, I doubt that even his mother would recognize him and I’m not going to ask about his past. He is very good at certain things. The other two work for other people than Admiral Harper.”

“That’s good to know,” Harald said with a grin. “I think that Elmar works for Sal Lion and I don’t know who Nardual works for.”
“Nobody you know.”

“I was right and they look like a bunch of criminals.”

“Grandfather I won’t let you insult my people, even if they look rather disreputable. Have I said anything about those pirates you have around the house, seduced by the ladies of the water?”

“You mean your uncles and cousins?”

“Yes, that bunch. I imagine that they are finding things rather dull because I am hogging all the Ravathrya now.”

“What are you two talking about?” Galant asked.

“My dad, uncle and aunt were not dragged under,” Jorge said with a grin. “My other uncles were. One thing on the bower’s mind was giving the Ravathrya hell when they could, including doing things like making their coasters disappear. Things got a bit more civilized when grandfather was forced to retire and my uncles had kids and got more or less honest jobs. Fortunately my cousins weren’t old enough to acquire ships, though if grandfather had convinced Congress to cut the cruisers loose, they would have tried. I haven’t asked if my uncles knew where the Hidden City was and Paeris got me just after my uncles quit. I didn’t tell Paeris what my uncles were doing and he wouldn’t have gone after them anyway, because the losses upset his father more than a bit.”

“This was before the Yllanans started those raids, wasn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t know. I was a slave on the Great Captain’s ship, my grandfather here was rather annoyed at me because I stayed on the Great Captain’s ship and theYllanans kept those raids tight and certainly didn’t say very much about the immigrants coming to the Republic.”

Galant turned to Harald and said, “Were you annoyed at Jorge?”
“Very. I thought that he would escape.”
“I was collared, grandfather and had compulsions on me.”
“Jorge, I doubt that the compulsions would have kept you if you had fought them and collars are not perfect if somebody wants to get rid of them. You were enjoying yourself more than a bit and you know it.”

“Grandfather, Paeris needed somebody he trusted absolutely ashore to make a splash, but not get too messy. Yes, for the most part, I had a lot of fun planning those raids and pulling them off. But the Great Captain needed to keep his dad off his back and from hitting the seafolk and the coast with everything he had. We both knew that the old Admiral was working with somebody. That is as far as I’m going to say.”
“I will have to have words with a certain lady.”

“Grandfather, Paeris was not and is not working for Mrs. Steelmaker. If anybody was in a position to know if they were passing messages, it was me. Some messages were passed, but not to Mrs. Steelmaker. If the messages did reach her desk, that is what she does and she is very good at it. I see that Rob and his people have removed all the Primaries, so I need to tell Eddie to get the trucks here and get the devises out of here. Here is Inquisitor Kelion to certify things.”

An elf in Inquisitors’ robes had walked up and waved at Jorge.

“You have an Inquisitor certify that the devises were removed?” the Admiral growled.
“For uncle and any other Houses that are not directly involved, yes. I don’t want accusations hitting uncle, the Emperor or you, for that matter, that the devises are going anyplace other than directly to the Radiation Laboratory for disposal and that the Primaries and their cores are stored there, pending a way to dispose of the cores as well.”

“It sounds as if you have things in hand, Jorge. I was a bit concerned. Dan wasn’t and neither was Tom.”

“Kelion worked in research at the Inquisition and has been doing good things at the radiation lab.” Jorge waved Kelion over and said, “Kelion, these characters are my great uncle and head of this House, Galant Aravaris, my uncle Scalanis and my grandfather, who the president sent to harass me because I wasn’t finding and dealing these things fast enough. Did the serial numbers on the cases match?”

Kelion grinned. “Yes they did, Jorge. As for you folk, I am pleased to meet you and that Jorge’s side of the family can keep up with his lady’s side.”

“Was that a concern?”
“His lady’s side is connected to the Yllanans. Dealing with them carries a certain element of risk.”

“How so?”

“Look at what young Periwinkle did. He made off with the library of confiscated books that the Inquisition had, made the Great Captain the patsy, had a movie made of the whole thing and then didn’t run when he knew that the Great Captain might be looking for him, all the while dating a Beinan. If you are dealing with those types, caution is the order of the day.”

Waystation 0123.

The caravan pulled into the waystation and to the space provided for caravans on the seventh day of its ten day journey to the Lower City. Like the prevous days, the caravan was the only one using the space. The space was, in fact, mostly closed off and there was work going on to pave the space and make provisions for the infernal machines that had been discussed. At least the trip along the canal had been smooth and the caravan had had no trouble giving nightly shows at the previous two spots that had been very profitable and drawn good crowds of prosperous looking Imperials. As two of Tolbas’s nephews checked a loose wheel, Nightstalker quietly joined his father and said, “We have an escort.”

“Are you sure?”
“I wasn’t at first. I was sure when I saw the same two post riders on the road. Some of them are fae, by the way. There are three sets of riders that have been on the same road that we have been on.”

“Maybe they are just riding post.”
“Getting ahead of us while not passing us? The only way to do that is using a portal or one of those busses that we heard about and if they were doing that, the Post Service gave them portal keys. I’ve also seen fae in the waystations and others out on the farms and in the towns watching us. Haven’t you noticed the House guards at our shows?”

“I hadn’t, actually. That is, I hadn’t noticed more than I would have expected. Were there more?”
“They weren’t wearing uniforms, but they were giving orders before you arrived and keeping an eye on things.”

“Is there any suggestion that they suspect that we are not what we seem?”
“That is hard to tell. We are the only caravan on the road and that makes us stand out. I just know that two groups are watching us.”

“Make a Jump ahead to the capital and create some discreet Jump anchors that we can use if things seem to be going badly. So far, all they have done is watch and all we have done is travel. I have a perfectly legitimate contract to have my troupe perform at the Conclave for House Petris and we will not do anything too far out of what people will expect to see here on the road. At this juncture, our mission is to collect information on the state of the Empire and provide resources that the kingdom can use later.”
“The state of the Empire is easy. Fat and happy. At least here in the Qinvaris lands. Even the slaves are rich.”

“Then the Empire should be ripe for a fall.”

“Father, I’m not so sure. The Darkmage was supposed to have launched the Blight last year and I think that he did. At least the people in the taverns were joking about it. He also launched armies from the north that were smashed, easily and the supressors were activated and shutdown. All that should have been catastrophic and there should be famine and chaos right now. The biggest concern that I saw was a baker that had an oven collapse and couldn’t bake bread for a couple of days. The ladies were complaining about having to go to the next town for bread. Slave ladies going to the next town or who knows where.”

“Write down what you and your brothers see. We can compile all of it into a report for the lady. These are the things she needs to know.”

Walnut looked at the pair talking, turned to Yddren and said, “I think that they made us.”

“They were supposed to. It took them long enough. We had your younger brother, my younger brothers and some other boys on this in addition to the post riders on the road. These people are probably collecting information and they aren’t very good at it, especially for fae. They should have pushed a bit, made some mistaken turns and wandered onto one of the highways to see how the post service handled it. They also haven’t been buying enough drinks for people. They really should be talking around more.”

“Here’s Steeloak.”

Steeloak joined them and said, “Have they done anything funny?”
“They made us,” Walnut said. “About six days late, but they did, finally.”

“At least the stench is away from the grove.”

“Your grove wasn’t happy at all when they went down the road.”

“Not one bit and they weren’t even travelling on the road next to the kingdom. They don’t know how lucky it is that Uncle Richard doesn’t like random murders on his land and that you were looking after them. Dad was all for making them discreetly disappear.”

“First of all, they were on the post road,” Yddren said. “The House doesn’t take well to assaults on its roads. Second, if we make them disappear, there will be more that will be more careful when they come. These clowns frighten me, because I keep wondering of they are bait or a diversion.”

“I made those same points to dad. He’s going talk to Uncle Richard about these characters.”

“So it’s Uncle Richard now,” Walnut said with a grin.

“It works better than flashing Lord Qinvaris around. We thought my brother was crazy for going off to the Republic like that and then he catches the biggest catch out there.”

“How did he manage that?”
“He played the victim and blamed me for the trap Alinis got caught in. Of course I did set that trap, but it was keyed to him and if he hadn’t messed with it, it wouldn’t have caught Alinis. At least it wasn’t supposed to.”

“Your brother says that he is a weak fae that almost failed his test,” Yddren said. “Are you telling me that wasn’t true?”

“That was my brother and I exaggerating more than a bit and the vivid imagination of a ten year old. Of course it gains him sympathy points with Alinis. I also think that he likes the idea of being sort of a bright flame. You’ve seen him operate by now.”

“Not really. We’ve been rather busy with other things. Our girlfriends are dragging us into the Conclave.”

“Neither of your girls have a House. Why would you be involved in the Conclave?”
“Keerla wants to do something to show the Sanctuary shops off and Walnut’s girl wants to do the same thing for Elysahone. Then we have our boss and his daughter. So we’re stuck.”

Steeloak laughed. “I’ve been doing portal work, so I think I’m off the hook. On the other hand, the Beinans and the Portal Service are going to want something and Jorge is going to be tied up with making a presentation about Ishendell. I think that we better move on before those characters notice.”

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