The Conclave of Consequence, Chapter 47-48

Jerthath has a chat with a Hunter. Jorge passes some things to the Portal Service

 

Chapter 47.

The Pen.

She’s probably sleeping,” Moonchaser said. “At least she was. We probably woke her up when she sensed us.”
“You don’t seem to be too afraid of her,” Miriam said.

“I was, at first, when she went after my goat. She was mindless at the time and she could have hunted me. That happens when she goes too long without something to eat.”
“Does she know about her mother’s diet?”
“Yes, and she told me that she didn’t want to eat people. I imagine that her mother became mindless and ate somebody and then it became easier to do.”

“You seem to be willing to take care of her somewhat. Why?”
“Because she’s alone. Even when her mother was here, she was so involved in making monsters that Szezu was left all alone. I think that she heard me. She’s coming.

There was a rustling and a large naga appeared. “Moonchassser, Whoo isss thisss?”

“This is Miriam, a fae doctor and healer.

“What isss a doctor?”

“Doctors learn their skill in classes and don’t use magic,” Miriam said. “They have more acquired knowledge than most healers, but it’s better to have both and famous doctors in the Republic had healing skills as well. In my case, I was a doctor serving my service and residency when I bonded with my husband.”

“What Doesss your husssband do?”
“He is a Marshal”
Szezu, hissed and rose up in a threat posture. “I won’t let him catch meesss.”
“Szezu, unless you did something bad, he isn’t going to be interested in you. You don’t seem to be a bad girl. The only one that my husband is interested in here is Paeris and that is because the Great Captain is the one that got away.”

“The Great Captain issss sssmart.”

“Yes he is. He’s also sneaky. My husband has other work and can’t chase him full time in any case.”

“Sssso what do you wantsss with me?”

“You are a very unusual girl and I want to see if I can help you. With your mother gone, some may see you as a monster and I want you to be out in the world.”

“Have you sssseen my mother?”
“Yes. She has reverted to a little bit older than you are. If you were to join her now, you would be more like a sister than a daughter. Your grandmother would like to meet you, but you couldn’t live where she is now and she doesn’t want to expose her daughter to her husband and have him draw her in again. As for what I want from you, I want to take you to a grove and get you tested.”

“There will be people! I’m ssssuppossssed to hide.”
“Your mother wanted you to hide. I think that she was afraid what would happen if her father discovered you. On the other hand, the longer you stay here, hidden, the more likely you are to become like your mother, seen as a monster. I don’t see you as a monster, Moonchaser doesn’t see you as a monster and Jomney doesn’t. I know some kids who would like to be your friend.”
“Your kids?”
“Not mine. They are home where I live. These are some other kids who are from where I would like to take you. In any case, I have arranged to have the grove set aside and there should be no people there, so why don’t we Jump to the portal and go.”

“No people?”
“I can’t promise, but there shouldn’t be very many.”

“All right.”

The Lower City.

The obviously naïve travelers from the Fellowship started to go around the city gawking at things. They had acquired elven tunics and tried to ape elven mannerisms as they propositioned girls, took photographs with cameras that would give the Inquisition fits and had too much to drink. Tim Lion looked at them, poked his cousin Kicaver and said quietly, “Is that who I think it is?”

Kicaver looked quietly and said, “If you said Durlan and his gang, you could be right. They are rather foolish coming here. Things just got interesting. Look who just showed up.”

“Now Durlan and his crew are working at it and if we hadn’t been chasing them all over House Qinvaris lands and seen them play games, we probably wouldn’t have picked up on them. The other clowns on the other hand, don’t have a clue, even if they are wearing Imperial clothing.”
“We knew that Durlan spent a lot of time in the Fellowship and they were all together. The question is how do we handle this with only two of us?”

“We stay on the House Keanorin clowns. Oh look, things just got interesting. Durlan is asking the House Keanorin clowns if they know good places for a drink. He’s waving a portal key around.”

Rydel looked at the fool accosting him and thought how he could be useful. Uncle had been leery about using their portal keys for the mission, but Rydel didn’t see any problem with using somebody else’s portal keys. He looked at his brother and grinned. The drunkards didn’t know where they were going and led them down an alley, which was going to make things easy when suddenly a portal lit, and Rydel and his team were compelled to go through it. On the other side was a figure out of nightmare, a Ravathrya Great Captain in his coat, who said, “Welcome to my little Island get away. I am Paeris Zylvyre and you are my guests for a time. Durlan, your taste in dress is rather unusual for the Lower City.”

“It was supposed to be. The best way to draw a sucker in is to act like a sucker.”

Tim and Kicaver watched the lot of them disappear and Tim said, “We need Jorge or somebody from the Portal Service. You know the town, so you find somebody to get a message and I make sure that nobody uses this portal.”

“That makes sense.”
Kicavir ran off and then returned. “I found somebody. There should be somebody from the Portal Service.”

The somebody from the Portal Service was Gracie Beinan, who said, “What have you got, boys?”

“We were tailing some idiots and suddenly Durlan and his gang showed up, looking like tourists from the Fellowship, manuvered the idiots to the portal and ported them someplace.”

Gracie started to laugh. “Somebody got the word about what was coming and had the idiots taken out of the game. Let’s see where they went.”

Gracie ran a scanner over the portal and said, “Well, well, well. I suspect that the portal mage that the Darkmage has set this up. The port was to a port off network and the intiate came from the other portal. That means that the other portal was an ancient portal. We’ll have to talk to somebody, but I imagine that the idiots are talking to Paeris right now. I do hope that he asks for an appropriate ransom for them. Let’s go and tell some people what happened to the idiots. I do have to say, Durlan did some people a big favor.”

Tim looked at Kicavir and said, “Grandmother isn’t going to like that we botched this.”

“It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t want to tip the idiots off and who was going to be looking for the Richflights here. On the other hand, we pulled the same thing and it’s still a good gag. As far as the idiots go, I think they would rather that we deal with them than Paeris, especially if Paeris was annoyed at them.”

Tim started to laugh. “I think that you’re right and we can tell grandmother that the idiots are out of the picture for the time being in any case.”

House Keanorin Estate

Fenian Sarrie rode on his rounds of the estate. He was sure that something was waiting, out over the hill, for something to happen, and then all hell was going to break out in the valley. The Qinvaris town had quietly been evacuated and he was sure that all neighboring estates were as well, through the back roads, so that it wasn’t obvious. He rode along the border of the hunting preserve and things were almost too quiet. It wasn’t until he was past when he realized what he hadn’t heard. The birds were gone. Any number of things could have caused that and he didn’t want to look too deeply into the woods.

Jorge watched the rider ride past, stop and continue on. He had had the timing of the guard chief’s round and it was obvious that he kept to it. He may have spotted something wrong, but hadn’t investigated. Jorge had the boys watching in any case and the monster squad was defininately out of uniform and ready to create a distraction if necessary. Jorge was hoping to get in and out clean, but the important thing was to find the vaults, get them open and the Primaries pulled. He waved the team past the horse trail and into the woods. Chief Meadows crossed first, followed by the rest of the team in intervals. Jorge was last and they moved off the trail. The portal emerged out of the woods and Corporal Redfire said, “Captain, you should see this.”

Jorge looked at the body with the remains of a Portal Service uniform and said, “Get a picture.”
“Already did.”

“I know some people who will raise a stink about this.”
“I think I know who you’re talking about. That Hunter character is going to look real expensive before this is over.”

“That is one thing for sure.”

Perhaps not too surprisingly the path to the portal and the doors of the vaults were clear. Jorge said, “Get pictures of everything and pull that portal’s code. Somebody was making plans. Let’s get the vaults open.”
Jorge used the combination he had, and the first vault opened nicely. There were five casings inside and somebody had understood that the primaries stored better outside the devises, as all the Primaries were stored. Urthock had the primaries stored in their cans, while Gizmo slipped the fake covers in the devises, making the devises look complete. That task done, the infiltrators moved on to the other vault and repeated the operation. Once the Primaries were removed and the vaults closed, Jorge had the area swept and dirt and leaves scattered to remove any trace of their being there. Then the infiltrators made their way down a different path than the way that they had come in and crossed out of the estate onto the neighboring estate with the Primaries.

Waystation 0235

“May I sit down?”
The Hunter looked at the apparition across the table for him and said, “Who are you?”
“Jerthath Toothgrinder. I am a correspondent at the Press Service.”

“So why should I speak with you?”
Because I know more about your target than just about anybody else and I think that you should know some things.”
“Why do you want to speak to me?”
“To add you to my collection before you go off and probably start the biggest war that has been seen in centuries.”

“Now how could a simple Houseless elf do that?”
“Feredir Keanorin, you are hardly Houseless.”

“So you know who I am. Somebody in my family must have done something they shouldn’t.”
“Your niece. I wouldn’t try to go after her. You are attracting a lot of attention already and the Justiciars are going to be receiving quite a stack of writs. In any case, that won’t matter to you, as one way or another you are going to be out of the picture. I imagine that Paeris is already talking to the Guild.”

“Why would Paeris care about what I do?”
“Because the one thing he wants is for Richard not to be free to take any action Richard feels he has to take. I’m not sure what Paeris is doing, but his plans probably require at least some stability and a general war throws that out the window. In any case, he wants you stopped.”

“How do you know?”
“I’m a reporter. I cultivate sources. You might ask how I found you in this waystation.”
“I would like to know how my completing a task would set off a general war.”

“Richard has filed a Letter of Intent against your House that says that if you or any member of your House take any actions agains his family or his House, he will declare war against your House and its allies and destroy them utterly. Your brother has seen the letter. If you cross the boundary of House Qinvaris, bad things are going to happen. Your own House will be target number one and I made a quick visit to your estate. Things will be over there in a twentieth if it takes that long. Especially since your brother has made no preparations for defending the place. I expect that your House will be bankrupt and financially ruined about the same time. Then Richard is going to go after houses Ravathyra, Petris and all of your allies. At some point somebody is going to haul out a Scourge devise and try to use it. Then all hell breaks loose and I don’t know how it’s going to fall out in the end. I do know that even if you succeed in killing Richard and his family, you will be remembered as the most reviled man in history.”

“What if I don’t care? I have an unfinished task and a reward to acquire. That is all that is important to me.”

“Another pendant and ring. Let me tell you about the man who is wearing that ring. When he was a young lieutenant, he changed the course of a war on the Peninsula and made the Peninsula a Republican state more or less single handedly. I should know, as the opposing general was my father and I was on the staff at the time.

“A bit later, Richard had returned to civilian life and took a job at the agricultural station in Rivensdell. Paeris showed up and did what he does, until Richard showed up and stopped the raid, again singlehandedly. Paeris was lucky, Richard ran out of ammunition and Paeris brought him here where Rosa could find him and marry him. About two years ago or so, the Richflights took his daughters so that the snake lady could trip their lost children, the girls all escaped and had a great time, so Richard couldn’t act against the Ravathrya directly. A bit later, Stormfire, not knowing what he was risking, though Paeris tried to tell him, sent Landdragon Jimmy to rampage through Paeris’s mother’s barns since he was awful hungry. Fortunately, Landdragon Jimmy was freed from his collar and became teenager Jimmy, so the impact on the food supply was tolerable. Stormfire showed up and Richard brought out the Ghost, his Lost Child. I haven’t seen the Ghost personally, but I have spoken to my fellow soldiers who have, or at least seen the consequences. The problem you have right now is that you are not facing Richard the farmer, but the Ghost with enormous power and wealth behind him. Collect his ring? You will be collecting a small chunk of lead through your head as it explodes at best. I don’t know how many you have killed in your long career. A hundred, two hundred?”
“One hundred and fifty eight.”

“The Ghost shot over two hundred, in three days. All kill shots from a sniper we could not find. You can ask Paeris what his body count was. I’m going to end this with, are you prepared for the fact that the Ghost wants you to come to his House, because when you show up, the Ghost gets everything he wants?”

“Why are you risking yourself talking to me?”
“It’s what I do and a lady asked me to. She wants you to stop before things go boom and can’t ask you to abort, herself. What are you willing to risk that you get your trinket? By the way, the goal isn’t to kill you. It is to leave you alive after everything you have is taken away and you are humiliated and ruined. You get to watch this Project of yours implode, your allies destroyed and your House destroyed as well. A rather high price for a trinket. I will bid you good day.”

The strange character left and when the Hunter left the waystation to look for him, the portal was active and the character gone, leaving the Hunter to his thoughts. The boys should be in position by now. At least the adversary was worthy.

 

 

Chapter 48.

The Island.

Paeris looked at the rather frightened and shivering crowd and said, “You may wonder why I arranged to have you all brought here, other than saving your lives, that is, as well as some landdragons’ digestions. In any case the reason that you are here is that you and your uncle have managed to mess up something important to the Project that I have been working for over a moon in just a couple of days and thus damaged the Project in general, simply because you didn’t bother to know who your target actually is. You also need an education in certain special skills that are necessary, in our effort such as retaining anonymity. The fact is that you all were so incompetent that the target not only knew that you all were coming, he knew where you lived, something that will not end well for your uncle or your family. So here you are, until certain things don’t happen.”

“You need to put us back. The Project will be in jeopardy.”

“You, are so critical to the Project that you need to parade through the streets in the Lower City, followed by a parade of tails and everybody of note waving at you? That is a laugh. Did Aunt Oracle tell you that? Or was it your crazy idiot uncle. In any case, out of a spirit of generosity and the fact that you were messing with somebody who I don’t want messed with right now, you are my guests. Enjoy the sun, the beach and the water. If you are really lucky, some cute tailed girls will show up and entertain you.”

“You don’t understand.”
“Actually, I understand perfectly. Crazy uncle was upset that he could not complete the task against House Qinvaris because the High guard showed up, the kids survived and so did the House. So when idiot Aunt Oracle suggested to crazy uncle, “I would appreciate it if Lord Qinvaris is not a problem”, crazy uncle jumped up and said, “I’ll do it!” Of course Aunt Oracle is on bad Clear or something and your uncle is crazy and an idiot, so neither of them bothered to talk with any other members of the Project before going after Richard Harper, Lord Qinvaris, even though Richard’s parents are in the Empire as the Republic’s representive, that is if Jorge’s grandfather isn’t playing troubleshooter, Richard’s brother in law, also at House Qinvaris for the Conclave is the brother of the King of Hammer and the two princes are also at the House. All things that your crazy uncle probably didn’t think to tell you. For that matter, he probably didn’t bother to discover that himself while he was parading around the Conclave.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I am rather annoyed at Aunt Oracle and your crazy uncle. So you get to stay here until I am convinced that Aunt Oracle and crazy uncle haven’t started a war the Project definitely doesn’t need right now. A war in the Empire was not part of the Project at present and a war with Richard is something that some of us were trying desperately to avoid.”

“We were supposed to deal with Lord Qinvaris.”
“A knife in the back in a dark alley would have been “dealing” with the problem. At least until Richard’s family tore things apart looking for his killer. Raiding Richard’s home with you clowns will only keep his landdragons fed.”

“Lord Qinvaris has landdragons?”
“Actually I think that Rosa hired them. They came from the Pen, so they are smart fae landdragons. So they might not have eaten you, but they certainly would have made your lives miserable. Apparently crazy uncle didn’t bother to check out Richard’s people very hard. Did your uncle give you a brief?”
“He showed us maps of the House and the best places to infiltrate.”
“Durlan, tell me that they didn’t have the paper on them?”

Durlan held up a satchel. “I can’t do that. It’s all right here.” Durlan looked at the House Keanorin boys and said, “You are a bunch of idiots, aren’t you?”

“We were going to hide uncle’s plans when we scouted things out.”

“You and your uncle should have burned them before you separated,” Durlan added. “For that matter you are wearing clothes from your estate and I see House pendants. You are probably carrying all sorts of things that somebody could use to figure out who you are if you are caught or killed, things that would lead House Qinvaris and the Justiciars right back to your House.”

“I have tasks ashore, so Durlan, would you square these idiots away,” Paeris said. “Collar them so that they understand their status here and don’t try to run too far up into the hills. Nightwolf’s boys don’t want to have to look for them.”

House Qinvaris Estate.

Richard looked at the once abandoned estate house and grinned. He turned to Chald and said. “You all did a very good job with this.”
“This was fun. I just hope that he doesn’t smell the wet paint. Won’t he spot the real estate over there?”
“No, since Rosa’s grandfather is going to make it a bunch of trees and even if he looks, the estate has a sign on it that it is the farm offices, which it is. That sort of evolved and since we have the hunting lodge and other places, there hasn’t been any pressure to move out. I like having the offices close at hand in any case.”

“Are you really going to kick off a war?”
“That is tricky right now, thanks to Durlan and Paeris. Taking the boys out of the picture provides a level of deniabilty for House Keanorin and if they don’t disown the crazy uncle before he hits here, I will be remarkably surprised.”

“Are you sure that he is going to come?”
“Your father would be the one to ask, or Gander. They probably have insights into characters like this that I don’t. Certainly, at this point he’s been told the consequences of what could happen if he does show up. I think that he will. The interesting thing is what he does afterwards.”
“You are going to let him live?”
“I’m not planning to kill him. If I were, he’s still right there in that waystation, has probably killed one of Cohnal’s riders and nobody would complain if a sudden stray shot just happened to blow his head off. It wouldn’t even be me that took the shot. Frankly, considering all the hotheads on the estate who have lost brothers and cousins to the Hunter’s friends and the fact that they know how to shoot, hanging around here is just plain stupid. The word is going to get out all too soon that Rosa would really appreciate if the Hunter would have an accident and never come near me. If she should mention that the Hunter was responsible for her parents around here, every elf and farmboy would be looking to take a shot at him.”

“If you were never planning to go to war, why all the war talk and the Letter of Intent.”
“First of all, that is serious and if Lord Keanorin doesn’t start making noises about disowning his brother and begging forgiveness, I will kick things off. Though if things keep going the way they are, there won’t be much to go to war with. The main reason for all the war talk is that it puts the focus on me. The Ravathrya probably know better, Paeris certainly does and Stormfire and Herdir do as well, but House Keanorin doesn’t, and if they are looking hard at what I am doing, they aren’t watching your grandfather, Qambois, my brother, Admiral Tollings, Roger, Gander and Jorge. They really should be looking at what Mrs. Steelmaker is doing, rather than me.”

“I think that I begin to see. This is your trucks all over again.”

“Somewhat. Sarya isn’t talking with me, and Jorge doesn’t work for me, but that is part of what is going on. The fact is that House Keanorin has been implicated in a capital crime and at this point, a war with me is the least of their worries.”

“He has Scourge devises.”
“He did. Jorge removed some things and now they are rather useless.”

The Portal Service.

Jehvae was holding down the front desk for Ariryla again and watched what appeared to be a Ravathrya enhanced soldier walked inside wearing a strange uniform and carrying a binder. She looked at him and said, “What may I do for you, captain.”

“I am Jorge Tollings and I was hoping that I could speak with mage Wyrran.”

“What is this about?”
“Misuse of a portal and the murder of one of his people.”

“This is rather serious. Do you have evidence?”
“Yes, I have pictures.”
“Then I should take you to Lord Nerihorn.”

“That will work as well.”

“Let me take you to Lord Nerihorn.”
On their way to Tathaln’s office, Jehvae asked, “So, what do you do here in the Empire, Captain?”
“Various things. One is playing nursemaid for some old fools and expediting the return of lost statuary.”

Jehvae laughed and opened Tathaln’s office door. Lord Nerihorn, Captain Tollings has some information concerning the death of one of our people.”

“Send him in.”

Jorge went into the office and Jehvae closed the door. Tathaln said, “Captain Tollings, I have heard some strange things about you.”
Jorge smiled. “You have been talking to Jorge?”

“Jorge and some others that I don’t think that I want to mention right now.”

“My partners in crime?”

“Perhaps. So what brings you here today?”

Jorge opened the binder and pulled out a stack of paper. “When I was doing something that I can’t talk about, I ran into the body of one of your employees and a portal that had apparently been moved. I have pictures of the body, the portal and the portal’s code and identifier. I was looking for mage Wyrran so that I could turn this over to him and discuss the possibility of other portals where he or Adiun sent somebody and they did not return.”

“Wyrran and Adiun are at the Sanctuary today shifting portals around. Why don’t I set a meeting for tomorrow?”
“I can do that. I don’t want to tell you where this portal is, because if you find it through your normal methods, I was never involved and since I didn’t have a writ, being where I was could cause me some difficulties. I will tell you more tomorrow, but when you do go looking for the portal you will want a Justiciar and some of Gander’s people with you.”

“I will take it under advisement. Whoever did this is in quite a bit of trouble already. Nardual has been enjoying his work with you very much.”
“Mage Wyrran sent him and he has been a help. He hadn’t mentioned that he worked for your House, but considering what we are doing, that is understandable. I didn’t take him on this one as he is helping a lady return some stolen things. Rather large stolen things that she was tired of. This last thing came up suddenly and I couldn’t recall him.”

“It was nice to meet you at last and I have to say, you live up to your reputation. You and Paeris must have gotten along well.”
“I am not going to talk about that since my grandfather is in the country, talking to the other old thief and Nardual is talking to my grandmother. So if I say too much, my grandfather will probably hear about it and I won’t hear the end of it. “I was a pirate working for Paeris Zylvyre.” As if he didn’t do his share, back in the day. I will take my leave.”

Tathaln laughed as Jorge left, looked over the material and then went looking for Jehvae. “Jehvae, make sure that Adiun, Wyrran, Jorge, if he’s available and Jorildyn can meet tomorrow.”
“So the captain had something significant.”
“Yes. Notify Justiciar Wysalynn that we will probably have some business for him. There may be more coming. Here is the material that the captain gave me.”

She looked at it and said, “Where is this?”

“The captain didn’t say. He wants us to do a portal trace, “find” the portal and the body and then go in as if there isn’t anything else there. The captain was there without a writ and probably didn’t want to leave a footprint. That can work for us and there are still some portals that we haven’t found.”

“So a meeting tomorrow. I will add Aimer to the list.”

“That will work.”

The Lower City.

Maethanar came in and joined Tony with a drink. “Something blew up. Just what happened?”

“Somebody called in this idiot called the Hunter and suggested that it would be nice if Richard would have something bad happen to him. The idiot didn’t pay attention when he tried to hire the Guild and they said, “Are you nuts?” and then tried all the usual sources of disturbance and muscle, including Toross and they all said the same thing. So he decided to go it alone and called in his nephews to help. That was when the Emperor had a little chat with Richard and Richard, rather fed up and talking in public, said that if the idiot tries to attack his House and his family, the idiot’s House and all their allies are going to be destroyed utterly. He filed a formal Letter of Intent, cosigned by the usual crowd and started to call up troops. If the idiot tries something, House Keanorin won’t last a day and then Richard probably plans to start in on the other usual suspects. Some of us have been trying to get the idiot to go home and stay there, but so far he still seems to be determined to go through with it. The lady who lives in the House received the Letter of Intent, looked at it and started to look for answers, in the process, finding her idiot uncle’s trophy room with the rings and pendents of twenty fallen Houses including the House of her dead fiancé. To say that House Keanorin is in trouble even if the war doesn’t kick off is putting it mildly.”

“What happened to the nephews? If it is just the one idiot, House Keanorin can disown him and Richard would be in the wrong. If the nephews participate, the House is obviously involved.”
Tony laughed. “Whoever sent the idiot must have annoyed Paeris. He sent the Richflights to collect the nephews, which they did, in a slick little operation. Kicavir and Tim saw the whole thing and they didn’t realize that Durlan and his crew weren’t just tourists from the Fellowship until the idiot nephews showed up, Durlan maneuvered them into an ally where there was a portal and ported the lot away.”

“Where?”
“Somewhere off network with an ancient portal. At a guess, Paeris has them now.”

“What about the idiot?”

“He’s been staying at a waystation waiting for his relatives to set up and assault House Qinvaris and drive Richard and his family to the estate where he will strike.”

“Has Rosa placed a contract on the elf?”
“Not a whiff. Not the Guild, me or the Committee. Apparently her brother wants the character and the rest of the family is going along with him. The idiot doesn’t know that if Richard wanted him dead, he would be dead already. For that matter, there are a lot of boys, with rifles, who would just love dealing with the killer of Rosa’s parents.”

“Taking the Hunter off the table would be a good thing. Apparently Richard has plans that go deeper than that.”

“Or his brother in law just wants to play with the character. I think you’re right and Richard wants this character to do something that would be obvious and worse than a murder rampage so that if Richard starts a war, there will be no doubt why he did.”

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