The Martyrdom of The Grand Master, Chapter 45-46

Rebecca welcomes some guests. Rob deals with number three

Chapter 45.

House Beinan.

Rebecca stood at the top of the garden steps and said to the gathered wives and children of the evacuees, “Welcome to House Beinan. I am Rebecca, Lady Beinan, and as you can see, I am not very elvish or something out of a high elvish comedy. So we don’t have to act that way. I know that most of you are frightened about the possibility of a devise going off and you losing your homes. I want to let you know that the people working on the devises are the best at what they do and every effort is being made to insure that the devises do not go off near Fayspire. The evacuation is a precaution.

“It is also an opportunity, as the Empire has a Conclave ongoing at present and there is a lot to do, here in the Cloud City and things to discover down in the Lower City and other places. My son and daughter are handing out five day portal keys. For the next five days, you can port anyplace in the Empire. If you have family here, now is a good time to visit. If there is something that you have always dreamed of seeing, now is the time. In any case, welcome to the House.”

Rebecca started to circulate and Andaphin and Joanlya joined her. Joanlya said, “You are a mistress of this sort of thing. Do you know that you will have our people eating our of our hands for ages and none of the other outfits will be able to top this. The fun part is that, since all the Houses already have things, Beinans doesn’t have to pay for it.”
“If what I have seen is true, the Houses are coming out ahead anyway,” Andaphin said. “Who would have thought that House Ravathyra’s big contribution would be its beer?”

“That has worked out for them, hasn’t it,” Rebecca said. “As for this; I wanted to meet some of the people outside the Empire in any case and this seemed like a good time. The husbands slobber all over the House and the Lower City and the wives and kids get the Conclave and all the things going on. We also get the people here talking to the people in Fayspire. I don’t want them to think of themselves as separate.”

“You have a lot of work ahead of you,” Andaphin said. “This is something that we needed, and thank you for taking it on. Zaktea and her friends are taking charge already with Theo.”

“After all, they are experienced Lower City travelers at this point.”

“Where are Peri and Dessielle?”

Rebecca grinned. “I think that they went down to Innshys.”

House Eiljeon.

Ayre walked up from the portal, the House’s Major Domo looked at him rather skeptically and said, “May I help you sir?”

“I am Ayre Eiljeon, here to see my uncle.”

“I am Tolith. Come in and I will see if the Lady is available, Lord Agis is at the conclave at Present. Is the matter urgent?”
“No. I just wanted to visit. What is the portal code for the Conclave? I had to leave my car parked at the hotel at the waystation and get a portal key, which is why I arrived alone. In any case, I have seen a lot of people coming to the Conclave.”

“Portal codes 0125 to 0150 are all the palace area. Any of them will take you to the Conclave. Do you wish to stay at the House?”
“I think that I will have that discussion after I talk to my uncle. I’m used to roughing it when I travel though not quite the way I did the last time I traveled.”
“What happened, if I may ask?”
“I think that I will save the tale for this evening. It is good enough to get me in back of the best goblin restaurant even if I was a victim.”

Tolith grinned as Ayre headed to the portal. It was good see the exiled family return.

The Conclave.

Nightshower grinned as Keyrth arrived in the carriage with his sister and another man. Nalaea called out, “We have Roger today!”

“How did that happen?”
“He was delivering some reports to my father and coordinating the evacuation in Fayspire and I convinced him that since the evacuation was complete, he should take the afterten off and be with us.”

Nightshower stepped into the carriage and said, “Welcome Roger. What do you do?”
Roger laughed and said, “That depends on which Roger you are talking about. Today I am Liasoning with Houses Qinvaris and Zylvyre over the evacuation resulting from the discovery of multiple armed Scourge devises and the removal of same. Recently I was aiding my grandmother in her recruitment of some new helpers, debriefing said helpers for my grandfather since they had been in Ishendell and rewarding the elf who rescued my grandfather. Before that I was playing clan representive for my grandfather in the Orcenlands and technical advisor to Clan Ironhead where there were more Scourge devises discovered and removed. Tomorrow Trooper Roger is back on duty ensuring that the evacuated area remains evacuated. All of this was my grandfather’s fault for the most part.”

“That sounds as if you are very busy.”
“It has been rather chaotic recently.”

“All that wasn’t your grandfather’s fault,” Nalaea said. “Most of it was the Darkmage’s fault for dragging the Scourge devises out in the first place. You did bring some of those seafolk suits up from Oceanside, didn’t you?”
“Yes I did, why?”
“Because otherwise we have to wait in line and I want to stay under longer. Nightshower and I balked the last time we looked at the mermaid pool. Now that you are both here, we can avoid the line.”

“We are all set then.” Roger looked across the crowd and said, “Now there is somebody that I never expected to see here.”
“Who?” Keryth asked.

“Ayre Eiljeon. Not a friend and a rather sore loser. He seems to have cleaned up, but if he comes close to us, sniff a little bit.”
“Let’s just say that he attended a certain meeting where things got very stinky.”
Nightshower gasped. “Were you involved in that? My parents were at that meeting and Jumped to the rafters when the first plops started.”

Roger grinned. “It wasn’t me, other than providing some engineering advice and helping to make something out of some junk. The deed was primarily done by two orc clansmen and a senior portal service technician who I will not name.”

“It was Jorge,” Keryth said. “He was nailed by a bunch of Lower City boys, fae and young members of the Justiciars after Justiciar Dawkins signed a writ allowing the boys about the same amount of time to nail him.”

“Why did Gander sign the writ?”
“Myrdin Dawkins was one of those who had infiltrated and was nailed. He was a cat at the time and Allissa was rather annoyed at the stinky cat that arrived home and had to be washed. So were some other mothers and Gander was pressured to sign the writ.”

“How did they figure out that it was Jorge?”
“That was easy. You can count the number of people with the portal skills to pull that off on one hand, most of them are Beinans or going to marry Bienans, and all were here and not playing with portals, at least not that way. Gracie did make a rather amazing crystal.”

“I think think that I want a copy of that.”

They stepped out of the carriage and went to the mermaid pool for a Swim. Afterwards, they were heading to the Ravathyra tavern when Roger said, “Uh oh.”

“What?” Keryth said.

“I just saw Myrdin Dawkins and he saw me. We should be ok in the tavern, but I think that when we finish our drinks, I should separate for a bit and make my own way back.”

Nalaea grinned. “I will wait at the carnival for you for dinner.”

Ayre had spotted one of his old adversaries, Roger Bloodfoot and the lady who had attached herself to him in the carriage when they arrived. Roger had embarrassed Ayre and EiMagic at the track. The fact that he had done that to everybody else as well was irrelevant to Ayre as the embarrassment and his failure had stung more than a bit. While EiMagic had not been caught up in the Type Three debacle as deeply as the Hammers, they had not been untouched by the scandal. If Ayre could get some of his own back, that would make his day and little seduction and damaging Roger’s reputation would go along way toward evening the score a bit. The fact that the lady was a looker didn’t hurt in that regard.  Ayre watched as the party broke up and Roger left, alone. As the other couple left, Ayre started to make his move.

Roger left Nalaea and her brother and entered the crowds. He was fairly sure that he was up for one of those writs if the boys could manage it. Indeed, as he reached the corner of Imperial Way, Agis Trislana appeared before him and handed him a piece of paper. “The writ has been served. You can go to the location on the writ or you can stay here. It’s up to you. Here’s the anchor.”

Agis touched him and Roger had an anchor to a place that Roger didn’t know. Since he didn’t want to cause a scene or ruin his clothes, he decided to Jump to the location on the writ after a bit of a diversion to change his clothes.

Nightshower looked back and said to Keryth, “Should we have left your sister there all by herself?”
“That character is an idiot. Nalaea has been dealing with predatory characters since she was fifteen or so. It’s part of the price for having my mother’s looks. Of course, she got the fact that she doesn’t put up with fools from dad. I wonder if the clown knows that he is dealing with a Harper.”

“Are the Harpers that powerful?”
“We seem to get in the middle of things and take over. Dad said quite a bit about how things were when he grew up.”

“So you aren’t worried.”

“Only for the idiot.”
Nightshower laughed as Keyrth told her stories about his sister.

Ayre approached the lady and said, “You are too lovely to be left here all alone.”

“I’m meeting somebody later. He just left on an errand.”
“I am amazed that he would leave you so willingly.”

“It wasn’t something that he could avoid.”

“Actually, I know your friend quite well and Roger is good at avoiding things.”

“You know him quite well? I just met him recently.” The girl grinned with a smile to die for.

“Where did you meet him?”

“He pulled me over on the road in Fayspire and I traded him a date for him not giving me a ticket. I’m Nalaea, by the way.”
“Ayre. So why are you here, Nalaea?”

“Other than to have fun, you mean? My mother insisted that I help my cousins.”

“Then you have been here for the entire Conclave then.”

“Indeed I have.”

“This is my first day. Would you be willing to show me around, Nalaea?”

“That sounds like fun, actually.”

The Granary.

Roger emerged from Jump and looked around. He had diverted to the House and changed his clothes from the clothes more appropriate for a date to something more practical.  The place where he had Jumped seemed to be set up for training by the Qinvaris. Behind him was a large complex of more less abandoned buildings; in front of him were a row of boys that all looked rather eager to get him dirty. He was going to disappoint them, by and large. Aldy said, “Good, you came. The writ has been served and we have Justiciar Percaryn to observe. Begin.”

Jorge had told Roger what the boys had done to him. The difference being that Roger wasn’t Jorge and was very good at avoiding thrown objects. That was even before he went into the mode that he used during a race. The boys threw mud and Roger could see where it would land, and moved to avoid it. There was some minor splashing on his legs, but he managed to avoid the lions share until Mhaenal blew the whistle and it was over. He looked himself over and he had actually been hit twice by the boys. All in all, compared to Jorge, he had emerged from this relatively unscathed. Mhaenal pointed and said, “There is a pump over there and I think that you will want to get washed off before returning to change your clothes.”

Roger smelled himself and said, “I think that you are right. Let me get cleaned up.”

“You did better than Jorge did.”
“I had to. I already knew that he had been through this and I have more experience at this sort of thing than he does. Let’s get me cleaned up. What happened to the boys? Are they expecting retribution from me?”

“They went to get cleaned up.”

“I need to do the same and collect a certain crystal from Gracie before returning to my date.”

The Conclave.

Ayre was still charmed by the amazing Nalaea as they wandered in out of the booths and the various entertainments provided by the various Great Houses. Nalaea knew many of the elves and others that they encountered and could tell Ayre just what every House put behind their entertainment. Ayre was tempted to take notes for his mother but he didn’t want to spoil the path of seduction. He thought that things were proceeding well as they approached the Imperial entertainment. Nalaea said, “Why don’t we sit down here and watch the circus while you tell me what you know about Roger.”
“What if I what can tell you about isn’t good?”

“I will be the judge of that, I think.”
“Did you know that Roger got his job as a Trooper through his father?”

“Then he isn’t a good Trooper?”

“Up until recently, Fayspire was where the Provisional Troopers put the Troopers that were, shall we say, placeholders.”
“Roger seemed to be well liked along the road.”
“The fact is, that his brothers and sisters are all sort of beach bums.
“Are they really now. I haven’t known them at all.”

Ayre continued his destruction of Roger as act after act was performed by the fae of the circus when he spotted somebody he did not want to spot him, Gracie Beinan, along with her sister. He turned to Nalaea and said, “I could use a snack. Is there a nice place nearby or should we return to the tavern?”
“I know just the place, right next door and the mermaid dancing is the perfect way to end a rather pleasant afterten. Come along.”

Nalaea led him to a rather large pool and a little shack sort of place next to it, creating the atmosphere of a place on the beach in Oceanside. There was a long line of girls and couples next to a rather large shack, so curious, Ayre asked “What is going on there?”
“The people there are lining up to be seafolk for a twentieth or so. The lines are rather long. Shall we sit down? The mermaid dancing is going to start soon. There’s a table right next to the water.”

They sat and a young girl charged up and said, “Hi, not an aunt! Who is this?”

“This is Ayre. I met him this afternoon.”
“Nalaea, you don’t want to be like my Aunt Lori, do you?”
“Thessa, I wouldn’t worry about that. I don’t think that I would behave that way. I am just entertaining Ayre here for other reasons.”
“Where is Roger?”
“Some boys spotted him and demanded retribution. He’s dealing with that, Thessa.”

“What do you want to order?”

“A basket of clam and fries should be fine, shouldn’t it Ayre?”
“Yes that should do as a snack.
“Two teas, as well.”

The girl charged off again and returned with their order as the dancers started. The performance was wonderful and while the snack was not to Ayre’s usual taste, the company and the entertainment made up for a lot of defficiencies. As the dance ended, A mermaid popped up next to them and said, “Hi Nalaea!”

The mermaid looked at Ayre and said, “Nalaea, be very careful with him. This character is rather slimy.”

Ayre looked at the mermaid more closely and it was Lori Hammer. She looked at him and said, “I see that you figured out who I was, Ayre. Do you like the new me?”
“You must have had your fun with the wrong man,” Ayre said rather despondantly.

“Actually, it was the right man, finally. How is Tillia. Is she here?”

“No, she is not, Lori.”
“So, you are looking to play with Nalaea here. I do hope that you know that she is fairly serious with my brother in law.”

“Your brother in law?”

“I’m sure that you know who Roger is. After all he chased your riders off the track. The girls are about done, so I need to go. Watch this one, Nalaea. I don’t think that you want to do business with his outfit.”

Lori disappeared and Nalaea turned to Ayre and said, “What outfit? This was a little bit of a date. Are you looking to see if we can do business?”

“I don’t even know your last name, Nalaea.”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? “It’s Harper. Nalaea Harper.”

“That doesn’t tell me very much. There are a lot of Harpers.”

“Mud! Mud! Mud everywhere!”
Ayre turned his head and there were Gracie and Kaylessa with a crystal that they were playing and laughing over. It was quite obvious from the sounds on the crystal that it was a recording of the dramatic end of the Project meeting. Gracie turned her head and said, “Ayre, I didn’t see you there.” She sniffed and added, “Did some farm animal make a mess?”

“Why are you here, Gracie?”
“I could ask the same question. Actually I’m here because my father is. Also, I found somebody and the family is getting together again. I expect that makes you rather nervous. After all, the Darkmage didn’t tell you what else has been sent through portals at him.”

“You did that!”
“Actually it wasn’t me. I had other things going and you all really need to pay better attention to people listening if you want to keep your little cryfests discreet. In any case, it wasn’t me running plop through a portal. Being up here has made doing some things oh so much easier and portals have turned out to be so much fun, and teaching others how to be really effective with portals is even more fun. Nalaea, in case you haven’t figured it out, this is Ayre Eiljeon and Ayre, his company and family all have a well earned reputation. Not a good one, unfortunately. Where is Roger?”
“ We were to meet at the portal to the Market in about half a twentieth.”

“I think that I will leave you ladies,” Ayre said.

“Thank you for a rather charming afterten,” Nalaea said. “I think Roger found us, Gracie.”

A seething Ayre left rather rapidly as he was sure that Roger could make his life miserable, Ayre was alone and Ayre didn’t know just how many friends Roger had here.

Roger smiled as he deigned to not watch Ayre run off rather hurredly. He looked at Gracie, Kaylessa and his sister in law all there next to Nalaea and said with a bit of a grin, “What did you do to poor Ayre?”
“Nothing all, Gracie said. “I was just playing a certain crystal for my sister here, Lori stopped by and Thessa was her usual self.”

“That was probably more than enough. So, was Ayre entertaining, Nalaea?”
“Very much so. Of course he was trying to charm me and so he was quite willing to let me lead him through the nose. Did you send Gracie?”
“I may have mentioned that Ayre was in town after I cleaned up and went to see if she would give me a copy of a certain crystal. I see that Ayre has heard it already. I was tempted to see if the boys would like somebody easier than me to play with, but I felt that was over the top, even for Ayre.”

Nalaea looked at the others and said, “You all seem to know him, even Thessa.”

“I certainly know him from my wanton days,” Lori said. “I suspect that Gracie and Kaylessa know him all too well as he messed up a relationship that their brother was pursuing and I will have to ask my sister how she knows him since Thessa seemed to know him.”

Ayre did what he always did when he had a failed hunt, start another one. Here in empire, his wife would not hear of his playing games, though he was sure that Lori would let her know about his humiliation with Nalaea. In any case, he was enjoying the scenery and the atmosphere of the Conclave when she appeared in his line of sight. He changed course to approach the lady when the girl called out, “Daddy!” and headed toward him. He wasn’t looking and bumped into a man wearing an elvish tunic and a slave’s collar. The man turned and said, “I’m sorry, my daughter distracted me.”

Ayre was about to teach the slave a bit of a lesson when a young half elf looked at him and shook his head. Something made him back off when a fae appeared and said, “Lord Qinvaris, I have the itinerary for the meeting tonight.”

Ayre looked at the fae and recognized Nightstalker, who had somehow managed to get a job as some sort of aide to Lord Qinvaris. Ayre watched the man as he greeted his daughter and handled business as they walked down Imperial way, with the girl being joined by an elf, who was obviously her boyfriend. Ayre decided that since he didn’t know how to play the game, he would go where he did. There were places in the Lower City that were notorious and he had coin, so he could deal with his frustrations.

Doug nudged Hoddy and said, “Look who’s here.”
Hoddy grinned. “All by himself. He looks to be a bit out of his depth. He’s been lucky. Where do you think he’s going?”

“If he follows his usual pattern, he’s heading to the Lower City. Why don’t we have a chat with Tony about a customer he should know about?”

“Let’s do that.”

House Eiljeon.

Agis Eiljeon entered his House and his major domo, Neldor Loraro said, “We have a visitor, milord.”

“Who is it?”

“Your nephew, Ayre from the Fellowship.”

“Is he here?”
“He went to the Conclave.”
“That should be safe enough. Has he returned?”
“Not as yet.”

“I do hope that he has matured out of my brother’s peccadillos.”

“I have no way of knowing, milord.”

“Let me know when he returns. I want to know what was discussed at the recent meeting.”

“I will milord.”

The Lower City.

Ayre felt refreshed as he entered the area that a discreet chat at his hotel and pointed him to when he asked. There was a small casino next to the portal and he would see if he could drop some coin later, but for now, he needed to take the edge off his frustration. He picked a house, entered, spoke to the madam and was taken to a room where he could choose a companion. There was half elf girl much like Nalaea and he made his choice, the girl led him to a quiet boudoir and started to undress and massage him. As she was doing that, she said, “Milord, you must have been working hard. You are all tense. There is a bath available, the extra charge is reasonable and will make our time more pleasurable.” The girl sniffed a bit, “Perhaps clean you off and refresh you.”
The anger and humiliation all came back and Ayre took a swing at the girl, knocking her against the wall. She shook and said, “We don’t allow that.” Reaching for her slave collar, she touched it and Ayre went black.

When he woke up, he was sitting in a chair being slapped awake. A woman’s voice said, “You are awake, Mr. Eiljeon. The question now is what to do with you. Fortunately, you didn’t actually get a chance to hurt Fauna before she pressed the button on you. So you will not be forced to pay for healing more than a few bruises.”

“She is a slave, why do you care?”
“Mr. Eiljeon, are you truly that foolish? Fauna represents quite a bit of income and she was not cheap when she was purchased. So I have every incentive to provide for her welfare and protect her. For that matter, I want to make sure that she doesn’t want to leave. I hope that you think about your employees better than that. Now Fauna, did you do anything to provoke Mr. Eiljeon here?”
Ayre couldn’t see Fauna as she said, “Not a thing, milady. I did suggest the baths, maybe hinting that he should clean up a bit, but I do that with all the customers. Madam Makaela likes us to promote the baths since we had them installed, so we get a bonus when the customers use them. I was doing that when suddenly, he slammed me against the wall and I pressed the button.”

Ayre suddenly hear a voice that he hoped he would never hear again, Andy Lion’s. “He has a rep in the Fellowship, Bene; a rep as a beater. In fact he’s banned in all our places in the Fellowship. I didn’t know that he was in town here or I would have told you about him.”

“The question is what do we do with him?”

“If this were the Fellowship I would call the cops and have them pick him up.”

Another voice said, “Andy, what are you saying? I thought that you didn’t talk to the cops.”
“Tony, for most things, that’s true. But when it comes to things like beaters, I’ve found that a good public perp walk does wonders. Clowns like this really don’t want their dirt all over the papers. So I call the cops and then call a reporter and drop some hints. Unfortunately we can’t arrange that here.”

“He has family here. Alen, is there a way to do something similar?”

“I could issue a public writ of indenture and a writ of restraint. Since Mr. Eiljeon has a history, I have no problem writing a writ of restraint against him. As for the other, I would write the writ or you could ask for a fine. A fine is public, by the way.”

“How much of a fine,” Bene said. “The compensation for Fauna’s healer and a couple of days off won’t be that large.”

“How much can he afford?” Alen asked. “Andy, you seem to know about him. A fine should sting more than a bit.”
“He’s loaded. I would say that a fine of a hundred gold should get the point across.”

“That should work. The fine is large enough to get people’s attention and discourge visitors from beating the girls up because they are slaves and not so large that the visitors think that we are making slaves of them. Will people in the Fellowship know who he is?”

“They certainly will, Alen,” Andy said.

The Justiciar came into view and said, “Mr.Eiljeon, I know that this is irregular for you. I am Justiciar Alen Zylsalor, responsible for the Lower City. I know that in the Fellowship there would be an expensive and very public trial for something like this, especially if the girl were badly hurt or killed, but we do things a bit differently here. Now, do you have anything to say before I sign the writs?”
“She is a slave!”

Alen looked at him rather askance. “So? If you had actually hurt Fauna, you would have been paying significant compensation. Slaves like Fauna are not cheap and I don’t know where you got the idea that we just go around beating the slaves at every excuse. Since you don’t seem to understand the consequences of your actions, the fine stands. 100 gold, compensation for the healer and Fauna’s lost earnings for a five day. I will also sign a writ of restraint against you, since Bene does not want you as a customer. You have ten days to pay the fine. If you should retreat to the Fellowship before doing so, you may be subject to collection by the Marshalls.”

The Justiciar went out of sight, there was some scritching of a pen, the Justiciar returned and put two pieces of paper in Ayre’s pocket. “That should deal with this. Do pay promptly, Mr, Eiljeon. Folks, my wife is expecting me this evening, so I will bid you good day.”

Tony called out, “Boys take this character to the portal and to his House. Mr. Eiljeon, I would pay the fine, get in that fancy car you have and go home. You shouldn’t be playing a game where you don’t know the rules.”

As Ayre was being hustled to the portal a flash went off. He didn’t see who was taking the picture, but with the way things had gone this day, it was probably a reporter and he was going to be in trouble again.

House Qinvaris.

Tom laughed as his sister in law charged down the hall.“Tom! What brings you here?!”

“I’m keeping out of my subordinates’ hair while they perform a rather delicate operation. They are sending multiple Scourge devises to the Deadlands and I am resisting the urge to meddle in what they are doing. Since I didn’t want to be twiddling my thumbs and making Rob nervous, I thought that I would come up here and see the Conclave, touch base with dad and Harald and maybe talk to Admiral Shanelis, Tanyl Zylvyre and my brother about the not so Empty Lands.”

“How are things going down there?”
“Rather smoothly, once we got in. The biggest issues were that the Darkmage wasn’t there and the idiot at the Retreat wanting to pass every decision to the Master, who is dead. Lord Zylvyre came down and dealt with that, somewhat. The problem is that Tanyl has to deal with the rest of the idiots up here.”

“Your mother likes Tanyl quite a bit, so be nice or you will be in trouble. She threatened to set Chompers on Richard if Richard wasn’t.”
“There is another person I want to talk to if Richard can arrange it. There are some things down there in Desert Howl that we can’t figure out and I may need access.”

“How did that become the Navy’s job?”
“It hasn’t yet. Most of it has landed on the Office of Inanimates, but I’m expected to provide the support overseas.”
“That support being Jorge.”

“Yes, Jorge and Rob. At least I can provide direct support now, if they need it.”

“I think that Richard made the point that it was better to have Jorge make off with the devises in the dark than to have the TAVs show up at the gate.”
Tom laughed. “It doesn’t seem to have made a big splash.”
“A couple rather brutal examples was all it took. Richard is at the Conclave, Tarranth and Chald are setting up the Projectors that you sent up for their big show and Alinis is digging into something that she isn’t talking about.”

“Scourge related?”

“It may be, but she found a rather remarkable tablet in the old family headquarters and she has been running around talking to various people. They won’t tell me what she is up to, since she asked them not to and I have been rather busy with the Conclave.”

“Where was the old family headquarters? We are just beginning to look into the place at the Hidden City.”

“Under Tarranth’s barn. I don’t think that you have been out there yet.”
“Tarranth has a barn?”
“Yes he does, after I insisted that he couldn’t bring the discoveries that he was digging up here or the estate house anymore.”

“So the vaults were not the first time that Tarranth dug something up.”

“Not hardly,” Rosa said with a pout. “We haven’t been down to see his museum yet, what with two Conclaves and the rest of it, but his barn probably gives it a run for its money. Why don’t I take you to the Conclave, show you around and arrange for you to spend some money.”

“I thought that the Houses were not supposed conduct business during the Conclave? At least they are not supposed to conduct business at the the Conclave.”
“They are not. That doesn’t mean that business is not being conducted, but it’s at tables and in back rooms. But the craft shops from the Lower City, Elysahone and the Santuary have permission and if there are some other exchanges at the various things that the Houses are doing, that does happen.”

Tom started to laugh. “I imagine that the Darkmage is staying away, since he no longer has an army.”
“Are they prisoners?”
“No. The Sanctuary claimed them as family troops, they marched up to the portal and ported up. Apparently the colonel up there needed experienced people, so his boss came down, talked with my people and Tanyl and made it happen. The biggest concern was that Richard would squawk if the Sanctuarly would rearm them, but apparently that wasn’t an issue.”

Lythienne was walking by and spotted her son. “Tom! You came up!”

“I wanted to get out of some people’s way for a bit. I also want to talk to Chompers and see the lab.”

“Richard can arrange that.”

“I was sure of that. I didn’t want to push Rob to get me in. Brouzen has been in already. I also want to talk to Admiral Shanelis about coordinating in the not so Empty Lands and what he may need that we can leave behind.”

“Your father is here, so why don’t you go up to his office?”

Tom’s mother let Tom to her husband’s office and opened the door. “Dan, you will never guess who just showed up.”

Dan smiled as he saw Tom and said, what brings you up here, Tom?”
“The portal was just sitting there at the Retreat, I had a key and some supbordinates did not want me looking over their shoulders.”
“Rob and Jorge. They are dealing with the second Scourge devise and it’s better that I stay out of the chaos.”

“So other than keeping out of their hair, why are you here?”

“I thought that I would get a look at the Conclave, do some shopping for my wife’s birthday and see if I could visit the laboratory and have a sitdown with Chompers.”

“You will need to talk to Richard about that.”

“I’m going to. So, have you been given any trouble over me taking the Empty Lands?”

“Not one sound from the Ravathyra brothers. How did things go there anyways?”

“Dumag handled things in his usual style. Stormfire and his people never saw him coming.”

“There are rumors that the Darkmage is looking for an arming key. Did you secure the one he had?”

“That we didn’t. Stormfire gave his key to his brother, who did not have it when his body was found.”

“Tell us about the thing going on down there near Fayspire that you are running away from.”
“I’m not running away, just keeping out of my subordinate’s hair.”

Chapter 46.

Route 1, South of Fayspire.

Rob opened the vault and started in on number three. Almost immediately a rather serious problem started up. As they started to move the cart, the right rear wheel started to crumble and fall apart, corroded into fragility. George ran and found a screw jack and several square posts to shore the cart up and kept the cart and the devise from turning over and jarring, though it had been close. After the cart was supported, George turned to Rob and said, “Now what?”

“We find another cart or a new wheel, actually all the wheels. See if there is an engine hoist here or if we can get one from House Qinvaris. I think that we want to move this devise to another cart after we check the wheels. We have five of them.”

“There’s a hoist and a cart in the truck. I thought about that when we set up the truck in case we needed something like this.”

“George, you are lifesaver.”

“Just so that you remember that when my review comes up.”

Rob grinned. “Don’t worry, I will make sure to forget.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

It took quite a bit of work, but they managed to get the truck positioned, the hoist was used to lift the devise and lower it gently on the replacement cart. The cart was set up on the pusher, the pusher turned over to Jorge and with huge sighs of relief, sent to the Deadlands. When the message came back, Rob said, “That’s three.”

Nightblade was fairly sure that his patrol and the others were being watched. After the first boom he had quietly requisitioned some paint from a hardware store and painted wet paint on some streets in Fayspire. Suddenly there were paint marks of a truck heading right to the Beinan plant. He wasn’t sure where the truck went in the other direction as they used a different route to avoid the patrols. He pulled out the camera and took a picture of the paint marks. It was time to report this in.

Drannor watched the GP and its rather wolfish driver pass. The wolf had been sneaky and had moved the time of his three times a day patrols around so that Drannor couldn’t pick up on his routine. Drannor had only spotted the paint after the trail had been laid and he was fairly sure that the wolf suspected that he was still out there. Now that he was finished pillaging the Beinan plant, he had another problem, evading the roadblocks on the way out. Fortunately, 2nd Army and some road construction that had been necessary were going to provide the answer at night in a couple of days.

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