The Martyrdom of The Grand Master, Chapter 49-50

Alinis discusses tunnels with Chompers. Vestelle has a chat with her brother.

Chapter 49.

The Radiation Lab, Qinvaris Estate

Before taking on the tunnels, Alinis wanted to know what Chompers knew about them. So, she took the tablets with the map and the diary and Fireoak drove them to Chomper’s house. They parked the GP, went up the stairs, knocked, Rainshower opened the door and said, “Alinis, you have brought your prince here at last. It is time for lunch, so welcome. Where are your other friends?”
“We didn’t bring them, Rainshower. We’ve been working on different things since the Conclave started and Fire and I haven’t had a chance to get together with them. We may need to.”
“So you can bring them all here?”
“We need to plan something so we can do that here. I just wanted to show you something that Fire and I found and ask some questions about something.”

Well, come in, come in. Chompers is here from the lab.

Rainshower led Fire and Alinis into the big central room where the table was being set for lunch. Chompers was sitting in the corner and grinned as Fire and Alinis came in. “What mischief have you two been up to?”
“Making Tarranth clean up his barn and finding things.”

“No more work for me, I hope?”
“Maybe. This is just finding something.”

“A new quest or the same quest?”
“A bit of both.”

“Lunch is ready, so why don’t you tell us all about that Hunter character,” Rainshower said. “We have heard all sorts of stories about what happened.”

They sat down and through the tasty plain lunch of pea soup and ham, Alinis told the table the story of how the Hunter had gone after her father and what had happened. When she finished, Mercury said, “That explains a lot. Taeren went charging off to the bank and hired Tony and then nothing seemed to happen, at least Taeren wasn’t doing anything. It sounds as if just about everybody was on top of him.”
“That was about right,” Alinis said. “Fire, Tarranth and some others all had their shots at him before daddy did and he just went into trap after trap after he knew that we were playing games with him.”
“What happened after your father had him?” Rainshower asked. “That is the mysterious part.”

“Daddy sent him home using a portal, he went straight to the Scourge devises that were on the estate, armed one and sent it at the estate through a portal, right in front of a bunch of Portal Service people and two Justiciars. Then, realizing what he had just done, he went through the portal.”

“The devise certainly didn’t go off, Chompers said. “Was there a reason?”
“Jorge pulled the primaries when he and the militia found the vaults. They replaced the Primaries with plates.”

“So those plates they found have been put to good use?”

“Yes, they have.”

Lunch was cleared away and Rainshower said, “So what did you bring us today, Alinis?”

Alinis put the map tablet on the table. “You all probably know about my brother’s barn, even if you haven’t been in it yet, but I thought about the headquarters that Ishendell and the Hidden city had and since I knew about this map tablet, decided to look for the headquarters. It turns out that the headquarters were under my brother’s barn. There also turned out to be a Scourge devise in there that Chief Meadows sent to the Deadlands, but we won’t talk about my brother’s bomb collecting habit.” The table roared with laughter. Alinis continued, “After the bomb was disposed of and some junk was removed, we were able to get into the headquarters and start to go through it. In amongst some other tablets, I found this one.” Alinis started the tablet. The table watched the diary in complete silence and rapt attention. When it was over, Chompers said, “Thank you for sharing this with us, Alinis. My great aunt was the brother’s bonded and there is a reason that landdragons are so prevalent in the family. This also explains why we are here and what the purpose of the Scourge was, even as others twisted it to their own purposes. So what was your question?”

“I want to find the library that my great uncle hid away. I wanted to ask you about the collider and accelerator tunnels.”

“That is something you want to undertake with great care. The tunnels have disappeared people before. There is an underground maze of them and as a youngster, my cousins, brother and I went in there for brief times. None of us got lost, but it was close more than once.”

“Is there anything alive down there?”

“That is hard to say. I doubt that there is much that anything could feed on.”

“Do you have a map of what you explored?”
“I do, but I am reluctant to show it to you.”
“The old tablet has a map and I wanted to compare what you found to what was on the tablet.”

“Now that is a good reason to drag it out. We were never sure just how accurate it was.”

“I want to see where you have been and see if you were close to the library.”
“Why do you think that we were close to the library?”
Alinis brought out the pictures that Byddri had taken. “These are the pictures that Byddri took. I compared them to the tablet and there was an entrance here, where daddy had his old gun shop and range. The entrance had a rockfall and I think that the rockfall was created to hide or cover the entrance so that the inquisition wouldn’t try and use it and find the library. So I think that wherever you were, you were very close to the library.”

Using the post roads and his knowledge of were the laboratory was, Ayre and Robert were able to drive along the road that went along the side of laboratory.

The side of the road where the laboratory stood was bordered by new stout fencing with warning signs on it. There was a Post Road, seemingly into the lab, but the road was marked as Post Riders only and there was a guard post at the corner. Robert drove the car on without slowing and when they were away, said, “Very tight security for someplace that is empty.”

“I think that when the Scourge devises showed up, House Qinvaris opened the place back up because they needed it. We’ve been trying to probe into that place, thwarted by that animal, and they simply walked in and started using the place.”

“They probably didn’t have much choice when the devises started to show up. Let’s go.”

The Darkmage looked at the fence and seethed. The place that he had thought would be essentially unguarded was heavily guarded and the Darkmage would have to use extreme stealth to get inside. He had done such things before and this was not time to flinch. The Darkmage transformed and prepared to assault the radiation laboratory.

The Market, the Qinvaris Estate.

Tarranth looked at the chart as the Projector was being put onto the platform that had been prepared for it. There were only two more that needed to be placed and then he and Chald could get the programming and testing started. So far, all the Projectors had tested but he was sure that issues would crop up. In any case, this was almost ready. Chald walked over and said, “This is going to be impressive when we get it done.”
“Better than Oceanside?”
“We couldn’t have more than four set up because of mana drain issues. We don’t have that problem this time, so we can set all twenty.”
“We’re staggering them so that we don’t have too many draining at the same time. The People in Desert howl are going to be annoyed at me.”
“Why?”
“I didn’t tell them that I was doing this.”

Chald laughed. That’s what the Beinans get for fleecing you.”

“There is that.”

The Radiation Lab, Qinvaris Estate
The Darkmage slithered his way toward the old lab building. He was being careful not to alert the guardian and the other guards that seemed to be everywhere. He could sense the tripwires and avoided them. Finally reaching the door, he slithered inside and to the office he had discovered when he had explored this place long ago. Reaching the office, he opened the cabinet that had keys on hooks inside and the cabinet was empty. Seething, he turned to slowly make his way out.

Elred turned to Chompers as they both watched the Darkmage slither away and said, “You were right. He did manage to get in here.”

“Why did you let him escape?”

“We’re looking to see if he knows about any places to look for keys that we don’t know about. So far, he hasn’t.”

“So you want any loose keys?”
“We want the people that may have devises and keys that we don’t know about. If the Darkmage is scrambling for a key, that means that there isn’t someone out there who has one to give him.”

“I issued all the keys that I had to various people who were likely to need them, so there were none here in any case.”

“That was a good thing, as he wasn’t supposed to be able to get in here.”

Chapter 50.

The Conclave.

Narbeth looked at Galan and asked, “What is so funny?”

“Do you remember Erlanth Eiljeon?”

“Slightly, why?”

“His son came driving up to the Conclave and managed, over the course of less than a day, to make a perfect ass out of himself.”

“How do you know?”
“I have my sources, in this case, Hoddy and Doug, who shared the story with me over a drink at the Ravathyra tavern.”

“So what was the story?”
“Ayre Eiljeon drove up from the Fellowship in a big fancy car. He stopped in at his uncle’s, apparently; his uncle wasn’t there, so he ported over to taste the delights of the Conclave. At the same time, Sergeant Bloodfoot, Nalaea Harper, Keryth Harper and Keryth’s lady friend all arrived in one of Rosa’s carriages to go to the mermaid pool for some Swimming. They returned from that and went to the tavern where a prowling Ayre saw Roger with Nalaea. Since the Eiljeons have a racing team and were beaten by Roger, Ayre still carries a grudge. Roger was called away, Keryth and his lady wanted to do some shopping and Ayre pounced on Nalaea. Nalaea strung him along all afternoon until Gracie and Kaylessa showed up. Gracie and Kaylessa both knew Ayre because of something that happened with their brother some time ago. They were all at the clam shack next to the mermaid pool with Gracie and Kaylessa behind Ayre, who doesn’t see them as he was tearing Roger to shreds. Lori showed up after a mermaid dance and then Gracie started to play a certain crystal for her sister. Ayre, rather humiliated, spotted Roger approaching and leaves, rather quickly. He then bumps into Richard while ogling Nimue and then decides to try the delights in the Lower City. He chose a girl, she started to talk about baths and body odor and he slams her into a wall. The girl presses the button on him and he wakes up facing Andy, who knows him, Tony, Bene and Alen, who slaps him with a fine and a writ of restraint. Hoddy took his picture as he was being hauled out of the house.”

Narbeth started to laugh. “That was making a perfect ass out of himself, all right.”

“Hoddy and Doug had more on the man and he has been like that for some time. I wonder that his wife puts up with it, but according to Hoddy, Ayre pays double for every time that something like this happens.”

“Chasing Nalaea and Nimue was playing with fire, even without their boyfriends. If both Sylvar and Roger were around, the character was asking for trouble.”
“He was asking for trouble.”

Zirgoccol

Vestelle looked at her brother and said, “It was so nice of you to visit me in my confinement, Elion.”

“This wasn’t my idea and if it were up to me, I would let you go into the woods with your boyfriend. That is if he is in the woods.”

“What do you mean?”

“A rather interesting Rebpublican marine captain came by the plant and wanted to look in the woods for your boyfriend and the other animals out there. He wanted to arrange for them to be evacuated like everybody else.”
“Evacuate? Why?”
“There are, or were, Scourge devises just north of the plant that needed to be taken care of and there was some concern about accidents. So far, they have not had one.”

“Did you offer to help?”
“Yes I did.”
“Where is Ayre?”
“He’s up in the Empire, at the Conclave. At least he was. He may have left already.”
“He got himself in trouble again, over a girl, probably.”
“I don’t have the details, but uncle wants 250 gold as recompense for a fine he paid, for Ayre.”

“That was a nice little slap on the wrist. Anything else?”
“Ayre sent Drannor and his clowns to pillage the Beinan facility at Fayspire while Fayspire was evacuated. Ayre was planning to have Drannor make off with the files.”

“I hope that the mess isn’t too big, but why are you talking to me?””
“I’m talking to you because I need to talk to somebody about this. I tried to tell Ayre to stop and he wouldn’t listen. He isn’t over at our shop, so he doesn’t know what the Beinans do there and how tied the facility there is to the navy. That facility does a lot of classified work for the navy and if we get caught, it won’t be the Beinans all over us, it will be the Dragonmaster. That is even if the Beinans don’t do a tit for tat with us and if Drannor is his usual self, they just might. Then there is Captain Tollings and he concerns me more than a bit.”
“Why?”

“He’s been in the area, chasing the Scourge devises and doing other odd jobs for his bosses for some time now and it wasn’t hard to find some things out about him. He went into the Master’s Blight culturing plants and not only came out with all his men intact in what was a suicide mission, he recruited a bunch of the Lady’s things and brought all the mages and their families out as well. Instead of just dealing with one of the culturing plants, he dealt with three. It turns out that the captain was Paeris Zylvyre’s raid leader.”
“So it wasn’t luck and he is very good.”

“Apparently. He’s also poking around our place in the Empty lands. At least somebody is.”

“Ayre was probably a bit indiscreet when he attended the meeting for father. Of course with Scourge devises out, somebody is probably looking into related things.”
“I know, and I tried to tell Ayre the risks. He insisted on sending Drannor in and I have been essentially evicted from our facility until the disposal people sound the all clear. Farmers can get in to feed their animals, but no one else. Considering what happened up in the Empire when a Scourge devise went off by accident, I can’t blame them very much for taking precautions.”

“I do hope that Drannor restrains himself. You know how he likes his little fires.”

“What scares me is that the Beinans do as well. Brother doesn’t have anything nearby, but I live there. So it will be my place that gets hit if the Beinans retaliate and my place that will be investigated while brother makes off with the goods, again. Thank you for listening. Father doesn’t seem to want to.”

Qambois looked at Mrs. Brewhide and asked, “What do you have for me, Vafealine?”

Vafealine put a crystal on the desk and started to play it. It wasn’t obvious what was going on with the plop sounds and the screaming until a voice called out, Mud! Mud! Mud everywhere!”

Qambois was smiling as Vafealine said, “Should I play it again?”
“Yes. Did Yrvien give this to you?”
“Yes she did. As you can imagine, this is going around the family.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“How are things going up there at Fayspire?”
“Things seem to be moving along. The first vault didn’t have very many problems and is done. The second vault has had devises with cart issues, but they have managed to get the devises sent on their way. There is one left to go. They should deal with it tomorrow”

“That is good news.”

Route 1, South of Fayspire.

As the morning mist rose in the growing heat of the sun, Rob opened the vault. This was going to be number five. Rob and the team had been up late discussing the possible problems and a potential solution if the cart had issues. The decision was made to treat the cart as if had issues right from the start and not to even try to move it on its own wheels. So after opening the vault, the team started to fabricate a sort of sled with jacks that fit underneath the cart. The sled was slid under the cart and the cart jacked up. Then the sled was slowly pulled out of the vault with the winch on the truck. Once the cart and the devise were out of the vault, the devise was transferred to a refurbished cart and prepared for launch. As the time approached, Jorge was handed the devise, set the timer and the cart was pushed through the portal. When the message was received that the devise had gone off, Rob said, “That is five, and done. Good job, all of you. Now let’s find a place and celebrate.”

Fayspire.

Drannor had left a little thing in a waste basket that had a timer that would go off about the same time that the devise probably did. He had noticed that things got tense at about fifteen and then wound down about a twentieth later. He was taking advantage of that to head to Innshys and the Empire. The trucks reached the bypass, Drannor’s people had already moved the large cement blocks that had blocked the closed by bypass and the trucks drove onto the bypass, where they sped down the road past Innshys and back on to the road above the town.

The Road to Nytfnas

Saevel and Bellflower had been tasked to watch the road and the closed bypass for the guardchief, who was concerned that bandits might try to take advantage of the evacuation. Apparently the word had gotten out that going into the evacuated area could get you Scourged, as no bandits had even tried to use the road. So Saevel was surprised when the blocks at the top of the bypass had been moved and even more surprised when trucks and cars from the Fellowship came up the bypass and turned left onto the road to Nytfnas, heading north. After Saevel had taken pictures of all the cars and trucks, he turned to Bellflower and said, “We should report this.”

“Yes we should. Jump or the bike?”
“Bike. We can’t chase them and there’s no point in rushing.”

House Beinan Estate- Route 1. Command Post, Provisional Troopers.

Terry was listening to the quiet from the plant when he heard crackling. The cracking got louder and Terry turned to Peri and said, “I think that the plant is on fire.”
“Let’s Jump to the command post.”

They jumped to the command post and Terry said to Roger, “I think our building is on fire.”

Roger looked at him and said, “Do you think that somebody started it?”
“When my dad’s place was hit, a fire was started. There was somebody nearby, and they managed to get the fire department there quickly and put the fire out, so the damage wasn’t that bad, but things did go missing.”

“Ok, let me get the fire department back to town. We just sounded the all clear.”

Fayspire.

Fortunately the fire chief and his lieutenants had been at the command post. Once the all clear was sounded, they put together a squad, rushed to the fire station and had the trucks heading to the plant. Roger, Terry and Peri went straight to the plant where the drafting pen and document control were fully engulfed. Terry looked at the building and said, “Why didn’t the sprinklers go off? They should have.”

The fire trucks arrived and poured water to put the fire out. By the time it was over, several twentieths later, Document Control and the drafting pen were badly burned and the library, adjacent to Document Control, was a watery mess. Peri turned to Terry and said, “Why didn’t you clear out the library?”

“Peri, this isn’t like the Empire, where books are rare and restricted. So there wasn’t a real need to pull most of the books. I did pull some things. I also cleared out a big section of the library here so that we could put some things from the House Library that were relevant to the things we were doing with suppressors. Those hadn’t been brought here yet.”

“Ok, I forgive you. The clowns responsible for this, though, get the treatment.”
Terry smiled. “Peri, would you like to make off with another library?”
“What are you saying?”
“I interned at EiMagic and did some gofer things, including coming to the plant here. Now Ayre is a jerk, big time, but Elion has a library. A library that he’s very proud of, full of the sort of thing you would find at Bidoves.”

Peri smiled. “I think that mother won’t object if I make off with a library for a good cause. The question is how to pull it off.”

“I know some people that could help with that,” Roger said. “Though I really shouldn’t be listening, or mention that Paeris used a delivery truck with a portal inside to pull a jail break.”

“Do you really know somebody?” Peri said. “Dessielle has been nagging me a bit about looking into something that would make a good caper. Gracie and Kaylessa are ahead in the wedding race and she wants something to catch up. We’re going to have to talk to Wyrran about some old portals out there in the Empty Lands, your brother, Terry, about a delivery truck and some boys in the Lower City for muscle. Roger, could you come up with the same sort of distraction that you came up with before?”
Roger grinned. “We just did a farm a big favor, there may have been a thing that was made in the Orcenlands and somebody didn’t learn their lesson the last time. I think that things can be arranged. I owe Ayre a bit because he went after Nalaea.”

Dessielle Jumped in and looked at the building. Turning to the others, she said, “That was deliberate, wasn’t it?”
“Yes it was,” Terry said. “The clowns that pillaged the place do that sort of thing.”

“Peri, we haven’t had our chance to pull off something big. Terry, what do these clowns have that they really like?”

“We were just discussing that, Dessielle. Elion Eiljeon has quite a collection in his library.”

“Then they really shouldn’t be burning our House’s libraries, should they? Terry, do they know about Peri and libraries?”

“I don’t think so, Dessielle.”
Dessielle looked at the ruined library across the building and said, “That was rather foolish. I need to report to dad about this.”

She disappeared again as Terry said, “She has your number, Peri.”

“I know,” Peri said with a grin. “Now do we do this fast or wait?”
“Wait,” Terry said. “The longer they think that we are not going to do something, the more relaxed they will be. I need to get to the office in Zirgoccol and report this as well.”

Terry disappeared and Peri said, “Tell me more about these characters, Roger. I seem to not have run into them as yet.”

“That’s probably because you haven’t spent much time in the Fellowship. You can get more from Adiun, but EiMagic and Beinans do some of the same sorts of things in the business. The Eiljeon have ties to the Darkmage and their friends. That was discovered when Ayre Eiljeon attended that little meeting.”

“You weren’t there when we were playing games on the Retreat and the Camp, but we have a lot of experience in doing things with portals that they are not supposed to do.”

“It isn’t just Jorge?”
“Jorge does know some things that most of us don’t because he’s played with the old portals more than the rest of us and lately the fae have been tied up with other things or just busy, so Jorge gets the crazy stuff. When the suppressors were running, being fae didn’t mean that much and Jorge can Jump anyway. I think that Tathaln and Wyrran are going to clamp down on him somewhat, as he’s become too valuable to have him take big risks or annoy the wrong people. Sending a bear to make the Empress breakfast would be ok. The Consul here, probably not. That thing he did in the Orcenlands was over the top.”
“That wasn’t entirely his fault. The portal was there, we all knew about the meeting and the clanchief’s sons suggested that we ruin their day. They wanted to make the point to their uncle and the others that playing with Scourge devises risks having one sent to you. Based on what I have seen, all the other side cared about was the fact that they had plop dropped on them. Ayre was right there at the Conclave going after my lady, simply because she was my lady and he would gain by taking her away from me. Nalaea is not my property and he just put himself in bad odor with a large potential customer. I imagine that Elion is screaming at his father right now.”

“Should we not make off with the library?”
“I am a Provisional Trooper and I should not be discussing such things. You may talk to me when I am off duty and then engineer Roger will discuss flingers for malodious substances. I think that I need to report this in as well.”

Peri looked at the departing Roger and Jumped to where Dessielle was discussing the fire with her father.

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