Mysteries of The Hidden Estates, Chapter 23-24

“How does that work?”
“So far, she has had an amazing success rate. In any case, she wants the boys’ details so that she can work on it. That’s good for the boys and better for their girlfriends.”
“The boys have girlfriends?”
“Yes they do.”

“That was fast.”
“It’s the innocence, I tell you.”

Chapter 23.

Oceanside.

“It’s about time you got back, Chald!”

“Vinnie, you’re lucky. Lori wanted to take the girls home using the Oceania’s ship and the coaster from the Hidden City. I said that we needed to get back, so we used the portal and the train again.”

“How did the pool work out?”
“Wonderfully and the pool is on its way here. We can set it up at the beach and give bower tours. The portals worked great with some modifications. They are coming down as well. What happened to Jorge?”
“I have no idea. He was in and out, went over the proposal for the rental with Wyrran and I and then was sent someplace. I think that his bosses don’t want the Darkmage able to find him again. He’s coming to dinner and you can find out what happened. Wyrran is coming down here to talk to Darkmaker as well.”
“We have him until things are set up here.”

“I told Wyrran that. He’s not going to poach, but Wyrran needs somebody a bit older to rid herd on his people. Lissia is going to come down as well to talk to the boys. She’s responsible for getting the families back together.”

“How does that work?”
“So far, she has had an amazing success rate. In any case, she wants the boys’ details so that she can work on it. That’s good for the boys and better for their girlfriends.”
“The boys have girlfriends?”
“Yes they do.”

“That was fast.”
“It’s the innocence, I tell you.”

Gears walked into the barbecue place, looked around, spotted who he was looking for and called out, “Wiz, you are here! I was looking for you and somebody said that you were here.”
“Gears! Meet my wife, Osceaia. What brings you down here?”
“Do you have any connections to the Beinans anymore?”
“Not at all. They tossed me.”

“Can you keep something discreet?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“The boss did a job recently and I think that we may have been had.”
“Something involving the Beinans?”

“They may have been around. Who are you working for now?”
“The Imperial Navy, if you can believe it. I’m helping get them into the modern world.”
“Ok, I’ll show you.” Gears went outside and returned with a drawing tube. He pulled a drawing out and put it on the table. “The job involved a lot of these.”
Wiz frowned and said, “Has your client actually tried to make this?”
“Why?”
“You’ve been had.”

“Definitely? How did they pull it off? They would have needed hundreds of drawings.”
“That was the easy part. Some of the drawings were probably real, of dead projects and things that didn’t work. The rest is going to take some explaining. How much would your client pay for me telling them how it was done.”

“I would have to take that back to the boss.”

“You can tell him that I will give him the explanation for 100 thousand silvers.”

“That’s a lot to ask for.”

“It seems like a fair price to me for a consulting contract and I imagine that your client is going to start to making parts and trying to make sense out of what they have. That won’t work out for them, especially if Beinans starts to push.”
Gears pulled a small wooden disk out, “I can probably get the boss to pay, if you can tell me what this is?”
Wiz looked at the disk and said, “Payment in advance for that, along with another fifty thousand.”

“You know what this is?”
“I’ve seen them before and I know what they are for. I do hope that you cleared all of them out and separated them from the materials here. I would burn that one and any others you find.”

“Burn them?”
“The little wooden disks burn nicely.”

“The client is going to want to reverse engineer these things.”

“I can tell them where to go in the Lower City to have them fabricated if Beinans doesn’t have a nondisclosure agreement as part of the contract. They wouldn’t help you very much all by themselves.”

“I’ll tell the boss to bounce it back to the client.”

“Why don’t you have dinner, on me? This is my cousin’s place and the food is a bomb. We can catch up on things.”

“I’ve never turned down a free meal in my life.”
 “Did we have to dress up, Shael?” Jorge whined.

“Yes we did. Chald asked me to.”

The grinning cab driver dropped them off at the boatyard and said, “I’ll be back to pick you up when the lady calls.”

Shael dragged the rather morose Jorge to where Lori was waiting at the top of the gangway and up the gangway to the deck. Lori was smiling and said, “You caught him.”
“I was lucky. He hadn’t slipped out into the Empty Lands yet. We have him for tonight and tomorrow, so he can help Chald and Darkmaker with the portals and you can take me on a Swim and a tour of the bower.”

“That sounds like a wonderful day. No bear this time?”
“Snowball didn’t want to shave, so he stayed home. I have Jorge this time and I should be fine.”
“Chald and the family are waiting, so let’s go inside and sit down.”
As Lori and Shael entertained the rest with tales about the Conclave, the Colonel came up to Jorge and said, “You ran out on me.”
“I didn’t have a choice. Shael came down and dragged me off right into the middle of a high elf comedy. I gave a brief to Roger, Dragonleader Beinan and Captain Tollings that will be sent around.”

“The tribunal will want to speak with you.”
“I know. They will have to clear that with my bosses. I think that my bosses will want to go for that.”

“I doubt that they want the Darkmage to get his hands on you again. A devise appeared in Zirgoccol yesterday. It scared some people until it was determined that the thing was inert.”
“Most of them are and you can tell the Consul that if it is live, it will not end up in the Fellowship. The live devises should end up in the Deadlands with the rest of them. There are only two live devises on the island in any case. I used one up to calibrate the portal.”

“Launching the thing off could hurt you at the tribunal.”

“Jorge told me about the defense council. He can try, but I needed to show that I was giving the Darkclown what he wanted without actually giving him what he wanted and that was one less devise that the Darkmage can throw someplace else.”

“I think that you have the right attitude where the Tribunal is concerned.”
“Has the defense counsel seen the tablet with the Scourge?”

“Since I haven’t seen that tablet as yet, I doubt that the counsel has.”
“Has it come up at the Tribunal?”
“Not as yet. The prosecution hasn’t seen it as relevant.”

“Good. I can use it as a surprise. When the Scourge is involved, seeing the consequences makes a difference.”

“What about the Orcenlands?”
“Should I deny knowing anything about it?”
“If the matter comes up, answer truthfully.”
“I don’t think that causing disruption to the enemy is out of bounds.”
“No it is not. But what you did may add to your reputation that you are a bit wild and crazy.”
“The crazy part wasn’t doing what we did, but talking about it. We were careful when we did things. But the fuss has been after people realized that it was Roger and I that did it. The Clanmembers have been off the hook since the Justiciar boys haven’t caught up with them yet.”

“The Justiciar boys? That sounds like trouble.”

“It could be.”

 Rydel went through his usual morning routine, set up on his stand and waved as the Colonel went to his swim. He had just finished his breakfast when a familiar voice said from the water, “You were right, Sierell. It is a pretty easy job.” 

Rydel looked around the water and there, wearing one of those suits, was his mother with Meris’s mother. At least he hoped that it was one of those suits and that his mother hadn’t done what Lady Yllannan had done. He called out, “Mother, what are you doing here?”
“Taking a break now that the Conclave is over, meeting new family and seeing what my lazy sons are up to.”

“What about father?”
“What about him? I can hardly visit where he is, he was caught red handed being an idiot and since your uncle actually sent a Scourge devise at the Qinvaris, the Empress is rather reluctant to ask for clemency. Since your uncle and your father went to some lengths to get the devises in the first place and your sister is determined to haul out all the family’s dirty laundry, I thought it best to get clear of things for a while. There is nothing I can do for your father in any case that I have not already tried. Since Sierrel and I will be a distraction, we will see you and Meris later.”

As his mother slipped back below the water, Rydel had a growing sense of doom.   

House Qinvaris Estate, Alinis’s house.

Once Getrid and Rogerd were settled in with the Atwater boys, they were given a whirlwind tour of the estate, the market, the House and both the Cloud and Lower Cities by Alinnis and Fireoak, ending with a rather informal dinner with Alinis’s brother and parents. Getrid was sitting next to Richard and Rosa at dinner and said, “I’m surprised that you are letting your daughter do this.”

“We have never confined our children,” Rosa said. “I lived the life of the high elf girl in the gilded cage until Richard came along and I didn’t want that for my children. So they worked and played out here, on the farm for most of their lives. In any case, this is an important task that Alinis has set herself on and she is determined to follow the path where it leads.”
“Aren’t you concerned about the risk?”
“Somewhat,” Richard said. “Rosa and I didn’t expect Alinis to come up from the Republic and start looking for large bombs, let alone find them. She did and that was a good thing.”

“Will we be encountering large bombs?”
“You can go over that with Chompers when you talk with him tomorrow. He has been down in the tunnels and knows what may be down there. Chompers and Rob Bronzerock will also go over what we know. There shouldn’t be any Scourge devises in the tunnels as it doesn’t appear from what we found in the records that the family kept any Scourge devises itself. My guess is that they couldn’t hold on to them in the face of pressure from the Inquisition. Alinis is going to show you something that will explain some of it.”

After dinner was over, Alinnis brought out a tablet and said, “This is what started my search for the library in the tunnels.” She played the tablet and Getrid said, “Has your uncle seen this, Alinis?”
‘Yes he has. He actually made a book about this for the Seats of the Conclave.”

“I hope that they understand that they have been given a great treasure.”

“That’s hard to say. He and Aunt Tilly are taking a roundabout way to the boat home, so they are having a wonderful time.”

“You said that you had a map of the tunnels. Why don’t we get started?”

Alinnis pulled out some paper maps and another tablet. “Here are Chompers and my great grandfather’s maps from when they explored as boys and Chompers’s boys further explorations. The Tablet has a map of the whole thing, but it isn’t very detailed and is confusing, because we don’t know what the things mean. Both Chompers and my great grandfather said that the tunnels are full of stuff and that junk has blocked things. They also said that they never found a tunnel close to collapse. I thought that we would talk to Chompers and my grandfather here in the morning and go through the headquarters in the afterten, so that you can get a feeling as to what things are like.”
“We’ve both been through some of the tunnels in Ishengard,” Rogerd said. “I’ve explored some vaults and what not in the Republic that I don’t want to say very much as yet until I can find some investors to back a proper expedition. When you return, I can take you and Tarranth to some of them.”

“What for?”
“To open vaults, of course.”
Alinnis grinned. “We will get you and my cousins here tested before we go down. On the other hand, Amra’s tablet said that there were factories and things in the Republic that I don’t think that anybody has found.”

Chapter 24.

The Island.

Paeris watched the last devise get pushed through the portal and said, “Why did you launch one at Desert Howl?”
“I would like to know that as well, father,” Herdir said.

“There are reasons that I will not explain.”
“Father we just attacked all three Blasted Lands and caused massive devestation. That makes us the most hunted people in the world. There isn’t any point in hiding anything now.”
“I’m not going to tell you. I will say that Scourging Desert Howl is important.”

“What are you going to do with the last devise?”
“There is an event coming up where all our enemies will be attending and that will be the perfect opportunity to remove them. If we accomplish that, the Project can move forward at last. I will tell you when the time comes.”

Desert Howl

Hagred was startled by the sudden flash in the distance that came through his office window. He got up from his desk and charged to the door, running to the end of the porch to see the mushroom cloud rising in the distance from the direction of the Deadlands. The Darkmage and his friends had apparently sent one of the original devises through a portal and Jorge’s diversion had worked the way it was supposed to. With a sigh of relief, Hagred returned to his desk to write a message to Thaetmaeg.

The Mage Academy.

Making her rounds as mistress of the Mage Academy, a role that still fit fike a poorly made dress, Elincia entered the room where Mage Wyrran and Kaylessa were supervising a rather eclectic group of Beinans, mechanitiars from the Sanctuary and junior mages from the Academy, all of whom had been working on the devise more or less dismantled in the center of the room, with Saevel and his friends acting as gofers and assistants. Wyrran turned as Elincia walked up and said, “Welcome milady. Come to see our progress?”
“I thought that I would. Will you have this ready by the funeral?”
“We should. We managed to pull material from the archives, the Sanctuary library and some things that the Qinvaris had and we went over the devise that was still working in the Qinvaris headquarters first.” Wyrran waved at the tables and workbenches filled with tools and parts and said, “I know that things look bad now, but they always do at this stage. We should have this together and operating correctly. I will arrange for a portal prepared for a one way port to the deadlands and Jorge will be here for the service in any case. Rob will be here as well. So any devise will only be here active for a brief time in any case.”

Elincia grinned. “I will leave this to you, then. The Darkmage has devises and almost nothing else at this point.”

Freywick

Ayre mused that there were good things about his cover more less being blown because it was known throughout the Mortal Kingdoms that he worked for Richard. The bad part was that it was almost impossible to remain discreet when you had open royal invitations for dinner and just about every official and innkeeper knew who you were. On the other hand, those innkeepers and officials meant that Ayre no longer had to do his own legwork. That made his pursuit of Elf Omayarus much easier as he could just ask the various spymasters and guard to keep an eye out for the elf and wait for the reports. That meant that even though Ayre was sure that the elf had tried to avoid being tracked as he had moved through the Empire and back to Astaire, the attempt was rather pointless. At least until Ayre had arrived in Freywick and Elf Omayarus had seemingly disappeared. So here he was, in Astaire’s capital, with a mystery. There were three main roads out of Freywick and the elf had apparently not used any of them to leave. That left a road that was a track left from the remains for an old Imperial road. His contacts in the palace said the road led to an estate in the Empire, but almost nobody came down the road and the people there were very standoffish. So, sample case at the ready, he started up the road from Freywick with Maldin, looking to see what was at the end of the road. They passed some traffic, various people working the farms and running errands from the village that they passed. Past the village, the road followed the river, winding its way through the hills and around a mountain until suddenly there was a bridge and on the other side, a gate and what appeared to be a tool booth. As they rode up, several rather large types bearing weapons poured out of a guardpost and a rather officious type came out of what was probably an office. “Toll is one gold.”
“One gold? That seems rather high for a bridge.” Ayre reached into his purse for a coin.
“What are your goods?”
“I trade in fine gems and jewelry.”
“Things easily stolen, then. I’m afraid that we would need an account of your stones and to search you when you leave.”

“I assure you and your lord that all my stones and settings come from inpeccible sources in the Fellowship and the Kingdom, as well as most of the dwarven kingdoms.”
“I see, so you are a spy then. I would turn around and return the way you have come.”

“I assure you, sir, that I am not a spy.”

“We have merchants of your sort already, so now GO! I you are not across the bridge in a hundredth, I will set the boys here on a hunt.”

“I could make it worth your while to let me pass.”
“Now GO, before I decide to that you are trouble.”

Faced with no way to go around and overwhelming force, Ayre and Maldin turned and went back the way they had come. Once they were well out of earshot, Maldin said to his father, “He had our number. We were spys.”
“I think that was just an excuse. Like the high toll that most would not pay and the “stolen goods.” He was trying to come up with an excuse that would force us to turn away, but not raise that much of a fuss.”
“He could have had us killed. Those were enhanced.”

“He could have. The problem is the he knows as little about us as we do about them and killing us may draw the king’s men down on him.”

“Why didn’t you say that the goods came from the Lower City?”
“I didn’t want him thinking that we were Imperials.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“We have a date with the king and I will start to spread complaints about how we were treated. I will also send a message back home. I wonder if these people know about the airfield in Freywick?”
Maldin grinned. “I’m not sure that it really matters. After all we have all sorts of friends there and they probably do not. At least not any more.” “Son, I like how you think.”

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