Mysteries of the Hidden Estate, Chapter 25-26

“General, you were in the Empire, just north of the border for a very long time. Surely you could have left?”
“After I met my wife, there was no real reason to leave.”

“So you liked being a slave?”
“I wouldn’t put things quite that way. First of all, my wife insisted on a marriage agreement right off the bat and second, my life has not been uneventful.”

Chapter 25.

Ishendell.

Denny was sworn in and gave his background and testimony as to the things that he had seen and what he had done. The prosecuter asked questions about what his role was and what his normal job was in the Empire. Then it was the defense’s turn. “General, you were in the Empire, just north of the border for a very long time. Surely you could have left?”
“After I met my wife, there was no real reason to leave.”

“So you liked being a slave?”
“I wouldn’t put things quite that way. First of all, my wife insisted on a marriage agreement right off the bat and second, my life has not been uneventful.”

“You have purchased slaves.”
Denny sighed. “Actually, the House purchased slaves. We needed people for the farms. I myself have not purchased or owned slaves.”

“Your brother is Big Mike Harper, is he not?”
“I hadn’t seen my brother for over twenty years until recently.”
“I was reading about the Qinvaris transition to motor power. Rather dramatic for something thrown together, wasn’t it?”
“Yes it was. We worked hard and made it work.”
“You also had expert help, didn’t you?”
“What are you driving at, counselor?”
“I have here documents showing that certain of your brother’s best people were taken as slaves in Racketgarde and shipped to the Empire. People that you later purchased. You were planning to create a gasoline monopoly and then, when there was pressure for a break up, you were going to take over the Fellowship, the Empire and the Kingdom, while your brother continued in the Republic. Your cousin ran roughshod all over the Proscriptions to make that happen.”

“Objection! Speculation.”
“Sustained. Counsellor, you better have some evidence to back this up.”
“I will provide the evidence after some other witnesses testify, adjucator.”
“May I answer the question, adjucator?” Denny asked.”

“Go ahead, general.”
“I’m not sure where you think that you are going with this, counselor. My business dealings had nothing to do with why I came down with the trucks and participated in the campaign.  Now as to the people that my brother sent, I didn’t ask for them, and my brother sent them because he thought that they would convince me to leave and return home. My wife and some other ladies threw lonely elf ladies at them and they didn’t want to go home in a hurry. That being said, Richard and I had discussed the use of motor vehicles in the Empire and what it would take to convince the Inquisition to change its stance on the issue. It was a long term project that we were moving forward, slowly. Last year we were forced to move plans up due to the fact that the Darkmage had launched the Blight. Richard’s son Dan is also seeing Renestrae Glynynore and Richard and Lord Glynynore made an agreement to realign the roads when we knew that the Blight was likely to be launched. Once Richard started things up, I started to make plans for refueling stations, using the people that my brother had sent and some others. Cohnal Glynynore rode a bus that Richard arranged for a demonstration and sent his son Folwin to talk to a company to start a bus service in the Empire and me to set up refueling and service stations at the waystations that we were already moving in any case. None of that involved my brother or Harpoil in any way, though Folwin arranged a contract with them to purchase gasoline and provide other services.

“That being said, my brother does want me more involved with the business and since I already live on this side of the gulf, merging some parts of the business makes sense. We haven’t had things shake out as there hasn’t been time, with some rather large distractions. In any case, none of that concerns anything other than managing the business and does not concern the matter at hand.”
“We shall see. You came down here with your daughter. Most people would hesitate before sending their daughter into a potential war zone.”

“Counselor, I am going to take it that you have not met my daughter as yet. If you had, you would understand that it was more of a case of not being able to stop her. She considered the trucks her responsibility and she did not want to risk losing them and her not so little bonus. So she came with the trucks.”

“Yes, those trucks. That was a strange thing for Lord Qinvaris to do.”

“Not for Richard. We both knew what the Darkmage could do and we had both served in the last war here on the Peninsula. So we were prepared to sacrifice the trucks that we could replace to prevent the Darkmage from defeating the army rapidly using compelled soldiers and then using the army to pillage the estates. The Darkmage started that in any case and we can see what happened here with only a couple of thousand people that the Darkmage was able to compel. Letting the trucks go was risky, but we felt it was necessary.”
“Why did you come with them?”
“Richard needed somebody with credibility to keep an eye on things here, I had served here before, knew the transport issues and Richard felt that he could not come, for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that he was stuck in the House Seat.”

“Those trucks allowed the Army of the Peninsula to retreat and set up the events here in Ishendell.”

“Counselor, I think I see where you are going with this. You are going to say that if General Ironcutter had been forced to fight in his trenches, in a nice clean honorable battle, the atrocity at Ishendell wouldn’t have happened. General Headbasher was asked to allow the city to evacuate and he refused. Adjucator, I have some documents that I want to add to my testimony.”
The Adjucator looked at him and asked, “What is the nature of the documents?”
“These are the guard reports from the Qinvaris estates in the Istrosia Region and Justiciar Dawkins’ report on the activities of certain Houses in the region. The Houses sent compelled slaves and were used as a base to acquire more compelled from our estate to use to murder the people of Ishendell.”
“The evidence seems to be relevant, so without objection, I will enter the evidence into the record.”

“It was strange that you had that material, general. How did you know to have it available?”
“Counselor, you should know that I have a rather large staff for such things. After all, I run an important part of one of the largest businesses in the world.”
“You didn’t have the staff here.”
“Counselor, I had the people here that I needed for the task at hand and the assistance of General Ironcutter’s staff. Some of those people were, like myself part of the Qinvaris Militia and had had service in the Republic.”
“You had your reserve status reactivated quickly enough.”
“That was General Ironcutter’s people, not me. Since it was on Repblican soil and I could be reactivated, I was.  That made my position with the Army’s people more clear.”
“You have that hat you wear. What does that represent?”
“That is my militia hat.”
“Militia? What is that? You mentioned that before.”
“House Qinvaris, like most Houses in the Empire, has a militia to assist the guard and drive out any invaders to the estate.”
“That sounds like a private army.”

“It does serve that function. Mostly the role is to chase down bandits.”
“Your daughter stole Fellowship property to hand over to Richard Harper’s private army.”
“Acually my daughter salvaged the TAV’s from the bottom of the river that they had ended up in and from the road where they had been broken down and suffered battle damage. She and my sons arranged that without me knowing about it. In any case, the Republic didn’t want the wrecks and was hardly going to hand them back to the Fellowship. So nobody said anything about it.”

“No further questions, Adjucator.”
“You may step down, General Harper.”

Denny stepped down off the stand and walked back to the back of the room and the waiting Norman and Edehard. Norman was grinning as Denny walked up and said, “I don’t think that he knows that he was had.”

Denny grinned. “Richard and Gander wanted all the Istrosia material down here on the record. They want it known that there was something else going on. The counselor set that up for us and I took advantage of his opening. What I don’t understand is the whining about Mike.”

“You will have to talk to your brother,but there is some whining about how much market share in the gas station business that Harpoil has and some suggestions that your brother is guilty of illegal business practices.”
“I wasn’t responsible for the original deal, Cohnal was. Mike and I are just getting things squared away, as the Empire is growing much faster than we expected.”

“The Counselor seems to be reaching,” Edehard said. “He also seems to know too much about things that he shouldn’t. Denny, ask the Colonel about him.”

“Why me?”
“Because if we talk to the Colonel, the counseler and whoever’s feeding him can use it against us. You, on the other hand, can talk to the Colonel for perfectly legimate reasons.”
“I wonder if we could convince the counseler to arrange for Jhaerithe to testify.” Norman said with a grin.

“I would advise against that,” Denny said. “She will surprise the poor fool and then shred him to bits. Worse, my wife will get involved and she will call in the Harper’s lady network.”

“How does she even know about that?”
“She knows. I’m sure of it. Rosa certainly does, Mike and his wife have visited the house and my wife has been in Zirgoccol. We’re set to go down to the Republic as soon as this circus is over.”
Vargan Pikepusher was fuming as he watched the three generals leave. So far, he had failed to prove that there was a conspiracy that had forced General Headbasher to attack the Peninsula. So the general was still on the hook and likely to lose his head and any chance at the Champion’s sword. Perhaps he could get that Harper girl to give up the corrupt dealings in the Harper Qinvaris family.

Ozzie turned to Thramnok and said, “Have a chat with the Dragonmaster’s people and see what you can find out about the counselor. He’s bringing up things that he shouldn’t know about.”
“We could use our people.”
“That could possibly stain the tribunal with a smell of corruption. I want this as clean as possible, so that there is no doubt when the time comes that we bent over backwards to find any trace that the idiots were innocent.”
“They were all as guilty as hell. ”
“Come now, captain. We can’t assume that.”
“Having Ottwold as prosecuter could possibly be seen a tainting things.”

“Ottwold is the Provincial Attorney for the Redsville Province, so he was the logical choice. The fact that he is my nephew is irrelevant. In any case, I want eyes outside our little circle looking into certain things.”

Chapter 26.

House Qinvaris Estate.

Alinis and Fire were waiting with Ayen and Tiriana as Getrid, Rogerd and her cousins arrived in a GP. Alinis called out, “Jimmy and Talissa have a thing in Dolmon, so they can’t make it. Tarranth is taking Renna on a tour of his treasure house and we are going to join them. Then we all go downstairs and see what things are like.”
“I notice that you have dressed practically today, Alinis,” Getrid said.

“This is farm girl Alinis, perfect for prying into dirty things and handling all sorts of difficult things. Practical clothing is mandated when you are in places like Tarranth’s barn, even if we weren’t going down into the headquarters.  Let’s go inside. The rest followed Alinis to where Tarranth could be heard explaining where he found various things to Renna. Tarranth looked at them and said, “You brought them, Alinis. Gentlemen, this is my home collection of things that mother will not let me have in the House. While not quite on the scale of my little slip and fall, it certainly has its virtues.”

“Was this all found near here?”Getrid asked.

“In the beginning, yes. Some of it, I found other places. I put where I found things underneath the things that were not found on the estate here. I’m hoping to find out what all this was. Of course I haven’t had the time to really look. The most embarrassing thing was the Scourge devise armed and probably ready to go off, just sitting there. Fire found it and it was sent to someplace to go boom safely. The ordnance people have been through here and didn’t find anything else that would make a boom.”
“That must be a relief.”

“When Fire found the thing, I had a bit of a shock. That was after I knew what the thing did. Let me show you what else is here and then we can all go downstairs.”

Tarranth took the group along the shelves, telling the story of each of the things that he had found and showing off the things that still worked. He ended the tour at the door of the headquarters and said, “Alinis, the rest is yours, since you have been down there more than anybody else.”

Alinis took over and took them through the headquarters ending with the tablet room. As they stood outside the room, Alinis said, “this is where I found the tablet that I showed you. I think that it is lunch time so we need to get back upstairs and over to the house. Then we can go and see Chompers.” 

 The Hidden Estate

Nym Sylxina, the estate’s Major Domo came into the Lady’s office and said, “We had somebody at the gate.”

Phinara frowned. “What did they want?”

“They claimed to be jewel merchants.”
“Now that is interesting. It is not as if the road would attract somebody of that nature. What happened?”

“Taerel asked some questions, and when they were prepared to pay the toll, accused them of being spies and sent them packing.”

“That may not have been the smartest thing he could have done. Why didn’t he arrange an accident if he thought they were spies.”

“Somebody carrying that much in stones without a guard must have heavy protection from the king and Taerel didn’t want the king’s men coming to look for them.”
“Did he get a crystal?”

Nym smiled. “He did indeed. Here it is.”
Nym set the crystal on the desk and started to play it back. They looked at the crystal and when it was done, Phinara said, “On the surface, he appears to be just what he said he was and he was certainly portly, for an elf. But the youngling was at least half elf and this character smells elf. Yet he didn’t say his wares came from the Lower City, so he was lying. I think that Taerel’s guess was correct and he was some sort of spy. The only thing is who he was spying for. Sinaht said that he didn’t think that he was tailed, but there this character was, looking into us.”
“If he shows up again, should I tell Taerel to let him in?”
“You know that might be best. Also send a message to Albred at the palace through the small portal. Maybe this merchant is known in the palace.”
 

House Qinvaris Estate, Chomper’s house.

Rainshower opened the door as Alinis, Fire and the rest stepped out of the two GPs that had brought them from Alinis’s house. “Welcome all. I take it that these two are the guides that your grandmother arranged and the other two are your cousins. Come on in. Chompers, his brother and Mercury are waiting.”
“Chompers has a brother?” Alinis asked.

 “You haven’t met Ellisar, or Stomper, that is. He lives next to the tunnel entrance and the tunnels have been his life. He is very interested in what you are planning, wants to help and wants to know what you have discovered already.”

Another GP drove up and Alinis said, “That’s Laekces, Zaktea and Shuli. I asked them to bring what they found in the headquarters at the Hidden City.”

Rainshower went and grinned as she returned with the three. Laekces said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t meet you at the house, Alinis, but I made a wrong turn and ended up at the market and had to come back and then here.”

“You arrived, and that is what is important. This is Chompers and Mercury, if you haven’t already met.”
“We have,” Zaktea said. “They were wearing scales at the time. Mother wouldn’t let me wear scales at the Conclave. Chompers, do you mind if I have a flight after our talk?”
“There are restricted areas, girl. I will point them out after the talk. Byddri has already snuck a flight and taken pictures already, so it isn’t that big a deal. Rob is at the lab and Jorge is taking his people on a training mission as the only devises that we have to deal with are the inert devises the Darkmage flung around and the one he still has. In any case, some people will get nervous about loose dragons flying around. That one makes them very nervous. Why are you here, Byddri?”

Byddri had walked in and said, “Richard said that Alinis was doing something that might interest me and I need excuses to stay out of the house.”

“The baby.”
“Yes. The little flamer has two modes, sleepy and quiet and noisy. At least most of the time. The rest of the time, he sits and goos, being adorable on daddy’s lap.”

Chompers laughed. “That will fix you.”

“Yes it will. In any case, I want to hear all about what you are up to, Alinis. The Conclave is over, the council won’t deal with Lord Keanorin for a moon or so and the season hasn’t really kicked off yet. With the lack of things happening in the capital I need to catch up on what you found  in Tarranth’s barn and what you are up to now.”
“I can’t tell you everything yet, Byddri,” Alinis said. “We are exploring some old tunnels that are under the estate.”
“That sounds very interesting. I did bring something for you.” Byddri handed Alinis a magazine. “Here is your paper.”
“Thank you, Byddri. Your boss sent it to you, didn’t he?”
“Yes he did, since you stirred up quite a storm in certain circles. I have already interviewed your grandmother about this.”

“I want to read it first.”

“That is understandable. We can talk about it later. So tell me about the expedition.”
“You know about the headquarters and the diary.”

“Yes, since your uncle gave Kythaela a copy as a house warming gift. You are looking for the library then.”

“How did you know?”

“I read the diary, for obvious reasons and hiding important things away seemed to be what people did back in that time. So obviously, you wanted to find your family’s treasure. Don’t worry. For one thing, your mother and great grandfather think that there may be other treasures to find in the vaults and certainly the tunnels will contain many new discoveries. I can’t be here most of the time in any case, so I will pop in, take some notes and pictures and send them in. I also have to cover the events surrounding the Grand Master’s funeral and help Hoddy collect stories about him, which is another reason that I wanted to talk with you and Fire.”
“Nimue is the one that wants to go to the Mage Academy.”
“Yes she does. The Grand Master’s real work was with those outside the mage community and he had a large impact on a great many lives. So I am collecting interviews wherever I go. For now, I will sit in the corner and take notes.”

A fae man came in and said, “Rainshower, I let myself in. Brother, why don’t you introduce me to this crowd of young explorers.”
“All, this is Ellisar, my brother obviously. Ellisar this is young Alinis Qinvaris, her bonded, Fireoak, Ayen Nerihorn and Tiriana Beinan. The other three are Zaktea, Laekces, and Shuli. The two men wearing clothes from the Republic are cave guides and the dragon in the suit is that pest, Byddri. Jimmy and Talissa are not here.” 

“Cave guides from the Republic sounds interesting. Have you explored old Imperial ruins before?”
“Rogerd and I have been with quite a few expeditions with various clients in the Republic and Ishendell,” Getrid said. “The usual expeditions into the crystal cave sytem and some others in the Republic as well as working with mining accidents in the Republic are our bread and butter, but the Imperial ruins make for good press and we have been known to poke around on our own.”

“The tunnels are probably larger and more complicated than anything that you have run into before.”

“From what we have seen so far, yes they are,” Rogerd said. “At least the parts that we explored were not as large as this. On the other hand, we never had the chance to fully explore the Ishendell tunnels and they were obviously much larger than the area we could explore before the money ran out.”

“The money ran out?”
“Our clients were freelancing for a magazine and newspaper articles, as well as having an academic grant and didn’t believe the estimates that I handed them, Getrid said. “One thing that I want to do at this meeting is to collect enough information to be able to give Lord Qinvaris an estimate.”
“Not Alinis?” Chompers asked.

“Lord Qinvaris is footing the bill, or actually Lady Qinvaris is. Alinis could probably draw on her own accounts for this, but since her brothers have had rather expensive things that they have been doing and this expedition involves the House, the lady felt that it was best that the House cover the bill.”

“I wouldn’t worry about the money. I think that Rosa has a point and the boys have been spending on some big things.”
“How did you know, Chompers?” Alinis asked.

“Rob and some of his people shared stories and some other people shared more. Why don’t we pull the paper and get started. Getrid, I suspect that your clients in Ishendell didn’t want to take into account the need for certain things when you explore underground.”

“They didn’t. Let me tell you what they wouldn’t listen to.”

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