Mysteries of The Hidden Estate, Chapter 29-30

Alinis visits the tunnels. Princess Alist drags Iezzen off to breakfast

Chapter 29.

House Qinvaris Estate, The Radiation Lab, Collider entrance 14.

Like many structures from the Old Empire the entrance building was still standing and more or less intact. It was also rather large and circular, with what were platforms for moving equipment and cranes above a large rectangular hole. Most of the building had been converted into Ellisar’s home, which he shared with his bonded, their children and grandchildren. Ellisar looked at Alinis’s and Fire’s rather nervous expression and said, “Don’t worry, there are stairs.”
“Does the crane work?”
“Somewhat. I wouldn’t rotate it around and ruin my bedroom, and I wouldn’t want to use it to move a very heavy load, but I have used it.”

“That means that we can pull the library out here.”

“Why is that a concern?”
“My parent and grandparents are concerned that the contents of the library and the fact that I am pulling it will force the Inquisition to take action. In order to avoid that, I want a discreet way out for the library. This will do fine.”

“Young lady, you have a devious mind.”
Alinis smiled. “I do, don’t I. On the other hand, my brother and Periwinkle Yllanan made off with the Inquisition’s library already, so we will have to do better and the path is all laid out.”

“Why don’t we go downstairs?”
Ellisar led them to the stairs, made sure that all the people going down had ample glows and then led them down the several flights, some of which had passages going off into the dark. Fire asked, “What are those for?”
“One is the control room for what I am going to show you today, the others lead where you want to go, or to storage rooms. I want to get Captain Bronzerock down here, as I think that war material was stored here during the Mage Wars. I imagine that you ran into that in Ishendell, Getrid.”
“That was something we were looking out for. We didn’t find anything in the tunnels we were in, but there was a lot that we didn’t explore.”

They reached the bottom and Ellisar tripped a light switch. “I managed to get the lights here working. Here is my lifetime project, the Free Electron Laser.”
“What does that mean?” Ayen asked.

“I’m hoping that one of you younglings can discover that for me. I have spent a very long lifetime trying to figure that out and only scratched the surface. Of course the things that could tell me that are probably in the library. I have managed to get power to what are probably very strong magnets, but the main power plant is not operating, I drained the mana and electric batteries I found rather quickly and there may have been gas that has long since leaked away. At this point, most of what I have is guesses.”

Ellisar pointed out the various components and what he thought they did. After he went over the machine, he had them retrace their steps to a row of rooms that he said were “experimental halls” next to a hall filled with cabinets filled with strange devises and a control room like that in the headquarters.  After that, he took them down a passage to yet another set of rooms and then to a tunnel filled with the same sort of things in the Free Electron Laser. He pointed down the tunnel and said, “I think that your library is down that way. There are marks on the wall, which will show as far as the various boys down here have gotten. I hope that you have a plan to avoid being lost, Alinis?”

Alinis held up a tiny wooden disk. “From now on, we will be carrying some of these at all times.”
“What are they?” Getrid asked.

“Microportals. Adiun Beinan had these made so that we could track things. We used them against the Darkmage and his family. I didn’t have one with me when my sister and I were kidnapped with the other girls. In any case, when we start, we will have a portal tracer and somebody from the Portal Service tracking us.”

“Isn’t that risky?” Ellisar asked
“The Portal Service boys have been working with us from the start, they really don’t like the Inquisition and definitely don’t like the Darkmage. I don’t think that we have to worry about the Portal Service turning us over, especially since Ayen and Tiriana are involved. In any case, daddy insisted that we have some sort of tracking, especially for the party members who can’t Jump and in case we run into suppressor like issues.”

House Qinvaris.

Lyrei became active and there, instead of Alinis, was her father. The seeming couldn’t get anxious, but even the Mage Queen would have been troubled more than a bit by the sudden appearance of the man. “Hello Lord Qinvaris. Where is Alinis?”
“Working on her library project, I suspect and Richard is fine.”
“What can we discuss today, Richard?”

“I wanted to discuss your brothers and sisters.” The seeming quailed more than a bit. She wondered just how much Richard knew.

“I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I am a seeming.”
“The original “you” did.”

“How do you know?”
“My daughter was hardly the first to take that class and as the youngest, I had to find things that my brothers and sisters had not. That led me to things about you, the original you, that is. I know, for instance that you were related to the Darkmage more closely than was appropriate for a marriage, which was one reason why you spurned him. I’m not sure why Harald married you. At first glance you hardly seemed to be the type that would be a full partner with somebody like him. Especially considering that there was somebody like Amra around.”

“One might ask why you chose your wife. I will say that Harald and Lyrei were partners in every way and while I was imprinted before Harald’s death, that death was probably a terrible shock.”
“It was. Right now, I am not sure what she did, but she launched something that ruined the Darkmage’s power at the cost of her own life. What I am concerned with now is how many branches of the family survived the fall and had descendents that were married or hid away in various places. The Ravathyra were rather obvious, but these others have emerged and I want to make sure that they are all accounted for.”
“What do you know about already?”

“The Darkmage is obvious, and I already mentioned the Ravathrya, though I think that the original family is extinct. The Zylvyres are a maybe and Ehlark and his father certainly were involved in the Project very deeply. House Petris was involved from the beginning, more than likely. The Keanorin and the Eiljeon were part of the project from the beginning as well. The Nerihorns and the rest were suborned. Clan Ironhead must have had a family member marry in, as did Blackoak’s faery kingdom. I’m not sure if that duke in Dolmon is family or not, but that elf that was sneaking around certainly was.”

“I see that you have found quite a few pieces of the puzzle already. I can’t tell you all of it until you have a bit more.”

“Convenient, those restrictions, aren’t they?”
“I will say that you know most of the potential candidates already and you have access to the Imperial archives and probably much more. I also don’t know all the lines that have come down to the present time. Look at the families in the Republic, my and Harald’s descendents, for instance.”

“Would the family need them for something?”
“That is a very strange question to ask.”
“Not if you had been encountering keyed vaults. If the Project needed something, or wanted to prevent something from being opened, they may have looked to suborn a descendent or even create a family.”
“You would know more about such things than I would, sitting here in a crystal.”

“I suspect that there are ways for you to discover things that are not obvious. In any case, I think that I will end this. I see that I have more work to do on this.”
Richard shut Lyrei down and before she shut down she created a link to Tassarion. “Old Fool, this was rather scary.” She blipped a copy of the conversation to Tassarion. “I think that I encountered the Ghost.”
“That was scary. There is a lot more to the man than I expected. He seemed to be rather determined to get what he needed from you.”

“I am so glad that I am reasonably sure that the skills to get to our code no longer exist.”

“So am I, now.”

Richard put the crystal away and left the room. Rosa caught up with him as he was sitting at his desk with his head between his hands and said, “She couldn’t tell you, could she?”

“No, she couldn’t. I should have known that it wasn’t going to be that easy.”

“Did you tell her about that place that Ayre found?”
“No, I didn’t. I was afraid of pushing too much. On the other hand, even though I didn’t mean for it to happen, the Ghost got out, somewhat.”

“I’m not surprised. I expect that Ghost you is rather frustrated right now. You have done so much and still the monsters emerge.”

“What bothers me is that they don’t care. They are willing to burn the world to the ground and kill millions if they can rearrange things the way they like.”

“They tried that already and didn’t win. They killed many, including my parents. On the other hand, we became stronger. We will not let them win. I will not let you fail.”
“Tom sent one of Jorge’s platoons to shut down Paeris’s island and the Darkmage.”
“He only has one devise and it’s fairly obvious where he plans to use it.”

“I know. That’s where the unknowns came into play. Let’s go through that packet my mother sent. Too bad, that with the Conclave over, my parents went back to the Republic.”
“Dan needed to produce a report for the government and your mother wanted to take things home.”
“She also wants to gloat over Alinis’s paper and she couldn’t do that properly here.”

“What went on there. I’m not sure I understand it.”

“About thirty five years ago, mother decided that since we were all grown, she was going to find out what all the money she was donating to the Universities was buying by going to college. This was just before I started college and my Service. Any way, that idiot, Professor Anvilforged was teaching a class that mother was taking and assigned a paper on the Mage Wars. You’ve met the chief acolyte of what they call the Practical reason for the wars, Sal Shieldslasher. He said that the war started with surprise attacks on places like Ishendell using Scourge devises right at the start. Professor Anvilforged, the chief acolyte of the Romantic reason, said the war started as a result of Lyrei spurning the Darkmage and the Darkmage sending Blights and Inanimates at Lyrei and that the Scourging was a response to that. Alinis and Jorge’s discoveries shattered that, or at least showed that the Scourging started from the beginning. Mother was ecstatic, as you saw.”

“How did that end up?”
“Mother did her paper, taking advantage of the family libraries, the fact that we all did those papers and some other sources, most of whom you can guess at this point, and essentially destroyed Professor Anvilforged’s argument. The idiot failed the paper, mother contested, Anvilforged lost his first chance at tenure and started a battle that was still ongoing when Paeris captured me.”

Rosa laughed. “Alinis didn’t know any of that.”

“Of course not. Mother wasn’t going to drag that old stuff out while Alinis was there. You saw how she reacted when Sal saw Alinis’s paper. Those two were plotting right from the start.”

“So what do we do about the people in the Project?”
“We start looking into relationships. The parts that we knew about are all dealt with, thanks to the Darkmage’s ineptitude.”
“If he had not launched the Blight, he could have remained in obscurity.”
“That was Isarrel’s fault, somewhat. She didn’t pay attention to what was happening and what I was doing, even when it was happening in her own family and right in front of her. That was willful blindness.”
“I hope that our enemies remain blind and stupid. In any case, you will do the right thing. I won’t let you do anything else.”

“I wonder if Harald had a Ghost?”
“That is an interesting thought.”

Treehollow Faerie Kingdom.

The kings started to Jump in for the meeting. Artamo, in trueform with Moonflower, greeted the arriving royals, starting with his great uncle, Goldenspear who smiled and said, “Your mother hasn’t given me a joining date, Artamo. Do you have one?”
“You would have to talk to my mother,” Moonflower said. “She has been rather busy the last few moons. My brothers are going first, since they can have a double joining, but that is a full wedding with the Nerihorns. Then it’s Art and I. The situation has been complicated by people setting large bombs off in the neighborohood, my brothers being involved, the Conclave and Art and I having a rather large involvement there. We are also trying to arrange a portal for those in Upper Timbercreek who can’t Jump here. So we have a big mess.”

“I see. So you have similar circumstances to Rosehollow.”
“Somewhat. Rosehollow has it a bit easier and more difficult as more of the royals have weddings coming up, but they have the Yllanan estate to draw on to help.”

“As long as things are not being neglected.”

Lazuli appeared with Esgalwathanar, Jimmy and Talissa. Moonflower laughed and said, “Not being a landdragon, today, Jimmy?”
“I have too much involved in this meeting today. My sister will be rather annoyed if I screw up.”

“So you are Blackoak’s advocate,” Art said.

“I was chosen. The other choice was Keryth Harper, but the kings seemed to be a bit afraid of him for some reason.”

The rest of the royals arrived with Strongoak arriving last. As was traditional, the Council met in a grove, standing in Trueform. Esgalwathanar said, “The council has asked me to make the arguments against raising the aversion against the Blackoak Faery Kingdom. I will make my presentation now.”
Esgalwathanar did, with brutal efficiency, outlining the circumstance of the aversion being placed and the actions of the kingdom and the break with most of the famly as the result of the king commanding the death of his son.

Then it was Jimmy’s turn. He started with, “I have always been taught that you can’t blame some for the actions of others. By and large the fae responsible for the crimes have gone to the fire long ago. Keeping the aversion only punishes the innocent. Worse, it maintains the belief of many in the Blackoak kingdom that they are being treated unjustly. I have come to know many of the kingdom and they were not responsible for the actions of the past. The kingdom was also lied to by a relative and when the lie became obvious, Blackoak broke off with the so called Project. He did that at some risk to himself and the kingdom and turned over what he knew to the Justiciars and this council. That is not the way a guilty man behaves. Furthermore, some of the acts supposedly perpetrated by members of the Blackoak Faery kingdom were in fact committed by others. My father and I discussed the events with the Emperor and the Justiciars to discover the details and determine the truth. I have the report here. It is time to bring the Blackoak fae back into the light. As the Grand Master said, “There is a time to forgive.” If the Grand Master can set such an example, can we do no less?”

Lazuli was smiling as she called the vote, which was unaminous that the aversion be lifted. She said, “Thus voted, so shall it be. Jimmy you can tell your sister the good news when the meeting is over.”
“I want to call Blackoak to the council,” Strongoak said. “He has information about this Project that is important. I don’t think that we can remain neutral any longer and stay out of the affairs of other people.”
“Very well. Jimmy, go and bring Blackoak here.”

Jimmy Jumped away and returned shortly with Blackoak, Blackspear, Nightshower and Daisy. Blackoak stood straight and said, “I have come to appear before the Council as I was called. What does the council want of me?”
“First we want to say that the Aversion will be lifted,” Lazuli said. “We were going to let Jimmy tell you, but since you are here in any case, I decided to let you know. Now as to why you are here. We want you to give us what you know about the Project.”

“That may put my kingdom at risk. On the other hand, I have put that kingdom at risk already and if the fae do not stand together, we will all fall separately as I nearly did. Thanks to Jimmy and some others, I was convinced to change my path. You probably know about the last Project meeting and what went on there.”
“Other than the end, that is? Were you splashed?”
“Nightshower and I bid a discreet exit to above the mud being dropped when the thing started. Whoever was responsible created a great mischief. In any case, the meeting was mostly to a response to certain events. The Project had some severe shocks and several participants were being force to withdraw or had been removed from the project. The other participants were rather concerned about the failures of Lady Petris, who is House Ravathyra’s oracle and the Darkmage, who apparently had no clue what he was doing or know when to stop. The Darkmage launched the Blight after it was obvious that House Qinvaris already knew that he was going to launch and Shaerra and the Darkmage followed that up by starting the suppressors, murdering the emperor and assaulting the palace without a definitive plan for following through or knowing what to do when they took over. Shaerra paid the price for her failure and the Darkmage followed his plan from failure to failure.”

“Why did he send Stormfire to recover the Scourge devises?” Goldenspear asked.

“He was concerned that they would be found and wanted to secure them. I don’t think that the thought about the fact that the devises would already be found, or that some of the devises would be armed.”
“Where has the Darkmage been for the last hundred years or so?” lazuli asked.

“Searching for the keys to his grandfather’s devises while his children were developing resources and the Ravathrya were supposed to be suppressing the Republic and looking for something.”
“What?”

“My father may have known, but I was never told. Of course by the time I started to attend the meetings, the effort had become an embarrassment and had cost the the Ravathrya most of the family. That was when the Zylvyres joined.”

The questions continued and when it was over, Lazuli said, “Thank you, Blackoak, for being so frank with this council. Your testimony relieved a lot of concerns about you and ensured that we knew that we had made the right decision today. I think that it is time for lunch and I imagine that some ladies want to show off, so we must attend.”

The House Glynynore Estate.

Folwin Glynynore grinned as Jorge was let into his office. “What can I do for you, captain?”
“Actually it’s my turn to do you a favor, milord. I made an accidental discovery the other day while I was training my people, some of yours, some bears and cavalry.”

“Yes, that was embarrassing. That was a good thing all around. So what did you discover?”
“An old road that seemed to be yours.”
“I think that I know what road you are talking about. The tunnel is blocked and there just wasn’t economic reason to open the tunnel as long as the estate on the other side didn’t complain.”

“One of my people wants to use the tunnel as a training exercise for some boys that he as been teaching things to at Innshys when we were slow.”

“This isn’t cracking a vault.”

“That’s the point. I spoke with your road manager and you are working on the Grimfrost road to allow trucks in any case, so Elmar can have his boom and you get the road back.”

“What do you get out of this?”

“Some of my people get to work on a boom with a master, that master is kept out of people’s safes and vaults, he isn’t pestering me for things to go boom with, and I have had some rumors that there may be things of interest on the other side of that tunnel. Since we haven’t found the last few Scourge devises and when we do, the elves that have them will probably just want me to perform another night raid, my people need something to keep them occupied.”

Folwin laughed. “Why don’t we all go to that tunnel and set things up.” 

Chapter 30.

Freywick.

Iezzen grinned as the first plane taxied to the runway and took off. The next was ready at the runway as the first was clear and a crowd had gathered as the fifth and last plane climbed into the air on its patrol. For the first few flights they would be doing exactly what they said they were supposed to be doing, practicing Blight seach patterns. The interesting thing was that it was almost harder to keep out of the mysterious estate’s airspace than it was to fly over it. Iezzen wasn’t sure how they had missed the place the first time other than the frantic efforts to find the blight and direct the crews to deal with the infestation. In any case, Iezzen and the planes had returned. He turned to go to the inn for his morning meal and there was a carriage waiting for him. Princess Alista was smiling as she said, “Dragon Flamefire, My parents want to invite you to breakfast.”

“If I say no.”
“Then I pester you all morning.”

“Then I must go, I think.” Iezzen entered the carriage, followed by the princess.

“Well, that might not get you off that easy. How have you been?”

“Well, princess. I had a little accident on my last flight from here and we were forced to land at Grimfrost.”

“Where your friend Jorge ported a bear to the Darkmage.”
“Where Jorge ported a bear to the Darkmage. I had nothing to do with that part. Nor have I had any involvement in any of Jorge’s capers since. I did fly him into a place, but that was legitimate portal work.”
“Our duchesses have nightmares over what he did.”

Iezzen grinned. “Then the word has gotten around. Poor Jorge. He wasn’t even responsible for the gag, really.”
Alista giggled. “Who was?”

“The sons of the Clan Ironhead clanchief, who wanted to send a rather pointed message to some people that sending things using one way ports could be dangerous.  I don’t think that they got the message. So we may be hearing about Jorge doing something else.”

“Here’s the palace, so we need to be all proper while you hurry breakfast and we get back to the field and your planes.”

“Why are you going to be there?”
“Silly, somebody from the kingdom needs to keep an eye on this and coordinate. This is practice, after all.”

“I thought that your sister was the one that was dragon mad.”

“She is. I’m the one looking for a loose prince. You count.”

“That is an interesting approach.”

“Look, I know most of the princes here in the Mortal Kingdoms as well as the ducal heirs. Most of them are related or jerks. You are neither. You are also a knight who saved the kingdom and I think that you are generally good dragon.”

The carriage entered the palace and stopped at a discreet small entrance. Alista led Iezzen into a small nook where her parents waited.  King Nemes said, “I’m sorry to pull you away, Iezzen, but I thought that I should have a chat about our neighbors that have been rather obnoxious about being rather unneighborly.”

“Do you think that they will shoot at the planes?”
“I think that they might. Just what they will do is hard to tell.”

“Just who are they?”
“We are not sure. The estate has been there from the times of the mage wars.  For most of that time it was House Umevan, but that changed in the Turmoils.  The people in charge there now don’t like to talk with us and certainly get sticky if people wander in there, which is rather difficult in any case with only the road into the place. They may have people on my staff, watching me, but other than the gatekeeper, we don’t have anybody to talk to. We do keep a discreet eye on the road and the various people that go in and out, usually the wine dealer that you already know about and what are probably his sons. Not as close an eye as we didn’t know very much about the Order because they were almost as bad.”
“Is that place still making wine?”
“Yes. The Church has agreed to allow outside inspectors to see that wine is the only thing made there after the Blight was launched here. Both I and Justiciar Dawkins have people making fairly regular visits now. The Brothers that remain are all fairly simple and were not in the Order in any case.”

“What happens to the failed?”
“That is interesting. The Church still tests, but the parents are told to take the child to a grove or the Sanctum at age ten or so and get tested again. Then the parents have to make a choice whether they want a fae or budding mage in the house or not. So far, it has worked out very well.”

“I went to the Sanctum to get tested while I was at the Conclave,” Alista said.

“What did Iris say?”
“I passed, of course. A perfect princess in every way. Since breakfast is over, we need to return, so father, you will see us again for dinner.”

Alista and Iezzen left the little nook and Cotina laughed. “She has him wrapped around her fingers.”

King Nemes laughed. “That will cause a scandal. How long before she gets him to a cave?”
“Two or three moons. He won’t be that hard. He will make a fine son in law.”
“Isn’t that moving rather quickly?”

“Alista is eighteen dear. She is going to move quickly. Don’t you worry yourself over this. We ladies will handle it.”

Albred had not been able to get a crystal in the little nook that the king frequently used for his discreet meetings. So he wasn’t able to discover just what was said to the dragon. On other hand, the rumors of the growing relationship between the princess and the dragon were all over the palace and with the dragon here with the airplanes again, the princess was going to take advantage. Albred folded his report, put it in a rather dirty wine bottle and went off to the drop.

Albert D’angelo had been the king’s spymaster for over thirty years. His failure at not catching the Brothers before they started to launch the Blight still stung, even though he knew that it was probably impossible to have stopped them once they started. Since the Blight, he had worked to develop a relationship with his counterparts on the committee and Ayre’s little chat with him after he had poked his nose in on the kingdom’s nasty neighbor had drawn at least some of the neghbor’s people out. Al was certain that the people over there were starting to get frantic for more information and rather annoyed that they couldn’t send Elf Omayarus on his usual rounds. The elf didn’t know it, but if he appeared on the road, the Marshalls would be notified and the elf would be on his way to the Orcenlands for a rather quick trial and a date with an axe.

Rufus Lever looked through his binoculars at the toll booth and the guardhouse. Then he looked beyond it to the Projectors that would be invisible from the road, but could lay withering fire and burn even armored soldiers. On the other hand, whoever had set that up, either didn’t know about rifles and mortars, or didn’t see them as a threat. Ozzie said quietly to his father, “That’s a stupid set up. Those Projectors should be in bunkers.”
“To us, it is. These people have probably never encountered indirect fire.”
“It’s still a stupid set up. The boys and I, just using hand Projectors and things from the Old Empire could crack it. If we bring a mortar and a couple of machine guns, it will be over in seconds.”
“Keep looking for more.”
“We have been. They may have a ready platoon of enhanced to back up the squad, but unless they have a tunnel that we haven’t found, their way in isn’t covered and if I put a machine gun or two in the right spot, there is no way that the ready platoon is going to get to the gate until it’s all over.”

“Do another sweep, get some good pictures and notes and then I think that we should withdraw except for a squad to watch the place. We don’t want these folks to know that we are already here.”

“They should have been looking for us after that meeting.”

“I know, but we’ve seen these people and they haven’t done the right thing once yet.”

Oceanside.

Gears walked in, spotted Wiz and said, “The boss is going to pay.”

“When and where?”
“He’s here. Do you have the report ready?”
“Yes I do. Ok, you come back for lunch and we do it here.”

“That works. We’ll be back in a twentieth.”

Gears left and Wiz said, “Osceaia, it’s time to go to your aunt’s place.”

“I’m not disagreeing, but do you think that they are going to pull something?”
“No, but these characters got me in trouble before and we’re dealing with the Eiljeon.”

“You be careful. Commodore, you make sure that he is careful.”

Elion grinned. “I won’t let my brother get him.”
“Your brother would be fine. He treats his people well and pays well. These characters are a different story.”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“I thought that you were here with your bonded and the kids.”
“That too, but I want to know the various players too.”

“Ok, I’m going to my aunt’s. We’re lucky that business is down somewhat.”

 Osceaia left and Elion said, “She’s a wonderful woman.”
“Yes she is. Princess of the bower and everything, she pulled me out of the gutter when I was in a very bad place. Between her and your brother, they fixed me up and started me in a better direction.”
“You know my brother’s reputation.”
“Commodore, I certainly do. I also know that while he uses that reputation to the hilt, he hates it. That was something he was forced to do by your father. While I was working for your brother, the only acts of piracy he actually commited were to help people get out of Ishendell.”

“Even the Petrie?

“The Petrie was a bit trickier, as we were taking the Darkmage’s useless toys into Ishendell and we couldn’t exactly tell the refugees to stowaway. That didn’t mean that the ship didn’t have any. We didn’t leave with the ship in any case.”

“What about the Fellowship army’s boats?”

Wiz grinned. “It isn’t piracy to assist the authorities.”

“The coaster in Lylalume?”
“That wasn’t piracy, that was hijacking and we gave the ship back. Getting those things out there on the island was important.”

“Why?”
“Because if the Darkmage had had them right at hand, he would go off like he does and Scourge a place. Paeris needed the things at a place where he setup the portal and controlled it. Once those things were dragged out, things got very bad, very fast.”

“I think that I better leave you before your clients arrive.”

The commodore went to a table with some rather disreputable looking seafolk and shortly afterwards, Gears returned with Drannor and Elion Eiljeon. Wiz said quietly, “Mr. Elijeon, you are a surprise.”

“I wanted this first hand for reasons that you probably know.”
“Your brother being a jackass, again.”

“Here’s the cash you asked for, Wiz.”
Gears placed a large and heavy case on the table. Wiz slid it off again and put it beside him. Then he put another case on the table and opened it. “Here is the report, and all the supporting information.”

 He closed the case again and Elion asked, “Why was there sheet about a Beinan class contest on top of the report?”
“That was how I knew that you had been had. I told Gears that getting the drawings was the easy part and that contest is the reason why. While I was starting out at Beinans, like a lot of junior level people, I had to administer the contest. Beinans sends out drafting sheets using obsolete title blocks to the various schools for the contest. Then the kids draw parts on them and they get sent back. The poor administrator has to get some senior engineer types to be judges, handle all the drawings, making sure that they get back to the kids and arranging for winners to get their prizes. On the Beinan end, it’s a good test of the executive skills of junior level people as they have to manage sending the paper out, arranging for judges and returning the drawings. My guess is that whoever set you up had managed the contest and knew that the drawings would be available.”

“How did they make the switch without us spotting it?” Drannor asked.

“Portals, probably. They couldn’t do that at any of the other Beinan places in the Fellowship, but the Fayspire place can have portals and the Beinans probably installed at least one. So they ported the contest drawings in after hauling them up to the Empire and ported the real things out.”

“Right under our noses. In the chaos of the evacuation, we never noticed. Slick.”

“Do you have any proof?” Elion asked.

“I managed to get a picture of the lobby in Fayspire and it does have a portal. The drawings all have school addresses on them and I included a drawing from a previous contest as an example.”

“What are those disks?” Gears asked.

“Just before the Great Captain recruited me, some people, including the Beinans, started to send stuff through one way ports. One thing they kept sending was balloons with crystals on them. For the longest time, we couldn’t figure out how they were recovering the crystals until Darkmaker wanted to know why his portal scanner had all those portals operating all of a sudden. We tracked one and there with the crystal was a tiny little portal activating and shutting down, telling anyone with a tuned portal scanner where it was and doing that while not being visible to the fae like a tracer would be. I did some poking around and found the place that Adiun used to have the things fabricated in the Lower City. The problem is that without a portal scanner, something the Beinans are not about to let loose, the microportals are useless.”

Drannor cursed. “They didn’t need to tail us. They were watching the whole thing, and knew where we went. There are probably some of those things still attached to drawings.”

“Thank you, Mr. Askew, for doing this little job for us” Elion said. “I assume that you provided more details in the report.”
“A lot more detail, Mr. Eiljeon. I know who you need to convince and the more ammunition you have, the better.”

“Could I use you as a back channel to the Beinans?”
“I can speak with them, yes. Their issues with me have been resolved.”

“Do you think that the Beinans will reciprocate?”
“That’s hard to say. You know the Fellowship family as well as I do. On the other hand, some Beinan ladies have weddings coming up and the Imperials have been playing games with the Darkmage for some time now. That fire probably attracted their attention and Adiun is still in the Empire, as are his daughters, both of whom have become engaged. The Darkmage was hit with strange things and money disappearing, so I think that one of the ladies is probably setting up something.”

“I was afraid of that.”

Elion and the others left, taking the case with them, Wiz picked up the rather heavy case and joined the commodore at his table. “Now I have to deal with this. I should have asked for a draft.”

“You didn’t count it?” Lieutenant Shanelis asked.

“Elion wasn’t going to stiff me if he wanted me to help with the negotiations. Of course my wife’s relatives would make things unpleasant if they tried anything.”

Roger was grinning and Vince said, “What’s so funny?”
“Elion Eiljeon probably just made a rather large purchase from Wiz Askew.”
Vince looked at Roger and said, “Who? I know that Wiz might be doing something shady, but who is this Eiljeon character?”
“Spitty knows who he is.”

“Spitty, do you know what’s going on?”
“Vince, I know who Elion is, but I don’t know who the other guy is.”
“I think that I better explain, somewhat as neither of you have been up in the Fayspire neighborhood. As far as shady goes, Wiz has been working for the Great Captain as a technical adviser and acquisition specialist, actually being legit, for the most part. One of his roles has been to work out the various things that the Beinans had been doing to the Darkmage and his kids.”
“How do you know so much, Roger?”

“When you are a cop in the neighborhood, you know who the local characters are and the Portal Service and the Beinans were making the people in the Retreat’s lives miserable for some time. I also know the Innshys kids, who were all too willing to share the whole story, at least the Camp and the Darkmage’s kids’ part. I got the Beinan’s contribution from people at the plant in Fayspire. I knew who Wiz was already. In any case, the Beinan plant had a fire during the evacuation and I imagine that Elion is nervous and willing to pay Wiz a consulting fee to discover some things.”

The rest of the table smiled. Wiz came over and said, “Darkmaker, you have attached yourself to some people that you need to watch out for. Why are you all smiling?”

“Wiz, did you do something that we could bust you for, just now?” Vince said.
“Not at all. I performed some consulting for some people that will remain confidential.”

‘You told them some documents weren’t what they thought they were,” Roger said. “I will not tell some people that you did that.”

“That was a slick little thing that somebody did, swapping out the contest drawings for the real thing. They used too many microportals, though.”
“There was some enthusiasm where they were concerned. The problem was that several enthusiastic groups of people were placing them all at the same target.”

“I want to introduce you all to my current boss, Commodore Elion Yeszana of the Imperial Navy. Commodore, this is Roger Bloodfoot and Vince Bloodfoot of the local orc clan, even if neither of them look orcish, Spitfire Swiftlyer, who shouldn’t be talking to cops, and Darkmaker, who was one of the Lady’s mages and coincidently a portal specialist. Since he is not employed by the Portal Service at present, you all are coming up with something nefarious.”
“Not at all, Wiz,” Roger said. “We did something at the Conclave using portals and since Darkmaker is here already, we can set up faster than we expected.”

“Then why is Spitty involved?”
“That is classified.”

“So Spitty’s uncle is involved with your grandfather. That’s scary. Commodore, we should move on before we get dragged into the middle.”

Elion grinned “What if we want to get in the middle of this?”
“Then we discuss that with Spitty’s uncle or the Bloodfoot’s grandfather. At least you do, at your level. I keep the hell out of things.”

“That sounds as if it the voice of experience.”
“I used to work for your brother. There was a lot of experience there all right.”

The commodore asked Wiz after they left the bar, “What do you think is going on with them?”
“If I had to guess, Roger is recruiting Darkmaker and negotiating with his brother for Darkmaker’s time.”
“What for?”
“Your brother set up a nice little jailbreak with some wolves, a portal and Darkmaker to do the portal work. The wolves and Darkmaker are here, working for Roger’s brother. If you were planning something that you didn’t want the Portal Service to be attached to, Darkmaker is the only portal expert not attached to the Portal Service other than Ayduin Beinan himself. The funny thing is that I’m fairly sure that the Beinans are involved and it involves a caper against the the guy I just did some consulting for.”

“This is getting very interesting indeed.”

“It will be. Things can get interesting when the Beinans and EiMagic go after each other. It nearly killed me the last time I got caught in the middle.”

“How so?”
“Somebody slipped Clear into my drink while trying to get me to sell out my employer, who happened to be Jandar Bienan at the time. In order to stay alive, I had to feed them stuff from Beinans until I was caught. Beinans cut me loose, the other side dropped me, the addiction cost me everything I had and nearly killed me. Fortunately Osceaia dragged me out of the gutter, under and I started to rebuild my life. I made restitution to Beinans, your brother hired me and here I am.”

“The Eiljeon slipped you the Clear.”
“Through somebody they were using as a proxy, of course. That character got a life sentence on a nasty island, but Ayre Eiljeon skated clean. That is if it wasn’t one of their other friends.”

“I think that we should plan for you and some of the others to go up to Eribelle and talk to Navy Intelligence. That is if we can’t get somebody set up at the Retreat. I will send a request. There is a lot going on that we should know about.”

“I think that your brother was looking into us for some of the same reasons.”

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