The Island of Intrigue, Chapter 15-16

The Dancer is dispatched. The Inquisition creates a fiasco.

Chapter 15.

The Refuge.

Mórsairon looked at the list in his hand and at the elf lady sitting across from him. “I have a dance card for you.”
Iolena looked at him and said, “It has been long time since you have requested dances. Why now?”

“The Project has suffered reverses and I need to remove some players from the table. The Hunter has apparently removed himself from the game rather dramically and my brother has botched the rest rather badly. So I need you to deal with some things. Here is the list.”

Iolena looked at the list and said, “Dealing with  a Justiciar might upset my father, the Colonel will not be easy and I do not know why you would care about the lord of an Imperial House that is mostly known for selling grain.”
“House Qinvaris is the by far the largest seller of grain in the world, I have been told. In any case, Lord Qinvaris was responsible for removing the Hunter from the game.”

“How?”

“I don’t have the details, but it was rather humiliating apparently.”

“These two, why a marine captain and a young elf?”
“They have been working against the project rather vigorously of late.”

“The Zylvyres? I thought that the house was an ally?”
“No longer.”

“Do you have a brief to go with this?”

“I have what we have here.”
“Let me go through it and see what I think.”
Iolena left the the room and Mórsairon smiled. His sister’s use of subtle compulsion was very effective even on strong minded high elves like the Dancer, who some of Mórsairon’s people had found after one of her rare failures. The Dancer had been brought to the Refuge and used very sparingly, so that her relatives could not pick up on where she was and either retrieve or deal with her. Up until now, he was fairly sure that the lady’s family thought that she was dead. With all the rest that had happened, sending the Dancer out was a risk, but he was running out of options.

The Hidden City.

Sarya smiled as her granddaughter in law entered her office. “Alissa! Is Gander coming?”
“Gander is in his office digging into something. We are returning to Ishendell and receiving the car we purchased. I’m going to try to get him to take a bit of a vacation. I wanted to talk to you about something that I haven’t really discussed with Gander.”

“Your sister, Iolena.”

“How did you guess?”
“First of all, very few guild trained people work outside the Empire and to have one suddenly accepting little tasks here and about attracts attention. Attention that started about fifty years ago. There was quite a bit of buzz about a Dancer, who would, for a very good price, remove little problems for you.”

“Did you hire the Dancer?”
“I can’t say anything about that, one way or another. My hands are hardly clean in any case and there were times when a slash in the night was far better than thousands dead on a battlefield.”

“That is understandable actually, and if you had sent me, let alone my sister, against the Darkmage before Ishendell, I would have accepted the Dance.”

“You didn’t say anything at the time.”
“You didn’t ask, and Gander frowns on such things, most of the time. He prefers complete and visible exposure to easy solutions. Most of the time, the guild and I have had to accept that he has been proven right, or is at least skilled enough that his hidden knife is never seen. The Dowager Empress was a case in point, as was Zanis Zyvlyre. Several others are about to be rather exposed shortly.”

“The files from Jorge’s property.”
“Yes. I wonder if somebody went after him or his sister when they were younger. Jorge seems to be very determined to make things as noisy and indiscreet as he can where the kids taken from the estate are concerned. Now, to get back to my sister.”
“Gander has never mentioned her to me. Does he know that she exists?”
“Yes, and no. One reason that I was attracted to Gander was that he had been around most of the world, the places that my sister had probably gone. On the other hand, he was fairly certain that the Dancer was dead.”

“Did he say why?”
“He said that one of my sister’s dance partners had survived and when caught by the police later, had bragged about defeating her, among his other nasty accomplishments. The case was one that Gander was involved in just before he was captured in Racketgarde.”
“Which is why you thought that I would know more. Why do you think that she is still alive?”

“For a long time, I didn’t. That is until I started to go through the Dowager Empress’s files with the Empress and my cousins, talked to Vafealine, and Elen after she and Julien returned to the Empire from the Orcenlands.”

“I didn’t know that you had been talking to Vafealine.”
“Innshys is a portal away and she and I meet there and go shopping in the Sanctuary. Naexi said that meeting with Vafealine would be productive. It has been. The Empress wants some discreet back channels in any case.”

“I see now. So, some more of your sister’s dances turned up.”

“Vafealine thinks that Qambois’s nephew, Spitty, may have actually had dates with her.”

“Spitty is the black scale of the family, who cut himself more or less off. He also doesn’t have any relationships. If he started one with your sister, that would explain a lot of things. So, what do you want to do if your sister should show up?”

“Prevent her from setting off any dances and then see if she has been compelled, somehow.”

“You’re concerned that the Dancer would come after some people close to you.”

“My husband, for instance, which would be unpleasant all the way around; Richard, both Jorges, Adiun and some others that have all been front and center in the thing against the Project; My uncle and Esgalwathanar perhaps; Tony and Bene; maybe Lymseia. In other words, my friends and family. I’m hoping that if my sister is spotted, I can get to her first and have a chat with her. One way or another, her dance card is going to be torn up.”

“Have you spoken with Gander about this?”
“Not yet. He’ll either get all noble or get diverted by this.”

“Aren’t you concerned that he is a target?”
“He has a bunch of surprises that he doesn’t wave around and my biggest concern is that he will put himself at risk and try to keep my sister alive rather than ending the dance as soon as possible. Also, some of his people could get involved and get hurt. I don’t want that to happen if I can avoid it.”

“Do you think that your sister is working for the Project?”
“I think that she may be under some sort of compulsion, or feels that she owes a debt. If she does turn up, I will ask her about the debt and then send the message to the other end saying that the debt is paid up by arranging for Jorge to not send a Scourge devise at them.”

Sarya laughed. “Or mud.”
“Those people deserve the mud, mixed with glue and anything else the kids come up with.”

“Just make sure that if it turns out that if Jorge already owns the place, he doesn’t know.”
“The Empress and I have already discussed that. Jorge is not likely to fall for that twice in any case.”

Chapter 16.

The Qinvaris Port, the Qinvaris estate.

Marinus looked down the pier as the trucks appeared. Except for the special cargo, his cargo was loaded and three of the holds were battened down. As the trucks stopped next to the ship and the derrick booms went out, busses appeared, stopped and inquisitors, along with Justiciar Beizumin and some Imperial marines stepped off. A loud voice called out, “Inquisition! We have a writ to inspect this cargo!”

Keryth stepped out from the warehouse and said, “Show me the writ, Inquisitor. Tannatar, I’m surprised to see you involved with this.”
“High Inquisitors Zylvyre and Keaynore have evidence that Ricahrd is transporting material under heavy Proscription to the Republic.”

“What precisely are they talking about?”
“The old family library. Apparently the Inquisition tried to confiscate it after the Mage wars and it had been hidden. The Inquistion believes that the library has been found and that Lord Qinvaris is hiding that fact.”
“A library was found by Alinis and she has hardly tried to hide it. She has some scholars from the Republic and some archive types slobbering all over it right now. As far as I know there has been no other library being shipped around.”

“Then what is this special cargo?”

Keryth looked at the inquisitors and said, “Inquisitor Eldrin, usually we don’t hand you the outbound manifests, as whatever is outbound is the consignee’s problem. These crates are all tight and prepared for shipment. Do you want to open the crates?”

Inquisitor Eldrin looked at his superiors, gulped and said, “The writ says that we are allowed to.”
“You do know that High Inquisitor Zyvlyre and High Inquisitor Keaynore carry a grudge against the House and are perfectly willing to go on wild goose chases, including ones that get a lot of people killed. I wasn’t there at the Nerihorn estate, the last time these two conducted a raid, but I know people that were there. Why don’t I show you what the manifest says for this part of the load and then you make a decision.”

Keryth handed Eldrin the manifest and he looked at it. “Toys?”
“That’s what it says. Now we can have a circus, which will annoy Lady Qinvaris, Mrs. Harper and most importantly for you, my mother, or you can let the load get loaded and the Petrie on its way. It’s up to you.”

Eldrin looked at his superiors and said, “I think that we should open one crate.” He pointed to one at random. “That one.”

“Ok, I’m willing to be reasonable.”

The stevedores and crew used the derrick to remove the crate and the stevedores used crowbars to open the crate. Inside was a black case. Eldrin looked at it and said, “That doesn’t look like toys to me.”
“Let me open it,” Keyrth said.

Keryth popped some latches and inside the case were toys, mixed boys and girls toys. A camera shutter tripped and a smiling Byddri appeared. Keryth closed the case up again, turned to the stevedores and said, “Close this up again,” turned to Eldrin and said, “Satisfied? We can continue this, but if the Petrie misses the falling tide by even a little bit, you will get on my mother’s nasty list and she will make your life hell. For most of our people or vendors, that is something that they can walk away from. You don’t have that luxury. So what do you want to do?”

Eldrin looked at Melaris and Emmyth, sighed and said, “I think that we have to do a complete inspection.”

“Ok, then. Nightshower, go to mother, have her write up a requisition for some extra people down here, go to Tollith and have him arrange for the people and tell mother to bill that to the Inquisition budget. Also get a guard and somebody with a crystal. I want a house picture of every case we open.”

“On the way, Keryth!”

Nightshower disappeared and Keryth turned to the stevedores and longshoremen. “Let’s get this fiasco started.”

The various people started to open cases, Emmyth made things worse by insisting that the cases be emptied, somebody from the office arrived with a crystal, more longshoremen arrived, Nightshower returned followed by Keryth’s mother, who stood there, not saying a thing and looking stonily at the rather quailing Eldrin who was almost pleadingly looking at his bosses, who were starting to look rather upset as the fiasco continued. Inquisitor Delion joined with the other Inquisitors, crystal in hand as he took yet more pictures of the circus. Finally and before the ship’s departure time, the inspection was complete, the toys loaded and the hatches closed and battened. With the exception of Eldrin and the smiling Delion, the rather angry Inquisitors returned to their busses and left with the smiling Justiciar. Eldrin turned to Delion and said, “This was the same thing that they did to you! How did you find out about it?”

“Somebody told me that Emmyth was coming here and the conclusion was obvious. You know what Emmyth is like. Do you think that he would have competent spies?”

“Do you think that the library actually exists?”

“I have no idea. You could ask the young lady, but I doubt that she would say anything. In any case, the library was an obvious target and I’m sure that Lord Qinvaris’s people could set up diversions without too much trouble. The mere fact that you were even able to get close the cargo so easily should have told you it was a diversion.”

“We had a Justiciar.”

“Who signed a writ on an Inquisitor’s say so and didn’t tell his boss, or his boss knew and let it happen. The Justiciars really don’t like us. Most of the Empire really doesn’t like us. If you want to help the Inquisition, learn from this and don’t be an idiot again. Let me take you and get some drinks.”

The Hall of the Justiciars.

Tannatar walked into Kelvahn’s office behind his huge grin. “That was fun.”
“Was Melaris as clownish as we expected?”
“Completely. Frankly he was an idiot as even if he had found what he was looking for, which wasn’t going to happen, Richard would have raised a stink in the Emperor’s office.”

“Do you think that the library actually exists?”
“Of course it does. The Inquisition must have institutional stories about the hidden library that the Qinvaris have going back to the Mage Wars. It’s probably one of the great secrets that Initiates learn in dark conversations in back halls in their first days at the Hall of the Inquisition. So, of course, if the young Lady was going after it, the Inquisition wanted it. We all have copies of that diary and the young Lady did look for treasure in the tunnels.”

“You did give them a writ.”
“A writ to search the cargo. After all, Richard could have been shipping Scourge devises to his relatives in the Republic, or toys to evacuated children or even his library to his old university. Actual confiscation would have raised other issues and Melaris should have known that. In any case, I got my clown show and a very nice chat with Byddri afterwards. Here is my report and my wife wants a Swim this evening, so I will take myself out.”

Tannatar left his report as Kelvahn laughed.

Selnalion.

 Tell maneuvered Boat ’25 into the harbor pool at Selnalion and maneuvering through the traffic, up to the new railroad pier. Elred’s boys and his son jumped easily to the pier and made the big boat fast. Amazingly quickly, a crane appeared and a chuffing locomotive pushed a row of boxcars next to the boat. Stevedores appeared and the unloading started. Rapidly, the large crates were transferred to the boxcars. Elred appeared, looked around, smiled and walked up to where Tell was standing on the wheelhouse wing. “Not a whiff of the inquisition. Of course this pier is in Dolmon in any case. Was there any trouble?”
“A nice easy voyage. What did the committee do to the esteemed Inquisitors and what happened to Ayen?”

“Ayen was forced to take a temporary leave by Lord Zylvyre. The High Inquisitors showed up as the Petrie was finishing her loading and demanded that they search a bunch of crates of toys that the Lady was giving to the evacuees in the Republic. Byddri was covering that and you can imagine how that is going to go over with Lord Waestaeros. The thing was a circus, as you can imagine.”

“Was it fun?”

Elred smiled. “Yes it was. Now, there is somebody here who would like to thank you.”

Alinis appeared, placed a kiss on the captain’s cheek and said, “Thank you captain, for keeping this discreet. This was very important.”

“What was the cargo?”
Alinis handed Tell an elegantly covered book. “These will be the bonus this year at Winterfaire, but I wanted you to have yours now. This is the family’s and the Empire’s greatest treasure, our history and culture. My family hid it away so that it would be saved from the Inquisition’s fires and you have helped get it away from their clutches forever.”

Alinis disappeared and Elred grinned. “The princess strikes.” Tell mirrored his grin and said, “Yes she did. Let me put this away.”

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