The Princess and The Slave, Chapter 55-56

Richard is worried. Bill contemplates sharing the vault.

Chapter 55.

House Qinvaris.

Lyrei was awakened and sensed that Tassarion and Tamnaeth had been awakened as well. There, in front of them, wasn’t one of the children, but Richard. She looked at him and said, “What can we do for you, Lord Qinvaris?”

With a bit of a grey face, Richard said, “You can tell me that I’m wrong about worrying about the Blight.”
“What is going on?”
“This is a bit complicated, but recently a slave from Jorge’s estate was taken by emanicipators in the Fellowship. They handed him over to the remaining grandchildren of the Darkmage. At the time, he was carrying a report, which among other things, had a detailed look at how much grain it takes to feed various places in the Empire. The young man was looking for where the Darkmage’s grandchildren had their fortress by looking for places that were growing a lot more crops than they had mouths to feed.”
“So the dark has the report,” Tassarion said. “Did you commission the report?”
“No. Jorge Umevan had it done because he was looking for the fortress. The report used pictures taken from Eyes orbiting in the sky and information the boy collected from various people and sources to look at places that had things that were not quite right. Jorge was involved with the fight at the Retreat and the Camp when they started and he knew to look for places that needed more food than would be obvious. So he set his people to looking when he couldn’t find the Primaries for the Scourge devises he was looking for.”
“Do you have the report?” Tamnaeth asked.

“I will have Khiiral show it to you to scan. I have a summary, but the report, by itself isn’t what is at issue. I am concerned with a massive Blight incursion.”

“You defeated that already.” Lyrei said.
“I defeated an incursion that used 2,000 crossbow bolts, the majority of which were not loosed and Herdir used the same people to fire the bolts that he had before. I want to know if inanimates were ever used to create an incursion.”

Lyrei said in almost a whisper, “Yes.” She looked at Richard. “That was down near my castle in the wilderness, but there were other places where that happened as well. Of course, without a source of mass bodies, that should not be a large concern.”

“Did the original Darkmage use bodies from a Scourge?”

“I don’t think so. At least not before I was imprinted.”
“I think it happened,” Tassarion added. “We only had rumors in the Empire, but there were Scourgings that did not make any sense. Is that a concern?”
“The Office of Inanimates in the Republic conducted experiments using inanimates and vials to see what would happen.”
“How did they get the inanimates?”
“The bodies are donated and the Office has one of the Darkmage’s old Animators. They conduct discreet experiments from time to time to look into things. When I was sending the word out that the Blight was probably going to be launched, they conducted some tests. They showed me the results of some of them.”

“They would need a lot of inanimates to cover very many fields,” Tamnaeth. “The things would get stuck up on obstacles like hedegrows.”

Richard sighed. “I have removed most of the hedgerows to make planting and harvesting easier, because it was more effective to have large fields. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t concerned about inanimates being marched across my fields. Unfortunately the Fellowship is the same way. Lyrei, did your family make a copy of your notes on the Blight?”
Lyrei looked at Richard and said, “If they did, I never discovered them. The best I can do is tell you to look in the family archives, if they still exist.”
“I will have to look, then. Thank you all for your time. I will have Khiiral show you the report, Tassarion.”

Richard shut them all down, and left the room. Rosa saw the despondent expression on his face and said, “They didn’t have an answer, did they?”
“The old stories were right. Inanimates were used to spread the Blight and the Scourge was used to make inanimates. I’m going to get everybody together and see what ideas we can come up with.”
“The people in Lain Othrond may not launch anything.”
“I don’t think that they will want to retreat, at least not without some chaos to cover their retreat. For that matter, they probably have a good idea that we know where they are. Jorge’s retrieval of Tad probably showed them that we know where they are, if nothing else did.”

“Did the seemings have any suggestions at all?”
“Find Lyrei’s family archives.”

“There is a start. We can send somebody to the Imperial Archives to find out where the Ravahana had their main estate and start from there. The worst thing that you can do is give in to despair. For that matter, nothing has happened yet. If they do attempt to Scourge a lot of places, most of the place are protected now.”

“I wish that we had the kids here.”
“They can help where they are. Send some messages. The library is there and there are other resources to find. Perhaps we should make a brief trip down.”

“You go. If I go, it will be too obvious that I’m more concerned about something other than the harvest. If you go, it’s just a trip to see mother and our kids.”
“Good point. I will put a trip together. What do you want, Nightshadow?”

“Lord Wysagella wants to speak with you.”
Richard looked at Nightshadow with a bit of a puzzled expression. “Did Galan say why?”
“I think that it concerns some writs that were recently voided that concern some property of yours.”
“Ok, I will meet him in my office.”

Richard turned to Rosa and said, “I wonder what Narbeth wants?”
“Go and find out.”
Richard went to his office, Galan was let in and bowed.Richard returned the bow and said, “What may I do for you, milord?”
Galan held up some very old sheets of paper and said, “While the writ against your House library stirred up some controversy, there were others in the same situation. At least ten of them are now on your property.”

“You want me to look for more libraries? I can set some kids to doing that.”
‘While that would help, I was hoping that you would speak with your mother and see if the families are in the Republic or the Kingdom. I have been working with the Dragonmaster’s office for the Fellowship.”

“So, the remaining families were exiled or dealt with by the Hunter or his father.” Richard grinned. “Mother will just love helping with that. Rosa is planning a trip down to look into the trouble my kids may have gotten themselves into. As for the libraries, we may need to find them. I need to look up where House Ravahana had their main estate.”
“Why do you want that?”
“I want to know if the notes that created the Blight were released and if some people have access to them.”

Galan blanched. “Do you think that they will try again?”
“I’m not sure. On the other hand, the Office of Inanamates conducted some trials and the Darkmage’s grandchildren went out of their way to make more Scourge devises. They must have had a plan.”

“I will help you get that information.”

“Thank you. I hope that this just me being paranoid, but if I mess this up, I will have a lot of starving mouths on my conscience.”

“The young boy has been freed. He is on one of your brother’s ships, according to the embassy. He will probably be back rather quickly if the princess has anything to say about it. We should have a report from Lord Umevan fairly quickly.”

Richard grinned. “So Jorge got him out. That must have been a real caper.”

Galan returned the grin. “I don’t have the details yet, but I think that you are right. The princess has been rather anxious about the fact that the boy had not been released or escaped. Since I do not want to take up too much of your time during the harvest, I will bid you good day, milord. I will leave the writs with your aide.”
Galan left and Richard went to find Rosa. “That was interesting. Apparently a significant portion of the missing libraries are on the farm.”
Rosa grinned. “A project for the various children, then. That will keep some boys occupied once the harvest is over.”
“I want to start looking for Lyrei’s family archives before the harvest is over. I’ll put together some people for that.”

Chapter 56.

Desert Howl.

Bill was caught between a rock and a hard place where the vault was concerned. On the one hand, he wanted to keep the fact that it was open discreet. On the other, he needed help if he was going to be doing much more than taking pictures. He turned Harald on and when he appeared said, “Is there a spare Scourge suppressor in the vault?”

Harald looked at him and said, “Are you concerned about the Scourge? I doubt that the devises would work very well.”

“Yes I am. As for the devises not working very well, they went off just fine in the Deadlands. Dad has been working up in Ishendell and I think it involves Scrouge suppressors. In any case, I was wondering if there was a spare in the vault.”

“You know what it looks like.” Harald brought up an image on Bill’s tablet. “The spares would be here. Since I would only know about devises that I could activate, I wouldn’t know about any spares.”

“That’s a bit beyond where I have been able to get so far, but I think that I can reach there. I wish that there were lights in the vault.”
Harald laughed. “You haven’t found the light panels yet?” the tablet showed a picture. “Here is what one looks like. They are right next to the doors. You just touch them.”

Bill groaned. “I didn’t know what those were. I have another problem. I think that I need to trust some people in the vault.”

“I would have to agree, but you should be careful. You should be sure before telling them very much. Who would you choose?”

“That is an interesting question. My brother, certainly. If I want to bring back a Scourge suppressor, I’m going to need a boat.”
“There is a portal available.”

“That won’t help very much as I don’t know how they work. I don’t want to flub moving the Scourge suppressor and lose it.”

“You make good points about portals, especially for a one way port.”
“I know somebody who could do it, but he lives in the Empire and is lord of an estate. Knowing about the lights should be good enough.”

“Then we can speak again another time.”

Harald vanished and Bill started to make a list of people that he thought he could trust. As he started work, he realized that he was going to have to make a Jump to Chatsrey. The end of the term was coming up and he wanted to recruit Alinis and Tarranth before they went home.

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