The Five Doomed Cities, Chapter 9-10

Jorge discusses a city and a raid. The Empire conducts an execution.

Chapter 9.

 Ishendell.

Jorge grinned as Jorge entered his office with Tad, an aging orc and two younger orcs. “I see you brought Tad down, Jorge. Where is the princess, Tad?”

Tad grinned. “She was trapped at the palace, major. Her mother and grandmother are having a thing and she was expected to be there.”

“I’m surprised that she didn’t drag you in.”

“I had school this morning and I am here with you this afterten. I have the Lain Othrond report.”
“Who are these other gentlebeings, Jorge?”
“This is Faghig Ironhead, Jreghug Ironhead and Ortalac Bonecrusher. Faghig and Jreghug were the instigators and my partners in crime when we disturbed the Darkmage’s little meeting. Ortalac was the mercenary commander for the Lain Othrond thing. My grandfather hired him.”

“So, tell me how things went. I’ve heard some things already and we talked to Tad here already, but I wanted the full report.”
Tad pulled out a picture of the town and a large binder. Ortalac pointed at the castle walls and said, “First of all, they were sloppy. They let the trees grow up close. I think that they were expecting to spot old style artillery on the way and being able to put up the shield and laugh at any attackers. That was stupid as the Duc and his relatives did a lot of reconnaissance looking to crack the place if he had to. There have been things back and forth for a long time and the Duc was getting annoyed.

“Second, they seemed to have isolated themselves from the outside as much as they could. The money setup was strange and there was no cash to loot, even if I had allowed it.”

“No looting? I thought that was an orc tradition.”
“When I was a sprout on my first thing, the captain had the troops loot a place. That was fun for most of them, right up until the local duke’s cavalry ran right over us and gutted a bunch of us. I survived because I couldn’t really stomach the looting and everything that went with it and was in a tavern with a beer. Ever since, I haven’t allowed my troops to loot. My top was in the same thing and he’s ruthless about that. I was paying back the ransom until the duke needed mercenaries and had me contracted.”

“Have you gone back?”
“I had to. He’s my father in law. At least he was. He went to the fire about five years ago.”

“Where was this?”
“Astua. In any case, I don’t tolerate looting either at the objective or when we are traveling.”

“That could cost you some treasure.”
“I get it back in clients. The various lords and kings in the Mortal kingdoms hire me because they trust me to not make things worse than they already are and I get top coin when I conduct a campaign. As far as Lain Othrond goes, with any luck, Py will be getting the place if he wants it.”
“Py is my cousin,” Jorge said. “I told grandfather that under no circumstances was I going to take the place. Fallingwater is bad enough.”

“There must be more than the town,” Jorge said. “What are your impressions?”
“Tad, you were there for a long time, so you tell the major.”
“OK, major. There are two towns, upstairs and downstairs. Most of the downstairs people can’t go up to the castle and into the town. There are some tunnels that go places outside the town, but I wasn’t allowed to go down them very far. For the most part, the downstairs is ancient Imperial things.”

Tad described the various downstairs people that he knew, including Nat and Vullen. “The shop breaks down all the time and Nat says that most of the machines and devises need overhauls or replacement. I helped him with preparing to send a request to have some parts for a special furnace after Ayre Eiljeon stole some notes and things from a boy. I sent that stuff back to the Eiljeon.”

“What about upstairs?”
“That is family and some others like the Hunter and the Lady. The Lady was playing with one of the Animals and trying to convince Dúhael and Mórsairon to let her have me. I worked to make myself very useful and did things like write a report on the Skychaser for Dúhael to keep them from wanting to give me up. Varitan was opposed to giving me to his mother because of the agreement that the Fae had before they let my dad go. Varitan was concerned that his mother taking me would be seen as a violation of the agreement.”
“Was it a binding agreement?”

“Yes. The fae at Fallingwater wouldn’t release dad otherwise.”

“So Varitan had an interest in keeping you from being molested.”

“Yes he did. He still threatened me with the fact that I could be given to his mother.”

“Why didn’t you make an escape attempt?”
“That upset the princess more than a bit as you noticed. The problem was that if I made the attempt and didn’t escape, I would have probably been given to the Lady or at least locked up. So I had to be certain that any attempt I made would succeed. Then I was let downstairs and I wanted to get as much as I could before I left. I knew that I was being looked for when that merchant showed up with those trinkets and after the merchant knew who I was, I knew that the Lord knew where I was, so my focus sort of switched from just planning an escape to finding out as much as I could about the place and the people there. For instance, I know that there is another ship like the one you have and that the captain took a long tour at sea, on all sorts of ships going just about every place and brought back two sea chests of stuff back. He also knew who I was.”

“That is interesting. I assume that you told the admiral this. It didn’t come up in our previous chat.”
“Yes I have. We had two days on the ship to talk and I did a brief. That is part of the report.”

“Who was the merchant that showed up with the trinkets?”
“I don’t know who he was, but he was a fat elf and he bought nacre. I bought a trinket with a microportal inside for me and two more trinkets for a pair of the castle girls who couldn’t charge things.”
“You could charge things?”
“That was how a lot of the castle folk bought things. We “charged them to the lord” and signed a paper. I don’t know what the merchants did with the paper.”

“They let you charge things, but not the girls?”

“I was running errands and it easier to have me sign the charges. In the beginning they were looked at, but they stopped and I don’t think that they paid attention to every errand that did. It was like that and the small portal. Dúhael just gave me the access code and assumed that I would just use it once. Instead I used it to help Nat with his things. I don’t think that Dúhael realized that I could use the small portal to escape if I had to. Of course by that point I knew that the Lord had something working.”
“How?”
“I took the bottle of Fallingwater and proposal for the circus to Dúhael for his approval. The man who brought the proposal was from the estate, but I didn’t know him and I was certainly not going to give him away. Knowing what I know now, I would have been better off using the portal and not risking the balloon.”

“What was the balloon?”
“I will let the dragonleader or the Lord tell you about that. I was asleep for the ride.”

The major asked more questions about the people in Lain Othrond and when he was finished, he said, “Tad, I think that Jorge and these others want to talk about the raid and the things that followed, so why don’t you see if you can get some cookies and juice from Lissia.”

Tad left and Jorge said, “Thank you for doing that.”
“I think that you want to talk about the messy stuff that Tad doesn’t need to discuss. He was very good through his ordeal.”

“I know. My grandfather does as well.”

“Where is the princess?”
“Doing a duty that she has to. Varitan and the lady are getting the axe today.”
“Tad isn’t there?”
“The Empress didn’t want him there after what he went through. He isn’t part of the Imperial family, so he doesn’t need to be there.”

“He will probably be a member later.”
“The Empress is aware of that. She also knows the family history. In any case, Tad needed to give you his brief today, so that he is free tomorrow for his next task.”
“That is?”

“Richard wants to find the Ravahana family archives. Tad had a very good start when Richard’s guy asked him to look.”

“Where are they?”
“Next to the Scourged estates. At least that is where we think they are.”
 “Ok, let’s start with the messy stuff. Colonel, you said that they were sloppy. Do you think it was carelessness or were they doing something else?”
“The thing with the trees and rest was carelessness. But they did try something else, though we didn’t know it at the time. They were going after the circus.”

The major grinned, “So they were going after you, Jorge. Did they mess up your exit, colonel?”
“Not at all, really. Jorge had leaked that the circus’s next stop was Semmont. So they collected their ready troop and some of the people on guard in the castle and went out one of those exits that Tad was talking about looking for us to show up in the morning, which was plain stupid, as they were parading around all over the Duc’s property and the Duc’s fae relatives were spreading the word around. They realized their mistake and came up the road to the capital looking for the circus, while the Duc was putting patrols out and asking Jorge if he could hire me. The idiot’s scout platoons ran into one of my scout platoons, there was some shooting and both sides disengaged. That was when the idiots got smart and went home.”

“I imagine that their welcome wasn’t pleasant.”
“I doubt it, since they probably abandoned their post without telling anybody right before I hit the city. I thought them leaving was some sort of trick at first. It wasn’t.”

“Jorge, did you make things fun downstairs?”
 “What do you think?”
“You had one way ports rigged.”

“Both one way and two way ports, since I was using the portal board to activate all the portals it could and sending the little returners out, until Magpie was sure that he had the right portal and unleashed the surprises. That’s all in the report.”

“I think that Lissia will be looking for us. I will say that this sounded like good work when you talked about this the other day and I still do.”
“I lost people.”
“It hurts, doesn’t it? Just be glad that you don’t have a boss that doesn’t care. If you don’t believe me, you can talk to the Great Captain. To the old monster, we were all expendable. Paeris tried to mitigate that, but there were times when the bloody mess was unavoidable. That was one reason that I signed up as enlisted. It didn’t help in the end.”

Chapter 10.

The Imperial Residence, The Lower City.

The execution block was an ancient paved square in a park in front of the Imperial Residence. For the most part, the execution stand was simply another playground for the kids in the Lower City. Today was different. The square had a funeral pyre laid out on it, something that was not unusual, as the square was a popular place for elves and others who did not have their own burning squares. The execution stand also had a strange block on it.

Imperial servants for the Residence asked the people in the park to leave the square and people, all wearing dark, almost black, red clothes began to arrive. The exception was a row of ladies from the houses of entertainment. Among the arrivals were Fylson Umevan and his father, along with other members of his family, accompanied by some slaves. The Justiciars, all twelve of them, arrived, along with members of their families. Finally, the Imperial family left the residence. Kelvahn went to the Emperor, who handed him a document and went to a podium where there was a sound amplifier. Three sedan chairs arrived and a man dressed in the deep red handed a woman out of one of them as two people in white cotton sheathes, cuffed and collared, were pulled out of the other two. Escorted by guards wearing the red, the party climbed the steps of the stand. When they reached the top, they stood on one edge of the stand. Kelvahn stepped up to the Podium and said, “We Justiciars hold both high and low justice. That means that we sometimes have to perform grim tasks when the need calls for them. Fortunately that is rare, unlike the stories that have been passed around in certain circles. Our calling is the resolution of disputes and keeping the peace. Sometimes, when keeping the peace, the ultimate sanction is required. This is one of those times. Justiciar Dawkins, since this was your case, would you explain the circumstances?”
Gander replaced Kelvahn and went over the discovery of the Scourge devises, the devise sent to the Grand Master’s funeral and what was discovered on the hidden estate. “As bad as having Scourge devises and not reporting them to the Inquisition for removal and dismantlement was, far worse was it to revive things that had been under deep Proscription, fabricate the means to create Scourge devises and manufacture the key components of those devises. Furthermore, to pay for those activities, the accused sold the children of the estate to become sexual toys and other entertainments, as well as other acts of theft against the Umevan and others. The evidence for this case is available in a report to the Imperial Council. Since the evidence was clear and unambiguous, the Council asked for the maximum sanction against the defendants. I concurred and sent the writ of execution to the Emperor. Milady, have you seen the writ?”
Lady Alea Zumbalar, the Imperial Executioner, looked at Gander and said, “I have seen the writ, Justiciar, and it is proper and complete. So I will execute my task.”

Lady Zumbular pulled two vials from the satchel she was carrying and offered them to Phinara and Varitan. When the vials were refused, she waved to the guards and Phinara was taken to the block. The man who had arrived with Lady Zumbular walked up to the block with a strange thing in his hand and put it to the back of Phinara’s head. There was a bang and Phinara collapsed. Servants took the body to the pyre as Varitan was brought to the block. Another bang and it was over. As the pyre was started, Immianthe stepped over to the Umevan and said, “Where is Tad?”
“In Ishendell with Jorge, princess,” Fylson said. “There was very little time for Tad and Jorge to brief Major Tollings and it needed to be done before too much longer. My wife and Filia both felt that Tad should not be here in any case, but the major needs to know about that town and what Jorge did. Tomorrow, you and Tad are going to the archive village and then afterwards, you are going to be out at the estate. Jorge is going to be busy at things, the colonel wants to take his people home and the rest have things to do, so Tad had to go to Ishendell.”

Princess Arlsyn and Prince Eldiun came over and the princess said, “I wish that this hadn’t been the occasion that we would meet so I could thank you for taking care of my two and the other two, Lord Umevan.”
“That has been our son Jorge, princess,” Fylson said after he bowed. “He took over the estate and the things there since my wife thought that would work out better than tearing my business and the household to pieces and dealing with a big mess at the same time. This is Stadlee and Filia, a certain young slave’s parents.”

“Young Tad who my daughter here has locked onto rather inappropriately. She was rather distraught over the fact that Tad had been taken.”

“She was also rather upset that he hadn’t managed to escape. Of course, we had that report from Lord Qinvaris’s people and Jorge was on top of things fairly quickly. Since Tad didn’t seem to be abused, Jorge and my father wanted to express their annoyance more aggressively.”

“Are you taking your House again,” Prince Eldiun asked.

“That is up to my father. I do not have the resources to do so, but the family has apparently done very well in the Republic and the other Blasted Lands. Father wants me to make a trip and meet the family that hasn’t already been to the Empire. Lidia and Dalia are pushing and if I don’t, mother is going to be rather upset with me, so, since the Winterfaire shipments are ready, I will be heading to the Republic.”

“Taking some of your wonderful things?” Arlsyn said with a smile. “You make such wonderful toys and while I hate to have to compete for the things you make, the more business you have, the better for everybody.”

“I may be taking Winterfaire presents for my nieces and nephews, yes. Quite a few of my things have already gone to the Republic, courtesy of Lady Qinvaris and her mother in law.”
“Why did that happen?”
“There were a lot of families displaced when the threat of the Scourge became acute, apparently and the Qinvaris people came to my shop and some others looking for toys to send to the children. I did very well out of that, as well as the Grand Master dolls.”

“That’s enough business, dear,” Lidia said. “Princess, your children are welcome in our house at any time.”

“We need to move on, dear,” Eldiun said.

Lady Zumbular was watching the pyre when Kelvahn and Gander joined her. Kelvahn said, “Alea, I don’t think that you have been introduced to Justiciar Dawkins.”
“No I hadn’t actually. I have not been in the city of late and there has been relatively little need for my services. This is Horald, who does the dirty work for me.”

“Using a bolt gun,” Gander said. “Interesting choice of tools.”

“I worked in the beef industry in the Republic,” Horald said. “Most of the time, I’m doing the same thing here, so I have the tools. I would probably be poor with an axe or sword and Alea is out of practice, somewhat. So I used the bolt gun. I’m not big on flash in any case. This was a dirty job that had to be done and I treated it like that.”

“You also don’t want to be like the executioners that the buffoon Justiciars drag around.”
Horald laughed. “Not in any way. The good thing is that I haven’t seen Justiciars that act like the stories.”

Kelvahn sighed. “The Justiciar responsible for that is over there, acting proper and civilized today. So you are spared the antics.”

“There were supposed to be more for the block.”
“They were retrieved and are still at large, unfortunately. You and Alea were not at my daughter’s wedding so you didn’t see the interruption.”

Byddri walked over and took a picture. “Kythaela will be glad to see that these two came to an end.”

“How is your wife and the baby?”
“Doing fine. She has been with mother rather frequently and has stopped getting nervous every time the wind rattles a tree. She’s a bit annoyed that I don’t charge down to Vestia and flame a place, but I can’t really do that.”

“You could talk to Jorge,” Gander said. “For that matter, I can point you at dragons and some others that wouldn’t complain if you wanted to play fun and games in the place we are discussing.”

“My boss would get upset. It’s one thing to get caught up in the middle of something by accident, but going after somebody is something that is discouraged.”

“You know Paeris.”

“That has possibilities. On the other hand, Kythaela is just experiencing being a dragon parent. Dragons tend to be very protective of their children more or less until they can fly and this is our first. Also, the clowns were going after all the kids and killing people to do that. That trips all sorts of buttons. She doesn’t want to leave Lyari and wants me to deal with the threat to our child.”

Gander grinned. “You will find a way.”

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