The Five Doomed Cities, Chapter 15-16

Tad meets a ghost. Dessielle places a bet.

Chapter 15.

House Qinvaris.

Tad stepped aside as Lord Qinvaris and his small entourage approached the portal. Immianthe, Taredd and Cyran were already waiting for Tad. Richard looked at them and said, “Were you looking for me, Princess? I have a meeting out at the farm. You could join me.”
“We were not looking for you, Lord Qinvaris.”

“Rosa is in the Fellowship right now.”

“We’re meeting with Khiiral to discuss the archives you wanted and he is introducing us to somebody.”
“Prepared to be surprised. I think he wants to have you both receive some insight into what you are looking for.”
“The place is a mess,” Tad said. “It’s also fairly large and I had the idea that you were in a bit of a hurry.”

“You know the people on the other side. Do you think that they are the kind of people that hold off because of the potential consequences?”
“Not at all.”
“I see that the portal is activated, so I need to go. Thank you both for undertaking this for me.”

Richard disappeared through the portal as Immianthe said, “Lets’ go to the house, Tad.”

Immianthe led them to the House and the waiting Khiiral. He looked at the load that Tad was carrying and said, “Good, you brought everything. Let’s go.”

Khiiral led them past the smiling Hagre and down the hall and up the stairs. As they walked up the hall, he said, “Tad, I would give you the tour, but we want to keep this moving and the Lady can have you and your parents here with Jorge and Shael some other time.”

“We are slaves. Would she want to do that?”
“So was the Lord for a long time. In fact, that was a strain in the House until he finally signed a marriage agreement after a pirate, an orc, a list, and a clown. Here we are, so I will tell you the story as we are working in the wilderness.”

Khiiral opened a door to a seemingly empty room. “Sit down and I will introduce you to the Lady.”

Tad and Immianthe sat down and Khiiral took a large crystal from the shelf, set it on the low table in front of them and touched a spot, activating the crystal. A beautiful elf lady in ancient Imperial clothing appeared and said, “I am Lyrei. Who might you be, younglings?”
“Lyrei, this is Princess Immianthe and her companion Taderl from the Umevan,” Khiiral said. “They have some questions about the place that the Lord was told to look for.”

“You are a seeming,” Immianthe said. “This is a great treasure for House Qinvaris.”

“Indeed I am,” Lyrei said. “How was a princess of the Imperial House set on a task by Lord Qinvaris?”
“Tad was set on the task. Tad, Lyrei is a seeming, an imprint that somebody made in the far past. She has limited time, so we should ask our questions.”

Tad gulped and started to reach into his satchel. “I used information from the property registry, what I knew from my history class in school and the pictures from the Eyes to find this place.” He placed a picture of the table. “I knew the stories about the Mage Queen striking at the Darkmage’s fortress and I had been tasked with looking for places that had the effects of being struck by large Projectors. So when I saw this, I was fairly sure that I had found what I was looking for. I took Khiiral, went to the archives and found some ancient maps, pictures of the estate and other things. Yesterday we went in and started to look and this is what we found.” Tad showed Lyrei the pictures he had taken the previous day. “Khiiral thinks that you can tell us where to start to dig.”

Lyrei looked at the map and Tad and said, “See that round space. That is the base of the central tower. Look around the edge for a shaft. I can’t tell just where the shaft may have been.”

“Thank you, milady.”
“Now I want your story in exchange, younglings. You are a slave and the princess is of the Imperial House. How did you meet?”
Tad and Immianthe told the story of their adventures and then Immianthe told Tad that they should leave. After they left, Lyrei turned to Khiiral and said, “Thank you for bringing those two. You could have just asked yourself.”

Khiiral grinned. “I could have, but I suspect that the princess and young man will need you and if they didn’t know to ask, they would be in trouble. There also may be another seeming at the ancient estate.”
“Be very careful if you do encounter one of my relatives. They went to the dark and they will try to manipulate those two.”

“We will be concerned.”
“Then I will shut down.”

Lyrei connected to Tassarion and Tamnaeth. “I just had an interesting conversation with a young slave and his princess.” She blipped a slip of the converstation to the others.

The princess has latched on to the boy,” Tamnaeth said.”That is either a childish infatuation or very shrewd. I wonder if the princess knows what the boy is hiding. The work he was doing was interesting as well. The pictures were the sort that I would not have expected to see any more.”
“The satellites were certainly gone when I was alive,”
Tassarion said. “Most were destroyed in the mage wars and since Ithilgir was also destroyed, there was no means to replace them. Then we all had other concerns. Somebody must have launched new satellites.”

I think that it was my family, from the hints that I have been receiving from the children,” Lyrei said. “The Ravathyra reoccupied Ithilgir and may have been part of the effort to build the new launch vehicles. Alinis said that the launch site has been found and it had been used to launch a Projector mirror. Presumably they launched new Eyes as well. We will have to find out more about the boy and his princess.”

As they left the House, and headed to the portal, Tad turned to Immianthe and said, “If we encounter one of those in the archives we won’t turn it on.”
“Why not?”
“Think about what it would do with your grandmother or my mother. The thing would be watching us all the time for them.”
“Good point.”

Chapter 16.

Zirgoccol Airport.

Halamar loved the crowds during public day at the Zirgoccol Air Show. Unlike the business days, the crowds changed the atmosphere of the show from work to something fun. This was also the day that the various outfits strutted their stuff and flew just about everything with wings to entertain the crowds. The Hammer transport noisily running down the runway was a case in point. As he passed the betting booth for the time trials he spotted Dessielle placing a bet. She placed a stack of gold on the counter, pushed it through the window and said “Place a thousand silvers on Republic and over 400 knots.”

“It’s your money lady. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

Halamar walked up to Dessielle and said, “Betting against the House, Dessielle?”

She jumped and turned around. “Hello Uncle Halamar. You caught me.”

“Very few aircraft have gone over 400 knots. What do you know that I haven’t heard about?”
“I’m not going to say. I will say that I was at the beach the day before yesterday and I heard some interesting things that I have pledged not to reveal.”
“Republic Air has never won a time trial, certainly never at well over 400 knots.”

“Then I lose the money, then. I will have to suffer and not buy a new dress for Yellowleaf this year.”

Halamar heard Alinis’s voice and looked at the betting booth where she was making the same bet. With that, Halamar wandered to the flight line and looked at the light airplane that was presumably Republic’s entry in the Time trials. Like most of the Republic’s aircraft it suffered from being just behind the curve when it came to engine technology and not being pushed by the Aeries. The thing would be fast, but in Halamar’s experience, would barely break 400 knots. Certainly the latest planes from Beinan’s would take the time trials yet again. Thinking that Resod would know more, he started to meander over to the Khumkith flight school booth. There was a crowd in front, waiting in line to run the training course but Resod spotted Halamar and walked over. “What’s got you worried?”

“Dessielle just placed a large bet on Republic and over 400 knots. What do you know?”
“Not much. I haven’t been down to Desert Howl recently. Torry would be the one to ask.”
“He isn’t here. I haven’t seen him at either the Skychaser booth or ours.”

“That’s strange. He had that crash recently and I wanted to chew him out over it.”

“It probably wasn’t his fault. He collided with one of those unmanned planes from the Collector.

“Do you think that Dessielle was being foolish?”

“Honestly I don’t know. She seemed rather confident that she knew something that I didn’t.”

“There is that closed off area at the Republic booth that Valtin won’t talk about.” Resod grinned. “I think that I am going to make a small wager myself.”

Resod headed to the betting booths and the worried Halamar went to find his son and nephew. They were on the flight line, going over their planes in preparation for the time trials. Ballfrod saw him and said, “You look worried father. What happened?”
“Dessielle just bet a thousand silvers, on Republic.”

Ballfrod looked down the flight line. “I’ve been watching that bird fly for the last four days and while it has its tricks, it’s still what we’ve been seeing.”
“She placed the bet for over four hundred knots. Well over.”

“A bit over four maybe, if the wind is right and the pilot pushes it. Four ten, maybe four fifteen at best. I’m pushing for four twenty and so is Gary. That plane isn’t going to touch that. We were going to play some games like we did last year. We’ll look out for surprises.”

Halamar went to the Beinan section of the stands, where various family were watching the show. Folmon and Adiun came over with grins and Adiun said, “Care to make a bet on the winner? I think that bird from Republic has promise.”

“What do you two know that I don’t?”

“Nothing specific. Terrel Wavechaser said that Republic has a surprise coming.”

“Since Ballfrod is the favorite, I’ll have to take the bet.”

“Good, if you win, I take your people to Wriang’s for dinner. If I win, you take my people.”

“How many do you have up here? I don’t want to pay for the airfare for all your people.”
“Most of them are here already, along with Jandar’s working on the Scourge Suppressors.”

“Ok, the Scourge Suppressor people then.”

The time trials started and when Republic’s turn came, the announcer said, “Republic Aircraft is having trouble with their aircraft and for safety has requested that they be put at the end of the trials.”

Halamar grimaced, as that meant that the Beinans would not know what number they had to beat. It was Garyald’s turn at the runs and his combined time was 423 knots. Then it was Balltrod’s turn and he turned in 424 knots. Halamar looked for the Republic air special and it seemed to be circling far off the field, slowly, rather than starting its runs. In demonstration of masterful flying, Balltrod and Garyald appeared at the end of the run, both flying over four hundred knots wingtip to wingtip as the announcer called the start of Republic’s run. Halamar looked for the Republic plane when he saw a shape flying into the run. Somehow there was a strange silence as the shape approached, chasing Balltrod and Garyald down the run and closing almost as if they were standing still. Suddenly the stands were filled with a loud roar as the plane flew past. Balltrod and Garyald were barely two thirds of the way down the run as the plane flew off to make its turn. They flew off when they reached the end of the run and the strange plane returned to do the run again, streaking past in another loud roar. The plane turned and made a third run and then turned again as another of the planes appeared and they made the run facing each other, rolling as they went past each other right in front of the stands. The display board lit up with 530 knots. Republic Aircraft had just taken the trials at over a hundred knots faster than any aircraft had ever flown. In a note to end the trials, the special flew its runs, turned in a healthy 418 knots and then all three Republic planes made a pass in formation in a masterful demonstration of airmanship. The crowds in the stands started a roaring cheer.

Halamar turned to Adiun and said, “You knew!”
“Actually I didn’t know very much. I knew that Valtin was doing things with turbines. I didn’t know that he was building an aircraft engine using one. Terrel clued me in that Valtin had something coming and Torry bought his plane from Valtin and not from us.”

Rebecca and Rosa looked at their children and the others and Rebecca said, “What did you all do?”

“I think that we made Uncle Andy mad at us,” Chrissie said. “We placed some bets that were long odds and they paid off.”

“Where did you get the money?”
“That was easy,” Alinis said. “Axebrew has a booth, Tom and Ruki were there and all we had to do was clue them in. They were willing to loan us the cash for the hot tip.”

“The tip that Bill gave you,” Rosa said. “I should have told you not to use the tip to gamble.”

“It wasn’t our fault that Uncle Andy didn’t know about Republic’s new plane,” Chrissie said.

Valtin had a huge smile as the crew unwrapped the heavy canvas from around the booth that he had had closed up for the entire show. The taxiway had been cleared with difficulty so that the two prototype turbothrust powered planes could be towed to the parking spot that had been kept empty for them since the beginning of the show. The pair were already being slobbered over by dragons from the aeries. A grinning Torry walked up with his father and Halamar said, “My own son pulled a fast one on me. He didn’t even hint that you had something like this, Valtin.”

“We made a deal after he put his plane in the ground. He’s been running chase for some time anyway as we got the bugs out. He was first in line with a check and offered to fly the time trials.”

“Rubbing his brother in the things that his brother has been saying for the last few years. You didn’t waste any time putting the trophy up.”

Valtin hadn’t. The time trials trophy was on a stand in the booth next to a turbothrust engine. “I’ve wanted one of these for a long time. I have never had a package that was quite good enough. On the other hand, I kept building those pumps for Romarod and when one thrust itself across the room, my engine guy had an idea. Of course it took ten years to make it work.

“Now I have to chase my niece down.”

“What did she do?”
“She placed a bet on you to win with a floor of four hundred knots. She knew something.”

“I had nothing to do with that.”

“I know. I just want to know if I owe Andy an apology or not.”

Andy looked at the payout with a rather puzzled expression. The payout was being handed to a young man who looked to be sixteen and from the Republic. He was also taking the payout in a draft, so the payout was probably significant. When the payout was done, Andy went to the counter and said, “What was the payout?”
“Forty six thousand.”

“To a kid?”

“He had a thousand silver bet pay out at twenty to one, plus 2 silvers for every ten bet and every knot over four hundred. That was two hundred for every knot over four hundred.”

“Where did he get the money?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

As Andy watched, the people cashing in came and went and there was a string of the thousand silver bets, all made by youngsters, some of whom he knew. When Chrissie showed up for her payout, he walked up and said, “What’s going on, Chrissie?”

“We came down for the air show and Alinis said that a friend had given her a hot tip, so we drew cash and placed some bets. They paid off very well.”

“Who tipped you all?”
“A friend of Alinis’s and Taranth’s, Bill from Desert Howl. He bonded to Moonshine, if you can believe that, when he came up here to get tested. Anyway, he said that Republic had a new plane that was very fast. He was right. There’s Midnight, so I will see you, Uncle Andy. You should tell your bookmakers to watch things more closely. It’s rather hard to hide an airplane.”

Chrissie joined her husband and they wandered off into the crowd. Brian came over and said, “What did she know, dad?”
“Some kid from Desert Howl came up here and clued Chrissie and her friends in on that plane. Apparently Republic Air was keeping it under wraps until today and only flying it down there at Desert Howl.”

“So this is grandfather’s fault.”
“I can go with that.”

“Maybe we should talk to the kid.”
“It wasn’t his fault that we slipped up on the book.”
“No, but we could put him on the payroll and have him send us the tips.”

Andy grinned. “Brian, I like how you think.”

Kammik looked at his son and Tom and said, “I understand that you two made some nice date money.”

Ruki grinned. “We made a cash advance to some friends, they paid us twenty percent and gave us a nice little tip that paid off very well.”

“You could have been in deep.”
“Not really,” Tom said. “All of them were good for the money, including the two from Desert Howl who provided the tip. The bookies slipped up and Republic Air didn’t fly the planes to Kugrim, so nobody knew that they were coming. So the bookies set themselves up and we made some date money.”

“You two are taking us to dinner this evening.”

Ruki grinned. “We can do that.”

Qambois looked at Spitty and Iolena and said, “Why do you look so pleased with yourselves?”
“We heard about a tip on the train here from Fayspire and it paid off, big time, Spitty said. “My brother is rather upset with me right now, as not only did I clean up at the book, he’s buying dinner for us.”

“You placed a bet on those planes from the Republic. I will have to discuss them with Tom.”

“I didn’t know about them either.” Tom walked up behind Qambois and added, “Valtin wasn’t telling anybody and Uncle Rom wasn’t either.”

“Did you know about the development of the engines?”
“Not really. First of all they kept things under wraps and second, I tried to stay away and not have crazies trying to sell me things, especially my own family.”

“Your uncle did sell you those rockets eventually.”

“I needed them, or rather I needed to be able to look at things without the people looking knowing that I did it. The Airships weren’t working and I didn’t have the kinds of airplanes operating from ships that I needed, so the rockets and Skychaser. That actually has worked very well, for the most part.”

“Do you regret destroying the Eyes?”
“Somewhat. At the time, I thought that I couldn’t afford to let the enemy see that their Scourge devises were ineffective. As it turned out, Jorge handled that very well. On the other hand, there were the Scourge devises that the enemy hid, so removing the Eyes hampered quite a few plans.”

“They also attempted to Scourge the Grandmaster’s funeral. They may attempt to Scourge other places.”

“We’ve been taking every step to make that as difficult as we can. It they do, Jorge has some orders and a place gets stomped, hard.”

“I will support you in that.”

“For today, why don’t we watch Halamar’s discomfort?”
Qambois laughed. “He was discomfited, was he not? By the way, Tom, this is my nephew Spitfire and his bonded, Iolena, who apparently gambled on Republic air and won.”

Tom grinned. “Is this the disreputable nephew that you never wanted to introduce?”
“Yes it is. Since Iolena has shown up, he has been rather harder to persuade to perform tasks for me, but when he does, the results are rather entertaining. The League discovered that the hard way. Unfortunately, not before they sent a young man to a very bad place.

Halamar looked at his rather morose son and said, “You bet on yourself, didn’t you?”

Balltrod’s shoulders slumped. “Five thousand silvers. The payout wasn’t going to be that much, but there was the pride involved. Why didn’t Torry tell us about the things?”
“I didn’t tell you, because, brother, you haven’t wasted an opportunity to sneer at what we were doing down there in Desert Howl,” Torry said as he joined them. “Also, I was brought in and Valtin asked me not to leak and spoil the surprise. The look on your faces was worth it. You were top dragon until suddenly you weren’t anymore.”

“How do those things fly?”

“It’s a completely different feeling. Of course, there is that going faster than anything else.”

“When do the orders start?”
“I would get in fast before the Republican army puts their order in.”

“Unfortunately I have had a setback. So I will have to wait. I also have another project.”

“The unmanned aircraft that our sister made off with. Valtin is willing to share information about those.”

Balltrod smiled. “I can do that. I think that I will be making trips to Desert Howl more frequently.”

“Come down and you can see the amazing things there.”

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