“There is a silver, or gold lining to everything.”
Vindy was fairly sure that the entire city was laughing at him. His mother had dragged him to the grove, where he had passed his test and reverted with no issues whatsoever. Sarya had made sure that he knew that she thought that he was as cute the way he was now as he was as Ulairekamba. Then the flash had appeared and things became rather more serious. That hadn’t stopped his mother from hauling him up to the castle and announcing that the prince had returned. By morning, Vindy was sure that the entire city knew who he was. They also knew who Sarya was, courtesy of some unofficial mage hunter types who made the rather stupid mistake of going after her. Fortunately for them, Sarya was in such a good mood that they were not cut too badly and for the most part suffered from extreme embarrassment. With Sarya supervising, Toral and Vindy had dumped Count D’ alad’s older son in front of his house and left him there. Then they had all joined the others of the Scourge suppressor team in doing what they could for the various victims of the massive disaster that had been inflicted on the Mortal Kingdoms.
Spitty and Iolena found that all the trains stopped at Astia when they arrived there. When they asked why, the answer shocked them. The briefing had not mentioned the possibility of multiple cities being Scourged. Dropping their luggage at the inn, they went to the edge of the city, transformed, put their clothes in their carry packs and took to the air.
The Qinvaris Estate, Region 4.
Keryth came into the command trailer and said to Roger, who was sitting at the desk looking at the emergence scanner. “We should be ready to go. Anything?”
“Not a thing. They should start tonight, if they attack at night. Frankly they should have started last night.”
“They had things fall apart yesterday.”
“That was poor planning. They tried to do too much all at the same time and the way they treated people worked against them.”
“So we wait.”
“We wait. Was it like this last year?”
“It was worse because the guys spreading the Blight were in the crews and there was no way to know who they were. This time, we will know the enemy and we can act fast.”
“I wonder if they know about the emergence scanners.”
“Probably not. The Office of Inanimates only set up with them at the end and didn’t make a big deal about them. The Inanimate attacks had stopped before they did anything with them. We only found out about them because you asked the Office about detecting Inanimates.
“Let me go back to my reading.”
“What is it you’re reading?”
“I found this in the library and printed a copy when I was in the Republic. The title is “Radiation Protection.”
“Quite a few, actually. Quite a few.”
Laierd looked at Belloc and said, “The demons are back.”
“Aye, I know. There is little we can do about that and the Lord is afraid of being murdered in his bed like his pa.”
“That be true. I was glad when they moved elsewhere to be with their kin. Now they and all their kin have returned.”
“The best we can do is not to give them any heed and let the lord deal with them.”
Dúhael cursed Nat again. He was sure that Nat was responsible for most of their current difficulties. Somehow, he had made off with the list, had managed to ensure that the key people that Dúhael had expected to have were not in the assembly room and then had locked the doors, leaving Dúhael with no option but to leave and setting the fire alarm off to get everyone out of the downstairs and the city. Something had happened to remove the guards and Dúhael had been left bereft of the people and skills he needed to keep things in motion. That meant that he was facing a tight timetable and since the enemy had all the information on the Scourge, had run Scourge tests and had Scourged areas to examine, the enemy was as aware of the timetable as Dúhael was. Dúhael was sure that when the radiation levels dropped to moderately safe levels, crews would assault the cities and pull every dead body they could find to massive pyres for burning and disposal. The problem was that the devise to start the Animators had been lost in the mess, there were no people capable of fabricating another one and it had taken all night and most of the day to actually find it and when they did, the mana was dead. Finally as evening approached the radiation suits were ready, the devise charged, the Blight cultures prepared and ready to go. At least the other more important part of the operation had started. The wagons had been found where they had been prepared and the vaults opened or the doors disasocciated. The retrieval could begin.
Herdir, who had somehow managed to get himself inside the assembly room and through the portal even though he had been on the other list said, “Do the cultures have charges?”
Dúhael looked at him, blinked and said, “What do you mean?”
“When we deployed the Blight we had small explosive charges to spread the incursion. They are available in the lower city as they are used to expand paper figures and whatnot. If the cultures do not have charges, they won’t spread very far and your first sporings may not spread at all.”
“You did not mention charges before.”
“They were in the reports I sent you some time ago. You should have had reports on how we performed the incursions in the past.”
“The last one failed.”
“Yes it did. There was a report compiled by Lord Qinvaris that also detailed how the blight was distributed and the tools used to do so. Lord Qinvaris knew about the charges as well.”
“We have that handled.”
Dúhael cursed Nat again as Herdir left. Once Herdir was gone, Dúhael went to Blackfire and said, “Herdir thinks that we need money. I don’t think that the consequences of what we just did have sunk in as yet.”
“Yes we do. Do you have a proposal?”
“Yes. We send Inanimates to Zirgoccol and raid Bank St. We hit a few banks for the coin.”
Blackfire smiled. “I like it. At least to use for the noise. We can’t exactly tell Herdir that we already have the money handled. Also, hitting Bank St. will have people not looking into where we actually got the money.”
“Herdir also says that we are spreading the Blight incorrectly.”
“He doesn’t know that we never cared about the Blight that much except as an excuse and a diversion, at least in the beginning. If the Blight spreads too much, our friends will be injured and we would lose support. They’ve also been telling us not to annoy Lord Qinvaris too much and I can live without him using everything he has to get at us. On the other hand, since we had to wait until the harvest was almost complete in any case, a Blight incursion was a good excuse.”
“Also, we are going to need some things, since Nat managed to pull the people that I had planned to be available to fabricate things for us.”
“He did manage that. He turned out to be a surprise all the way around.”
“Not a pleasant one.”
“We knew that he was a liability. What we didn’t know was just how big a liability he would become. At least you don’t have to listen to him whine about the shop anymore.”
“There is a silver, or gold lining to everything.”