The War For The Mortal Kingdoms, Chapter 5-6

Alinis looks into soap. A piggy bank is discovered to be empty.

Chapter 5.

House Qinvaris.

Looking into the cleaner that Lyrei’s maid had used had turned out to be a deep dig into household cleaners. Alinis had started with House staff, and come up with a list of possibilities. Then she had talked with her great grandmother and come up with a different list and a suggestion that she find the household book that would have such things in it. That had started her looking into the House library and digging out a pile of books and listing the various things. Finally she took the most likely possibilities, three very old household guides for ladies and pulled Lyrei’s crystal off the shelf. When Alinis activated her, Lyrei looked at her and said, “Are you saving my time, Alinis? You haven’t spoken with me for some time.”
“Things have been busy somewhat and I have been helping with the harvest. This is our busy time and there have been things happening.”
“Such as?”
“The Dark folk Scourged five cities in the Mortal Kingdoms yesterday.”
“That seems to be a rather violent and destructive thing to do. Do you know why?”
“Daddy has been talking about Inanimates and the Blight for some time and he thinks that all those people were killed to make Inanimates.”

“That is a terrible thing to do. I can’t help you stop the Scourge more than you are already. Your father has been expecting this, as you said. So, what do want to speak about?”
“One of Dan’s professor friends in the Fellowship discovered an item in Lyrei’s journal about a maid ruining a Blight culture by washing near it. The professor was wondering what might have been used to clean the lab.”

“You know, I remember the incident, but as to what it was, I never investigated that. I was more concerned about keeping cultures alive, not investigating what killed them. Whatever it was must have been fairly noxious or it would not have affected the cultures.”

“Do you remember what book your family used as a house manual?”

“That I do, since I used the same for my household. It was Lady Trislana’s Healthy and Sound Home Guide.”

Alinis looked at the books she had and said, “We don’t have that one. I will have to ask and see if anyone else does.”
“You could check the castle in the Republic.”

“Now that is an idea. You aren’t trying to get closer to Harald are you?”
“Would you blame me if I was?”
“Not really. On the other hand, I wouldn’t pack you, either. I’m sure that you have other ways to communicate.”

“Spoilsport. So tell me a bit about what is happening.”

“Ok, as long as you tell Harald not to tell Uncle Taeren any stories.”

“Now why would Harald tell your Uncle Taeren stories?”
“So that Uncle Taeren would share stories about us. Here I go.”
Alinis told Lyrei about Tomas and Lythie, Princess Cécile and her quest and about the race to install the Scourge suppressors. “The other side shut down the railroad before they could all be installed. That was why the cities could be Scourged. I need to go now.”

“Be wary. If they wanted those particular cities Scourged, there was a reason and I think that it goes beyond the Inanimates and the Blight. My family wasn’t afraid to use a strategy they were sure would probably fail to pursue another one.”

“I have to go.”

After Alinis left, Lyrei poked the others and said “Things have gotten fairly grim. Alinis is chasing soap. Here is our conversation.” She blipped the record of the conversation to them.

“Things have gone bad,”  Tassarion said. “On the other hand, our charges keep digging for answers.”

Bighagh

Dumag looked at Jerthad and said, “You want to go, don’t you.”

“Was I that obvious?”
“Somewhat. In any case, I don’t have a problem with you going and getting good intelligence about this.”

“Thank you.”
“I do want the same copy you file to the Press Service. Also, be careful. My granddaddy used to tell stories about his granddaddy and Inanimates. Guns don’t work very well on things that are already dead. This is going to be a war unlike any of us has ever seen.”
“I know. Of course what’s happening in the Mortal Kingdoms is only part of it.”

“Find out why they did what they did, if you can. They didn’t just Scourge those places for the Inanimates, though they will use them for cover.”

“You saw that too.”
“Lord Qinvaris has been setting up for a big Blight incursion for moons and the things he was doing were impossible to hide if you were looking for him to be doing something. They had to know that he has taken steps. Anyway, don’t go into the Scourged areas, watch your back and be careful. I need you back.”
“Keep an eye out here. I will speak to the Colonel and get him pushing a bit, since he has probably started already.”

“The last thing we need are compelled and a civil war here, followed by starting a war in the Fellowship or overrunning the Mortal Kingdoms and creating havoc in the Empire somehow.”

“Richard won’t let that happen.”
“He could be distracted.”
“That doesn’t happen very easily.”

Zirgoccol.

Jorgreg looked at the stacked Urdusins beside Dudral’s desk, turned and said, “Why are those here?”
“They make a nice display and I’m giving them away to new customers.”

“Do they know that they are worthless?”
“I have a little envelope that I put them in that explains them and provides their history.”
“Where did you get them all?
“Betrek was peddling them around. I was curious, so I bought the lot. I don’t know where Betrek got them, other than the fact that they were used for one of his schemes. Up on the border, I think. I took a few for my kids, passed some around for the kids to play with and put the rest here.”

“What are you really doing?”

“What makes you think that I am doing anything?”
“Let’s just say that I am suspicious and if something happens to that money, I will not be surprised.”
“This isn’t money. At least it isn’t money any more. If some ruffian comes in and makes off with it, then the real money remains.”

Jorgreg sighed and continued upstairs. As he passed Lydia desk he said, “Is the bank expecting some excitement?”
“What makes you ask that?”
“Dudral’s pile of funny money.”
“That. I haven’t looked into that. Should I?”

“I don’t know. It is Dudral after all.”

“I will check with Haral anyway. If it is a typical idiot, that’s one thing. If it’s Paeris Zylvyre, that’s another.”
“I do not believe that the Great Captain feels a great need to rob us.”

“Probably not, since we don’t do business with the family that I know of. I will check and see if I can find out what Dudral’s up to, other than to relieve the boredom.”

Qambois looked at the report that Spitty had wired down and frowned. After taking the risk involved with Scourging the five cities, the people responsible had delayed collecting the reward, knowing that time was short. Spitty hadn’t spotted any activity in the cities as yet and there should have been. They had even given up Lain Othrond without a struggle, leaving key personnel behind. Qambois was sure that there was a reason behind the strategy, but it still didn’t make sense. He started to write a message for Spitty. He had some questions.

Vafealine came in and said, “Consul Beira wants your assessment.”
“My assessment is that I’m confused.”

“Elion Eiljeon says that he was handed some interesting material from that fellow in Lain Othrond before things happened. The material was apparently the man’s library and some other things related to his bosses.”

“I would be careful with the library portion. There may be documents relating to the construction of the things used to make the Scourge.”
“No maybe. Elion is sure that the man was at least partially responsible for the plant up at the Umevan estate and the plant that Elion’s father had him build in the Empty Lands that was never completed.”

Qambois wrote down another question and went to Vafealine’s desk. “Send this to Spitty. I want that fellow talked to and these questions asked.”

“You don’t think that they just up and ran?”
“Not at all, even if it looks that way. Things went wrong for them, but they were still following a strategy, I’m sure of it. There is something I am missing.”

Chapter 6.

Clerves

The Inanimate incursion launch crew emerged from the portal and started preparations for the first incursion in the growing darkness. After the Inanimate crew had started, the second crew emerged and headed to the Bank of Clerves to relieve the crew already working. Their mission was to continue the pillaging the funds of the bank whose staff and customers were all dead. The crew would pillage as many of the banks and counting houses as they could in the next eight days, depending on the actions of the opposition. The Inanimates and the rest were at best a diversion. The main reason for Scourging the five cities that had been Scourged was to pillage the large treasuries and banks of some of the most prosperous cities in the Mortal Kingdoms.

The Qinvaris Estate, Region 4.

The scanner bell rang and Roger looked as portal emergences started to appear. He turned to the telephone and telegraph operators and said, “We have emergences.” He started to state what fields had emergences until they stopped. After about half a twentieth, still more emergences occurred, in a different section of fields. Keryth came in and said, “Lon, take over. Roger needs to see this.”
Roger followed Keryth out to the GP and as they started off, Roger asked, “What do I need to see?”

“What happens when an Inanimate hits barbed wire and something else.”

“What?”
“You’ll see. You weren’t involved last year, so you wouldn’t know, but somebody screwed up, big time.”

They reached a field and the Inanimates could be seen struggling themselves to pieces on the rows of barbed wire crisscrossing the field. Passing a sign that said “No combines on field, barbed wire,” they walked onto the field. The field was lit by the lights of various vehicles, but no effort had been made to attack the Blight incursions. Looking around, Roger didn’t seem to see any. He turned to Keyrth and said, “Shouldn’t we see Blight effects? Has it been long enough?”
“Yes we should.” Shining a flashlight around, Keryth spotted something shiny and walked over to it. He picked it up and handed it to Roger. “Last year the Blight vials were specially made to be as fragile as possible, by Charlie Beinan, actually. They also had bursting charges to spread the Blight. These are thicker and there is no charge. Most of them didn’t even break and when it did, a good portion of the fungus didn’t even spread on the wheat stalks. I’m going to keep an eye on this field, but I think that this incursion is a bust.”

“Why did Charlie make the vials?”
“He was trading for furnace time for his own glasswork. He didn’t want to run the furnace at the House for just his work. Since the glass shop manager was an old friend of the family, he made the trade. Neither the shop nor Charlie realized where the vials were going until they were ready to be shipped. The important thing to remember is that the things were very fragile and even Charlie had trouble making them. These were made too thick.”
“What if they didn’t care about launching an incursion?”
“What do you mean?”
“I doubt that there is anybody who doesn’t know how Richard feels about the Blight. So, you go through the motions, Richard starts chasing Inanimates and prepares to torch the cities to prevent the other side from making more of them, covering up what they are really doing.”
“What are they doing?”
“What is an empty city an open invitation for?”
“Crooks. The Scourge will kill any that try that.”
“Not if they are protected and these people have had experience where they need that protection.”

“So you think that they Scourged the places to rob them and are expecting Richard to come rolling in and torch the places thinking he’s stopping a disaster.”

“Either Richard does it, or they do.”

“There are still going to be thousands of Inanimates.”

“Yes there will be. Either traipsing all over the countryside in Vestia and Apua, keeping people out of the cities or launched at places like Chatsrey and Zirgoccol to attract attention away from what they are really doing.”

“That’s sneaky.”
“It was, until they made some mistakes. They even let us hear just enough to know that they were up to something.”
“Why wait until now?”
“What is going to happen in the next couple of five days?”
“The harvest ends and the crews are paid off. I think that I see. There is a lot of coin being held to cover that, in the banks in the cities. They picked the one time of year where the haul would be the biggest. How did you figure this out?”

“One of my jobs as a trooper was covering that cash as it went to the banks in Fayspire. It happened about this time of year, every year. It didn’t take much to figure out that the timing was significant.”

“Why five cities?”
“To make it bigger and easier to hide. One city and people might figure it out. Five and people will have other concerns. They made one big mistake.”
“What was that?”
“They tagged all the money. Scourging leaves residual radiation on everything for a long time. There are devises to pick that up. A scanner in a few banks and when the coin shows up, we have a trace to their friends, who become accessories to the biggest robbery murder in history.”

“So the money is all tagged and they probably expect that nobody will know that. We need to talk to Richard and Taenaran.”

“In the morning. Right now we have to watch this fail.”

 La 12(Intrepid)

Captain Bushbury looked out at the city that should have had no lights showing, but did. After flying more or less silently over Clerves the previous night, he was flying over Athlin tonight. As he watched the lights, it was evident that something was probably wrong, at least for what Bushbury was sure was a heist.

Bushbury has grown up in Chatsrey in a neighborhood one step above the dragonkin and the gangs. He still had dragonkin friends, those that had managed to stay alive and out of the slammer. He had also been lucky and hadn’t been identified as part of the things that he had been dragged into as a teenager, mostly because he wasn’t dragonkin and so was invisible as a lookout for the gang. As a result of his disreputable past, he knew what a heist looked like and his friends were going to love this when he told it to them. It looked as if the people on the ground were realizing what happens when the target figures out the heist before you can pull it off. Willy the Eye Bushbury grinned.

As the airship turned away, the dragons were brought aboard and Nathan entered the control car with Teonag and Brilbrun. “Somebody is going to be annoyed, sir.”

Bushbury looked at Nathan and said, “What do you mean, LC?”
“You could see them going from bank to bank and into the palace. They came out rather quickly and didn’t send anybody else back in. I think that they were looking for something that wasn’t there.”

“Somebody guessed that they were about to be robbed and took steps is my guess. That is if you believe a stodgy old captain looking for retirement.”
“I’ve wondered about that, sir. How did you end up in the airships?”
“A misspent youth perhaps. Let’s just say that I wasn’t the top of my class any more than you were.”

Athlin

Dúhael looked at the empty vault and cursed. He wasn’t sure how, but Vestia’s treasury was empty. The banks and counting houses had been empty of the gold they should have been holding and the silver that they should have been preparing to pay out to the itinerant harvest crews. Other than the banks at Clerves, this should have been the largest return and instead, the return was next to nothing. Turning from the vault he went to the parlor where the king and queen were still seated and he kicked the king off his chair. He could swear that the king was grinning at him. Going to Blackfire, he said, “Launch the Inanimates all over Vestia. They owe us.”

“Yes they do, don’t they?”

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