The War For The Mortal Kingdom, Chapter 11-12

Jorge stages a rescue. Still more Inanimates are sent like a plague A vault can’t be opened

Chapter 11.

County Westlaas, Vestia.

 Terrance looked out the window of his coach rather nervously. The cavalry troop that was guarding the coach was very nervous and his mother was beside herself and in a bit of a panic. So far, no Inanimates had appeared. Queen Cécile had promised an escort in her letter calling for the Conference, but the escort had not appeared. The coach rushed on through the countryside.

Teonag had spotted the coach when it had crossed the border the previous day and he and Brilbrun had been a silent and invisible escort until the coach and its cavalry escort had stopped for the night. Ferret and some other fae had kept an eye on the inn so that the boys could get some sleep and all six of the dragons were now rotating the coach escort as they were all too close to Athlin. Brilbrun said in dragonspeach, “That count character and the horsecaptain seem to be hanging back a lot.”

“It’s almost as if they were expecting something to show up.”

“Of course, so is Jorge.”

“That count is going to get a surprise. That looks like trouble.”

Teonag called the other boys in and said to Brilbrun, “We watch the coach.”

As if the dragons flying over the mass of Inanimates surging out of the dead zone were a signal, several squadrons of cavalry charged at them, balls of sap flaming. They made their first attacks and retreated as Inanimates fell as they tripped over the fallen and burning Inanimates. The dragons made runs, burning the struggling Inanimates and the cavalry returned for another charge. Brilbrun looked and saw a group of suited figures charging the coach from two sides as it entered a narrow road in a village. “There they are! I’ll take the front, you take the back!”

The dragons dropped into dives, pulling out and rather than flaming, dropped little balls of spikes. The suited soldiers were struck and seemed to be shocked at what had just happened. Republican marines charged out of the side streets and the suited soldiers started to surrender.

Lieutenant Ravahana had a hundredth or so to realize what the spiked balls had done to his platoon’s suits before the marines surrounded him, submachine guns at the ready. Knowing a pointless fight when he saw it, he surrendered. As his platoon was taken out of the narrow street, the coach started again. A large figure with major’s bars walked up and the lieutenant asked, “How did you know?”

“It wasn’t hard. There are only a few places where an ambush would work, we have an emergence scanner for detecting ports and the count there knew that something was coming. We’ve been watching the coach from when it started. You should have stashed those suits, because once they get torn, you are not going back through a Scourged area. I guess that the count doesn’t get his regency after all.”
As the coach exited the street, it had to stop for a very brief time to make a turn. A girl and a thing rushed to the coach, opened the door and got in. The girl held up a badge and said, “I’m Sarya, your friendly neighborhood Justiciar and this is Ulairekamba, my sneaky cute monster partner. We will be your escorts into the city so that you don’t have any traitor issues.”
“Who was that big soldier,” Terrance asked with a grin. The tables had been turned and the rescue had been amazing.

“That was Jorge the Pirate. Those poor idiots should have known better.”

“You seem very young for a Justiciar,” the queen said.

“I am. I came into this case because I was trying to find my cute monster’s family and seeing if he was as cute when he wasn’t a monster. We did and he is. But for things like this, he has to be a monster and not annoy the church too much. In any case, your majesty, my job is to make sure that you get to the conference and not get dragged off to someplace that you really don’t want to go.”

“Can you do that?”
“I hope that the other guys are smart and we don’t find out. My Aunt Iolena is flying up there and if I mess up, Uncle Vesstan and his friend will run ‘Kamba and me through the training again.”

“Is your aunt fae?”
“Nope, she bonded to a disreputable dragon whose uncle keeps handing big jobs to.”

“That’s an Elf Carran story!” Terrance said.
“Not yet. It probably will be.”

Astia.

Tomas looked at Roger and said, “I’m not a Citizen in the Republic.”

“You will be, since you have been performing Service for the Justice Department for some time now.”

Tomas looked at Lythie and said, “You did that, didn’t you?”

“Actually daddy did. That way he could keep you and not have to carry you in the budget until you all graduated.”

“We did not apply for Service. We weren’t going to until we finished our educations.”

“As I said, Daddy and Kulgha took care of that. That way Uncle Richard wasn’t paying for you and Aunt Rosa didn’t have strings attached to you all so that she could drag you out from under them.”

“In any case, you can function as part of my team here.” Roger said.

“What if there is a conflict of interest?”
“I have the same issues through my wife, so I wouldn’t be too concerned.”

Cornaith was waiting as Gander stepped off the train and said, “Mr. Dawkins, it wasn’t my fault.”
“What wasn’t your fault?”

“Any of it.”

“Where is my daughter?”
“Escorting the king of Apua here. They should be here later today.”

“Have you met my wife, Alissa?”

“I haven’t, in fact. Milady, I am Cornaith Binorin, formerly a mage, now working for Beinan’s.”

“One of those who shutdown the suppressors,” Alissa said. “I am surprised that you state that you were a mage so openly here.”
“Everybody knows already. I think they see me as Beinan’s man in charge of Scourge suppressors, so they don’t want to annoy me with little things like the fact that I have a mage’s pendant. That is unless your new relatives don’t want me to handle their hidden children and find the occasional unregistered mage doing nasty things to the railroad.”

“Hidden children?”

“Here’s Toral to whisk you and your people away, so I will let him explain.”

Toral walked up with a servant and said, “Justiciar, my mother, the duchess would like to extend an invitation to stay at our townhouse for the duration of the Conference. She thinks that it will be more convenient for some things.”

Gander looked at the young noble and laughed. “I have my people here, so let’s go.”

Eddie watched Gander being picked up as Lina berated her lazy servant and he turned to unloading yet another trunk. No one paid any attention to the duke’s servants and some other arrivals with the visible and acting elvish members of Gander’s team. Jonny, in the garb of a senior servant slapped Eddie over the head and yelled, “You heard milady, get moving!”

Iolena watched her sister and Gander get into the coach and grinned. She could tell her sister how Sarya had taken the town by storm and the adventures she had had on her way here to the city and after Harvest Day. 
Vesticour

Yrvien flew over the city, looking for activity. This was the third day after the city was murdered in the Scourge and so far, the city had received no attention from the people responsible for the Scourging. She was about to bank away when she noticed activity near the Treasury. She doubted that the people looking at the place would be able to accomplish anything as no one else had before. The ancient vault had been a prize of the kings of Apua since the Mage Wars and even without the building and masonry built on top of it, had proved to be impervious to all attempts to crack it. The royal family had been the key and only key to the vault and the king’s first task of the day had been the ceremonial opening of the vault to start the business of the day. The scourging had caused the vault to close itself and put up a shield. Yrvien was certain that, other than the young king opening the vault, it was not going to open.

Dúhael watched the latest futile attempt of the Mechanitiars to penetrate the walls and heard steps approaching. He turned as his brother walked up and said, “Is the boy on the way?”
“No.”

“It should have been easy. The guard overwhelmed by roving Inanimates, the queen killed and the boy rescued by the count and the horsecaptain, who beat their way in and pulled the boy out, barely surviving.”
“The Inanimates were destroyed, the platoon overwhelmed by Republican marines and the horsecaptain and the count were trumped by a young Justiciar and her Transformed companion, who proceeded to escort the queen and the young king.”
“How did you discover that?”
“I had someone where they would probably stop if the retrieval did not take place and the horsecaptain was able to pass a message. A troop of cavalry from the duc arrived shortly after the retrieval attempt and was escorting the coach.”

Dúhael cursed. “So we don’t have the key to this thing and we certainly are not going to get in any other way. At least not in the time we have. We’ll have to settle for what we can get from the banks and, the markets and the purses.”

“Should we punish Apua?”
“Not at present. Time is getting short. Let us speak with Mórsairon and see what assets we have in Astia. Perhaps we can still retrieve the prince.”

Chapter 12.

Ishendell.

Jorge emerged from the portal in the ancient Portal Service building, Jorge spotted him and said, “Good, now I don’t have to chase you down.”
“Were you looking for me?”
“Yes. I found some things and I wanted to share them with you.”

“What did you find?”
“Radiation suits.”

Jorge grinned. “How many suits do you have?”
“I found a hundred or so, but I want to keep fifty on hand for working with certain things at the estate. So we have fifty to play with.”

“I can work with that.”
“They won’t fit enhanced.”
“We can work around that.”

“I also want to show you something else.”

“I have an appointment with my bosses, so can I come back.”
“Bring them back with you, that is, the admiral. I think that he needs to speak with us and see what we are doing.”

“Who is we?”

“So far, me, Roger and Keryth. We are going to be throwing money away.”

“That sounds interesting. I will try to bring my bosses back.”

Jorge went to the waiting GP and was driven to his headquarters, where the admiral, Rob Brozerock and Brevet General Raldon Hardtest, the new commander of first marine division were waiting. Jorge entered the meeting room and saluted. Tom returned the salute and said, “At ease, Major. I just wanted to coordinate with you. So what is the status?”

“Five cities were Scourged. So far, most of the activity has been in Clerves and Athlin. Inanimates have been launched from Athlin into the countryside and we have been suppressing and destroying them as they are launched with light casualties on our side.”
“I don’t know you, major,” General Hardtest said. “Frankly I was skeptical of your little outfit and the fact that it operates independently. You seem to be rather friendly with what some people regard as enemies.”

“This isn’t the time or place, general,” Tom said. “We can discuss the major’s operations at another time.”

“I just wanted to let the Major know where I was coming from. On the other hand, the results speak for themselves and the Major’s efforts have gone a long way to keeping us all alive.” 
“If the general is referring to my working with the Great Captain, our cooperation concerning some operations was on an ad hoc basis for very limited things where we had a mutual interest. If the general is referring to my working with Imperials or the Fellowship, those relationships have been vital to performing my tasks. I have had to work with unorthodox relationships to get the job done. My main task has been to remove the Scourge devises from the table.”

“Five cities say that you failed.”

“Sir, after I give you the brief, we can go to Lain Othrond and you can tell me how I could assault the underground complex and seize the Scourge devises before they were launched. That is after spending moons collecting intelligence and trying to come up with a way to do exactly that without destroying the place, killing thousands of innocents and potentially doing great damage to the neighboring region. The fact is that as soon as the opportunity arose, I went in, knowing that I could suffer severe casualties to prevent the Scourging that I knew was potentially imminent. Yes, we failed, and that is something I will have to live with.”

“The orcs that went in did not fail.”
“I have spoken to the colonel and his top about what he did. Their objective was not to assault the “Downstairs” and they only scratched the surface of the fortress a bit. Getting deeper was a much more difficult task and likely to fail unless I had excellent intelligence. If you like, I can show you the runs I did at the Sanctuary where we tried to come up with a path to success and failed, sometimes with not just five cities being Scourged, but twenty. Let me present my brief, we can talk to Lord Umevan, who wants to show us something that he came up with and go to Lain Othrond, where the lieutenant commander can take you through the place while I return to doing my job.”

Jorge presented his brief and after he was done, the general asked, “What did you mean, runs at the Sanctuary?”
“Since the Sanctuary could not engage in real combat, they have elaborate devises for playing war games. The things have their limitations and there is no replacement for actual experience, but you can game things out and see what the results may be. I, the colonel at the Sanctuary, the orc colonel who ran the raid, Horatio Clinkscales, who is Lord Qinvaris’s militia commander and General Grevaris ran exercises against the fortress with various combinations of troops, and we all failed to get to the Scourge devises before at least one and usually more were sent through the portal. If there was no cooperation from the inside, there was no way that we could get the surprise we needed to get to the devises. That included porting troops in.”

“Who was the leadership on the other side?”
“A simulation that was very stupid with a set of preprogrammed responses.”
“Essentially throwing dice.”
“Yes. We wanted to see if we could beat a best case scenario.”

“As the admiral said, this isn’t the time, but I will want to see your work.”

“When the current crisis is over, you are welcome to. Perhaps there was something that we all missed.”

“Who came closest to succeeding?”
“Would you believe, Tim Wavechaser, the leader of the special squad? His ideas were unorthodox, but they almost worked and using the vents for entry was high on our list of means of penetration.”

“Why does Jorge want to see us?” Tom asked.

“He said something about throwing money away. Since he was with Roger and Keyrth, it will be interesting.”
“Jorge is playing games again,” Rob said. “You should hear the story of what he did to the persecutor in Ironton.”
“The persecutor?” Tom said. “Is that how he is telling it?”
“That’s how Tad was telling the story. The prosecutor was rather aggressive.”

As they all got in the car, the general asked, “What happened?”

“Lord Umevan, more commonly known as Jorge, recently had the family estate restored to him, including a bunch of rather remarkable slaves, including one young man named Tad,” Rob said. “The young man is very good at analyzing aerial photos because his father, in order to protect him from a very predatory lady, put him in what they call the “Eye room.” The boy had been looking for Lain Othrond for Jorge and us when he was kidnapped in Zirgoccol by the Emancipation League and ported up to Lain Othrond. That was where the orc and the old elf got involved. Anyway, in order to insure that regardless of what happened, Tad would be clean away, Jorge arranged for an aerial transfer to Albatross. The boy had a chat with the admiral, was brought into port here and hauled home by his Imperial princess. I needed Jorge for some portal work and he brought Tad down to the Republic. Tad had already been emancipated, but for a variety of reasons likes to wear a collar. After the portal work as finished, Jorge and Tad went to the Umevan estate in Ironton so that Jorge could set up some contract work for the estate. The Umevan boys are off at camp and such and the Umevan girls latched on to Tad because he was from the Empire and could tell them about the Ravathyra ladies and other things. Tad kept saying “I’m just a slave,” in order to convince the girls that he really wasn’t an expert on the high ladies in the capital. One of the girl’s classmates, who was a bit jealous of Tad, talked to the police; immigration and the prosecutor got involved, the prosecutor tried to badger Tad into saying the Jorge was using him as a bedwarmer and Tad refused to say much of anything, mostly because he really didn’t like the prosecutor. Jorge was hauled in and proceeded to smash the case against him without much trouble. The prosecutor should have known better.”

“Tad is the boy who was kidnapped and caused the fuss in Zirgoccol, isn’t he?”
“Yes he is,” Jorge said. “He was also the best source for information about Lain Othrond until the end. Here we are at the Portal Service building.”

They exited the car and went inside. The Portal Service elf pointed them at one of the service bays where Jorge, some kids, a pile of purses, Roger and Keryth were waiting. Jorge said, “General, this is Lord Jorge Umevan, Roger Bloodfoot and Keryth Harper. I don’t know why they are throwing money away.”

Jorge grinned. “We are going to port these purses into places in the five Scourged cities where they will probably be picked up by the people hauling the money away. Since the guy who was so diligent about checking for microportals was a liability, they are probably not checking for them anymore. They probably think that because we didn’t know beforehand that the cities were going to be Scourged they don’t have to worry about random microportals. We have prepared some purses and chests that will be ported to appropriate places, so that the people looking for money will find them.”

“How do you know that they are taking money,” the general asked.

“We think that they are looking for the money because the Inanimates they sent to Blight the fields didn’t have any,” Keryth said. “Two Justiciars noticed that when they were inspecting the bodies and pointed it out to Roger and me. We are also taking steps to trace the money that was Scourged and will still be radioactive.”

“Are you saying that these people killed hundreds of thousands of people, just to stage a series of robberies?”
“That is what it looks like. The Blight incursions have been a joke and easy to handle because they were poorly set up. We messed things up for them, but they really didn’t make an effort to collect any intelligence or watch the ongoing harvest. We all thought that they were planning to have a massive spread of the Blight in order to create turmoil, but they were doing this instead.”

“Why don’t we send this load through,” Jorge said. “These folks have other things to do than watch money get thrown away.”

“You don’t know very much about the military, do you, Jorge?” Tom said. “That’s what we do.”

The flinger threw the first purse through the portal. As the machine’s arm came around for another one, the general asked, “How did you come up with this?”

Jorge grinned. “Plop.”
“What?”
“Some people were having a meeting and since some friends and I thought that they were all disgusting, we arranged to let them know what we thought about them, with “Mud.” It was fun, but we got in trouble with some junior Justiciars who had infiltrated the meeting, as cats. They were not happy.”

“You deserved it, Jorge,” Rob said. “You, those orcs and Roger here just let that thing go and didn’t cover your tracks.”

“We were all at the same party you were, Rob. There were pictures and everything of all of us being thanked by the clan chief’s lady with the Orcenchief and all those people there. Excuse me.”

Jorge went over, picked up a case from a stack of them and tossed it through the portal. The kids picked up cases and watching Jorge for a signal, tossed them through. When everything was done, Jorge said, “That should do it.

   
 Astia

Spitty was able to make contacts with the local underworld through an old buddy on the lam, who had become part of the underworld in Astua. When he met the local bosses, he was amazed at the reputation he had in the underworld in the Mortal Kingdoms as a result of the fact that he was known to have dated the Dancer. Since the bosses believed the stories, Spitty didn’t enlighten them with the truth and most of it was the truth and since he and Iolena were obviously a couple, who she was made some folk nervous. In any case, Spitty was across the table with a bunch of very tough men and perhaps not fully human. Cutter the lizard was a case in point as he snacked on live mice in between puffs of Tabac. Putting the pipe down, he said, “Why should we believe you?”
“You don’t have to, Cutty. Send your boys into Clerves to get your coin and ledgers. They won’t come out again. For that matter, the coin itself can kill you.”
Cutty grabbed another mouse, swallowed it and said, “How do you know?”

“You know about that job in Fayspire? I was asked to be involved and I did some checking. The Scourge is bad news. You don’t have to take my word for it. Send one of your boys to the Republican consulate, say that you have a business in Clerves and get the report. The pictures will scare you. The poison decays, but it stays in things like coin for years. You don’t want to touch it, especially a lot of coin all together. It can kill you slowly.”

“There are people in there now. My boys saw lights.”
“They have protected suits. If you want to run an operation into Clerves, wait at least seven more days, get in and out fast and figure that your boys all lost ten years.”

“I want the characters that did this.”
“That’s why I’m here. I have some interesting friends and can put something together.”
“A Dance?”
“My lady is retired, for good reasons. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the family isn’t interested in these folks. Of course these clowns also spread the Blight all over Lord Qinvaris’s property and he isn’t happy. There may be work for some enterprising types and he pays.”

That got everybody’s attention. There were reputations and there were reputations. Then there was the Ghost and Bloody Ridge. In spite of the fact that the Republic and the Fellowship had kept the events under wraps, the underworld was very aware that Richard Harper, Lord Qinvaris, was not one that you messed around with. For that matter, it was known that the entire Harper family wasn’t something that you messed with and expected to come out whole. On the other hand, it was known that the family paid well for good work. Spitty looked at the table and said, “Are you in?”

After being let into the great hall, Sarya spotted her parents and said, “Hi mom! Hi dad!”

Gander looked at his daughter and said, “What were you up to?”
“I see that you met Vindy’s mom. What did they tell you?”
“That you were with an escort to escort the King of Apua here.”
“I did that. There are a couple of people in a great deal of trouble right now and Jorge is getting another medal as soon as it can be arranged.”
“What happened?”

“The idiots put together an ambush, Jorge ambushed it, a spy and his friend were exposed, the queen was not killed by Inanimates and some of the dark forces had to surrender as they were not going back the way they came. The rest of the trip was me telling the young king stories. Aunt ‘lena was watching us the whole time and I wasn’t going to mess up.”

“Tell us about your trip here,” Alissa said. “Lillia wasn’t sure about the details and you went further than you said that you were going.”
“Ok, we went to Astaire after the boys all failed. You knew about that. Well, we found out where the boys all came from and since we were all together, we started out, traveling to faery kingdoms and noble houses, where they were all happy to see the boys, if nervous about the Church. The boys were all reverted and ‘kamba and I ended up here, where Cornaith recruited me, probably to keep me out of trouble, Toral’s mom invited us all to lunch and Vindy’s mom showed up.”

“I understand that you beat up some mage hunters.”
“Not that badly. They grabbed me and blabbered on about how I was a witch, had Vindy in thrall and some other nasty things, so I danced with them a bit. We took the boss idiot, Dreddie D’ alad home and dropped him off. The mage hunters stopped going after me after that for some reason. Here’s Vindy. Isn’t he dreamy?”

Vindy had joined them and Gander said, “I’m not sure that I want to be the father in law to a crown prince.”

“I’m not sure I want to be a crown prince either” Vindy said. “The city likes Sarya, though.”
“She probably dragged out her favorite weapons of mass seduction.”
Sarya cried, “Daddy!”

“I guess that she hasn’t yet, then. I’m sure that my wife packed them. You look improved somewhat, though I think that my daughter liked your scales.”

“Yes I did,” Sarya said. “Either way, he’s cute. I’m very lucky that I found him. Here’s his dad, so you can talk with him.”

King Albrecht had joined them and said, “My son has done well, even if Sarya flipped the city sideways.”
“She does that. That was one reason that I didn’t bring her to the last conference.”

“My wife made her contribution once Vindica had returned.”

“My daughter seized upon your son here right away, and as you see, isn’t letting go. They met over knives at a wedding that the other side was messing with while retrieving some people from the Justicial Cell block that happened to be on the estate. That was a rather stupid thing for them to do and rather costly. When everyone at the wedding is carrying a gun except the bride, groom and the dragon reporter, who doesn’t need a gun, an attack isn’t going to end well for the attackers. If they had kept things to assaulting the cell block, they would have been fine, but they should have considered that a wedding at the chief Justiciar’s would be full of people that could shoot back.”

King Albrecht laughed. “I wish that this happy event had happened under better circumstances.”
“I had to go through Ishendell and the two estates. This is going to be bad, very bad. It probably hasn’t hit the young queen or the young king as yet.”

“Cécile has vowed to remain a landdragon until the forces responsible for the Scourge are destroyed. She had also had to face her parents when the dark tried to use them to draw her out.”

“As Inanimates?”

“Yes. Fortunately Major Tollings was there and able to stop her from charging out.”

“They had shooters. They were expecting her to charge out from cover and not be paying attention.”

“The major had those remarkable boys of his deal with the shooters.”

“I think that I know the boys you are talking about. They went through hell and they are hell on the people responsible. Jorge is very protective of them.”

Lain Othrond.

After the finished the tour of the maze underground, the general turned to Jorge and said, “I see what you were talking about, Major.”
“Tad only provided a partial map. To a certain extent, I was hoping that the portals could be shutdown before we went in, but at the end, their portal experts used inactive portals and moved the Scourge devises they launched from where
Tad said they were. I expected that, so I needed a better map. For one thing, Tad never used the stairs to the castle and didn’t know where they were. I wasn’t about to send troops through the elevator as that would just get them killed and I was sure that there was a way observing things upstairs.”

“What about one way ports and seizing the portals.”

“We gamed that out and even if the portal wasn’t locked from the board, we couldn’t get people in to secure all the places that we needed to secure and without better maps than we had, we were likely to get smashed and destroyed. We can go up to the Sanctuary and game this out, but, as I said, almost nothing we could come up with had better than a fifty percent chance of succeeding before the Scourge devises were sent through the portal. Here’s Duc Geral. “Duc, were you looking for me? This is General Raldon Hardtest. General, this is Duc Geral, who lost one of the cities.”
“I was indeed looking for you, Major. General, I hope that this means that reinforcements are coming.”
“Do you need them, duc?”
“Not immediately, but if the people launching the Inanimates start launching from Semmont then we are facing multiple incursions at the same time. So far they have not sent the Blight against the duchy, but the dead and chaos are going to mean that the harvest will be a struggle. That is without many of the people who actually should be working the harvest being forced to defend their homes. Also, my soldiers have been pressed and are approaching exhaustion.”

“Tell your people that the marines should be here in two more days. The big problem will be getting support across the quay here, but we can work things out.  Have the cities started to burn as yet?”
“Fortunately, no. Of course the other side doesn’t want to start any fires before they finish their looting of the cities and all the fires in the cities were put out by the Scourge apparently.”

“That’s was a good thing,” The general said. “Why don’t we get together with some maps and you both show me what the situation is.” 

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