The War For The Mortal Kingdoms, Chapter 13-14

Terrel gives Paeris a job. Roger’s Flameriders arrive.

Chapter 13.

Desert Howl.

Terrel looked at the telegram in his hand and sighed. He wasn’t surprised by the telegram and there were probably hundreds of similar telegrams going out, just in the Desert Howl-Seagate region. Naval and army reserves were being called up as a result of the Scourging of the five cities. In spite of all the efforts that he and the rest of the Scourge suppressor teams had made, five devises had been set off in Vestia and Apua. The monsters responsible had escaped and the hunt was on. The navy and army were going to need bodies and the reserves were where they got them. Putting the telegram aside, he removed the shorts he wore in the house and dropped into the water. Swimming to the bower that he and his wife shared, he looked for Millia and when she wasn’t there, looked for her in the garden. She must have sensed him as she Swam out of the garden and said, “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been called up. This is as a result of the Scourging. Rod will probably be asked to enter Service as well. They will add an academy appointment as a carrot, but he handles boats and knows how to run a crew. The navy probably has him on a list.”
“That leaves Bill.”

“Bill has another year at school. He’s also doing that work on those crystals of his. That will be more important than being a seaman, even if he has been tested.”

“When do you have to report in?”
“Five days in Cleadsgate. Captain Wavechaser will have a command waiting for him.”

“Did they tell you what ship?”

“Not yet. Probably shore side running the radios and RDR.”

Paeris would never have dreamed that he would own a house in the Republic, until he did. The secretive nature of Desert Howl suited him perfectly, the water was warm and the sea folk were friendly, those that were not family. So he, or rather the enterprise that was Paeris Zylvyre bought the house. The house also gave him an up top place to meet and now that he could, the business wanted to talk with him. They had asked him to write a brief note about his story for the show of his things that was going to be travelling the country and he had agreed to do so. So on the deck overlooking the pool that connected to the sea, he was sitting with pen and paper, writing away as the secretary Aldra had arrange puttered away at things. The quiet of the morning was disturbed as the doorbell rang and Vilitia went to answer it. She came back and said, “Mr. Wavechaser is here, Great Captain.”

Terrel followed her and Paeris said, “What can I do for you today, Terrel?”
“Have you been reading the papers?”
“I’m afraid that I haven’t acquired the habit of wanting the news with that degree of immediacy.”

“Your former bosses Scourged Athlin, Vesticour, Semmont, Altensee and Clerves. The estimate is that seven hundred thousand are dead and more dying.”

“That seems to be rather extreme for a fit of anger when everyone knows where they live.”
“They took some selected people and left. They have been porting into the cities, launching Inanimates at things and pillaging the vaults of the cities.”
“The vaults were what they wanted all along. The Inanimates are a distraction. Have they launched them at the Empire?”
“They have, but the results were rather pathetic, according to the Qinvaris. Byddri has pictures coming.”

“So how does that affect me?”
“They have been interested in this place for a very long time and before they launched the Scourge, they peeked in here. They saw what they were looking for, courtesy of my sons and somebody who shouldn’t have told them to haul the thing out, and may come for it.”

“I suspect that was part of why it was pulled out. That thing was rather useless and ruined. So why bring this to me?”

“Because I have been called up, Rod will probably be asked to perform his Service now rather than after college and you know how those people think. I was hoping that you could watch over this place.”
“That is a very strange request to ask of the likes of me.”

“I’ve been talking to some of your old people at the Retreat while I was up in Ishendell. They were recruited by Beinan’s because they had certain skills and the Imperial navy was willing to loan them out. I was also discussing the potential purchase of RDR and installation of the units in your brother’s boats.”

“I wouldn’t think that it would fit.”
“The Mark III will and while it isn’t as functional as a Mark II at long ranges it does give the boat some search capability.”

“Does this place need a lot of looking after?”
“You know what Wiz could be like. Now, think of a town full of Wiz’s, including me and what could happen.  We need somebody to watch the seas while we are playing the fish.”

“That is very wise. I will accept the task.”

“It probably won’t amount to anything. The navy and the Tollings are fighting over Gatherer and the crew already has people lined up to hire them, so the other side has no capability at sea and unless they placed them properly, portals won’t work very well, Scourging won’t work, the buildings are all subject to Projector codes and the Projector mirror is having issues.”

“How do you know?”
“Tarranth Qinvaris’s contract to play with Projectors and the fact that starting my bosses off on something sometimes goes beyond the original contract made some things visible. The big Projector here has control of the mirror and since it hasn’t given it up, no one else can access it.”

“Thanks to the Scourging they do have masses of Inanimates.”

“If that starts, stay undercover or the movie cameras will catch you.”

Paeris laughed. “Then things should be easy.”

“I hope that things will be easy. On the other hand, I try to plan for things not being easy. I need to pack.”

Terrel left and Paeris got back to work. After about a Twentieth, Aldra appeared and said, “Time for our Swim!”
Paeris went down to the pool and leapt in. Aldra took a look at him and said, “What happened?”
“The Project Scourged five cities in the Mortal Kingdoms.”

“Why?”
“Money and confusion. They had had funds issues, since they had no sources of income and some rather large expenses and killing masses of people in the Mortal Kingdoms, especially royalty will cause a great deal of turmoil and strife, just the thing that they can use to do other things and insert their influence into.”

“That is very bad.”

“The good news is that most places now have Scourge suppressors and finding out which places do not will take more devises than they probably have.”
 
Zirgoccol.

Dan looked at the looked at the stacked Urdusins, at Dudral and said, “That is asking for trouble.”
“The Urdusins?

“It looks like a pile of money, but isn’t.”
“Were you bit?”
 “That is the second largest pile I have seen. If you want more, I can arrange that. My brother found a stack on the estate when he was ten and went around for a week grinning until he actually tried to buy something. The Urdusins were the first things that ended up in his barn. I think that they are still there. Where did these come from? If you say my brother’s barn, I apologize.”
“Betrek found them when making some sort of deal up on the border.”
“Tarranth was probably involved somehow, at least to make sure that he wasn’t stuck with them.”

“You are rather rough on your brother.”
“He deserves it, trust me. I need to move on with my business.”

Dan moved to the tellers and then left the bank. As he passed the Urdusins he smiled. Roger had sent a message saying that the Scourges were to rob the five cities. The Urdusins might be a way to give some people a problem.

Harry looked at Vestelle and said, “We haven’t done a parade for some time.”

“There isn’t any legislation concerning the Transformed, so there isn’t any need to.”

“There is, actually. Think about all those kids who were evacuated, but the parents stayed. Why don’t we make the next parade a benefit for them.”
“Harry, I love it. We can parade down Bank Street and even the most tightfisted dwarves will cough up. Rene and Kethrykllia will like it too. We can even end it at the new Harald Park.”

“When should we do the parade?”
“Let me check and see if there is anything else. We can tie into whatever it is. Otherwise, we can go in four days, on shiday. That way the shoppers will be out.”

“Ok, I’ll wire my mother and the other landdragons. This should be fun for everybody.”

Rene smiled as Alinis and Fire were let into the parlor. “What brings you here to us, Alinis?”
“That report about soap that Dan sent.”

“What do you mean?”
“Daddy stuck me with it and I had to find out what the soap could be. It took some digging but Fire and I found this.” Alinis held up the Lady Trislana’s guide. “I braved Lady Trislana to get this, so I hope that the old professors appreciate it.”
“Just the one book?”
“I have more. I have a stack of the Lady Trislana books and some more that I found. That is a lot for finding Ammonia soap.”
“Is that what it was?”
“I don’t know for sure, but the stuff is noxious and was the stuff recommended for the kind of stone surfaces used in a lab.”

“Fire, you have been quiet all through this. I would think that your family would have ideas.”
“They might, but they are in the Republic and Alinis’s mother wanted us to try Lady Trislana first. The bad part is that Alinis has to write a play for the drama club at school.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“I didn’t think so. At least that way we can get some credit in school for this work.”

Chapter 14.

Clerves

Haral had been guilty of a minor infraction involving drink and thus had been forced to be the cleanup for the money retrieval. Looking around, he spotted a purse that an Inanimate had apparently dropped in its way to the portal. He picked it up, cut it open and dumped the copper and silver into the cart’s bin and the purse to the gutter. Moving on, he didn’t bother to use the scanner to check for microportals. The first few times out, he had, without finding any, and since there was no way for somebody to get into the city and live, the scanner was a waste of time and the people ahead of him in this part of the city had been sloppy. That had been the third purse he had discovered in the last quarter twentieth. As he passed a market stall, he spotted a money case. Since the case was locked, he dumped the case in the bin on the cart for the cases of money. Whoever had been through this area had been sloppy indeed to miss that. The sergeant would not be happy but at least the sergeant’s ire would not be directed at Haral. When the cart was full, Haral hauled it back to the portal, collecting another cart for his trouble. Looking at the cart, the sergeant said, “Are the crews missing that much?”
“I wouldn’t know. I keep seeing purses and these cases in places where you would have expected people to look.”
“Good work. You have a keen eye. That is when you aren’t filled with beer.”

“I wasn’t that full and that bastard deserved my fist.”

The sergeant laughed as Haral went on his way.

Astia.

The motorcycles, GPs and trucks were unloaded from the trains and with a series of roars the House Qinvaris and House Glynynore riders and the flamethrower troops rolled down the central tree lined street of the city as crowds watched the various squadrons, in riding leathers and crimson and gold helmets for the Qinvaris riders and black and silver for the Glynynore riders speed down in formation as a fast moving parade. With a final roar and some cheers, the riders and their support vehicles disappeared down the road out of the city and into the countryside. Roger and Keyrth watched the troops leave and turned to return to the train and report in. Things were off to a good start. A reporter had caught the riders and spotting Roger, walked over, took Roger’s picture and said, “Mr. Bloodfoot, who were those riders?”

“Flamethrower riding squads that we set up to deal with the Blight and Inanimates.”

The reporter made a quick note and when compiling the copy for the day, wrote flame rider squads for battling Inanimates in the Scourge and sent it on.

Cécile stood and looked around at the other kings, queens and nobles. “I know that my current appearance is a bit unorthodox, and no, I am not forced by a curse to remain in this form. This form is a protection and a shield. It is also a weapon and I will bear this weapon in the course of the destruction of the people that committed the atrocity on my kingdom. We were not at war with the monsters that controlled Lain Othrond. We did nothing to assault them. There had been disputes, yes, but my kingdom was willing to put the swords away for the sake of peace. We have had our answer in this atrocity. We do not have such weapons of mass death from the Mage Wars and did not desire them. Yet the monsters saw fit to strike at our most prosperous cities in order to create monsters to afflict us and others and enable them to rob us of the wealth that our folk created with their hands, hearts and minds. So be it. I declare that Vestia will not rest until every coin is returned and the monsters responsible know our wrath. This is not revenge, this is justice and Vestia can accept no less.”

Tomas turned to Roger and said, “That’s a commitment, but can she carry it out with a Scourged treasury?”
“The treasury is here. It was quietly moved here by train before the Scourging. The banks and Geral did the same thing.”

“Is that why they keep unleashing Inanimates out of Athlin?”
“I suspect that they were upset by what they found. Apua’s treasury is safe as well because the Treasury vault can’t be opened by anyone other than Terrance right now.”
“Then Terrance needs to be watched.”

“Yes. They already tried to take the boy once.”

“That didn’t work out so well for them.”

“No it did not.”

Ishendell.

Jorge was taking Nat around the city and showing him the hotspots of the siege when he saw the GP frame sitting there, missing some parts. “I had forgotten about that.”
Nat looked at the metal frame with wheels and said, “What was it?”

“A machine gun cart to send through portals. I made another one for the Portal service that we used a couple of times to run bandits off and then put away because I had easier methods. The general asked me for something to flame a lot of Inanimates and I was sort of stuck for ideas. The problem was that I didn’t want to burn the cities down but all the ideas I had led to that. I think that maybe I was looking at things the wrong way.”

“You have one now?”
“Yes I do. Now we just need to talk to Urthock, find out who does plumbing for flamethrowers, pull this to the shop and find a big tank here or in Milport. This should be fun.”

Nat grinned. “I haven’t had much fun of late.”

“Let’s finish the tour and talk to Urthock.”

Chief Meadows grinned when Jorge and another man came into the space he was using as an office. “Jorge, you don’t have Tad with you?”

“He’s at the palace keeping the Emperor company.”

“How did that happen?”
“The Emperor was hit hard by what the five Scourges did to the land and he’s been under the weather. Tad was looking for where these people might be hiding and Immianthe suggested that Tad take what he had and they talk to her grandfather. So they have been keeping him occupied the last couple of days. They are asking questions about things and then Tad goes to the Eye room and looks for places. Faylen is running it for the Empress.”

“I see. Now who is this?”
“This is Nat, who ran the shop at Lain Othrond and who is going to help me dismantle some things on the estate that I no longer want.”

“The transmuter.”

“Yes. I would like to not have the Inquisition escort me about my own property and I would not want some kids to mess around by accident and create a big mess.”
“Why are you here today then?”
“I was tasked by General Ironcutter to find a way to torch Inanimates before they can be launched. I’ve been a bit stumped until I ran into something that we came up with during the siege, the GP frame with the machine gun on it, minus the machine gun that some soldier has made off with. I was thinking about the same sort of thing, with a flamethrower.”

Urthock grinned. “I like it. I take it that you want a flamethrower expert.”
“Somebody good with plumbing, anyway.”
“Let’s try the office that the Inanimates people have here.”
“I didn’t know that they had an office in Ishendell.”

“It was started to collect information after the siege, since Inanimates had been launched from here and the Darkmage had stored his “material” here. They have also been poking around in old books and things up in the Empire, the Sanctuary and Elysahone looking for information on how better to deal with the things, now that they are real again.”
“Let’s go then.”

When they arrived at the office, it was empty other than an aging secretary, who told them that most of the office had ported with cameras to Lain Othrond to observe the Inanimates lurching across the countryside and a man sketching something on a board, who jumped a bit when the secretary said, “Mr. Harper, these gentlemen want to discuss flamethrowers.”

The man turned, put some glasses on and said, “What can I do for you gentlemen. “I’m Ben Harper, no relation to the other Harpers, I think.”

Urthock said, “I’m Chief Meadows and this is Jorge Umevan and Nat Axegrinder and we want to discuss flamethrowers.”
“You don’t want to chase after Inanimates?”
“The general won’t let me,” Jorge said. “I’ve become too important to risk. In any case, I want to build a variation of the cart that I built to send through portals that ended up here.”
“What for?”
“The people launching Inanimates have to assemble them to launch them. Now the Scourged cities are too dangerous and will be for a time, but if we can throw something together that I can run through portals and then have come back, we can mess up Inanimate incursions before they even start.”

Ben looked at them and grinned. “There is a shop here and you said that the frame is here already. I think we can requisition a tank from Milport, a locomotive air tank or something similar and some plumbing. Why don’t we sketch some ideas and get started. You all don’t look like people afraid to get their hands dirty.”

“No, we are not,” Jorge said.

The Hideaway

Dúhael looked at Blackfire and Mórsairon and said, “We haven’t touched two of the cities as yet and the other three have not given up all their coin. Launching raids into Zirgoccol and Chatsrey will cost resources that are short after we lost so many chasing the young king.”

“The conflict around Athlin is not going our way, brother,” Blackfire said. “The marines and cavalry have been able to strike and dismember Inanimate launches as soon as they exit the city and between the dragons and the aircraft they have excellent coverage watching the Inanimates form up, so they can anticipate attacks. The villages near the city have ditches and other defenses now and the Inanimates cannot get inside before they are run down by the cavalry.”

“Then we should redouble our efforts to recover more coin.”

“We believe, brother, that concentrating on the coin will only let our adversaries recover and prepare ever stronger counterattacks.”
“They cannot function in the Scourged zones.”
“They actually have that capability, thanks to Varitan,” Mórsairon said. “There are radiation suits at Fallingwater if somebody thinks to look for them. Varitan insisted that we retain some there in case the Transmuter had issues.”

“They don’t know about them. Otherwise we would have seen others in the Scourged zones.”

“Perhaps we haven’t seen them because they were doing things in the cities where we have not yet looked to perform retrievals,” Blackfire said. “In any case, allowing the Fellowship and the Republic a free hand lets them prepare and we are on a tight time schedule before the radiation subsides enough that, suits or not, our adversaries will return to take the cities back.”

County Westlaas, Vestia.
Sir Leo D’Hart looked that tiny figure that he had just lanced a ball of the burning sap to. What had been a young girl was still lurching forward as her tattered dress soaked up the oil and the Inanimate burned. He knew that the Inanimate was already dead, but still the idea of torching small children appalled him. Cursing the people who had chosen to send the children as Inanimates, he returned to the line where squires and every one that could aid was preparing more balls of sap and other things to burn the Inanimates. As he dismounted from his exhausted horse, he spotted some strangely dressed men looking at the work going around and taking notes. Raising his visor, he walked over and said, “Who are you folk and why are you here?”

The duc’s infantry captain, Harald D’ tald, came over and said, “Sir Leo, these folk are from the Office of Inanimates and they want to see how we are dealing with things.”

Sir Leo spat. “A bunch of Pugs, here to see our efforts and sneer at them is the like.”

One of the Pugs said, “Sir knight, I know that our presence here doesn’t seem to help, but we are here to aid and share what we know about these things.”
“You have dealt with this before?”
“No one has, at least not like this. We have all the experience from the Republic and before the country was founded.”

“Why did you come?”

“To see how to handle Inanimates better.”
“I just burned a little girl.”

“She was already dead. I did the same, in Chatsrey recently. She came from Ishendell and was part of the Darkmage’s little trials.”

“It seems so futile.”

“You here have done well so far. The Inanimates haven’t been able to get into the villages and you haven’t lost too much crop as yet.”

“What is your name?”

“Roger Lore. I run the office that the Office of Inanimates is keeping in Ishendell.”
Sir Leo started to say something when the church bell rang yet again, signaling yet another wave of Inanimates. “I must go.”

As Sir Leo turned to find another horse, Roger turned to Harald and said, “He doesn’t like me.”
“His sister and her husband were in Athlin when the Scourge struck, as was woman he was supposed to marry.”

“He was with the rest of the army, out on the border and away, wasn’t he?”

“We all were. Most of us have lost family members in either Semmont or Athlin.”

“Then you see them show up in the mass of Inanimates.”
“I haven’t, as yet. Others have. Fortunately the other side did not make the effort to identify the officers of the army and select our families to send out.”

“What do you think of my proposals?”

“We already collecting brambles and sharpening stakes. The flammables in bottles are also being put together. The problem is that we don’t have the labor to do things all at once and we still need to harvest what we can.”

“I have been told that help is on the way. You should see it soon.”
Ayre’s creek, Astua

Amon Stockton grinned as the crew put the bridge together. The first trucks were winding down the road even as the bridge timbers were being tied together by the engineering crew tightening the bolts of the prefabricated timbers. The Qinvaris had learned a long time ago about the value of having the ability to build temporary bridges rapidly and the trucks and other equipment to do that had been part of the rest of the things sent on this expedition. With a fuel truck leading the way, the convoy was across the creek and starting up the other side. Amon looked over and the railroad people had made great strides already repairing the trestle. Roger and Keryth drove up in a GP and Keryth said, “That went well.”
“It did. We kept things moving. We should have the railroad almost to Athlin as well.”

“We need to talk to Uncle Richard about extending the railroad into the Empire.”

“Another project.”

“It keeps us busy.”

Keryth watched as the first motorcycles crossed the bridge in a roar. “At least we are past here and should have a clear road to Athlin and the Inanimates.”
“We are on the way.”

Altensee

After using a returning to determe that the only things in the city were wandering uncontrolled Inanimates, a team of suited figures emerged from an open port.  Moving quickly, they entered the market and slipped coins into coin chests and random purses. After reaching the dead grove, the figures took some pictures and then Jumped away.

Ishendell

Nat, Jorge and Ben looked at the hulking thing parked in front of the ancient portal and Ben said, “It isn’t pretty, but it should do the trick. So where do we send this and when?”
“That is an interesting question,” Jorge said. “The ideal thing would be to catch them creating a mass of Inanimates, so Athlin.”
“Why don’t we port to Lain Othrond and talk to my bosses. They probably have a handle on the patterns by now.”

“We can also talk to Major Tollings,” Jorge said. “He probably has some ideas.”

Clerves

Blackfire looked at the lined up Inanimates and said, “Activate the portal!”

The Inanimates started to march toward the portal and through, disappearing as they went.

Dúhael looked at the departing Inanimates and said, “I hope that this does what we need, brother.”
“Even if it fails, the Republic will have to retain resources to handle potential further incursions. That buys us time.”

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