The War For The Mortal Kingdoms, Chapter 25-26.

More election fun and games. A glamor is dropped and a family revealed.

Chapter 25.

Zirgoccol

Theo walked into the Consul’s office with more than a bit of trepidation. Lori’s call had had him check into Mike Ironhead’s campaign and there was definitely something fishy about it. Then he had done some checking around and talked to some friends as well as collecting some campaign literature and things got very fishy indeed. There were certain rules about coordinating Senate campaigns and forming parties and it was clear that the fishy campaigns were almost certainly in violation.   So he had made an appointment with the Consul. He just hoped that his reputation as libertine didn’t spill over onto this. Walking in, the Consul looked at him and said, “Mr. Hammer, considering your reputation, I had thought that having this chat was just doing your father a favor. The expression on your face tells me that there is more going on than simple exchange of favors.”
“Consul Beira, my sister called and asked me to discreetly look into the campaign that Mike Ironhead was running for senate. Chald spotted something fishy and she wanted me to look into it.”
“Your brother in law and your father are both running for that seat. Having you poke into an opposing campaign and say that something is fishy about would not be a surprise.”
“If this had stopped there, I wouldn’t have asked to meet with you. After I poked into Mike’s campaign, I did some looking around and found the same sort of things in at least ten other campaigns, all of whom, if they won, would undermine the policies that you have been pursuing or worse, are violently opposed to things like the present borders or want to prosecute Lord Qinvaris for war crimes and assault his property in large emancipation raids across the border.”
“Do you have proof?”
“That was where things got stranger. I had some people discreetly collect campaign literature and asked some friends for more. All of it was well done, professional and came from the same printer. But I can’t find the printer’s address or anything about them. They also seemed to have the same writers and make the same arguments.”
“Thereby violating the “no party” rules for Senate campaigns. I presume that you brought samples, at least.”

“I brought samples of several different kinds of campaign literature. I will turn over everything I collected to your office.”

Theo brought out the various campaign literature samples, the consul looked at them and back to Theo and said, “Are you sure that these were random?”
“If you look closely, they are in various states of condition and have been handled. The sample is representative and I just took the top three things for five different campaigns off the stacks. Your office can have the rest, as I said.”

“At least two of these campaigns are against old enemies of your father.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that there is something fishy going on there.”

“Do you have a report?”
“Yes I do. I had it prepared for this and it covers the literature and the money, as far as I could trace it.”

“Hand me the report and send the rest of the documents to my office. You have overcome my skepticism, Mr. Hammer. That fae lady you seem to have acquired has been good for you.”

“Yes she has. I’m not sure what she sees in me.”
“Things like this, I suspect.”

Ishendell.

Gwen looked at the message, grinned and sent for Haramara. When Haramara arrived, she said, “How would you like another date with the major?”
Haramar grinned and said, “What happened?”
“I have not met the lady as yet, but young Tad’s mother went to the Republic, by ship with Fylson Umevan, his Lady and Tad’s father.”
“What was the problem?”
“Tad’s mother refuses to be emancipated.”

“Did she say why?”
“According to what I have from the state department, she is worried that if her status is changed, there may be tax and property issues that will come down on her and the family.”
“Do you know why?”
“I sent to the Foreign office, but I don’t have anything back from the exchequer or the property registration as yet.”

“You want me to go down and see if the matter can be resolved.”
“I’m sure that the lady can handle herself, but there may be the equivalent of the Emancipation League that may get involved, the lady is a friend of the Empress and I’m hoping that you can clarify things a bit. The lady’s birth name is probably a clue.”

Haramara grinned. “This should be fun, for us. I want to see the lady in action in any case.”

“Make sure you get a report. We can share it around.” 

House Qinvaris.

Lyrei grinned as she was activated and it was Alinis and not her father in the room. She also didn’t look as miserable has she had been of late. Looking at Alinis, she asked, “Why did you seek me out, Alinis?”
“Mother insisted that I go to see the Empress with her.  Tad and Immianthe were looking and haven’t found the Darkmage’s family as yet. Were underground things that common in your time?”
“Yes, for various reasons. Many elves wanted to hide certain activities and even more, wanted to maintain the illusion that they were joined with the nature of the lands while hiding certain rather brutal things like metalworking. That got harder as the mana ran out. Why are you asking about the underground places?”

“Tad was talking about that place that Captain Bronzerock wanted to blow up as part of a test and there was Lain Othrond, all underground. Tad hasn’t been able to find where the Darkmage’s family went to and we think that it is underground again.”

“It probably is, but there will probably be an old elven house or some structure replacing the house on top.”

“That place on the island wasn’t like that.”

“Not all places were underground, but for things like factories, you saw how things were like. I think that we wanted to believe that once the things were out of sight, that we high elves wouldn’t have to concern ourselves with them. Your father is rather refreshing in that way.”
“He frightens you, doesn’t he?”
“Since you father can’t actually hurt me and I am incapable of fear in any case, no he doesn’t frighten me. The Ghost does make me uncomfortable.”
“Even Daddy doesn’t like the Ghost, especially after the Tribunal and that idiot Pikepusher.”

“Pikepusher seems to have made a lot of people rather angry at him.”

“What bothers daddy and the rest is that the string pulling was so obvious and that we haven’t been able to track down the other strings and the pullers.”

“You have been rather distracted of late.”

“Yes. The soap project is going well. Dan’s teachers have taken that over.”
Lyrei laughed. “So that is why you are talking to me. You can’t have become bored in a couple of days. Where is Fire?”
“He’s with Ayen and Charlie doing something.”

“You are not involved?”
“This is part of their thing for Vesstan and Esgalwathanar and they want to keep me and the other girls out of it, since the Inquisition is more likely to be watching us. Actually, I think it’s so that the boys can surprise us with presents.”

“Did you hand all of Lady Trislana’s guides to the professors?”

“No, why?”

“You hinted that you made a deal with the lady and the sooner your part is done, the better. So why don’t you get the book and we get started.”
“Won’t this take your time?”
“Yes, but this is important. Think of it as sharing my time with your children not yet born and my descendents, that is you and all your family, including the ones you haven’t met.”

“Good point.”

Alinis went to get the journal that she was writing her Lyrei play in and the book. Lyrei poked the others and said, “This will probably be interesting. I finally have the princess when there is not an ongoing crisis, at least not one that involves her. She is like a spring that came loose.”

The others laughed and Harald said, “Bill was so distracted that he missed an incursion of Inanimates in the front yard.”

“An incursion of Inanimates?” Tassarion asked. “Wasn’t there a lot of chaos and panic?”
“Not at all. The Office of Inanimates has a large footprint here and conducts experiments, so the various boys and girls are familiar with the things somewhat. The incursion had pretty much been shot to pieces and burned before getting very far. The worrisome thing is that somebody is looking at the devise.”

“How was that discovered?”
“Whoever was looking left a measuring stick behind. Bill was called and told his mother. We also had a rather interesting visit by the Great Captain and the navy captain that is the head of Naval Intelligence. The captain wanted to know about Bill’s adventures in the Empire.”
“What did Bill say?”
“Guess.”

“I can’t talk about that.”

“Somewhat.”

The seemings all laughed.

Alinis returned and she and Lyrei started in on the work.

Rosa exited the portal, leading the five rather nervous people to the waiting carriages and getting them on their way to the House. After the luggage was put on carts, Tolith seated Rosa into the carriage, nodded to the watching guards and they proceeded to the House. Hagre was waiting and said, “Welcome back, milady. I see that you have brought visitors.”
“Yes. These are five members of families that were exiled and have estates on the farm.”

“The libraries.”

“Yes. Have my nephews had much success?”
“They discovered the estates that have the libraries, but before they were able to discover the locations of the libraries, they had a rather large distraction and they went off to the Mortal Kingdoms with the rest of them.”

“I’m not surprised that a good portion of that crowd went there.”

“The argument was that the most skilled militia and people from the Republic should go and leave the most experienced to handle the harvest.”
“They pulled straws or something.”

“I wouldn’t know, milady. I imagine that something like that happened. Let’s get you folks settled.”

“How is my husband?”
“Troubled, milady. The expected Inanimates and the Blight launch was rather a failure for the other side. That freed the boys so that they could go off to the Mortal Kingdoms.”    
“Then I will see my husband and check in with him.”
Rosa went to Richard’s office where a grinning Nightstalker was handing a report to her husband. He turned and said, “I will leave you two, milady. Welcome back.”
“When are you Joining, Nightstalker?”
“My mother and Tally’s mother are making arrangements. The problem will be getting the family together, but they have scheduled it after the grapes are in and Tally’s grandfather has finished the pressing for the year.”

“At least the wine will flow.”

“Father was happy when he didn’t think that Tally’s parents were around. Then the estate was opened up and there they were. Now he’s happy that they are around and our parties are going to have the best wine in all the Faery kingdoms.”   

Rosa laughed. “I’m glad that things are going well.”

“I need to deliver more reports and you two need to have your chat.”

Nightstalker disappeared and Rosa said, “What happened?”
“I think that the Ghost had a bad reaction to the five cities.”
“How bad was it?”
“The big surge of Inanimates all over the fields hasn’t happened and the vials that were used to spread the Blight didn’t even break for the most part. So, on our end, things were not bad at all, which is why I let the boys go down to Vestia and play. The other side has been sending Inanimates out from Athlin, but Ayre isn’t sure if that is a deliberate attempt to shake things up more than they already are or because the other side was annoyed that the king of Vestia sent the treasury off on the train before things cut loose and made sure that the farm labor was paid off.”

“Who was dealing with the Inanimates before our people got there?”
“Major Tollings, the local duc, some dragons from the airship and the railroad people were dealing with them. When the boys arrived, they had been holding, but the exhaustion was starting to creep in.”
“Why weren’t all the Scourge suppressors in place?”
“The other side cut the railroad, but not where Jorge was looking for them to do that, so he was out of position. The good news is that because of where they cut the railroad, the line is back up, except through two of the Scourged cities. The five devises for those cities are still sitting in Astia, but the Beinan crew went home.”

“Where are Tomas and Lythie? They went ahead and Jumped back to Vestia.”

“At the grove and helping with the Inanimates, according to Keryth. He and Roger are in charge there, with Amon Stockton.”
“Not Horatio?”
“I’m keeping Horatio here on the harvest with Osmond.”
“You are up to something.”

Richard smiled. “Those people just stole a lot of money. The money is “hot,” as they say, but they don’t understand the full ramifications about that. I wrote that paper about Harald and I know how the original Darkmage played the game in the Mage Wars. There was no real need to Scourge the five cities and the risks that doing that created. There has to be more involved and it will be pointed at the Fellowship.”
“Why do you think so?”
“Headbasher. The general was supposed to use 2nd army to break any relationship with the Republic, take over Ishendell so that the Darkmage could make the Republic go to war with the Fellowship and then the Scourge was going to come out at some point, targeted at the Fellowship. It was going to be revealed that I had the Scourge devise factory and was launching the things. That may be why the Eijeon built that facility in the Empty lands.”

“You must have found something.”
“The Committee did. They followed up on some of the senators in the Fellowship and the way they were behaving over Bloody Ridge. They also chased down some of the connections that the Inquisition had and we had all of the Darkmage’s things. Things started to go off the rails when the Darkmage didn’t make sure that he had control of the portals, I sent the trucks down to the Peninsula and Headbasher had to fight the war he wasn’t expecting. Then the Darkmage wanted to make sure that the Scourge devises on the Nerihorn estate were secure and sent Stormfire to retrieve them, the accident happened and suddenly everyone was looking for the things.

“Nightstalker talked to his family and found more connections. There has been a lot of back and forth with the Orcenlands, there is probably at least one suppressor that hasn’t been found and I think that there are more Scourge devises there, without Primaries.”

“So what have you been doing?”

“Working on the harvest and watching our kids get into things.”

“What have they been doing?”

“Nimue and Sylvar are preparing for entering the Mage Academy and the university next five day, Tarranth is out on the farm, Dan is in the Fellowship chasing down something rather interesting that may take the Blight off the table and Alinis was helping with that and writing a play for the drama club.”
“Why?”
“She asked Lyrei how her house was maintained as part of chasing down something that was in the Mage Queen’s journals, the book was written by Lady Trislana’s great grandmother, she went to the Trislana’s to see if they had a copy and as part of explaining why she wanted the book, Alinis said that she was writing a play for the drama club.”

Rosa laughed. “Eithriel will want to see the play, at least the script. So now Alinis is stuck with it.”
“Yes, and Fire went off with Charlie and Ayen on his own project, didn’t need Alinis to help and Alinis was suddenly left at loose ends.”

“What is Fire working on?”
“He promised something to Vesstan and Esgalwathanar and he and the others needed to get that done before Fire could get the others started on making a sprayer for Ammonia to stop the Blight. I told him to go ahead.”
“Why?”
“The sprayer isn’t something that can just be thrown together and wouldn’t be ready in time for this year, so spending time on it now would be wasted effort and Fire did promise Vesstan and Esgalwathanar that he would figure out how to make the things that they wanted and since Aien is on the list for getting what they come up with and other family and friends as well, getting the things finished would be a good thing. Also Alinis needs to learn to give Fire some of his own space, especially when she was responsible for the arrangement in the first place.”

“Was this back when she was sneaking around, looking for the Scourge?”
“Yes. She made a deal and Fire was to make something for Vesstan and Esgalwathanar. Events have pressed on Fire and the others, but Vesstan and Aien’s parents have been putting a wedding together and Vesstan wants Aien and Kavrala to have the things. So Fire needs to get together with the others and finish that.”

“Why isn’t Alinis being allowed to participate?”
“Fire told Alinis that it was because Vesstan wants to keep things discreet, but I think that he wants to make something for Alinis’s birthday next moon without her looking over his shoulder.”

Rosa started to laugh.

The Beinan Estate.

Charlie looked at the other two boys, the two slaves that had worked with the old dwarf and the others and grinned. The others were grinning back at him as they looked at the objects on the bench as Charlie said, “We pulled this off.”

“We have two for Vesstan to give to Aien and Kavrala, like I promised to Vesstan,” Fire said. “We also made some for our girls.”

“I’ve put the word out discreetly that you can make these, Fire.”
Fire frowned. “Why me, Charlie?”
“I’m rather public, well known and heir to a House. While I can make the things, actually selling these to guildmembers or the Committee might attract Inquisition issues that the House can’t afford. Ayen is in the same boat. On the other hand, you are the mysterious Fae prince with strange connections, a faery shop deep in the woods and learned strange things in the Republic. We can sell that for big money.”

“I see. What about my relationship with House Qinvaris?”

“What about it? There are already rumors going around about the radiation lab and other strange things.”

“I like it. I don’t want to be tied to Alinis’s purse strings anyway.”
“Are you?”
“Not really. I’ve been doing some things with my family in the Republic and I gave them a really big deal, so I will have some money coming from that. I expect that there will be other things coming along. On the other hand, Alinis can be overwhelming sometimes and she doesn’t really think about how much things cost.”

“That could be a problem,” Ayen said. “Especially on a Qinvaris scale.”

“Yes it could.”

Gracie looked at the small portal in frustration. During the time that she had been taking over the small portals of the other side, there had been no messages passed and thus she didn’t have a link to the enemy’s small portals anymore. Also the connections were in disarray, so she didn’t have the knowledge of the patterns that she had had previously. With the Scourging and the rest of the things going on the frustration was made worse by the fact that she knew that the other side was actively doing something, but she didn’t see any of the connections. The connections she had had seemed to have cut themselves off, by and large. Looking at the small portal again, she stood up and went looking for her father. When she found him, she said, “They aren’t using the small portals.”

“There may be good reasons for that. We still do not know where they went and they may have access for communication that they did not have before. I would look for other opportunities. They may be using the wires, if they have access to the telegraph. In any case, you and your sister have excellent stories for the reunion and your shots at the pool.”

Gracie grinned. “We do, don’t we?”

Chapter 26.

Desert Howl.

Pulling the hot iron from the board on the crate, Glarald admired his handiwork. He wasn’t sure why the pine tree brand was on so much of the wood being sold, but the brand was easy to replicate and an appropriate marker for the stewards. The crate marked, Glarald hid the iron until he could recover it later and went to his next task.

With the devise, along with several Projectors on their way to Ironton on the next train, Bill took one last look at the crate before heading to Cornaith at Feno’s office. He could smell the slight tinge of burned wood in the air, spotted the Shahana mark on the wood that had not been there before and grinned. Pulling a microportal out of the random things in his pocket, he slipped it into the gap between the crate’s boards and frame on the crate’s bottom. Then he picked up the circuit that was the reason for the appointment and headed to Feno’s office. Feno and Cornaith were waiting and Cornaith said, “You are grinning. Is it bad or good?”
“I don’t know yet, but somebody is going to be surprised.”

“What did you do?” Feno asked.

“I made sure that if something gets lost, I can find it again.”

“So, what did you bring us?”
“I have some transistors and an amplifier circuit. I’ve tested it and it works.”

“Then let’s take it to the lab and see what you have done.”

After demonstrating the circuit, Bill went to his regular work in his father’s shop. On the way, he watched the line of trucks head to the railroad station with the large crates aboard. He had three days off coming and was heading to Chatsrey in the morning. 
Ironton.

 Victor looked at Benny and said, “Are you sure that you want to pursue this?”
“There is a slave to be emancipated.”

“According to what I heard, she was rather clear when she said that she did not want to be emancipated. She is apparently more or less owned by her husband anyway.”
“That does not change the fact that she came in as livestock. That is a violation of the law.”
“Young Lord Umevan has warned me about the lady. She has Horalt to represent her and as the Lord of a Great House, Lord Umevan and his party have diplomatic immunity.”
“That doesn’t mean that we cannot emancipate the lady.”
“She doesn’t want to be emancipated. I know that it is nuts, but that is as it is.”

“The case has been placed on the docket. If she does not show up, the emancipation papers can be filed with no contest.”
“Benny, do you read the papers? The lady shredded the Emancipation League over her son in the Fellowship. If you lose, and you probably will, I would appeal up the line, but I don’t think that your bosses are going to like it.”

Horalt walked up from the car to the house and knocked. A grinning Hap answered the door and said, “Welcome Mr. Ironbrewer. The lady is waiting.”

Hap led the barrister to the parlor where Ara was waiting with an elf in the Umevan livery, a woman and a couple of indeterminate ancestry. Ara stood up and said, Horalt, this is my son Fylson, who was left behind in the Empire when we were exiled, his wife, Lidia and Stadlee and Filia Fallingwater. Stadlee and Filia are Tad’s parents.”
“What is the problem?”
“The persecutor is insisting that I be emancipated,” Filia said.

“You are slaves and when you came here, you were emancipated, but you do not choose to be.”
“I am concerned that there may be issues that arise in the Empire if my status should change.”
“Tad was effectively emancipated.”

“Tad is a youngling and not responsible. If I were emancipated, I would be and that would be lot of bother. Mother would be rather annoyed if we had to deal with something that the family left behind in the Mage Wars.”

“How much bother are we talking about? Milord Umevan, do you know?”
Fylson grinned. “Actually, barrister, I do not. Ara wanted Filia and Stadlee to meet the family, Stadlee is here to put some things together for Jorge and I am here to meet the rest of the family and relax a bit. My grandfather may have known, but when he was murdered, I don’t think that he had told my father and it didn’t come up. Since we did not have access to the estate for so long and Jorge has had the estate once it was returned to us, I have concentrated on the business.”

“Ara, I will have my office send a solicitor to speak with your son. For the last ten years or so, there have been some shady people stealing his designs and more importantly, misusing his maker’s mark.”

“I knew that the Yllanan had been buying from my shop for export, but stealing what I do?” Fylson asked.

“Jorge was supposed to talk to somebody about contacting me about an expert in Imperial law, but here in the Republic, things made and signed, like your toys, have protections. Of course, you had no way of knowing that, so some people have been taking advantage for some time. Of course Mrs. Harper put a damper on that business with the things that she had sent down and the increase of trade with the Empire has discomfited the businesses somewhat. In any case, my firm will now protect the family’s interests, now that we know about them.”

“I understand that you defended Jorge against the persecutor.”
“You have been speaking with young Tad, I see.”
“He has been in and out of the house of late, when he hasn’t been off to some class with the princess. He was rather blunt about the way the “persecutor” tried to browbeat him into testifying that Jorge brought Tad here as his play toy. My son considers Tad as an able assistant with perfectly valid reasons to do so, and wanted to give Tad access to the wider world. Of course, Tad was kidnapped, which annoyed both my son and my father. That was incredibly stupid.”

“Now, to the case at hand. Mrs. Fallingwater, why are you adamant about being emancipated. You have stated, publically, that you are not against emancipation.”

“Indeed I am not. If the folk in Zirgoccol had been honest and upright, not taking boys off the street for ransom, I would have had no problem with what they were doing. Indeed, I would have donated. I am certainly aware that many slaves in the Empire suffer under bad or uncaring masters, who sit in their castles and do bad things. For people here, the antics of the high elves are comedy. For me and many others, they were a terror. That being said, my family does not want to carry a burden and there was an agreement made with Fylson’s great grandfather during the terrible times that he would feed us and our folk and we would serve. There have been bumps, but we will still serve and I have taken Fylson’s father’s measure and he has fulfilled his part of the bargain beyond my expectation. He spent a great deal of treasure to retrieve my son and bring the people who stole the estate to justice. He has demonstrated that he is willing to keep his part of the compact and thus the family will keep ours.”

“Your son and husband have both been emancipated.”
“That was necessary for them to complete their tasks. They will both be traveling widely and will not be able to do their jobs while looking over their shoulders for greedy emancipators.”

“What was the tax situation you mentioned? The company could probably resolve that.”

“That was something, that with some other property, my family was forced to give up under the pressure of repeated incursions of the Blight. The people that live there now have proven to be good custodians, even if the other members of their family are monsters and they are welcome to the place and the prosperity that they have built for themselves of late. A legal battle and turmoil in the Empire at this time is something that I would prefer to avoid.”
“What was your family name before you were married. I could have some people do some discreet poking around and get a feel for just what your circumstances were.”

“Silveri. Most of the folk took the name Fallingwater, but the high family kept their names, though my father and brother are the last with the name.”

“That is an interesting tale. By the way, what you say to me is confidential. What you say in the magistrate’s court is public.”

“Yes, I know. I did not make this journey unprepared.”

“Why are you did you come at all?”

“I am a slave.  My choices are made for me. The lady wanted me to come, so I have.”

 Horalt grinned. “Benny didn’t have anything to do with this?”

“By no means. After all, I am just a slave.”

The rest of the room laughed.

“The case is on the docket at the magistrate in the morning,” Horalt said. “I would feel sorry for Benny, but Jorge did warn him.”

The Imperial Palace.

Itireae grinned as Villia Fallingwater was escorted by Faylen into her quarters. Even dressed in servant’s clothes and being very young, the girl had an ethereal beauty and a grace and charm that belied her age. The girl curtseyed and said, “You summoned me, you majesty?”

“I did, since my granddaughter knows you and your mother has been a big help to me.”
“You know what I am, do you not? Admittedly I am wearing the clothes that I use  to cover that somewhat, but I doubt that you would have let your granddaughter prance around with my brother without know certain things about my brother’s family even before you met my mother.”
“You did not start on that path and if you stay on that path now, you would hardly be the first to find certain things rather pleasant and you have the protection of being a slave when you did it. My sister in law did not and you could hardly be as bad as she was.”

“There is a large difference between the fancies of the high and the slaves who participate in those fancies.”

“Yes there is. By and large, the slaves are not there by choice.”

“That is certainly true.”

“Of course some of the ladies are there as a consequences of their actions. They put themselves in their current circumstances.”

 “So, I doubt that you summoned me to discuss my circumstances.”

“Your mother did something rather strange when she went to the Republic. She insisted that she not be emancipated.”

“What have you heard, your majesty?”

“Your mother insists that she not be emancipated because of her concerns over property. I would have thought that there could be nothing that would cause that much concern. Then I remembered a very old book that my grandmother gave me. The book was the story of the Silverin and their folly. What do you know of them?”

“You should discuss that with my grandmother. She was my teacher until I was taken by Lord Jomaer to his estate to provide entertainment when I was fourteen.”

“That was five years ago.”
“After the bloom went off the rose and we were old enough that Lady Kicavir could not complain too much, we were sold to the houses in the Lower City.”

“Do you only have the one brother? Filia has not mentioned any other children. Yet you were born rather far apart, even for elves.”

“Just the one brother. That is not unusual in my family.”

“I found that book from my childhood and it refers to an Empire before the mage wars, as the book is five hundred years old.”

“At true treasure then.”
“Yes. Here is what it says about the Silverin. “The House Silverin, with its lands in the north would never be the wealthiest of Houses. On the other hand the high family was remarkable for their elegance and grace, contributed far more of its sons to the mage academy, with many becoming important servants of the crown. All too often, the Silverin were the visionaries and they joined with House Luyaris, House Presric, House Beinan, House Nerihorn and more discreetly House Qinvaris in undertaking projects to resolve the issues of the Empire and create great magics. The Silvirin women were the most graceful and more importantly for the Houses that were lucky to woo the few brides of the House, were wise and willing to share their wisdom. They treated with all peoples and the folk of their estates were known to be powerfully loyal as the House was loyal to their people.

“Their final project, as the troubles started, was Lord Silverin’s folly. The costs were so great that the House’s reserves were drained and then the Blight struck. The farms of the House, already burdened by the northern climate and forced under ever greater pressures from the Inquisition were struck by the Blight, over and over until the folk, House Silverin, and their folly seemingly vanished from the north.”

“An interesting fable, your majesty.”
“I always thought so, that is until Tarranth Qinvaris and Victor Shahana found some Blighted farms, uninhabited countryside and finally, the Sanctuary.”

“The Sanctuary was the refuge of the Darkmage and his children.”
“Certainly, but they found the place more or less abandoned and no trace of any members of the Silverin.”

“What does any of that have to do with my mother not wanting to be emancipated.”
“None of that, except that Lord Quidi could not find anything concerning your family at all in the Exchequer’s records.”

Villia smiled, lighting up the room. “Then my mother’s concerns were an overreaction.”
“That is a possibility. Of course it could be a possibility that the concerns were real and when the Darkmage’s children took the Sanctuary over, certain things were made to disappear.” Itireae picked up a book that had been on the small table next to her chair. “This is something from History of The Empire. “I was invited to the city of the north by Lord Silveri to experience the grand experiment first hand. In spite of it being Frore, the dinner was fresh produce, with fruits that would not be seen even in much of the southern Empire. I was taken through the vast halls and the spaces of the Folly, or as Lord Silveri called it, his Sanctuary from the turmoils of the capital.” That came from a journal that an exile had managed to bring to the Republic. I believe that what your family is concerned with having responsibility for the Sanctuary.”
“A slave like myself has other concerns than a large city, especially if the family had given the place up centuries before I was born. In any case, the issue would be my grandfather’s, uncle’s or mother’s problem, that is if the problem existed at all. After all, slaves cannot own property of their own.”

“That is certainly true. The issue is that while we could turn it over to the folk who are in charge now, that may give the city, legally, to the very forces that are trying to create chaos and turmoil. They have already murdered several hundred thousand people to forward those goals.”

“What would you of me, your majesty?”
“I would like you to proffer a proposal to your grandmother.”
“Why me? I am hardly free to go to the estate.”
Itireae handed a key to Villia, along with a portal key and a Sanctuary card. “Now you are free to go where you like.”

Villia looked at the objects in her hand, “That was a very Silverin thing to do, your majesty. You purchased my key and I did not know that you had. When did you do that?”

“When my granddaughter started to chase your brother. I doubt that a typical slave boy would have attracted her attention like Tad did. So I started to look deeper. Your mother has been speaking with me frequently and as time goes on, she has let things slip, especially after the Dark took Tad right after we met.”

“That annoyed her more than a bit. She fully approves of Lord Umevan and Naertho doing what they did.”

“I have no doubt that she does.”
“Why do you not just go and see my grandmother?”
“I have tried on several occasions and your grandmother disappears. Your grandfather must have taught your brother that saying, “I am just a slave” that your brother uses so frequently, because you cannot believe how frustrating it is to have a conversation with the man about anything other than wine.”

“I think he picked that up when the thieves took the estate. The lord may fix that somewhat.”
“In any case, you are now part of my household and my go between for certain things.”
“That will force me to give some things up, and my mother may not like it.”
“I will risk your mother’s wrath a bit and I do hope that if you choose to pursue certain things, that you are discreet. On the other hand, a small scandal may not be a bad thing. Some ladies here in the palace and elsewhere may snipe at you. In any case, you need to receive some training for your role. Faylen will handle the particulars. My granddaughter and your brother have already received the same training. I do not have the sensitivity to determine if you have been tested. Have you?”
“I have never been in a position where that could be done and that had to be done rather discreetly at the estate, so no, I have not. Are you saying that I should return to the estate and do so?”

“When your parents return. Until then you will remain where you are.”
Villia laughed. “You want to see my mother’s antics with the persecutor while undermining them. Just like you did with the Lord.”
“Some ladies needed some sort of reassurance that Jorge would not assault them and the matter of the estate arose. I will admit that watching Jorge do that to himself was entertaining.”

“You want more from me than just a go between, do you not, your majesty.”
“The tie has not manifested in my son as yet, thank the gods, but my husband was struck hard by the Scourging and there may be a Blight launch. My grandsons are already attracting the attention of the ladies, though right now, it is childishness. On the other hand, Aiden is of the age where he should have a tutor in certain things and you qualify.”
“I see. You want a tutor for your grandsons in the arts of horizontal dancing.”

“Yes.”
“What if I were to chase a prince?”

“I doubt that you will. At least not Aiden. I think that my daughter’s attachment to Tad will be enough. If you should, then the Sanctuary would be a magnificent dowry. I think that you want something else from a man in any case.”

“Are you sure that you are not family, your majesty?”
“That would be telling. One last thing. Before you go, could I see you without Glamor?”
Villia grinned. “That can have consequences.”
“Faylen and I will survive.”
“Very well.”
There was a change in Villia and Itireae suddenly felt inadequate in presence of the creature that graced them with her presence. Where there had been a young lady with elven ancestry, there stood a being of almost divine character, until the young lady returned and Villia said, “It was a good thing that I learned to keep that under control.”
“When you are in my presence with Faylen or alone, drop the glamor.”
“Why?”
“Like everything, the continuous exposure will harden me somewhat.”
“What about in Aiden’s presence?”
“That will be between you, but if I see you pulling his strings, there will be consequences.”
“Pulling strings will be part of the training.”
“That just means that you will have to be subtle. Not like your mother is being now.”

“Tad is rather special and she knows what dad’s family went through. Tad also doesn’t carry the Silverin traits very much, like many of the men in the family. He’s more like dad with some tweaks. The women all seem to have the traits, so any girls that he and Immianthe have will have them.”

“You seem to be sure that they will marry.”
“The family was sure when Tad was taken and Immianthe acted the way she did. That is if you do not cause them extreme pain by not allowing the marriage, something that would displease my mother greatly as she likes Immianthe very much. Should I move to the palace?”
“Let’s wait until you parents return. You can continue as you were.”
“Very well your majesty.”

Villia left and Faylen said, “That was quite an interview. Are you afraid that Villia would catch Aiden?”
“That would be an interesting thing, but I think that Aiden is not what she wants. First of all, the family doesn’t want such an obvious connection and second, Tad, as a functionary, seemingly a somewhat disreputable marriage for Immianthe will suit the Silverin better than an Empress, with all the reputation that goes with that. My mother in law and the others did not help our family at all. That little minx that Aiden ran into at the Justiciars will make a fine Empress with some training and seasoning.”

“Are you concerned with the Silverin pulling strings?”
“They are out of practice and weak. They are also aware of the potential consequences and subtle. In any case, there are bigger things at work at present.”

“Villia will be a fine addition to your household.”
“I thought so. So many things of legend are coming out of the shadows into the light, both the bad and the good.”

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