The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 5-6

Luvon volunteers. Some disreputable types visit Queen Cécile

Chapter 5.

The Trislana Estate

Luvon looked at Fet and said, “That looks like work.”
“What do you mean, milord?”

“I see Sarya Dawkins and a young fae riding up from the portal in a GP.”

Fet looked and said, “Where did ‘Kamba go and where did Sarya pick this character up?”

“I don’t know. I think that we will discover that. What concerns me is that aunt did not warn us that Sarya was coming.”

“Unfortunate that. Should we find another thing to do?”
“I think they have seen us and father will be annoyed if this fence is not repaired.”

The GP stopped and Luvon walked over, his clothing a contrast to his usual dandy dress. “What can we do for your father today, Sarya?”
“He’s been given the five cities as a case. I was told to recruit Fet to help with clearing out my great grandmother’s files.”

‘Why Fet?”
“Daddy didn’t say. weHe He just suggested that I recruit Fet for the project.”

“What happened to ‘Kamba?”
“We went to Astia and a grove and he became a prince. He was a cute prince so I kept him anyway. This is Vindy who was ‘Kamba.”

“I must say, Vindy. You look rather less unique.”
“Milord, I do. Of course I managed to get a crazy family and some responsibilities as well, so there were some drawbacks.”

“I take it that your trip went well all around, Sarya.”
“Except for the end, it did. The end was rather horrible right after Vindy met his mother.”

“I am at liberty, since aunt doesn’t have a case at present, so, as soon as we finish this fence, why don’t you explain what you need Fet for. I imagine that he would like to know.”

“I’m not sure about the details as you know how daddy can be when he’s in the middle of a case. He goes all mysterious with, “It would be a good idea if you have this person there,” or “you should look into this,” without actually telling you why. It may be that Fet came from the Republic.”

“Missy, I’m hardly going to reveal things now that your daddy is talking to his grandmother again,” Fet said rather roughly. “You father has been poking at me when he could, hoping that I would reveal that I was working for a certain lady. He’s failed and I wouldn’t spill anyway. Milord, we better watch our step with this.”

“Indeed. On the other hand, aunt will probably want to look at the files and we can see what Gander has been up to. Sarya, why don’t we meet at your house in the Lower City in the morning?”

“Ok. Vindy and I need to get to the estate and see how big a job it is.”

They returned to the GP and drove toward the portal again. Fet turned on Luvon and said, “Why did you violate your first rule?”
“Never volunteer? Simple. I don’t think that we will be able to find out what Gander is really after if we don’t look.”

“Good point. Also, we can send what we find to his grandmother.”

“That was a consideration.”

“Do you think he knows?”
“I think he suspects. On the other hand, he hasn’t been able to find any real evidence and unless we come out and tell him, he’s not going to say very much. Let us get the fence finished.”

As they approached the portal, Vindy said, “They were more cooperative than you thought they would be.”
“I think that Luvon knows that he would be dragged into the case anyway.”

“Fet doesn’t exactly act like a slave.”
“He doesn’t. Daddy has been trying to figure that out, but hasn’t been able to work out exactly what is going on. Luvon and Fet try to act like Bellas, but Luvon is still an adjunct and Lady Trislana is his boss, so he has to be the stooge in the high elf crowd. So he snobs it up most of the time. Most of the rest of us don’t like him very much.”

“What about Fet?”

“Daddy says that his leaving the Republic was as involuntary as daddy’s was. He thinks that my great grandmother sent him, probably to keep an eye on daddy. Either that, or Fet is on the run from somebody.”
“Your Aunt Iolena?”
Sarya grinned. “I’m not sure. We could play around a bit and see. More than likely he would be on the run from Tony’s family.”

“Your aunt working for the Lions then.”
“We can run with that as an idea.”

Eryding.

Greldug looked at the long row of filled shelves and grinned. Here was the long life and career of the elf who had been the Scourge of the Republic for its entire existence. Starting on the top right shelf Greldug opened the first book as there was banging and other noises in the house. Taking notes, he started in on the story.  Reading, he had been there a twentieth, finding all sorts of gems from the Admiral’s days at the Academy and his first voyages with his father when he started to see some things.  Reading the diaries, he could see the history of the Republic and the other Blasted Lands mirrored in the voyages of the Ravathyra as they attempted to suppress the rise of those countries, especially the Republic, while attempting to crack the vault to the south and fighting the long war with the seafolk.

What was amazing were the pictures. Ehlark had apparently been given a crystal and started to take pictures of the things he was doing, with notations as to where the pictures were taken. Greldug had barely gotten through the first diary and had found amazing pictures of the early towns of the Republic. Of course, the folk of the Republic had moved inland in an effort to avoid the raids on the shore, with some exceptions in the old families, who tended to be rather stubborn. Closing the first diary Greldug looked up as Iefyr said, Captain, my uncle is here.”
“Which one?”

“Iefyr, not a Ravathyra uncle. He commands a cruiser in the Republican navy.”
Which cruiser?”
“One of the old ones, the Progress.”

“Why is he here?”
“To see mom, bring some things from grandmother and some other family things. He ported up from Eribelle.”

“How did he know where I was?”
“He asked mom if you had arrived. Apparently he had a radio message about you.”

“Is he alone?”
“He came with me,” an all too familiar voice growled. Greldug looked at Harald and said, “I should have expected you to track me down today, admiral.”

“I wanted to see if you had been getting cooperation from the Ravathyra and introduce you to the captain here as a back door if you needed it. Have things been interesting so far?”

“They have, indeed. The interesting thing is that Ehlark liked to take pictures of where he was and what he did.”

“That is interesting.”

“Another thing that was interesting was the fact that at about the time of the founding, Gatherer and Collector accompanied the fleet rather frequently. At least they had their pictures taken by the admiral when he was young.”

“You can find me at the old family House if you need resources.”

“I’m going to talk to Nueleth about buying the set of these. My publisher will pay for them. These are remarkable.”

“Do that and have your research assistant come up and start to go through them. I don’t want you locked down on these and not looking for some monsters.”

“Admiral, I have been on this job for a long time and I was supposed to retire. Since you are retired, you can discuss this with Admiral Harper. Right now, I have other concerns and my shop at home is watching the rest. I have wire communication with them and can port to Ishendell if need be on a moment’s notice. On the other hand there is no one better than me to go through this and look for clues.”

“What makes you think that the clues are in here?”
“Ehlark was in deeper than any of his brothers, including Zanis. He was the point for a century and served under his father for a century before that. I discussed this with both the man’s sons and he had the habit of going off someplace just before the raiding season until the Regency started. I want to look at everything and see what I haven’t seen before.”

“I should have expected that you would not just look for the obvious, Greldug.”

“Admiral, if I had ever done that, the captain here would not be here and we would be expecting the admiral to send yet another fleet at us in such a way that it would surprise us. If I can see what Ehlark actually knew, I can track that back to who actually knew it. I do not want another Phraan Lightfinder on my conscience.”

“Lightfinder does go on your watch.”
“Yes he does and five cities paid the price for that lapse.”

“Who is Phraan Lightfinder?” Iefyr asked.

“He was one of Captain Bronzerock’s lead designers and his brother in law,” Greldug said. “He was also responsible for designing and having manufactured the fuses for the Primaries that were in the devises that Scourged the five cities and the Primary that was dropped into Ironton to make something disappear. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he killed himself when Rob discovered him.”
“Are you telling me that the fuses for the Scourge devises responsible for the five cities came from the navy’s ordnance people?”

“From one of them. Captain Bronzerock trusted his people, and his own brother in law did what he did.”

“Admiral, captain, whatever you need from me or my ship, you get. The five cities is a stain the navy will have to do a lot to wash out, if it does. Apua and Vestia were not even enemies of the Republic.”

“No, they were not,” Harald said. “We want to keep things that way. In any case, we accept the offer.”

“I need to keep at this, admiral, captain,” Greldug growled. “I have the feeling that time is working against me.”

“I can get Jorge to help you out,” Harald said. “He doesn’t have my prejudices.”

“I’ll take that. I may need his skills and he knows the territory.”

“I will leave you to this.”

“The admiral stomped out and Captain Steelgrinder asked, “What does the admiral have against how you do things?”
“It goes back to when I was a wet behind the ears lieutenant and dragonkin besides. The admiral had just retired and I was assigned to intelligence. I wrote a report that said that the Ravathyra would enter the inland sea from the south and we should send squadrons there.”

“They didn’t?”
“They did. In force. Knowing what I know now, the admiral set us up to strike at the navy in detail. You can look up the battle that followed. It wasn’t a good day for the navy and if we hadn’t had two ironclad steamships it would have been much worse.”

“That must have been a surprise for the admiral.”
“They were somewhat of a surprise. Especially when the Projector fire bounced off. ”

Chapter 6.

 Astia

Cécile looked at the group in front of her and said, “I’m not sure that I should let men of your reputations at the treasury.”

Roger grinned. “We have things set up and the kingdom can provide guards and observers. The faster we get this done, the better.”

 “You put this together amazingly quickly.”

“We have been dealing with the Scourge and its effects for some time now. At least I have. These other folks just want to make sure that none of the stolen coin gets used, at least not for very long.”

“The stakes are too high for just making off with some coin,” Mike said. “We all have a great deal at stake in making this work.”

“I agree, so you can go ahead with the Treasury here. How will you prevent some folk from stamping the coin on their own?”
Betrek grinned. “That wouldn’t be as easy as it looks. We had an artisan in the Lower City make the stamps and they have a very good fidelity. They also are applied with light.”
“With light?”
“Yes. There is a marking machine that uses light to make a mark. The marks were designed to take advantage of that and it is almost impossible to fake.”

“How does the machine work?”
“I have no idea. The artisan makes the machines, but he uses his tools by rote and knows what they do.”

“I wish to see this all work.”
“You will, your majesty,” Roger said. “We will get set up and show the entire conference how this works.”

King Albrecht and Queen Lillia stood on the train platform to greet yet more royal visitors. The train arrived and from the second to last car, some high guard exited the train, followed by some obvious staff types and servants, and then from the last car a regally dressed elf couple emerged with a pair of apparent teenagers. King Albrecht stepped forward and said, “Prince Zaos, welcome to Astia. I am King Albrecht and this is queen Lillia.”

Prince Zaos grinned and said, Thank you, King Albrecht. This is Princess Itylara, my wife. The young elves here are my niece Princess Immianthe and my son Prince Ilvisar.”

“I have carriages ready for you and your people. The castle is rather crowded and I have arranged for a town house for you.”

“Thank you. I’m a bit new at this being out of the country as yet. My mother has quite a bit of experience, since she attended college in the Fellowship long ago, but is was felt impolitic to send my brother and me away.”

“You are welcome change from the Regency, where, other than the Grand Master, the Empire by and large ignored the Mortal Kingdoms.”
“That was the influence of certain parties and their bad habits. Lady Yllanan started the embassy in the Republic and when I was placed by my father as foreign minister, I decided that the Empire could no longer hide in its shell, with some rather brutal reminders why.”

“What does the Inquisition say?”

“The Inquisition has had a rather large thing dropped on its lap of late, and needs to act outside the Empire and provide assistance concerning some things that came out of the dark.”

“The Scourge devises and the rest of it.”

“The Scourging of the five cities was an avoidable event where the Empire’s blindness left an opening where the people responsible for the five cities could assemble the tools that Scrourged the five cities and if it were not for the efforts of Major Tollings, things could have been much worse.”

“That is certainly true. On the other hand, your mother’s efforts almost prevented the five cities and will probably save a lot of lives. Let us get you settled.”

Immianthe turned to Tad and started to berate him as they prepared to enter the carriage. Tad put up with it and loaded bags and bales until the carriage was loaded and a loud Immianthe demanded that he attend her in the carriage as Ilvisar laughed through all of it. As the carriage started off, Tad asked, “What was that all about?”

“There were people at the station watching us,” Ilvisar said. “Immianthe was behaving the way that they expect us to behave.”

“Like one of those movies.”

“We haven’t seen them yet, so how would I know,” Immianthe said. “You haven’t taken me to the Republic.”

 “Are you sure that you want me to?”
“I think that grandmother would get rather upset if you up and went to the Republic, Immianthe,” Ilvisar said. “Of course you could blame Tad for going.”

“Why me?” Tad growled.
“Otherwise grandmother would blame me or Airden when we all know that it would be all your fault.”

“I am not going to take Immianthe to the Republic.”
“Not even to Ishendell?”
“Ishendell doesn’t count,” Immianthe said. “We can port there. Tad, we can see the movies in Ishendell.”

Tad laughed. “I guess that I’m stuck. We go to see the movies in Ishendell.”

 “I knew that you would see things my way.”

“You shouldn’t let Immianthe push you around, Tad,” Ilvisar said, grinning. “We should all go to the movies and watch something that we like.”

“How much trouble are you trying to get me in, Ilvisar?”

“As long as I don’t get in trouble, does it matter?”
Ferrel Ironsmith looked at the grand house in front of him and sighed. He hated what he was forced to do, but he didn’t have a choice. He had been lucky and off out of the city, talking to his charcoal burner when the Scourge struck. His wife, younger son and daughter had been evacuated, so he was not as bad off as all too many and his cousin had a forge in Dolmon where he could get a new start. On the other hand, he had been the chief bladesmith for the kingdom of Vestia and he owed his queen an explanation for his leaving with the kingdom in crisis. Trudging up to the door, the man at the door looked at him and said, “The service entrance is over there.”
Ferrel looked at the popped up fool and said, “I am Ferrel Ironsmith, Blademaster for the Queen’s army to see her majesty. She knows who I am.”

“Very well, I will send and see if she will see you.”

Ferrel stood as the messenger left and returned, whispering in the popinjay’s ear. The popinjay looked startled and said, “The queen will see you.”
“I thought so.”

Ferrel stomped behind the page until he reached the hall where the landdragon rested.  Cécile smiled and said, “Ferrel, you survived!”

“I was lucky and was looking into the order for charcoal for the next moon when the Scourge struck. Rissia is in the evacuation camp and so is my younger son. My older son and his family were in Athlin.”

“That is terrible. Father and mother were also in the city, but my brother and sisters were at the estate. Why have you come? I am so glad to see you as we desperately need your skills.”
“I came to say that I can’t stay. I have arranged with my cousin in Dolmon to use his forge and am taking my skills there.”
“Why?”
“I no longer have tools and a forge. I can’t function without them, so I am going.”

“Do you need funds to reestablish? We could help with that.”
“I am not asking for your charity, your majesty. I can get onto my own feet well enough.”
“It isn’t charity. We need you. The kingdom needs you and other folk like you to start things up again. We have lost so many and I can’t afford to let you go.”

“What about a forge?”
“We are starting a new city, on the railroad. Go to Duc D’Sward and tell him what you need and you shall have it.”
“What about my family?”
“Send them to Dolmon for the time. We are planning to build houses and a new city.”
“Very well, your majesty. I will stay.”
“You were always there for us, Ferrel. We should be there for you.”

“There is something you should know. There are folk in the evacuation camps with coin looking to give people aid to move to estates in Dolmon and Astaire. They have been paying with Vestian coin.”
“Were they looking for particular kinds of folk?”
“Yes. Craftsmen or families of craftsmen. Some have already gone. They came to me, but I had already made arrangements.”

“Thank you for telling me about this. If you need anything from Athlin, we are setting up a retrieval process for records and such for shops like yours. I know that this is a disaster for you, but have heart and don’t give up hope.”

“Thank you, your majesty, for understanding.”

“Ferrel left and Cécile sent a message to have Joram sent to her. Joram came in, not wearing his landdragon and said, “Here I am, Cécile. What did you want?”
“Ferrel Ironsmith was just here and he brought a problem to light. Go and get Tomas and Geral, if you would. Tell them to Jump here.”

“Ok. What will you be doing?”
“Hinting to the other kings that now is not a good time to poach.”
“I don’t think that you would be concerned about some deer or bears.”
“I am not. On the other hand, the Scourging left the kingdom bereft of certain skills and we really can’t afford to lose people with those skills right now.”

Joram grinned. “I think I see what you are driving at. Do you want me to talk to Jomney?”
“If you would. He probably knows what is going on and if you and he would let some folk know that now is not a good time to annoy me, that would please me greatly.”

“We can do that. I will let you know what happened when I return.”

A grinning Joram disappeared and Cécile called for an escort. She couldn’t use a carriage in her current form, but she didn’t really need one.

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