The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 11-12

“Who was the slave?”
“That young slave Tad’s mother is the one that refused emancipation. Apparently she tripped off a bit of a constitutional crisis before catching the boat home. There were also some machinations that discomfited the Customs Officer and he is in a spot of trouble right now. The trouble concerned seizing the things that the Scourge suppressor people bought and sent home.”

“That sounds like a rather stupid thing to do.”
“I think that the stupidity was encouraged.”

Chapter 11.

The Lower City

 Maethanar groaned a bit. In spite of his bravado, the five cities and the Blight incursions, as small as they had been had taken more out of him than he had liked to admit. Delion came into the tavern with a grin and sat down. Maethanar looked at him and said, “What are you happy about?”
“Fylson Umevan went to the Republic and that means that I may have to pester him a bit. My kids will like that, as they end up with surprises.”
“Are you sure that you want to do that? Jorge might get annoyed.”
“I think that Jorge is rather busy right now. There are some interesting rumors going around that the Empress may have drawn the Silverin out of hiding.”
“That would be difficult. On the other hand, I imagine that Itireae has reasons.”
“She does, and the latest exchange between Emmyth and that clown of a Customs Officer was rather interesting as a slave refused to be emancipated for tax reasons and was tied to the Umevan.”

“Who was the slave?”
“That young slave Tad’s mother is the one that refused emancipation. Apparently she tripped off a bit of a constitutional crisis before catching the boat home. There were also some machinations that discomfited the Customs Officer and he is in a spot of trouble right now. The trouble concerned seizing the things that the Scourge suppressor people bought and sent home.”

“That sounds like a rather stupid thing to do.”
“I think that the stupidity was encouraged.”

Richard came in and sat down. “At least the harvest is essentially over in the Empire.”
“Were the Inanimates a problem?” Maethanar asked.

“Not in the beginning. I don’t think that they were serious. At the end, they could have been if they hadn’t been struck by Jorge going all out and dispersing the Inanimates to provide distractions.”
“What did Jorge do?” Delion asked.

“Came up with some flamethrower cars on GP chassis and sent them through portals. He did all of that in Ishendell, so you won’t see any of it.”

“His Inquisitor at the estate isn’t going to make any noises anyway, since the transmuter being dismantled safely is the big issue and Vaeril wants Nat to get started on that as soon as that can be done. I doubt that Melaris and the rest will see very much of what Jorge gets up to on the estate as long as he doesn’t start deep into things that are Proscribed.”
“I doubt that Jorge will, at least not unless the other side sends a Scourge device to the estate and both the estate and Freywick have Scourge suppressors. Jorge isn’t the type to make huge statements and I think that he would be deeply troubled if he had to Scourge a place.”

“What are your kids up to, Richard?” Maethanar asked. “You haven’t brought them up.”
“Tarranth and one of Dan’s people are going through his barn with the Mage Queen’s journals and some manuals from the Sanctuary, looking for the devises that the Mage Queen had in her lab. They want to see if they can reconstruct the lab and the work that she did on Blight resistant wheat.”

“On the one hand, I should be screaming heresy!” Delion said with a grin. “On the other, my brother would kill me if I squelched somebody looking into breeding Blight resistant wheat and making seed available.”
“That is what Alinis looking for. She had Tad make some maps and is looking for the Mage Queen’s lab and her experimental fields, hoping that some of the wheat had gone feral.”

“If she finds any, my brother would plant at least some of the estate in the seed, even if the yield was low.”

“I certainly will. We will have to see what Alinis finds.”

“What is her boyfriend up to?”
‘He has been doing a project with Charlie Beinan and Ayen Nerihorn. Some people are getting gifts and they are looking at different applications. I haven’t been paying too much attention, but I think that Rosa wants some folk to have concealed elf slicers, even if they don’t really need them.”
“That was a lost art, since the dwarf that created those went to the fire,” Delion said. “I think that I will contact Fireoak about a pair for my sons. I doubt that the other two would admit that they were making such things.”

“There was some talk about the elf slicers being made in a secret fae hideaway and crafted by strange magical methods. I didn’t pay too much attention as Fire and the others didn’t need my help. 

Maethanar and Delion laughed and Maethanar said, “That actually makes sense, since the other two are more visible and their fathers do not want another fight with the Inquisition.”
“No, they do not. Fire can claim extraterritoriality and the Inquisition isn’t going to try to figure out some fae thing anyway.”

“I won’t,” Delion said. “I understand that getting involved in fae matters can have consequences. My boys may poke in, but they won’t say anything either.”

“I have heard that Gander’s daughter will be the crown princess of Astua,” Maethanar said. “Do you know anything about that?”

“Other than it happened? Not yet, as my people there are putting bodies on the fire as fast as they can.”
“That is probably a huge task.”
“It is, and my people are also helping with building some new cities.”
“Shouldn’t they come home?”
“As far as I’m concerned, if they can keep things in the Mortal Kingdoms from falling apart, I come out ahead as I can use grain to make up shortages if necessary, they have been customers in the past and chaos there helps our enemies. I don’t want to let those monsters win, so if some people do some extra work, I can pay for it.”

“I see your point. That also puts some of that coin that you found to use.”

“When enough of the scourged coin is recovered, I am going to exchange the coin from the vault with the tainted coin from the five cities. That means that the coin from the five cities can be kept out of circulation without creating a shortage.”

“That is generous.”

“Not really. That coin from the vault and any other coin that turns up needs to be kept out of circulation for the most part, I can use the coin for collateral and if the coin is radioactive and dangerous, people are less likely to poke around looking to steal it. Also, the Mortal Kingdoms won’t go down more than they are already. So it is a win for me.”

“That makes a strange kind of sense, actually.  Of course you have to get the money first.”
Richard grinned. “I have some very sneaky people and some friends, some of whom have last names like Beinan and Umevan. The other side made some mistakes and forgot to remain diligent. So the location of the vault where the coin is placed is known. The problem is that the vault is under Wongpo.”
“Wongpo?” Delion asked.

“Yes. That may be another reason that the town was Scourged. Keep the fact that the location of the vault is known to yourselves.”

“I’m dead, so I can’t tell anyone and I imagine that Delion’s bosses don’t even know where Wongpo is,” Maethanar said, grinning. “In any case, we will keep the location discreet as we don’t want fools chasing after the coin. How are you planning to handle it?”
“I think that I will keep that to myself and make my radiation lab boss happy. I don’t want him going all scaly and scaring people again.”

“Chompers is handling it, then.”
“Yes he is, with a lot of growling. Hi Tony.”

Tony sat down and said, “You will not believe who smuggled themselves into the Fellowship.”
“Who?”

“The Richflights. They were up in Lain Othrond and when things cut loose, they left, ran right into the Fellowship and caught a ship to the Republic.”
“My brother didn’t hire them,” Richard said. “We can guess who did.”

“I imagine that the other side making off with them annoyed Kenia and Sarya,” Maethanar said. “They probably had some sort of deal going, then the other side made off with the Richflights and they had to escape again.”

“After pulling that job on the people at the ruins. That annoyed my daughter and her friends, but I thought that the thing was well constructed and kept things from getting out of hand. The loan documents turned up in Lain Othrond and that resolved itself. Tony, tell Andy to keep an eye out for them, but not to interfere. That is unless he wants to start a fight with Mrs. Steelmaker.”

“I’ll let him know. Do you think that they will be returning to the Fellowship?”

“A rather large devise was stolen in Ironton, put on a ship and sent on its way to the Fellowship. I imagine that since Sarya is looking to test her new action squad, the devise would be a good test.”

“What is the devise?”
“I have no idea, as it came from Desert Howl, was heading to deep storage at Beinan’s in Ironton and somebody tried to use a Scourge devise Primary to make it go away. Fortunately Rob ported down with a Scourge suppressor and a portal and dealt with the devise. The devise was something that Harald came up with during the Mage Wars that one of my daughter’s friends dug up and ran right in front of Gatherer.”

“So this is that thing that Bill dug up,” Tony said. “Does Alinis know yet?”
“She’s been busy, and if she and her friends are running a caper, it is better off that I don’t know about it.”

“Do you think that it is a caper?” Maethanar asked.

“The other side were a bunch of idiots to even touch the thing. Paeris was with them when they paraded the thing right in front of them, essentially saying, “Here it is, come and get it.” Young Bill was in charge of things and his uncle works for Sarya. There is something going on and the thing sat there in Chatsrey while Bill was playing games with Gordal. That’s according to Cory and Maldin, who were watching things. Bill could have easily retrieved it, and didn’t. There is definitely something going on there.”

“Some associates of High Inquisitor Keaynore were involved,” Delion said.

“They are not just associates of the Inquisition,” Richard said. “The Stewards were apparently responsible for the theft of the devise and attempting to set off a Scourge devise Primary in Ironton to cover up the fact that the devise had been stolen, or at least make the thing disappear. That wouldn’t have worked and had the Stewards actually set the Primary off, they would be in very deep trouble right now.”
“They aren’t?” Tony asked.

“They are, but the big concern is more Primaries someplace. I don’t have the details as yet, but Rob thinks that somebody smuggled the cores in and fabricated the primaries with his brother in law’s assistance.”

“I will send to dad so that he can keep an eye out. Those things are everybody’s problem.”

Chapter 12.

Altensee

Gander looked at the room and sighed. The streets surrounding the grove were filled with schools of various disciplines and scholars, almost all of which had died. This school was unique for two reasons. The first was that the school was empty and second, the school had the same feeling that the Mage Academy did. Elen came into the headmaster’s office and said, “This reminds me of home.”

“You noticed that as well.”

“I’m surprised that you did.”
“I had several cases involving the Mage Academy over the years and I certainly knew your grandfather. I was on his list of people that he trusted even before I was raised to full Justiciar. Did you grandfather ever come here to Altensee?”
“No, he didn’t. First of all the Conference of Kings was never held here, second the city would not have been safe and third, he was afraid of making a splash where it would damage the fae. So, other than the occasional sending a messenger, the Mage Academy had very little contact here. I think that we have found where those dark mages kept coming from.”
“Bill thought that there was some sort of school. They pulled out before the Scourge struck. At least the scholars and students did. They pulled most of the library as well.”
“They knew in advance.”
“Well in advance. Even before that meeting in Lain Othrond supposedly made the decision.”
“The portal here made communication easy.”

“Yes it did. I think that we are done here and need to move on to other parts of this.”

“This place or the city?”
“The city. We know who left just before the Scourge struck and some other things. If we aren’t careful, we may be recruited to attract the fae to return.”

“You feel it too?”
“I think that we all do, since we are all of high potential and have been tested. There is something there in the grove that wants to reestablish itself. The problem is that we are not the folk it needs. Hello Joram.”

The landdragon had appeared and said, “I found you, milord.”

“What does your queen want?”
“She wants me to talk to you about Duc D’lanate.”
“You must mean Elderic, since most of the rest of his family is still over there, in the ducal palace, waiting to go to the fire, along with the rest of the household. Elderic had a fight with his father and moved out to the estate, coincidently just before the Scourge hit.”

“We were discussing Elderic. I said that Elderic had been sending men to the camps with that poisoned coin and Cécile said to discuss that with you.”
“Why the landdragon?”
“Cécile insisted, since Elderic might have people looking to do me an injury. Elderic is the prince’s regent until the will is changed and ratified and Cécile is concerned that somebody might go after me to get to her.”

“That is a valid concern. We are preparing to leave here and return to Astia, so, why don’t you join us and we can discuss what we found.”

“What did you find?”
“This place, for one thing. This was a school for mages. They also left before the Scourge struck.”
“A school for mages, here?”
“Yes. The Grand Master, both of them, were concerned that so many unregistered mages kept showing up, especially here, in the Mortal Kingdoms. It wasn’t something that we could investigate, but Altensee was an obvious place and if I hadn’t had some rather large cases the last few years, I would have sent someone to look around here. When I return to Astia, I am going to have to arrange for the Mage Academy to send some people with mine and go over this place fairly thoroughly.”

“Cécile will back you on that. I don’t know about the Church.”
 “I don’t think that will be a problem. In any case, the mages are gone from here and the Mage Academy may set something up to replace this place.”

“Why?”

“People like you. Too many people fail the tests and if the groves can’t accept them, there will need to be alternatives. In any case, that isn’t your problem. It’s not mine, either.”

Elderic watched the caravan leave the city, heading toward County Crelieu and the railroad. The caravan was escorted by royal cavalry and the Justiciars that were the principles of the caravan were well armed with visible rifles and other strange weaponry. Arranging for “bandits” to strike the caravan would not be possible. Elderic had hoped that the thing that the queen had attached herself to would leave the way he had come, alone, and had come with experienced hunters who had dealt with large and dangerous animals before. A small army was not something that they could deal with at present and the caravan would reach the railroad and be away before the duc could assemble the force he would need to strike and the strike would be impossible to hide. He turned to his huntsman and said, “No hunt today, Baladaric.”

“That’s a shame. I was looking forward to putting the monster’s head on the wall.”

“That will come, I promise. Perhaps my cousin’s head as well, since she insists on being a monster. Let’s go.”

Ferret watched the hunting party leave. His cousin had tasked him with keeping an eye on the Justiciar, since his cousin had had suspicions about the newly raised duc. It looked as if those suspicions were true. At least the duc had set up to hunt the Queen’s consort while he was performing tasks for the queen. The question now was how deep the duc was into the plot. Arranging for your family to be murdered so that you would inherit a throne, with two cities of dead as part of the plot was something that most would not consider. Ferret Jumped to the caravan and found the Justiciar. Gander pulled up his horse, looked at Ferret and said, “What brings you to us, Ferret?”
“You attracted the attention of the local duc and his hunting party.”
Gander grinned. “They haven’t approached to offer us the duchess’s hospitality. Of course the palace is rather inaccessible right now, and he’s probably in a bit of grief over the deaths of most of his family. We can’t really stop right now in any case.”

“Whatever the reason, they went off, rather discouraged.”

“We should reach Crelieu and the railroad for dinner. Why don’t you join us and add some local color.”

“I need to report to my cousin. I have the feeling that the duc is thinking bad thoughts.”

“Do you think that the duc was hunting a landdragon?”
“That’s what he seemed to be looking for. I need to go.”

Ferret disappeared as Gander laughed.

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