The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 13-14

Duke D’lastre has some coin that glows. Alinis chases wheat.

Chapter 13.

The Qinvaris estate.

Alinis mused that the only thing worse than a ruin was a place that wasn’t one. She had confirmed that the estate that the House had taken over had indeed been a Ravahana property before the mage Wars and Cilly had even found an ancient map that showed that Lyrei had lived there. The problem was that the land had been farmed for the entire time, over the four hundred years, Lyrei’s experimental fields had been converted to vegetables and weeded, clearing the odd grasses away. Then the family had gone into exile and the Qinvaris, Alinis’s grandfather actually, had taken over the estate. So Alinis had taken a crew and poked around the boundaries of the estate and several other estates and collected every odd bit of wheat that was just growing that she could find. Now she looked at yet another small patch in a clearing, picked up a sickle, turned to Jon Billings, who had assembled the crew and said, “Let’s collect this patch and then I can take what we have to the lab in Zirgoccol.”

The rather dirty Jon said, “You didn’t have to get dirty with us, princess, though we do appreciate it. Where is your prince?”

“Paying a debt that we incurred just before the Scourge was set off at the two estates. We made the commitment and Fire needs to get that done before things get too much further along.”

Jon grinned. “He must be done, because he just showed up in a GP.”

Alinis turned, spotted Fire and waved. Fire walked over and said, “You are dirty, Alinis.”

“Grab a sickle and help. We can get this done.”

“Did you find the blight resistant wheat?”
“I don’t know. We’ve been looking at feral patches all over the place, collecting heads. We can plant seed in Dan’s greenhouses and test them.”
“Ok, I’ll help.”

“How did your thing with Vesstan go?”

“We have things set up. Charlie and Ayen want to run things through a shop at the border of the kingdom for certain things and we have been getting that ready. We also set up a discreet place in the Lower City, but none of the things are going to be made there.”

“Let’s get this harvested and then you can tell me all about what you did.”

“Bossing me around again?”
“Just a bit. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we have time to ourselves.”


Duchy D’lastre, Dolmon.

Standing amongst workers, surrounded by the calls of the masons as they moved up and down the scaffolding like monkeys, Johel watched as his new house rose out of the ground. While the young Justiciar’s suggestion of a source for material to rid the ducal palace of its issues had worked, Oberta had made some rather strong arguments that entertaining in the house could be a bit uncomfortable and in any case, building again would demonstrate the duke’s prestige and influence. It was also the perfect excuse to recruit in the evacuation camps for certain craft skills and in the process rearrange some things more to the duke’s liking. The extra money sent through the small portal did not hurt either. 

As Johel watched the activity, Jerald rode up and said, “Milord, you are needed at the counting house.”
Johel sighed.“What is the problem, Jerald?”
“The Barons D’ambray and D’geld are here with some folk from the Justiciars and some dwarves from the Fellowship.”

“What do they want?”
“They have a warrant to search for coin stolen from the Scourged cities.”
“How can they pick that coin out, that is if there would be any?”
“Apparently the Scourge leaves a taint on the coin and that taint can be sensed by a devise.”
“Very well, Let us go.” 

Johel untied his horse, mounted and joined Jerald to ride to the counting house. When they rode up, some dwarves and other folk were setting up a booth in front of the counting house and as Johel handed the reins to Jerald and dismounted, Dugal D’geld walked up and said, “Milord I have a royal warrant and a Justicial writ to search your counting house.”

“What is this about, Dugal?”
“The man you sent to recruit in the evacuation camp had coin from the Scourged cities.”

“How do you know that?”

“The dwarves have a devise that detects the coin.”

“You trust the dwarves?”

“There are members of my staff as well and we had the scanners demonstrated to us at the evacuation camp. Not only did your man have the tainted coin, random coin has been showing up in the camp.”

Julien D’ambray, wearing a Justiciar’s tunic, came out of the counting house, leading men hauling strongboxes out of the counting house. Julien turned to Dugal and said, “These boxes showed signs of radiation.”

Dugal turned to Johel and said, “I am going to need your keys.”

“Why?”

“We are going to open these boxes and check for tainted coin.”

“This is some sort of trick. Do you believe the dwarves?” Johel looked around and spotted the Grand Masters granddaughter wearing a Justiciar’s tunic over a rather sturdy peasant dress. “You have been befuddled by a mage! I will have nothing to do with this!”
“Elen was in Astia when the coin your man had was discovered,” Fulques said. “The scanner has been tested by everybody and had passed untainted coin before and after your man’s coin. There is no evidence that Elen was doing anything but her job.”

“I need your keys, Duke,” Dugal repeated. “You can either cooperate or become a suspect. There are prybars to open the boxes if you do not cooperate.”

“Very well, have the keys.” Johel pulled his keys off his belt and threw them on the ground. “I will not be a part of this farce.”

Mounting his horse, Johel rode off to the guest house around the empty country house where demolition had begun and to the guest house where a groom took his horse. Going to his study, Johel pulled his code book and prepared a message. He wrote the message, then he enciphered it and burned the original. Once he was done, he called for a messenger and a boy showed up. “Take this to the telegraph office and have them send it.”

“Yes Milord!”

“Are you new here?”
“I was evacuated, milord. Your man hired me and some others from the camp.”
“Very well. Off you go.”

The boy ran toward the village and the railroad station and as Johel awaited events. He wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but it did not bode well for the effort to add chaos by pillaging the Scourged kingdoms of their craftsmen. If the coin from the Scourged cities was known and separated, the project was in trouble.

Returning to the counting house from the railroad station, Eddie handed Julien a piece of paper. “He sent a message.”

Mercury opened one of the strong boxes and the radiation scanner started to scream. Looking at it, he backed off and waved two men wearing protective suits. They brought a lead lined tray and lifting the strongbox, poured the coin into the tray. Using tongs and a scanner coin was separated into tainted coin, which was most of it, and coin that did not carry the taint, which was very little. Once the first strongbox was done, the crew started in on the second with the same results. Dugal turned to Jordal D’lastre, the duke’s treasurer and said, “Somebody was putting you at a great deal of risk.” He looked at the untainted coin and added, “You apparently have never encountered Urdusins before or you would not have put them in the strongbox.”
“What is wrong with them?”
“They are significantly debased, so much so that they are not accepted as gold, or even silver and generally worthless.”

Jordal looked at Dugal and said, “Do we have to tell folk?”
“I think that someone will, all too soon. Certainly none of the banks in Dolmas will accept them.”

Jordal cursed. “Why did you set up a booth?”

“You and I are going to have to exchange coin by value for the tainted coin and the Urdusins. The kingdom cannot risk the poisoned coin getting around and you do not want the reputation of passing bad coin. That might annoy some folk.”

Jordal’s shoulders slumped. His cousin was not going to be happy with how this turned out.

Chapter 14.

House Qinvaris.

Alinis looked at the various wheat plants and sighed. The four centuries since the Mage wars and the loose sowing meant that there had been twenty different varieties growing where Lyrei’s laboratory had been. Using the pictures in the Journal, all carefully hand drawn, Alinis had managed to narrow the probable Blight resistant wheat strains to four plants. The problem was that they had all been collected in widely different areas. The professors were at Tarranth’s barn and were returning to Zirgoccol the next day. Before they did, Alinis wanted to talk to Lyrei and get a better idea as to which wheat strain was the Blight resistant strain before the professors went home. She also wanted to know how many of Dan’s greenhouses she was going to have to borrow. With all that in mind, she collected her material, went to the room where the seemings were kept and activated Lyrei. Lyrei appeared and said, “Alinis, I have not seen you of late. What have you been up to?”

“Dan’s professors recruited Tarranth and me to look for something that was in Lyrei’s journals.”
“How did your experiments with soap work out?”

“Very well. Fire and I collected some sprayers, the other side used Inanimates with rockets attached to launch the Blight into a field that was all by itself and we sprayed the Blight. We know how much we need to have to stop a Blight incursion now.”

“Since that went well, what did you want to discuss with me?”
Alinis laid out the material that she had brought with her. “The professors found an item that said that you had developed Blight resistant wheat as well as some other crops.”

“I did. Are you looking for my lab? There may be restrictions on me telling where it was.”
Alinis held up a map. “It was here, wasn’t it?”
“Yes it was. You had Tad find it, didn’t you?”
“Among other things, yes I did. Then the hard part started because the fields and the greenhouses have been in use or rebuilt since the mage wars.”
“Did you have any trouble getting on the property?”
“No, because the House acquired it a long time ago, even before daddy took over. The hard part was finding the Blight resistant wheat.”

“How did you?”

“We looked all over for feral wheat and harvested some of it. Looking at the old journals, I narrowed it down to these four.” Alinis held up the wheat heads one by one.”

“You want me to tell you which plant if the most likely one.”
“I was hoping that you could narrow it down.”

“Let’s see what you found and if I can.”
Alinis held up her four choices and Lyrei said, “One of these two strains could be what you are looking for. I would plant all four of them and see. The Blight resistant gene might have spread.”

“What is a gene?”
“That is a complicated and very difficult question. Since you are returning to the Republic soon, why don’t I give you a list of books to look for?”

Alinis pouted. “All right.”

“After all, if I do the work, you will not discover things for yourself. So how are you and Fire doing? I notice that he is not here with you.”
“Fire, Charlie and Ayen are off on their own project. I think it involves presents for us and a side business. Since I was responsible for some of it, I can’t complain.”

Lyrei laughed. “I suppose not. How is your other little project going?”

“I finished that. Both the play and the report. That is if the Professor doesn’t play games next term.”

“Did he the last term?”
“He assigns the classwork at random. I got Aluminum the last time. I think that I will let this rest and turn you off.”

“You are on the right track and I look forward to what you find. Have a good night.”

Alinis turned Lyrei off and picked up her materials. Her mother was walking down the hall and said, “You don’t look ecstatic, so Lyrei must not have made things easy for you.”
“No she didn’t. I have to study something called genes and test all the wheat for Blight resistance.”
“That actually sounds like a good idea and learning new things is always a good thing. There’s Tarranth and the professors.”

Tarranth looked at Alinis and said “Finished with gathering wheat?”
“I think so. We have four strains to test.”

“We’ve been having some fun as well. We haven’t got the things working, and we don’t have some devises as yet, but we’ve made some good progress toward getting a lab set up.”
“Where?”
“At the new university. Dad wants it close and that way the Inquisition can see what’s going on and teach people to be able to respond to things.”

“Tell us all about it,” Rosa said. “I haven’t been keeping that close track on what you were up to.”

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