The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 47-48

Which is it?”
“The bear was in the Darkmage’s quarters. At least the Darkmage was screaming about a bear in the palace one night. He pranked the Darkmage and got away with it.”

Chapter 47.

University of Ironton, Ironton.

Frank Tincutter turned his car into his domain. For the last two years, his pranks had shaken the college and he was looking to a grand fourth year before graduation and a boring, but lucrative career at his father’s company. He had the same dorm room that he had had for the last two years and so did the other four members of his quad. Parking his car, Frank noticed some commotion at Iron hall where his triumphs lived with other lesser achievements after they had attracted attention to themselves in the typical fashion that the students and faculty had come to expect. Walking up toward the hall, Frank ran into Tolly Burnbrewer, who shared his quad. Frank looked at Tolly and said, “What is the commotion?”
“Some firstie pranked the dean.”
“That was stupid. He won’t last long. The dean hates pranks.”

“Not this one. Apparently the dean sent a math test up to the firsty in the Empire and the firstie ported the answers back into the Dean’s office in a Fylson Automaton.”
“That was a blatant bribe.”
“I know, right. Except that the firstie’s last name is Umevan and his dad’s first name is Fylson.”

“How did the thing get mailed to the dean’s office? That’s hardly a prank.”

“It wasn’t mailed. The firstie worked for the Portal Service in the Empire. He ported it into the Dean’s office.”

“How did you find this out?”
“Bill Umevan is on our floor and he was ecstatic that his uncle was starting here.”

“Uncle?”
“He’s nineteen. Fylson was youngest and was left behind in the Empire because he had an apprenticeship. The family got the estate back and back together and Bill and the rest of his family went up there over the break to get tested by the fae and see the Empire. He had pictures.”

The pair entered the Hall and there the thing was, cordoned off while a case was being made for it. While tiny compared to the doll house that Frank’s mother insisted that Frank take his sister to see, the thing was a work of art and fun to watch. Frank turned to Tolly and said, “This year is going to be fun. I accept the challenge.”

Astia.

Cécile looked at the three that had entered the hall with Geral and smiled. “I meet our heroes at last! Rolain, I am so glad to have you return to my service.”

“Your majesty, I wish that I had not ended up like this.”

“Have you learned how you ended up like that?”

“Somewhat. I went to Redwood and spoke with my parents. They had expected that when my sister and I tested low, that she would grow into the Lorekeeper’s role and that I would act as gatekeeper as well as watch out for you. My parents called in the fae doctor, she consulted her lorekeeper and said that I wasn’t a bright flame, but something far more rare, a wandering prince.”

“A wandering prince?”

“Yes. I can transport or establish a new grove and kingdom from a Seed when I receive one.”
Cécile looked at him, Anais and Ald and said, “Did anything happen at Altensee?”
“Not to Anais and I. We never went into the city.”

“I would take young Ald here and have him tested then.”

“We tried,” Anais said. “I was tested, and passed, but Redwood would not allow Ald to be tested. Nor would Goldenleaf. Miriam thinks that there is something going on, but she would not say exactly what it was.”

“I want you to know that the duc’s treachery does not change my opinion of you.”

“Thank you, your majesty. From the inside, treachery may not look like what it is. When they started to torture Rolain and use him for training, I began to understand what they planned.”

“You escaped with him.”

“I wanted to make sure that he got out and then this happened. Miriam, the fae doctor, says that we will be able to revert when we start our new grove.”
“I am glad to have fellow landdragons as subjects. Together we will face our enemies with the courage you have already demonstrated.”
“We ran, your majesty,” Rolain said.

“You ran for a reason, to reveal the duc’s treachery. While we knew of it, somewhat, you revealed it on your own bodies. That took courage. Now we can act against them. Geral what did you find at the duc’s castle?”

“He had evacuated with his troops before I could get there. The keep was burned and there wasn’t much to find. The townsfolk were left without farm animals as the army took many of them, the rest were scattered by some landdragons and the townsfolk were afraid to collect them again. We assisted in gathering the animals again and the townsfolk should have no problems facing starvation. We tracked the army but they divided onto different roads and disappeared.”

“How large an army?”
“About a thousand from the duc, at least at the start. If there are more, I do not know where they are coming from.”

Gander, Albrecht, Lillia and Alissa grinned as Vindy, Sarya and Holly joined them at the table. Lillia looked at the girls and said, “Those are very nice dresses, girls. Perhaps a bit inappropriate this time of year.”

“Not where we went,” Holly said.

“Where did you go?” Lillia asked.

“Dragon hunting with Bellas,” Sarya said. “The Beinan family reunion in Ishendell. We were helping with royal security, since Airdan and Immianthe had a bunch of royals from here with them.”

“Beinan dragons?” Gander asked. “Are sure that was a good idea?”
“Holly was. She may have had one catch her. Now she has to reel him in.”

“How strange was it?” Alissa asked.

“They brought out all sorts of toys, as you can imagine. They also had some business meetings and Folmon told his story to the rest of the family. The dinner was fun as the ladies brought out all the capers that they had done in the competition for the wedding pie.”

“Who won?”

“They ended up splitting it evenly, since the family had done so well and there was plenty. The big problem is scheduling all of the weddings.”

“Were there any family issues?”  Albrecht asked.

“They were concerned with some people called the Stewards and the Eiljeon,” Vindy said. “The Stewards had apparently sent a Scourge devise Primary at the Beinan plant in Desert Howl, but it missed and exploded in between the Beinan plant and a place called Skychaser’s”

“Skychaser’s builds rockets, big rockets,” Gander said. “They have been doing it for a very long time. Romarod Skychaser married a Harper and Mrs. Harper funds the work. The Stewards believe in stringent enforcement of the Proscriptions and protecting nature. They are rather cultish. The Beinans would be the perfect target for making a splash, though I have a hard time believing that they could get their hands on a Primary.”

“Tell us about the rest of your journey,” Lillia said. “Was the Yellowleaf festival fun?”
“Yes it was, mother,” Holly said, “except for the lack of single landdragons. Girls seem to attach themselves rather quickly. Of course, if I reel in a Beinan, I am going to have to come up with a very good caper, so you better watch out, father.”

“I’m not afraid,” Albrecht replied.

“I would be.”

Chatsrey.

Aydiun and Adiun Beinan had pigeonholed Jorge for the entire flight down, draining him of his latest things with portals and making arrangements to provide training for Beinan’s in the ancient portal and other Imperial technologies. By the time the plane landed and they split up, Jorge was rather exhausted and dragged his bags to Jhaan who looked at Jorge, the rather chipper Shael and then looked at the Beinans and frowned. As they were putting the bags in the car, Jhaan said, “What did they want?”
“They have wanted me down here for some time to share portal skills. Now that I will be here for a long time, they want me to share what I know. Since I am still working for the Portal Service, I’m going to have to go down to Desert Howl and give some sessions as well as train some people here in Chatsrey and in Ironton.”

“You don’t have to work at the Portal Service anymore.”
“That has issues and they still need me. Actually, they are right and things moved so fast that the Portal Service has very few people that can do what I do and needs to train more. Since I am the most experienced, I have to train the rest. I’ve been doing some of it already.”
“There aren’t any other reasons? By the way, your little prank is going to cause you some problems.”
Jorge grinned. “What little prank?”
“That thing that appeared in the dean’s office. By the way, the dean likes Fylson toys.”

“You didn’t tell me that.”

“Apparently he wanted one of your father’s things as a boy and his family couldn’t afford it.”
“Do you know what it was? Dad keeps files on everything we make and I could make some arrangements.”

“Bribery is rather frowned upon.”

“Grandfather told me. That was why the test wasn’t wrapped around a bottle of Fallingwater red. I decided to do something on my bench and have some fun instead.”

“People were very impressed. How did you get it done so quickly?”
“I hope that people don’t look too closely as I had to cut a lot of corners and a lot of the thing was parts that had issues and were scrap. This is also the slow time in the Lower City and I have a lot of friends. I was lucky, Lielatha Zylvyre didn’t have a project commissioned and so I didn’t have any competition. Since I could throw coin around, I was able to get things done quickly. When you have the Beinan estate and the Lower City at your fingertips, you can throw something together fairly quickly if you need too.”

“Obviously. Lady Zylvyre is a problem?”

“She could be. For most things she can’t plan and has disasters, but when she is working on something for her dollhouse, she is very good. Of course she has been doing that for a very long time and probably learned from her mistakes. There is a definite love hate relationship with the lady depending on how much work a shop has at the time.”

“The dollhouse is here in Chatsrey, on exhibit.”
“With some of dad’s people. Lady Zylvyre and Paeris’s people set that up as House Ravathyra needs money.”
“The exhibit has done very well.”

“I’m not surprised. I haven’t had a chance to see the house for some time and it was amazing when I did. I hope I have a chance to see it, but I’m going to be doing other things, like going to college. They liked my little prank?”

“Yes they did. Of course you do know that there will be others looking for your hide. Ironton is full of very bright students and is famous for the pranks there. You should know that firsties are the lowest of the low, rich kids are considered slackers and you pranked the college before you even arrived.”

“How much do they know about me?”
“Some of your cousins are currently attending Ironton. I imagine that the word is going around fairly quickly.”
“Then I have something to look forward to.”

“There’s Jerry so we can load you both and be off.”

Bill said good bye to Jerry and hauled his bag out of the airport. His Uncle Barry and Altak were waiting and Barry said, “You didn’t bring very much home this time.”

“It’s coming down on post from Ishendell. I didn’t make it to the Sanctuary for very long and other than some books from the faire, it’s little Winterfaire presents anyway.”

“Have you heard what happened in Desert Howl?”

“Yes. Do you have a list of the dead and missing?”

“We can go over it when we get to dad’s. Where is Moonshine?”
“She is at home. There are more weddings coming up and she needs to help, so she is Jumping down later.”

“I need to know just what was taken from your safe.”
“From the pictures that I have seen, they left the solid state stuff and took a seeming crystal along with some notes and pictures. The pictures were of the devise that was stolen.”

“Who was on the crystal. This is very important.”

“They will probably think that it is Harald.”

“It isn’t?”
“I was going to put an empty crystal in the safe, but Harald said that I should make what he called a bot, with Harald’s memories with restrictions on certain things, and a program that can answer questions, but not actually think. Harald arranged it so that some questions will not be answered correctly.”

Barry and Altak started to laugh.

Lythienne grinned as Alinis and Fire exited the terminal. “You are back, you two!”
“Yes we are, grandmother. We have had a lot of adventures to get us in back.”
“How are your parents holding up after the five cities?”

“Daddy has gone beyond being angry to being sneaky. Mom is fine.”
  “Sneaky could be trouble. What is he up to?”
“He’s plotting with old Admiral Tollings. I have the feeling that a vault is going to be robbed. Let’s get in the car and I can tell you more.”

As the car drove off, Lythienne asked, “Is your father planning to recover the stolen money?”
“I’m not sure, but I think so. The people that scourged the cities didn’t remember to scan for microportals and we know where the money ended up.”
“Where did it end up?”

“Wongpo, or at least a vault under Wongpo.”

“Since you have time today, I want to take you and Fire by the most wonderful exhibit that came from a very unusual source.”
“What is it?”

“They are calling it the “Art of The Dance” and the exhibit surrounds Lielatha’s dollhouse. I was skeptical but some of your cousins insisted that I take them and the thing is rather remarkable. I imagine that the Beinans will have to take contracts all too soon.”

“I haven’t seen the dollhouse, but have heard about it for my entire life, so Fire, let’s see the thing.”

Oceanside.

The Oceanside Motorcycle 100 was the last race of the season. When the promoters had been told by Chald that Roger wanted to do a presentation, they had one stipulation. Roger had to race in the 100. Since the Fellowship Cup had been essentially determined and even if he won the race, it wouldn’t change anything, Roger reluctantly agreed. The flameriders roared down Ocean Drive to the sounds of cheering crowds as they turned in formation into the race track where the center had been set up for the demonstration. The riders did a lap of the track followed by the Projector trucks and then performed a dramatic set of demonstrations on fake Inanimates, burning and shooting at them with special rounds that splashed paint on the dummies. The show over, the riders rode in formation to the parking area and prepared to watch the race.

Keryth handed Roger his helmet and said, “What are you going to do to those poor guys?”
“What makes you think that I am going to do anything?”
“The race up at the market has rankled you all season. That time, you winning hurt you more than losing. This time it doesn’t matter. This is also your home track.”

Roger grinned. “You got me.”

“Nalaea told me to tell you that she wants the cup.”
“Then I have to get it, don’t I?”

Bofaec Hammer had listened to the older riders in the pre race briefing this time. He was to block Roger for as long as possible, but the other riders didn’t think that he would be able to do that for very long. The race started and he was chasing down the Slipgreaze pounder that had qualified just a bit faster than he had that he had been exchanging places with all season. Both of them had left Roger and his old bike well behind, almost a full hundredth in a game where thousandths counted, but they both remembered the race up in the Empire and tried to keep an eye on their mirrors. Bofaec was setting up to pass the pounder as they exited the curve when suddenly there was a yellow and black flashing roar and the disappearing red of taillights as Roger passed both of them and charged down toward the next curve and rider. Neither one had managed to even slow him down.

Nalaea turned to Chald after the tenth lap and said, “He’s passed half of them already.”

Chald smiled. “Your brother probably told him that you wanted the cup. I think that you will have it.”

Roger was in the state that he had when he was racing. He had never been a hunter, but he could predict the best path to the prey, the prey this time being the two Hammer team adversaries that he knew all too well. They knew that he was coming and were weaving to keep him from setting up his pass. They made a mistake and Roger struck, sliding in between them and through into the last lap where he pulled ahead and then as the last turn approached, he roared through the turn and opened up the throttle, blowing past the stands and the winner’s flag. This time his hunter was not denied.

Roger ran a victory lap as the crowd and even the other riders cheered and pulled up to the stand where Nalaea ran out and kissed him. “This time you didn’t have to lose. Of course you were always a winner with me.”

As the end of the race ceremonies wound down to a close, led by the wolves, in uniform and in formation, the landdragon parade marched in a lap around the track and then down Ocean drive, chased by happy children. The riders followed the landdragon parade to the pier and the huge party that had been set up. Chald turned to Theo and said, “I think that this was a success.”

Foldwin cursed when the Landdragon parade appeared. He had worked to put together a team to get the animals to react and demonstrate what they were, and for the last five days, all that he had managed to accomplish was get various members of his team busted and sent to the drunk tank. His mysterious bosses were not going to be happy, but that was a problem when you were playing with cops and the wolves didn’t drink anyway, at least not heavily. To make matters worse, all too often the wolves would get support from everybody else in the bar and even if Foldwin’s people were not arrested, they were tossed out. The race was the last chance and the Landdragons had taken the race off the table as Foldwin’s tangling with them in the past had not ended well for Foldwin. He was sure that Vestelle Eiljeon, at least, would have him hauled off for violating the terms of his bail agreement before he even got close to the wolves. So, he was forced to abandon the field.

Mike had known about the campaign rally concealed as a race and a party. The promoters had made sure to invite him as well as the other candidates. There really wasn’t anything he could take to the elections board about it and he really didn’t want the elections board looking into him. The flamerider demonstration, supported by the Provincial Troopers, had been a hit at his making the case that the Bloodfoots were incompetent and corrupt. The landdragons providing support didn’t hurt Chald or the other candidates and the fact that they were liked all over the Fellowship meant that the various events they had attended had been very popular. Mike circulated around the party and left.

Little Mike turned to Theo and said, “So that is one of them. He didn’t look happy. The fact that we put this thing together bothers him quite a bit.”

“That was Mike Ironhead, yes. He’s wanted to be a big cheese for as long as I can remember.”

“According to the literature, he wants to put me out of business here in the Fellowship.”

“I thought that would get your attention.”

“Dad will be rather annoyed if I were to get the family separated again after we got Uncle Denny back. Unless he cheats, it won’t matter. That character was a bad candidate.”

“What makes you say so?”
“I see your dad, pressing the flesh, Chald over there with Roger, Scal Oceaiana talking with the Colonel and that character up and left. Your dad and the others all brought their wives and he just came by himself. All he was doing was checking this out, not taking advantage of the opportunity. Let me do some walking around.”

“You aren’t a citizen and are not running for office.”

“I have a rather large business and I want to get a feel for the mood here. Though as far as I can tell, my cousin got a winner.”

Theo laughed. “I think that it’s Roger that’s a winner.”

 Neuw Athlin

Jomney looked at the orcish contractor and said, “You look very mercenary.”
Ortalac smiled. “I was hired by Duc D’sward for the queen.”

“You also didn’t bring anything military with you. On the other hand, I have seen young Lord Umevan and his friends operate and I am sure that he could drop an army someplace if he needed to.”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“I’m not an idiot and I have a feel for who the players are around here. In any case, as long as the work goes on, you won’t have any trouble from me.”

“You wear a collar. That is big talk from a slave.”

“I’m also running this site. I have a big job and if big talk is needed, big talk is what I do. Now here’s the list of the jobs that I need your people to do and we can schedule the jobs.”

“Why these stoppage days?”

“The queen visits on those days. Work stops when she is here. At least your part does.”

“Why?”
“Orders. Somebody wants you free to act when the queen is supposed to be here.”

Zirgoccol.

Merfyr looked at the goblin across the desk and said, “Hoddy, I am trusting you with this because you probably have some of it already.”
“I was at an event in Oceanside and there was some talk about funny stuff in Senate campaigns. At least three campaigns have more money than they should have, some of the money makes radiation scanners jump and the literature takes common themes.”
“It is twenty campaigns, the money is very dirty and the campaigns are coordinating.”

“All of which is illegal. I am surprised that you haven’t taken this to the Senate.”
“I wanted to be sure and make sure that the evidence was collected properly.”

“In Oceanside, you don’t do anything like that without running into a Bloodfoot or an Oceaiana, usually both. In Kugrim, it’s a Hammer or one of the other two.”

“You see the problem. The thing is that I have a duty to send this to the Senate and an obligation to do that before the election. If the people behind the campaigns actually win, the process will be irrevocably damaged.”

“Why tell me this?”
“I want you, without leaking, to take the packet I give you and send it to your boss. When this does blow open, I want him to have the evidence ready to print and publish. We don’t actually have very long and if you don’t have the material in hand when I release it to the Senate, things could get messed up, badly.”

“You’re afraid that somebody is ready for you to release this and will spin it as an attempt to shut down some campaigns that you don’t like.”

“Thereby giving those campaigns the legitimacy they do not have at present. You have probably seen how they are operating in Oceanside and the others you have seen. The rest are the same way.”
“Ok, I will keep a lid on what you give me and tell my boss to do the same thing. Since he is in the Republic, that won’t be a problem with him.”
“It wouldn’t be anyway. Thank you, Hoddy. This is probably rather amazing to you.”
“You, not leaking? Having a backbone? Yes it is.”

“I’m still all wet, but I’m going to sweat this out. Here’s the brief.”

Hoddy looked through it, looked at the consul and said, “This is as bad as you said it was. I will get this out with everything your office gives me.”

“Thank you. Hoddy.”

Chapter 48.

The Imperial Palace.

Itireae  smiled as Aurae Zylsalor  was escorted into her parlor. “Welcome Lady Zylsalor. What brings you to me?”

“Three teenagers, one of whom is your grandson. I thought that I should talk to you about Airdan, Ilyithe and the girl you put into Airdan’s household and reveal some things that you should know.”

“What are you discussing?”
“You probably haven’t met Alen’s mother or at least did not know her well or her family history.”

“I haven’t met the lady. She has been rather retiring for most of her life.”

“I was afraid of that. She and Alen’s father prefer to stay out of the faction fights, and Alen has had the House for a very long time, as well as his duties as a Jusiticiar, something that annoyed his mother more than a bit. In any case, Alen’s mother is a Silverin. Her mother was part of the family until she married into Alenia’s father’s house and then Alenia married Alen’s father.”

“So Alen is Silveri and you are not. What does that have to do with the three teenagers.”

“Silverin girls after puberty have a period where they become very sexually active until they find a mate. My daughter had that period and spent some time on her back in the houses, having fun, in competition with two other girls, Sylph and Fauna. About a moon ago, you purchased Sylph after Airdan and the other menaces had started to travel rather frequently through the Lower City where my daughter saw him, decided that she wasn’t going to play anymore and that she suddenly needed some firearms and other training.”
“The same training that my grandchildren were going through.”

“Yes. I can’t tell you how glad I am that Ilyithe decided to rejoin the junior Justiciars.”
“Has she been tested?”
“Silverin girls can have issues with that and fail. So no, she hasn’t been tested by the fae and we felt that it would be impolitic to have her tested at the Academy. We may have to have it done now and have Ilyithe take mage classes as she attends the University.”

“So what happened with your daughter and Villia?”
“My daughter dealt with Inquisitor Keaynore in front of Airdan and apparently raised his suspicions. He was probably also suspicious of Sylph. In any case, he peeked into a little conversation where my daughter made a bit of an arrangement with Sylph and Sylph referred to my daughter by her house name, Hummingbird. Airdan heard it, liked how it sounded and started a campaign to attract Ilyithe’s attention by giving her a hummingbird music box he had seen at Fylson’s. My daughter went into emotional meltdown and screamed to Airdan that she didn’t want to speak with him again. The entire thing is a typical young girl mess, with Silverin overtones. Has Airdan talked to you about this?”
“Not as of yet. I think that he’s trying to keep things discreet.”

“One thing you should know is that as they are right now, Airdan and Ilyithe could do serious harm to each other. My daughter’s time in the houses could create some issues, but they have to work through that. That will settle down fairly quickly, but they are still developing the relationship.”
“Should I pull Villia?”
“Don’t bother. I imagine that she is going to be rather frustrated. Of course she has somebody who is her true, so she doesn’t really want to have fun with anyone else.”

“Will the same sort of things happen with Tad and Immianthe?”
“You can expect some silliness. Alen and I certainly had our share.”

“There has been some already. Will there be any issues with both Tad and your daughter in the family?”
“I doubt it. For one thing they will have different roles and they are not close. The children are going to be interesting. We can expect a lot of silliness when they come.”

“Thank you for bringing this to me. I will let my son know about some things. Of course we can all enjoy the silliness. Do you think that Sylph will get Airdan onto a couch?”

“You would know the boy better than I do, but I think that he is probably rather confused right now.”

“That is normal at their age.”

The Bryneiros Estate.

Ilyithe exited the portal to the Estate, gun case in hand. Eddie hadn’t given Ilyithe away when she had attended the class at her mother’s insistence, supposedly, so that she could run into Airdan. Since Eddie had broken things off with her, he probably thought that Ilyithe and Airdan were a good thing. Walking over to the range in the cold morning, she saw Airdan and the other menaces with Tad, practicing. She almost turned right around, but went to a stand at the end of the range, opened up her case and loaded the revolver. When the call came to commence fire, she fired through the cylinder and then waited for cease fire. Surprisingly, Airdan went to collect the targets and when she received hers, he had written “I’m sorry” on the target.  

She reloaded and open fired for the next round. When the call for cease fire came, she volunteered to get the targets and wrote “It wasn’t your fault,” on Airdan’s”

The next round went by and before Airdan could volunteer again, Radalarc, who had been handling the range, said, “Kids, you can settle things off the range. Here you focus on what you are doing or drop back and leave. Tad, get the targets!”

A smiling Tad did and things went on until practice was over. Ilyithe packed up her things and left, heading to the portal.

Radalarc was watching the kids practice when he heard the sound of a much more powerful handgun. Curious to see who was firing the weapon, he looked down the range and there was his cousin, Kulgha. Radalarc watched for another two rounds and then as the kids were packing up, walked over and said, “What brings you here?”
Kulgha turned around and said, “Hello Radalarc. I mentioned to Kelvahn that my shooting was rusty, since I hadn’t had a place to practice and he said that there were ranges on the estate and that I was welcome to come and use them. Have you sent mail to your mother yet?”
“Yes I have. No, I am not leaving. No, you cannot recruit me into any schemes that you are concocting.”

“You seem to be doing well here.”

“Yes I am.”

“Grandfather may start sending you new toys.”
“I imagine that he will. Tell him to be discreet about it. If the Justiciars start flashing fancy new guns the Inquisition might squeal.”
“I noticed some boys running a course with RS2s earlier.”
“That was the result of an accident. We had a raid during a wedding and I sent the boys to the armory and told them to load magazines. They used the RS2s and won’t let go of them now.”

Kulgha laughed. “They seem to know what to do with them.”
“Yes they do. Why are you here?”
“I have a case in the Fellowship and it involves things that Justiciar Dawkins is investigating, so I went to talk to Justiciar Bryneiros, since Justiciar Dawkins is rather busy.”

“Who is your client?”
“The Elijeon.”
“Ayre?”
“How did you guess?”
“Simple. The Justiciars didn’t know who he was until he showed up at that meeting with some other very bad people. Of course he showed up a bit later and we found out all about him, almost none of it good. His sister is ok and his brother is as well, but there is something wrong with Ayre. The one good thing he’s ever done is pull his wife out of the Sanctuary when it was still isolated.”

“You seem to know a lot about him.”

“That was easy. We started a file after he showed up here and Alen had to write a writ for beating an entertainer slave in the Lower City. Of course that annoyed Bene and Tony. Andy knew him and had a long chat about him with Alen, Tony and Bene. Then the Sanctuary people wanted to look into recovering for things that the Eiljeon had purchased but not paid for and there were hints that EiMajic was playing with making Scourge devises. That was when various Justiciars started to talk to people about him and we have been trading with the Marshalls and some others.”

“You seem to be rather deep into this for a slave.”

“I am the Justiciar’s chief armsmaster and one of Kelvahn’s top specialists. That means that I go to the staff meetings and am kept abreast of major cases that I may be consulted on. If you know any ordnance specialists in the family bored with the Republic tell them to come on up and I have a job for them.”

“Why?”

“My job has expanded to working with the Inquisition, the Qinvaris and the Umevan on two more or less complete Scourge core factories, one of which is operable, and a third that was never finished. We also have Scourge devises being tossed around and while relying on Rob has worked so far, I’m more than a bit concerned that folk here will use booms now that they can get them.”
“You know the list as well as I do. You can go down to the Republic and recruit.”

“I’m not sure about that and my collar.”

“Is keeping the collar important?”
“The collar protects what I do from some idiots. They can’t come after me directly and have to go after Kelvahn. That forces a degree of separation, because Kelvahn can honestly say that he doesn’t know exactly what I am doing. I think that we will have to address that and my wife will be ecstatic if she can do what Lady Qinvaris did and have the family come up.”

“What was going on with the prince and the girl?”
 “I’m not sure. They were fine a few days ago and then they had a fight. Typical teenager stuff, probably. Since the kids are gone, why don’t I take you to meet my wife?”

“That sounds wonderful. I can get her to tell stories about you.”

“Fildarae loves stories about me, so that will be fine.”

Zirgoccol.

Merfyr looked across the Senate to the hearing table and then to the seated Senators. “The integrity of the votes of the citizenry and the equality of all are keystones of the Fellowship and its culture. This nation started from gathering of peoples that were diverse and different from each other, but united in their desire to protect themselves and their own from predators from outside the Zirg valley and the other regions that have become the Fellowship. In order preserve our liberties, the founders signed their signature to our founding documents intended to preserve our liberties and maintain the integrity of the government that the people trust to provide governance. A keystone of that is that the Legation has the power of the exchequer and the purse, but very strict limits on the terms that a Legate can serve. The Senate, on the other hand is to be a delegation of established citizens serving at their own cost and using their independent judgements. That is why Senators are required to fund their campaigns from their own resources, not join in a party and are not paid to serve. Above all they are not allowed to take donations from domestic or foreign sources. Recently young Theo Hammer was asked by his brother in law to look into some irregularities in the campaign of one of his brother in law’s opponents. Mr. Hammer conducted an independent investigation and discovered evidence that several campaigns were coordinating in violation of the no party rules and were taking donations from sources that were definitely foreign and inimical to the integrity of the Fellowship and its people. I have asked Former Consul Qambois Swiftflyer to conduct a further investigation and Former Consul Halamar Beinan to go over the evidence before I presented it to the Senate. I understand the extreme sensitivity of the nature of the accusations and the claims of conflict of interest as many of the people who conducted the investigations have relationships with candidates. In any case, the evidence was overwhelming and conclusive. Mr. Hammer, would you tell the Senate how you discovered the matter at hand.”
Theo took the oath and started with the message his sister had sent, his preliminary collection of material from the various campaigns and his turning over the material to the Consul’s office and continued observation of the campaigns.

Senator Dillings took his ten hundredths and said, “Mr, Hammer, both your brother in law and father are participating in the campaign for Oceanside province. You would be taking Mr. Ironhead out of the race. Isn’t that a conflict of interest.”
“Senator, my sister contacted me to look for the same sorts of things in other Senate races, not my father’s. She was concerned that there was more going on than Mike Ironhead bending the rules. I looked into things, including campaigns against old adversaries of my father and found significant evidence of coordination and funding that could not be traced to the candidates. I handed the evidence of the all the campaigns to the consul. As the evidence continued to mount, I contacted Senator Tollings and some other adversaries of my father and showed them the evidence as well. If I were strictly doing this to aid my father or my brother in law, I would not have done that.”

“Maybe you were on a vendetta against your father. You do have a reputation.”

“Senator, the evidence speaks for itself. I did not create material from those campaigns. Everything was obtained from public sources and distributed by the campaigns.”

“You had a series of events recently with your brother in law’s people from the Empire. Wouldn’t that be in violation of the campaign laws?”

“Senator, the Flameriders gave those demonstrations at behest of various Provincial Trooper sections because the various sections had had Inanimate incursions. In any case, the riders were not colluding with the various campaigns and did not coordinate with them other than the general announcements that the events were being held.”

Theo endured the grilling and then it was Detective Woodcutter’s turn. A rather nervous Nightslayer was next and describe the investigation that he had conducted in Oceanside for Detective Woodcutter. Senator Dillings tried to bring up the Pen and was shouted down, so he tried to point out that Nightslayer had worked for the Great Captain, which Nightslayer freely admitted. When he went through the various things that he had done for the Great Captain, including the jailbreak and freeing of the Richflights, he said, “Senator, I did those things as a result of being forced to endure severe indoctrination, as well as being collared and under compulsions. On the other hand, Chief Bloodfoot assigned me to the investigation because I had had no history of connection with his family. Also, Detective Woodcutter’s people from the Dragonmaster verified everything that we discovered. All of us were aware of the extreme sensitivity of the investigation. I am not yet a citizen, but I would like to believe that my vote will not be tampered with and that a vote will be determined by an honest choice and not because a fixer has manipulated the vote.”

Nathan, Spitty and the rest had their turns under the heat and finally Qambois testified. “You all know that is as part of my mandate and my personal inclinations, I do not interfere with the politics of the Senate or the Legation. The chicanery of elections and on the floor here have not been my concern. So, when the Consul requested this investigation, I almost turned it down. On the other hand, foreign involvement in politics and elections are the core of my mandate and there was some evidence that there was massive foreign involvement in the senate campaigns that were the concern of this hearing. To explain why, I have Betrek Merryhorn of Merryhorn Goldmsiths to explain what he found and how he found it.”

Betrek explained the discovery of radioactive coin from the Scourged estates, the use of scanners and then, the discovery of the radioactive coin in money’s used by the various campaigns. Roger Bloodfoot came into testify and explained the methods established to detect the radioactive coin and the establishment of scanners to detect the coin. Dudral testified about his small pile of Urdisons and giving them away as play money to customers’ children and the fact that they were stolen. Qambois submitted the affidavit submitted anonymously and verified by Orick who said, “I obtained the affidavit on the condition that person testifying would be shielded from reprisal unless he could be proved to have committed perjury. The campaigns all exchanged coin at the coin changers when the radioactive coin was discovered and all of them had the Urdisons that had been stolen from Merryhorn during an Inanimate incursion.”

 The hearing over, the various witnesses withdrew to a well earned dinner at Wriang’s.       

University of Ironton, Ironton.

Professor Thomas Xilynore looked across the sea of first year faces seated in the lecture hall. This was the first class of his first year class, “World History From the Mage Wars To The Present.” The faces of the students were what he had come to expect until he came to one that had a small grin and was wearing a high elf tunic, complete with House pendant. Since seats were assigned, Xilynore looked at the seating chart and the student was another Umevan. Xilynore and some of the other professors had hoped that the various Umevan mothers had run out of kids to send at them, but apparently not as yet. Xilynore started in with his lecture on how the Empire started to collapse as a result of the changing climate and food shortages and the question period started. Inevitably the Umevan’s hand went up. “Professor, you said that Ishendell was abandoned as a result of local food shortages. Professor, Ishendell was Scourged. Have you seen the new things that were discovered recently in Ishendell?”

“There are some that say that. They do not have a definite case and in spite of what you may have read in History of The Empire in your upper school classes, the evidence is rather shaky about the fact that Ishendell may have been Scourged.”

“Apparently you do not read Journal of Imperial Studies, professor. There was a paper that had evidence from a tablet found in Ishendell during the siege. The tablet had the Scourging of Ishendell on it.”
“Mr. Umevan, you seem to be determined to bring up sources that have proven to be unreliable. Class, you will see a list of journals that have proven to be unreliable. I do not allow them to be used in papers for this class unless the material is referred to in a reliable journal. Mr. Umevan, since you know so much, I want a ten page paper in a five day on Ishendell in the Mage wars.”

“I am not sure that I can keep the paper to ten pages, but I will try.”

The next question was about the Darkmage, his fortress and its destruction at the hands of the Mage Queen. Xilynore said, “It is uncertain whether the fortress, or even the Darkmage as such even existed. Certainly there was a dramatic event that caused the destruction of the original castle on Castle Hill, but how it happened is unknown.”

Umevan’s hand went up and he asked, “Professor, Strange Science had an article on the treasure and archives found in an ancient ruin believed to have belonged to the Darkmage and his family. Did you see it?”
“Mr. Umevan, you really like making work for yourself. Since you know so much, that will be another paper, in ten days.”

Several more questions went by and then a student asked, “How did the Blight happen?”
“The Blight is a natural fungus that is tied to changes in the climate. It becomes virulent at regular intervals, yes Mr. Umevan, do you have something to add.”

“The Blight was spread deliberately by the Darkmage, the Darkmage’s son, grandson and for the last two centuries, by the Darkmage’s great grandson.”

“You seem to be determined to make work for yourself, Mr. Umevan. That is the most imaginative interpretation of the Blight that I have ever heard.”

“I know that the Blight information discovered by Lord Qinvaris was distributed here. I’m not sure if there have been any articles in the magazines, but the library should have a copy of the brief as Mrs. Harper was supposed to distribute it here in the Republic.”

“Mr. Umevan, another paper, on the Blight then, in fifteen days. For all her wealth, Mrs. Harper does not have a monopoly on the truth. I see that our time has ended, so you must all move on to your next class.”

 Frank and Tolly entered the student hall, purchased their lunches and trays in hand started toward their typical table. Tolly nudged Frank and said, “Look who’s there.”

There was the firstie in the high elf tunic, eating by himself. They had heard what professor Xilynore had done to the firsty and Frank said, “Shall we rub salt in the wounds?”

Tolly grinned. “Why don’t we?”
They sat at the table and the firsty looked at them. Frank said, “You made quite an impression with old Xilynore, on your first day. Most students would shut up when he starts handing out those essays. I’m Frank and this is Tolly.”
The firstie grinned. “I was an idiot, wasn’t I? He is a romantic, isn’t he?”

“What do you mean?”
“There was a Conclave earlier this year in the Cloud City and among others that showed up was Professor Salmorlun Shieldslasher chasing after a friend of mine because one of his students had been very impressed by a paper that my friend had done for classwork in a history of the Empire course. In amongst the things that went around at parties and other things was the battle between the romantics and the practical sides of the history debate here in the Republic. So I knew about it. I might add that I know Mrs. Harper and her son, Richard. Alinis and the other Qinvaris kids are friends of mine. So I knew what I could be getting into with a teacher like Professor Xilynore.” Jorge held up a sheet of paper. “He has his list of “unreliable sources,” that is, sources that he doesn’t agree with. So, while History of the Empire is tolerated, because he can’t get around it and History Studies is recommended, Journal of Imperial Studies is right out and don’t even think of Strange Science. What he hasn’t done is keep up with recent events. I, on the other hand, have been in the middle of those events. So, when I said that Ishendell was Scourged, that was because I was the one who discovered the tablet in the ancient headquarters in Ishendell and was one of the first people to run the slip. Has professor Xilynore been in charge of the library history section?”
“Why?”
“In a word, the library is pathetic. At least the history section is. I know that Mrs. Harper has been making copies of libraries and the stuff we found and none of that was here when I checked. Fortunately, I have other resources. I’m having some stuff sent down and I just bought this,” Jorge held up a book titled, Amra, A Diary of The Mage Wars.  “A presentation copy of this was created by Elf Carran and his old calligraphy master and handed to the Seats and some others at the Conclave. I think that the Empress was making a point to my dad about Seats, as he ended up with one of the presentation copies after the estate was returned.  That copy is staying home, but I found this in the airport on the way here. The book is transcribed from the tablet that had the diary of a lady who grew up just before the Mage Wars, was in Ishendell when it was Scourged and fought against the Darkmage with her family all through the wars. It’s a very good story, you’ll like it. As for the rest of it, I have notes from Ishendell, the brief that I prepared for the Emperor about the Scourging and precautions for Scourged areas, Lord Qinvaris’s brief and some things about the Darkmage’s fortress. I’ve been there.”

“You set the professor up.”

“I had two choices when I realized what the class was going to be like, lie and play the game his way, ignoring all that I know, or admit that he was going to fail me anyway and use what I know to have some fun. So, rather than having him throw something I don’t know anything about, Aluminum manufacturing, for instance, I had him throw stuff at me that I knew a lot about.”
“Who got the Aluminum report?”
“That was Alinis Qinvaris, Chatsrey University and Professor Shieldslasher. Since he had handled Alinis’s Scourge paper, Alinis thought that his class would be easy. It wasn’t, but at least Shieldslasher isn’t a clown.”

“The professor is going to hate you.”
“I knew that when he finished his lecture. He probably had issues at home growing up, has exile relatives, including his father or grandfather, and is certain that his view of the world is right, simply because it’s his. If he starts to look into me, there are things that I can’t hide and he was going to start going after me.”

“Your cousin says that you ported a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters in the Imperial Palace when he had taken over there.”
Jorge grinned. “That was a mistake, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was a Lower City boy, working in my father’s shop, looking to beat up some characters that came into the city looking for kids and doing errands for people, including Kailu Sarcaran, the boss of the PortalService, and Tony Lion. Much to my dad’s chagrin, I was a typical Lower City street kid, heading to a disreputable life.  When Adiun Beinan showed up with Tony, looking for portals, my friends and I found them all and I started to work at the Portal Service, finding portals and repairing them, as well as playing with Dan Qinvaris and making the Darkmage’s kids miserable using a big portal that Adiun had built to place portals in places. The thing needed to be tested and we did, with open ports. Adiun’s daughter, Gracie, showed us how to code portals and we all had practice.”
“Why were you sending things at the Darkmage’s kids? That sounds like a dangerous thing to do.”

“The Richflights had just made off with Alinis and her friends, porting them to this place called the Retreat. Among others, including me, Alinis’s brothers were shooting at the Qinvaris’s hunting lodge and the girls were riding over from the Shahana Estate. The Richflights had been casing the place and looking to make off with Renna Shahana, since Lady Richflight had made a deal with Renna’s evil stepmother and the Richflights suddenly had to grab seven girls that most people would never touch. We traced the port they used to exit and they used a double portal arrangement to an open port to escape. The girls escaped and we started to get creative with one way ports.

“Once the Darkmage’s kids knew that they had been found out, they decided to launch the Blight, Lord Qinvaris spent a pile of money, and the Darkmage’s kids worried that Lord Qinvaris would stomp them like a bug. So, the Darkmage and his kids staged their takeover during the coronation, which, thanks to help from the Great Captain, they pulled off. As a part of that, the Darkmage’s kids put the portals into a general shutdown and the last thing that Adiun did, before taking all the portals, spares, tools and operations materials and leaving, was to tell us to restore every portal we could, with a bonus for every portal restored. Since we were all kids, fae and Lower City, and we were all rather annoyed that we couldn’t do certain things, we spread out and pretty much had the portals back up in the capital by the end of the day.

“The Darkmage, annoyed that Adiun had made off with the Portal Service, murdered Kailu. That led to other things, but I had grabbed a bus and was restoring the portals on the way to Elysahone. When I got to Elysahone and returned to the Lower City, I heard about Kailu, decided to make a statement, turned around, talked to some dragon pilots who work for the Qinvaris, flew up to Windegar Aerie, talked to the Flight Instructor and told him about my plan to jump out of an airplane and restore the portal at Grimfrost, the furthest portal from the capital. At the time, we thought that the Darkmage’s kids still had control of the portal control board. So I was making a statement that the Portal Service and not the Darkmage, controlled the portals. After some quick jump training, a flight to Freywick and preparing the planes, Iezzen, my pilot, and I headed to Grimfrost. What we didn’t know was that the Darkmage, as part of his takeover, had sent armies from the Sanctuary, including one down the Grimfrost road. We flew right over the army, they took some shots at the plane, I dropped the ferry tank since it had been hit by an arrow, which landed on the army’s kitchen and flew on to Grimfrost, where we landed the plane on the lake and crashed into a dock that was in the wrong place.”

“What does any of that have to do with a bear?” a second year girl asked.

Frank looked around and the table and the tables around them were rather crowded.

Jorge grinned. “My original plan was to have a bear trapped and send it into the Darkmage’s quarters in the palace using an open port. When we arrived at Grimfrost with news of the rampaging army, we were met by Lady Biqen and Grimfrost’s guardcaptain, a bear named Snowball. As we dragged the plane off the lake, Snowball suggested that his sister, Snuggles, would make a cuddly partner to warm the Darkmage’s bed. So we set up the one way port and away she went.”
“Weren’t you worried that the Darkmage would do something to Snuggles?”
“Snuggles has an iron collar she wears, so certain things wouldn’t work, she trains very well and is a bear. In any case, the Darkmage came into the room, turned around, ran back down the hall, screamed, “BEAR!” and went looking for his guards, who were downstairs to prevent anyone going into the hall and Snuggles left the room, went downstairs and out a little door that I had arranged with a friend to have open. She ported to the Qinvaris Market where we were all waiting for her and we had a party. The Darkmage was never able to convince anyone that there had actually been a bear in his quarters.”

“That is rather unbelievable,” a third year student said in amongst the laughter.

“Go and check the papers about a year ago. I’m fairly sure that Byddri or Hoddy sent that in. They covered the Conclave, so that should have made it. I’m sure that there was a report about the army and what happened when it reached the Qinvaris farms. Lunch is over and I have a class, so I need to go.”

Tolly looked at Frank and said, “I’m off to the library.”
“Why?”
“He is either pranking us with that story, or he pranked the Darkmage, and got away with it. I want to know which one it was.”

Three twentieths later, Tolly walked up as Frank was leaving class and Frank asked, “Which is it?”
“The bear was in the Darkmage’s quarters. At least the Darkmage was screaming about a bear in the palace one night. He pranked the Darkmage and got away with it.”

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