The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 49-50

The Empress has a chat. Mike has run into difficulties.

Chapter 49.

The Imperial Palace.

Itireae tried with difficulty to maintain a straight face as Filia came into the parlor, followed by Faylen, who didn’t bother. “I have a bone to pick with you. “Your daughter was at the Yellowleaf Festival, serving for your father.”
“The Residence Housemaster gave the staff a day off and my father needed somebody to make sure that the wine flowed and the talk didn’t. I could not do that and Villia was available.”

“Have you heard the latest about Villia, Airdan and Ilyithe?”
“Not as yet. What happened?”
“Ilyithe ran into Inquisitor Keaynore at the book faire and dealt with him appropriately in front of Airdan, and Villia. Ilyithe must have spotted Villia and went to see what her intentions were regarding Airdan. Airdan overheard the conversation, including Villia referring to Ilyithe as Hummingbird.”

“That is very interesting. Presumably Justiciar Zylsalor’s family tolerates a daughter playing around in the Lower City.”
“ Ilyithe’s mother came and explained some things. Ilyithe was there in the houses for the same reason that your daughter would have been if she had not found somebody very young. He was that elf at the wine stand, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he was. Not all of a certain family went to the bad and even usurpers can be redeemed. Goren is a very good elf and tried to keep Villia out of certain places. He failed. They see each other infrequently.”

“That is Villia’s true. He is also one of the reasons that Villia is failing.”

“Probably not the only reason, especially if Airdan is Ilyithe’s true. Something must have happened between Airdan and Ilyithe, beyond Airdan listening to a conversation. ”

“Airdan, being fifteen and wanting to impress Ilyithe, sent somebody to buy an expensive small automaton from Fylson’s, of a hummingbird. He then presented said thing to Ilyithe and in the conversation, called her Hummingbird. The girl apparently went into a sort of emotional meltdown, ran off and left Airdan rather confused.”

“Typical teen silliness, with Silverin overtones. I think that I will be speaking to the girl’s mother.”

“Grandmother. The mother is not Silverin. The grandmother has returned to the House.”

“Then she is making herself accessible. I think that the lady sees the same things that we do. Of course she could just be wanting to see the silliness first hand.”
“How bad is it going to get?”
“I’m not sure. For the most part, I see it at the estate and most folk know the circumstances and understand.We also had to keep a lid on certain things and keep things away from some eyes that would be looking or might be looking.”
“My mother in law?”
“Yes. She was not adverse to using Silverin as tools, when she found them. A girl without a true is susceptible to things and will mold herself to what a mistress or master may want.”

“With a true, it is different?”
“Yes. I really should not say so much, but the Silverin seem to have become part of the Imperial House regardless of my desires. So, we must live with what is.”
“What will your mother do?”
“Plot with you, her new friend. Encourage Villia and Keerla to be together and look to collect the family and try to find trues for the girls that do not have them. I should warn you that there will be much silliness coming.”

 “After fighting my mother in law for decades, some silliness will be a relief.”

“You were not alone in that fight and I agree. Faylen, have you and your Justiciar gotten beyond the silliness stage?”

“Fillia, yes we have. At least our mothers have taken over and we’re stuck with it.”

Neuw Athlin

Ortalac found Jomney and said, “You did Service in the military engineers, didn’t you?”
Jomney smiled. “I don’t think I will talk about that, colonel. That is if you don’t want me spreading that around.”
“Who is your real boss?”
“Tanyl Zylvyre.”
 “I don’t think that you hold the Ravathrya in that high esteem. Yet you stuck around right across the border from the Fellowship for over twenty years.”

“I had a family.”

“I’ve met your boys. They have friends in the Fellowship. They know Fayspire better than I do and I was stationed there for two years.”

“You can figure it out.”
“The colonel in Zirgoccol or his boss.” Jomney smiled. “The lady in Chatsrey.” The smile got bigger. “The dwarf in Hammerfall? How many people were paying you?”
“I’m not going to say. I can’t go around and spend the money in any case.”

“Did the Ravathyra ever catch on?”
“I’m still alive. Of course the Ravathyra didn’t catch on to the spies in the Hidden City either. I think that Tanyl has guessed, but he doesn’t care as long as I handle things and he has bigger problems and needs money. What clued you in?”

“I started to look at all those trenches you were digging for the plumbing and the places you have built. You knew about the plot to assassinate the queen, probably before she did. The old lady has you here managing things.”

“Now that you know, what are you going to do?”

“Breathe easier. I was wondering how to hide any digging until I realized that you had done it already. Cisterns that are in the perfect spots for a machine gun, trenches for two sets of pipe with a step in the trench and the dirt on one side. You knew how to set things up and did it right under the count’s nose. He was looking for some sort of wall and you didn’t build one.”

“I’ve been watching the Beinans and the portal boys play with one way ports for over a year. The enemy has been using them for their Inanimates. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that they will strike at the queen at some point, and here, where they can ambush her. I tried to convince her to just drop on from time to time and she is playing her game with the traitors. I know that the traitors have about five thousand pikemen and heavy cavalry and so does the queen. But I imagine that the people that Scourged five cities are going to pull a surprise in the chaos.”

“They were driven out of the cities.”
“They left, and took two Animators with them. Out of necessity, the duc and the others are stacking bodies for the pyres and with an open port, they could drop an Animator, animate a pile of bodies and dump them into what the traitors are doing, and then drop enhanced with Projectors into this place and take a shot at the queen and some other people in the midst of the chaos.”

“Even if they lose, if they get the queen, they could keep the chaos going for decades.”

“Welcome to the club, colonel.”

“Who are the members of this club?”
“You can guess some of them.”

“Duc Geral, the Champion, his brother, Nugbu, the old lady, the Dragonmaster for a start. How were you recruited?”

“My grandfather on my mother’s side died in an accident on the Peninsula and I wondered why. He was in the navy and encountered a Scourge devise. They tried to open it. I violated some laws discovering that and a lady recruited me. I arranged to put myself in the path of a Paeris raid and was placed in the Empty lands. I think that I scanned just a little low for the snake lady, or the scanner messed up, but they kept me at the Pen and I kept doing bigger and bigger jobs, certain people were lazy and I took over.”

“Were you running from your father?”
“Somewhat. You have probably seen his work.”

“Yes I have. He has a talent for the unusual and whimsical.”

“The rat building.”
“That and some others in Zirgoccol.”  

 “Your father likes what you are doing here. The city to come, that is.”
“ I don’t want to let the dark win. I’ve seen them close up and personal. So I fight them in the ways I can.”

Bubil Kil

Llag, paper rolled under his elbow and bag in his hand, got off the train and looked around. Across from the station was the job office and he walked over. The rather bored lady behind the desk said, “What are you here for?”
“I hear that they need machinists here. I’m looking for work.”

She handed him a sheet of paper. “Go to this address. Why did you come here, anyway?”

“My old job quit and I needed work. My wife left me and took the kids, so other than getting away from my wife’s relatives, where work is doesn’t matter.”
“What clan?”

“Her’s was Stonegrinder. Mine is Ironfinder and I’m basically all that’s left.”

“What happened to the rest?”
“Too many mercenary contracts gone bad and not enough kids. My brother got it on the Peninsula serving in 2nd army.”

“That was a mess.”

“I wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t know. I need to see if these folk can use me.”

The shop that the job agent sent him to was, like most of the city, rather run down and behind the times. They had also received a rather large contract from Clan Ironhead, for rifle receivers and needed people who could run lathes. The foreman took Llag through the job and when Llag demonstrated he could make parts, hired him on the spot. He also arranged a place and had Llag’s bag taken there. All in all, he was off to a good start. He went to the telegraph office and sent a message to his landlord to send his toolbox.

Chapter 50.

Oceanside

Mike looked at the morning paper and could not believe what he was seeing. He had been sure that the campaigns had kept things discreet and hidden the collusion and the money. Yet there they all were, not just his campaign, but all of them. Somehow, the consul had conducted investigations of all the campaigns, discovered everything and not leaked any of it until the hearings began the previous day, while somehow making sure that everything had been released to the press. Mike took the paper, went to the chandler’s shop, activated the small portal. and tossed the paper through. He looked at his nephew and said, “If you get a whiff of somebody looking, leave and follow the plan.”

“I saw the paper, uncle. How do you think it’s going to play out?”
“I don’t know. The senate could go either way, but we are starting twenty votes down in any case.”

“Where did things get messed up?”
“That money and those scanners, is my guess. There was too much that people could track.”

“The cleaners took it.”
“I think that that damn Dragonmaster made a deal. They stay in business if they recover that coin for him and tell him where it came from.”

“What now?”
“Election day is two days away and tomorrow is the last day that any alterations can be made to ballots. So if the Senate doesn’t vote to remove the campaigns from the ballots, we’re still in and we can use other methods to pull things out. Once I’m in, the shenanigans don’t matter. Nobody’s going to want to overturn an election and have it come back to bite them. They all bend the rules and we have friends waiting for us.”

The Hideaway.

Mórsairon looked up as Seriellia walked into his office. “Father, we suddenly got a stack of newspapers through the portal. All of the campaigns in the Fellowship are under investigation.”

Mórsairon  cursed. “Didn’t the loom tell you about that some time ago?”

“There were meetings, but I couldn’t tell what they were about. The Qinvaris did some things with motorcycles in some of the provinces and the landdragons had some parades, but they do that and they were asking for donations for the orphans in the Mortal Kingdoms. None of the campaigns hinted that anything was wrong.”

“Anything else?”
“There was a piece in a newspaper about Bubil Kil. It was all about the people there and how the closing of the furnace had hurt the town.”

“Nothing to be concerned about then.”  

Zirgoccol

Merfyr, drink in hand, turned to Halamar and Qambois and said, “I’m beginning to understand why you are ex-consuls. Those idiots. This was as clear a case as I have ever seen and they are dithering. Mr. Hammer, Chief Bloodfoot’s people, and your people all bent over backwards to let the evidence drive the case and we still have this dithering.”

“It’s fairly simple,” Qambois said. “First of all, they don’t believe in the radioactive coin and the rest of it. Second, some of them expect that if the twenty campaigns win, they will be ahead of the game and third, some of them can’t believe in foreign influence unless it’s Lord Qinvaris coming up with a scheme. In their eyes dirty money from the shadowy members of the Darkmage’s family is rather unbelievable, but Lord Qinvaris creating a party in the senate is. Those demonstrations didn’t help.”
“There was nothing wrong with them and all the candidates were allowed to come to any of the events.”

“You don’t think that there was anything wrong,” Halamar said, “and most folk would agree with you. In fact they weren’t even the first things that Lord Qinvaris did this year in the Fellowship, but in some Senator’s eyes, the mere fact that the riders were in any way connected with the Qinvaris was suspect.”
“They are still upset over Bloody Ridge. That was over a long time ago and the man was doing his duty, serving his country and his opponents were certainly trying to kill him and his platoon. After all, he was the only one who survived. The fact is that one of the events was in Senator Tollings’s province and he definitely has Bloody Ridge issues.

“That doesn’t justify what has happened here. The facts are clear. The candidates are colluding, violating the no party rules and taking massive amount of foreign coin. Coin that came from coin that was gathered by the monsters that Scourged five cities to get the coin. This is the biggest monstrosity that I have ever seen and the Fellowship will be broken over this. I doubt that the three families in Oceanside will tolerate this, even if the vote goes against them.”

“That may be what the monsters want,” Qambois said. “They started this as a win-win for them. If their candidates win, they win; if the Fellowship tears itself apart, then they win as well. Either way, they win. We were lucky and we could detect that the coin was radioactive.”

“The Fellowship will survive this,” Halamar said. “That is what I believe. Even if we lose the vote in the Senate, and we may, I believe in the citizens and their ability to see the truth. What we can do is plan for irregularities and look for attempts to coerce  and intimidate voters.”

Merfyr turned to Qambois and said, “Have Spitty see me. I want to have him tell the fixers that if I even hear of them doing something on election day, that is anything other than voting once, they are in deep trouble. None of the usual fun and games, none. If Spitty can get the Dancer to send the message, even better. I know that she is retired, but the stakes are too high. I want the fixers to know that if I hear one complaint, about anything, in the twenty campaigns, heads will roll.”

“Spitty and Iolena won’t like it, but I think that they will do it.”

“Tell Iolena that I don’t like doing things this way either, but we don’t really have a choice. If this vote is not clean, in every way, there will be hell to pay.”

The various attendees to the meeting looked at Andy and Jimmy, “the box” Axepounder said, “Why call us here, Andy. We’re busy.”

“This man wanted to talk with you and it’s important.”

They looked at Spitty and Jimmy said, “Have you stooped to stooging for your uncle, Spitty?”
 “You all know who my lady is.” They all looked at Iolena in the shadows. “She’s retired, but somebody has offered her a contract that brought her out for a bit.”
“Who is on the contract?”
“You are, Jimmy, along with all your buddies here. That is if any of these provinces have any problems with votes or counting, any at all. I would stay home, election day and have your boys do that too.”

“If we don’t? We’ll be giving up a bundle.”

“Then the dance card starts.”

“Your uncle doesn’t play that way.”
“I never said that my uncle is involved. This contract came from a Ghost and while the Ghost can’t play in the elections, the Ghost wants to make sure that the votes are clean. I’m just the messenger here, but think about how bloody things can get.”

“We got the message, Spitty.”

Looking askance at Iolena, the fixers all left. Andy looked at Spitty and said, “Is Richard really handing out a contract?”
Spitty laughed. “How would I know? My uncle just told me to send the message a twentieth or so ago. On the other hand, the way the clowns have been acting over how scary Lord Qinvaris was, I thought that I would use that. They know my uncle and probably wouldn’t believe it if I told them that the Consul would want their heads. On the other hand they don’t know what Richard would do and the Ghost stories still go around. That made the thing believable.”

“Some idiots will want to play and make the money.”

“If I can get half of them to back off, we win.”

“How did the vote go in the senate?”
“It hung. There was a resolution that the twenty Senators abstain for conflict of interest reasons and ten more abstained as well. There wasn’t enough of a majority left to close the debate and so the vote is suspended until after the election.”

“When it doesn’t matter anymore.”

“That’s about the size of it. That’s when uncle called me and told me to set this up.”

“You know, we can make this work better. Let’s go talk to somebody.”
“Who?”
“Some of my boys. You said that Richard is willing to pay for some work and things are a bit lean. We tell the boys what you just told the fixers and wave some of Richard’s money around, some people might find that they are messed up a bit. We just need to clamp down on the fixers until after election day and if the other side wants to play games, so can we.”
“I like that,” Iolena said. “I would prefer to not have to dance in any case and Lord Qinvaris did make some hints. Spitty, why don’t we take Andy and talk to Dan and Rene.”

Betrek looked at Durlan and said, “We meet again. So what have you come to see me about?”
“The election.”

“What about it?”

“You probably know that some people are playing games. We have been contracted to squelch the game playing and I needed an expert in how things work in this game.”

Betrek grinned. “Why me?”
“Because you set that thing up in Lain Othrond and the thing with the bandits. You like to play games and have resources that you can get quickly. Also, if they see you doing things, people will think shady deal and not something else.”
“Why should I not turn you in?”
“First, a lady would not like that; second, as I said, you know about the things going on and third, you might want us for future games.”

“You make some very good points. I also think that we have a common interest here. So, what do you need to know?”

“How the fixers operate. For obvious reasons, we don’t have a lot of experience in such things.”
“You think that I do?”
“Your uncle is a Senator. I doubt that you were not involved at some point. He’s on the list.”
“I see your point. You must understand that as an upstanding banker, of high moral character, this is all hypothetical on my part. On the other hand, I may have heard about certain things.”

Dan looked at the three in front of him and said, “What crooked thing is my family up to?”
“Why would you be doing something crooked,” Spitty asked.

“Last year, I would not have been able to answer that question, since I, and my brother and sisters were all playing in the Empire, innocent of the cruel world outside. That was then, this is now. I’ve met a good portion of my family and when things get tight, they do things a certain way, and usually get away with it.”
“You got us,” Andy said. “You probably know about the funny stuff in the elections.”
“I may have heard some rumors, yes. The matter had come up in the Senate and I expected that it would be handled.”
“Some strings were pulled and the matter wasn’t able to get out of debate,” Spitty said.

“So why come to me?”
“Your dad told me that he would be willing to make some investments in certain activities in the Mortal Kingdoms against some people. We want to make noises about the Ghost taking action to squelch some things.”

“You want to use my dad’s reputation and maybe some of my money visibly to squelch fun and games in the elections.”
“Yes.”

Dan smiled. “I don’t think that dad will complain. The other side is using Bloody Ridge and the Ghost against him, so I don’t have a problem with using the Ghost to squelch some things, as long as the elections themselves are clean. My dad will get upset with me and you, if he is seen as meddling in Fellowship politics, even if we are, somewhat.”

“I was told by the Consul that if there were any fun and games, heads would roll,” Spitty said. “The problem is that the Consul’s reputation works against him. He was a very good defender and he’s seen as soft. If we had time we could change that, but we don’t. So we use somebody’s reputation that everyone knows is not soft. Just about everybody knows better than to mess with your dad.”

“You know that I am going to have to tell him about this.”
“We’ll take the chance,” Andy said.    


   Oceanside.

For the first time that he could remember, Senator Hammer and Scal Oceania had come into a room and were speaking to each other. Chald looked at them, jaw dropped and gulping, said, “What can I do for you gentlemen.”

“We want you to know that we pulled our names off the ballot and are giving you our support,” Scal said.

“Why?”
“We don’t agree on very much, do we, Fom? What we do agree on is that we play by the rules. Mike Ironhead isn’t. Since you have a knife’s edge lead over Fom and I don’t have any issues with you, Chald, you are the best one to stay in. We’ve had our fights and fun, with a lot of good races. But this is a race for the future of the country and we’re not it, not any more. So we are dropping out. We’ve already sent that to the elections board and the papers, with both of us stating our support for you.”

 “Are you happy about this, senator?”
“I am, actually, Chald. The thing over Roger and the TAVs should have been a clue that I had held on too long and the hurt that I caused you and my daughter was unconscionable. Consider this a late wedding gift, or a gift to my coming grandchild. In any case, if I don’t drop out, I won’t have the time I want with some grandchildren that will be under sea all too soon. I want some time with Thessa  while I still can and I can’t do that in Zirgoccol.”
Chald grinned. “She got to you, didn’t she?”
“Yes she did. She’s a lot like her mother. In any case, the race is two way now and that will make it harder for Mike. He can pull in the discontents, but you saw what happened at the party.”

“He was ignored.”

“Yes he was. He should have been doing what Scal and I were; making connections and talking to people. He didn’t want to talk to people or even stay so that people could talk to him. So you are the best choice, because you have always talked to people.”

Scal grinned. “Fom, let’s go and press some flesh and talk to some people about the new Senator for the Province. They probably know him already, but not like we do.”

The pair left and Chald wondered what had happened to the world.

Mike read the ballot change notice and wanted to gnash his teeth. The four way race had worked in his favor as he was fairly certain that he had a twenty percent vote, just because so many didn’t like the three families and the grip they had. Picking up another five percent and then adjusting the vote a bit would have given him the seat. A two way race and he was in deep trouble. At least Chald was as new to running for senate as he was. The problem was how the voters that supported the Senator or Oceania would react. It would be better if they stayed home and Mike had some ideas to make that happen. Time was short, but he could make some calls. 

Foldwin put down the phone and grimaced. He was going to have to rush to get an  action team in Oceanside. Fortunately he had a list and funds. Perhaps he could use the animals after all, just not in the way he had planned.

Reluvethel came into Rydel’s office and said, “Rydel, tell the old fish that something’s up.”

“What do you mean?”

Reluvethel held up a coin. “There’s a lot of this all over the street and I think that somebody wants to start a riot tomorrow.”

“Did you take that to the bank and have it checked?”

“I had more and yes I did. The coin made the scanner scream.”
“Then somebody is spreading that around. What were they doing?”
“I think that they were putting gangs together to create some fuss. I have sort of been telling stories about the thing we were doing for uncle and some folk wanted to know if the cousins and I would want some money and asking if we had some ideas.”

“Play along. Let’s see what these people are up to. I’m going to talk to the old fish and some other people.”

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