The Landdragon Queen, Chapter 60

The battle over, folk return home

Chapter 60.

Neuw Athlin.

 Ortalac turned to Jomney and Geral and said, “I think that I am done here.”

“You did very well by us and this little scheme of ours, colonel,” Geral said. “We thank you for your service.”
“You paid well and handed me a bonus, which will make some widows happy.”
“If they and their children are looking for places outside the orcenlands, we have space here.”
“That may come about. In any case, I need to get my people home.”

“Tell your brother in law, the duke, thank you as well.”

“I will at that.”

The colonel left and Geral said, “Now, my magnificent landdragon, what are we to do with you?”
“That is an interesting question. The easy answer is for me to go home, where my wife will needle me until I revert.”

“Is that how it works?”
“She also parades around in trueform until I want to grab her and we have a date outside the village. She is better at transformations than I am.”

“No grove?”

“The groves in the Empty Lands were all destroyed in the 2nd Mage War other than one tree. The grove is reestablishing itself, but only after the Darkmage was dead and his children gone.”

“You also have quite a bit of money going back with you when you do go home.”

“That’s going to cause me some problems. On the other hand, I have had a long list of things that I would do if I had the funds. We also have some places that I want to get rid of.”
“Such as?”
“The snake lady’s lab and the Pen in general. I may end up buying the Camp and the rest outright.”

“Can you do that?”
“I have resources and I expect that my father needs a project to work on between commissions.”

“I have seen his proposal for this place. It seems to be well planned.”
“He’s not as crazy as people think. That’s another reason for me to stay, though. I want this to my project, not my father’s.”

 Sihnion Themaer walked in and said, “I won’t butt in, then. I may give you suggestions and if people ask me for a critical review, I will give it. Now that you are done playing soldier, what are your plans?”
“We’re going to have to clear the site and move some trenches that were not built for pipe. After that, we lay pipe and start camp style buildings with chimneys.”

“Can you salvage anything from Athlin?”
“That is an open question. The problem is that nobody knows what the effects of using materials from Scourged places can be other than they can be very bad. So, I am reluctant.”

“That is perfectly understandable. Can you get steel, other than the water tower and the pipe, that is?”
“We have a railroad, so steel isn’t a problem. I’ve never done much with it.”
“I have. I couldn’t be a viable architect in Chatsrey if I hadn’t.”

“You are thinking steel for the new palace.”
“Yes, for a couple of reasons. Not least of which is building to the Projector codes.”

“Is that necessary?”
“I think so.”

Geral looked at them and laughed. “I will let myself out, Jomney. You have other concerns and your father seems to have dropped himself right in, in spite of what you wanted.”
 “Don’t leave me with him, duc!” Jomney cried.

“Why not? You seem to be working well and I have a mess to take care of as well.”
“Yes you do. I apologize.”

Sihnion laughed. “I am the one who should be worried. After all, my son is the large one with the appetite to match.”

“Don’t remind me, father. By the way, why are you here?”
“Your mother and wife have arrived in Astia and came down to see the site.”

“Where are they?”
“At the station waiting for me to arrange a GP for your mother. Firerose didn’t seem to care.”

“That’s because she can Jump. Ok, let me arrange a GP for you and mother. I don’t need one at present.”

A landdragon came into the room. “Since you are here, you will probably be scaly for a while, so I went scaly as well, husband.”

Jomney sighed. “This was an accident, Fire. I was walking with the queen, a clown threw a boar spear at her and it hit me instead.”

“So you transformed in reaction. You didn’t eat the clown, did you?”
“No. He’s locked up with his buddies.”

“Arrange for the GP for your parents and then you can show me this place. Could that estate next door be rented?”
“Fire, I am a slave!”
“We fixed that. Tinesi was perfectly willing to come to a deal that we could afford.”

“That means that I’m going to have to buy the Camp and the rest.”

“Do you have the money for that?”
“You have been talking with the queen, haven’t you?”
“Yes I have. That was how I knew that you had gone scaly. Since you are going to be here for a while, that house there should an appropriate place for me.”

“That is hardly the cottage at home.”

“No, it is not. On the other hand we were keeping a low profile and hiding certain things, like all that money you were paid for keeping an eye on the Darkmage’s family for people. We don’t have to hide and since the count is in trouble, we can probably move right in.”

Jomney looked at his father and sighed. “You can’t just move into a place like that.”

“We can probably fit the entire community there.”

“Father, explain some things, would you?”
Sihnion laughed and said, “I am off to collect the GP and you two can work things out.”

He left and Fireflower walked over and nuzzled her husband. “You are right and that place is more for ego than comfort and I would hardly be happy pushing the folk around that it takes to have a place like that. On the other hand, building a place here for me would be a good thing.”

“I’m probably going to regret this, but you and father go ahead.”

“What’s wrong? You aren’t even making a counter offer.”
“I made a mistake and the responsibilities keep growing.”
“You did not make a mistake. These folk needed you. You did what they needed and kept them alive.”

“I should have told Tanyl that I couldn’t handle this.”
“You would not have been you if you had. We needed you and these folk needed you. The queen needed you. You can’t avoid that forever. It is time to stop running from yourself and hiding behind that collar.” Fireflower held up a key. “Now, here is the key, where is your collar?”
“On the shelf in my cottage. It broke off when I transformed.”

“From now on, the only one who holds your key is me and that will be in my heart. We can put this with the collar. From now on, you wear no one’s collar but your own.”

“The queen was talking duchies.”

“I will settle for our piece of the Empty Lands. A place where we and the community can grow. Now, show me this place that you are building.”

“There isn’t much to see and some people made a mess.”
“Show me the place that you dream of. You know how to use glamor, so you can.”

When Jomney went outside, not only were his parents there, the queen and the other four kings were as well. Fireflower nudged him and Jomney was forced to spin words and glamor into the vision of what he planned of the city, starting with the camp houses that would put the folk under a roof for the winter to the masonry and wood structures of apartments and houses, with market square with a center square with the palace other government structure surrounding it. When he was finished, Cécile said, “I see what you were doing here. But what if others want to change things?”
Jomney grinned. “I expect them to. Nothing lasts forever and I am one to believe that folk should not make their own choices. This is just a vision, but I know that others will have their visions as well and that the city will be better for it.”

“First we have a rather ugly task, dealing with the traitors who betrayed their oaths to uphold the law and the country. These traitors all gave their oaths to my father and the country. Then they followed the path of those who Scourged the country. Jomney prepare a place where the traitors can be tried and justice done.”

“I will, your majesty.”

Bigagh

Xolag jumped a bit as his brother charged into his office. “What happened, brother?”

Worthag looked at him angrily and said, “That is what I want to know, brother! What made you think that you could send clan troops on a contract without letting me or the Champion know?!”

“What are you talking about?”

“The action in Vestia. I want to know how the clan’s top soldiers ended up there, in the middle of a bunch of people committing treason,  acts of rebellion and aiding regicide.”

“The clan has had long standing contract with House D’fleur for assistance in its defense.”

“That doesn’t explain why two companies were there in the middle of things at the assault of the queen at the new capital and the third was on its way there. If the battalion was supposed be providing defensive assistance, the troops, all three companies and the rest should have been in Maully or one of the other towns in the Duchy of D’fleur, not a hundred miles away. Especially not to strike at the queen of Vestia, a clan ally without authorization from anyone else in the clan.”

“Ratug may have taken action on his own.”
“Actually, he said that you insisted he take the contract and an open contract at that. Since he has been away on another contract and just returned recently, I tend to believe him. In any case, since the clan was not notified of the contract and the contract was not submitted to the Champion for approval, you, personally, are liable for the ransoms and the queen, has submitted a demand for double ransom to the Champion and he has acceded to that. I have just returned from his office and to put it bluntly, he and the Orcenchief were not happy that the clan was meddling independently in the Orcenland’s foreign policy. Especially when the report came back from my own sons. That, at least, demonstrated that I was not culpable.”

“The ransoms could ruin the family.”
“The ransoms could ruin you! The ransoms will be paid, by you, directly, even if you have to be in debt for the rest of your life. You got the clan into this and you will pay the price. Furthermore, if any of that tainted coin shows up, I will take your head personally, do you understand! You are to tell your friends that you can’t play with them anymore and break off any and all connections. The only reason I am keeping you alive is that mother would be upset if I had to do what I should have done after the Scourge devises were dealt with. I do hope that you do not have any more you are hiding for your friends. If I do discover any, I will contact Jorge, we will attach you to the can and send it and you to the Deadlands!”
“Brother, be reasonable.”

“I am, you fool! More than reasonable! After all, I am not killing you outright! Here is Jreghug and Ratug’s report. When I finished it, I was thinking about doing exactly that. I will be spreading that report around at the next clanmeet and I imagine that many families will be annoyed at you. At least the clan will know how you value clan lives.”

Worthag left the rather shaken Xolag’s office.

University of Ironton, Ironton.

 Professor Xilynore looked at the class and seeing Jorge in his seat, said, “I see that our amazing disappearing first year has returned. Was the kingdom saved?”

“The report should be in the papers soon,” Jorge said. “I was only in a supporting role and did not see the actual action itself.”

“What was that supporting role, may I ask?”

“I ported things where they were needed.”

“You were needed to operate portals?”
“I was needed to operate and coordinate several portals in different places and make sure that the ports ended up where they were supposed to.  As for the reason that it had to be me that was doing it, lives were involved and things needed to be dropped exactly where they were wanted.”

“You did that?”
“Consider what could happen if those cartons I ported into you office were a Scourge devise that I was sending to a dead place to explode and it ended up in a town instead. Accuracy is rather critical with things like that and with smaller booms and such as well.”

“I see. Shall we move on? Today’s lecture concerns the Mortal Kingdoms and their prejudices against mages.”

Thomas finished the lecture and perhaps surprisingly, Jorge didn’t venture a question. Merilee Baker asked, “How did the Grand Master change the prejudice?”
“It is doubtful that he was able to by himself, yes Mr. Umevan?”

Jorge said, “Grand Master Zeastearos had more than a bit of a survivor complex as well as being the most modest and good man you could meet. Members of his family had died because of the fact that they were caught as mages and martyred themselves and the Grand Master felt guilty about the fact that he had survived. He took great risks to change things in the Mortal kingdoms over a very long period of time and was probably the most respected man ever, even by his enemies.”

“Did you meet Grand Master Zeastearos?”

“Yes I had. I also know his granddaughter and other family members. In any case, the Grand Master was not afraid to take risks to forward his aims. He was also willing to befriend people that should have been his worst enemies. He had a close relationship with King Aesteros, for instance. Also, the prejudice against mages in the Mortal Kingdom was running up against the problem that the Church had scanners that could actually discover mage potential and the number of families that had fae or exile members. That led to all sorts of problems in the Mortal Kingdoms and that gave the Grand Master and King Aesteros an opening, which they took. The Grand Master became a regular attendee at the Conference of Kings and worked to change the laws regarding mages in Dolmon. That was damaged somewhat by the actions of Zanis Zylvyre, but the Grand Master and the kings of the Mortal Kingdoms were in complete agreement as far as Zanis was concerned.”

“The Zyvlyres are hardly the boogeymen that most people believe,” Thomas said.

“Some of them are not. The fact is that the Zyvlyres were involved in the efforts of the Darkmage and his relatives for a very long time. The worst were Admiral Ehlark and Zanis, with Rolin, Erlan and Melaris meddling along. Zanis was responsible for the murder of a fae community in the Timberlands and that is the circumstances where both the Grand Master and King Aesteros viewed the crystal that had the crime imprinted on it.”

“So the king and the Grand Master viewed the crystal together?”
“That is what I was told.”
“By whom?”
“The Grand Master and later, King Aesteros.”

“Is there any other evidence of this crime?”
“It should be in the papers. Zanis had a trial last year and the crystal was presented as part of Justiciar Dawkin’s testimony concerning the case against Mage Zanis.”

“The Justiciar didn’t just write a writ of execution?”

“Gander could have, since the evidence was so clear and he did, when the Darkmage staged his takeover of the palace, but that was to make sure that Zanis could be arrested again. Zanis was turned over to the Fae Council of Kings, who held the trial. The trial has been in the papers.”

“That whole thing sounds rather fanciful. How could you meet heads of state?”
“Professor, I have sent more Scourge devises through portals than anyone else, ever, most of them to the Deadlands to go boom where they wouldn’t kill anything. As a consequence of that, people want to know who does that crazy sort of thing over and over and people really appreciate it when the things don’t go boom in their face. So I get invited to things where people like that are. I was also doing portal security at the Grand Master’s funeral and I was surprised how many of the guests knew me. So, yes, I know the five kings, the current Grand Master, Consul Beira, Orcenchief Shura and a bunch of others like that. The downside is that I get to handle things where handling them wrong can get me and thousands of others killed instantly. As for the Mortal Kingdoms, I just spent the day before yesterday helping to save the Kingdom of Vestia from Inanimates and traitors. You can read about the battle in the papers when they get the story. That was the second time I have had to do things like that after the five cities were Scourged.”

A girl put up her hand and said, “While Jorge bragging is fun, I want to know more about the mages and why they were so hated.”

That started a rather lively debate and as the class period’s end approached, Jorge said, “The estate’s wine merchant, who has been traversing the Mortal Kingdoms for a very long time is coming to the Republic for his honeymoon and a wine conference next moon. I will see if grandmother can convince him to come down here and if he does, if the professor will allow it, I will have him give a talk on the Mortal Kingdoms. I don’t think that there will be any samples. I was asked to stop doing that.”

“By whom, Mr. Umevan?” Thomas asked.

“The Fellowship wine merchant’s association. I handed some bottles around and they suddenly had to deal with more people asking for Fallingwater Red. My wine merchants fixed that, since we had some customers that we no longer wanted and this year’s pressing was twice what it was last year. So there is more wine for the House to sell, but I have to be careful what I give as gifts. Shael can give as many as she likes.”     

The class ended and when Conrad saw Thomas walk into the office he said, “You are smiling, Thomas. You never smile after a class. What did Jorge do?”

“It wasn’t Jorge this time, though he was involved. I was lecturing about the Mortal Kingdoms and Jorge had his two cents to add, as usual and bragged a bit. The other students chimed in and we had an excellent question and answer session. Has there been any news about the Mortal Kingdoms in the papers?”

“Yes there was, actually. There was a rebellion in Vestia and an attempt on the queen’s life. The item was just a brief note on the front page and I assume that more details will be coming.”

“Apparently, Mr. Umevan was involved, somehow. He got a bit heated and mentioned that. He also apparently knows just about all the heads of state.”

“How did that happen?”

“He screeched something about sending Scourge devises to the Deadlands using portals.”

“There was quite a bit of material about Scourge devises in the supporting material for the Ishendell report, most of which would be something that somebody with first hand experience with the things would have.”

“Apparently Jorge was rather stressed by what he was doing when he disappeared.”

“How did the conversation start?”
“Another student asked about Grand Master Zeastearos and his influence in the Mortal Kingdoms and Jorge had some comments about the Grand Master, who he had apparently met.” 

 “What did he say?”
“He said that the Grand Master had a survivor complex and the Grand Master and King Aesteros had watched a crystal of Zanis Zylvyre murdering a fae community together.”

“You seem to be a bit skeptical about that.”

“I’m not sure that Zanis murdered a fae community.”

“He was tried and convicted of doing exactly that. He committed suicide as the trial ended.”

“A Justiciar named Dawkins who did not just sign a writ of execution? That sounds like a fable.”

“Thomas, you must keep up. The head of the Justiciars’ Office of Investigation is a former slave named Dawkins and I imagine that he would handle a case like the murder of a fae community. As for not signing a writ, I imagine that the Justiciar had his reasons and there were probably political issues involved, considering the parties involved.”

“Perhaps the Justiciars are worth further study. I have always wondered about them. They can’t be as clownish as they are portrayed.”

“You could send a letter to the Imperial Embassy and ask.”

“I hadn’t thought of doing that. For that matter, I didn’t know that you could do that.”

“I haven’t done it, as my concentration has always been technical history, but the embassy does exist, so it can’t hurt.”

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