The Trials of Slaves, Chapter 11-12

Jomney asserts his authority. A truck goes boom in the wrong place.

Chapter 11.

Neuw Athlin

Jomney looked at the staked site, turned to Geral and said, “Thank you for telling me about this.”

“Jomney, be very careful about creating too many waves. The count is very influential.”

“He’s also laying out the space for his new townhouse without consulting with the city or me, across four lots that had already been reserved for the market. Sam, pull the stakes!”

“You could move the market.”

“I do that once, for this character, and there will be more. The common folk and the things like the markets will get pushed back for palaces. If the count wants to complain, he knows where my office is.”

“You haven’t made any allotments for the nobility, not even for me.”

“No, I have not. You all have places where you can live. Many folk do not. I need to get them under a roof and some things set up before the cold strikes. There will be plenty of empty space available.”

“Far away from the hall and the queen.”

“That is the case. I had to prioritize and the folk that did not have a permanent roof over their head got the nod.”

That’s going to cause you some trouble in Parliament.”

 “I imagine that it will. On the other hand, my goal is to get enough done that people can move in and go home.” Jomney looked at the young nobleman approaching the square on a horse and said, “It looks as if somebody was checking to make sure that his stakes were still in place, or got word that they were being pulled.”

 The nobleman, looking seventeen and accompanied by a guard who was probably his keeper, dismounted and said, “Why are my stakes being removed?”

“Milord, this is not unclaimed space,” Jomney said.”

“I am Count D’for and I see no structures or impedance to setting a claim.”

“This space was set aside for a market building, next to the square here, milord.”

“The market could be moved.”

“Milord, yes it could. Then the people of the city would be cursing you forever as it takes families that much longer to buy their food and the farmers will have to take that much more time getting there to sell. All of them would be looking at your fancy house and seeing you, as a tyrant. You don’t need such a house here, but the folk in the city will not have that luxury. If you go to the registry, they can set aside a plot for you.”

“One small plot. The house in the old city was worthy of my family.”

“The old city is gone. If you want a larger space, there is much land still unclaimed.”
“Away from the Hall.”
“Yes. Milord, the evacuees need a roof over their heads and the city can only build the roads, water and sewer so far. So the folk will have to accept less than what they had for the time. Why don’t we go to the registry and see what arrangements can be made.”

“I could take this to the queen!”
“Yes you could. I would do so after lunch if you do. She may be hungry and annoyed.”

The count blanched. His man whispered in his ear and he said, “I will see what is available at the registry.”

The count left as Geral laughed. He turned to Jomney and said, “The queen would not eat him.”
“No, she would not. On the other hand, what I didn’t tell him was that he could have built his house, but there was no way that I would allow water and sewer to be connected.”

“I hadn’t thought about that. That seems like playing dirty in so many ways.”

Jomney grinned a landdragon’s grin. “It does, doesn’t it?”

Beltain Naval Academy

Roger marched into Captain Dowling’s office, saluted and said, “Reporting as ordered, Sir!”
“Very good. You are to call out the Brigade in full dress in the morning for an induction ceremony. Here is a list of VIPs attending.”

Roger looked at the list and said, “What is this about, sir?”
“The Vestian Consul, at the request of his queen, has asked that two marine cadets be allowed to be inducted into the Order of The Swords. The President has acceded to that request. So the cadets are being inducted in the morning.”

“Which cadets, sir?”

“Wavechaser and Billings. The cadet’s families are attending as well.”

“I see the President, the High Admiral, the Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant, Mrs. Steelmaker and Admiral Tollings.  Who is Lord Umevan? I thought that the Umevan were all exiles.”
“Lord Umevan is attending college in Ironton. He knows the inductees, apparently. He is getting a tour of the academy with some of his people and the High admiral’s relatives. He is to be considered a diplomatic guest.”

“Very well, I will get this put together.”

Roger left the captain’s office seething. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but his father was getting a message about this. He was also going to watch the Umevan very carefully. Lord or not, an Umevan attending college spelled trouble and Roger was sure that the pranksters at Ironton were not above running a gag. The problem was that with the game in a five day, the team needed to practice regardless and he was going to have all sorts of people at the academy. Going back to the upperclassmen’s barracks, he found the midshipmen lieutenants and started to hand out assignments. Looking out the window at the piers he saw a very strange ship moored next the Academy’s pier. He didn’t have time to ask questions about the ship now, but he was going to look into it when he could.

Gatherer

Jim turned to Terrel and said, “Not too obvious, are we?”
Terrel grinned. “What do you mean, commander?”
“We have a ship designed for spying, right next to the Academy’s practice field.”

“I was not a graduate of the Academy, since I attended another institution.”

“Ironton, the academy’s opponent in a five day.”

“The high admiral wants to go over the ship while he is going to be at the Academy tomorrow.”
“What did some stupid middie do?”

“What was the longest running seafolk feud?”

“The Seafishers and your family, off and on. You marrying your wife settled that, to both families’ relief. There has been a dispute with the Seachasers and us as well going back almost as long.”

“The current midshipman captain is named Seachaser. My nephew just entered the Academy, as a marine.”

‘How did that happen?”
“He was stuck in Ishendell with his brother and mother, Major Tollings infiltrated and they found some special equipment in the bowels of Ishendell that had been worn by elves and only the boys fit the equipment, so they remained part of the Major’s unit until recently when they outgrew the suits.”

“I think that I want to meet your nephew.”

“You can do that tomorrow. We are both attending the ceremony.”

“Ceremony for what?”
“My nephew and one of his friends are being inducted into the Order of The Swords tomorrow.”

“Now I REALLY want to meet your nephew. You don’t get into the Order unless you save the king’s life in battle, win a war almost single handedly or something like that. I’m not surprised that the President allowed the induction.”

“The downside is that my brother is going to be insufferable forever.”  

Chatsrey.

Jorge looked at Tad, at Haramara, at Harald, at Delseran, at Anemone and at Immianthe and said, “Explain this. Princess, does your grandmother know that you came down here?”

‘It was her idea, Jorge.” Harald said. “When she heard about the boys, she insisted that the Princess present the awards.”

“Why you, Immianthe.”
“Because Tad has been here with you and so could keep me out of trouble. Haramara, Delseran and Anemone all know things here and Grandmother thought that this would be a good time for me to see the Republic.”

Jorge looked at Stadlee and Filia. “I just sent for you two. I should have realized that you would tell Tad.”

“How is my daughter enjoying her time here,” Filia asked.

“They have been doing fine. Vilia and Goren enjoyed their stay at the Crystal Palace and your father picked up a gold medal at the wine tasting yesterday. Actually, I’m glad that you are here, princess.”
“What are you up to, Jorge?”

“Why don’t I take you to the restaurant and tell you all.”

“Vikz’s?”

“Yes. In any case, princess, you get to be the elf princess of the play, since you are here.”

Immianthe looked at Frank and Tolly and asked, “Who are these two?”

“Distractions, along with the rest of us. Let’s go.”

Jorge sat in the car with Tad and Immianthe and pointed things out to Immianthe until they reached Vikz’s. As they approached the door, Ugziot said, “I see that you have brought new guests, Lord Umvan. Who is this young lady?”
“This is Princess Immianthe of the Empire. She was unexpected, but not unwelcome.”

“This is young Tad’s princess then. Welcome princess. We will aim to make you feel at home.”
“Not entirely, sir goblin,” Immianthe said. “Otherwise there would be no point to travelling.”

“I see that you have been taught well, princess. Do you have tales to tell?”

“I do, from some recent travels, but I do not know if I will have the chance to share them here today.”

“We look forward to your company in the future then. Lord Umevan, you have worthy companions.”

As they were led to their table, Sarya saw them walk past, turned to Al and said, “I see Jorge, two of his fellow college students, Delseran, Anemone, Haramara, Stadlee and Filia with Tad as well as Harald. The girl must be significant.”

Al grinned and said, “Who she is should be obvious if you think about it. Have you forgotten her already?”
“The princess? How did you know?”

“I said that it would be obvious. You spend your time in the office looking for details and I read the papers, where young Tad and the Princess have been more or less attached to each other for some time and in the news not infrequently. So, if a high elf girl appears with Tad, it is pretty obvious who it will be.”

“I will have to let Thothak know after lunch as I was not informed that she was coming.”

Harald stomped over and said, “From the rather befuddled expression on your face, Sarya, I managed to catch you out.”

“Was the princess your doing?”
“No, that was the Empress’s idea. I was going to have Haramara present the awards.”
“What is going on? I know that two of Jorge’s boys are receiving the Order of The Swords from Vestia and I am going to be there tomorrow. Are there more?”
“Both boys are getting Imperial Stars as well, as is Jorge.”

“Have you told Jorge yet?”

“The princess is going to surprise him at the ceremony. The Empress and I figured that would be the only way he would accept it.”

“He is rather modest, isn’t he?”

“I’m off to lunch. You can have the chore of telling Thothak that Immianthe is here. Now that she has done it, I don’t think it will be the last time.”
 Harald returned to the table and sat down as Alinis and Fireoak came in and joined the others. Jorge said, “Now that you all are here, I can tell you about our little scheme.” He looked around and said, “I don’t see any reporters or anyone other than the Steelmakers, so, most of you know that Jorge, that is Major Tollings, is being called to the grill, by the naval committee in Congress. The reason for this  that I have heard is that he is being called because a certain midshipman captain has been in a bother over Tim Wavechaser and the way he dressed at induction. Now Tim, as all who have met him know, chews up cannibal monsters and trains with Vesstan and Esgalwathanar. Not the sort to be bothered by mere college bullies. That annoyed the midshipman captain, who sent a letter to daddy saying that one of Paeris’s raidcaptain’s boys wasn’t crumbling when the midshipman captain was being mean to him. Daddy the Congressman called Major Tollings to the carpet. I do hope that some country doesn’t need saving while Jorge is wasting his time dealing with idiots in Congress. 
“Now the high admiral can’t take action against the twit, at least until he graduates and then midshipman captain, top of his class, and all that rot, is going to discover that doing the sorts of things that annoy banner officers is not a good thing for your career. On the other hand, the midshipman captain is also captain of the bladderball team and while they are doing well, as they seem to, I want to change that. For the most part we are the distraction and the people who are pulling the caper know what to do, so I am not going to explain the details. I just hope that you all enjoy the hijinks.”

Sarya looked at Al and said, “What do you think he is planning to do?”
“It involves that bladderball team and the coach has a playbook for all the plays. Those books are key targets for opposing teams. I imagine that something is going to happen to the academy’s playbook tomorrow during practice.”

“He’s going to steal it.”
“Something like that. In any case a twit is going to get kicked back.”

“Should we warn Tom?”

“I don’t think that we need to. I think that Tom set this up.”

The Steward watched as the cleanser parked the truck, got out and came to the car. The cleanser got in the car and said, “Done.”

“Excellent.”

In the bowels of the vault under the Claringbold town house, a devise recorded a Scourge devise and turned on the Scourge suppressor. With a quiet beep the suppressor activated.

The Imperial Palace.

Narbeth looked at his wife and said, “Why are you grinning, dear?”

“Stadlee and Filia went down to the Republic.”
“Why is that significant? That is more significant than letting our granddaughter go down there?”
“I thought that the errand was appropriate and letting the folk in the Republic know that regardless of what they think of him, Major Tollings has our support is something that was rather important.”

“He hasn’t stinted in his pursuit of the Scourge devises and the dark.”

“No he has not.”

Cleadsgate

Jarfaet looked at the bleary eyed Secretary of State and said, “Thothak, did a war start someplace and I wasn’t told? Why are you here?”

“I was driven down from Beltain overnight.”
“What happened?”
“We have a surprise visitor for the ceremony today. Princess Immianthe came off the plane from Ishendell yesterday with Admiral Tollings and some others.”

“Where did they go?”
“I have no idea. Sarya called and told me that they had arrived, but she didn’t know where they were going. Sarya did suggest that Lythienne probably put the princess up as Alinis and her boyfriend had been at Vikz’s for lunch. That is if the princess is not at the Umevan’s townhouse with young Lord Umevan. I do know why the princess is here. She is awarding Imperial stars to the two boys being knighted and Major Tollings as well.”

“So they are going to the Academy. Did Sarya have anything else?”
“Lord Umevan is running a college caper, probably involving the Academy’s playbook.”
“Then the day should be entertaining. Why don’t we discuss this over breakfast and get ready to go over to the Academy.”


Beltain Naval Academy

Roger stood at his station in full dress uniform, saluting as the various VIPs arrived. As expected, Lord Umevan arrived with two well known pranksters from Ironton in Umevan livery acting as servants. Unfortunately the high lord also arrived with an Imperial princess and servants both from his House and the palace. So keeping track of the pranksters without being obvious was going to be rather difficult. Roger turned to Harris Markal, the midshipman lieutenant sharing the duty and said, “Lord Umevan slipped a pair of ringers on us.”

“I spotted them. Frank and Tolly. No surprise there. We need to be on the ball. Lord Umevan has a reputation.”
“How do you know?”
“My brother serves on one of the cruisers that goes up to the Empire and there are Jorge Umevan stories from before he had the estate. He and a pilot once flew up to Grimfrost, dropped a ferry tank on an army’s kitchens, landed a plane on a lake and sent a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters in the palace.”

“That sounds rather fantastic.”
“My brother swears that the Darkmage had been seen one night running out of his quarters one night, shouting “Bear!” Nobody ever saw the bear, though.”

The ceremony was problem free as the Vestian consul inducted the two cadets into Vestia’s highest order of Knighthood and then turned around and did the same thing to the rather astonished Major Tollings. The princess followed and did the same thing as the various visitors clapped. The circus over and the VIPs at lunch, Roger could get the team out for practice. The Princess and the rest watched the practice and Roger and the coach found it difficult to keep track of the various guests, some of whom were almost certainly spies. Lord Umevan and his “servants” stayed in the stands with the princess, with the young lord obviously playing attendance to the princess as her servant dashed back and forth on errands. An older servant of the Umevan came down and started to talk plays with the coach, both of them pointing on the field and waving their hands. The coach even handed the servant the playbook as they talked back and forth, but the playbook was handed right back. A plebe ran out and took it back to the bench, where he stood guard until the admiral’s niece showed up with her boyfriend and started to talk to the plebe. Roger was distracted by the coach laying out a new play, which they ran, and when he looked, the plebe and the admiral’s niece had moved down the field as she was asking about things at the academy. The seemingly bored boyfriend thumbed through the playbook and put it down again. A civilian and cadet Wavechaser joined the boyfriend and started to talk. Another civilian joined them and a captain, who was the civilian’s father apparently, started to talk. He picked up the playbook and used it to point out details of the game. After three grueling twentieths, the practice was over and Roger could close things down as the VIP’s had dinner and left. When he checked, the playbook was secure and seemingly untouched. He breathed a sigh of relief.

Lieutenant Commander Tomal Fishchaser looked at the midshipman captain and sighed a bit. As the bladderball coach, he made sure that one of the schemes of one of the other teams to get the academy’s playbook actually worked. That was a test of the bladderball’s team captain to improvise and think on his feet. Far too many had done well in the atmosphere of the academy, had careers that filled all the boxes and then, when they had command, failed to handle things with fire incoming. The lieutenant commander was sure that at least part of the hijinks at the practice had been an assault on the playbook and he was sure that the assault had succeeded. The Imperial princess was over the top, but apparently the two cadets had made a lot of friends in the north. He would have to write his son, Gar and ask about them. It would be interesting to see how the midshipman captain handled his test. So far he hadn’t shown a great deal of ability to handle surprises very well.

Chapter 12.

Chatsrey.

The timer on the truck wound down and nothing happened. The devise was seemingly inert. The folk that walked past the truck had no way of knowing that the only thing between them and instant death was the suppressor emitting a waveform that caused certain reactions to not happen and rendered the Primary inert. Below the Claringbold townhouse, a devise was ringing an alarm, but there was no one home to hear it in the basement and the vault.

Dan Ringfounder had returned to his beat after being injured saving lives in the Inanimate incursion in the financial district. He could have returned to a limited duty or a desk, but he wanted to be where he would be ready to do his duty. He had noticed the unattended truck that morning, but trucks sometimes waited for a place to open and like the restaurants in the Crystal Palace, some places did not open until the afterten. As the luncheon period came and went, Ringfinder pulled out his ticket book, wrote a summons and waited for two more rounds of his beat. When no one did anything with the truck, he placed the summons on the truck. After another two rounds, the sergeant thought that enough was enough and called for a tow. He stood by the truck as the tow truck appeared and hooked the truck up after the car in front left the parking space. The truck and the tow drove off.

The suppressor under the Claringbold town house had a five mile radius, reaching most of the city. The truck was running through the dragonkin neighborhood of Smoky Hill on its way to the impound when it passed outside the influence of the Scourge suppressor. The reactions that had been suppressed were no longer suppressed. The devise went off, launching the primary at an angle and up over some warehouses and tenements. The cleanser had altered the rocket burn after the failure at Desert Howl. The devise blasted a thousand foot diameter area, ruining about a hundred buildings and killing seven hundred and thirty people instantly and wounding thousands more, mostly women and children who had been at home.

George charged into Thaetmaeg’s office as Thaetmaeg looked at the distant cloud and said, “That tears it. Those damn Stewards.”

“Why there? That was Smoky Hill. That’s mostly small factories and dragonkin tenements. I’ll get together with Rod and see what I find.”

Sirens started to sound and Thaetmaeg said, “We’re going to need to train the fire people. I will get over there.”

Cleadsgate

Jarfaet was having a wonderful dinner with the princess and her servant as they told him about the various things they had done when he received the message. He looked at Tim, who was seated with Sarya and his parents, walked over and said, “Young man, you may be called on to perform a special task for your country. If that task is required I hope that you will not flinch when carrying it out.”

“What happened, Jarfaet?” Sarya asked.

“A Primary was just set off in Chatsrey. I don’t have details yet, but you can imagine that the death toll is heavy already.”

“Where did it go off?”

“Smoky Hill.”

“That makes no sense. I may want to consult with my grandson on this.”

“I need to talk to someone else.”

Jarfaet went to where Jorge was seated with Harald and said, “Major, while you are entertaining some fools, start moving your people here. I want your people coordinating with the Federal Service on a case.”
“That may be illegal, Mr. President?”

“Actually Tom and I set you up as the Presidential detail specifically for that reason. So far the Federal Service has not been able to find the location of the Steward and the Stewards just lit another Primary off in Chatsrey. I want the devises and the monsters that set them off, found and destroyed.”

Jorge stood, saluted and said, “Yes Mr. President. What are the details?”

“I don’t have them as yet. You can get them from the Office of Inanimates when they have them.”

“Where was the devise?”

“The devise went off in Smoky Hill.”

Jorge waved to Tad. Tad came over and said, “What do you want, major?”
“I want to talk to you first thing in the morning. I’m going to want pictures of places and you know how to get them.”

Tad smiled. “I can do that.”

“In the morning. This is just starting.”

As things broke up, Bill walked up to Jorge and said, “He wants to talk to you.”
“We will have to set it up. What about our deal?”
“He thinks that it is a fair one and that I need allies.”

“You do, and while Alinis and her friends make good ones, you are going to need somebody who has been closer to the pointy ends of things.”

“What all was going on today?”
“A start of a campaign. You saw part of it. A certain clown needs a lesson in how to treat people and being prepared.  
Eryding.

Greldug had just finished reading the message from his wife when Tony Lion was led into the office by Sally. He looked at Greldug and said, “It wasn’t us.”
“I know. We both know who it was.”
“From now on, we are together on this. My people and your people. We look into every hole and every dump until we find these characters. Then they will wish that they had never been born.”

“Kill them?”
Tony grinned. “That would be going easy on them. Consider how hard Paeris worked to avoid two barristers. I want everyone to know every slimy thing that these people have done.”

“What did your mother say?”

“She agreed. That is unless the circumstances mean that they have to be killed.”

“I will send the message home. I assume that your father feels the same way.”
“I haven’t received anything from him about this, and Andy will go along with me.”
“The Stewards are tools.”
“I know. We need to find the bosses and deal with them. Fortunately there are a lot of people looking.”

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Lion.”

“My niece here sort of insisted. She didn’t have to insist very hard. If they are picking neighborhoods at random, nobody is safe.”

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