The Trials of Slaves, Chapter 21-22

Jorge turns in his paper to Imperial Studies. Rilldia and Nat have a date.

Chapter 21.

Chatsrey.

Jorge grinned as the various folk got on the Umevan plane that would take them back to Ishendell. When it had been realized that the crowd was going to have to take two flights, Jhaan had said, “Jorge, just use a company plane. You should be doing that anyway. We can park it at Ishendell for dad until the field in Freywick is ready.”

“That seems like a waste.”

“It won’t be, trust me. We have those new plants in the Fellowship and the thing in Freywick. Having a plane handy will save us time and that means money. If dad needs to be back in a hurry, big money.”

“What about me?”
“What about you? I can talk to Beinan’s and the navy about covering the cost of you having a plane on standby. You’ve been lucky so far, but that won’t last forever and if you are needed for your typical thing, a plane will save time.”

Jorge thought about that conversation as he stood on the tarmac as the plane pulled away and headed to the runway. The plane took off and Jorge headed to the car and his next stop.

Urtug and Orinth were going over the third of the Umevan papers that had been submitted when Urtug’s secretary said, “Lord Umevan is here.”

Urtug grinned and said, “Send him in!”

The door opened and a young half elf was let into the office. Urtug smiled and said, “Lord Umevan, I am Urtug Qinhana. What can we do for you?”

“Hello and I’m Jorge Umevan. I said that I was going to send my Paeris raid timeline to you, but there was a problem.”
“What was that?”
Jorge held up a receipt. “Congress stole my homework.”

Urtug and Orinth started to laugh their heads off. After things calmed down, Urtug said, “How did that go over with your professor? This is Orinth Swordmaker, who really appreciated your Ishendell material.”
“The professor looked at the receipt and said that he accepted the receipt as a legitimate excuse. I rebuilt most of the paper from my notes and I had all of Paeris’s stuff and the references, so I decided to drop it off here, since you had asked for it. I thought that the timeline would be enough and you would want to edit the rest in any case.”

“Do you have time to tell us more about Ishendell?” Orinth asked. “The city has been a study of mine for a very long time, but it was hard to dig very deep on a very tight budget and I have not been able to visit more than two or three times.”

Jorge smiled. He pulled out a drawing tube and said, “Alinis told me about that and since I had had these done for other people, I had one done for you.”

Orinth opened  the tube and pulled out a large picture of Ishendell from the air. He looked at it, rolled it back up and said, “Thank you very much.”

“You probably know about the tram tunnels, but I decided to explore a side tunnel when we were stuck there and found the headquarters. Jorge’s boys found some keys and started to poke into the locked buildings, finding the ancient Portal Service headquarters and a component manufacturing plant. The Portal Service took over the headquarters and the Beinans are running the component plant and making parts for Scourge suppressors and other things there. Thanks to some people Scourging five cities, the boys weren’t able to do much more digging and Major Tollings was forced to send the boys home, so they are back to their regular lives.”

“I could talk to some friends and set up some archeological digs and poking around.”

“You can talk to Major Tollings about that. I think that there are all sorts of interesting things to find and the major can’t start on things himself because he is busy saving the world.”

Urtug who had been looking at the timeline and grinning, turned and said to Jorge, “We can go with this. You were right about cutting for editorial so what you have done is fine and with the stuff directly from Paeris, that will attract attention. How did you find him?”

“He asked me not spread around where he is. I have some friends who knew and they had told me, so I knew where he was. The place has had some nasty visitors and they don’t like people just poking around, so I’m going to keep where Paeris lives a secret. If someone wants to talk to him, they can go through his people and his office.”

“I can respect that. How did you get in?”

“I do a lot of work with dangerous things that make large booms and that means that I have all sorts of clearances. The people that pulled me over were impressed when I started pulling them out. Being the Portal Service’s go to for crazy stuff has paid off.”

“How did that start?”

“The Darkmage murdering my boss, me wanting to make a statement, a pilot crazy enough to go along, a rather scary flight to Grimfrost, an army restoring a portal and porting a companion to keep the Darkmage warm. For some reason, the Darkmage didn’t want to cuddle with Snuggles the bear.”

“Is Snuggles cuddly?” Urtug asked.

“Some people think so. She’s a good cook and there are some kids disappointed that she isn’t ported into the kitchen from time to time. I have sworn not to do that anymore and if my boss wants Snuggles to do a breakfast, he can talk my lady about that. Snuggles hasn’t quite got my boss’s disreputable servant to commit to a date yet, but that’s coming.”

Urtug and Orinth started to laugh and Urtug said, “That is worthy of a Carran story.”
“It will probably be in this year’s Winterfaire book.”  
The Arsenal, Cleadsgate.

Tom looked at the brief, at Peble and said, “Whatever happened to the classification fight? Jorge should have turned the paper in.”

Peble laughed. “You remember that Jorge handed Major Tollings the paper because the paper had statistics on the casualties of all the raids, the major used the paper in his testimony and did not have time to make a copy. He did get a receipt from the congressional records office, Jorge handed that to the professor and said, “Congress stole my homework. The excuse worked and Jorge has permission to transcribe the paper from the record when it is released.”

“Since the paper was not submitted in closed hearing and as classified it is declassified automatically and that is the end of that.”

“Yes it is. Of course the paper will remain buried in the record.”

Tom grinned. “Actually it won’t. Mother talked to me and Jorge submitted it to Imperial Studies with the rest of them. He rebuilt most of it and it was mostly the raid timeline that Jorge and Paeris put together.”
“That will be useful in clearing some things up. There are a lot of requests for information about raids that never happened.”

“Were you at the game?”
“I wasn’t able to go. Was it fun?”
“Navy lost, but Jorge had fun, even if he wasn’t visible and navy’s tosser was shaken more than a bit. Ironton must have somehow managed to get our playbook, but Seachaser actually pulled things back together and it made for an interesting game.”

“I have Seachaser’s assignment, by the way.”
“What is it?”

Diligent. Seachaser is going to be fifth officer and gunnery.”

Diligent has an obsolete popgun so that it can drive off lightly armed pirates and not much else. Where will she be going?”

“A six moon survey cruise off the Timberlands. Captains Bushbury and Pinch wanted a navy survey of the area and the Shahana are willing to partially fund the ship’s work, so the ship is going up there after Diligent finishes refit.”

“That actually sounds like an interesting commission for an ensign. Why Diligent and not the bowels of one of the ships in second battle squadron?”

“Thanks to your son’s efforts with Buships, second battle squadron has a semblance of adequacy and I thought that a six moon cruise in the cold would be good for young Mr. Seachaser. The commission is also a final test to see if the midshipman is recoverable. If he does well there, we can reevaluate him.”

“Good point. Diligent it is, then. It is also a good chance to see the Sanctuary, the Sanctum, Eryding and Eribelle. A good opportunity to do very well or very badly.”

“I thought so.”

Chapter 22.

The Lower City.

Fauna had insisted that Finch go to Balladrial’s new shop where dresses could be purchased and buy a nice thing for winter as well as a new cloak. She also forced her to bathe and wear just a touch of perfume. Looking Finch over, she smiled and said, “He’ll love it.”

“I’m so nervous.”

“He came back, looking for you. You are True and that is all that matters. Now go and get your life.”

“Would you come with me?”

“To the bakery. You can buy me something nice.”

Nat was waiting nervously at the bakery for Rilldia, dressed in an Umevan tunic and good trousers. A small carriage from the Qinvaris waited and he wasn’t sure how that had been arranged or who had made the arrangement. Two women appeared out of the mist and one was a vision in her dress and cloak. He realized that it was Rilldia at the same time that the other one pushed Rilldia forward and said, “There he is. I told you that things would be fine. He even has a carriage for you. Sir, you treat Finch well or you will be in trouble with me. I have brothers and my dad works at the palace, so you be good.”

Rilldia turned on the other girl and growled, “Fauna!” and then turned to Nat and said, “Where did you go?”

“They ported us to Lain Othrond when things were done. There was nothing I could do. Then we were locked in the downstairs and I couldn’t leave. Why don’t we go and I will explain.”

Nat handed Rilldia into the carriage and told the driver, “The tavern.”

The grinning driver slapped his reins on the horses and they were off to the portal. Rilldia said, “Where did you get this? The old elf?”

“I don’t know. That would not be a bad guess. The carriage belongs to House Qinvaris. I think that Naertho is worried that I would get assaulted again.”

“Did that happen?”
“Right after I saw you. That was why I didn’t chase after you.”

“I was afraid that you would see me, with this.” Rilldia pointed to her scar.

“That doesn’t matter. Who did that?”
“A boy, who was afraid of his scheming great grandmother. The Dowager Empress was using me as a tool.”
“You let her?”
“At the time it seemed like the thing to do, the witch was persuasive and had me convinced that pulling the prince’s strings would work. I was too forward and he was resistant, so I failed and the Dowager Empress dumped me back into the house with this.”

“If it bothers you that much, we can go to the Sanctuary and fix it. It makes no difference to me.”

“What did you do in Lain Othrond?”
“I watched the shop die while being commanded by a fool. Right up until the last days, when I saw that they were going to toss me and my friends to the other side so that we could disposed of and I made sure that they could not just dispose of us and the other folk of the Downstairs. Major Tollings arrived and made sure that the city was secure as the bosses compelled a friend to send the five devises through portals and kill five cities. Then young Tad brought Lord Umevan and he hired me.”
“The old elf?”
“He was there, but his grandson was the one who actually hired me. I have made arrangements to purchase your key if you would like.”
“The old elf already did. He wants you, and us, happy. He said that you have a big task.”

“It is. I have to dismantle what I built on the estate and that will be harder than it was to build it.”
“Then we undertake the project.”
“You have decided?”
“Yes. My life has hardly been joyful and I can’t let Fauna push me around.”

“Who is her father and does she have brothers?”
Rilldia looked sharply at the carriage driver and said, “Yes she does, brothers who work out on the farm, with the Qinvaris and can probably arrange to do things like borrow carriages.”

The driver turned his head around and said, “You got me, Finch. Fauna is my brother. I did get permission from Hagre to borrow the carriage for the afterten. The Qinvaris kids are beyond the romantic date stage for the most part, so these are available. I’m Dougal, by the way.”

“We are glad to have you, Dougal, even if you are Fauna’s spy.”

“Here we are at the tavern. Have a nice lunch.”

Nat escorted Rilldia into the tavern and they sat down to lunch. After they ordered, Nat asked Rilldia about her days and nights and she said, “Let us talk about what you have been doing. My nights were spent rather uncomfortably doing something I had grown far too tired of that doesn’t matter to anyone the hundredth it was over. The boredom led me to dark paths and most of the time was spent wanting you and what we had.”

“I wanted to have you with me. They would not let me take you with me. So I did not give them my best work. There was a lot of deception and not telling Dúhael what I should have. Of course that went both ways.”
“What about the others you worked with.”

Nat told Rilldia about the various denizens of the Downstairs. “My friends and I were kept isolated and hidden. I was able to get magazines from outside sent from the Republic and the Fellowship and that let me know of the world somewhat.”

“How did you know what to look for?”

“People would send in things they thought that Dúhael should know about. Of course Dúhael and the others ignored them for the most part since Dúnathron and Mórsairon were away on their island. Since the things were ignored, I started to read them and they became mine, so I had Strange Science and other things to read.”

“The isolation must have been terrible.”

“It was more frustrating than terrible. Dúhael did not tell me that the Project had withdrawn from the Sanctuary, for instance. I wasn’t told what I could do and I was watching the shop collapse as the demands on it grew toward the end. Then Tad came and he was able to give me an accurate picture of the circumstances outside the Downstairs. Then I was free and Jorge hired me.”

Rilldia started to laugh. “Was that fun?”
“Yes, it has been liberating. He will go off on sudden tangents and do amazing things.”

“He does love his pranks. Lunch is here so why don’t we make some plans.”

“Plans for what?”
“To travel, of course. The old elf has said that we could and I will hold him to that promise.”

Nat smiled. “We should, shouldn’t we? I have done some already, to Ishendell and back to Lain Othrond and then to the Mortal Kingdoms and the Scourged Cities. We can do better. You know the city here and we can share that.”

“Yes I can.”

After a wonderful afterten where Rilldia introduced Nat to the upper and lower cities, they ported through to the inn at the Qinvaris market for dinner and then Nat dropped off Rilldia at the house, she kissed him and he returned to the carriage and the portal. When she entered the house, Fauna intercepted her and said, “Why are you back?”

“He had to go back to the estate.”

“You couldn’t find a place for a night together?”
“You know, we were having such a good time that we didn’t try. There is no need to rush things and we were plotting other things. We have been to bed together and we wanted something else, I think.”

“At least you are not moping anymore.”

“You had your spy on us all day.”

“That was mother, not me. She will want you both at the Residence for dinner all too soon.”

“That will have to be after we see my mother at the estate. We only have to deal with Lord Umevan there as well. The old elf, that is. Jorge is off in the Republic.”

“In any case, I see that you had a very good time.”

“I did, indeed.”

Maethanar looked at Tony and said, “You look tired, but satisfied.”

“My father had his first contact with Jorge. He was rather frightened by the implications.”

“Those being?”
“I need to set the scene so you understand what was going on. You know that the old elf sent Jorge to college. Now, Major Tollings had to give up his boys, so he let them go and two of them turned right around and entered the Naval Academy, which is responsible for training marine officers. Tim Wavechaser showed up at induction in full uniform as a decorated marine sergeant, which he is. The midshipman captain had a fit and decided to make Tim his special project. Ok, Tim can handle twits. So the twit sends daddy, the congressman, Major Tollings’ file and at that point Jorge decides to let the twit know that Tim and the major have friends. He did that by arranging to steal the Academy bladderball team’s playbook.”

“I would guess that is a significant document usually protected.”

“Yes, so of course the various college teams run capers to obtain those books or spy on the opposing teams. None of the teams are Jorge and he put his caper together right under Sarya Steelmaker’s nose while she was in the room. Even she didn’t exactly know what was planned and how the thing was going to be pulled off. There were some hijinks when Major Tollings arranged with Queen Cécile for the boys to be knighted and The Empress sent Immianthe and Tad to award the Imperial star. In any case, Jorge’s antics made my dad nervous. The college bladder ball book is pretty big money and if Jorge is playing massive games, the way the book is scored would be way out of whack, even if Jorge doesn’t place any bets. Dad did one smart thing, call me down, and one stupid thing, have my nephew, Vince, have a “chat” with Jorge about the book. My nephew made things really stupid by sending two fellow bladder ball team members to persuade Jorge.”

“I take it that their methods were the kind that leave you bruised and bloody. Did they know who teaches such things here?”

“No. Of course Jorge beating up the two idiots and leaving was the best thing that could happen as because Immianthe had been staying at Jorge’s grandmother’s house and that evening was the last night’s dinner with the vice president, the secretary of state, most of the Umevan family, a bunch of other heavyweight families including the Harpers and the press, so Jorge showing up beaten and bloody would not have gone well for Vince, especially in Ironton with hundreds of Umevan employees looking for Vince’s hide. Even worse would have been if the idiots had seriously hurt or killed Jorge.”

“Your father would be getting heat from all sorts of people.”

“The Stewards had set off another Primary and wrecked a dragonkin neighborhood. The family could deal with a dragonkin war if we had to. What we couldn’t deal with would be the kind of all out war that the old elf would have inflicted. Anyway, after the game, I talked with Jorge and he wasn’t messing with the book or blowing it up. Dad told Vince to back off and stay off Jorge and his friends.”

“What will that do to your dad’s reputation?”
“It wouldn’t be as bad as Jorge being unleashed with the family as the target.”

Maethanar laughed. “That sounds like Jorge.”

“I think that the family is too used to having its own way in the Republic. The members that came up here seemed to get the picture, but the ones that didn’t come up here have been coddled and haven’t learned how to be persuasive without being a bully. Vince could have gone and tried to see if a deal could be made. Jorge’s friends were offering him a deal and he played heavy. What Vince didn’t understand was that Jorge hasn’t been afraid of me since he was a kid, so Vince isn’t going to rattle him a bit.”

Richard came in and said, “It looks as if everything ended well. Did you really need to charge down there on Jorge control, Tony?”

“Dad panicked. That was understandable. Jorge has been doing that to people since he was a kid. As it was, he kept things contained and pointed at the target.”

“Has Jorge’s other family made itself known?”

“Why do you ask? As far as I know, no they haven’t.”

“Tell your dad to look into Jorge’s other grandparents, discreetly.”

“What’s going on? Maethanar asked.

“Gander’s little fight made me think about some things and other people we know. Itireae poked something when Tad and Immianthe got together and mother says that Tad’s parents attracted some attention from some exiles. If you look at how Jorge does things, you can see the signs. Gander has them too, but he knows. I’m not sure if Jorge does. Talk to Itireae about her little project and tell her to be ready for some surprises.”

“You are being very cryptic, Richard.”

“You remember what I said about Gander and glamor. Now Fylson doesn’t show it and Jorge may. He is certainly very gifted at the sort of things that show certain traits.”

“Now you are being very cryptic.”

“Just wary. More about how our adversaries might react than anything else.”

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