The Trials of Slaves, Chapter 25-26

History Studies has an oops. Jomney’s daughter plays games with a count.

Chapter 25.

Beltain.

History Studies had their small office in the bowels of the just a bit larger Beltain University Press offices. The Journal’s editor in chief, Horal Beetgrinder looked up as his chief reviewer, Bertagh Margant came in and dropped a copy of Imperial Studies on his desk. He looked at it, looked at Geral and said, “What did they do this month?”
“We have a problem. Look at the cover.”

Horal looked at it and cursed. “We published the same paper.”

“It gets worse. It’s the same paper, different authors.”

“One of them is plagiarized. The question is whether it was us, or Urtug? Did you put the paper out for review?”

“It seemed tight, and the author was a Beltain Scholar student, so I did a quick look, and passed it. Most of the Navy stuff had been classified and I could hardly find Great Captain Zylvyre and ask.”

“Who is the author in Imperial Studies?”

“A Jorge Umevan. Apparently he’s a first year student at Ironton and supposedly put this together.”

“So the Imperial Studies paper was written by a firstie from Ironton? That makes the decision easy. We go ahead. The firstie plagiarized his paper for his class, and when it was done, sent it to Urtug, who didn’t vet it properly. We post a demand for retraction to the academic committee.”

“We might have to prove that the firstie had gotten his hands on Gilders’ paper before he submitted it. Since the paper has not been published, that’s going to be tricky.”

“We’re running a bluff. We can’t exactly come out and say we didn’t vet the paper and maintain our reputation and the journal is already at the printers. We could submit a notice of retraction but Gilders would be ruined and the reputation of Beltain University would be tarnished. That wouldn’t go over well here with some people. I don’t think that the firstie will want his paper looked at too closely and he has already gotten his grade.”

“I could call Orinth and see what they have.”
“I wouldn’t do that. That makes us look like we know something is wrong.”

Eldar looked at the copy of Imperial Studies on his desk and pressed the intercom. “Gertrud, have Tomas and Brigehold come to my office.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I want to know where Mr. Gilders obtained the sources for that paper he submitted to History Studies.”

“What happened?”
“Imperial Studies has arrived and the cover paper was a Paeris Zylvyre paper with a timeline that looked remarkably familiar. Either the paper was stolen from Mr. Gilders and Imperial Studies was sloppy, or Mr. Gilders somehow obtained the paper and published. I want to see if Mr. Gilders actually did the work that the paper represents, because if he cannot substantiate it, somebody is in a great deal of trouble and since I have not seen any evidence that Mr. Gilders knows the Great Captain, it probably is not the young author that submitted the piece to Imperial Studies.”

“I will call them in now.”

Tomas and Brigehold came in and Eldar pointed at the journal on the desk. “I want you to find Mr. Gilders and have him sit down and show you all the sources and work that was in the paper he recently presented to History Studies.”

Tomas picked up the magazine, opened it and looked at the paper. “Derry has a problem.”

“Indeed. I thought that paper appearing out of the blue was fishy, but I suspected that he pulled some testimony from a congressional committee, not plagiarized someone else’s work and claimed it as his own. We were lucky that Imperial Studies publishes earlier than History Studies.”

“Should I contact Alinis and see if she knows Jorge Umevan? For that matter, I think that we met him at House Qinvaris, Brigehold. He’s the crazy Portal Service guy and he does know the Great Captain. If the Beinans or the family sent him to college, this is the sort of thing he would do.”

“What do you mean?” Eldar said.

“He’s a student at Ironton and has been in the middle of all the things that Alinis has, so if Professor Xilynore assigned him the Great Captain’s raids, he might actually go and talk to him and do something like this. I imagine that the professor would find Jorge a little overwhelming, wouldn’t he, Brigehold?”
“If he had him in a class cold, he would be. He was there with some of his people at the Book Faire buying books. There were some interesting things going on around him when he was there. He took us around Ishendell and into the tunnels at the Beinan reunion.”

“I see why Imperial Studies was publishing his paper. He had first hand contact with sources.”

“He tells good stories too. As I said, he does crazy stuff for the Portal Service.”

“Then it is likely that he had access to the kind of resources that could produce this work. It remains to be seen if Mr. Gilders did as well.” 

 University of Ironton, Ironton.

Jorge was eating lunch when Vince sat down across from him and said, “Can we get off to a new start?”
Jorge looked at him rather coldly. “You are going to have to work at it. First you can tell your friends that if I even hear about beat downs of firsties and seconds on campus, they are in real trouble. If campus security needs to be augmented, I have some people that work for me that would probably be glad to do that if Shael tells them to.”

“Bears?”
“They can’t come. It’s too warm here. They do have some friends who aren’t as bothered by the heat. I don’t like playing that way, so you should ask your Uncle Tony what I can do without portals.”

“I screwed up, all right! I admit it. I should have used a different approach.”

“Frank and I both said that you could go to a connection and get what you wanted. You don’t think that we are foolish enough to just blurt things out in the lunch room, do you?”
“You tell stories about the things you did all the time.”

“I tell stories about the things I did, as in things that are already over. The Darkmage is dead, one son works for the Champion in the Orcenlands and the other is on the run with a worldwide execution order on his head. So, me telling stories about the Darkmage is fine, especially with a little Paeris in there to add some spice. I will even tell the story about creating a circus and infiltrating the town of some nasty people to extract my slave, Tad, since those nasty people also have worldwide execution orders.”

“You did that for a slave?”
“Yes I did. In Tad’s case there were very good reasons for that, as he is probably worth about the same as the bladder ball book if I were crazy enough to sell him, which, since I handed him his key, I can’t do.”

“Why is he worth so much?”
“Because he is very good at finding things that people are willing to pay large sums of money for.’

“What, for instance?”
“How much steel was produced in the Republic in a given year and how many ships the navy can build? How many people live in a town and if there are extra mouths being fed. If a place has a Scourge devise launch point. The location of the Mage Queen’s lab in the Empire. All things worth money to somebody.”

“Why did somebody want to know where the Mage Queen’s lab was?”
“That is confidential, because the client has an ongoing project that required that information.”

“Is that what you meant when you said that you were in the information business.”
“Yes.”

“Why go after Navy’s playbook?”
Jorge smiled. “It was fun, if you don’t practice, you get sloppy, Seachaser was going after friends of mine and somebody asked me to play.”
“Who?”
“That is confidential, but the man who wanted me to play could not take action against Seachaser at this point, he was rather annoyed that Seachaser was going after my friend and suggested that I would make points here by getting my hands on certain information, especially if I could pull it off without it being known that I did it.”

“Why are you telling me now?”
“Because Navy’s coach knows that the playbook is compromised and that means that the value of keeping that fact secret has gone. I expected to get at least two games out of the caper, but the coach wasn’t an idiot and Seachaser isn’t as dumb as I thought.”

Vince smiled. “What if I wanted in?”
“No beating the twit up. I want the full effect of what’s going to drop on him after graduation to hit.”

“There other things to do.”
“No planting illegal substances or such.”
“You are not much fun.”

“You could ask the Darkmage about that, but he’s dead. For a while, during the conclave after Darkmage had taken over, we were fairly regularly putting things that would disappear in the Darkmage’s quarters, albeit we had portals.”

“It wasn’t just the bear?”

“No. We were trying to make the Darkmage look crazy and erode his support, but I think that he figured part of it out and just ignored the sendings while his toys powered up and General Headbasher schemed to take over the Peninsula. Everybody was sure he was crazy anyway by that point so the effect was rather diminished.”

“So what will we send?”
“You probably have ideas. Other than snakes, what ticks him off? What is he always complaining about, that sort of thing. Frank and Tolly don’t move in his circle and you and the rest of the team do. He’s probably played since his second year and you and the rest of the team have been bumping into him and his teammates. You know the other teams and what they think of him. I can’t believe that he was midshipman friendly, right up to Tim’s induction and then suddenly decided to go after Tim because he was wearing a uniform.”

“Where did you learn to do things this way?”
“I had good teachers, starting with your Uncle Tony, who is very good at keeping track of problems.”

“Were you a problem?”
“I assert my right to be silent, since I am in the Republic. You can ask your Uncle Tony. Of course Tony had leverage that you don’t because he could tell mother, or Mrs. Lion would.”

A student walked up, looked at Vince, shrugged and said, “Are you Jorge Umevan?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Chris Filster. Your mother and my mother are sisters.”

“So you are my cousin. Why did you look me up now?”

Chris pulled a fancy envelope out and handed it to Jorge. “You have been invited to one of grandmother’s teas.”

Jorge opened the envelope, looked at it and said, “I can’t make it.” He handed the envelope back. “I have other plans that are rather important. This is in Chatsrey and that is in the opposite direction.”

Chris looked at Jorge and said, “Grandmother isn’t going to like that.”

Jorge looked at Chris and Vince, who looked rather nervous. “What am I missing here? I have never met the lady and the person she should be annoyed at is mother.”
“She’s sore at Aunt Lidia for not stopping by when she was here, but you are here and not going home anytime soon. So, you get the invitation.”

“Chatsrey is the better part of a day, by the time you either take the train or drive both ways. The problem is that I have another appointment that is rather important. Tell grandmother to set up a time with Shael at the house or my other grandmother. I’m sorry, but my time is full and I have obligations that I can’t drop, especially for someone I have never met.”

Chris handed the envelope to Jorge. “I’ll tell her, but she isn’t going to be happy.”

Chris left and Jorge turned to Vince and said, “This sounded like an invitation that I couldn’t refuse.”

Vince looked at him and said, “It might be worse. As Chris said, you are going to be here. I think that the lady is sore at your mother, but your mother isn’t here.”

Jorge sighed. “I think that I see the problem. Dad’s side of the family got the family’s attention and my other grandparents became part of our lives with the things going on. Dad came down and made a splash and my other grandmother found out about it. Mother didn’t get a chance to stop and say hello and didn’t have us kids with her in any case. Chris told his grandmother about me and she sent this. Maybe Shael can go, but I have some important and delicate negotiations ongoing and I can’t just drop them.”

“What for?”

“A wedding present. At least that is what it will be.”

“I hope that your grandmother understands. Melrithe Allred isn’t one to take no for an answer. Are we good?”

“I think so. Does my grandmother know Mrs. Steelmaker?”
“I wouldn’t know, why?”

“Because I don’t want the Richflights picking me up again.”

“The Richflights?”

“Don’t ask. At least I know them.”

“What did they do?”
“Took me and handed me to the Darkmage. They caught me by surprise and ported me to the Great Captain and his secret island base. The Darkmage was there and wanted to punish me, but Paeris and Herdir made the point that if I was being tortured, I would not be very cooperative. The annoying part was that it was just before the Empress’s ball that ended the Conclave, I had to do some shuffling of Scourge devises so that the ones that weren’t going to go boom ended up in Chatsrey and some other places and the ones that would go boom got sent to the Deadlands. Then Paeris sent me to Oceanside.”
“The beach is nice there. The family has a get together there every year.”

“The beach is nice, but Shael came down, with Snowball, in full high elf lady regalia right from the Empress’s tea and dragged me out of setting up some portal work for some people and off to the Conclave ball. That was rather embarrassing. Think of high elf comedy at its worst at the beach in Oceanside with the lifeguards knowing who Shael was.”

“What did Snowball do?”

“Snowball is a winter hunting guide as well as guardchief. He was chatting away with the local trooper chief talking about setting up a hunting trip up in Grimfrost. He just went for a swim, and followed us back to the portal so that we could port back to the palace.”
Vince started to laugh and said, “I have to go. Watch out for yourself.”

Chatsrey.

Melrithe put the phone down, turned to her husband and said, “Lidia’s son turned down my invitation, Glant.”
Glantial Allred looked up from his paper and said, “Did Chris explain?”
“He said that the boy had another appointment.”

“He is an Umevan and comes from up there at the estate. He could be conducting some business. Why don’t you wait and see if you can make other arrangements.”
“Lidia came and didn’t come to see us.”

“The Umevan had her and her husband’s attention. I understand that they got involved in that incident with the thing in Ironton and some other things here in Chatsrey. So they were busy and couldn’t make time for us.”

“The boy has been ignoring us.”
“He is starting college in foreign country, making friends and doing the sorts of things that college students do, as well as whatever the family wants. Why don’t you wait?”

“Chris says that he play pranks.”

“The boy doesn’t even know that you exist. He isn’t going to be playing a prank on you, that is, unless you get his attention. Mel, why don’t you send to his other grandmother and find out if you can get together.”

“With the Umevan? I’m not sure why Lidia would marry one.”

“Lidia was taken in a slave raid when we lived in the south. That was twenty five years ago. Presumably Fylson Umevan purchased her and things happened.”

“I think that Lidia got on the boat voluntarily.”

“I doubt that. In any case, you shouldn’t take out your anger at our daughter on the boy.”

“I want to see him.”

“Mel dear, you are going about this the wrong way. The problem isn’t whether you want to see the boy, but whether he wants to see you.”

“He should want to. He should have stopped by.”

“He didn’t even know where we live.”

“Lidia should have told him.”
“Lidia doesn’t know where we live.”

“She could have found out.”

“She was a slave. Slaves can’t exactly find out when people in other countries move.”

“She came down and went back. She could have looked us up.”

Glant sighed. “You’re going to send the boys to pick Jorge up, aren’t you?”
“I was considering it.”

“He probably won’t like that very much. That is hardly the best way to start a relationship.”

“He refused the invitation.”

“Yes he did. He refused to drop whatever he was doing to go to an event that most young men avoid like a plague. He didn’t know who you were and he isn’t going to change what he was doing just because you wanted him to. Maybe, just once, you should consider and arrange something that he wants.”

“How will I know what he wants if I have never met him.”

  “Mel, just let it go. Ask Chris to find out more and maybe, just maybe accept that you can’t just push people around on a whim.”

George looked at Jorge and grinned. “Still in the dog house, major?”
“As far as some people know, yes.”

“Where did you get these wonderful aerials of the city?”
“The Umevan estate in the Empire. They are leftovers from eyes in orbit that the people that scourged the five cities had and Admiral Harper destroyed to render some people blind. There is a machine that can produce prints of pictures of anywhere in the world.”

“Run by young Tad.”
“You knew about it?”
“Yes, but we hadn’t seen the pictures,” Thaetmaeg said.

“Why did you want me to talk to you?”

Thaetmaeg held up a picture of a shattered truck and tow truck. “We found the real target for the Stewards. This truck was being towed after being ticketed. The truck had been parked across the street from the Crystal Palace.”

“That actually makes a sick kind of sense. The Steward was probably offended by the place. Why did the truck not go off?”

“That is the interesting part. We think that there is a Scourge suppressor near the Crystal Palace and it stopped the primary from going off until the tow truck got out of the protected area.”

“Where is the Scourge suppressor?”
“We think it is in that vault below the Claringbold townhouse but we aren’t going to poke in there right now. We would rather that the Steward not know that the thing even exists.”

“I have most of my people here now.”

“What if they look into Ishendell and see them gone?”
“My uncle has taken Collector on a shakedown with some landing craft and some marines aboard, the transformed are still in Ishendell and other places in the Empire doing various things and there is that new company being trained, so there are people shifting around. Meanwhile I am here, briefing the admiral, the commandant and others about my failures.”

George and Thaetmaeg grinned. Thaetmaeg said, “That was confusing us, let alone the enemy.”

The Lower City.

Lidia looked at the message, turned to Fylson and said, “Shael wants to know about mother.”

“You haven’t said very much about her over the years.”
“She wouldn’t like it that we are married.”

“Why not?”

“This goes back to the family’s exile. The problem is that mother imprinted on Lielatha. Only she can be worse.”

“I haven’t met the lady. I suspect that you took steps so that we wouldn’t when we were in the Republic, that boat trip, rather than the portal and the airplane, for instance.”

“I was saving you. Dad isn’t bad, my brother isn’t and neither is my sister, but there are times that I think that I got on the Ravathyra ship deliberately.”

“It worked out for me. Very well, in fact.”

Lidia kissed her husband. “Even better for this slave. Now off you go and get to the shop. There are probably early Winterfaire shoppers.”

Fylson laughed. “Now who is the slave and who is the slave driver?”
“The one who isn’t late to his shop.”

Ironton.

Jorge dressed in a suit, and checked his briefcase for the material for his first class on portals in Desert Howl. He had included some microportals, some of the tainted coin from the Five Cities and a radiation scanner. He was sure that there would be one on the other end, but he wanted to do a good show. Picking up his small portal in its case and the briefcase he walked out of the dorm to his car. When he started to get in, he noticed that a tire was flat. Cursing, he looked at the rear tire and it was flat as well. Annoyed, he turned to head back to the dorm and a large man said, “We can give you a ride.”

“I have it handled.”
A car pulled up, and the man said, “It will be faster if you go with us.”

The door opened and Jorge was pushed into the car. Two men sat on either side of him and the car drove off. Jorge said, “People are going to be looking for me.”
“We’re not going to hurt you, just take you where you are supposed to go.”

Jorge sighed. He had forgotten about the invitation, Chris and Vince’s warning. He had also gotten out of the habit of carrying a gun here in the Republic. One of the men said, “I hear that you are the Portal Service’s crazy. Did you really port a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters in the Imperial Palace?”

“That wasn’t the crazy part. The crazy part was flying up to Grimfrost to do that.”

As long as Jorge was stuck in a car, he might as well entertain the crowd.

When Jorge didn’t show up in the car, Shael called for Bill, the driver for the house, and was driven over to the dorm, where Jorge’s car was still there, with two flat tires and no Jorge. Shael went up to the dorm and knocked on the door, but Jorge’s roommates said that he had left a long time before. She returned to the car and thought about the tea and the invitation. She had Bill drive her back to the house and then went to Jorge’s grandmother’s house. Ara came out the door as the car drove up and said, “What happened to the plane, Shael?”
“Not the plane, Jorge. He didn’t show up to pick me up, two tires on his car were flat and no Jorge. Then there is this.”

Shael held up the invitation. “Jorge got this and the tea is today.”

Ara looked at it and said, “Mel.”

“You know her?”
“Yes, and we do not get along. When she doesn’t get her way, she reverts to the old Empire, more or less like Lielatha.”

“She kidnapped Jorge.”

“She won’t call it that.”

“Jorge will be rather annoyed. This was his first portal class in Desert Howl. How far is the tea? Perhaps I can keep Jorge’s other grandmother from making a big mistake.”

Ara smiled. “He wouldn’t.”

“Yes, he would. If not this thing, the next time he gets one of those invitations. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame him a bit and this time the Justiciar boys won’t be there.”

“I will arrange a car in Chatsrey and you can fly up. That will be faster and you can get there before they haul Jorge in.”

“That will work.”

Route 18, Freiberg.

The car pulled into a gas station and Tiny said, “Do you need to take a leak, Jorge?”
Vinnie said, “What’s that noise?”

Jorge listened and said, “I need to get something out of my briefcase.”

“What for?”
“You remember how I said that there were crazy things that I couldn’t talk about? That is my radiation scanner alerting on something nearby. It might be something fairly innocuous or it might be a nasty large boom. In any case, I need to check it out and make some calls if it turns out to be something.”
“The lady won’t be happy,” Tiny said.
“If I let this go, it won’t be the lady pissed at you, Tiny, it will be the President, George Stonebreaker, Admiral Harper and some folks you do not want sore at you. Now you can let me get this done or we can drive up to the lady’s tea with me calling for cops, loudly and getting you, and the lady busted for kidnapping and obstruction. Then we will be right back here, dealing with this, one way or another.”

Vinnie came back with the briefcase and Jorge took the scanner out. He waved it around and the noise increased in one direction. He looked at the dilapidated concrete building and walked closer to the door as the scanner started to get louder. Turning around, he looked at the two men and said, “We won’t be making it to my grandmother’s tea. I need to get to a phone.”

He walked over to the gas station and asked the clerk, “This is an emergency. I need to use your phone.”

“The pay phone is outside.”

Jorge looked at the Harpoil sign and grinned. He pulled out his ID folder and said, “This is a clearance from Navy Ordnance. We have a potential very large boom in that shed over there. Now I could waste time with the pay phone and then, when I talk to Little Mike, I can tell him that I had no cooperation when I was dealing with the large booms. Or I can tell Little Mike how cooperative you were.”

The phone appeared like magic. Jorge dialed for the operator and said, “Operator, I will need to speak with navy ordnance in Cleadsgate, then the Office of Inanimates in Chatsrey and the local police, in that order.”

The operator put Jorge through to navy ordnance, Jorge got through to Rob’s office and said, “Captain, this is Jorge Umevan. I have a radiation scanner with me and it lit off at a gas station on Route Eighteen near Freiberg. There is probably at least one Primary here.”

“Ok, we’ll get on the road. I thought you were teaching a portal class.”
“My grandmother had other ideas. If this is what I think it is, that was a good thing. I need to call Thaetmaeg.”

Jorge hung up and then got through to Thaetmaeg. “Thaetmaeg, this is Jorge Umevan. I’ve already called Rob and it looks as if I have found at least one Primary. I had a radiation scanner and it lit off. I’m at a gas station on Route 18, near Freiberg.”

“We’ll be on the way.”

Jorge’s third call was, “Police.”

“Officer, I am Jorge Umevan. I am at the gas station on route 18 near Freiberg. I have a radiation scanner and it appears that we have at least one Scourge devise Primary. I am requesting officers to secure it and a bomb squad if you have one. Notify the Federal Service.”

“Who are you and why should we believe you?”
“I am the Senior Portal service technician responsible for Scourge devises. I can show clearances and identification when the officers arrive and I have called naval ordnance and the Office of Inanimates already, so specialists are on their way. I just want police to secure the area until they arrive.”

“Ok, a car is on the way, and this had better not be a joke.”
“I’ve seen Scourge devises go off. This isn’t a joke.”

Jorge handed the phone to the rather scared looking station attendant. The attendant looked at him and said, “Do you really think that some of those things are in that shed?”
“I hope that it’s a false alarm and something that we didn’t know was radioactive, but I think that there is at least one Primary stashed there.”

“What happens if it goes off?”
“We won’t know. There won’t be enough to find to put on the fire.”

Jorge went back outside and said to the three men, “If you see a car or truck that you think looks fishy, let me know.”

“What are we looking for?”
“The Stewards might have somebody watching the shack. If they think that the things are threatened, they may take some actions.”

“Guns?”

“Probably. If somebody does show up before the cops do, we are just getting gas. If they do bring a truck, I have a way to track it.”

A cop car showed up with two officers and a skeptical looking sergeant. He strode up and said, “Which one of you called in?”

Jorge said, “I did, sergeant. He pulled out his ID folder, handed it to the officer and said, “I work with Navy ordnance and the radiation lab as the Portal Service Technician in charge of porting Scourge devises to where they can go off and not hurt anybody.”

“You seem to be very young for that job.”
“Most Portal Service outside technical people are young. I fell into my current job by being in the right place at the right time. I have sent more Scourge devises through portals than anyone else in history, almost all of them to the Deadlands.”

“Can you prove your suspicion?”
Jorge waved the radiation scanner around and it lit up when it was pointed at the shed. “We heard it start to beep in the car while we were getting gas.”

“What were you doing?”

“I was going to meet my grandmother. I had the scanner and some other things because I was catching a plane afterwards to the south to teach a portal course at Beinan’s.”

“Ok, you seem legit. The Feds are on the way and they have a bomb squad.”

“They need to wait and not touch these things. Unless you know what you are doing, they can be dangerous even if they don’t go off. As of now, I am in charge until the specialists get here.”

A twentieth went by, Jorge handled a police department lieutenant and other officers arrived. Jorge made sure that no one went near the shack.

A car from the Federal Service arrived, and ignoring Jorge, the agents got out and said, “What do you have, lieutenant?”
“The young man here says that we could have Scourge devise Primaries.”
“Did you verify that?”

“Special agent, the young man has been rather emphatic that we wait for specialists before looking any closer.”

“Have you taken the young man’s statement?”
“He has Naval Ordnance ID. He’s been running the show.”

The special agent looked at Jorge and said, “You let him?”
“He seemed to know what he was talking about. He’s already called in people from Navy Ordnance and the Office of Inanimates.”

The special agent looked at the lieutenant as if he was something that had stuck on the agent’s shoe, turned to Jorge and said, “You can run along now, young man.”

Jorge looked at the agent and said, “I am not leaving until such time as the site is secure and the devises are under the control of qualified specialists, which you are not. What are your names?”

“I am Special Agent Clowder and this is Special Agent Stonecracker. What gives you the authority to handle this crime scene?”

“The President. There is an international agreement that Scourge devises and Primaries are to be handled that way because of the extreme risks involved. If you start playing with the devises, thousands could be killed. Until such time as Scourge devise trained personnel arrive, I, as the only Scourge devise trained person here, am in charge. Is that clear, special agent?”

“We haven’t even verified that Scourge devises are present.”
“Special agent, I have experience with the devises. This isn’t a crime scene. This is one or more devises that places the area at extreme risk. The last group of Primaries that were discovered were booby trapped. Booby trapping a Primary means that you aren’t dealing with a truck bomb. You are dealing with a bigger boom than that, a lot bigger. If there are cans on the Primaries, there could be thousands and square miles dead if the things go off. I am not going to look inside that shed until the specialists get here and I am not going to allow anyone else to either. I don’t want to discover that the shed was rigged and I killed me and the town the hard way.”

“That’s an exaggeration.”

“Special agent, when this is over, I will have you and your partner get a free trip to the Mortal Kingdoms and some other Scourge hot spots and then you can tell me if I was exaggerating or not. Right now our task is to secure the devises until the specialists get here and not play around with things that can kill you even if they don’t go off.”

“I need to make a call.”
“Do that, Special Agent. Call the Office of Inanimates and see what they tell you.”

The bomb squad arrived, Jorge waved his ID and the radiation scanner around and told them about the devises found in Chatsrey. Finally after a tense two twentieths, Rob arrived and took over. As his people started to poke around, Rob walked over to Jorge and said, “Good work keeping the clowns under control.”

“I was scared that the Feds would open that garage and the things would go off.”

Chief Ironcutter walked over and said, “We are in and the shed wasn’t rigged. The good news is that we have four Primaries here, stashed and hidden, but they didn’t rig them. The bad news is that there were two cans in that shed. Why are you here, Jorge? Last I heard, you were going down to Desert Howl and teaching a portal class.”

“My grandmother invited me to a tea and was rather insistent that I show up. We stopped for gas and the radiation scanner I had taken for the class started to make noise. So I called you in. The clowns showed up on their own. The cops called them. The bomb squad seemed to be on the ball, at least they knew enough to back off until you arrived.” 

Thaetmaeg arrived and Jorge walked over. “Tell the feds’ boss that when there are suspected Scourge devises involved, the dick waving stops and if the kid is trained to handle the things, he’s in charge until the senior people get here.”

“They tried to give you the brush off.”

“Yup. They were so eager to take charge that they didn’t pay attention to the realities of the situation. I was afraid that if Joe, Tiny, Vinnie and I drove off to my grandmother’s tea, we wouldn’t be clear before one of the clowns did something they shouldn’t and things went boom. If you can, arrange for the clowns to get a tour of the Mortal Kingdoms and the Scourge hot spots. They thought that I was exaggerating.”

“How did your grandmother’s tea enter into the picture? I thought that you were on your way to Beinan’s in Desert Howl.”
“Grandmother would not accept no for an answer and sent the boys to collect me. They were polite about it, I decided to play along, then we all ran into this and I had bigger concerns.”

“Good job keeping a lid on this.”  

“I was stuck in the middle and there were so many ways that they could have messed things up. I’m sure that the Stewards have eyes on this shed and if they sent shooters into retrieve the things, we could have had a big mess with a Scourge devise going off in the middle. I think that until you see a dead area, you don’t really appreciate what you are playing with.”

“Speaking of the Fed’s boss, here he is with my boss.”

George walked over with a man and said, “Director Sunbeam, this is Jorge Umevan. Jorge this is Director Henri Sunbeam of the FSA.”
“You are rather young for taking charge here, young man. Why did they let you?”
“Because I obviously knew what I was talking about, Director. Frankly, I was the only one here qualified to deal with the things without making a huge mess.”
“Mostly by leaving the things alone until the ordnance people showed up.”
“Director, unless I was absolutely sure that the shed was not booby trapped and the devises rigged to go off, I wasn’t going to play with the shed and I certainly wasn’t going to allow anyone else to play and get us all killed. I am not an ordnance specialist and while I have been trained at the Radiation lab to dismantle a Primary at need, it is better to have specialists when there is a concern that a Primary is modified or rigged to explode. I’ve been playing with these things and if I had had a Scourge suppressor and portal available, I would have handled things differently. Since I didn’t have either of those things, I made sure that the shed was secure and waited for Rob.”

“Director, we will get together and develop a procedure for handling devises that are encountered like this. Jorge was not planning to deal with Scourge devises and other than the radiation scanner, he did not have any of the equipment for dealing with the devises.”

“Why did you have the radiation scanner with you, young man?”
“I was driving up to a tea at my grandmother’s and then flying to Desert Howl to teach a course in portal maintenance and operation at Beinan’s. The radiation scanner was part of the course. It started to make noise in the gas station and I realized that there must be Scourge devise Primaries in the shed.”

“Why didn’t you move on when my people wanted you to?”
“Director, they were not qualified to handle a Scourge devise site. I was. If I had continued on, there is a very good chance that by meddling, or even just opening the shed door a devise would have gone off and in that case, I was dead anyway. If I asserted control I could prevent stupid accidents.”

A long elegant car pulled into the gas station as Jorge and the others prepared to leave, the massive driver talked to the gas jockey and then walked past Jorge and quietly said, “Thanks for covering for me. The cops and what not were so busy looking at you, so they never even noticed me moving in.”

“Not a problem. Did you find the eyes?”

“They ran. Have you noticed that the gas station manager never butted in. He went next door and made a call. Who are these three?”

“They work for my grandmother. They are all right. They had the sense to not force certain things when things got bad. Shael has probably beaten me to grandmother’s, so I need to get going.”

Jorge and the others pulled out of the gas station and Tiny asked, “Who was that?”
“If you don’t know, you don’t need to know. The cat in the car should have been a clue.”

“Was that Lissia?”
“Yes.”

“He wasn’t just a driver, was he?”

“The President was not happy with the Director’s clowns and called in some people.”

“What are we in the middle of? I think that we should have taken you to the airport.”
“Right now I am glad you didn’t and what you are in the middle of is a very nasty, very ugly war, with things like that as part of it. The good news is that the Steward only has five Primaries left. The bad news is that the Steward has Scourge devise cans that we did not know he had.”

“Why is that worse than the Primaries?”
“A Pirmary going off will smash a neighborhood. A primary in a can and you get the full Scourge. That kills a city. Do you guys know a good place to grab a bite? Somehow I don’t think that we are going to make Grandmother’s tea. I’ll buy.” 

Chatsrey.

Shael arrived at the tea and an ecstatic Melrithe introduced the elegant elf girl to her various friends and they had a long chat about Jorge until the tea wound down, with no Jorge arriving and no calls. Then Shael sat down with Mel, Glant and their daughter and son, with some grandchildren for dinner. Finally a car was heard and Jorge and three other bedraggled men walked in. Shael looked at Jorge and said “Where have you been?”

“You seem to be getting along.”
“That doesn’t excuse you being gone for Twentieths with no word.”

“We ran into something that needed to be taken care of on the way here. It involved Rob and the rest.”

“How many?”
“Four and two cans. I had my radiation scanner in the car and it lit up in a gas station. I called Rob and the office and then the cops, who called the Feds, who showed up and started a pissing contest. I was able to keep a lid on it until Rob showed up and could take charge. When things were over, I took the boys to dinner and we came here.”

“The Stewards had cans?”
“Yes. How they got here is a mystery, but they were in the shed with the other things.”

“Where did this happen, Vinnie?” Glant asked.

“At a gas station on Route 18 near Freiberg. That thing that Jorge had started to beep and I asked Jorge about it. He waved it around and it really started to make noise. Jorge went into the gas station and started to make calls. Then we were in a whole new world with Jorge running the show and shouting down Feds until the other guys showed up. By the time things were over, there was no point in coming here and we all hadn’t had lunch and were hungry, so we went and found a place to eat.”

“What was this about?” Mel asked.

“If Jorge isn’t saying, I’m not going to, Ma’am. Frankly, you are better off not knowing. Jorge will you need the car?”
“Vinnie, you and the boys go home. Shael can take me to the hotel if that is what we are doing. I’ll grab a cab in the morning.”

The boys left, Jorge turned to Mel and said, “Grandmother, if you do something stupid like that again, I think I will have to change my mind about you.”
The aghast Mel said, “What do you mean?”
“You had the boys grab me this morning, so I didn’t fly down to Desert Howl and run my portal class, the thing I had made the appointment for that you diverted me from. As a result we found four things and they won’t go boom like the one in that neighborhood in Chatsrey. So the diversion was a good thing and all’s well that ends well.”

A little boy said, “I’m your nephew Glen and Shael told all sorts of stories about you. Do you really know Jorge the Pirate?”
“Yes I do. Actually, I saw him and his wife in a car at the gas station today, but he was disguised, so we didn’t talk.”
“What was he doing?”
“I can’t say, as it is secret right now.”

“What about the Great Captain?”
“I was going to see him today and your grandmother wanted me here. I called down and I will see him tomorrow.”
“Could we come?”
“That is a bit tricky. The Great Captain has a lot of enemies and where he lives has a lot of secrets, so you have to have special clearance to go there now. I could ask and see if he will invite you. I will be flying down for more classes frequently, so it may be possible. He is an interesting character to know.”

“Why did you fly up to Grimfrost with a dragon.”
“Because I didn’t know how to fly a plane then. Iezzen was my pilot.”

“Did you really beat up an army?”
“Not exactly. We had what they called a ferry tank with gas in it so that Iezzen could fly the plane to Grimfrost and back to Freywick after I jumped out. We dropped the ferry tank and it landed on a very important thing for an army, the kitchens. So the army couldn’t cook food.”

“The kitchens are important?”
“Very. A starving army is one that can’t fight.”

“Why did you come here for college?”
“My other grandfather insisted and some people want classes in things like portals that I do. So I came down.”
“Shael says that your father makes toys. Will he bring some?”
“I don’t know. He did bring some for my other family, but that was because they came up to the estate and he knew them. I could send and see. This is the shop’s slow time of the year, so he may make some for you. If you tell me your special things, I will ask. Have you been to the mermaid dancing lately?”

“No, should we go?”
“One of my father’s very special toys was purchased by a young man for his girlfriend and it is there. Also, the dollhouse is on exhibit here and that has a lot of my father’s things in it. Between my dad and Folmon Beinan, most of the dollhouse is their work.”

“Do you make toys?”
“I did, but I got a job playing with portals. So I stopped and then we recovered the estate and the jobs keep getting bigger. I don’t have a shop here in the Republic, so I will not be making anything here right now. On the other hand, I will need a shop or access to one for class and other things, so I will see what I can do.”

The evening broke up and as Shael and Jorge prepared to leave, Mel said, “I owe you an apology, Jorge. I should not have forced the issue with the boys, but I was afraid that you would never come. I should have considered that you did not turn down my invitation for trivial college things. These classes sound important.”
“They are. I don’t know how much you know about the five cities, but the plant in Ishendell needed people with skills that had been lost to make the parts for Scourge Suppressors that are now active in most of the cities in the Mortal Kingdoms and the Empire. A young man asked me if there was a book on portals and there isn’t one because the Empire has forgotten books and the rest of the world can’t use the portals, though that has changed. There are other things that I couldn’t just tell Chris about in the lunch room because I don’t know where people like the Stewards and the Friends of the Inquisition have eyes and ears. I had to say no, I couldn’t go to a tea with family I hadn’t yet met, but I couldn’t tell Chris, who I didn’t know either what I was going to be doing or where I was going. The Stewards have already launched a Primary at the Beinan plant there and while it missed, there were still some deaths. Your grandson asked about Jorge the Pirate, and I did see him today with Lissia playing the pampered cat. That was deadly serious and he was covering me in case the Stewards showed up to recover their toys. He was doing that because Director Sunbeam seems to be more worried about jurisdiction fights than protecting people.”

“This was a wonderful day, Shael, and I know that you will keep in touch. Jorge, I like you already”

Jorge and Shael got in the car and Glant turned to Mel and said, “Did he pass the test?”

“Very much so. You could tell that the boys liked him very much already and while I’m not so sure what happened today, his comments about Director Sunbeam were apt. He also didn’t raise a fuss about being hauled off here and he impressed the grandchildren.”
“They wanted toys from Fylson.”
“Of course they did, and Jorge seemed to think that was fair. I think that Lidia and I need to patch things up.”
“He carries the traits, then.”
“Very much so.”

Thatmaeg looked at George and said, “Did you arrange for that Jackass Sunbeam to show up?”
George grinned. “If I did?”
“Things were bad enough before he got there.”
“How did Jorge take control.”
“He had it right from the start and never let it go. He didn’t capitulate when special agent clown and special agent idiot showed up, and by the time the bomb squad arrived, he was clearly in charge.”

“Where did those three characters he was with come from?”
“He gave us a clue. His other grandmother and that tea he kept talking about. You and I both know that a ladies’ tea was not what he was planning and he is supposed to tell us and Rob if his plans changed so we can call him in for things like this. The grandmother forced the issue and Jorge played along so that things wouldn’t get out of hand with his family. When he ran into the Steward’s stash, he had other priorities, so instead of working for grandmother, the characters were working for Jorge.”

“That was interesting.”
“Yes it was.”

Orinth came into Urtug’s office holding a letter in his hand and said, “The Academic Committee wants sources and references or a retraction.”

“On what paper?”
“The Paeris raid timeline.”
“That’s strange. I doubt that anyone else was even looking at that the way Jorge was.”

“So which is it?”

“We fight. Jorge did that work and he hasn’t tried to fight where he got the material. If we have to, we can ask Jorge to get something from the Great Captain, but right now, whoever made the request to the board had better have something more than air. We were first to publish any way. Who do you think had the paper?”

“History Studies. The only places that paper was even seen was us, and Congress. Professor Xilynore hasn’t seen the paper, because he agreed to wait for the Congressional Record. So it’s us and Congress and if a Scholar student was working in the Congressional Record office and snagged the paper figuring that it was publishable, but that a firstie couldn’t get it published, they might use it as an easy publish requirement. We messed that up by getting out first and somebody’s playing games.”

“The problem they have is that the paper will show up in the Congressional record with Jorge’s name on it and everything will be obvious then.”

Professor Salmorlun Shieldslasher looked at the other members of the Academic Committee and said, “We sent the request. Imperial Studies has filed a counter demand for retraction and says that the author showed the proofs to them.”

Lucian Napper said, “The author of the Imperial Studies is a first year, History Studies only accepts work from Scholar students or professors. It is easy to see who made the error.”

Shieldslasher looked at Lucian and said, “According to Urtug at Imperial Studies the author knows the Great Captain and used connections to request other material from the navy and Barrister Harper’s office. Urtug said that the paper was sourced from original material and public records and the sources that were vetted, checked.”

Bill Tennial coughed and said, “Perhaps both papers should be retracted. The Imperial Studies paper seemed to have some errors that were fairly significant.”

“How so?” Sal asked.

“Several noteworthy raids that have been part of the literature were missing from the Imperial Studies paper. That is understandable, if the paper was written by a first year student from outside the country, but the errors should have been caught by whoever Imperial Studies had vet the paper and the paper sent back for correction.”

“The author of the paper said in the introduction, if you chose to read it, that he only included actions that he could verify from the material obtained from the navy, the barrister’s office or from the Great Captain himself.”

“So, the omissions were deliberate. That is poor Scholarship. I think that this board has a path forward. Who is Mr. Umevan’s advisor.”

“I believe that his professor is Xilynore at Ironton.”

“Let him know, would you.”

Desert Howl.

Paeris looked at Jorge and said, “Where were you yesterday?”
“I was kidnapped by my grandmother.”
Paeris started to laugh. “That sounds ridiculous. She’s never done that before.”

“This was my other grandmother, my mother’s mother. Apparently, she does that, and gets away with it. It turned out to be good thing.”

“How so?”
“It put me, and my radiation scanner, which I had put in my briefcase for my class, in the car and the scanner tripped off in a gas station. Vinnie, one of my grandmother’s “boys” heard it, I poked around a bit and found a shed that lit the thing off. I backed off and made calls. The cops called the Federal Service and special agents clown and idiot showed up and tried to take charge of the case and the scene. I didn’t let that happen and kept everybody out of the shed until Rob showed up and pulled four Primaries, which was good, and two cans, which wasn’t.”

“Any estimates as to how many Primaries the Steward still has?”
“Rob and George think that it is five.”
“Better than nine.”

“Yes it is.”
“So how did your paper do?”
“It was late, but I had an excuse.”
“That being?”
Jorge held up the receipt. “Congress stole my homework. Major Tollings used it for his testimony and he never had a chance to get it duplicated. I rebuilt it for Imperial Studies and I have permission to use the version that appears in the Congressional record when it is released. So I am ok.”

“How did it go with your little battle with the twit?”
“We pulled off the playbook theft, but the coach realized that Ironton had it and dumped the playbook. I have other schemes, though, thanks to the Stewards.”
“That being?”

“Apparently, the Stewards managed to have enacted a “save a tree” campaign and the government is supposed to separate paper for recycling into separate baskets. So, after the strategy sessions, the plays get dumped into the baskets. I have a new friend with connections who mentioned all that to me and for some reason we have all the plays copied and blank paper ended up in the bins.”

“When is the next game?”
“Today, but it is an away game for navy, Frank and Tolly have classwork due and I have the Portal class. On the other hand, I doubt that Chatsrey has been left bereft by Alinis and Fire, to say nothing of my cousin who is a member of Alinis’s study group.”

“I see that Bill wants to speak with you, so I will leave you to him.”

“My nephews asked me if they could meet you.”
“Which family?”

“My mother’s, so far. I did say that I would ask.”

“We could arrange something for a bunch of people out at Tanyl’s island, couldn’t we, Bill.”
“When my brother returns, yes.”
“How is it working there?”
“My brother is about to finish training and will get some leave to come home if the war doesn’t kick up.”
“The enemy has been knocked back, Bill,” Jorge said. “Let’s get you and me set up and leave the Great Captain to laugh at my antics.”
“Be careful or I will contact your grandmother and have her kidnap you again in exchange for a visit by your nephews,” Paeris said, grinning.
A laughing Jorge and Bill left and, as they were walking up the street, Bill asked, “Did your grandmother really kidnap you?”
“She sent an invitation to a tea that she had yesterday. Since I was planning to fly down here yesterday and give my class, that didn’t work and I said no. Both Vince Lion and my cousin, Chris, who had delivered the invitation were rather aghast that I would turn that down. In any case, I handed the invitation to Shael and forgot about it. Yesterday morning, as I was getting into my car, which wasn’t going anyplace because it had two flat tires, I was accosted by some large gentlemen and told that my grandmother wanted to see me. We were off and as we stopped for gas, the radiation detector I had with me started to beep. I waved it around and we had a bigger problem than my grandmother’s tea.”

“How many did the Steward have stashed there?”

“Four. I think that the devise that went off in Chatsrey came from that stash. Unfortunately, there were two cans in the shack as well.”

“Cans?”
“Cans are what we call the actual Scourge devise itself. The primary fits inside it. A can without a Primary is harmless. On the other hand, a without a can, the Primary can still make a boom, but not kill a city. So if the Stewards have cans, they are planning to kill a city.”

“Do they have more cans?”
“That is something we don’t know.”

“Here is my house. Mother is below.”

“Does that make things lonely for you?”

“Sometimes. I had mother bring Harald up. Have you ever seen a seeming before?”
“Not up close and to talk to. There were some brought to the ruins to bring a seeming to heel, but, in the end the seeming was sent to her allies, the enemy.”
“Why?”
“You know, I don’t know. I suspect that the seemings thought that the seeming’s advice would be more harmful than not.”

“Let me get Harald. Sit down.”

Jorge sat down and Bill returned with a crystal. The crystal activated and Harald said, “You are Jorge Umevan?”
“Yes.”

“You were the one tasked to send Haciathra to her friends in an appropriate fashion. How did you do so?”
“I put Haciathra inside a stasis box that I had previously stored a cow pat in. Then I made a ball of the most rotten cabbage I could find at the
Qinvaris market, filled with similar things and coated with a thick coat of glue. Once the glue had set, I sent the ball through. I figured that the mage that was so diligent about chasing after microportals would discover the microportal attached to the stasis box and poke at the ball, with rather smelly results.

Bill and Harald started to laugh. Jorge added, “Orrian made me promise that I would never send something like that at him again.”

Harald said, “Bill wanted to consult with me before recruiting you as an ally. I was fairly sure of your quality and have no doubts now. Why do you want the devise in the vault?”

“What do you know of the collapse of Lain Othrond?”
“That it happened.”
“Lain Othrond was separated into the Upstairs, which consisted of the town and castle with nothing there that would turn a hair of the Church or the Inquisition and the Downstairs, a large series of caverns with things from the ancient Empire and the spawns of the sort of things that the Darkmage liked to do. Nat, who ran the shop, found two lists, one of liabilities, who were to be left behind when the others were to be evacuated and those who were to be evacuated with Dúhael and the others after the five cities were Scourged, leaving the people that were not evacuated to their fates. I think that they assumed that the liabilities would be Scourged by me attempting to prevent further Scourgings. Nat blew the lid on that and managed to get the liabilities out of the Downstairs. My problem is that I have a transmuter on my estate.”
“Operable?” Harald asked.

“Very.  I would like to operate it without making more metal for Primary cores and maybe using up the metal of all the existing cores and the stockpile of enriched Uranium fuel without making a mess or more Primary metal. That means that I need someone with the expertise to run the transmuter and that means that I need Nat. Nat has expressed an interest in the devise removed from the vault and I know that there are more in the vault, though I may retrieve the devise the Stewards stole from Bill, especially since that would poke the Stewards in the nose right now. I thought that I would ask for another of the devises and hand them to Nat to play with using his new set of Beinan tools.”
“Nat won the contest,” Bill said with a grin. “Did ever get his parts from Eiljeon.”
“He won the contest, apparently found the lady he was looking for in the Lower City, they are getting married and I need to come up with a very nice wedding present. As for getting his parts, he can sign the purchase order and the estate will pay the bill. I’m not going to worry about small stuff. As far as I’m concerned, Nat can order what he needs and unless it is a new turbine for the transmuter or something like that I’m not going to say anything.”

“How are you planning to steal the devise?”
Jorge looked at Bill and said, “Do you need a caper.”
“Not really. On the other hand the thing could use a home where it is really appreciated.”

“I haven’t really sketched out a plan. The thing is in a city deep inside Clan Ironhead’s territory. The easiest way would be to have two friends of mine, “discover” the lost transformer from my Freywick electrification project and send it to Freywick. That seems rather unsporting, though. The steel furnace there closed down and maybe I will send a cousin to the city to start buying big heavy equipment for the new Steelworks in Astaire that grandfather is making noises about.”

“Why do you want a steelworks?” Harald asked.
“Because at some point we will want to operate the transmuter at full power and I am going to be creating a lot of power that needs to go someplace, a big electric steel furnace will need a lot of power and if the thing is in Astaire, the railroad is already there and the Inquisition can only look across the border and gnash their teeth.”

“I see. You don’t want the steelworks, you want a large power consumer.”
“Yes. Selling the Shanellis the steel on the sly is only a bonus.”

“Bill says that you are playing games with the navy bladder ball team. Why are you doing that?”
Jorge told them in greater detail and Bill said, “Tim can handle something like that. That is if he came out of Ishendell ok. Dad was concerned about that.”
“Coming out of Ishendell alive is coming out ok. I was only there for the end and the place still gives me nightmares from time to time. I think that Tim will grow out of the things he saw at Ishendell, probably about the time he makes general and shoots Dúhael for the fun of it. Are you both happy with the deal?”
“I am,” Harald said. “Bill will need strong allies.”

“I can also help with his other project, provide funding and expertise here along with the Beinans. I know that Beinans has the inside track, but don’t count us out and Charlie and Dessielle are old friends of mine.”

“I am satisfied too” Bill said. “When do you want to visit the vault?”
“Fairly soon for the wedding gift. But I want to have Nat come down and look over all the devises with you and see what we can do to set up a plan to make more of them. I will send a message when I can get Nat away from the mushy stuff.”

“Ok, then. I will take you to Beinan’s for our first class.”

“Why were you not here yesterday?” Harald asked.

“My grandmother kidnapped me. That annoyed me, but it worked out as I had a radiation scanner with me, we stopped at a gas station, the scanner went beep and I found four more of the Steward’s toys. They were dealt with appropriately with no booms involved.”

“That is good news indeed.”

“I need to go and get the class started.”
Bill and Jorge drove over to the school where a space had been set up for the class. He looked at the assorted people that had come to the class and said, “I am Jorge Umevan, senior portal technician for the Portal Service in the Empire. I was hired part time by Adiun Beinan just about two years ago and have been restoring the portal network to full operation and discovering how to operate ancient portals. I am the Portal Service’s expert in those portals and one way ports. Some of you will have heard that I have sent a bear into the Darkmage’s quarters in the Imperial Palace. That story is true but unfortunately the Darkmage is no longer with us to confirm that. Shall we start?”

After he was done with his first presentation, a man in a Beinan shirt said, “You stated that the ancient portals have a larger mana draw than the Beinan portals in general use today. Why is that?”
“The ancient portals force an initiation on the other end. That requires more mana when a portal starts. Also the new portals have mana saving measures built into them that lower mana use automatically. On the other hand, an ancient portal can almost always get an exit in a one way port. When I can, if the need is critical, I tend to use an ancient portal for a one way port. Of course, I have used both and a poorly maintained or badly damaged ancient portal will have issues even if it does activate.”

“Do you have a book that you use for the portal material?”
“Unfortunately, no. Bill asked me the same question and the Portal Service does not have such a book. We use manuals, notes and being taught techniques. As I am going to college and I don’t have access to those materials, the book will have to be put off. I see that we are out of time and I need to catch my plane and return to college, so I must end the questions here.”

Bill drove him to the field and said, “That was a good first class.”

“If you go up to the Empire again, do some digging. You have a talent for finding the books that the Inquisition overlooks.”

“Why do they have the Inquisition anyway?”
“In the beginning the various Houses started to play with dangerous things and use them to attack each other, so the Conclave made the decision that certain things should be Proscribed and the Inquisition, which at the time had been given responsibility for food quality and such was given the task of making sure that nobody was using Proscribed technologies. The problem was that the Inquisition became a power unto its own and corrupt, so things like the Blight were launched at people and the Inquisition was more interested in abusing its power to go after people they don’t like. Here is Shael and the plane, so we will be off until the next time.”

Chapter 26.

Neuw Athlin

Alb put the last of the sheep manure in the hole around the Seed and covered it. Until the Seed sent up a sapling the next year, the area around the Seed would have an aversion on it that would prevent anyone from building something over the Seed. In any case, the place had the new university and monastery on one side of the hill and the Count’s new house on the other side. Alb was going to tell Rolain to claim the plot when he returned to the city in any case.

Unlike most Fae Seeds, which desired deep forest, the Seed was well aware that it would need to be near folk that were of a certain bent and that a forest could not support the Lorekeepers and students that would be needed. The Seed was content that it had a good place to grow, along with the new city.

“This will be a good place.”

Dugal jumped a bit as the landdragon appeared beside him. He looked at the thing and said, “Are you chasing the count away again?”
“Not at all. I just wanted to talk. What happened to the count’s parents?”

“They were at home in Athlin.”

“The count and other family were sent to an estate, probably, along with you and some other trusted servants.”

“Yes. The count felt that he could not leave the city, but did take the warning seriously.”

“Does that count have fae in his family?”

“I can’t say.”
“You may notice a young lady spying around. She’s been talking a bit about your lord.”

“Who is the young lady?”
“My daughter, who is rather unrestrained here. The problem with having more or less fae as children is that they can go where they want to. The count seems to have caught her interest.”

“Does she have a trueform?”
“Not really, as our home grove is one tree, left over from a nasty little war.”

“The lord may be annoyed at her. She has been flitting in and out of his sight for a while now. It hasn’t gotten to pop and giggles phase yet.”

“So, you know about certain things.”

“We are not illiterate and the Lady enjoyed the Elf Carran stories.”

“My wife will try to keep Rosie busy.”

“That may not work. The count is rather lonely.”

“So I may be seeing him. He is about seventeen, correct.”

“The count is seventeen. How old is your daughter?”
“Rosie is sixteen.”

“You aren’t acting like the nervous father.”

“In my current condition, that wouldn’t work very well and the count hasn’t actually met my daughter as yet.”

“He’s looking to, I think.”

“Don’t tell him that Rosie is my daughter. I don’t want to make more nervous than he already is.”

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