The Return of The Silverin, Chapter 31-32

George Bronzerock has lunch with his brother. Richard meets with Tad’s grandfather.

Chapter 31.

Chatsrey

George walked in through the very fancy doorway and said, “I’m George Bronzerock and my brother made the reservation.”

“Welcome Mr. Bronzerock. I am Uzgiot. If you have interesting stories, you may return with your brother.”

“Interesting stories about my brother, you mean?”

“Yes, that was what we would like to hear more of. Let me get you to your brother’s table.”

Uzgiot waved to a half elf and George was led to where his brother was waiting with an elf, a Ravathyra enhanced in a marine major’s uniform, a marine cadet, two midshipmen and a man in an Imperial tunic. Rob stood up and said, “Good, you made it, George.”

“What are you up to and what is it going to cost me?”

“What makes you think that it will cost you anything?”

“It usually does. Who is this with you?”

“This is Major Tollings, Durlan Fox, Cadet Tim Wavechaser, Midshipmen Seachaser and Brownlow and Bill Harper, Justiciar adjunct. Why don’t you sit down.”

“Are you Major Jorge Tollings?”

Jorge grinned. “Yes, why?”

“My son will be upset if I don’t invite you to dinner.”

“I am rather busy at the moment, but arrangements can be made.”

“How did you meet my brother?”

“I can’t really talk about that. We were working together on things.”

George sat down and turned to his brother. “What happened with Phraan? I got a lot of weird stories and mother said to talk to you about it.”
“Phraan did something that he really shouldn’t have, I was forced to act and he killed himself.”

“What did he do?”
“Designed and had built the fuses for some things that have already caused some seven hundred thousand deaths.”

“The Scourge devises. I thought that they were an ancient weapon from the Mage Wars.”
“Somebody recreated them.”

“Who?”

“I can’t talk about that very much here. I will tell the family when I can.”

“So what are you up to?”
“This is a bit complicated, but the Stewards may have a boom in Luggergate and I don’t want to let them know that we know about it until I can get there.”

“So you want me to lose a barge?”

“How did you know?”
“That was what you wanted the last time. How big is the boom in Luggergate?”
“The same size as the things that killed the five cities.”

“Do you want me to put the word out that the barges should not stage through Luggergate?”

“That might be a good idea.”

“There could be labor issues in Luggergate.”

Rob smiled. “If there were a strike on the docks, that would be a good thing. Put the word out that getting families out of town is a good idea for a while.”

“There was that evacuation of Chatsrey. That annoyed a lot of people until Smoky Hill.”

“Are you in?”

“I’ll want to know more, but I’m in. How long before you can deal with the thing in Luggergate?”
“Two or three five days at best. I already started getting the tub ready, but I can’t be obvious about it and if I step on the FSA’s toes, the Director will squawk.”

“He’s been on your case about jurisdiction since that thing in Chatsrey.”

“What thing in Chatsrey,” Jorge asked. “I was collared at the time.”

“About ten years ago, Rob and Urthock Meadows were looking into a potential vendor in Industry City when some crazy with a truck bomb left it in front of the Crystal Palace. Rob heard about the bomb and he and the Chief went over to help. He and Urthock took site command when the mayor asked them to deal with the thing and the FSA clowns showed up with their bomb squad and started to try to throw their weight around. They broke the evacuation cordon and their bomb people tried to take over from Rob and the city bomb people until the Chatsrey police chief tossed them out.”

“That explains some things. Rob booted some people out in the Orcenlands and did that again in the Fellowship.”

“That must have been when you were dealing with those devises near Fayspire.”

“Yes,” Rob said. “There were some others. Do I get the barge?”

George grinned. “I think that there are some near wrecks that should have incidents. Is Urthock dealing with that?”
“Urthock was poached by the admiral for another assignment. Tim Wavechaser is going to show some middies how to make a barge have an accident.”

“A marine? How did he get involved and isn’t he rather young to know how to do such things?”

“Yes he is,” Jorge said. “Unfortunately, he managed to attach himself to my section in Ishendell and was exposed to bad influences in the Empire.”

“He’s one of the boys, isn’t he?”

Tim grinned. “That is classified.”

“I won’t press, but you have no idea the impression you made. You and the other boys are rather famous.”
“There may be some exaggerations in the books.”

“I’m sure there are, but that doesn’t change the fact that you did amazing things.”

“How come you were not in the navy as well?” Jorge asked.

“I was, for my Service, as enlisted. There were two brothers and one of us was going to have to take the business when my father went to the fire. Rob got the appointment to the Academy and I took Service and then went to college and the business.”

“Is your mother nervous about Rob and booms?”
“By and large she doesn’t pay attention to specifics and she is an exile in any case. I don’t think that she knows very much about the five cities other than travel books. She collects the books, but doesn’t travel. Were things as bad as they sounded?”

“Yes they were. The five cities were Scourged and then the people were used to create Inanimates as the people responsible robbed the cities of their coin.”

“The same coin that they poisoned in the Scourge. That was rather stupid, if they were planning to spend it.”

“Some people had noticed that as well.”

“So you want a barge, Rob, and maybe some sighted ordnance. I’ll put the word out with certain parties that some labor issues in Luggergate would be a good thing. What I can’t understand is why the FSA hasn’t been on top of the devises already. You would think that they would put their little jurisdictional issues away where the things are concerned.”

“The jurisdictional things came back to the surface when the portal expert the Portal Service had assigned to me found some devises in Freiberg,” Rob said.

“Young Lord Umevan. That story was all over the papers, with you there as well, since he called you in.”
“Yes he did, and since he didn’t know not to step on FSA toes, he took charge after he called me and wouldn’t let anyone touch the shed until I and the team got there.”

“Where is Urthock? I’m surprised he isn’t here.”

“Getting some shipboard time. The admiral stole him again, as I mentioned earlier.”

“What ship?”

“I’m not supposed to say.”

“Something strange, then.”

“Yes it is.”

“Mr. Harper, how did you end up in the Justiciars?”
Bill grinned. “I didn’t like the prospects in the FSA, so I went to the Empire and applied. My current boss, Justiciar Dawkins, hired me.”

“Then he sent you back, apparently.”

“I’m here collecting things from companies that had people in Clerves and the other cities.”

“Then you should be talking to me after lunch. Why don’t we agree to set up a meeting?”

“You had an office in Clerves?”
“Yes. A good amount of the freight I forwarded ended up there and there would have been even more when the railroad was fully operational. I’m going to take it that your boss wants you to look at the reports my people sent back, looking to find more clues, even when the people that are responsible are known.”

“We know who was responsible, but we don’t have a real motive, other than the robbery of money that is very dirty and easy to trace.”

“I can help you make some connections with the people that had offices in the five cities. Having some closure for my people would be a good thing.”

“I can help with that.”

“Rob, I will keep you posted if something shows up. I will also spread the word to keep the FSA in the dark if somebody encounters a devise.”

“When lunch is over, I will give you a stack of the pamphlets about the devises that we have had printed up. We’ve been handing them out since we don’t want people encountering the things and killing a city by accident.”

Lunch arrived and George asked questions about the events until they finished lunch, he looked at his watch and said, “It was nice to meet you all, but if I don’t show up at the office, some people, and Rob knows who they are, get nervous, or worse, take charge.”

He left and Durlan said, “He didn’t ask me anything. Did he guess who I work for?”

“I think he guessed, Durlan,” Rob said. “Considering that the whole thing was rather irregular, you either worked for Mrs. Steelmaker or Sal Lion and he knows most of Sal’s top people already.”

“He didn’t seem to be too upset that you were asking him to sink a barge. He also didn’t ask you to pay for it.”

“I will be, but not in coin. Arranging a dinner with Jorge and Lissia with Tim, for instance. If he calls in a big marker, a birthday party on a battleship.”

“He didn’t.”

“He did, and Admiral Fielding made the arrangements. It wasn’t even for him or the family, but he made a connection because he could make it happen.”

“We could probably arrange something with Paeris,” Jorge said. “Down there on the beach in Desert Howl.”

“If we can keep Luggergate from being a disaster, that would not be out of the question. I need to return our midshipmen and cadet to the Academy, so I will see you all at another time.”

As Rob and the boys left, Durlan said, “That was rather strange. I wonder why Rob wanted all of us.”
“I’m not sure,” Jorge said. “He could have made the arrangements with his brother himself. On the other hand, having us all here showed that the matter was serious and introduced us to his brother. I suspect that Rob was demonstrating that he trusted us and so could his brother. I suspect that I, at least, will be attending a dinner party all too soon.”

As they drove away from the restaurant, Roger asked, “Captain, why did you have us there?”
“My brother is very sharp as you probably saw. He’s going to be looking at the people involved. In any case, there is a good chance that I may need to slip you onto a barge and have my brother cover for you. The fact that you were there and able to listen to the conversation means that I trusted you with certain secrets. That means that my brother can as well.”

“Birthday parties on battleships?”
“Among other things, yes. Of course, I knew about my nephew’s reading habits, the fact that Tim would pique his interest and that meeting the major was a very big deal.”

“You would use our celebrity as a tool?” Tim asked.

“I won’t be the only one. You and cadet Billings are going to be drawn into the spotlights all too soon. Roger has been there already, haven’t you?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, captain?”
“As midshipman captain, you have done things like escort Senator’s daughters to dances and stood guard at ceremonies. I might add that my mother in law thinks that my wife married beneath her station and she is disappointed that I am not High Admiral.”

“You were midshipman captain.”

“You can look me up.”

“How did you end up in ordnance?”
“My first commission was in intelligence, as I told Mr. Brownlow. I had to estimate how many aircraft the Fellowship was going to commit and the uncertainty got to me. My estimate was correct, but I couldn’t cope with the idea that I might be wrong and get a bunch of my shipmates killed. So I requested a transfer to ordnance, where my brother in law betrayed me and arranged it so that some monsters could bring something back that should have stayed dead.”

“How do you live with that?”
“Simple. I understand that mistakes can happen and that while I allowed the policies that allowed my brother in law to do what he did, I did not actually create the fuses myself and when I did discover what had happened, I took what actions I could to correct things.

“I also knew that the potential existed for yet more thousands to die if I did not do my job, so I did. There wasn’t any way to change what my brother in law had done, so I had to deal with things the way they were. The other side was not going to stop just because I was traumatized, so I could not afford to be.”

“You are betting a lot on my hunch,” Tim asked. “How do you know that I am right?”

“Mr. Brownlow, you could be wrong. On the other hand, you built a case using logic and the information you had available. We also have information from other sources that point in the same direction. Right now, my largest concern isn’t you being wrong, it’s the FSA coming to the same conclusion, putting shoes on the ground in Luggergate and finding a devise.”
“Won’t they call you?”

“I hope so, but I don’t know the FSA in Luggergate and if they don’t, there could be a big mess.”

“The FSA would be careless?”

“When the Scourge devises started to show up, I realized, after the two estates were Scourged, that you couldn’t treat them the same way that I deal with the typical bomb or old ordnance. Destroying them in place was not an option and defusing an armed devise wasn’t really an option either.That was why Jorge has been a big help. He’s good with portals because he is careful to make sure that they are going to do what he needs and he checks himself.”

“The things he does seem to be rather crazy. That bear, for instance.”

“Look how he put that together. Tim, you’ve heard the story from all the people involved, with the exception of the Darkmage, so why don’t you tell the midshipmen how Jorge did it.”

Tim looked at the others and said, “First of all, as far as what Jorge knew, he and some others had already done the dangerous part of restoring portals when they restored the Lower and Cloud Cities under the Darkmage’s nose. The various portal boys did that in a day, moving swiftly after Adiun Beinan left with the Portal Services operations. I don’t know if there was any coordination, but the boys acted fast to get the job done. After the capital was restored, the rest of the Empire needed to be as well. The boys met at the waystation and did coordinate that, taking bus routes and working along them to restore portals. Jorge went to Elysahone on the bus, restoring portals on the way.

“The Darkmage didn’t realize, or seem to care that he had lost control of the portals when the control board was cut off and just wanted Adiun back, so he murdered Lord Saracen. Jorge reached Elysahone and ported home, where he heard about the murder. At the time, he didn’t know that control board had been cut off because the portal had been shut down with the rest of them and assumed that the Darkmage would know that portals were being restored and that, because the portal boys installed patches at the same time, he did not control the portals. In any case, Jorge decided to restore Grimfrost and send a message to the Darkmage. He knew that Lord Qinvaris had planes at the new airport in Elysahone and that you could jump out of airplanes with a parachute. So he went back to Elysahone, looking for planes and pilots and then to the Aerie to talk to the Flight Instructor about jump training.”

“So he was going to get the training he needed before going to Grimfrost,” Roger said. “I see your point about it not being crazy, other than poking the Darkmage with the bear in the first place.”

“Jorge was just going to use an animal or glamor and if the Darkmage had to deal with a bear and got hurt, that would mess things up a lot. It was Snowball and Snuggles who convinced Jorge that sending Snuggles would work even better and Jorge had friends who worked in the palace to make the getaway work. The Darkmage also went to his rooms on a regular schedule, so timing was fairly easy.”

“Wasn’t he afraid that Snuggles would get hurt?”
 “Snuggles has an iron collar she wears, so magefire won’t touch her, is very good in a fight and is a bear. Also, Jorge’s friends told him that the Darkmage was very sensitive to noise and had his guards downstairs at the ends of the hall because they clanked while running their beats. That was the key that made the thing possible, because the Darkmage was the only one to see Snuggles or know that she had been there if they weren’t in on the prank. That included palace security and the Darkmage’s guards.”

“Put that way, it doesn’t seem to be crazy. What about the thing with the Gilders’ party?”

Tim smiled. “What thing with the Gilder’s party?”

“You haven’t heard? Somebody pranked it and it was probably Jorge.”

“Something that the FSA can’t prove even with their resources. Jorge tightened up after the mud incident.”

“The mud incident?”
“Captain, you were there, so you tell them.”

Rob laughed. “I’m not sure that I should. Parts are still classified.”

“Ok, I will tell them. The Darkmage and his friends decided to have a meeting in a palace in Dolmon. At the same time the captain got word about some booms in the Orcenlands and called Jorge in for portal work. They flew to the orcenlands and met with some people to deal with the boom, with Jorge restoring the portal to send a boom to the Deadlands. Once that was done, with some lubrication involved, Jorge, two high clan orcs and an orc from the Fellowship decided to spoil the Darkmage’s party. Using timers, the portal and some things that they came up with, they arranged it so that the portal sent mud through, while the various plotters were at a big party with impeccable witnesses that could say that there was no way that they could have done it. The problem was that in addition to the meeting participants, the meeting had been infiltrated by the Justiciar boys and the boys had  a pretty good idea who had the portal skills to send the mud and make the things that could do it, along with who else might have been involved and arranged with Justiciar Dawkins to get a writ so that they could dump mud on all the plotters. They did.”

“Maybe we sould be talking to the Justiciar boys.”
“That’s going to be tricky, since they are rather busy right now with a rather large case.”

“We’re here at the Academy, so some people need to get out of the car, so that I don’t hear them spilling classified matters.” Rob growled.

“Yes, sir,” the boys said, laughing.

Chapter 32.

Neuw Athlin  

Dúhael thought that the worst thing about the trial was the children. Every day at the trial, a group of children from an orphanage had attended the ongoing trial. They had all been sent away before the Scourge devises had gone off with their parents not being able to leave and being killed with the rest. They arrived, in clean uniforms with a minder every day and sat quietly, not saying a thing or even figeting very much. They just watched, their eyes accusing Dúhael as the Justiciar laid out the events leading up to the Scourging of the Five Cities. Somehow, in their eyes, the goals of the Project diminished and became less important than the destruction that Dúhael had been responsible for.

Darkstrike gathered the material he had collected and placed it in a tube made from a section of clay water pipe. He was going to leave the pipe at the drop for pickup and that would allow for a plan to retrieve Dúhael. The trial should last long enough to allow that to happen. Pipe on his shoulder and dressed like a workman, he moved through the growing crowds to the drop.

House Qinvaris.

Richard grinned as Tad was let into his office with a rather distinguished elvish man wearing a collar. “What brings you here today, Tad and who is this?”

 “This is my grandfather, Tearel Silverin and I didn’t mean to bother you, Lord Qinvaris. I asked Nightstream about something and he said that I should talk to you about it.”

“So why did you bring your grandfather?”

“Grandmother wanted him out of the house and he wouldn’t go unless I took him.”

“Why not?”

“I’m just a slave,” Tearel said. “I really shouldn’t leave the estate without the Lord or someone to watch me.”

“I see. So what did you want, Tad?”

“Grandfather visited the weather people at the Sanctuary and they mentioned that their surface stations had gone off line. Grandfather gets reports from the weather people and we have a station on the estate. I checked the others that had gone offline and most of them were on your farms. I think that when you made the changes, the stations were demolished by accident, since nobody knew what they were. I was hoping that Nightstream could send me to your weather people and I could talk to them.”

Richard frowned. “That’s going to be a problem. I don’t have a department for weather because, up until the last couple of years, I didn’t have any people to train other people to take weather measurements and make weather maps or any way to recruit people to do that. Are you saying that the Sanctuary does?”

“I have been using the reports from them for some time, milord” Taerel said. “They have been generally accurate.”

“How come I hadn’t heard about the service?”
“The weather people’s boss is nervous about his people leaving the Sanctuary,” Tad said. “So he hasn’t been letting people out to tell people about the service. The man at the desk in the mall gave me some literature to pass around. I looked to see where the surface stations were and most of them were on estates that you farmed. So I wanted to find out who to talk to about them and see about getting them restored.”

“Did you give the material to Nightstream?”
“Yes I did.”

“Why do you use the service, Tearel?”

“I am the vintner at the estate. I need to know how to prepare the vines every year and schedule picking the grapes and the pressing. The reports have been a big help in helping me plan for that and preparing the soil and new plantings. My grandson in law has created new business and I am expanding the planting. When I started to plan, I realized that I did not have the report and then Nym told me to go to the Sanctuary and get it myself. I did and the service complained to Tad about the surface stations.”

“Tad, could you make a map of where these surface stations were?”
“I gave that to Nightstream as well. I did that when I started to look into this. I also included pictures of the surface station on the estate.”

“They probably looked like beehives or something, so they were just removed or demolished by accident. I will send somebody to the service at the Sanctuary and see if we can get the stations replaced and maybe some people to train people on the farm to take care of them.”

“I can help with that. I did that with some other kids on the estate.”

“The other kids may just have gotten themselves good jobs. Your grandfather here can tell you how important weather is to farmers and the weather has been one of my larger holes that I needed to fill. Tearel, you and my vintners will have to get together soon, now that you are leaving the estate. I will discuss that with my wife and we can set aside a five day at the villa in Ishendell for the meeting.”

“I’m just a slave, milord.”
“I think that your product says differently.”

“That is the winery.”

“I won’t argue, but I think that you will have a hard time finding people to agree with you.”

“Thank you for your time, milord,” Tad said. “We will take our leave.”

The pair left and Richard went to Nightstream’s office. “You were being sneaky again.”

Nightstream looked at him and said, “How so, milord?”

“Tad parading his grandfather around and you sending him to my office.”

“The matter with the weather was important.”

“Yes it was. Have Osmond send one of his boys to the weather service in the Sanctuary.”

“I have already taken the literature to Lord Stokton while you were meeting with Tad and his grandfather. I also sent to Mrs Harper and asked her to find out what happened to the surface stations. They are probably all sitting in barns or something.”

“I thought that you would deal with that. Also, see if you can arrange to have the House vineyard managers and the vintners from other Houses set aside a five day for a meeting. Now that Tad’s grandfather has left the estate, I want to have him meet others he can trade secrets with. Set aside the villa in Ishendell for the meeting.”

“I will talk to milady’s people and make the arrangements. That sounds like an interesting meeting. You obviously liked Tad’s grandfather.”

“He’s very focused, but he’s the best at what he does and I think that there are interesting things about him. Thank you for sending him to my office, even if you were sneaky.”

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