The Return of The Silverin, Chapter 35-36

Bob loses a case. Swifty rescues a girl.

Chapter 35.

Ishendell.

“All rise for Judge Goldfinder!”

Bob watched as the rather rotund and bearded judge more less waddled to the bench. The judge looked at Bob, and at Horalt and then picked up the sheet of paper in front of him. He set it down again and said, “Laws made in haste tend to be reflection of fears and emotions. What they are not is based on logic and following the guidelines set out by the founding documents. The law at hand concerning the the ability of Imperials here on the Peninsula to own property is one of those laws. It clearly violates the principles laid out in the founding documents. As such, by its very nature it is unconstitutional. Furthermore, no other state in the Republic has such a law and legally, people still citizens in the Empire own property in the Republic in every other state. As a recent case over the emancipation of slave pointed out, one’s status does not change as a result of where one resides. Just because the Empire dumped people on boats and exiled them does not, legally change their status in the Empire. For that matter, exiles do own property here on the Peninsula just like everyone else. Heretofore that has not been an issue. I do not see why that would become an issue because people that currently reside in the Empire decide to purchase property on the Penisula. The law is overturned. The state may appeal, but frankly I wouldn’t bother.”

The judge got up and waddled out of the courtroom as Bob went over and shook Horalt’s hand. “You got me.”
“This doesn’t count and you know it. Now let’s go to your brother’s place and the party.”

“Let’s do that. We need to get back home before our wives drain us at the malls in the Sanctuary.”

Chatsrey

Sal called the Academic Committee meeting and a smiling Bill said, “It pays to push your Scholar students.”

“What about?”
“You remember that I pushed my Scholor student over the challenge paper last year and the missing raids that the navy said did not happen. Well, Bladloc did some digging and it turns out that there were raids that were not under the command of the Old Admiral. He sent a message about that and said that he has a lot of material coming when he drops down with it.”

“It must be very good,” Lucian said. “As far as I know, he was saying that the logs said that the raids didn’t happen.”

“I don’t have the details yet, but apparently the Ravathrya were operating a second fleet out of the Retreat. At least somebody was. Bladloc said that the clue was a picture of Shark involved in one of the raids and the fact that while there are a lot of pictures of Shark at the Retreat, the admiral’s records don’t show her at all.”

“So you are vindicated,” Sal said. “Bladloc was rather annoyed at you. Are you releasing his papers?”
“Already done. The earlier papers had finished review and the challenge paper, while it did not have the raids I wanted him to find out about, was rather interesting as it stood. Of course the discovery of this shadow group operating as the Ravathrya is an amazing thing.”

“That brings me to the matter at hand. Are we agreed that History Studies will retract the Gilders paper or face loss of accreditation.”

“I think so,” Lucian said. “Once the Great Captain gave the interview, the chain of events was fairly clear and Ironton has obtained Umevan’s draft and supporting materials and shown them to Sal and I.”

“I am still concerned about how Beltain will see this,” Selvert said.

“History Studies and Beltain have had every opportunity to resolve this,” Lucian snarled. “Instead they have repeatedly disparaged young Lord Umevan and refused to acknowledge their mistake. It is time that we put our foot down and close this up. There’s no point in denying reality at this point.”

“What about Gilders?”
“Gilders is Beltain’s problem,” Sal said. “All we are doing is putting the committee on the record and demanding that History Studies retract or suffer the same consequences that any other journal would. If we make an exception this time, what will happen when something like this happens again.”
“Very well, I vote for retraction.”

“Good. I will send the letter to History Studies in the morning.”

Beltain

Klara came charging into Geral’s office and screeched, “Susan is gone!”

“Are your sure?”
“She didn’t come home from school and when I checked she hadn’t been to school either.”

“Have you checked with her friends? They may have been skipping together.”

“I did, and they were not. They had not seen her either.”

“She was still rather upset over the thing with Fylson. Perhaps she went to the park to have a cry.”
“I sent Billings to look for her and she wasn’t there or any of her other haunts.”

“Did you check with the bank?”
“Why?”
“If she was going someplace, she was going to need money.”
“Where would she go?”
“I think that I know. I need to book a trip to Ironton. I may need to apologize to some people.”
“Who?”
“The Umevan.”

“That boy wrecked our thing for Winterfaire! Don’t even think of giving in to them.”

“That boy, as you call him, has a reputation and he did not start the fight. Derry did and then I made the stupid mistake of getting involved. That annoyed the young man and he let us know in his usual fashion, moderated somewhat.”

“Moderated! I was humiliated!”

“According to some things I have heard, it could have been much worse.”

“The FSA hasn’t even arrested him.”
“They are stumped and he hasn’t been doing anything but going to class and back and forth to Chatsrey and some other places. The FSA is feeling the heat over other things in any case, so the Director can’t put a great deal of resources on the case and there is no evidence that the young man was responsible. Regardless of Susan being a bit spoiled, she had a point about how we handled the matter and I didn’t consider how the rest of the family would feel about what I did. For that matter we have been lucky that Dan Harper has been busy in the Empire. In any case, if Susan has gone to Ironton, I will need to speak to the Umevan and if necessary eat a dish of crow.”

“What about Derry?”
“What about him. If the flap over those papers is over, he can get his parchment and a job in the Senate. The thing will blow over and that will be the end of it. I may have to buy Admiral Harper off with something he wants, but I don’t think that he will conduct a vendetta over the flap. As for the prank, Vincent is starting college this fall after he finishes his Service with the army and maybe he should get a real world education at Ironton.”

Marian had spotted Susan Gilders, the daughter of her old adversary, Klara Gilders boarding a train as Marian had gotten off. Seeing that the girl, stupidly, was alone, Marian had a thought and as she got in the car, she said, “Vetters, I need you to drop me by a telegraph office. I think that I want to send a message.”

Vetters grinned. “Yes ma’am.”

Derry looked at the message and frowned. The case against the Imperials had been lost and the law overturned by the judge in Ishendell. He packed the message and some othe things into his binder and headed off to the Societies meeting. This was bad news and it meant that other methods were required, with time starting to get short. Derry’s mother came in and snarled “Where are you going?!”

“To my meeting mother.”
“Why aren’t you looking for your sister?”
“Mother, Billings can do that better than I can.”

“Maybe you can get your friends to help.”

“Do you really want the fact that Susan up and left all over the Plateau?”
Klara looked at her son. “You’re right. Go ahead to your meeting.”

Horal Beetgrinder looked at Bertagh, who was looking at the formal letter the Academic Committee had sent and said, “What do you think?”
“We really don’t have a choice. We tell Gilders that we are retracting the paper and admitting that we were in error. Otherwise the Academic Committee will withdraw the journal’s accreditation, the Scholars will not submit and History Studies will not be cited. We become a null at that point and the university will be looking at our jobs and space.”

“We’re Beltain. This can’t happen to us!”

“It did. Frankly we should have retracted in the first place.”

“The other paper was written by a firstie.”
“A firstie who knew the Great Captain. Maybe we should be asking the Scholars here to get out more and make the connections. If we don’t, the university libraries will drop us because nobody reads the journal anymore.”

“That’s  rather pessimistic.”

“Yes it is.”    

Chatsrey.

Swifty was at Chatsrey East station waiting for Jorge and Shael while he practiced being invisible in plain sight. Cory had had him doing this when Jorge started to give his classes in Chatsrey as well as Desert Howl. Swifty’s task was to look out for trouble, especially FSA types trailing Jorge. So far they hadn’t picked up on the fact that Jorge used the Chatsrey east station and the el coming in so that he could get to the class a bit earlier and throw off any tails.

Watching the people at the station, Spitty spotted big trouble, Gordy the collector. Gordy Shieldbasher made his living collecting runaways for the pimps and arranging with some sick people to “groom” them for the entertainment houses. The rumors were that he had heavy protection. In any case, Gordy had his buddies convince girls that Chatsrey East was their stop and then Gordy and his boys nabbed them. The problem was that Spitty was by himself and getting the girl away was going to be tricky. He could hear the train approaching, and palming a pair of five copper coins he walked toward the platform.

The train stopped and in amongst the various business types and others was a girl that definitinately didn’t belong. Stepping forward, he got ready.

Susan wasn’t sure that this was the right station, even though the friendly man who had sat across from her had assured her that it was. She got off and started toward the station when a hand grabbed her arm and dragged her in the other direction. She started to scream when a boy’s voice said, “If you want to stay out of deep trouble, be quiet and stay with me.”

She looked and a scaly boy was dragging her up to some stairs. He was looking over his shoulder and when Susan looked, she saw a largish man with a piggish appearance following them. She let the boy push her up the stairs and the noise of something approaching rattled along overhead, filling the space with squeals as the boy dropped two coins into a slot and pulled her though some rotating bars. Once through the bars, the boy pulled her up the next stairs as the piggish man fumbled for a coin and as they reached the top of the stairs, there was a train waiting. The boy pulled her through the door, which closed behind her, and with a jerk and a whine, the strange train started. The piggish man could be seen standing on the platform. Susan turned on the boy and said, “What is this about?”
“That was Gordy the Collector and he was going to pick you up.”

“Who are you?”

“Swifty Cutflame. I was waiting for somebody else when Gordy showed up. This is the next stop. We can get off here.”

“Why are we doing that?”
“Because Gordy will be looking for you up the line, lost and alone or with me. He’s also going to be looking for me, but I can deal with that. I also need to be at the station for my pick up. Here, take my jacket.”

“It’s dirty.”
“That’s the point. Gordy and his buddies are going to be looking for dressed up you and not a dirty street girl.”

Susan took her jacket off and put Swifty’s coat on. Swifty took her jacket and put it in a satchel he had. “What’s you name?”

“Susan.”

“Why did you come all by yourself?”
“I need to see somebody in Ironton and talk with him.”

“That is a stupid thing to do for somebody off the termite mound.”

In spite of herself, Suzy laughed. “Would you be willing to help me?”
“Maybe. Can you pay?”

“I can pay.”

“Ok, I have another job and have to go to a class, so you can come with me and then I will help you get to Ironton. Who do you want to see?”
“Jorge Umevan.”

The train stopped and Swifty started to laugh. Suzy looked at him and said as they walked down the stairs, “What is so funny?”
“I’ll tell you when my pickup shows up. Now we walk back to the station.”

“Why not take the train back?”

“Gordy might still be on the platform waiting for the next train. I can keep an eye out for any of his friends down here too.”

“He was waiting for me. How did he know?”
“We’ve always thought that he had heavy cover on the Plateau. Do your parents have any enemies up there?”
“Do you think it was somebody from the Plateau?”
“Right now, I don’t know. I’m just a street kid. On the other hand, you hear things and Gordy showed up right before you did. I was fairly sure that he wasn’t waiting for my pickup because he was the wrong kind of muscle and he knew that you were coming.”

“You were watching for somebody?”
“I was cover. Gordy was a surprise and getting him away from the train station was a good thing.”

“You could have let him take me.”
“I could, but that would cause other problems and messing the Shieldbashers up is a good thing.”

“You are a gangster.”
“Have you been watching movies?”
 “Yes.”
“I’m not really a gangster and I have some prospects, so I’m not going that way.”

“What do you mean?”
“I have some connections in the navy and with the Press Service as well as some others. So I’ll have a real job.”

“Doing this sort of thing?”
“Maybe.”

They went up the street and passed a parked car with two other piggish looking men. As they left the car behind, Swify said, “There was your ride.”

“That was why you had me switch jackets. We walked right past them.They were just sitting there.”

“They are waiting for a whistle to call them in. Here’s the station and there is the train from Ironton, making a stop.”

Swifty looked around and said, “It looks as if things are clear. There they are.”

Susan looked and a half elf man and an elegant elf lady walked up the stairs to the el. Swifty and Susan followed them up to the platform and joined them as they waited. The man said, “You brought a friend, Swifty. What is her name?”
“This is Susan, milord.”

“Swifty, I have told you to call me Jorge. So are you from the same part of the city as Swifty, Susan?”

“She was going to be picked up. She got off the train before yours and some unpleasant characters were planning to make off with her.”

“Procurers.”
“Yes. They must have known she was coming and set her up.”

“So you stepped in and rescued her. What if I were uncovered?”
“I had things set up and if Gordy and his buddies had picked up on you, they might have gone for a grab or just told somebody that you had used the station. So messing them up and clearing them out was a good thing.”

“I agree and that is your job. Have you told your bosses about these characters?”
“Not yet. They weren’t messing with anything we were connected with. Izzie knows who they are, but as I said, they probably have heavy cover.”

“I think that at some point we are going to have to get together with you and your friends and have you go over the various characters and what they do.”

“What is going on?” Susan asked. “This all sounds crooked.”

“As a result of a clown named Gilders stealing a paper of mine and not just pulling the paper when it became obvious that he had stolen it, I have been looked at by the FSA and some more disreputable types trying to prove that I am some sort of spy,” Jorge said. “As a result, my family has hired Swifty’s boss to keep an eye on me when I am in town. Swifty is part of that and was covering me at the station. Apparently Swifty spotted some bad characters and didn’t want them getting a clue that I was using that station or even that I was there, to say nothing of rescuing the fair lady, something he handled in his usual style. I was just thinking that Swifty’s boss’s people may not know about all the various characters that Swifty and his friends do. They are probably the crooked ones.”

“Are you Jorge Umevan?”

“How did you know?”

“Swifty was laughing his head off when I said that I was going to Ironton to speak with you about messing up my life.”

“How did I do that, since, up until now, I hadn’t met you and I still don’t know your last name.”

“It’s Gilders. You stole my brother’s paper.”

“Actually, your brother stole my paper from the Congressional Record when he was working there. That wasn’t a big deal as far as I was concerned, but when some friends arranged to publish my paper in a journal, the people at Beltain came after them and then, when my teachers and friends did not capitulate, your dad went after the navy to get them to classify some materials that had been declassified. That annoyed me more than a bit because the navy and I are trying to keep places being Scourged like the five cities were and because of what your dad did, the FSA is playing games with me rather than chasing the Stewards, who have been lauching Scourge devises and other booms at people.”

“Why would the Stewards do that? They are just activists.”
“I have no idea, but they have planted one in Ironton, launched another one in Desert Howl, parked one in front of the Crystal Palace that ended up in
Smoky Hill by accident, killing some of Swifty’s neighbors and put a mana battery in a fake tree at my university set to spontaneously discharge.”

“Are you sure it was the Stewards?”
“I found the thing in the tree, when it didn’t go boom like it was supposed to, they came and picked it up and when they were busted, they had it in their headquarters.”

“That sounds like something in those trashy novels.”
“I’m not in them and I hope that they don’t discover me.”

Susan looked at Shael and said, “Is this all true, lady?”

“Yes it is. I am Shael, by the way.”
“Are you an elf?”
“Yes, a real high elf.”

“Are you an exile?”
“Not at all.”
“Then why are you here?”
“To be with Jorge, have some new experiences and meet interesting new people.”

“How did he find you?”
Shael laughed. “He crashed an airplane in my lake.”
“We didn’t crash,” Jorge said with a grin. “That dock was definitely in the wrong place. Iezzen is sure of that.”

“You haven’t asked me to move it.”
“We installed an airfield and don’t have to land on the lake anymore. So we don’t have to move the dock.”

“Why did you ask your father to take my family off the selected customer list?” Susan asked.

Jorge looked at Susan. “I didn’t. For that matter, I’m not sure what the selected customer list is.”
“The Umevan took over the folios from the Yllanan and said that the folios could only be commissioned from selected customers and my family was taken off the list. This was to be my last Present and now it’s ruined.”

“I did not ask my father to do that. On the other hand, while he will put up with a lot from customers, your father and the FSA clowns have been poking around and making nuisances of themselves. Your brother trying to force the family to sell the villa in Ishendell hasn’t helped. The toys from the folio are made in special batches by my father and the senior artisans in the shop. For the most part, the toys stay in the Empire, but the Yllanan started to take the folios overseas and send commissions back. My father has always wanted to share more of what he does with more children, not a very few wealthy elves and during the last couple of years, I have moved on to other things, so I can’t be in the shop to help. My brother is too young, going to school and is looking to get into the estate’s wine business and travel all over the world. So the folio things are going to be rather limited and my father wants to explore new ways of doing things.”
“Was that why he was here?”
“Among other reasons, yes.”

“Did you mess up mother’s party?”
“I’m not going to say. Your father has the FSA looking into that and my family here doesn’t want me in any more trouble. Did you enjoy it?”

“The animals weren’t real, were they? How did you do that?”

“Shael can introduce you to Jimmy and Princess Talissa if you ever go to the Empire. Here is our stop, so I, at least need to be at class or there will be problems.”
“With the teacher?”

“I am the teacher.”

They got off the train, went down the stairs and down the street to the Beinan office.  A half elf came out of the darkness and said, “Was everything clean, Swifty?”

“I’m not sure. I’ll explain after class.”

“Where did you meet your friend?”

“That’s part of it. I need to get to class.”
They went inside, and for the next two twentieths, Jorge  explained the esoteric details of a small portal, showed various parts and explained problems as well as demonstrating how to code and launch one way ports and make sure that they ended up where they were supposed to. The class disassembled and restored the small portal and sent some small objects places and then the class ended. Susan said to Swifty, “Maybe I should see if I could get one of these for my birthday.”

“I would be careful with that.”

Shael was talking to the half elf and then came over to Suzy and said, “Suzy, we will take you to the townhouse for the night after I send a message to your mother. I will take you home in the morning.”

“Do I have to?”
“Somebody wanted you taken for very bad things today.”
“Can Swifty come?”
“Swifty has school in morning. So he has to go home. Cory is taking him so that he isn’t spotted. Let’s go to the car.”

“If you had a car, why did you use the el?”
“Because some people know about the car and if we want to be discreet about things, that can be a problem.”

“Was this secret?”
“Not so much as the Beinans don’t like to reveal what they know while spreading what they know around as much as possible. The portals are not classified here because they are not that common. Here’s the car, so shall we go.”

“Why didn’t Jorge come with us?”
“He wants to talk with Swifty and some other people. You stirred some things up. It wasn’t your fault, but it needs to be dealt with.”

Cory looked at Jorge and Swifty and said, “What is the deal with the girl?”

“She is Derry Gilder’s sister, who apparently had her birthday present ruined because my father refused to take commissions from the Gilders.”

“Did you know that he was doing that?”
“No, because it probably came up during Winterfaire and father was rather annoyed at the Senator, so when his name was on the Yllanan customer list, he dropped them. My father is fairly easygoing about such things, but going after family pushes his button and then he will take steps, just like Rosa does, without the other side at risk of starving to death. Also, father likes to feel as if his creations are appreciated. For all of Lady Zylvyre’s multitude of faults she does appreciate father’s work and they actually have a good relationship. The Richflights and some others, not so much.”

Cory laughed. “So how did you end up with the girl?”
“That was Swifty’s fault. She got off the train before ours and Swifty spotted some characters that collect runaways and such for bad things and grabbed her first.”
“You left Jorge uncovered, Swifty?”
“No. I grabbed Suzy, hauled her onto the el, got off at the next stop and walked back to the train station. I arrived as the train did and Jorge and Shael did not have Gordy Shieldbasher and his gang spotting them using the station. I thought that even without the girl, pulling them was a good idea.”

“Any relation to the other Shieldbashers?”
“I’m not sure, but they have all been around. The word on the street is that they have heavy cover and they knew that Suzy was on the train.”

“Are there more characters we should probably know about?”
“Jorge said that the boys and I should talk to you about all the characters we know about that you haven’t run into yet. I think that we forgot that you don’t know about them and if they aren’t involved, won’t see them.”

“Let’s get you home.”

They got in the car and drove to where Swifty’s parents had their place. When they arrived, there was a police wagon in front. Cory kept right on driving and said, “I think that somebody called about you taking Suzy in. Jorge, you take Swifty to the townhouse while I come around the block and talk to Mrs. Cutflame.”

“Gordy probably realized who I was, but didn’t know why I was there,” Swifty said. “That’s rich. A kidnapper calling in somebody for rescuing the victim.”

Cory dropped Jorge and Swifty at the el station and then drove around and parked the car in front of Swifty’s building. He could hear Onia Cutfire’s fiery voice as she bellowed, “I don’t care if you are the President himself. You do not get into my place without a warrant, Mr. Special Officer. You know where the court is, so go and get one, that is if you have any evidence you didn’t plant.”

“We are trying to find a missing girl who was seen with your son, ma’am.”

“Do you have any pictures? My son was meeting a teacher and going to a class. He wouldn’t be picking up girls. He was working. There is his boss now. Cory, I don’t see my son with you.”
“He ran into something and things ran long at class. The lady wanted him to stay with them and chat, so he did.”

“Was there a girl?”
“He may have been asking questions about girls.”

“So, questions, but no girl.”

The FSA types turned on Cory and said, “Who are you?”
Cory pulled out his folder, “Corym Vavaris, Ironaxe Asset protection.”

“What were you doing this evening?”
“Special Agent, that comes under the client confidentiality laws and I don’t have to tell you anything.”
“Where is young Mr. Cutflame?”
“Again, that comes under client confidentiality laws and I am not going to say.”

“Was he doing work for you? That could make you complicent in a kidnapping.”
“Again, Special Agent, I’m not going to say what Swifty was or was not doing and I would think carefully about my company’s name. What is going on?”

“We can’t say, other than a young girl has disappeared.”

“Have you talked to people around Chatsrey East Station? Some people told me that there had been a rash of young girls disappearing there.”
“Was the boy there?”
“Again, Special Agent, what my people were doing and where, comes under client confidentiality laws. I was just telling you about some rumors that may help your case. Rather than harass the lady about her son, who wasn’t kidnapping girls off the street, you should ask her about the gangs that do exactly that. I’m sure she knows about them, as does just about everyone else in the neighborhood. I don’t even live here and I was told about them. She may even have their names.”

“We could haul you down to the office.”

“Then my boss would, when I don’t check in, call his uncle the barrister, who would call his buddy who would call his boss about FSA agents arresting people without probable cause. Maybe I should save some steps and make the call myself. I don’t know where you got your tip, but my guess is that you were tipped off by the procurers looking to make off with your supposed kidnap victim. You’re fishing and I would fish someplace else. It’s obvious that the girl isn’t here and the lady has work in the morning so why don’t you go home.”

The FSA agent looked at Cory and said, “We could haul you in for obstruction.”
“For what? I haven’t done anything that impeded your investigation, such as it is. How about this. I’ll go right now and call Barrister Ironaxe and he can send somebody to settle this. Of course the somebody he would send would be his friend, but I imagine that Barrister Harper can make time in his evening to see that I am put in my place.”

Faced with a stone wall, the FSA agents and the rest left. Onia said quietly, “Mr. Cory, thank you. Where is my son and was there a girl?”
“With Jorge the last time I saw him and yes, there was. You can probably guess what happened.”
“The girl got off at the station, Swifty spotted Gordy and grabbed the girl before Gordy could. Who is the girl?”
“A Miss Gilders of the Plateau. She is a bit spoiled and was annoyed that Fylson took her family off the list of people that he would take commissions from. She left home and somebody there called the Shieldbashers. My guess is that it wasn’t the first time. In any case, Swifty played some games, brought the girl along when he collected Jorge and Shael and Shael is taking the girl home tomorrow.”

“She doesn’t seem like the type that Swifty would bring home.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. They were talking small portals together after one class.”

Lythienne grinned as Jorge and a young dragonkin boy were let into the parlor. “Who is this, Jorge?”
“This is Swifty Cutflame and I am hoping that you can put him up for the night.”

“That is possible, but why didn’t you take him to the townhouse?”

“Because he rescued a girl while he was waiting for me at the train station and Shael took the girl home, but somebody, and we think it was the people that Swifty rescued the girl from, tipped off the FSA. I was going to take him to the townhouse, but then I thought about it and came here instead, because I figured that your place was the last place that the FSA would look.”

“Who was the girl?”

“A Susan Gilders, who came down off the Plateau because she was mad at me over father taking her family off the commissions list. Apparently the families on the Plateau treat their kids like the Cloud City types and the girl’s one thing was a commission from dad as a birthday present.”

Dan looked up from his paper and said, “Bringing the boy here was good thinking, but shouldn’t you hand the girl over to the FSA?”

“I would, except that the FSA seems to be operating with the procurers and Shael can take the girl home. I find it strange that all sorts of people knew about the procurers, yet the FSA was harassing Swifty’s mother, the poor fools.”
“You have met her.”
“Yes when we took Swifty home after class. Lady dragon fits her perfectly.”

“Where is Swifty’s father?”
“He was called up in the reserves. He is logistics for the army.”

Lythienne smiled and said, “Swifty, why don’t we get you a bath and get you to bed, as it is getting late.”

Swifty looked at Lythienne and said, “You don’t look like a lady dragon.”

“I can growl just like your mother and I had four boys, so get a move on.”

Dan and Jorge laughed as Lythienne pushed Swifty and after they left the room, Jorge said, “I hope that getting the girl out of the mess wasn’t a mistake, but I can’t trust those FSA clowns.”
“Will the girl back you up if you say that you did not kidnap her?”
“Yes. She was confused at first but steadied out very fast. Swifty acted fast to get her out of the procurer’s hands and then came straight back to the station to pick me up. I’m going to talk to Cory about using another station and better coverage. Ask Barrister Harper to look into kidnappings at Chatsrey East station and I would ask around the Plateau for people who have lost girls, because Swifty knew all about the operation.”

“That is very interesting.”

“I need to get to the townhouse and bed. I have to get back to Ironton tomorrow.”

Beltain

Delton Milders looked at the young man sitting across from him and felt more than a little queasy. The fact that the Peninsula had only been a state for the last twenty eight years and had had three Senators in that time sat in the back of his head as he said, “Mr, Gilders, I’m not sure what you are asking me to do.”
“It’s fairly simple. The FSA can’t get a warrant from a local magistrate and without it, can’t investigate some criminal activity. It shouldn’t be difficult for you to pull some strings and get a magistrate to accept a warrant.”
“If the FSA can’t produce evidence of criminal activity, then why do they need a warrant?”
“The people involved are very good at covering things up. I’m sure that the activity will be found.”

“Just who is involved?”
“Some Imperial that have purchased villas in Ishendell. They are not even Republican citizens.”

“So what are you offering in exchange?”

“Your son, Harry, would like to pledge to the Tigers. Some friends could make that happen if we can have our thing in Ishendell this year.’

“You can’t rent the villas you want because they were purchased by people from the Empire and want to plant evidence of criminal activity on them so that they will be forced to leave. The problem is that the Imperials you are talking about have a lot of clout here in the Republic including three old families, the Umevan and the Beinans. I’m sorry, but I can’t be the Senator who takes the heat when the thing collapses.”

“You could be in trouble getting anything passed.”
“Mr. Gilders, I wouldn’t play those games with your father. What makes you think that I would with you? What you don’t understand is that my voters are a bit tougher than your father’s and if I do play games with their interests, they will give me the boot. Right now, the Peninsula is recovering from a little war because the Senate would not fund the strong defenses I asked for or the rapid response force that I was pushing with the army and the navy. That cost the Peninsula twelve thousand civilian lives. Annoying people like Richard Harper over the fact that he wanted a beach house comes under me being an idiot, especially since the Harpers, unlike the people here, seem to be concerned about the reconstruction and also aided the defense of the Peninsula at some cost to themselves.

“By the way, if my son does not pledge, I will make this conversation known to the press. Of course I will tell my son that transferring to Chatsrey or Ironton will be a good idea. Good day, Mr. Gilders.”

Gilders left and Milders breathed a sigh of relief. This one had been rather sloppy and obvious. Gilders was rushed and used to playing the games a certain way. The problem was going to be at what point would he have to compromise to get something the Peninsula needed. The war had been hard on the people there and while the Scourge suppressor work and the aid from the Fellowship and the Qinvaris had been a gift from the gods, there was still so much that was needed and it was his job to get those things. He picked up the phone and said, “Livy, would you get me the Attorney General. I have something that he should know.”

Klara was taking a late sip when Billings appeared and said, “A telegram from Chatsrey for you, Madam.”

“From who?”

“A Miss Biqen.”

“Open it and read it yourself. It can’t be anything important.”

Billings opened it and then handed it to Klara, “The lady is bringing your daughter home. Apparently she discovered her in Chatsrey and is bringing her home. She says that there are some circumstances that she needs to discuss with your discreetly.”

“Let me see that.”

Billings handed Klara the message, she looked at it and said, “She doesn’t mention turning Susan over to the FSA. That would seem to be the logical way out.”

“Should I contact your husband and the FSA and tell them that the matter is resolved?”
“No, don’t tell them yet. If the lady evades the FSA, that is fine. At worst the FSA will probably cause a stink. If she does evade the FSA, they will get a stink from me.”

“What about your husband?”
“He will get answers soon enough. There is something strange going on and the less we change things the better.”

“I will be at the station with the car when they arrive. Do you want to come?”

“No, and use Geral’s car.”

“The gardener’s car?”
“Yes. As I said, there is something strange and I want to know what is going on before my daughter surfaces again.”

Chapter 36.

Bubil Kil

Finding a job had been easy for Spitty after he made some connections with the local disreputbles. Since he could handle business matters and accounting, he was working in a rather overwhelmed small,but growing rapidly general store as the furnaces headed to the much awaited start up. The dam would not be generating power for another three moons, but the coke ovens had been started and Iron ore was being stockpiled by eager miners. With that came the need for hardware, gloves and workclothes as well as all the things that new households needed, all of which had to be accounted for. Spitty quickly made a reputation for being able to deal with all sorts of problems and established himself at the store.

Lyad had returned the next morning with an elf man who was apparently his father, who left by train and then returned home with his father’s horse. Spitty had asked around and quickly discovered that Raibyn was considered one of the best farmers in the region and a very capable man indeed. Considering what Lyad had been asking questions about, Spitty was sure that Raibyn had gone to look for his daughter and was probably starting in Neuw Athlin. Spitty had sent a discreet message that should hopefully have eyes on him when he arrived.

The issue at hand was attracting Lyad’s attention discreetly. The problem was that Lyad had stopped coming to town alone and regularly. So it was time to have some dragon issues.  

Lyad looked at the sheep and wanted to scream. He wasn’t sure what was doing it, but the thing had struck the farm three times now, making off with sheep and leaving the leftovers. Some of his neighbors had told him that there were dragons in the area, but if there were, they hadn’t showed themselves on his farm, except for the sheep carcasses. Fuming he headed to town. As he passed behind the hotel, a woman was training and he stopped briefly, not at first realizing what he was seeing. Then he did, and realized that he was going to have to discuss it with his mother. After watching the lady briefly he continued to the guard post to file his complaint. After that was done, he returned to the farm. Just as he reached the farm, the form of a dragon, sheep in talons lifted off and disappeared into the sky.

When he reached the house his mother was watching with a faint smile and Lyad bellowed, “What is so funny, mother?”
“I was just remembering a different place that your father and I were sent to. This was before you were born, but we did not Dance there.”

“You failed a task and returned?”
“It wasn’t so much failure as understanding. The old dragon did not resist, but he did have arguments and they were persuasive. You seem to be bothered by something other than the dragon.”
“Are the folk here the only Silverin?”
“That is an interesting question. Did you encounter one in the town?”

“A lady was practicing the Dance.”

“Did she seem to come to it naturally? Those that are not Silverin can learn the Dance, but they strain somewhat.”

“She seemed to be comfortable with it.”

“Who is the lady?”

“I do not know. She arrived recently.”

“See if you can discover where she came from, as discreetly as you can. I know that Nistra was better at such things than you are, but developing those skills will aid you.”

“What if father does not return?”
“He is not looking to do anything other than discover what happened to your sister. There is a reason that she disappeared like she did and we must discover that. The Master was involved in some way and how and why he was involved needs to be discovered.”

“What do we do about the dragons?”
“They are young. They will leave or the girls will draw them down soon enough. It would be good to have dragons in the family.”

“You are strange, mother.”
“Thank you, dear. I would send you out into the wider world so that you could learn to be strange as well if I could, but alas, you are needed here.”

Chatsrey.

Swifty got out of the car and headed to the school door with a small grin on his face. A man popped out in front of him and said, “Federal Service! We need you to come with us!”

“What for?”
“You were involved in the kidnapping of a girl.”

“I was? Do you have witnesses?”
“Come down to the office and we will tell you everything.”

“Do you have a warrant, Special Agent?”

The FSA man looked at the elf who had emerged from the car and blanched. “We just wanted to interview the boy, sir.”
“What is the case number?”
“I don’t know, sir.”

“Do you have evidence that there was a kidnapping at all?”
“A girl has disappeared from the Plateau.”

“This is Chatsrey, a long way from the Plateau. Now why don’t we let Swiftfire here go on to school while you show me what you have at the office. I will note that there have been complaints of late of the Federal Service harassing Dragonkin, issuing false charges and planting evidence. Swifty, go along to class. I imagine that this will take some time. Special Agent, why don’t we get started on this.”

Special Agent Calbit was watching Chastrey Central station for kidnappers and their victim. The only thing other than the girl’s picture, after she had run away from home was that a dragonkin boy had been involved. There was a suspect, but the girl hadn’t shown up with him or been seen at all. Calbit heard some noise as a gang of dragonkin, boys and girls entered the station. He started to walk in their direction and they scattered, disappearing into the hallways of the station. Shrugging, he walked past an exile and her daughter as they headed to their train with a Green cap in tow.

Susan looked at the Special Agent as they walked past and when they were a distance away, said, “He didn’t even see us.”

Shael grinned. “He was distracted a bit by the dragonkin and he was looking for dragonkin and not an exile and her daughter, in poor clothing, struggling.”

“We sent a message to mother. Why are they still doing this?”
“I don’t know. I think that they want to know what you know, since you evaded the procurer’s scheme. As Swifty said, “The Shieldbashers had heavy protection.” This is evidence that that is indeed the case.”
“Would the FSA be corrupt?”
“I am not a citizen of the Republic, so it isn’t for me to say. I do know that there are individual officers in the FSA who are competent and able. But the Director has been playing games and what starts at the top feeds down. Here is our train, so let us get on.”

“What do you know about Swifty?”

“You do know that your mother would consider him very inappropriate.”
“Because he is scaly. I know. On the other hand, he saved my life when he didn’t have to.”

“I wouldn’t say that the procurers were after your life.”

“Maybe not to kill me, but after they were done, I wouldn’t be the same person.”

“That is a very interesting thing to say. Have you encountered someone that had gone through that?”

“That is a family matter.”

“Then I won’t press.”

“When did you know that Jorge was the one for you?”

“Almost immediately. That airplane came buzzing over, landed on the lake and crashed  into the dock. Jorge and Iezzen got out and were laughing. Then Jorge restored the portal and opened the door to my cage. He also faced the dangers that were frightening everyone without blinking and made them look foolish when almost everyone was afraid of the Darkmage and the people that were hidden behind him.”

“What did he do?”

“The house cook, Snuggles is the brother to our head guard, Snowball.”

“Snuggles? Snowball?”
“They are fae bears. They may have other names, but they adopt nicknames that are appropriate, mostly when they are children or develop certain habits. You can guess what Snuggles likes to do.”

“Does she have someone to snuggle with?”

“Yes, but they are keeping it private for the time being. He is not a bear, yet.”

“And Snowball?”

“He was a runt when he was little and his mother called him her little Snowball.”

“That is your head guard?”
“He’s also capable and sneaky, as well as being a good hunter. There are different kinds of strength.”

“What did your parents think of Jorge?”
“At the time, Jorge did not have the estate, which took some concerns that may parents had concerning another family taking the House. There was social pressure for High elf families to have one child and my father’s brother had been exiled, so there was just me in the family. Jorge was socially acceptable and eased the concerns over Grimfrost. Of course Jorge has had the estate returned, but his family has grown and there are plenty of family to manage the estate when the time comes. I am hoping that Jorge and I have children before my parents go to the fire in any case, so the estate will be in good hands. Why don’t we get on the train?”

As they got on the train, Susan looked around and asked, “How come you don’t have any bodyguards?”

“First of all, I am not incapable. Second, they may be hiding in plain sight.”

The train pulled out of the station and Suzy looked around. As far as she could tell everyone in the train car was normal until the ticket collector took their ticket and three large men stood up and moved to seats next to Shael and Suzy. “There doesn’t seem to be any FSA types on the train, Shael. I think that we are clear.”

“Thank you Vinny. This is Susan, by the way.”

“The girl that the Feds were looking for all over town and that some others were looking for as well. How did you find her?”

“Swifty did. Apparently some people use Chatsrey East as a place to procure girls for entertainment.”

Vinny grinned. “We could have some fun.”

“Ask Jorge about it. I think that it’s being handled already. The FSA types went after the lady dragon. Susan, this is Vinny, Tiny and Jim. They work for Jorge’s grandmother doing odd jobs.”

“Why weren’t you at the station yesterday?”

“Miss, we didn’t know about the clowns grabbing girls at the station and Swifty was covering the FSA types if they showed up. If he messes with the FSA types, he’s just a dragonkin kid. If we do, that’s a big legal mess and the FSA knows about us already. So it was better that Swifty cover the station and the el ride to the class. We stayed on the train and got off at Chatsrey Central so that we would attract any Feds. They were looking for you, anyway. Jorge doesn’t like to think that he needs to be guarded anyway.”

“Swifty was in danger.”

“Not really. First of all, most people ignore dragonkids just there, especially if they seem to be doing something, like being a messenger. Then, Swifty knows the neighborhood and had exits if he needed them. The important thing was that he had no obvious connection to Jorge. I think that’s broken now.”

Suzy smiled. “So Swifty will have to do something else?”

“Missy, I do hope that you aren’t thinking of Swifty as a playtoy.”

“He saved my life yesterday. So, not at all.”

“Does your family have any enemies who would set those characters on you?”
“I’m not sure. Swifty asked me that last night and I’m not sure. Mother would be the one to ask. They did know that I was coming.”

“Tell us what you saw.”

“Won’t you get that from Swifty?”
“We’ll be discussing this with him, but he wasn’t on the train with you and will see things differently. So why did you get off at Chatsrey East?”
“There was a man who was really nice who said that it was easier to get off there for the train to Ironton. He said that there was a hotel across the street that was convenient.”

“So he convinced you to get off there. Did he get off as well?”
“No, he was going into the city.”

“What happened when you got off?”

“Swifty came up, grabbed me and took me to the el. We were being followed by a Piggish man. Swifty knew who they were.”

“An orc. Did he seem to know what he was doing?”
“Yes. Swifty pulling me to the el threw him off.”
“Was there more than one of them?”

“Yes. When we were walking back to the station, there was a car with two more of them inside, waiting.”

“What happened then?”

“Swifty took me back to the train station, Jorge and Shael got off the train and we got back on the el.”

“Did you tell anyone back home when you left?”
“No.”

“Could they guess where you were going?”
“I had made rather a stink about Jorge, so yes, they could.”

“Do you think somebody saw you leave?”

“That is hard to say. The train station isn’t that easy to hide in, I was naïve and not really trying to hide. Other than family, I didn’t think that anyone would come after me.”

“Ok, missy, our stop is coming up, so we will bid you good day.”

“Aren’t  you leaving us unguarded?”
Vinny smiled. “I think that you will be fine.”

Bob looked at his son and Tom and said, “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Bill smiled and said, “What do you have for us, dad?”

“First of all, you and Tom are active Federal Agents under me directly.”

“What about the FSA?”
“The FSA here in town may be implicated in this.”
“What is going on?”

“Last night, one of Torald Ironaxe’s recruits, a Swifty Cutflame, was covering for Jorge Umevan as he was on his way to his class at Beinan’s in Industry City. Just before Jorge’s train arrived at Chatsrey East station, Swifty saw one Gordy Shieldbasher, known around Swifty’s neighborhood as the Collector, arrive. Shortly thereafter, a young girl got off the train and Swifty intercepted her before Mr. Shieldbasher could collect her. He looped around to the station, covered Jorge and went with him to Beinan’s. Shortly after that, the FSA was looking for Swifty in relation to the kidnapping of one Susan Gilders. Apparently they had a tip from someone. That was what I had from the FSA types that tried to collect young Mr. Cutflame this morning as I took him to school.”

“That was a strange thing to do, dad?”

“Jorge parked the boy at your grandmother’s last night. She called me in for breakfast and suggested that I take the boy to school on my way to the office. He told me most of what I just told you.”

“You want us to take the case.”

“The FSA seems to determined to pin the kidnapping on the boy and may seemingly be collaborating with the “collectors.” I want the collector’s operation, any FSA people connected and any connections to the Plateau.”

“We’re sort of busy looking for Scourge devises.”
“I know, but I think that this is related and if we don’t act fast, the thing will disappear before we can crack it open. I’ll talk to Tom and Rod about this, but I think that this may be as big and nasty as the Stewards and their booms.”

“That bad?” Tom asked. “Can I bring my grandmother in?”
“Do that, Tom. We were luckier than we deserve and that young man was as swift and clever as his name.”

“How are you going to keep him out of the FSA’s hands”
“I made it fairly clear that I was aware of what they were doing this morning when they had somebody waiting to take Swifty off for an interview. I’ll give you whatever they had, which wasn’t much. I’m sending somebody to get an affadavit from Swifty after school this afterten.”

“Where is the girl?”

“Shael is taking her home. She did not want the FSA handling the girl and from the little I have so far, that is justified.”  

“How are you going to keep the FSA from going after the boy?”
“That’s handled. Most of the time, Gertald Cutflame is a truck driver. When he is called up, he’s Colonel Cutflame, logistics officer for General Norman Harper. His wife called him last night. He called JAG reserve affairs.”

“A truck driver?”

“Talk to his wife. She’ll tell you the story. She is rather annoyed that the FSA clowns came to the house. I think that the whole neighborhood knows how annoyed she is.”

Bill grinned. “A real dragon lady.”

“In every way. It’s a good thing for the FSA types that she can’t transform, because they would have been burned worse than they were.”

Swifty left his last class with a bit of trepidation. He had arranged over lunch to meet with some of his friends and leave together but they were meeting at the door and if there was an FSA agent in the hall, that could be trouble. Instead, when he left the classroom there was a man in uniform and another one in fancy suit talking to each other. The man in uniform said, “Mr. Cutflame, I am Lieutenant Falder of the JAG reserve affairs office and this is Barrister Rogerd Hollings of the Chief prosecutor’s office. The barrister wants to get an affidavit from you concerning the events of last night and I am to here to deal with your case and handle any legal matters involved, as well as act as your attorney. I will say that you do not have to say anything, but at this point, you are a witness to the events and there was a crime committed.”

“Who told you about me?”
“Your mother called your father last night after the FSA showed up, the colonel called the general, who called my office, who called the colonel back this morning. He told us to get to the bottom of this and get the FSA out of your mother’s sight as soon as possible. There is a room over there that the school said that we can use, and then I am to take you home.”

They went into the room and there was a lady with a sort of typewriter inside. The barrister said, “Sit down, Swifty. I want you to know that at this point you are not being charged with anything concerning this case. Nor will I ask you to admit to anything or break confidences or confidential agreements. Now why don’t we start? Why were you at the station last evening?”
“A bunch of friends and me started to run errands and do things for Ironaxe Asset Protection. One thing we do is watch people where somebody older who doesn’t belong would stick out.”

“How did you get the job?”
“Some friends and I ran into one of the Darkmage’s inert Scourge devises and as a result we met a reporter and some people in the government. The reporter connected us to Mr. Ironaxe and he gave us odd jobs.”

“So you were working at the station. Did it involve the girl?”
“No. somebody a client wanted to be watched over was arriving and I was covering the arrival.”

“What happened before the arrival?”

“I spotted Gordy Shieldbasher, who is known for collecting girls and some boys for “grooming” I figured that he was going to collect somebody and a train was due. The train arrived and among other passengers, a girl that looked like she had come from the Plateau got off, looking lost. I had palmed two five copper pieces, walked up, and before Gordy could grab the girl, took her up to the el and got on a train. We went one stop and walked back to the railroad station.”

“How did you know that Mr. Shieldbasher was after the girl?”
“He was heading to her the same time I was and he followed us up to the el train.”

“What did you do when you returned to the railroad station?”
“My principle’s train arrived, we got on the el and went to his destination.”

“Did you restrain the girl in any way?”
“After the first grab and taking her up the el steps, no, I didn’t.”

“Did you know who she was?”

“Only after she told me on the el after we left the station.”

“Was Mr. Shieldbasher acting alone?”
“We saw two more men in a car, waiting for something. We walked right past them.”

“How did you manage that?”
“I had Suzy hand me her coat and gave her mine, so she became a street girl, rather than a girl off the Plateau.”

“What happened next?”
We took the el to our destination and my principle gave the class that he come to the city to give. The Principle’s lady took Suzy with her after she left.”

“Why did you not turn Suzy into the FSA?”
“That wasn’t my decision to make. My principle had some suspicions and when a senior Ironaxe operative and my principle took me home, there was the FSA looking to haul me off.”

“What did you do then?”
“My principle and I got out of the car, the senior Ironaxe operative went back to my home and we went to the Harpers where I stayed the night.”

“Why there?”

“My principle knew them and with the FSA looking for me and maybe to accuse my principle of a crime, parking me someplace that they would not think to look was a good idea.”

“Do you know what the plan was for the girl?”
“As far as I know, the plan was to take Suzy home.”

“What if the girl had wanted to go to the FSA?”
“I think that if Suzy had insisted, we would have taken her. The problem was that by the time we could have done that, it was obvious that there was something fishy going on. Suzy didn’t insist and we didn’t take her to the FSA.”

“Thank you Mr. Cutflame. You did very well. I, at least don’t see a kidnapping charge here. Rather the opposite in fact. Lieutenant, the boy is all yours. My office will send you a copy of the affidavit when it is transcribed.”

The lieutenant turned to Swifty and said, “Let’s get you home before lady flamebreath gets annoyed.”

“You have been talking to mom.”
“I have been talking to your mother, yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault and you did the right thing last night. I wish that I could say that your intuition about the FSA was wrong, but this is ugly. Could you give me an address for Ironaxe Asset Protection?”
“Yes, why?”
“I will need to talk to them as to why you were at the station and in a position to rescue a cute girl.”

“How do you know that Suzy is cute?”

“Is she?”

“Yes.”

“Did she like you after things calmed down?”
“Yes.”

“Then you could be in trouble.”
“She’s from the Plateau. They won’t let her have anything to do with the likes of me.”
“Stranger things have happened. Would you look at who is here?”
“What?”

“Don’t turn around, but that car had two orcs inside. I guess they were annoyed that you were with me.”

Ironton.

Jhaan stood up as the Senator was let into his office. “Welcome, Senator. What brings you here? This is a first for you.”
“I need to see young Jorge Umevan.”
“What about. I doubt that he would want to see you very much.”

“This concerns my daughter and Jorge’s father.”

“Fylson.”

“When my daughter was five, we gave her a Fylson toy for her birthday. This was a significant present. She loved it. More importantly, she loved the idea of the magical shop in the Empire that created it. Every year since, we have had the Yllanan send us the folio of the things that were going to be created and Susan made a choice. This year, we were told that we were cut from the selected customer list and that the folio would not be sent to us. We were also told that the decision was made by Fylson himself and the Jorge was the reason. Susan blamed Jorge and ran away from home to speak with him. I’m hoping to let Jorge know that she is coming and that he will send her back.”

“Is that the only reason?”
“No. Susan, when she heard that she could not select a Fylson this year, made it fairly clear that I was responsible because I did things without thinking about the consequences. I thought about it and decided that I owed you all an apology for my behavior.”

“My brother probably won’t change his mind.”
“That is as it is. I let things get out of control and now my daughter is missing and this is a huge mess.”

Jhaan held up a telegram. “I do have some good news and some bad news.”

“What is the good news?”
“Your daughter ran into a young dragonkin who was covering for Jorge last night. The boy extracted her from the grip of some procurers that were lying in wait for her. They joined Jorge and his lady and went to the class that Jorge was giving. Jorge’s lady is taking your daughter home.”

“Why was she not turned over to the FSA?”
“That is the bad news. Jorge and the others think that the FSA may be colluding with the procurers and that the thing was being run from the Plateau.”

“Are you sure?”
“I just have the telegram so far and Jorge was fairly brief. I will get more when he gets back, but he wouldn’t say that unless he was fairly certain and apparently the procurers knew that the girl was coming.”

“The FSA?”

“That is what Jorge said. Apparently they were looking very quickly for the boy who rescued your daughter and ignored the procurers altogether.”

“When is Jorge returning?”

“If he left this morning and came right back, he should be here shortly. That is if doesn’t return directly to the college.”

The side door opened, a half elf poked in and said, “You’re busy. I’ll get back to you, Jhaan.”

“Come in, Jorge. This is Senator Gilders.”
Jorge came in and said, “Senator, my lady is taking your daughter home. They should be arriving soon.”
“Why did you not just turn her over to the FSA?”
“For a variety of reasons, some of which were your fault, that all added up to the fact that we did not trust the FSA in Chatsrey to not just turn your daughter over to the people looking for her. The fact is that the FSA came looking for the young man that was covering me very fast and the only people that could have known that anyone had any contact with your daughter were the procurers. Yet when one of his associates and I were taking the boy home, there was the FSA, looking for him, while ignoring the events at the railroad station. The procurers also knew that your daughter was coming and set her up, specifically. Also, various people, including Bob Harper have been attempting to lead the FSA through the nose to the railroad station and the events there, and the FSA still is chasing the boy. That’s after everyone in that section of Chatsrey knew about the procurers and who they were.”

“Who was the boy?”

“That will have to remain confidential. He didn’t have to do what he did, and indeed, since he was supposed to be covering me, he should not have involved himself directly, so I am not going to have you chase after him like you have me. Suzy may bring him up, but that is up to her.”

“What happened, exactly?”
“Here is what I know, based on what Suzy said last night and what everyone else said. Suzy was upset with me over my father and decided to come down and talk to me about the folio and my father cutting you off. She got on the train and at some point, a man got on and suggested that she get off at Chastrey East and change trains there instead of Chastrey Central He said  that there was a hotel there, which was a lie, but not that important. The boy covering me arrived at the station and spotted a Gordy Shieldbasher, known locally as the “collector.” The boy realized that Gordy was there to make a pickup and decided to make sure that Gordy did not spot me by messing up the pickup. Suzy got off the train, the boy grabbed her, dragged her to the next door el station and onto the train, with Gordy chasing after her. They got off at the next stop and walked back to the railroad station, walking past the car that Gordy had set up for the get away. My train arrived, Shael and I got off, and the boy and Suzy were waiting. We went to the el and my class. Afterwards, one of the boy’s associates and I went to the boy’s home with the boy and there was the FSA looking for him. We drove on past, I took the boy to a safe place and the associate returned to the boy’s home, where the boy’s mother was being rather nasty to the FSA as the FSA was saying that the boy had kidnapped Suzy. The only way that the FSA could have known that the boy was involved is from the procurers. This morning I did some followup and Shael took Suzy home.”

“The procurers knew that Suzy was on the train?”
“As far as I can tell, yes they did. Barrister Harper is going to put some people on the case discreetly and find out more. Suzy and the boy were both fairly clear that Suzy was set up long before she arrived in Chatsrey. The boy said that Chatsrey East had been used for the purpose of collecting girls previously. He also said that the procurers had “heavy protection on the Plateau.” From what I saw, somebody in the FSA was either colluding with the procurers or the procurers had protection.”

“Thank you for being so frank and straightforward with me. I also owe you a debt. What can I do for you?”

 “I doubt that the FSA is going to give up on me, even if you tell them to. You could ask Derry to stop playing games trying to get my family and some others to sell the villas in Ishendell, but that isn’t going to happen and playing games with the Beinans, the Yllanan, the Shahana and the Qinvaris is just plain stupid, especially in Ishendell where they also seem to think that harassing Major Tollings’ house manager is a good idea. If they want to throw their clout around, they should do it someplace where they aren’t poking some people that they really don’t want to annoy.”

“What do you mean?”

“All those Houses I mentioned? Their kids really like to play, and if the kids in the Societies keep it up, and then have their thing in Ishendell, the others will too with direct portals to home. The Societies are lucky that they are having their thing in Ishendell this year and not last year, because the Beinan ladies have all secured their wedding budgets and aren’t looking for big capers.”

“I will talk to Derry about that.”

The Senator left and Jhaan said, “You didn’t mention that Ironton was cooking something up. Are the Houses really planning something?”
“I’ve been here, so how would I know. On the other hand, my cousins are planning to use our villa, Fireoak and Alinis are talking to his relatives and the Yllanan are probably plotting something to warm their new villa. Somebody may have mentioned the Societies and their thing.”

“Should we ask your father to relent?”
“That is more complicated. What I would really like to arrange is for Suzy to go to my father’s shop and see it for herself. That is what she has always wanted. The presents were her just sharing the shop.”

“She may be disappointed.”

“She may be. The place is, as you know, pretty ordinary. On the other hand, my father and his people produce amazing things there and I was amazed at the attention my little prank got.”

“How did the class go?”
“I’m a bit concerned. Swifty has been doing very well, the end of the class is building a small portal and he and Suzy were talking small portals together after one class.”

Jhaan grinned. “Are you worried that they will prank you?”

“Actually, I’m sure they will, at some point.”

Beltain.

The train pulled into the station and Shael spotted the rather beat up car with the rather rustic looking man holding a sign that said “Beacon” on it. Shael, dragging a morose Suzy walked over and said, “You are here for me?”

“Let me take your bag. The lady wants to interview you for the new position. Is this your daughter?”
“This is Susan, who I was left with when my husband up and left.”

“Let us go, then.”

They got in the car and Susan said, “Billings, why are you using Geral’s car?”
“Miss, your mother thought that a little ruse would be appropriate under the circumstances and I agreed. Milady here seems to have agreed as well. “You are Lady Biqen, I presume?”
“Yes and I agree with Mrs. Gilders. Apparently my telegram was understood.”
“Yes. What we did not understand was why you did not hand miss over to the authorities.”

“We, and that includes people from different backgrounds, were all certain that an effort was being made to make Susan disappear and that the authorities may have been part of that.”

“Do you agree with that, miss?”
“I do,” Susan said. “I was naïve, just prancing out like that, and didn’t understand that there were people that wanted to harm me.”
“Young ladies are easily preyed upon.”
“I learned that lesson. At least I was rescued by a clever and capable boy.”

“Will we see him here?”

“I don’t know. He is rather prejudiced agains the Plateau and I think he is a bit shy.”

“Since you apparently did not accomplish your mission, will you be able to recruit his assistance going forward? That is if you do this again. If you do, I would like to know that you had an able and worldly companion to assist you.”

“Billings are you saying that mother will let me do this again?”
“Now that you know that you can, your mother will not be able to keep you caged. I think that the lady here may know of that, somewhat.”

Shael grinned. “I do, Billings. Certainly, I found an able and worthy companion.”

“Very able, from what I have heard about him. Young Derry has been much put out in his conflicts with him.”

“When I see Suzy’s mother, I will tell her that I will make an effort to keep Jorge from sending things at her parties. The family did not know that he was setting it up until it happened.”

“That was well constructed and the FSA was rather vexed.”

Billings drove the car through a gate and into a maze of narrow streets to a townhouse that was not extravagant and through a door and into a garage, where he parked the car next to a larger car and a limousine. They got out of the car and Billings led them to a rather plain staircase. “I apologize for the lack of a dramatic entry, milady.”
“That is fine. I like the back anyway. It tends to be more honest.”

Billings laughed as they reached the top of the stairs and a voice bellowed, “SUSAN GILDERS, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!”

‘Mother, since you and Derry did not want to resolve things and Daddy couldn’t seem to, I thought that I would try.”

“Do you know how much trouble you could have gotten yourself into?”
“Yes I do, mother. I almost did. There was very clever and able boy and he rescued me from my folly.”

“Where is this boy? I want to meet him.”
“In Chatsrey, mother. I’m not sure where he went and Jorge didn’t say. I do have his address.”

Klara turned to Shael and said, “How did you get involved, Lady Biqen?”
“The boy that rescued Susan was covering for Jorge and me as we were using the station to go to a class that Jorge is holding. He joined us and brought Susan along.”

“Why did you not just turn Susan over to the FSA?”
“First of all, it was apparent that someone, from here, more than likely, wanted to make Susan disappear. Second, as a result of your husband’s dealings, Jorge and I did not trust the FSA. There were other, unrelated reasons, but the result was that unless we knew what was going to happen, turning your daughter over was something to be avoided. There was also a significant chance that some of us would be accused of kidnapping Susan. Finally, if Susan was returned home, unseen, whoever was responsible will have to expose themselves to discover what happened.”

“I agree with your reasoning. We are not exactly friends. Why did you bother?”
“Once Susan was rescued, we had a certain responsibility for her. Neither Jorge nor I are citizens, and if we did not act responsibly we could damage family that are citizens.”

“Why did Jorge ruin my Winterfaire party?”
“Jorge was trying to get the Senator focused on him and not some others who were doing important things. Some people were getting heat from here and that was jeopardizing things that could cost thousands of lives. Your husband was pushing Admiral Harper, for instance. So Jorge drew the attention in his usual fashion.”

“Did you know that he was doing it?”
“No I did not. I’m not sure how he did it, or exactly what he did.”

“Where did that crystal centerpiece come from? It just dissolved.”

“That I can tell you about, and you can get them so that they don’t do that. They were invented by Charles Beinan for the last Conclave. He made them for his sister’s day of flowers display. You can contact Bienan’s about them. I don’t know if they are shipping them to the Republic as they are delicate and when they break, you saw what happens.”

“Was the Conclave as wonderful as it seemed? I couldn’t make arrangements to go, but some neighbors managed it.”

“For me, it was work. The next one, in late green is going to be worse, as not only do I have Grimfrost, I have Fallingwater as well. Fortunately Jorge has a big family to help.”

“Why did you come down with him?”

“Because sitting up north in the ice with bears gets boring. Here, I have more books than I could possibly read, entertaining things to do and see and interesting people to speak with. Jorge’s cousins can have the snow.”

“What about the bears?”
“They can haul their friends around and shoot things without me, thank you. They will be fine.”
“How did you meet Jorge anyway? Why don’t we sit down and have an extended chat?”
“That would be fine.”

Klara led them past the ballroom where she asked, “Do you smell anything?”
Shael laughed and said, “Not a thing. I will pledge with the rest of the Umevan ladies that we will try to restrain Jorge. Unfortunately we can’t tell Jorge that this was his house.”

They sat down and Shael said, “You must understand that this was not the first time that Jorge has done something like this. The first time, the Darkmage and some associates were having a meeting in a ducal palace in Dolmon. One of the participants was a senior member of Clan Ironhead. At the same time, Jorge was sent to provide portal support for some Scourge devises that had been held by Clan Ironhead, where the clan wanted them disposed of. Jorge went with some others and met the sons of Clan Ironhead. They got along very well and the sons had discovered the meeting. After the armed Scourge devise was sent to the Deadlands to go boom, there was a party where there was some lubrication, the subject of the Darkmage’s get together came up, there was a portal on a farm, an engineer from Clan Bloodfoot in the Fellowship and assistance from Clan Ironhead. The next day the clanhead’s wife had a big official party where all the schemers were visibly present. At the same time, at the Darkmage’s thing, mud, to put what it was euphemistically, started to appear in thin air and drop.”

Klara started to laugh. “He didn’t.”
“He did. What he didn’t know was that Fulques d’Ambray had recruited all the Justiciar boys to infiltrate the meeting, which they had, as transformed cats. They were rather annoyed at Jorge and the others, their mothers were rather annoyed and had their husbands, who were full Justiciars or Adjuncts signing writs allowing the boys to return the favor.”

“How does that relate to Jorge owning the property?”
“At the Grand Master’s funeral, two Scourge devises appeared. One was from the Darkmage and was expected. The other was from Fallingwater and was not. The empress commanded Jorge to go full Jorge on the bunker the people who had sent the thing were hiding in. He did, with glue that time. What the Empress did not tell Jorge until afterwards was that the estate had been stolen from the Umevan. The bunker was Jorge’s bunker and he had to deal with the mess.”

“Why did Jorge tell his father to take our family off of the list?”
“He didn’t even know about that until Susan told him about it. Since he started with the portals, Jorge has grown away from his father’s business. Taking over the estate and getting the family back together has only made that worse. Jorge did make something as a prank, but that was the response to a test that the college wanted. Also, Fylson is making connections here in the Republic and developing new things. I also think that, with his things outside the Empire he doesn’t know how they are appreciated. There was a bit of a flap with a Customs Officer over the theft of some of his things when he arrived to visit family and at the same time family was telling him how his work was being stolen to make cheap copies. At the same time, the commissions in the Empire have been fewer as there are fewer children or adult children and there seems to be little inspiration. So, as far as Fylson is concerned, if you all thought so little of his work that you would go after his son like Derry and the Senator did, he had no problems letting Susan’s commissions go.”

“Would you take a letter to Fylson, Shael?” Susan asked. “I want him to know how much his things are treasured here. It isn’t just me. You can ask just about anyone and they either have a Fylson they treasure, or they wanted one. I don’t mind if I am cut off, but he shouldn’t let the magic stop.”

“I can do that.”

“Thank you.”

Shael looked at Klara. “I think that I can do better than that, if your mother will let me. I was thinking that until this matter is resolved, you, Susan, are still at risk. Whoever was responsible will want to know what you saw, and more importantly, who you told. They are at serious risk and the Umevan have people transferring up to Isendell and the Empire frequently. I can probably arrange to have you slipped in discreetly.”

“What about school?”
“That is not a problem. Both the estate and the Lower City have very good schools.”

“I thought that high elves had tutors.”
“They do, though that has changed in some Houses and when my children come, they will go to school and have friends and the rest of it. I was rather isolated by my parents.”

Klara looked at her daughter and said, “Sometimes life forces us to do things we would rather not. I wish that I could say that Shael is wrong about the risks, but when you were not taken, they were exposed and they may want to know just how exposed they were.”
“I will add that this is bigger than this incident,” Shael said. “Mrs. Gilders, would you accept a case of Fallingwater as an apology. Sealed by Lord Umevan.”

Klara smiled. “Fallingwater select is a generous gift.”

“I will arrange it then. The packing material will be interesting and at this point, after some fuss, no one is going to molest a case of wine from Jorge.”

“Has that happened?”
“You can discover the details. They are amusing.”

“I would like to have a longer chat with you, but the train time is approaching and you were not suitable for a position here, so off you go with your misbehaving daughter.”
“Mother!”

Marian looked at the telegram and tried to make sense of the events. Gordy had had his collection interfered with by a local boy, but the girl had disappeared and the FSA’s efforts to get a hold of the boy, a mere dragonkin had been futile, as the chief prosecutor was taking the case personally. The army had also become involved and the messages did not explain why. What had seemed simple had become a mess with new players acting in unforeseen ways. Why the boy, a dragonkin, would act the way he did was a mystery. There was no reason for a boy from the city to rescue a girl from the Plateau, yet he had, throwing a spike into things and risking exposure. Perhaps it was time to have an entertainment and drop some hints. Klara was probably very worried.

Derry watched Geral’s car pass as he trudged up the street and through the front door. So far his efforts to get the better rentals had all ended in failure. According to the papers, the rental places were being soaked up as more people realized how the portals and the plane made Ishendell a hot place, because not only did you have the beach, you had the exotic and mysterious Empire as well. He walked up the stairs in the house and when he reached his mother said, “Any news about Susan?”
“No, nothing.”

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