Spiders Hunt In The Dark, Chapter 59-60

Swifty gets another “fail” grade. Greldug chats with Alinis

Chapter 59.

Chatsrey

Swifty smiled as he looked at the fail grade on his paper and at Mrs. Fishcutter. “Why does this get a fail. You didn’t mark any problems.”

“The assignment was supposed to be done as a news article based on what you saw or did over the break. This was more fantastical trash.”

“The boat races were real and I went there with some friends. The winning boats were built by some friends of mine.”

“By college students? That is rather fantastic.”

“Jimmy and Bill built the boats. They had support from the places in Desert Howl, but they built the boats in their shop.”

“You also said that you took pictures of the races, from the air.”

“I did.”

“Absolute rubbish.”

“The Chatsrey Times doesn’t agree with you. Do you read the sports pages?”

“Not generally.”

Swifty pulled a section of the paper out of his school satchel. “Here’s the sports section from a couple of days ago about the races. Look for yourself.”
Swifty handed the paper to Mrs. Fishcutter. She looked at it and said, “Even worse than writing twaddle is copying someone else’s work. Your paper was just a copy of this. You still get a failing grade.”

“Look more closely at who wrote the piece. I’m getting a check. The press service bought my article and the pictures I took.”

“This is some sort of Dragonkin trick.” Mrs. Fishcutter wrote something down and said, “Take this and go to the Headmaster’s office.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“GO! I have had enough of your insubordination for the day!”

Swifty picked up his things and headed to the Headmaster’s office. He handed the note to the secretary and she said, “Mrs. Fishcutter is saying that you were insubordinate and committed plagiarism. She wants you suspended or expelled. Did you copy any work?”

“She is saying that because I had a piece in the paper and used it for classwork.”

“Can you prove that?”

Swifty realized that the sports section was still in Fishcutter’s classroom.  A bit nervously, he said, “I would need the Chatsrey Times from two days ago.”

The secretary reached behind her and said, “I have it here. Mr. Greinder doesn’t bring his papers out from the office for the recycling bins every day. What section?”

“The sports section, the boat races.”

“Here it is. Are you Swifty?”

“Yes.”

“How did you get these pictures?”

“I was flying. I learned how to get pictures while flying during my trip aboard a navy ship last summer.”

“Your name is on the article and the pictures. Elvyra gave you a failing grade?”

“Yes. It wasn’t the first time.”

“What was the first time?”

“She did the same thing for the paper that I wrote for the summer break. She said that it wasn’t what I really did. I did another paper to make up for it, but she only gave it an adequate grade.”

“I remember that. Your grandmother made the deal when Elvyra failed that paper.”

“Yes she did. That was a bad deal, but I did the work.”

“Let me take this to Headmaster Greinder.”

The secretary went into the office and then came back and said, “Mr. Greinder will see you.”

Swifty went inside and behind the desk was a rather stern man. “You are Swifty Cutflame. There was a bit of a flap over you and a girl from the Plateau, was there not?”

“Yes there was.”

“You were away from school for some time. Was there anything criminal involved? Apparently you were not in the charge of the Juvenile Justice System or we would have been told.”

“The only criminals were an orc gang trying to grab Suzy. I grabbed her instead and now I think that I am stuck with her.”

“Your parents have been away. Is there a reason?”

“Dad has taken a job with the Qinvaris in the Empire. He went up there to help with the old aerie and Mr. Harper hired him to manage the Qinvaris trucks.”

“Why did you not go with them?”

“I want to finish school here in the Republic and go to the Naval Academy.”

“A laudable goal, especially for one of your background.”

“I have already started. That was why I was on the ship last summer.”

“What kind of ship?”

“The ship was the survey ship, Diligent.”

“Where did the ship go?”

“North of the Empire and then down the coast.”

“That was the paper that Mrs. Fishcutter failed?”

“Yes. There were things on the voyage that she did not believe. I offered to show here pictures, since we took a lot of them, but she refused to see them.”

“Yes, which started the flap with your grandmother and later, your mother.”

“They were upset that Mrs. Fishcutter had just failed the paper.”

“You did the additional work and that should have settled things. What happened this time?”

“Some friends and I went down to Seagate for the boat races and I wrote an article about the races for the classwork. Mrs. Fishcutter said that the classwork was “fantastical” and failed it. I pulled out the paper and said that it was the same piece that was printed in the sports section and she accused me of copying the classwork that was “fantastical” before and when I said to check the writer, she said that I was insubordinate and sent me here.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have the paper here, would you? The boat races were in the paper two days ago and I am afraid that I put them out already.”
Swifty grinned. “I had a copy, but I left it with Mrs. Fishcutter. Your secretary had the paper, so here it is?”

Greinder looked at the paper and said, “You took these pictures? They are amazing. How did you get so close?”

“I am a dragon and you can fly in Seagate. When the newsreels come out, I will probably be in the picture, though the newsreel guys are annoyed at me because I flew into their shots by accident to get my shots. Mr. Ironforger sent his boys to chase me down and since Bill had been on the ship with me, I talked with Bill and his friends for my classwork and Mr. Ironforger bought that too.”

“You go on to your next class and don’t worry about this. I am going to have a bit of a chat with Mrs. Fishcutter about your grades.”

 Rob turned to Terrel and said, “I’m glad that is behind us.”

“That was not fun, was it?”

“How did you let Admiral Tollings drag you in like that?”

“He caught me at the wrong time and I assumed that he had received instructions about calling me in. It turned out he was ahead of the instructions, and the mess needed to be cleaned up. We did and then I could borrow you and finish things at Fayspire with Cornaith and Guillas.”

“Taking me through the Darkmage’s other toys. Something I am glad that you did. Tim, did you send ahead for a car?”

Tim looked at the approaching staff car and said, “No, sir, I did not.”

The car drove up and a lieutenant got out. “Captain, I have orders. You are being called to the Senate.”

“Lieutenant, I just returned from a very long detached duty. Couldn’t you have been a bit slower?”

“Sir, I’m just the messenger. The Request has been pending for some time and when it was known that you were inbound on a flight, I was ordered to pick you up and take you to the station.”

“All right. Terrel, do you want a ride?”

“I’ll go with you. I can get the train to Desert Howl and go down. I’ll tell Cornaith and the others that they can follow us in a cab.”

Cornaith, Folas and Balthasar had followed them, Terrel explained and then got in the car. “What do you think that you are being called for?”

“Luggergate. They are going to try to pin Luggergate on me. It won’t work, but that’s the only thing they have and if they can’t pin Luggergate on me, they have to can Sunbeam.”

Greinder looked up from the newspaper he was reading when Mrs. Fishcutter came into his office. “I want to resolve the matter concerning the Cutflame boy.”

“How long are you suspending him for, Headmaster? I at least, will be glad to not have to deal with the boy for a time.”

“Actually, I am not suspending him at all.”

“What?! He was guilty of plagiarism and insubordination. He is also a probable criminal.”

“Did you actually look at the article you said that he copied?”

“Very briefly. Enough to know that he had copied it.”

“Did he tell you that he had written it?”

“Yes, but that was some sort of dragonkin trick. He had probably altered the paper to deceive me.”

“Did you look at another copy of the paper? For that matter, any other papers?”

“I have not had time to do so?”

“Then you haven’t seen the Smoky Hill Post?”

“Why would I read a paper printed for the Dragonkin?”

“You would read it because a significant number of our students are from that neighborhood, perhaps?”

“Why should I indulge myself in the actions of criminals?”

“Then you didn’t see this: “The Press Service’s Newest Ace! When he isn’t saving girls from fates worse than death or helping sink hostile submarines, the Press Service’s newest ace is getting the shots at the power boat tournament. Of course pictures are in his blood as his grandfather runs the city’s largest street photo bureau and his uncle is a long time Press Service photographer and the publisher of this paper. The young dragon has done remarkable work already for the navy and Ironaxe Asset Protection and is applying to the Naval Academy next fall. If he doesn’t get in, the Press Service has a job lined up already and so does his uncle here at the Post.” The Post apparently thinks highly of their home town boy. They also included an interview by Kythaela Brownlow that she took from the boy during the summer that cooberates what he put in his classwork at the beginning of the term.”

 “The Post is buttering up the boy’s grandfather so that he doesn’t rob them. He’s a well known gangster.”

“Do you have any animosity toward dragonkin? When you interviewed for the postion here, years ago, I asked if you could ignore the fact that many of our students come from disreputable neighborhoods. You assured me that you had no prejudices. Yet you seem to be going after dragonkin and Mr. Cutflame in particular.”

“His grandfather is a gangster boss. Of course I was going to pay special attention to what he was doing.”

“So, you believe in guilt by association?”

“Of couse not, but habits continue in families. Look at the boy’s father, a convicted felon.”

“Elvyra, I can’t force you to change the boy’s grades. On the other hand, he is going home to his grandmother, who, in spite of what you think of her, is highly influential in the community here. She is going to be asking questions of the school board, again, and this time she has proof of what you are doing. So I would be looking at what may happen at the break this year. Unfortunately Swifty is transferring to the Gallington Heights Academy to finish upper school after the Winterfaire break. So we will not have the boy as a remarkable graduate.

“How can they afford it?”

“I would not know. Perhaps they are criminals, or the boy’s father, as the paper says, has a rather large job in the Empire with the Qinvaris. In any case, the boy has attracted the attention of some very influential people and, I at least, would not want to see this school tarred as a hot bed of prejudice against our young students. I think that I have said my piece.”

Alinis started the crystal, Lyrei appeared and said, “Children, you have returned. This room is keyed to you when you have reached your potential and passed your test. The vault here contains your legacy. Use it well.”

She played the message again and put the crystal back in the case. Before she had known the Lyrei seeming so well, she would have taken the crystal for what it said. The problem was that nothing from that vault was really a legacy. There had been items in the vault that had been interesting and treasures certainly. Alinis was surrounded by them in the museum. There was nothing in the vault which would have aided Lyrei’s children against the dark, nothing that would attract the Project’s attention. Even the library here had not contained a great deal of information about the Project or very much important. Yet the Project had sent raiders, Inanimates and even the Dragonkin here, to the castle. Saying good night to the guard, Alinis left the museum. She was tempted to go down to the vault, but going down by herself was not a good idea and she didn’t want to trip something off unawares. If the Project was looking at Castle Hill, they were probably still looking.

Beltain.

Tom turned to Rob and said, “I’m sorry that they caught you like that. I had forgotten that the Request was still pending and the Shore Patrol had a warrant waiting when you arrived.”

“It wasn’t your fault, sir. If I had been sneakier, I would have arranged for Tim and me to come on a navy flight. We were in Fayspire and it was easier to port to Ishendell and catch a commercial flight.”

“Fayspire is why I have been up here for the last five day with Captain Willings and various people trying to explain how the exchange with the Fellowship worked with RDR and underwater sound equipment. Never mind that the treaty specifically says that such exchanges are allowed.”

“They didn’t nail Terrel.”

“Was he with you?”

“We were working in Fayspire, looking into the Darkmage’s dangerous toys after the end of the Board.”

“How did that end up?”

“Commander Ironforge was an idiot and incompetent. Even worse, he was so focused on the fact that he had been passed over for command that he messed up even further on a ship at a distant station with hostiles in the area. He was in trouble even before Captain Brownlow had his accident and even worse when it was obvious that he did nothing to stop the captain from going overboard and nothing to look for him afterwards. That was even after the first degree murder charge we were sure was possible.”

“First degree murder?”

“There was some evidence that the commander pried off the stanchion with his knife, but the evidence was not conclusive, so the board decided to not pursue a first degree murder charge since we did not have Captain Brownlow’s testimony.”

“Why not?”

“It was decided by Commodore Stickles that Captain Brownlow’s rescue would not be revealed to the commander’s defense or to the board until the proceedings were over. The fact that the captain was rescued did not change the facts of the case and the commodore did not want accusations of the navy singling out the commander being waved about.”

“It also took any accusations that the captain was pursuing a vendetta against the commander off the table.”

“Yes sir, it did. Since we did not know that the captain was alive, we based our opinion on what we had.”

“You know why you are here, don’t you?”

“Luggergate. How much do you want me to tell them?”

“Everything. At this point, there’s not much that hasn’t gone around anyway and while you went out of bounds somewhat, you had good reason to be and did obtain the cooperation of Mr. Hammer within the bounds of the law, even if removing him from custody was a bit unorthodox.”

“Durlan and his relatives are the exception. They can be people obtained from my brother or something. I think that Mrs. Steelmaker will be annoyed if I spill the identies of her clandestine people.”

“Keep the boys out of it as well.”

“As much as I can. A lot of that depends on what they have already.”

“Who else was on Commander Ironforge’s board?”

“Captain Bushbury, Captain Pinch, Captain Stringfellow and Captain Wavechaser sat with me.”

“That’s not good. They are all from the disreputables.”

“Commodore Stickles wanted to get board members that did not, in any way, have any prior knowledge about the case or the commander. Enterprise had left the Hidden City for home, Devistation’s captain had had the commander serve under him, and with ships at sea or ported home, there just wasn’t a large pool of captains to choose from. As it was, Terrel was finagled by Harald onto the board.”

“How did he do that?”

“He showed up at Fayspire, said, “Captain, you are needed for a board” and grabbed him. It wasn’t until Terrel was seated on the board that he discovered that he hadn’t actually been called up, officially. By then it was too late.”
Tom laughed. Rob added, “At that, the admiral was lucky. Terrel was off to lunch with his coworkers who had been aboard Progress and were going to use the stories to get in back when the admiral grabbed him.”

Tom looked at the clock and said, “It’s time that we were at the hearing.”
 Bradal looked at Head Archivist Tom Billings and said, “Are you sure?”

“Senator, not really. What I do know is that the box adjacent to the Crowburg files was pulled twice in one day, once by Scholar Tomas Steelgrinder and then by Bladloc Flamespitter for his grandfather, Captain Flamespitter. Until I looked at the log, I hadn’t realized that the box had been pulled twice in one day.”

“Did the Crowburg box look as if it had been tampered with?”
“That is hard to say.”

“Does either Steelgrinder or Flamespitter have stack access?”

“Steelgrinder does, as he has worked for the archives part time in the past. Flamespitter does not.”

“Do you know if Steelgrinder has any connections with Flamespitter?”

“I don’t think so. Steelgrinder is a teaching assistant at Beltain and Flamespitter is from Cleadsgate.”

“Would you have Steelgrinder’s stack access pulled.”

“I can do that. What reason should I give?”

“You can come up with something.”

“I’m going to have to explain that to Professor Anvilblade and the dean at the college. If there is no specific reason or offense that demands that the stack access permission be revoked, his access will be restored. If the Crowburg files have already been pulled, that will tell whoever pulled them that we know about them. Considering that the High Admiral has been requesting those files, any noise right now could trip off an audit. I will keep an eye on Mr. Steelgrinder, but he has not been seen on the Plateau of late.”

“Is he the only scholar that has not been seen lately?”

“No, there are several others. I haven’t asked any questions about them and what they were doing. The only reason I know about is that we are short staff.”

Cain walked up and said, “May I have a bit of your time, Senator?”

“Have you discovered something?”

“I obtained a press release fromTincutter Publishing about their new books for the season. The new edition of the Crowburg book is being released the beginning of Guesting and a book by Captain Flamespitter of navy intelligence, the beginning of Snowfall. There are further books coming, both new editions and new books about the Ravathyra. Captain Flamespitter is editing the series for Tincutter.”

The senator waved his hand slightly and his aide, nephew Barry Steelslash appeared from another table. Bradal said, “Get me what you can on Captain Flamespitter. There may be some things he is doing that are rather irregular.”

Marian was getting into the car after closing the servant’s gate when two orc boys ran past, one of them turning to throw a bladder ball at the other, who leapt to catch it. The boy who had thrown the ball jostled Marian, said, “Sorry” and moved to catch the ball as it was tossed back. Marian watched the boys until they disappeared down the street, got in the car and drove on.

Still tossing the ball back and forth, the boys watched the car leave. When it was gone, Dugal joined his brother and said, “Did you plant it, Garat?”

“I did. If she doesn’t know about microportals, she won’t know that it is there. If she does find it, it’s a cleaner’s tag.”

“Too bad we didn’t tag the car.”

Garat grinned and held up another of the cleaner’s tags. “Who said that I didn’t? The door was wide open. Let’s find Modduc. He’s taking us to the Beltain and Ironton bladder ball game today.”

Ironton

Tulgrunli turned to his son and said, “My granddaughters are not wasting any time.”

“No, they are not. They are putting on the full charm offensive, their arsenal from the Lower City dressmakers and doing things they really shouldn’t be.”

“Releasing their glamors, somewhat. I would not be too concerned. After all, they are hardly the only Silverin in the family.”

“Who is that with Talindra?”

“That is Farad Umevan, a fourth year at Ironton. He’s a construction enginnering student and spent the break up in the northlands of the Empire running a high voltage line.”

“You know quite a bit about a young man in a family that your wife doesn’t like.”

“I teach explosive handling for construction engineering students at the college. He was one of my better students and he would be a good recruit for you.”

“If he is an Umevan, the collar would not be an issue.”

“We can talk to him about training with Captain Bronzerock. In fact we should both see him. I have a list of prospects for people for whom the training would be an asset.”

“The Stewards did play here.”

“Yes they did, with Primaries. I think that they didn’t know just who the Ironton bomb squad here is.”

“What do you mean?”

“On the surface, the Ironton bomb squad looks to be rather unimpressive and barely competent. On the other hand all of them have served with naval ordnance, Army ordnance, the steel mills and mining companies. That was after they trained with me. All of them could give Elmar a run for his money if they wanted to.”

Radalarc laughed. “You can tell them that Elmar has been having a lot of fun up north.”

“He’s stayed up there long enough. What has attracted his attention?”

“He’s been cracking ancient Imperial vaults, along with the odd tunnel or road blockage. He also has been training Major Tollings people and some others.”

“Your people?”

“Some of them. Justiciar adjuncts and some others.”

“The Justiciars hardly seem to be the kind of people to make a life with, yet you have. You were rather wild when you were young, yet you are hardly that now.”

“Once my wife came into my life, I was stuck and the Justiciars would surprise you. They are hardly the clowns in the movies, at least most of them are not, Bellas and Eithriel not withstanding.”

“I am afraid to ask.”

“If you see a recent high elf comedy, there is a good chance that Eithriel had a hand in it. As for Bellas, his valet is Doyle Conan’s cousin and you can guess where the Justiciar stereotype comes from.”

“The seeming idiot slave who solves the crime? Who is that?”

“We don’t have somebody for that role right now. Gander had that role, but Kelvahn promoted him to full Justiciar and he’s brought down too many heavy people lately. When your list of cases includes Zanis Zylvyre, the Dowager Empress and the Archbishop in Dolmon for a start and you create the downfalls of all of them, people take notice.”

Llag joined them and said, “Thank you for the rifle, grandfather.”

Tulgrunli grinned. “I understand that you are on limited time here in the Republic?”

“A bit. I don’t think that Galan will send Haramara or Delseran after me for a bit unless an emergency comes up at the palace. I didn’t exactly say where we were going, either. Folas knows, and Gander does. I also have a task here. I need to go through with immigration and find a list of exiles that the Empress wants to talk to for various reasons.”

“Such as?”

“Libraries on their old estates, empty estates, now farmed by the Qinvaris, Lord and Lady Shahana so that they can go back to the Virstina estate. The Empress wants me to account for those people and get them to help straighten things out. Of course there are also the various people exiled out of the Portal and Mana Services who would like to see them again. My wife told the Empress that I was going to the Republic and the list came right out.”

“Let’s see where a lady is going,” Tulgrunli said. “We do want to greet her properly.”

Conrad looked at the class and said, “Papers are due today. Please place them on the desk.”

Bill was the last to come to the desk and he said, “Professor I need you to sign a clearance form for my paper saying that you are the only one to see it.”

“Why?”

“The paper is classified. I didn’t get a chance to see my dad and clear things and Feno at Beinan’s gave me the cover sheet in case I didn’t see my dad before the paper was due. Since the paper includes things like the frequencies used by RDR transmitters and pulse rates, the paper had to be classified.”

Conrad laughed. “I will sign the form.”

Bill handed the professor the form, he signed it and said, “I understand that you build boats. Why did you not join the college club?”

“They wouldn’t talk to Jimmy and me, because we were firsties. They already had their boat almost finished and didn’t want to hear about another boat. So we entered ours independently. Republic Air provided the engines and just about everyone in Desert Howl helped out.”

“Where are the trophies?”

“At home, in the little museum. That way everyone can see them.”

“Are you planning to build more boats?”

“That has to wait until the summer break. Jimmy will probably start taking orders in Green next year. It won’t be very many.”

“Did you speak with your teacher about coming and giving a talk?”

“I did, but he’s working on a new edition of the Crowburg book with Captain Flamespitter and they want to put it together before Winterfaire. They can do the talk after the book is released in Snowfall.”

“That is excellent news. I will let my friends know.”

Racketgarde.

Don turned to Fire and said, “We’re glad that you were available, Fire.”

“You wanted me to show you how I made traps for your nefarious purposes, didn’t  you?”

“Tom and I have been playing around in the city, but you have more practice in the woods. Since the spider seems to be hiding in the park here, we wanted you to help set things up.”

“How did you get involved, anyway?”

“We started to get involved after the Stewards stashed that Primary right next door to the plant. We’ve been watching that building for activity and some bad people started to use it for parties. We chased them out and we’ve been fighting them ever since. Then the spider started to play in our neighborhood and we wanted to see what we could do about that.”

“Let’s set another trap. The good thing is that if you walk on the ground, the traps won’t trip, but if you go from tree to tree, the traps will trip.”

Arachnae had put Marian away on the train trip down, changing to her hunting clothes and putting Marian in an anonymous suitcase, that even if found, would tell the finders nothing other than it was full of well made clothes. Arachnae’s husband had been a fan of detective movies and Arachnae was all too aware of how things like labels could give you away. Exiting the train, Arachnae placed the suitcase in a coin locker and prepared for her hunt.

Special Agent Stonecracker got off the train. Jorge followed him and pointing the portal scanner at a bank of lockers, said, “She’s here, but she put her clothes in one of the lockers here.”

Tod cursed. “So she could be anywhere here in the city.”

“That’s about the size of it. She’s apparently stopped using those cheap apartments like she was in Chatsrey and Ironton.”

“We’ll just have to do things the way we used to. This was a good try you boys put together.”

“I can’t stay too long, so what do you plan?”

“Going around and looking for potential victims. With some difficulty, I have managed to get a list of the Horse Pistol Club members and what city they live in.”

Jorge grinned. He held up a case he had brought with him. “If you have addresses we can make sure that they are not at home. A little smoke can do wonders.”

Arachnae walked through the entertainment district. She had taken on the glamor of a much put upon entertainer who had the attention of a member of the Horse Pistol Club, Karl Fretles. Karl was standing in front of his apartment as smoke came out of the building. The fire department was exiting the building and said, “Where was the fire?”

The chief held up a bottle and said, “You must know a joker, Mr. Fretles.”

Karl spotted Arachnae and smiled. “Come to see the action, Tilly?”

“I was worried that you were hurt.”

“Somebody is going to get hurt, but it isn’t me. Let’s go someplace and let the smoke clear out of my place.”

They grabbed a cab and left.

A car pulled up and two men went over to the chief. One of them said, “I’m Special Agent Stonecracker. Where is the tenant to this apartment?”
“He was just here. Sergeant, do you see Mr. Fretles?”

“He just left in a cab with a floozie, chief.”

Stonecracker turned to the other man and said, “Let’s head to the park, Lieutenant. Maybe we can get ahead of her.”

Arachnae was sure that the busibodies had the park watched somewhat. She hadn’t bothered to hide the leftovers from her hunt after all. Which is why she and Karl were in a place on the waterfront that she knew that Karl liked for his adventures. It was all too easy for Marian to hire someone to discover things about people so that Arachnae’s hunts would go more smoothly. In any case this would be her last hunt in Racketgarde for some time. Karl was pounding away and Arachnae could feel the change start.

Tod looked up as a car drove up and Jorge got out with two others about the same age. “Special Agent Stonecracker, I don’t think that the lady is feeding here in the park tonight.”

“Why not?”

“This is Fireoak Greenleaf and his cousin Don Finster. They have been setting spider traps in the park and none of them tripped.”
Tod looked more closely at the other two and said, “Spider traps?”

“Fire is fae,” Jorge said. “He is also very good at traps and lived here with his cousins for three years. When the spider started to come here, Fire and his cousins started to set traps. I went over to Finsters to talk to them about some things for the estate and Fire told me about the traps. None of the traps tripped, so either the spider spotted them or isn’t here.”

“She did it to us again,” Tod snarled. “Just when we think that she has a pattern, she breaks it. Do you have any ideas, boys?”

“We know where she isn’t, Special agent,” Don said. “Fire, my brother and I have been setting traps in the kind of hides that she used before near our plant and in the park, since she used it. So far she hasn’t tripped any of the traps, so that pretty much leaves the residential area where there aren’t any good places to hide and the waterfront. We can help you with that.”

“Let’s go, then.”

Chapter 60.

Chatsrey

Lythienne grinned as Greldug was ushered into the parlor. “Captain! What can we do for you? Dan is here, if you want to speak with him.”

“I am actually here to see Alinis.”

“What did my granddaughter do?”

“She dropped some things on me and I followed up. May I see her?”

“She is in the workroom. Let’s go back. So what have you been up to lately?”

“Some rather amazing things. The dragonkin have the Aerie back and my grandson found a lost city of people and helped bring them home.”

“Crowburg.”

“Yes. I don’t know if you have seen the book yet.”

“Tom showed it to Dan. Rather amazing. Here is Alinis. Fire is off chasing spiders this evening, so she is left bereft a bit.”

“Chasing spiders?”

“The spider lady struck again in Racketgarde yesterday. The Ironaxes are pursuing her, along with the FSA, but she seems to have prepared for that. Alinis, Captain Flamespitter is here to see you.”

Alinis smiled and said, “Was there a pattern to the Ravathyra?”

“There was, actually. About every ten years or so, a ship would be sent to the island. Sometimes it was a squadron. For a long time the navy had two squadrons of frigates there, waiting. That was how Seagate got its start. The navy needed a base there for the ships. I had a chart made up with the timeline since the navy started to operate there. How did you suspect that something like that was happening?”

“Do you know what a seeming is?”

“A person stored in crystal.”

“Yes. Well, at home, I have a seeming and I asked her if her sister created monsters. She said that the information was restricted. That meant the seeming thought that the sister was still alive. Then a friend asked what would happen if somebody was in a stasis case when it was closed. She said that the people would stay in stasis until the case was opened again and that some people had done that to escape the consequences of their actions.”

“So you think that some people come out of stasis, take control of the Project,  issue instructions, and then return to stasis.”

“Yes.”

“How do they issue the instructions?”

“Seemings. The Project leaders have seemings they use. We discovered that when we sent a seeming to Lain Orthrond and people talked about it. Also, when Dúhael had what he thought was the Harald seeming, he took everything it said at face value.”

“It wasn’t a real seeming, but Dúhael thought it was. Mr. Wavechaser likes to play games.”

“Bill and somebody else.”

“The Harald seeming. It isn’t that much of a secret that Bill has had it for some time.”

“It was Harald and Bill who made the bot.”

“What happened to it?”

“I don’t know. Presumably the Project still has it.”

“I debriefed Bill the horse after he was kidnapped. The Project people knew that it wasn’t a seeming.”

“What the Project leaders don’t seem to know is that seemings all talk to each other unless they cut one out. Haciathra was cut out after she was discovered.”

“What happened to her?”

“Jorge put her in a stasis box he had put a cow pie in, stuck it in a rotten cabbage with some other rotten things, soaked it in glue to make a ball and ported her to Lain Othrond. Daddy, why are you here?”

Richard had just walked into the room. “I wanted to drop down, talk to my father, see you and Fire and what you are up to.”

“Did mom come?”

“She is talking to your grandmother. What are you talking about with the captain here?”

“I asked him if the Ravathyra raids on the island came in batches. They do.”

“What made you think about that?”

“You know about my idea about the Project leaders.”

“I do, and Tarranth and Khiiral went on an oracle hunt as a result.”

“We don’t have an oracle, so finding one is a good thing.”

“They were looking for an oracle devise. They have found four so far. Three were old and needed repairs and the fourth had never been used at all. They gave that one to Princess Yralissa.”

“Why did they do that?”’

“It was Tad, Immianthe and Keerla’s idea. The thinking was that since Princess Yralissa is thirteen, and the oracle was empty, that anything the enemy saw would be pretty useless to them. The oracle did connect and retrieve a lot of information, either from the oracle that Lady Dúnathron was using, or the one where the enemy has at their base because Yralissa named her oracle after Tad’s mother and the devise had Tad’s mother’s face.”

Alinis started to giggle. “She named the oracle after Tad’s mother? Why?”

“I haven’t been told. All I know is that the oracle is named Filia.”

“The oracle retrieved everything from the enemy?” Greldug asked.

“Apparently. Tad has made a crystal of what was stored and loaded the crystal into the oracle in my office building and the one in his office, neither of which have the connections turned on.”

“If you find another one, Sarya will want it.”

“Not you?”

“Perhaps, but I’m chasing different things.”

“An oracle is also a girl’s toy.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve discovered that women work better at using one than a man does. So Immanthe has Tad’s, a young lady has the one in my office and a friend of Dan’s has the oracle in Zirgoccol.”

“Why Zirgoccol?”

“That is where Dan has his lab and we are chasing Blight related things. So it made sense to put one there. The oracle in Tad’s office was found in the Sanctuary and Tad’s office is a good place for it until he goes to college and the other is in my office building.”

“They don’t seem to be very secret.”

“They are not. My son Tarranth and his friends think that the more people putting inputs in, the more powerful the associations are, so having people use them for other things helps us. What was interesting was what was on the old oracles we found.”

“What was that?”

“The first was a lady on an estate that lived through the first three Blight incursions, the second was in my old headquarters and was Amra and then a niece keeping a day to day journal of the mage wars and the aftermath. That was rather dismal. The one in the Sanctuary was a lady trying to make sense of the world as things went dark.”

Lythienne poked her head in and said, “Richard! You were supposed to bring Greldug and Alinis back to the rest of us. Come along you three. Greldug, we want to hear all about your book.”

Lythienne disappeared and Richard said, “We better join them.”

Greldug laughed. “Yes we had.”

As they walked down the hall, Richard said, “Alinis, if you encounter an oracle, do not start it up until Tad locks the communications.”

“Why?”

“The only devises it could connect to are the enemy’s or the princess. Not connecting to the enemy is obvious and connecting to the princess might be distracting.”

“Good point. On the other hand, that means that I have to get Jorge to bring Tad down and that could have princess issues too.”

“So far, Immianthe hasn’t tried to come to the Republic.”

“She’s been here once already, with Tad.”

“I had forgotten about that.”

“Have you been to the vault in Castle Hill yet?”

“No I haven’t, why?”

“Tomorrow after class, I can take you to Tarranth’s museum and the vaults. I think that you should see them.”

“You have reason for that.”

“I’ll tell you when we go.”

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