The Great Dance, Chapter 43- 44

Haciathra gets the news. Tulgrunli visits Noxbury

Chapter 43.

The Center.

Haciathra exited the portal and sat down to get updates from the seemings. Her last meal had taken a bit longer and, while perfectly enjoyable, had kept her away and out of communication. Jastira was first and said, “I have news from Móreliante. The Dancer has completed her task. The object is aboard Osprey.”

“Excellent. Is the Dancer returning?”

“The Dancer has disappeared, according to Móreliante.”

“That is a disappointment.”

Haciathra did not like the idea of the Dancer disappearing, but as had happened before, she may have gone off on her own and would return at her own time. She switched to Ilyana. She listened to the message and smiled. The True Treasure was on the move, back to the Republic and there was an opportunity to retrieve it. Of course that complicated the situation with the girl, but one way or another, the Treasure would be in the Project’s hands at last, along with the keys to all the mana sources that Haciathra’s sister had stolen so long ago. Haciathra turned to Jestina and gave her instructions. Then she connected to Ilyana. Ilyana said, “Mistress, you took some time replying to my report.”

“I was away for a time and did not see it. Does it look as if the Treasure can be seized?”

“Yes mistress. The Inquisition has already contacted the man in the Republic and even though he is officially retired, he has allies that can secure the Treasure.”

“Then I will make preparations for retrieval.”

Finished with the Seemings, she went to the slave at the oracle and said, “Is there any news from the Republic?”

“Not of late, milady.”

“No news of a kidnapping?”

“None at all.”

“Why are the lights flickering?”

“I do not know, mistress. I would check with the engineer.”

“I will.”

Haciathra found the engineer in his chamber filled with things that she did not understand. “Why are the lights flickering?”

“Our mana tap was cut by the Mana Service. I have switched to the Zylvyre source, but there is a lot of oscillation and this is the best I can do.”

“Why the oscillation?”

“At a guess, at least one portal is drawing on the source and it is in constant use.”

“It is being used that heavily? Can you get together with the portal technician and find out what portal is used so heavily and perhaps shut it down.”

“We probably will not be able to do it from here and I expect that if the portal is used that heavily, there will be an effort to restore service almost immediately.”

“Find out where it is and report.”

“Yes mistress.”
 

Ishendell

Jorge looked at Ferret and Sam and said, “You look as if you have something interesting.”

“Major, Jomney borrowed me and some others to do some looking around. We have been poking around that place you were interested in. When I was looking at the pictures, I had an idea and went to look into trash piles. When I looked, I discovered that the slaves dump the trash and have a garden.”

Jorge grinned. “So they go in and out.”

“They do. They have greenhouses and I don’t think that the bosses even know that the slaves use the door.”

“What about security?”

“Either the security is very good and doesn’t pay attention to animals or is very bad and doesn’t pay attention to anything,” Sam said. “A bunch of us have been prowling around for three five days now and nothing has paid any attention.”

“What were you expecting?”

“Toll went looking in the Sanctuary library and found some things about Automata that were used for defenses and had projectors and things. We were expecting that even if there weren’t any soldiers, that there would be something. For that matter, they didn’t station any Transformed outside.”

“They are trying to hide.”

“Not very well.”

“Why don’t the Transformed and I take a discreet look?”

“You don’t have to. We have pictures and maps. We also have a blind set up.” 

Chatsrey

Gordal looked at the telegram and grinned. The library and the rest of it still stung and now he had an opportunity to get his revenge. This time the law was on his side, with the material containing Proscribed material and antiquities removed from Castle Hill. So he could arrange to have the incoming material seized. And if it should, for some strange reason, disappear from the impound, that goody Breadbaker would take the hit. If he did this right, he could get his revenge and his retirement lifestyle at the same time.

Móreliante activated Jestina and the seeming said, “I have a task for you. I think that you will like it.”

“What is it?”

“The treasure from underneath the vault. It may return. If it does, if you would aid in its recovery, we will be pleased. The details are being sent through the small portal.”

“You have intrigued me. I will undertake the task.”

Sarya looked at Durlan, at the report and said, “I don’t encourage moonlighting, especially moonlighting that could have consequences. So, how did you let Alinis get taken?”

“We didn’t check deeply enough, and the lady performed a work of art. Since Alinis was almost always surrounded by bunches of friends, she arranged to have a car set up exactly like the Harper’s car. Then she started a Dance with the Silva girl, attracting all the attention. Alinis made it to the car and everyone figured that she was out of the picture. The lady was also ignoring the microportals that had been planted, Torald’s boys thought. Turns out she was using them to cover up the car. She had some people come in, the car done and we never saw it.”

“Filia took her.”

“Yes. That is a family matter and keeping Arlayna alive is important, as she is the first Dancer directly connected to the top of the Project that has been discovered and does not seem to have come from any of the known Silverin families.”

“She is also comfortable in the Blasted Lands. Even more comfortable than Iolena is.”

“I saw that she was. She fit in very well and when we tracked back, she had all sorts of contacts and resources. I am still new here, so I didn’t pick up on things.”

“How tight was the operation?”

“Very. As I said, we never saw the car coming. We were so focused on her trying something that we weren’t looking for something else. Also, the car was clean. There was nothing to trace back to anyone other than her.”

“The registration?”

“She filed it, for a different model car. But the car wasn’t out long enough for the police to pick up on it.”

“What about the switch to another vehicle?”

“It must have been done quickly and smoothly. It also didn’t happen anyplace near where we found the car and there was nothing in the car other than the registration.”

“I understand that this was a family matter and you did keep things discreet, but I wish that you had cleared it with this office first.”

“There wasn’t a chance to. Things closed down too quickly and we had to move fast.”

“I agree that getting our hands on the Dancer was important. Where is she now?”

“I’m not sure. With family, but there are several places that could be. The important thing was to work at her compulsions and get them to crash without destroying her.”

“Have you talked with Dan Harper about this?”

“Both with him and Mr. Silva. We’re all kicking ourselves over the car.”

“Where do you think that they took Alinis?”

“We’re looking near Racketgarde. So far we’ve come up with nothing. Fire thinks that they put her on a ship, or are going to put her on a ship. He also thinks that she was unconscious as they moved her. There was sleepy gas in the car.”

“The Dancer again?”

“Probably.”

“I think that when we can, I want her to have a long talk with us. I think that you and some others can learn a lot from her.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

Osprey

Alinis woke up in a small room with a round window. There were some clothes on the small desk across from the small bed that she had been sleeping. She dressed in the clean underwear and simple dress and tried the door, which was locked. Turning to the window she looked out and saw nothing but the water floating by, which meant that she was on a ship. The door opened and a woman looked in. “Good, you are awake. My husband and wants to speak with you.”

“Your husband?”

“He is the captain. I am Eilrona Ravathyra.”

“That is an old elf name. I am Alinis. I’m not sure how I got here.”

“Come along and we will talk.”

Alinis followed the lady to what must be the captain’s cabin. The lady knocked and a voice said, “Come in.”

Eilrona pushed Alinis inside and there was a half elf at the desk. He looked at her and said, “Our passenger is awake. I just want to lay out some rules for you. First of all you are not allowed on the bridge, the chart room or the radio room. Second, you will find that you may get stuck if you transform on this vessel. Third, I hope that you will treat the crew of this vessel with respect.”

“Why am I aboard?”

“I do not know the details. You were placed aboard and I was told that I would be told when you would put off the ship and where.”

“Where is this ship going?”

“That I will not tell you. My job is to keep you until an exchange is made. I would prefer that it be pleasant all around, but we do have a brig.”

“I could escape.”

“You are on a ship at sea and probably cannot orient yourself to find any Jump anchors you may have. Even royal fae, which you are not fully yet, have problems transforming into sea creatures like seals or dolphins, we are out of sight of land and you do not know where we are.”

“My Uncle Tom will find this ship.”

The captain held up a broken microportal. “With these? He is already trying.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“That is a story that I will tell just before you leave. Eilrona, why don’t you show our passenger around the ship.”

Chapter 44.

Noxbury

Geral was waiting as his father got off the train. When his father stepped down, Geral waved to his waiting grandsons to retrieve his father’s luggage from the baggage check, stepped forward and took his father’s bag. Tulgrunli looked at his son and grinned. “You look well, Geral.”

“I have done well. Let me take you around.”

“I see that you have some louts too. We may want them in Ironton.”

“They are good at booms, even if their mother wishes that they were not. Here’s my truck.”

They got in and Geral said, “My grandsons will take your things to the house. Tell me more about Marian and Alog.”

“Alog will be missed. As far as we know, Marian taking Alog was impulse, the spider’s appetite and Marian not realizing just who Alog was.”

“She didn’t know who Alog was?”

“She may have thought he was just another college student dating her niece. Falia and Alog hadn’t told either family about the relationship. Alog accosted the spider because she had taken on the semblance of Falia and that may have messed up her meal plans. So the spider changed her plans.”

“You didn’t deal with her? It takes two or three days for a spider to digest a meal.”

“You must have encountered one.”

“A long time ago. Ilva and I had just moved down here and the thing was getting more bold. We tracked her trail to the hide that she used and I rigged it to go boom. It did and she was killed. We all thought that that was the end of it.”

“She is here, isn’t she?”

“We think so. Of course Marian Grant was a scandal back in the day.”

“Does she have any other family?”

“One brother may still be alive. The other was taken by the spider and her parents died when the brakes on their truck failed.”

“Her brother was taken by a spider?”

“Yes.”

“That is interesting.”

“My gardener has stories about the events then and before.”

“I will want to hear them. You were not involved?”

“Not until the end. I had a pregnant wife and was starting a business. I couldn’t get involved in things that weren’t really my concern and I wasn’t in a place where I would be prey.”

“Do you know who the spider was?”

“The sheriff has a file and we can go over it.”

“When was the last feeding here?”

“About five days ago. That was just before you sent the message. How did you find out about the first one?”

“The family and some FSA people have been working on the case. The sheriff here sent a report in and it was passed to me. We’ve been trying to anticipate what the spiders are going to do.”

“There is more than one?”

“There is the spider that was probably the “mother” of the one here and Marian, who just became a spider recently. The older spider wanted a diversion for a kidnapping.”

“We’re almost to the sheriff’s office, so you can share the story with both me and Dade. Dade was a deputy during the first go around.”

“Could the city go without radio for a time?”

“Yes, why?”

“The spiders can Jump like the fae can. That isn’t as useful in the north because of the mana conditions, but it is here. On the other hand, in the Empire, suddenly not being able to Jump because her father was operating a suppressor got a spider killed.”

“How did that happen? I’m surprised that there is news from the Empire, though Ilva likes Miss Brownlow’s columns, now that I think of it.”

“The Darkmage took over the palace during the Conclave to seat the current Emperor and murdered the Director of the Portal Service. That annoyed the elf’s mother and she took steps.”

“The Guild?”

“She didn’t need them. Thaciona Lion is the lady’s sister.”

“They have the same habits and personalities, don’t they?”

“They also share the business.”

“What happened to the spider?”

“The Spider went after one of the lady’s disreputable grandsons, who was covered and he put a knife through the spider’s skull. The spider was attractively arranged on the Sarceren flower display rigged to burn very hot and placed in front of the Imperial Palace. When the Darkmage showed up, the spider burned nicely.”

“Is that giving mother ideas?”

“Not really, since Marian doesn’t have a lot of attachments and her husband is dead.”

“Of natural causes?”

“Yes. He had heart issues.”

“That must have upset the Ironforges more than somewhat. How did they clean up Tommy for the senate?”

“They didn’t. Marian made arrangements with the older spider for a rather remarkable demise.”

“Who was next?”

“That doesn’t matter. The Umevan got the seat.”

“Was that Alog’s legacy?”

“More or less. Luggergate and some long term stances on the Senator’s part didn’t help and since the Senator was dead, there was no incumbency to overcome.”

“Here’s the Sheriff’s office. Let’s go inside.”

They walked inside and the sheriff was waiting. “Geral, is this your dad?”

“Dade, this is Tulgrunli Ironaxe. Dad this is Sheriff Dade Shooter.”

“Mr. Ironaxe, I am glad to meet you. Geral has been an asset to this town for a long time.”

“Has he?”

“Yes he has. But before we talk about that, I want to know about the spider and what she did up north. The report that the people from the FSA was good, but nothing beats talking to someone that was there.”

“Have you found the bodies?”

“We found one of them, the second one. We haven’t found Billy the Giant’s body, which considering how big he was, is rather ridiculous. Is the spider really Marian Grant?”

“We are almost certain of that. That is my family and the FSA. Unfortunately she has been very clever and able to hide who she is. I have a file that we can go over, including what happened on the plateau.”

“We’ll be glad to have that.”

“One thing you want to do is keep things as discreet as you can. That is until you are ready to go on a hunt for the spider. We were too noisy on the Plateau, even though we came very close to getting the spider. Also keep an eye out for strangers. Marian has relatives who like having the idea of a monster to hold over people’s heads. They are probably rather annoyed that my family chased her off.”

“Let’s go into the office and we can discuss this.”

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