The Great Dance, Chapter 57-58

The head slave suddenly had a shocked expression. “You don’t think that he went to the Camp?”

“Let’s find out.”

They found the head servant watching the tents being set up and the head slave said, “Head servant, may we ask where you got the provender and the tents?”

“I went to the Camp. The Darkmage seems to have departed, but the head slave was cooperative.”

Chapter 57.

The Yllanan Estate.

The two five day voyage on the sailing steamer had been a bit rough and chilly, but more than a little exhilarating. The other passengers had been either couples returning from honeymoons in the Hidden City, dragonkin heading to the newly rediscovered aerie and people traveling to the Empire on business that did not justify the cost of a flight or taking the liner and train to Selnalion, or were seafolk with their wives.

Derry met a couple that were on their way to meet the man’s parents, as he had been part of the Ravathyra fleet, gotten a job in the oil fields in the south, met his wife, been dragged under and so it was more convenient to take the ship. They were using the portal to Eryding, but the Yllanan ship had been more convenient than waiting for a Shahana ship.

The rest of the passengers had been similar. Derry kept his mouth shut about where he was from, and just said that he was completing his Service at the Representative’s office. By the time the voyage was over Derry had made some good friends and had a good ten days that he hadn’t expected. As he reached the bottom of the gangway, there waiting was an old man in an ancient admiral’s coat and a peg leg. The man stepped forward and said, “Mr. Gilders, I am Harald Tollings, the Representative. I am glad to have you and we are a bit short staffed at present. Let’s get your baggage unloaded, you to the House and then to the palace.”

“Is there a rush?”

“Something has blown up while you were at sea and we may need your connections at home, since your father is on the navy committee.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing much now. This is in response to a discovery made recently. My wife will also want to pick you dry about the recent happenings on the Plateau.”

“She has friends there.”

“Yes she does, since I was in Congress for a long time. Of course she also had enemies as well. In any case, be prepared for the inquisition.”

“Those people too?”

“Not unless you are bringing Scourge devise parts into the Empire. Diplomatic immunity is essentially respected, but it is considered bad form to bring such things in. The same goes with things involving Clear, but you don’t have any experience there and as far as I could discover, never dabbled.”

“If I did, it would not have ended well for me. I had a cousin who did, there is just a bit too much elf in my family and the consequences were ugly.”

“That is good to hear. I lost somebody on the staff because they had dabbled in Chatsrey, got their hands on some vials in the Lower City and fell to the addiction before we knew what he was doing. So, when we get Service people applying for the Residency, that is one thing that we look for. That especially goes for those with the Silverin in their background.”

“You know about that?”

“We vet the people that come up here rather thoroughly.”

“I didn’t have any problems getting the assignment.”

“You are thinking about that flap over the paper and the Societies party.”

“Yes.”

“You made a mistake and Jorge slapped you for it. I think that you are alert to some things now.”

“Not to be an idiot, especially where high lords are concerned, yes.”

“Speaking of high lords, here is one now. What can we do for you, Lord Yllanan?”

Esgalwathanar grinned. “A certain young lady said that her brother, while a bit boorish, could take advantage of the Program and that I should invite him to the next class. Mr. Gilders, if you should go to the Umevan estate two five days from now, a class is being assembled.”

“Susan said that I should look into the class,” Derry said. “What did she send about me?”

“Very little, in fact. Just that she thought that you would do well for having the training.”

“I will be there.”

The elf lord left and Harald laughed. “He didn’t waste any time. Your sister must have sent ahead.”

“I asked her for the connection for the class.”

“Then she took care of that for you.”

“She does things like that. Swifty is going to be a very lucky man.”

“I’m surprised that you approve of that.”

“I didn’t at first. On the other hand, Swifty has been good for my sister. I have also been forced to look at things from a different perspective lately.”

“That’s not a bad thing.”

Chapter 58.

The Center.

The engineer went to Haciathra’s head slave and said, “We have a problem.”

“What is it?”

“I told the mistress that if we use the portals, we lose a day’s power. Someone used the portal out and back with a heavy load coming in. Our window just went from fifteen days, to eleven in one day. Were you told to limit portal use?”

“No, I was not. I haven’t been using the portal here in any case. In any case, the head servant used the portal to obtain provender.”

“Along with those cookers that look like Scourge devises and tents from the Republican Marines and the Fellowship Army. I would want to know where they came from.”

The head slave suddenly had a shocked expression. “You don’t think that he went to the Camp?”

“Let’s find out.”

They found the head servant watching the tents being set up and the head slave said, “Head servant, may we ask where you got the provender and the tents?”

“I went to the Camp. The Darkmage seems to have departed, but the head slave was cooperative.”

“Was it Jomney?”

“I believe so? I need to ask your mistress for funds for the mana batteries. Thank you for reminding me.”

The man stalked off and the engineer said to the head slave, “Why didn’t you tell him?”

“Then we would be blamed when things went bad, count on it. He did not ask for an update on circumstances and went ahead and used the portal, to the Camp, brought back tents and camping equipment and apparently never even looked at them. The question he should have asked, considering that I do not see any guardians outside, is whether the Fellowship army or the Republican marines are still in the area.”

“Let’s see if Master Tannator and Master Ornthalus know about things.”

They found the two Masters talking to Master Amaris about the mana situation, apparently. Amaris spotted them and said, “The two we should be speaking with. Engineer, how bad is it?”

“Worse than it was yesterday. The portals were used to get the food for the additional people and that cost us four days. There is a worse problem, masters.”

“What is it,” Ornthalus growled.

“The head servant went to the Camp to obtain the provender rather than asking me to obtain it,” the head slave said. “I have used covert methods to obtain what we needed from Fayspire in the Fellowship for some time and lately the portals in Innshys and the market there.”

“So?”

“The Camp has been under the control of the other side for some time now.”

“The head servant didn’t have any problems obtaining what he needed from the head slave.”

“Jomney knew who he was and probably who he was obtaining the provender for,” the engineer said. “He is also working for the other side and he isn’t the head slave, but the lord of the Empty Lands. Also, all the camping equipment came from the Republican Marines and the Fellowship Army.”

Ornthalus, Amaris and Tannator looked at the engineer with puzzled expressions as he continued, “The Fellowship’s 2nd Army was ported here after the siege of Ishendell ended and the Republican Marines took over after the Hunter went after Lord Qinvaris and he activated his Letter of Intent. Jomney has probably already sent messages to Major Tollings, and we have no outside pickets. If he sends a message to the Qinvaris, we can be seeing the TAVs and trucks with militia here in a day.”

“What is a TAV?” Ornthalus asked with a puzzled expression.

“A large steel box on tracks that can run over just about anything and is equipped with machine guns and artillery. The Qinvaris grabbed them after the Peninsula and repaired them. The Qinvaris boys like to play with them.”

“Are you saying that we should evacuate?”

“Ask the mistress.”

“Thank you. You are dismissed.”

Ornthalus turned to the others and said, “That sounded very bad. Haciathra wasn’t telling us everything.”

“I don’t think that she has had the chance,” Aemaris said. “There were apparently a lot of changes while we slept and Haciathra hasn’t really been able to tell us about all of them.”

“Should we punish the head servant?” Tannator asked.

“There is no point. The damage has been done already. The question now is how long we have and what we can do about it.”

“Let us speak with Haciathra.”

The three found Haciathra. She looked at them and said, “What do you want?”

“We just had a conversation with your head slave and the engineer. Apparently the head servant wasn’t told not to use the portal, went to the Camp to obtain provender and then the tents and other equipment.”

Haciathra looked at them and said, “You seem more concerned than I think that I would have expected.”

“Just how bad are things? The matter of dealing with the Mana has been a distraction and the head slave hinted that the Republic has taken over the Empty Lands and that this place is at risk.”

“The Republic did take over for a brief time, but I do not believe that this place is at risk.”

“He also said that the head slave at the Camp holds the Empty Lands.”

“He may. I have not paid attention to those details. The oracle slave would know.”

The oracle slave was not at the oracle, which was deactivated, and was in a tent teasing a ferret that she had apparently attracted with some tidbits. The ferret ran when they approached and she jumped up. “Mistress, the oracle has been shut down.”

“We have some questions,” Amaris said. “Does the head slave hold the Empty Lands?”

“He does. Is that important?”

“Does the Qinvaris militia have large vehicles?”

“I believe so. They have used them in the battles in the Mortal Kingdoms and other places.”

“They have had battles in the Mortal Kingdoms?”

“Yes. The flameriders and the TAVs fought Inanimates and traitors in Vestia last year. I would show you the news reports but the devise is shut down.”

“Who holds the Retreat?” Tannator asked.

“I believe that the Imperial Navy has some boats and ships there and the Republican Navy has ships there as well.”

“What about Eryding?”

“That is the Shahana. They base the timber hulks out of the city.”

“The timber hulks?”

“They are former Ravathyra ships used as camp vessel for the loggers.”

“What about the Ravathyra fleet?”

“That has been gone for three years. The Republican navy sank or captured it. Most of the sailors live in the Republic now.”

“The Hidden City?”

“The Brownlows hold part of it and the Shahana the rest. The Republican Navy has a base there.”

“What about the Darkmage’s children?”

“Gone. Lady Flingladui is dead, Lady Nethangwa reverted and lost her memory, Lord Stormfire is a member of the Champion’s staff in the Orcenlands and I have had no word of Herdir of late, but he was last seen with Dúhael at the Citadel.”

“What is the status of the Citadel?”

“As far as I know, it is abandoned. There may be people living there, but the Project has abandoned the fortress.”

When Jorge emerged out of Jump, Sergeant Nightblade and the two Transformed privates were apparently listening to a sense string and laughing their heads off. He quietly came up beside them, looked through his binoculars and said, “What is so funny, sergeant?”

Nightblade jumped a bit and said, “The bosses are talking to the oracle girl and slowly realizing just how much trouble they are in, sir.”

“How bad is it?”

“First of all, the lights cut out as they were all meeting after being awakened from stasis. Then the head servant didn’t check before porting off to the Camp to get eats and then the barbecues and tents. So he didn’t know that Jomney wasn’t exactly under compulsion and working for them anymore. He also drained their batteries porting back and forth and apparently Jomney told him that it would take five days to get charged batteries. Then the bosses came out, talked to the oracle girl and she has been answering their questions, the poor girl. They are suddenly realizing that there are Qinvaris militia with TAVs nearby and Republican marines. It looks like somebody paid Lady Amarille a visit.”

Ornthalus heard a roaring sound in the air and looked up to see an airplane pass over head. He turned back to the girl as it disappeared and said “Where did that come from?”

“The airplane? That is a Fellowship airship patrol.”  

“The Fellowship flies regular patrols over the Empty Lands?”

“They have for some time, master.”

Jorge turned to the sergeant and said, “I hope that you have a crystal of this.”

“Ferret planted one in the tent.”

“Something else has come up, but I’m going to leave you and your squad here, sergeant. I think that the admiral will appreciate what you are getting.”

“If we had Tim and the other boys, those characters wouldn’t.”

Jorge laughed. “The girl hasn’t gotten to them yet.”

“We could port in some “Jorge the Pirate” books.”

“I’ll see. I’m not making any promises.”

“What about a Scourge suppressor?”

“I brought one with me. The lieutenant put it in a ruined building while I was looking for you.”

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