The Legacies of Lyrei, Chapter 75-76

What are you going to do about the cultists?”

“I don’t know yet. I’m just a vintner.”

“A vintner who is very good at blending grapes to make a superior wine. I think that you can find a way to blend some of your people, even if they have been tainted by the enemy.”

“You have surprised me. That is a very Silverin way to put things.”

“I have spent a long time next door to Silverin, blended with a bunch of crazy dwarves and orcs. If you get in trouble, I’ll have the Ironaxes come up to help.”
Taerel laughed. “They don’t sound like they would make a fine wine.”

“They are more of a wild drink, I think. A lot of fun with a bang at the end.”

Chapter 75.

Chatsrey

Magistrate Theodred Oakshield put his head in his hands. The problem was that both sides had their points. The Cotton Exchange had obtained the lease under very suspicious circumstances and the Cutflames deserved a measure of compensation for what they had been put through. On the other hand, the Cotton Exchange had made substantial improvements to the property and the argument that some time should be given for eviction even if the back rent was not paid was sound. The strange thing was that Tollings’ clients were willing to compromise somewhat and the Cotton Exchange wasn’t. He looked at the Cotton Exchange’s solicitor and said, “Mr. Ironforge, I hope that you have a very good barrister, because, at this point, if you take this to court, you will more than likely lose. I am changing the writ of eviction to the end of the fiscal year, so you won’t have to move out in the traditional five days that tenants have after an eviction notice is signed. The rent for the rest of the fiscal year is increased to the rent proposed by the proposed lease submitted by Mr. Tollings.”

“That is outrageous.”

“I wouldn’t push things, Mr. Ironforge. I’ve given you time to make a better case than the one you have. I would take advantage of that. Frankly, the Cutflames offered your boss a good compromise and the city could do without those firetraps on the waterfront.  If you can’t reach an agreement, the court appointment is in a moon, so you have that to prepare.”

Ironforge left the magistrate’s office and Theodred asked Jon, “What are the Cutflames really after?”

“I shouldn’t say, but Mrs. Cutflame wants the old neighborhood improved a bit and those warehouses have been an issue for that part of the city for the last ten years. So she wants to convert them to a park on this side of the river, some apartments and some stores and restaurants. She’s already lined up Sihnion Themaer as an architect.”

“How did she arrange that?”

“Over dinner and in exchange for some things. That’s all happening up in the Empire.”

“What if the Exchange pulls out?”

“A tenant is ready to move in. They need space to conduct a growing business in grain and other produce.”

“You had this nice and tight. No wonder Mr. Ironforge was bellowing about extortion.”

“Mr. Ironforge is in the impossible position of trying to make the Cotton Exchange look clean in a mud pit. When Mrs. Cutflame approached me about this, I was reluctant. Then I started to look into it and it just kept getting uglier. We like to believe that there is little corruption here in the Republic and then we run into things like this, where acting like this was the default and the Cutflames had all their reasonable beliefs in the protections of the law stripped away because it was convenient and some people didn’t want to take no for an answer, simply because the other side were Dragonkin.”

“Who will be your barrister?”

“I’m going to keep that a secret now that this is going to trial.”

“The Cotton Exchange is going to try to stretch this out and make it expensive.”

“That’s foolish, and they should know that. After all, the Dragonkin just won that case here in your court. I need to go, your honor.”

Desert Howl.

It took some effort, but the team from the FSA managed to get themselves settled in the small hotel in Desert Howl. Stefan pinned a map to the bulletin board on the wall of the tiny conference room they had in the hotel. “Here are the locations of the various places. The Office Of Inanimates has this old ghost town here with some area set aside as their testing grounds. South and west are the Deadlands. That was where Scourge devises were tested, so we don’t want to go there at all if we can avoid it.”

“That sounds like the place to hide evidence,” Special Agent Garrax said.

“Not if you want to avoid getting poisoned. In any case, the Office of Inanimates will have a fit if we go in there and the last thing we need is a big scandal and not getting what we came for. Here is Umevan Electric’s research, testing and fabrication facility. Next to that, with the airfield, is Republic air. That will be our first target, as they work closely with Skychaser’s. Then we have Skychaser’s and then Beinan’s. Beinan’s will be our second target.”

“What are we looking for?”

Senior Agent Hardcast looked at the collected FSA men and said, “We’re looking for any activity linking the Old Families to the development of weapons that would be illegal under the rules of war. Specifically we are looking into the activities of former admiral Tom Harper and the navy. We will also be looking into any other ties that may be criminal.”

“Are there any people we should be looking out for?”

“Terrel Wavechaser and his son, Bill. The Senate wants to speak with them about some issues.  So we bust them if we see them. That spy, Jorge Umevan as well, if we get him here and can nail him on espionage charges. Their pictures are in the brief.”

“Won’t we be in violation of the Classified Matters Act and Business Privacy act?” Special Agent Holland asked.

“If a program is illegal, those things do not apply and I’m willing to let the high court decide the issue when we have the evidence. The Director wants heads and this is the start of breaking the conspiracy of the Old Families and their belief that they are above the law. We start at 04:00.”

Beltain.

George looked at the list of Bradal’s picks for the cabinet and sighed. Every one of them was from Beltain or a hard Democracy Party stalwart, most both. The problem was that most of them had little or no experience in the parts of the government that they were supposed to be supervising.  That was true especially of  the navy secretary pick, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War. Respectively they were essentially ignorant of foreign policy, the navy or the army. Tomas Billings was an academic who had written criticisms of the navy for twenty years. Grace Forge had never been outside the country and was well known to be critical of the Fellowship and the Kingdom and Jon Tillins had started his service with the army, been found unfit and had been forced to Serve in the Park Service. Ever since, his loathing for the army had been well known on the Plateau. Now he was to be in charge of it. The rest of the choices were similar. Even worse, the cascade of resignations by members of the Old Families and others had cascaded over the government like a broken dam, washing out much of the ability of the government to function. For, instance, Bob Harper and Chris Lion had taken most of the staff from the Chief Prosecutor’s office with them, meaning that most of the office would have to be replaced. Bradal came into the President’s office and said, “I have a new list.”

George sighed. “Show it to me. I hope that you have at least some people that can do their jobs on the list.”

“I do. For instance, Benyana Silversmith on the prosecutor’s staff. There are others of similar note. We should have a good team in the government.”

“I hope so.”

Chatsrey.

Tom walked into Greldug’s office at Tincutter Press and said, “You moved in fast.”

“It worked out well. I have space to work on my books and Tincutters has me here. It’s liberating not to have to have the world on your shoulders.”

“Things are not going well for some people.”

“How do you know?”

“Mórsairon told his daughter to arrange an exit with the boys. She did. The boys, Teonag and Brilbrun stole two Jumpers, loaded them with their haul and the kids and used the Jumpers to escape.”

Greldug laughed. “So the boys got some Jumpers, too.”

“Yes they did.”

“How does it feel to return to private life?”

“Rather dull, so far.”

“You haven’t lost all contact with the navy.”

“Drannor kept Peble. I doubt that he’s going to come out and say to keep me in the loop, but I doubt that he’s going to complain.”

“They haven’t gone after Rob yet either.”

“I think that they will, soon. There have been rumblings down in Desert Howl and I wish that Paeris was back at home.”

“It’s better that he’s keeping an eye on the Empire right now. The last thing we need is a Ravathyra revival, or something worse.”

“Richard, or rather Nightstalker, wired down a report on a cult concerning the “New Gods.” I think that we know what is going on there. The cult has apparently spread across the Empire, the Fellowship, the Kingdom and the Orcenlands.”

Bob came into the office and said, “Found you, Tom.”

“What’s going on?”

“The FSA hit the Mermaid Theatre.”

“What were they looking for?”

“They found one of Niphinae’s dancers who claimed she was abused and managed to get a warrant from that. They are conducting a general search right now. Several other places had the FSA show up, but they had been given and read Onia’s book, so they weren’t able to get in and perform those searches.”

Tom cursed. “Desert Howl.”

“What about it?”

“The FSA went after Uncle Rom and he was able to keep them out. They probably went back. They were looking for things that could be construed as violating the rules of war and the founding documents. A lot of the things that we were doing there could be seen that way if you twisted things around. I need to make some calls.”

Henri looked at the preliminary reports and grinned. So far, the raids had gone off without a hitch. He was saving the Lions for later, but he was certain that things like the Mermaid Theatre would provide all sorts of evidence concerning illegal activity. His teams would make sure of that.

Lythienne put the phone down, turned to Dan and said, “That was Niphinae. The FSA raided the theatre this morning. They are performing a general search based on an affidavit taken from a dancer that Niphinae let go some time ago. I was afraid of this.”

“I didn’t actually read that little book of Onia’s. Now I think that I will have to.”

“Going after Niphinae is ridiculous.”

“That’s why they did it. We never thought that they would go after her.”

Sal looked at Batluc and said, “I think that this place is clean.”

“We could have gone to Vikz’s.”

 “Too obvious. Have the clowns started in on your people yet?”

“No, they have not, actually. Nor have they gone after you as yet, have they?”

“No they haven’t. It’s been the Harpers, the Claringbolds and the Brownlows so far.”

“They are going after the families with the biggest involvement in the Empire. So far, with the exception of the Mermaid theatre, it’s been smaller businesses and not striking at the heart of the families.”

“They are looking for stooges.”

“I know. So, why are we having this little chat?”

“I wanted to know the details about the Cotton Exchange.”

“Ok. You know that I had been on the outs with my father, mostly because he didn’t like the compromises I made. He was a big believer in the Republic and didn’t like to see the tarnish. That was probably because he had been left on the beach by the Ravathyra and he had been able to build his business. He just didn’t understand how things had changed and the growing prejudice against the Dragonkin. In any case, he left most of the properties on the other side of the river to Gertald, the largest being the land where the Cotton Exchange now is. Now grandfather had wanted the place to remain a place where people could come and have a good time on the water. He and his friends had spent a good portion of their free time and quite a bit of coin over the years scrapping old barges, clearing them out and building their fishing piers, shacks and the park. We kids had our boats and kites and the sorts of things that kids had. The amusement people leased some spots and provided rides and fun things to do and the place was good place for kids in the summer with the place breaking even, which was all the family and the committee wanted. Then the railroad built the freight house and yards next door and my father went to the pyre. For about ten years, that was fine. Then the Cotton Exchange came to Gertald and offered to buy the property. He wouldn’t sell, because the deed stated that he was to pass the land to his children and grandchildren and that the place was to remain a park. The Exchange hired the Shieldbashers for pressure, which annoyed me and Gertald, but didn’t accomplish very much. Then the FSA showed up, there was a smuggling charge and they managed to seize everything in the office, leaving Gertald without much recourse, a court appointed barrister and me not wanting to muddy the waters, so I more or less stayed out of it. Gertald ended up with a prison sentence, the business was placed under conservatorship to remove the taint of illegality and the Cotton Exchange ended up with a very nice lease on the park, which they promptly turned into their new facility.”

“The mound had their fingers all over that, didn’t they?”

“They did. It was nice little deal for the Cinders.”

“Why didn’t you arrange for some accidents?”

“Onia said not to. I think that she was concerned that if it became obvious that the committee was involved in any way, the FSA would hold on to the books or destroy them. She was able to coerce the FSA into releasing them, make the case that the conservator was unnecessary and get the business back. Then the army needed Gertald and made a deal to get him released on parole. Up until Luggergate, he was on probation and the business was distributed to other family.”

“Could you have Onia ship me some cases of those little books of hers. I want to make sure that they are passed around.”

“I’ll arrange that. She is rather nasty where the FSA is concerned and the mound is lucky that she is occupied with Richard’s business. The fact that we won the Fifth District case gave her a taste of how to use clout and now she has it.”
Sal laughed. “She had it before. She was a terror in her neighborhood about certain things.”

“I know. How many times have you griped that you couldn’t get a racket started and I had to tell you that it wasn’t me that was responsible for why you couldn’t get the business started.”

“The big question is that with the federal prosecutor’s office gutted, who are the mound and the FSA going to get to handle all these cases?”

“That is an interesting question indeed.”

Onia came into the warehouse and found her daughter in amongst the various people going through files and taking notes. Walking up to where she was talking to Vincent, she asked, “Where’s Swifty?”

“Cleadsgate, at the Arsenal, mother. He was reassigned.”

“Good. The FSA has had people raiding places this morning.”

“We haven’t had a wisp of trouble here.”

“Not yet. They will be here, all too soon. They will think that the Qinvaris are pushovers and foreigners that will just cave to authority.”

Cory looked at the FSA man and said, “Why are you here?”

“We have a warrant concerning criminal activity here.”

“Let me see the warrant.”

“Are you the property owner?”

“No, I am not. On the other hand, you and these gentlemen are not getting on the property without me seeing the warrant.”

“Who are you?”

Cory held up his Ironaxe ID and said, “Corym Vavaris, Ironaxe Asset Protection and unless the rules have changed, Special Agent, I don’t have to let you on the property unless a proper warrant is presented and I, as an agent of the property owner, am given the opportunity to examine it and ensure that it is correct.”

The special agent slapped the warrant at Cory, who opened it and said, “Who are you kidding?”

“What?”

“There is no case number, you are looking for evidence concerning a kidnapping that happened over a year ago and this warrant allows you access to all parts of the property and allows you to seize all materials on sight for further investigation. Furthermore, this warrant is not signed by Magistrate Oakshield. As it happens, I was involved in that supposed kidnapping, it never happened, and at the time, it seemed as if the FSA was colluding with a band of procurers who were after Susan Gilders.”

“We could arrest you for obstruction.”

“For what, special agent? I am just stating the rights of the property owner and tenant. Look around. Does this look like a hotbed of criminal activity?”

Osmond walked over and said, “What is going on, Cory?”

“These fine gentlemen want to search the property and seize all the business records looking for criminal activity. They are from the Federal Service Agency and they are looking into a kidnapping.”

“Alinis’s? They are looking in the wrong place. Didn’t you hand her statement to the State Department?”

“A long time ago. Actually, I think that these gentlemen are looking to catch us out in some sort of smuggling scheme.”

Osmond laughed. “They are looking in the wrong place, then. The equipment here is going outbound. We have to have these machines in the Fellowship for our contract during first harvest and then in the shops at House Qinvaris. If you have any actual evidence that my people are involved in smuggling, let me know. Cory have you seen any sign that the boys are smuggling anything?”

“Osmond, I haven’t. Nobody brought any cases of Fallingwater or Lower City stuff in the grain bays. At least we didn’t see any.”

“What about outbound?”

“There was some shopping, but that’s not a big deal. We’ve all been too busy with the Blight and the rest. Speaking of which; flamethrowers! Have somebody call in an Inanimate incursion!”

The FSA man looked around. “What?!”

The various Qinvaris people rushed to a truck and started to pull out flamethrowers and other equipment as the FSA people turned around and noticed the shambling shapes of Inanimates in the street. The Qinvaris people, with practiced movements, lined up and with short bursts of flame, torched the Inanimates. The Inanimates fell in droves as the crews torched them. Finally, the street was a hot mess of torched Inanimates, but the incursion was over. Crews from the city arrived with some Silva people, Office of Inanimate people and local police. As the various crews were packing up, Cory turned to the FSA people and said, “Now there’s something to investigate.”

“What?”

“Where the people that were used to make these Inanimates came from.” He went over and picked up the rusted ruins of a breast plate. “The House was asking us to look out for things like this. Apparently somebody sent an expedition to the Junglelands a long time ago. Their descendants were still living there until the Project Scourged them.”

“Some devises ended up in the Republic.”

“Is that what we were supposedly smuggling? Special Agent, do you have any idea what it would take to get a Primary core from the cranky landdragon? That’s not going to happen and no one here has the knowledge to build what you need to make a core. We can get a radiation scanner here, but you won’t find anything.”

Onia strode up and looked at the FSA people. “Why are you here?”

The FSA man gulped a bit and said, “We have a warrant.”

“Hand it to me.”

The FSA man did and Onia looked at it. “Special Agent, did no one tell you about me? Take this to Magistrate Oakshield and see what he says. You should know better than to try this with me. Unless you have any actual evidence of criminal activity, you are not getting on any of the family’s properties. Frankly, I think that it is time that I took steps, since you are trying to set up yet another scheme. Tell the Director that he can expect a citizen’s action suit against the agency.”

“What?!”

“You heard me. You wanted to poke into my files, so now you will get to see them, all the nasty things you people have done to stomp on the Dragonkin.  Even better, we can bring out the FSA’s files in discovery and find out about all your nasty activities. As for this mage hunt going on now, the Director better hope that he has everything correct or there will be trouble. I will be talking to all the barristers and your victims and if anything is out of line, the FSA is in real trouble. Now get along and don’t come back until you have something real.”

The FSA men left and Osmond said, “They were afraid of you.”

“That’s because I am not afraid of them and they know it. They have already done their worst to me and I am not about to let that happen again. This time they are out of luck, because my husband is up in the Empire, so he isn’t here to restrain me, the special agent’s boss is going after some new friends of mine and I have a lot more clout than they think I do.”

Desert Howl.

Valtin got out of the car, noticed the men in suits all over the office seemingly making off with the paper from the business, went and found Belac. “Just what is going on here?!”

“These men are from FSA. They arrived early this morning with a warrant and truck. They are conducting a search related to illegal weapons development and release of classified material to foreign entities.”

“Where’s the boss?”

“Over there.”

“Did you see the warrant?”

“He said that it had a Senate investigatory seal on it.”

Valtin went over and said, “I’m Valtin Swiftwing. Just what is going on?”

“Senior Agent Hardcast. We investigating the production of weapons that are in violation of the rules of war and were developed without Congressional oversight.”

“This is an aircraft company and we have contracts with the army and the navy for aircraft. Let me see the warrant.”

“The warrant is under seal as it relates to classified matters.”

“Then I want you and your people off the property immediately.”

“If you try that, I will have you up on obstruction charges, Mr. Swiftwing.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Valtin went into his office, picked up the phone and dialed the admiralty. “This is Valtin Swiftwing. I need to speak to Admiral Harper about a serious and urgent matter.”

“Admiral Harper has resigned, Mr. Swiftwing. I can take a message.”
Valtin sighed. “Tell whoever is in charge that the FSA is going through the plant, looking to confiscate files and probably put me out of business. If the navy wants their planes and the buzzdrones, they better send somebody to clamp down on this very fast.”

Valtin put the phone down and called General Harper’s office where the same sort of thing happened. He tried most of the numbers he knew and finally put the phone down. He went outside and the FSA had started to pull filing cabinets. “Just what are you doing?!”

“We are securing this as evidence.”

“Belac, call security. Get these clowns off the property.”

“Mr. Swiftwing, you are under arrest for obstructing a Federal investigation.”

Two of Senior Agent Hardcast’s people stalked up and grabbed Valtin. Valtin said, “You are interfering with critical war production in time of war. Trust me Senior Agent, I don’t know what is going on up north, but you are risking the Republic right now.”

“Take this man to the local lock up and get him out of my investigation. For that matter, clear the office.”

Tom ran out from the small office he had on the plant, downstairs and out to a Jalopy. He pulled out of the parking lot, drove over to Skychaser’s and went to Romarod’s office. “Mr. Skychaser, the FSA is back and they are serious this time. They busted dad for obstruction and cleared the files out.”

“Where are you going?”

“Beinan’s next. Dad pushed so that they wouldn’t notice me. I was the one who was in charge of the buzzdrones and it would be all too easy to make them bombs.”

“Ok, I have been warned.”

Tom got back into the Jalopy and drove over to Beinan’s. He walked in and went to Feno’s office. “Mr. Illican, the FSA just raided us. They are conducting some sort of bogus investigation. Dad got himself busted so that I wouldn’t be noticed. I think they are looking for secret weapons projects for the Senate.”

Feno cursed. “Thanks for warning me. What happened?”

“They showed up early this morning and bullied their way past the guard. By the time Belac got there, they were already pawing over the office and talking seizure.”

“Ok. Could you do me a favor and go out to where Bill has his place. We don’t want the FSA getting a whiff that it even exists. Thanks for warning me.”

“The whole thing is stupid. Dad tried to call the navy and the army and nobody answered. My office is next to his and the door was open, so I heard him make the calls. Then he got himself busted so that I could get out and spread the word.”

“Get going then.”

Tom left and Feno called in Terrel and Cornaith. “Get all the suppressor and ancient Imperial stuff and have it taken to deep storage. The same goes for anything related to radiation and the Scourge.”

“What happened?” Cornaith said.

“The FSA went after Valtin this morning. He arranged to get himself busted so that Tom could get the word out. I expect that we are next on the FSA hit list. So I want everything that can be used against us hidden and buried. If you can arrange something big and heavy in front of that, do that.”

Terrel grinned. “The first RDR transmitter, for instance, with its trailer?”

“That would be perfect. While you are doing that, I’m going to have the shop get a little circus ready to entertain our guests.”

After Terrel and Cornaith left, Feno called the head office in Chatsrey and got through to Aydiun. “Mr. Beinan, let the rest of the plants know that the FSA is on the prowl. They raided Republic Air this morning. We here are probably next.”

“What were they looking for?”

“Tom Swiftwing says that they were looking for things in violation of the rules of war that the navy didn’t notify the Senate about.”

“Are you putting some things under cover?”

“I have Terrel and Cornaith on that now.”

After a long drive, Tom pulled up in front of the ancient building that Bill had taken over for his project. He walked inside and was blasted by cool air. Bill and Jorge were with another man and Bill turned as Tom walked in the building. “What’s going on, Tom?”

“The FSA raided our place this morning. Feno wanted to make sure that you knew.”

“What were the clowns after?”

“Weapons development that the Senate wasn’t told about.”

“That’s a lot of things, I bet,” Jorge said. “Tom, this is Nat, by the way. He works for my family’s business. Bill, we should go back to Beinan’s. The FSA is probably looking for us, and I would not want to disappoint them.”

Chapter 76.

The Silverin Estate.

Naertho looked at the children gathered in front of the portal, at Taerel and said, “And away they go.”

“On their way to the Republic. Tad and Immianthe will take care of them, along with the other older ones.”

“Now comes the part I hate, negotiating with the enemy.”

“You have a reputation about that. I’m surprised that you hate it.”

“The problem is that until you push, there is no way to know how crazy the other side is.”

“How are you going to go to the estate?”

“There are really only five ways in. At least ways in that do not take rope and guides. The road from Freywick, the tunnel, the portal, the gate in the south and the back way through the fae village. I think I will use the tunnel. Now I need to go down to the Republic and see what is going on. What are you going to do about the cultists?”

“I don’t know yet. I’m just a vintner.”

“A vintner who is very good at blending grapes to make a superior wine. I think that you can find a way to blend some of your people, even if they have been tainted by the enemy.”

“You have surprised me. That is a very Silverin way to put things.”

“I have spent a long time next door to Silverin, blended with a bunch of crazy dwarves and orcs. If you get in trouble, I’ll have the Ironaxes come up to help.”
Taerel laughed. “They don’t sound like they would make a fine wine.”

“They are more of a wild drink, I think. A lot of fun with a bang at the end. The children are gone, so I need to follow.”

Taerel’s laughter followed Naertho through the portal.

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