The Intrigues of The Plateau, Chapter 35-36

Some tourists visit Gold City. Dumag gets some visitors.

Chapter 35

Gold City

Bill and Moonshine had stayed over at the Binorins and in the cool very early morning darkness, they, and the Binorins, with Saevel and Bellflower, who Livy had told of the expedition, got into the two jalopies and they started off. They were joined by a third, driven by Jorge, with Nat, Rilldia and Shael aboard as they passed the turn to Gold City in the darkness. Three twentieths later they were approaching the mountains surrounding the ghost town and driving up a winding and very bumpy road until they stopped in front of a rather ratty wooden building that had a sign on it that said, “Gold City Hotel” and underneath, “Post Office, Sheriff, General Store.”

Taran Qin had seen the dust of the arriving jalopies, gone inside to his father’s office and said, “We have wet folk approaching, pa.”

“This time of year?”

“I wouldn’t know, pa.”

Larra Qin got up out of his chair, stretched, holstered his pistol and walked to the front of the office. “It’s probably Divad and Bill Wavechaser.”

Taran grinned. “Aunt Neddu called you and you forgot tell me, didn’t you, pa.”

“That may have happened. Neddu did call, but your mother took the call and they chatted about all sorts of things. Your mother did mention that Bill and Divad were coming out with some friends.”

“A lot of friends. They brought three jalopies.”

Jorge watched as Bill and Divad took army cans off the jalopies, opened the gas caps and started to fill the gas tanks and then, when that was done, did the same for the water. He and Nat turned and did the same as Bill said, “Do this when you reach where you are going and you won’t have problems going back.”

A middle aged desert folk man came out of the hotel with a younger desert folk man and said, “Divad, you brought a bunch of friends and some pests that have been staying out of the desert. Bill, I didn’t scare you into the water, did I?”

“Sherriff Qin, I don’t scare that easy, you know that. I was doing other things and met Moonshine, so, I was distracted.”

“Well met, princess and welcome to our community. I am Larra Qin, of the desert folk. You have traveled far.”

“I am Moonshine of the Rosehollow kingdom and when I saw Bill, I had to chase him. He has been worthy and we have been doing remarkable things.”

“He apparently managed to stay dry with Jimmy there. I was concerned about that. I know Jimmy and Maray.   Livy and Divad are family and that must be Tolly, so who are these others.”

“This is Saevel Zylvyre, Bellflower, Jorge Umevan and Shael Biqen, with Nat and Rilldia Axegrinder from the Empire,” Bill said. “Jorge and Nat want to talk to Taran  about setting some people in camps to watch the roads.”

“Why?”

“The Stewards,” Nat said.

“They are back? They did something very bad at Skychasers. Bill, Neddu says that you are willing to trade three of your finds to Taran for our silence at lunch together. On the other hand, she said that Moonshine dances and having a faery princess dance for us is an opportunity not to be missed, so you are out of luck, unless you have even better stories.”

“I do, but I really shouldn’t talk about them.”

“Even if we get you in trouble?”

Bill sighed. “I will have to bear it.”

“There’s Bekka with her guide gear, so why don’t Taran and I talk to you and your friends here while Bekka takes Divad and the rest around town for a bit.”

“Ok.”

“Let’s go into my office.”

Taran, Bill, Nat and Jorge followed Larra into the rather rustic and spacious office, Larra pointed to chairs and said, “Sit down gentlemen. I doubt that Bill would have brought you out here unless things were fairly serious, and the fact that the Stewards are back says that there is a potential for something very serious. Bill, does your uncle think that they have more Primaries?”

“We are fairly sure that they do not,” Nat said.

“How do you know?”

“I am in charge of reconverting the material in the Primary cores and was one of the people responsible for manufacturing the cores in the first place. All of the cores that I was responsible for have been recovered or accounted for. So, unless somebody has a program to make Scourge devises that we do not know about, there are no cores to make Primaries.”

“I think that my dad will want to talk with you. There are things here that my folk haven’t told anyone else about.”

“You all are Tarranth Qinvaris’s descendants, aren’t you?” Jorge said.

“You all know more than I would have expected. How did you discover that? The Umevan were exiled from the Empire and started to wire things here.”

“Not the entire family. My father remained in the Empire.”

“Where it is known that the libraries were burned by the Inquisition.”

Jorge grinned. “Not all of them and some relatives of yours are very good at digging them up. Tarranth and Alinis Qinvaris are holding a competition for which of them makes the largest Ancient Imperial find before they get married. Alinis is in the lead, with tablets, a library and other things. Tarranth opened the vaults under Castle Hill, much to his chagrin.”

“He would have to be Old Family and tested to do that.”

“Richard Harper was taken by Paeris Zylvyre, purchased by House Qinvaris in what Lady Qinvaris says was the best purchase that the House ever made, shared blood with Lady Qinvaris, had Nimue, Dan, Tarranth and Alinis as well as building the largest farm in the world. It was discovered that getting tested was a good thing and there was a handy grove next to a portal that, at the time was desperate to build its community. So getting tested was easy and a lot of us have been tested either by the fae or the Mage Academy, which has liberalized their policies in face of competition.”

Larra laughed. “Save the stories for lunch later. So, where do you want people, Bill?”

Bill brought out a map and said, “We’re using this place here for what we are doing. I was hoping that Taran and some others could cover the roads here, here and here. We’ll run telegraph and provide radios.”

“Why telegraph.”

“Because the radios might stop working,” Nat said. “The suppressors have been shut down, but the Stewards may know how to build one, have been stealing components and things from the Beinans and others for a very long time in Ironton and shutting down radio before hitting us would be a very good thing.”

“Do you have a way of tracking a suppressor? Shutting down radio out in the desert is a very bad thing and I will arrest anyone who is doing that without authorization. I’ve already had a rather stiff chat with Mr. Ilican about that.”

“Beinan’s has a devise that can track suppressors in the Empire,” Jorge said. “I can give you House Beinan’s address.”

“I’ll want that, for all sorts of reasons. Taran, will you have any problems with the camps?”

“Bill, you want them hidden, don’t you?”

“Definitely. We would prefer that the Stewards not know that we have people looking for them.”

“What is going on in South Howl and the FSA?” Larra asked. “I am getting requests for assistance and to keep an eye out for certain people, you Bill, your father, and Mr. Umevan, among them.”

Bill put a report on the desk. “Here’s the report from the chief in town. The FSA is using a program that the President asked for as an excuse to go after Skychaser’s, Republic, Beinan’s and the Umevan on the grounds that we were fabricating Scourge devises and putting them on rockets. No actual Scourge devises were put on rockets and Chompers, the Qinvaris landdragon in charge of all the cores is not about to hand a core to anybody without an immediate threat to the world that cannot be handled any other way.”

“Sheriff, you were hinting that there are facilities related to the Scourge out here in the desert,” Nat said. “I hope that they are well hidden.”

“Why?”

“The people behind the Stewards had eyes in the sky mapping everything. Admiral Harper destroyed the eyes, but the pictures remain and right now, the people behind the Stewards control the Umevan estate and one of the places where the pictures were filed. We were not able to extract the files and the enemy has them. If they send copies to the Stewards here, they and the FSA may come out looking for them.”

“They would not be easy to find.”

“Has anyone been near them for a very long time?”

“No, no one has. You all seem more concerned about the Stewards than the FSA. Why is that?”

“Most of the FSA wouldn’t know a Primary if they were sitting on it,” Jorge said. “The special agents that learned that aren’t down here. Things would be easier if they were, since we could talk to them. The Stewards, on the other hand, have as a member in very good standing, one of Bill’s and my physics professor from Ironton. On the surface, he was as clueless about certain things as the FSA types. The reality is the he played with certain things with my cousin and knows a lot about how certain things work and what they might look like. Since my cousin Haral and his friends did all sorts of things that relate to the Scourge with my family’s money, they got a lot closer than they knew at the time. The professor was part of that little group. He also removed something that the Stewards had custody of that we found in their headquarters.”

“What was that?”

“Bill, should we tell them?”

“Mr. Binorin will, if the sheriff asks.”

“Ok. Do you know what a seeming is?”

“A spirit in crystal. Most folk that have one do not discuss them. I take it that the Stewards have one.”

“Due to a lapse on my part, yes. At the time, we all assumed that the Stewards were defunct, I left the crystal in my office in Ironton and when I checked, it was gone. My building wouldn’t be easy to just walk into as some of the tenants, Bill here included, have things that are more or less classified, but the tenants have access to the building at strange hours and nobody locks things up inside, at least I didn’t. So the professor was able to remove said seeming from the office.”

“You did not consider it a great treasure?”

“I wasn’t going to activate it. The personality imprinted on the crystal was one of the monsters responsible for the mage wars. I was going to take the thing home, mostly to secure it and forgot about it.”

“It could have provided great wisdom.”

“Not this one. There may be an old family seeming on the estate or in the House at home, but this one was one of a group imprinted from some very bad people and when we encounter them, we have been sending them where they are least useful to the enemy, to the enemy’s people.”

“Now who is paying for us to be out in the desert,” Taran asked. “That is rather important.”

“My family is. You can bill through the regular account.”

“That’s not much fun. My sister charges to prepare the invoices.”

A desert folk girl poked in and said, “Yes I do, and you know why. Mr. Umevan, the tour is waiting if you are done with pa.”

“I think that we are done with this, Bekka,” Larra said.

“Good. I’ve been talking to Lady Biqen about college and I think that I can arrange to go and do my Service at the same time. Let’s go and I will show you about the town before the heat gets too bad.”

As they were going through things, Jorge asked Taran, “What happened to this place?”

“No railroad. So when the mines more or less played out, most folk left and it wasn’t worth the effort to haul the stuff away. Grandpa and some others moved in and we took over. We mine a little, do odd jobs and give tours as well as make some things for the places up north, like silk flowers and arrangements.”

“Some of your relatives do amazing things with them. This seems rather rugged and dilapidated.”

“Do you have any idea how much trouble it is to keep the place looking like this? It would be easier to rebuild the houses and give them fresh paint than it is to just patch things up, but that would shatter the illusion. There are some very nice cool caves other places where most desert folk live.”

Jorge laughed. “I’m glad that I won’t have that problem at the estate. Nobody cares if my winemaker upgrades as long as they can get wine.”

“I would be careful about that,” Nat said. “Taerel already is being pushed not to modernize too much.”

Chapter 36

The Junglelands

Dumag grinned as the colonel from the Kingdom was let into his office. “Urtug, you have arrived.”

The grinning Urtug Blackbeard saluted and said, “My sappers and I are at your service, Champion. What happened to Major Tollings?”

“He was recalled home, unfortunately.”

“I’ve heard that things went crazy on the mound and the crazy spread.”

“I’ve had the same thing from my wife and family. Apparently a Senator, worried that the consequences of his actions were going to come home to roost, had a spy get at some things that the President and the admiral wanted kept discreet for very good reasons, but thought that they might need and used the documents to drum up a scandal.”

“Involving Scourge devises and I will want what you have about that.”

“Ok. You know that Rob Bronzerock’s team chased down the Scourge devises and turned all of them over to the radiation lab in the Empire.”

“That hardly seems like a secure place to put them. Couldn’t they be destroyed?”

“Not without hurting a place more than we wanted to. The other way takes longer and that was being done until the people here took the Umevan estate and some people left to prevent the enemy from getting their hands on them because they know far too much about how to fabricate the facilities you need to make Scourge devise cores.”

“Just the people you want if you are starting or have a Scourge devise program. Who is the boss working for now?”

“Jorge Umevan. He is, or was, in charge of getting the cores rendered into something that can’t be used in a Scourge devise. He has also been doing other things with the Umevan.”

“I’ve heard strange things about young Lord Umevan.”

Dumag laughed. “Bears, airplanes and portals, right?”

“Yes. What is he doing now?”

“I have no idea. It is in the Republic, so we are safe and so is the enemy, for the time being. I want to get them closed up before things get bad.”

“Ok, give me the brief on what we are dealing with here and I will find a way to crack it.”

“I do not have the major, but I do have his specialists and some other family that I recruited for this, so we shouldn’t have too much trouble making the enemy miserable. We can get just about anything fabricated in Bubil Kil.”

“The mill is running. I noticed that on the way in.”

“It is, and there are other things available. We also have some people from places in Desert Howl and that is a good thing. Let me take you to lunch and explain.”

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