Those Who Would Be Gods, Chapter 13-14

“Blackfire discussed the boy with us. Helping us is the last thing he would do, and if he has a seeming, it will not be Harald. Why did you let Haciathra keep the boy? At least you didn’t let her bring him here.”
“She is up to something and if she is occupied, she isn’t bickering with us and wasting our time, time which is getting rather short.”

Chapter 13.

The Divinity Devise

Haciathra looked at the report and grinned. Bill Wavechaser had been retrieved. He had the Harald seeming with him this time. She stood up and went to where Aramis and Arafiel were watching machines haul debris out of the tunnel. “We have Bill Wavechaser.”
“Who?” Aramis asked.

“Bill Wavechaser is the custodian of the Harald Seeming and the key to the vault in the south.”
“Do you have a report prepared on the man?” Arafiel asked.

“He is young and I do. He was in our custody and escaped. I do not have the complete details.”
“We can send to Mórsairon for those.”

“Porting him here will not be possible unless we drop the shields,” Aramis said. “I don’t think that is a good idea right now. Send him to the Community.”

“Very well. He can assist us there.”

Haciathra went off to send the messages and Arafiel turned to Aramis. “Blackfire discussed the boy with us. Helping us is the last thing he would do, and if he has a seeming, it will not be Harald. Why did you let Haciathra keep the boy? At least you didn’t let her bring him here.”
“She is up to something and if she is occupied, she isn’t bickering with us and wasting our time, time which is getting rather short.”

“Good point. What do you think she is doing?”
“She probably took a group of hostages from families that had the keys to the mana sources. She is expecting them to open the sources we do not already control. With the fusor here and operating, the mana we have should be adequate. I am not concerned.”

Herdir watched the Project leaders plot. Haciathra had apparently taken Bill hostage again. Herdir was not about to tell the monsters about Bill the horse, let alone whatever else he was going to come up with. 

The Community

Blackfire frowned as some Stewards came through the portal with Bill Wavechaser slung between them. He looked at them and said, “Why did you bring Mr. Wavechaser here?”
“The mistress wanted him here.”

“I would have you send him back, but his bonded is already here. What did he have with him?”

The Steward held up the satchel and the suitcase. “These.”
“Did you scan for microportals?”
“Yes. There weren’t any.”
“Either they were not activated or they already know where this place is. I think that they know where this place is. Very well, I will take care of the boy.”

Bill woke up and there was Blackfire. He looked at him and said, “We need to stop running into each other like this.”

“I was not the foolish one this time.”
“I didn’t think you were. Whoever it is has been rather busy. You probably know about all the girls.”
“I did not actually. My sister is probably handling them.”
“Tell her to treat them very well. Among them are Jorge’s sister and my bonded. You have quite a group of people looking for this place now, including two faery kingdoms and the Mage Academy.”

“Who else? Remember that my brothers and I were told nothing about this.”

“The problem is that whoever was responsible just thought in terms of the various girl’s bonded or family, but not any wider relationships. She took Livy Binorin for instance, but didn’t realize that Livy and the prince of Astia are seeing each other. Then they took Suzy and Carrie by accident, Moonshine you already know about and Bellflower, who has been with the Grand Master’s son for a long time now. For that matter, the Great Captain has probably already received a message from his mother already.”

Blackfire started to get a rather sick look on his face as Bill explained the various relationships the girls had. When Bill was done, he said, “I will take this to my brothers. I think that you will want to unpack something.”

“Harald. I imagine that you want to talk to him. He may not want to talk to you.”

“As much as some people would think that you would bring Harald under any circumstances, I am not that foolish and if you did, I think that it would not help our cause at all.”

Chapter 14.

Neuw Athlin

Ald hefted the wheelbarrow through the streets with its load of sheep manure. Ald had been given the wheelbarrow by some kindly folk and it had proven to be a big help with the tree. Pushing the barrow, Ald marched down the street toward the Duc’s rising house. He turned the corner and two men were in the way. Rather than get out of the way, one put a cloth on Ald’s mouth and things went black.

Putting the unconscious Ald on his shoulder, the man started down the street as the other took the barrow and continued to the house, where he left it.

Unlike some cities, no one in Neuw Athlin paid much notice when the landdragon duc and his bonded marched into the city, trailed by two coaches and some wagons of servants and family. The new house in the city was almost complete and the couple were preparing to move in, mostly for Ald’s sake, since he would be starting school all too soon. The caravan reached the house and Ald’s wheelbarrow was there, but Ald was not. Anais got the various folk settled as Rolain talked with Dugal and Veral about the count’s new house. Anais came over and said, “Rolain, something isn’t right. Could you speak to the guard about Ald? He knew that we were expecting to come back today.”
“I’ll see if I can find him.”

Rolain went to the local guard station and then went to the Queen’s guard when the boy was nowhere to be found. Suddenly a strange noise sounded across the city, a Jumper emerged, landed and then took off again. Rolain saw the thing enter Jump and cursed.   

Chatsrey.

Swifty looked at the map and frowned. The people that had picked Bill up were very good and had broken the tails they had set up fairly easily. On the other hand, they went into Industry City and hadn’t come out. Jorge was looking for the portal. Swifty turned back to the desk. He had asked naval intelligence for everything they had on the Stewards, he had everything that Ironaxe had, and Sthisse and Vincent were getting the army material. The FSA was balking, but they probably didn’t have very much in any case, since they had ignored the Stewards. Swifty had gone to Mike Smith and gotten everything his family had on the Steward. So he had quite a bit already. None of that was getting the boys closer, yet. He started to leave when his mother came into the office. “I understand that you have been doing interesting things, young dragon.”

Swifty jumped and said, “Why are you here, mother?”

“Susan was taken and you have to ask? Of course I am here. Now catch me up on what is going on.”

“This started when a devise was turned on that tripped lost children in Market Square and they took Galaxa, Moonshine, Susan and Carrie. Some other girls have been taken in Desert Howl and the Empire that we know of. The families received telegrams telling them to unlock mana sources, except for Bill Wavechaser, who was asked to bring Harald and wait at Chatsrey East Railroad station. They picked him up and we lost the car in Industry City. They did not leave the city again.”

“Why are you all still here and not going where the girls are?”
“That was Sudyral’s idea. He thinks that they were expecting something like that, though I doubt that they know what all we could bring. They probably were not expecting us to chase them down here in Chatsrey. With the FSA on its mage hunt, they could do what they want.”

“Has the committee been involved?”
“Grandfather has been keeping the committee out of this, at least the heavy stuff.”
“I think that the time for heavy stuff has come. Things like this were why the committee was put together in the first place. I think I will speak with him. Have you been enjoying your other grandparents?”
“I have, quite a bit. I’m on leave at present, but I was taking things from intelligence and the Chief of Staff’s office to him. My appointment was reinstated. Grandfather does not like the current Administration at all.”

“Excellent. Have the kidnappers made any demands on you or the family?”
“Not yet. I think that Susan and Carrie were just taken because they were there.”

“What are you doing here? What happened to your other little project?”
“We finished that. At least Sthisse and Vincent did. I was reassigned to intelligence. I think that Captain Flamespitter and Mrs. Steelmaker used it as a cover. In any case, Sthisse cleared that out so that she could have parties here and then I needed the office again for this.”

“How are things going?”

“We were hoping that having to pick Bill up would force them to expose themselves, but they were cagy and had a portal that we didn’t know about. Jorge is looking for it.”
“Who all is working with you on this?”
“Jorge and his brother, since they took his sister, the boys from Major Tollings section, since I talked to Jimmy and Tim, Gerty and the boys from Ironaxe, since they took Carrie too, Sudyral and the boys from Gallington, since they took Galaxa, Bill’s family, since they took Moonshine, Moonshine’s family, Silva Security, The Office of Inanimates, some navy people, Republic Power and grandfather’s people.”

“But not the FSA.”
“Other than Special Agent Stonecracker, Special Agent Fishcutter and Senior Agent Finisher, no. The Director is still focused on the Old families. That is why we got involved as much as we did.”

“What are you doing now?”

“Building a file on the Stewards and their connections. We think that some Silverin from the enemy were infiltrating the Stewards and keeping an eye on certain things.”

“The Scourge devises.”

“Yes.”

Jorge came in and said, “Found it. I have traces from the most recent uses and they all went to the same place. That code isn’t going to go there anymore. Hello Mrs. Cutflame.”

“You are taking this rather calmly.”
“I think that they expect us to do something rash, Mrs. Cutflame. They have made one big mistake already. They annoyed grandfather. They also really annoyed me and my brother. I will not want to face mother if Irial is hurt because I was stupid and neither does Rolim. So, we can’t afford to be.”

“Where is the portal?”

“In a shady office building near Chatsrey East. I’ve been working my way through portals that the Portal Service already knew about and updating the codes and changing some destinations.”

“Where does the code port to?”
“The Silverin estate, at least for Silverin. A portal has been set up at that camp the Qinvaris built for the army and all the Project’s Silverin are being collected there. They can face Filia.”

Onia laughed. “I need to talk to some people, so I will return later.”

Onia left and Swifty breathed a sigh of relief. He turned to Jorge and said, “The Director is in trouble.”

“Why?”
“When mom is like this, she is going to go dragon on somebody and it isn’t me, it isn’t you and it isn’t your grandfather, since none of us are being stupid. The Director is.”  

George looked at the woman across from the desk and said, “Mrs. Cutflame, I have heard a lot about you.”
“I imagine that you have, considering how foolish the Director has been. I wanted to thank you for being so helpful with the thing with Susan. The Director has not been so helpful, which is strange, considering his reaction when Susan wasn’t kidnapped.”

George laughed. “So what brings you to me?”
“First of all, I’m delivering the brief from House Qinvaris, since I was coming down in any case. No one expects any Blight, but the House wants to keep everyone updated rather discreetly. Richard is concerned that the enemy will discover just how much Blight resistant seed he is growing.”

“How is he dealing with that cult? We haven’t seen any activity here as yet.”
“He has been doing better since the suppressors were shut down. So far that is going well. The harvest camps are going to be a battlefield of sorts, but the Qinvaris have been preparing.”

“Have you seen your son as yet?”
“I have. He and the others seem to be handling themselves well. At least Swifty and Gerty haven’t started to fly up to where the girls are.”

“He has been handling things very well. All the boys have. The big thing has been how Naertho has been handling this. So far, he hasn’t started something up.”

For someone of Quickfoot’s skills, breaking into the house undetected was child’s play. Using the scanner she had been provided, she found the place where the seeming was stored and removing it, placed it in her satchel. Then taking advantage of the kitchen fire she had set as a distraction, she made her way out of the house. Durlan watched the woman leave and grinned. They had been sure that at some point, someone would recover the seeming. The question had been who would have the task. The Silverin woman was a surprise. The good thing is that she did not seem to have realized that she had been expected and that the house was full of Silverin. Durlan waved to the Dragonkin boy who was waiting on the street to start the tail as the fire engine sirens could be heard approaching.
The Community 

Ald woke up and there was a boy in strange clothing there next to the cot he had been put in. “Welcome to the Community, as they call it. I’m Bill Wavechaser. I come from the Republic and you come from the Mortal Kingdoms. Do you have any idea why they would grab you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Who were your parents?”

“I don’t know who my father was. My mother was a loose lady.”

“Somebody here knows who your father is and there may be more to your mother than it seems. Have you been tested in a grove?”
“The groves will not let me test.”
“The Church must have skipped your test because I am certain you would have ended up in Lain Othrond otherwise.”

“How do you know about these things?”
“Before you arrived, I have been having some serious chats with some people I would rather not be talking to, but have to. Fortunately, the real bad one is dead.”

“Why are you here?”
“Because I know things about something they want, mostly because I have been working on it for the last few moons, until they stole the thing. They also wanted something I have. They took my girl, Moonshine, to get me to cooperate.”

“Why are you here with me?”
“Full of questions, aren’t you. I would be wary of asking questions of anyone but me here. The bosses here don’t like questions, at least the cat lady doesn’t. Blackfire and Mórsairon don’t care. In any case, I want you, because I can trust you and I can use an assistant.”

“An assistant for what?”
“Why don’t you get up and I show you.”

Ald followed the strange boy out into a hall where the boy turned left. Following the boy, Ald walked down a long hall where collared folk ignored them as they passed. Finally they reached a room with a large heavy door that was open. Bill and Ald walked in and one of the slaves waved. “Can you get a look at this, Bill? Who is this with you?”

“Ald from the Mortal Kingdoms. He hasn’t said which one yet. Ald, this is Geral, who I helped before I escaped the last time, which is why I am not allowed to touch the tools, even though I did not use the tools to escape the last time. Geral, let me see.”

Ald watched as Bill told the various slaves how to do various things on the thing that they were working on. Finally, the midday came and Bill and the others pushed Ald toward a room that had tables and a row of people with metal pans in it. Bill said, “Here’s lunch. The food isn’t bad here, surprisingly.”

“You have had better,” Geral said with a laugh.

“Geral, when we get out, I’ll take you to Kellam’s in Cleadsgate and you can taste the best meat patties.”

“Food like the high get?”
“Geral, those sandwiches have been eaten by an Imperial princess. She thought they were great and so does everyone I know. You can find out for yourself.”

“As if the Masters would let us go.”

“Geral, taking me was just stupid, because I am one of the people that the Republic will make a real effort to get back, alive. We’ll be making the trip.”

Bill kept things lively through lunch with his stories and then they returned to work. At the end of the day, after another good meal, Bill took Ald back to his room and said, “I will see you tomorrow.”

Moonshine looked at the other girls and said, “Cover me with the devil cat.”
“What are you doing,” Susan asked.

“Seeing my bonded and figuring out why he was so stupid to come here. I can get there and back, but I don’t want the devil cat to figure that out.”

The other girls laughed as Moonshine undressed and transformed. “I will be back.”

Bill woke up to a familiar wildcat batting his face. “Hi, Moonshine.”
“You idiot! Why did you come here?”
“They wanted Harald.”

“Tell me that you didn’t bring Harald?”
“Just the bot. My sister has him deep underwater someplace.”

“You aren’t a total idiot. So why did you do this?”
“We needed to get somebody inside. We were setting things up and needed somebody to get a look at the place from the ground.”

“And how were you planning to get out of here?”
“I’m not going to tell you until everything is ready. What you don’t know, you can’t tell the evil cat lady. Now, you get your turn with her.”

“You are obviously not acting alone. Who all is involved, though I can guess most of them.”
“Swifty, Gerty, Tolly, Jorge, Tim, Jim, Teonag, Brilbrun, Sudyral, the other boys and some others. The Umevan are involved and so are the Silverin.”

“So a lot of heavy clout. Is the major on the way?”
“He left Desert Howl just before I came here.”

“What are they having you do?”
“Working on the fusor they lifted from Desert Howl. At least that was what they had me working on today.”

“Are you going to get it running for them?”
“Yes. There may be issues in the future, but it will run.”

“Why are you doing that?”
“I’m hoping to find where the mana control board is. That seems to be the key to everything. I’m hoping that me knowing how to connect the fusor means that I have to do the connection. So I make the connections and then move on to other things until the thing crashes.”

“That will upset them. Let’s cuddle for a bit and then I need to get back. I’m glad that you were not behaving totally foolishly.”

“I was taking a bit of a risk. There was an even chance that whoever picked me up was going to dump me at the Divinity Devise. That would have meant escape by any means necessary preferably by destroying the devise as I was leaving. Nobody is sure what is going to happen when the devise activates and no one wants to find out the hard way.”

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