Those Who Would Be Gods, Chapter 23-24

Filia visits the Empress. Nettle complains about the weather.

Chapter 23.

The Imperial Palace

 Itireae grinned as Faylen escorted Filia into the parlor. “Immianthe says that she was well behaved all summer in the Republic. Was she?”

“As far as I know, she was. That was a disappointment actually.”

“No side trips with Tad?”

“Apparently not. They are both almost sixteen and I would have thought that they would want to experiment. On the other hand, Tad has had some bad experiences in that direction and Immianthe probably understands that somewhat.”

“How did things go otherwise?”

“The Republic is a mess right now, thanks to some greedy and corrupt Senators. I will send you the report. They forced the President to resign and replaced him with a puppet that at best is ineffectual.”

“How do you know?”

“When I went to the Republic with Immianthe previously, there were State Department people to more or less keep an eye on us. This time, Immianthe was at the amusement park with several thousand Silverin children, all wearing collars for over a moon and the State Department didn’t even know that it was happening, even though Tad and Immianthe had press and were visiting places like the Arsenal.”

“How did that happen?”

“Swifty playing spy, Tad and Immianthe helping out, Swifty offering to buy lunch at a little place run by an exiled Imperial chef and Sthisse and Swifty’s grandmother arranging the tour with the navy chief of staff’s office manager.”

“How were Tad and Immianthe helping out?”

“They distracted one of Swifty’s grandfather’s eyes while Swifty was making an exchange at the amusement park. Tad and Immianthe ran into Swifty and he recruited them.”

Itireae and Faylen laughed. Itireae said, “That sounds rather inappropriate for a princess. I may have to take her to task.”

“Immianthe’s part was perfectly appropriate. Act the princess and attract some attention. According to Tad, it worked perfectly and no one noticed the exchange.”

“What are Swifty’s Grandfather’s eyes,” Faylen asked.

“Swifty’s grandfather started a business taking photographs of people and selling them the pictures. It does very well and Swifty’s grandfather has people with cameras at places all over the city. Swifty’s problem, along with his sister and cousins is that Swifty’s grandmother likes pictures of her grandchildren and Swifty’s uncle runs the newspaper in Smoky Hill. So, when the family has an accomplishment, like dating a young Senator’s son, pictures will appear in the papers if the various children are not careful. That normally isn’t a problem and Swifty and Susan’s relationship isn’t exactly a secret, but Swifty was assigned to navy intelligence as part of his adjunct duty and there he was, in uniform, looking to make an exchange right in front of the camera.”

“Did my granddaughter enjoy the lunch?”

“Very much. We all did. Kellam is an excellent cook and we had the admiral crashing the lunch. That was how the State Department finally discovered that Immianthe was in the country.”

“Speaking of lunch, here it is,” Itireae said. “So we can get caught up on all the latest gossip.”

Wandering in the palace being sent different places that frustratingly Derry had just left, Izzie had spent much of the morning tracking Derry down, Since it was midday, they were sitting in the little nook in the palace eating lunch as Izzie was getting Derry’s story. Derry was looking over Izzie’s head and said, “Here is someone you should meet.”

“Who?”

“My future brother in law, Llag. He’s probably looking for me.”

Llag came into the nook and said, “They said that you were here today, Derry. Who is this?”

“This is Izzie Dantas. He is a reporter from the Press Service, but he is working on another story as a freelance project. Sit down Llag; I think that you will find this interesting.”

Llag sat down and said, “I just wanted to warn you that Robin is looking for you.”

“Why?”

“Apparently your sister and brother were involved in something in the Republic that has a certain lady’s fingerprints all over it and Robin wants details. There have been stories in the papers, but I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.”

Izzie laughed. “I wrote those stories. That’s one reason that my boss sent me here.”

“You were also involved in the spider chase, weren’t you?”

“Yes I was, and I had a nice bonus and a book coming for that. That is another reason I am here, as I am chasing spider stories and dusty archives for spider material for the book.”

“Uh oh, he’s found us,” Derry said. “There he is.”

Robin walked over and said, “I see Llag, that you found young Mr. Gilders before I did. You told him what I was looking for, didn’t you?”

Llag grinned. “I may have.”

“Thereby making things more difficult for me.” Robin sat down. “Who is this Dragonkin you all are speaking with?”

“This is Izzie Dantas,” Derry said. “Izzie, meet Robin Goodfellow, the Council of Kings’ agent at large. He is apparently interested in a story you wrote.”

“Actually I was interested in what your sister and her dragon were up to and how some other people were involved.”

“Izzie wrote the stories about that. He was getting my part over lunch.”

“So you know everything, Mr. Dantas. Why was it released to the papers rather than turned over to say, Bob Harper?”

“Because Bob Harper resigned,” Izzie said. “Right as we discovered certain things, the Senator had his little hearings and flipped the government over. We had all sorts of evidence of high level treason and no one to report it to.”

“Was my old adversary, Mrs. Steelmaker involved?”

“Not at first. For the most part, it was Captain Flamespitter and the navy, with some assistance from some Scholar students and others. Admiral Harper gave Swifty Cutflame the assignment to go through some papers that had suddenly appeared in navy intelligence and the Chief of Staff’s office. Swifty called in some friends to help and then Derry brought the big bomb in.”

“That being?”

Izzie looked at Derry and said, “Watch the papers the five day before the election.”

“You’re not much fun. That is next year. I suppose that you have reasons. Why don’t we meet after lunch and see if we can make an exchange. I tried to look into the operation and it just up and disappeared, a Sarya trademark, by the way. That probably upset some people.”

“I wouldn’t know. My boss sent me up here again.”

“Really upset some people, then. Derry, your sister was apparently kidnapped with some other girls. Have there been any demands?”

“Some families have received messages to send family and open the family mana sources around the end of Yellowleaf. Since I am not a mage and, as far as I know, my family never had any presence in the Empire, I am not sure why they took my sister other than the fact that she was with the other girls. Frankly that was a stupid thing to do.”

“Do you have a list of the people taken?”

“I can get that for you. Do the fae think that there are fae reasons for the girls being taken?”

“I don’t know. I was just asked to ask you for the list and pictures of the girls.”

“The Republic will be glad to give the Council what we have as an exchange.”

“Aren’t you rather junior to make decisions like that?”

“Fae Goodfellow, I hope that you haven’t been to the Republic recently. The problem I have right now is that the Resident and I don’t seem to have any bosses. The President has ignored foreign policy, including the war, which is probably a good thing and his domestic policy is a disaster. As for the State Department, I haven’t had anything from the office since the turnover other than the stuff I brought up on my return to the Empire. As far as the kidnappings go, the only reason I have anything at all is that my mother is sending the updates she gets from the Office of Inanimates and the small FSA team that is running the investigation. So, as far as I am concerned, since my mother and Sthisse are handling the work, I can do with it what I like.”

Robin frowned. “I hadn’t realized that things were that bad. I may have to make a tour to the Republic and see some old friends and adversaries.”

“I can give you the contacts in Chatsrey and Desert Howl. Again, much of the effort has been rather ad hoc efforts by various family without any assistance from the FSA.”

“Does that include the Umevan?”

“Definitely. I’m not sure what they were thinking taking Jorge’s sister, but that was just crazy.”

“Get the brief to me as fast as possible, if you would. If you can keep me updated, I would appreciate it as well. Gentlefolk, I need to keep moving before some folk discover that I am here.”

“I won’t tell Mhaenal that you snuck in again, Robin,” Llag said.

“Mhaenal would be fine. It is some others looking to cash in a favor.”

Robin disappeared and Izzie asked, “Any ideas who that is and what the favor was?”

Llag grinned. “It was probably Prince Ilvisar or Princess Yllarissa. They gave Robin something he asked for in exchange for a favor and now they are looking to collect.”

Izzie laughed. “Somebody has been reading their Elf Carrons.”

“Yes, now that they have them. They do very well at the Residence.”

Yllarissa appeared, looked around and said, “I missed him, didn’t I?”

“Yes you did, princess,” Llag said. “What were you looking for him to do?”

“It’s a bit private, so I will move on.”

The princess disappeared again as the three laughed. Izzie said, “I’m not sure that anyone will believe this if I send it in.”

“Don’t,” Llag said. “Then the princess will owe you a favor.”

“Good point.”

The Umevan Estate

Jerry and Filvy emerged from the portal and looked around. Jerry laughed and said, “This place doesn’t seem that strange.”

“It actually looks rather interesting,” Filvy said. “We should see if we can get a survey done and talk to the Umevan about a power dam on the estate.”

“That isn’t a bad idea. I think that the castle is where we want to go. There doesn’t seem to be a cab, so we walk.”

“I told you that we should port to Freywick and take the bus.”

“The walk won’t kill us.”

They must have been watched from the castle as there was a man with the look from the Republic and an elf waiting as they reached the castle gate, being passed and passing people going back and forth. They passed a new building that said “Wine” on the sign under the Fallingwater crest. Jerry looked at it and said, “Before we go home, we stop in there and have some shipped back.”

“No kidding. Do you know how much trouble we will be in if we don’t? Here’s the castle.”

Nym watched the pair and grinned. Lord Fylson had ported up last evening to tell Py and the others about the two young lords from the Carayarus and the pair seemed to be everything that Lord Fylson had said they were. Py stepped forward and said, “Hi, I’m Py Umevan and this is Nym, the estate manager. You must be the Lords Carayarus. Nym thought that you would be more comfortable dealing with me rather than him, at least the first time. I understand you want aerial photos of your estate.”

“Yes. I’m Jerry and this is Filvy. Actually it is five estates, all together that the family owns, but we want to focus on the main estate right now.”

“Ok, let’s sign our typical agreements. We have a nondisclosure policy with our clients, but if we see some Proscribed things, we recommend that you contact the radiation lab or the Qinvaris’s Inquisitor.”

“What is Proscribed? We have all sorts of stories.”

“That is understandable. Let’s get the paperwork done so that I can hand you over to Tad and he can get a first look at your estate.”

Py was very professional as he went over pricing, the level of study and handed the boys a brief on Scourge devises and some other things that could possibly on the estate. “I wouldn’t be so concerned, but your high family was removed by the Hunter and every time that has happened, things have shown up. So, taking precautions is appropriate.”

“We don’t know the details of the exile,” Jerry said. “All we know is that the Justiciar showed up with the House ring and said, “You have squatters.” Grandfather wanted the estate, so here we are.”

Py laughed. “Look at it this way. We found out about the estate because my cousin Jorge was looking for family. I was buying Fallingwater Red for my family and suddenly we had this place back.”

“We’ve heard of Jorge,” Filvy said. “Alinis and Jerry are in the same study group. So we know that we have it easy just dealing with a cult. We’ve also seen Luggergate, so we understand why you are being careful.”

“We’re done here, so let me introduce you to Tad.”

Tad looked at the empty space where his files had been and sighed. He didn’t really need them, but they had been useful for comparing things he had seen before. Py came in with two young half elves from the Republic and said, “Tad, this Jerry and Filvy from House Carayarus. They are purchasing pictures of their estate.”

Tad looked at them and pointed to the large map of the Empire that he had bought in the Republic and put on the wall. “Ok, where is your estate?”

Jerry picked the pointer off the little shelf on the bottom of the map and pointed at the Qinvaris village at the edge of the old estate. “This is the closest village. It is on Qinvaris leased land. We own the land beyond that the Qinvaris lease. On the other side there are five estates all together with some hardwood stands and old blast furnaces. Those are the Carayarus estates.”

Tad turned to the eye machine and typed in some coordinates. “Ok we start from here.”

The machine showed the village and Jerry pointed out the road to the estate and the house. Tad said, “Ok, I will start from here. I will send to the property records and get pictures of the entire estate. They will be delivered in a five day.”

“You are very professional about this, Tad,” Filvy said.

“I have had practice and I need to get caught up on things. My files were also stolen and I don’t think that I will get them back. In any case, I don’t see any issues with your job. Is there anything I should be looking for?”

“We don’t know,” Jerry said. “All we have is rumors and grandfather’s stories. We haven’t had time to really poke around. On the other hand, the cult set up on the estate and that may not have been an accident, so if you find anything strange, let us know. Alinis said that there is an ancient library on the estate someplace, so look for a vault. You would know more about what to look for than we would.”

“Ok, I will. This will take about a five day, so I will send what I find.”

“That sounds good, Tad. We can do other things until we get the pictures.”

As they were leaving, Immianthe came in and said, “Who were they?”

“Customers. The family is returning to the Empire. The Qinvaris were probably responsible.”

“I will talk to grandmother and see what she knows. Do they seem like good people?”

“So far, yes they do.”

Taerel looked at Jorge watching a crew loading a truck with cases of small bottles of Fallingwater red and several barrels. “What are you making off with, milord?”

“Marketing and bait.”

“For your college?”

“No, this is something else. I need to get this sent on its way and then I will tell you, Py, Nym and Stadlee what is going on.”

When the various people on the estate were gathered, Jorge dropped copies of a brief on the table and said, “As you know, my sister and some other girls were taken. You probably also know about the antics of the FSA and some others in the Republic. The reason I made off with some wine and some other things is that a group of us are arranging a little party that will seem to be disreputable. We are doing that to expose some people, get a line on the portal they are using and let some people know that we hadn’t forgotten how to do certain things. I will be using the large portal here at some point and there will be equipment brought here.”

“We’re in, milord,” the sergeant said as there were grins all around the table. “Taking Irial was just dumb.”

“I know, and the other girls weren’t any better. Bill Wavechasher has already gone ahead, since they wanted him to bring somebody with him. We have other things going on, but I won’t talk about them.”

“Is grandfather hiring orcs yet?” Py asked.

“We’ve convinced him that doing that would be obvious. He probably has feelers out, but so far, he hasn’t left the Republic.”

“Are you planning anything with Generator?”

“Not yet. She was far too the south with a meeting and getting her back wasn’t going to be easy. Getting a ship isn’t a real problem. I need to go and talk to the Portal Service, so I have to cut this short.”

As the meeting broke up, Py and Stadlee joined Jorge and Stadlee said, “What are you really up to, milord?”

“They made two mistakes. First of all, they forgot who runs the portals, and second, they didn’t take all the fusors from Desert Howl. I go to a college where high level pranks are expected, I have access to portals and a fusor and the session is about to start. Herdir is the only one with direct experience with what we did to the Camp still with the Project and he’s under the volcano. The ports in and out are being monitored and they seem to think that either we will cooperate and open the mana sources, or we will charge up to their stronghold. Instead, we are going to disrupt their operations in the Republic and have some fun with portals.”

Py and Stadlee laughed. “I think I see why grandfather hasn’t called out the orcs yet.”

Chapter 24.

RNS Diligent

Alb watched the shortened sails as Diligent worked her way through a storm. The good thing about the storm was that they were making good headway, even if it was miserable. A yellow coated shape appeared up the companionway and came aft. The shape was followed by others as the watchstanders came on deck. Roger took the hood of his Kellowskin off and saluted. “Captain, I relieve you.”

“I stand relieved. Ever been tempted to Change and take the watch that way?”

“I would, but I might slide off. At least that was what the chief on that little cruise that I took as a middie said when I tried that.”

“I think that I know who that chief was. Ok, you have the watch.”

Alb went below and Washout was in the wardroom with a rather wet Nettle and a book, continuing her education in reading. Nettle had a towel wrapped around herself to keep warm and a hot chaca, something that she had discovered aboard. She turned as the captain came and said, “Does the ship have to be out in this weather?”

“I am afraid so, Nettle.”

“At least we will get to where we are going fast.”

“Yes we will. Even better, we will probably be a surprise.”

“A surprise for somebody.”

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