The Return of Redhand, Chapter 11-12

Redhand, the Prophet and some others have a chat. Blackfire leaves the Community to the major.

Chapter 11.

The Carayarus Estate

Redhand’s men surrounded the estate and started to move in, only to find that many of the cultists had left. Sergeant Redstriker loped up and said, “The Prophet wants to talk to you.”

Redhand grinned. “To me?”

“Yes. He thinks that you and he can come to an arrangement.”

“He isn’t full of the blather about the new gods?”

“A bit. He’s Silverin, so compulsions don’t reach very deep.”

“He is Silverin?”

“Not even trying to hide it very much.”

“Then we should chat with the man.”

Ruith waited nervously with the Protectors that had arisen out or the morning mist and essentially taken over the estate as the Protector sergeant and and another elf approached. The elf wore the uniform of an Imperial soldier out of legend and had been burned on one side of his face, giving him a rather terrifying appearance. The pair walked up to Ruith and the elf said, “Who are you?”

“Illuminant Ruith of the New Gods. Who are you?”

“Colonel Redhand of the Army of the New Gods.”

“Then the Prophet would like to discuss things with you.”

The elf grinned a rather terrible grin and said, “I imagine so. There are fewer here than there were previously.”

“Some felt that it would be expedient if they retreated after the recent incident.”

“That was a bit of an accident. I wanted to have a chat with the Leader’s son and open a dialog, the people he was with assumed that we were hostile and opened fire.”

Ruilth gulped. “I can see where misunderstandings happen. Why don’t I take you to the Prophet?”

Redhand listened to his helmet and said, “We should wait a bit. We are about to have some visitors.”

“From the other estate?”

“I am not sure. They are an orc, some sort of mutt and an elf. They are in one of those strange vehicles.”

“Then we should wait.”

The strange vehicle drove up and stopped. Ruilth called out, “Who are you?!”

The three got out and the orc replied, “Friends, who perhaps can help you in your cause.”

“Why don’t you join us inside,” Redhand said. “I was just about to introduce myself to the Prophet.”

As they walked inside, Redhand said, “You all don’t seem to be the type drawn to the new gods. So what brings you here?”

“I’m Raguk Headbasher. My partners and I have a rather strong disdain for the man who runs the farms surrounding us.”

“Why? Other than the fact that House Qinvaris has more or less become the Empire while I slept and seems to have a slave for a lord, what is the problem?”

“Peace.”

“What do you mean?”

“The last few years have been rather bad for mercenaries in the Mortal Kingdoms and the Blasted Lands have not seen fit to start things up again. Unfortunately, all three Blasted Lands countries have spent more on navies and airplanes, rather expensive toys that they don’t want to lose by having them get destroyed by shooting at each other and the Peninsula made the point that they wanted to stay in the Republic. So, a bit of turmoil in the Empire would be good for my business. My partners have other reasons.”

“They are?”

“Outsiders should stay out of Fellowship politics,” Foldwin said. “Especially when they throw death threats around. In any case, the Ghost has been messing up the Fellowship for a very long time.”

“The Ghost? Pardon me if I seem ignorant. I was placed in stasis for a very long time and I am still only beginning to catch up. For that matter, I am not sure what the Blasted Lands countries are.”

Raguk and the others looked at each other. “A very long time,” Raguk said. “The Blasted Lands are the countries that arose after the end of the Mage Wars.”

“The Empire didn’t prevent that sort of thing?”

“The Empire collapsed for about two centuries and only the Ravathyra cared. There were raids across the border, but for most of the time, the Empire was trying to keep itself from starvation.”

“That hardly seems to be the case now.”

The Prophet stepped forward and said, “Ruilth, who are these folk?”

“Prophet, this Colonel Redhand from the new gods army and Raguk Headbasher, Foldwin Lightfinder and Tarathiel Sarfaren. I am not sure who they represent.”

“Prophet, we represent a group that has been involved with the Project previously and have been in conflict with your current opponent for a long time,” Raguk said. “We have come to assist you in your attempt to bring the Qinvaris to the new gods.”

“Welcome then. We have much to discuss.”

After several twentieths of discussions, Redhand left with the others and said, “I have some liquid refreshment at the place I occupy. I have the feeling that none of you are particularly squeamish and have a good knowledge of what we are facing.”

“We do,” Raguk said. “We have also had infiltrators on the harvest gangs collecting intelligence from the start of the harvest.”

“I take it that your reasons for this venture are not strictly altruistic.”

“The Qinvaris move a lot of coin,” Tarathiel said. “Moving some of that into a place that we control is something that we all would like to see. There are other reasons. My uncle and our House were destroyed in a five day without even the chance to fight back. We would have been better off if the Hunter had dealt with us.”

“I think that we have a lot to catch up on.”

Hibiscus looked at Dan and said, “Well, where are they?”
“Redhand’s people? I don’t know, and that is more ominous than if we were fighting with them. We were prepared to evacuate if necessary and things stopped. That means that Redhand has changed his strategy. He also hasn’t driven the Prophet out. He’s still at the other estate. So either he isn’t concerned about the Prophet or he’s made some sort of arrangement.”

“My brothers are off at the Qinvaris, the idiots and won’t be back for at least another five day.”

“You have brothers? You never mentioned them.”
“They haven’t been here since before you all moved in. They act like wandering laborers and work the harvest while visiting other fae kingdoms trolling for girls.”

Dan laughed. “Apparently they haven’t brought any home.”

“Not yet, but mother thinks that they have girls that they think mother will think are inappropriate.”

“You haven’t taken me to meet your mother. Your father has been here several times.”

“I want to keep her out of things. We are better off that way.”
The Qinvaris Estate

Richard looked at what he had come to regard as his crisis team and said, “Well?”

“Either Redhand didn’t bring enough Blight to really hurt us or he underestimated us badly,” Osmond said. “At least we found out that the Blight resistant seed is actually Blight resistant. Redhand hit about ten percent of the seed fields, but the damage was negligible. The rest of his assaults were dealt with by torching teams or ammonia spreaders and I doubt that any of the Blight produced any spores.”

“Are you keeping an eye out for that?”

“Everyone is, even the Conservatives. Also, since mana was available, a lot of Projectors were brought out and set up.”

“Will they work?”

“The Beinans have been sending people out to make sure that any devises out there work the way they are supposed to,” Harrion said. “They brought some people up from Fayspire and Zirgoccol to assist in that. I also think that they are trying to sell anti aircraft machine guns and RDR sets. The idea of Jumpers dropping down and raiding estates is making a lot of people nervous and the fact that the Project succeeded with the Umevan woke a lot of people up.”

 “Naertho didn’t have time to set up a way to handle Jumpers,” Horatio said. “He didn’t know if was going to be Jumpers alone or Jumpers and an army ported in, so he evacuated and played things cautiously.”

“That worked for him as far as it went, except that the Project got a fusor,” Richard said. “On the other hand, there were more fusors.”

“We were lucky and the tunnel borers were shut down properly,” Chompers said. “So were some other things. Richard, could you see if your brother could arrange for Tim Brownlow and his friend to come up and speak with me. We want to make sure that there aren’t any big surprises that could start up. Nat and Iolas and will probably see him before Tim can come up, but his friend probably knows where we can find things.”

Richard laughed. “No more buildings in the Lower City?”

“We were lucky that it was only two of the things. The problem is that we don’t know what may be waiting for somebody to start it up by accident.”

The Carayarus Estate

When Zelphar went back to check on the Prophet, the house had been emptied. The Prophet and the rest were gone, with no sign of violence. He returned to the main house and said, “The Prophet has left.”

Pyria looked at him with a feeling of shock and loss, “The Prophet left? He wasn’t taken?”

“There was no sign of violence and people’s things were gone, as if they left. I think that Prophet has joined with Redhand.”

“That’s not good,” Dan said. “We don’t know where Redhand has holed up and we don’t have the people to look. The good news is that apparently he doesn’t care about the rest of us.”

“He doesn’t want to have the Justiciars and the army poking around,” Renynn said. “As long as there isn’t any further violence and the only dead are some Qinvaris slaves who were trespassing to begin with, we are more or less on our own.”

“We should watch the portals,” Ryul said. “At some point they are going to use them.”

“For what?” Ivaran asked.

“To get reinforcements and coordinate. Even if Redhand is operating on his own, the Prophet isn’t.”

“We don’t have portal keys,” Zelphar said. “At least the people from the Community do not.”

“The keys don’t work on the ancient portals anyway. But I bet that the Prophet has communication home even if the rest of you didn’t.”

“At least we can continue what we were doing,” Dan said. “On the other hand, I want to know why Redhand changed what he was doing.”

Jreghug looked at the ancient gate that hadn’t been closed for a very long time, shrugged and put the GP into gear, turning to go up the drive. He had been following Raguk Headbasher and his friends up the Post roads from Innshys and checking at the way station, the rather strange trio had asked for directions to the Carayarus Estate. He had taken more time to poke around the Fellowship than he had planned and had missed his meeting in Roger’s office. Since Roger had been out on the farms and it would have taken far too long to track him down, Jreghug had decided to trail Raguk and his companions and see where they ended up. Some tips and questions had led him here. With nothing else to go on, he drove up the drive and parked his GP next to some other GPs and two cars. Getting out, he headed for the house. He started to knock on the door and before he could, an elf girl wearing the robes of the new gods cult opened it and said, “Who are you?”

“Jreghug Ironhead and is the lord of the estate available?”

“Let me see.”

The door closed and shortly afterwards, the girl and a man from the Republic appeared in the doorway. The man said, “I am Renynn Carayarus. What can I do for you, Clanmember?”

“Lord Carayarus, I am not sure. What I do know is that some people came here and either haven’t left, or didn’t return the way they came.”

“Who?”

“An orc named Raguk Headbasher, a man from the Fellowship named Foldwin Lightfinder and an elf named Tarathiel Sarfaren from the Empire.”

“A rather strange group. Why were you pursuing them?”

“I was pursing them because the Orcenchief and the Champion were concerned about what a group of orcs with past ties to the Project were up to. Those orcs tied into some other people in the Fellowship with past ties to the Project or sharing a hatred of Lord Qinvaris and then the three I mentioned came here.”

“Is the orc a mercenary commander?”

“Yes. Not a good one, but he has a reputation in the Mortal Kingdoms. The man from the Fellowship was the action leader for the Emancipation League and the elf is part of a House that Lord Qinvaris crushed about twelve years ago.”

“Come in, then and talk with my nephews. They were wondering what had changed and you may have some answers.”

Jreghug followed Carayarus to a sort of workroom with maps of the estate and four young men looking at them and marking out where to cut trees for charcoal. They turned and looked at Jreghug curiously. One of them said, “You may be just what we need. How many soldiers are in your company? I am Ryul Carayarus.”

“I don’t have a company. I am here following some people for the Champion. Were you looking to hire mercenaries?”

“We weren’t, but it could be an option. Hiring mercenaries isn’t something that the company has ever done. On the other hand, we have never needed to. When we were setting up here, that became an issue and then it became a bigger one. We have a trespasser problem and they need to be rooted out.”

“The cult of the new gods? From all appearances you seem to coexist with them.”

“The cult was part of the problem. Unfortunately we have bigger one. A Colonel Redhand dropped in with some Jumpers someplace on the estate with at least one company and probably more and we don’t have the resources to search him out and get rid of him. So far he has raided the Qinvaris and the Beinans, as well as dropping some Blight.”

“Was this some sort of descendant of the original Redhand?”

“We are fairly sure that it is the original. He was apparently dumped into a stasis box as things were collapsing for the Ravahana and was unboxed with some Protectors and other nasty people. He has Jumpers and has been conducting raids, apparently from one of the estates here, but we don’t have the resources to find them and we definitely can’t deal with them if they push.”

“How many are here now?”

“I think about a hundred, between the people we purchased from the Qinvaris, people we brought up from the Republic, family and the cultists who didn’t think that cooperating with Redhand was a good idea. The problem is that it seems that the Prophet did think that cooperating with Redhand was a good idea and moved out of the estate he had been squatting in.”

“Why did you let them get away with that?”

“Because the Obedient, who are under compulsions, are from the Qinvaris and Richard doesn’t want to have a bloodbath of his own people if he can avoid it. So, he arranged with the Empress to have a Justiciar chase down the family and hand the ring to my grandfather, who handed it to my uncle and said, “Take the place back.” The problem is that this is the company’s busy time back home and the four of us and what uncle brought with him are it until the end of Guesting. That wasn’t a problem with the cult, since they know that the Justiciars and the army will push them out into the Qinvaris lands where the Qinvaris will deal with them, so they have more or less coexisted with us, but these new people are a different story.”

“How did the cultists end up here?”

“A while back, my uncle saved a lady from a tiger and was injured. She nursed his wounds and I think that the family is stuck with her. She had been one of the Prophet’s attendants and we think that another attendant started to send her out in the woods so that something would happen to her. Instead she and uncle happened to each other. She has taken over the household here, which has been a good thing and when her brother encountered some of Redhand’s troops, he brought as many cultists here as he could. The Prophet didn’t leave. We think that Redhand was after Zelphar because of who his father is at the Community. Zelphar was conducting a patrol and since he was the only one without a rifle, didn’t get into the fight. The Obedient he was with were wiped out, but they didn’t go down easy.”

“What does Redhand have?”

“We think between thirty and fifty Jumpers and at least two companies numbers wise, as I said. The good news is that they are armed with weapons from the Old Empire, Projectors and swords. The bad news is that they are sharp, have been collecting intelligence and not behaving the way we expected. As far as the Obedient go, how much influence the Prophet has is problematic, but there could be tens of thousands of Qinvaris that would respond. The good thing is that the Prophet doesn’t know how to run an army and House Silverin has been draining off his missionaries. If some people show up that do know how to run an army, that could be bad.”

“Ok, since I am acting for the Champion, I can arrange for a battalion at standard rates from my family. Lord Renynn, we can discuss the contract and then I need to go to the Qinvaris and see his people.”

“After we get the contract done, I will port with you to the Qinvaris headquarters,” Ryul said. “I think that they will want to know about these new players.”

“I’ve been talking to Roger Bloodfoot, but we couldn’t meet at his office, since I was delayed, looking into what my uncle was doing and then chasing Raguk and his friends.”

“Your uncle?”

“Xolag Ironhead, Protector of Clan Ironhead and more or less a traitor to the Orcenlands, though that was hard to prove to the Clanmoot. He has debts to pay as a result of sending a clan mercenary battalion off to assist a rebellion in Vestia without any authorization from the clan or the Champion and at odds with the foreign policy of the Orcenchief, who was trying to gain better ties with Vestia and Apua. So my uncle was in deep trouble already. This time, I think that he will lose his head.”

Redhand was happy to let the mysterious consortium handle the details going forward. His new partners were able and far better suited to the current era than he was. They also had a better feel for what his adversaries could and would do. The ancient Stormfire had underestimated Harald and the people he had collected and that was a mistake that had destroyed him and his army. Redhand was not going to make that sort of mistake. Raguk came in and said, “I just received something interesting.”

“What is it?”
“Ruith has been wondering what happened to the communions that disappeared. One of our sources was making a delivery to the Sanctuary and made another stop along the way. The Qinvaris and the Silverin have an old camp that they used when the Sanctuary’s army was essentially taken prisoner. Apparently House Silverin arranged for the communions to be sent there to get some education in the real world.”

“How were they sent?”

“The source just sent that the people were there, not any details.”

“Why bring this to me and not the Prophet?”

“I don’t really care if a bunch of idiots are left out to rot and I don’t think that you care either. On the other hand, idiots can be useful sometimes. There is no one more fanatical than someone that thinks that they were wronged and any that we should retrieve will not want to be returned to the camp. They have also been in the middle of whatever the Silverin were doing.”

Redhand grinned. “I see where you are going. Let’s put something together.”

The Qinvaris Estate

Roger grinned as Jreghug drove up with another man. “You found me.”

“We need to talk to you and some other people. The Carayarus have some trespassers that need to be dealt with and they are probably looking to hurt the Qinvaris. This is Ryul Carayarus, by the way.”

“You were chasing your uncle and his friends in the Fellowship. How did you end up at the Carayarus Estate?”

“An Orc named Raguk Headbasher, a man from the Fellowship named Foldwin Lightfinder and an elf named Tarathiel Sarfaren from the Empire. You probably know why they all don’t like Lord Qinvaris. They drove up to the estate to talk to the Prophet and found him and a Colonel Redhand.”

“Where is your uncle in this?”

“He and Raguk have been drinking buddies for a long time. I think you know what their involvement has been concerning the people under the volcano. So far, my uncle has been keeping a low profile, but he is involved.”

“Could they bring mercenaries in?”

“I spoke with your grandfather and, he will squawk if they try to move something serious through the Fellowship and if they try to use the railroad through Dolmon they have to transfer through Clear Crag. After Vestia, Dolmon isn’t about to allow transits without verification from both the client and the Champion, that is if they don’t refuse outright.”

“They could transit small units and infiltrators.”

“They probably already have. The downside of being mostly at peace is that there are a lot of mercenaries in the Orcenlands looking for work. Your grandfather didn’t help that at all, with his emphasis on having a fully professional army in the Fellowship and your boss made things worse by putting the Peninsula out of the game more or less permanently.”

Roger laughed. “Let’s go. We need to catch some people up on what is going on.”

Chapter 12.

The Community

Blackfire looked at his brothers and sister. “Dúgirhael and Cantgúl, you are staying, are you not?”

“While things are dreary, I have facilities here and no reason to go, brother” Cantgúl said. “So I will stay and risk the major.”

“The major knows me,” Dúgirhael said. “I foresee no difficulties on that score and with you and the army gone, I can keep this place from lighting on fire until the end, one way or another.”

“Then this is goodbye. Take care of Mórsairon’s family and the rest.”

Sharian turned to Bill as they watched the Jumpers depart. “There they go.”

“At this point it doesn’t matter. This place is smaller than Wongpo was.”

“What happened to Wongpo?”

“The Project Scourged it after using to obtain some material. I don’t have the details, but it was essentially a test.”

“A test?”

“Of the new Scourge devises they created. That was what they had Nat working on.”

“The Project used a Scourge devise on innocents? Wongpo was a trading city on the Trader’s Road.”

“Yes it was. It was hardly the last time the Project used the Scourge to deal with people that were in the way. They Scourged ten places in the Jungle, killing most of the fae that lived there and five cities in the Mortal Kingdoms. Then there was Luggergate, but that was a Project proxy. That doesn’t include all the people that died of famine and disease as a result of the Blight.”

“I am not sure that I believe that.”

“I witnessed Luggergate myself. I saw the explosion through the window during a Senate hearing I was involved with.”

“Where is Luggergate? I have never heard of that city. Was it a small one?”

“The city had a population of three quarters of a million people. It was at the junction of the canal and the Chats River. Fortunately almost half of the people living there were evacuated when the Scourge devise was discovered. The other half were killed.”

 “Was there a reason for the Scourge devise being there?”

“We are not sure what the reason for the devise being there was. The circumstances are clouded and the effect was to more or less split the Republic in two, but that has been mitigated as the railroad and roads have been reconstructed and the canal is being moved, so the damage wasn’t permanent. Like a lot of the things that the Project has done, all it did was cause a big mess and get a lot of people killed.”

Victor came into Jorge’s headquarters and said, “It looks as if the military types pulled out. Should we move in?”

Jorge frowned. “I think that we should at least pay a visit, but let’s leave things for the Silverin to take care of. I want to leave my options open.”

“You think that there are more bases and things out there.”

“I’m sure of it. There are three more double portals that were covered with duplicated pictures. We’ll get some resupply from the Community and wait for Terrel to come up from Clikitat. I suspect that Blackfire took some things with him, but we will have to discover just what he took.”

“You didn’t try to prevent them from leaving.”

“That was a mess that I didn’t want, and I thought that the logistics would force Blackfire into a bad position. Things were apparently not what I thought.”

“Do you think that there are more Communities?”

“That is an interesting question. The Project does have the habit of pulling surprises out, so my guess is yes. We will just have to find them.”

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