OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Gilead Persia Khaz

61. Night Work

fter Elias’ pronouncement, the fight quickly goes out of all in attendance. Gilead stares in disbelief at his Grandfather. Elias stares only downward, unable to meet Gilead’s eyes.

Thosa has been grievously wounded. It seems likely at first that Khaz will be in deep trouble as well, but Thosa stays the wrath of his companions. He claims that the wound was honorably delivered, in defense of a comrade. His companions accuse him of being too noble, but Thosa is firm. Only Elias has been charged with anything and only Elias is to be arrested.

However, this leaves the Sentinels in a difficult situation. Thosa needs healing and is unable to get to the Hall under his own power. Phostor offers to take him, but that leaves only Surama to escort Elias to the Palace of Justice. The remaining companions could certainly overpower one Spirit Guard. Thosa extracts from Gilead, a promise not to interfere with the arrest. Gilead is by no means deficient in honor either and agrees. After all, to do otherwise would be criminal in light of Elias’ near-confession. It would possibly bring down the weight of the Spirit Guard upon all of his companions as well. At this point, the three are willing to overlook any fighting. Who knows how they will react if further pressed. Nevertheless, Gilead insists upon accompanying his grandfather to the Palace of Justice.

Before he is taken away, Elias manages to pass a message to Persia. Perhaps he wishes to further shield his grandson from any political taint, or maybe he feels Persia has the confidence of Novya. In any case, he instructs her to tell the Grandmistress that he wishes to invoke the Right of Proxy. He implores her to beg for aid from his benefactress. 

Persia relays his request to Novya, who is loath to become involved. When Gilead also implores her, she relents. It will be dangerous, but she will keep Elias out of prison. First, Gilead is required to provide Elias’ books, so that Novya can see exactly what needs to be fixed. She quickly comes to the understanding that Elias has been shorting the deliveries of raw materials to a number of forts that the Warlord has commanded to be constructed between Tallon and the Hill Tribes. He has done this so that he might continue to pay the workers a living wage. He has also hocked his late wife’s jewelry to a money lender to keep his household going. The latter is no one’s concern but his own, but the former is construable and punishable as treason.

It is within Gilead’s power to rectify the household shortage. He is strong enough to do what Elias could not and fires the majority of the staff. The material shortages are beyond his capabilities, however. Novya pulls a lot of strings, calls in a lot of favors and expends a great deal of money to replace the lost materials. She knows there will be an audit as soon as the authorities have had a chance to go over the bogus accounting. As long as the materials are present in the warehouses when the audit is performed, there is no case and Elias can go free. It is terribly expensive to do this in such short time and by such a great amount, though. It will ruin Elias financially. Novya will front the expenses, but when all is over, she will essentially own Elias’ family assets.

Gilead, TIra and the others are anxious to help. Fortunately, there is a task they are able to perform. One of the most important shipments needs to be made to a warehouse on the borders of the farmlands. It will need to be made at night and through dangerous territory. They need to protect a shipment made through gator- and barbarian-threatened waters. During this trip, they learn from the barge's pilot that gator and Hill Tribe attacks have increased as of late. Were the forts being constructed by Hannon truly vital and not merely an extension of his military persona? Are the Hill tribes reacting to a divided military presence, or are they somehow being egged on by the Celestial City. In nay case, their one encounter with a number of barbarian canoeists is not violent, though the Hill Tribers are armed and ready.

The true threat on this trip is the gators. They begin to congregate underneath the barge until they have numbers great enough to tip it. Fortunately, their attack is handily repelled by the heroes who have fought foes far more deadly. The supplies purchased by Novya are emplaced and presumably the warehouse keeper is bribed to look the other way. The party returns to Tallon to await the accounting.

While they wait, several of them are approached by Commander Oba. He presents a spirit sword to Tira, Persia, Quarra, Khaz and Gilead. Oba says he pushed until someone higher up finally gave in and let them be considered spoils of battle to some degree and in appreciation for their work and risk in saving the library. Gilead manages to convince them to let him use the swords to pay Lucaius for passage onto the Celestial City. Even the mercenary-minded Khaz agrees, since he sees it as a chance to track down the agent who murdered his band and bring hammer-shaped vengeance down upon them.

Lucaius is disappointed that Gilead did not manage to procure the full ten, but is willing to settle for half. The swords are delivered and they are told of a way to contact an agent of the Resistance who will help them to ascend to the floating city.

Finally, the accounting is done. There are likely a number of oddities in the exact materials and delivery dates on the warehouse inventories, but the authorities are satisfied. So long as the forts are not held up and the accounting is close, Elias is off the hook. As expected however, Novya now owns all of his assets. She graciously allows Elias to continue living in his own house, but this could end at any time. He lives on her sufferance. He continues to work for Novya in a sort of odd indenture. It is not ideal, but he is not in jail and by extension, Novya has increased her hold over some influential heroes of the city.