Authors: Connie Suttle
"I heard," Lendill raised a hand. "Kooper sent mindspeech. He heard it from Trevor, too. If Noppen goes rogue, it's too close to Wyyld, Founder."
"They have no weapons at the moment, but that could be easily remedied, should the enemy choose to arm them."
"My father worries that the enemy could devise a weapon from the entire planet."
"What does your father suggest?" Ildevar rose—Kaldill Schaff was never one to spread fear or wild speculation. If the King of the Elves was concerned, then Ildevar would also be concerned. "Willem?" Ildevar spoke to empty air.
"Here, Deonus," Willem appeared inside Ildevar's study, noticeably shaken. Apparently he'd gotten the same information.
"My father says to remember what Lissa did at the enclave years ago," Lendill said. "He says to consider it soon."
"What—ah. That. Does he have suggestions?"
"He says there is a place in the orbit around Falchan's sun."
"I heard that Dragon moved the High Demon army to Falchan to train," Ildevar said.
"All the better, according to my father. He is prepared, Deonus. We must prepare as well."
"Then we will." Ildevar's mind was made up. "Alert the twenty, Willem. Wyyld will relocate shortly."
"I suggest leaving a shell in its place," Lendill said. Ildevar stopped for a moment, considering Lendill's words. "Yes," he nodded. "I have sufficient power to do that as well."
"Do you have enough to shield Wyyld after its relocation?"
"If I don't, I'll ask for assistance from Li'Neruh Rath."
"Do it. Father says it's the only way," Lendill sighed.
Ildevar sent rapid mindspeech.
"We barely got away before we were attacked," Trevor handed his comp-vid to Kooper. "They meant to kill us. I recorded everything from the time we landed there."
"Even with a Larentii present?" Kooper stared in disbelief.
"Even with a Larentii with us," Trevor said. "Who knows about that rule? Is it anybody who kills a Larentii, or only gods who kill a Larentii?"
"I never thought about that," Kooper growled, rising from his chair. "This is fucked up in every way it can be fucked up. Isn't it?"
"I have to agree, Koop."
"I heard from Lendill, too. Things are about to change for Wyyld, since Noppen is prepared to go rogue."
"No surprise," Trevor said.
* * *
Don't argue, just let them through the gate,
I instructed. I had four former Saa Thalarr stationed at the entrances to San Gerxon Palace.
Pretend the obsession works
, Brock replied. He manned the main gate with Stephan, his mate.
"Are you ready?" I turned to Reah and Kay.
"I'm ready," Kay said.
"As much as I can be," Reah replied.
"Then all we have to do is wait a little longer," I said. "They'll be here in ticks."
* * *
"Rezil Foculis and his entourage just gained access to San Gerxon Palace." Charles sat beside me at a kitchen island designed to seat more than twenty people. The kitchen around us looked big enough to hold a cricket match. Beyond the kitchen, in an open floor plan that any architect might be proud to call his own, lay a football-field-sized common area with seating groups scattered throughout. Along two, very tall glass walls, I could see the ocean below, where high waves crashed and broke against rocks jutting up from the ocean floor.
"I'm connected with Kay," I nodded. "She thinks the notion to change the Sirenali and wizard's lines is hers, but I sort of nudged her in that direction." I lifted my cup of coffee—when Charles designed this place, he'd seen to everything, including the food and other necessities we'd need.
Built into a solid rock cliff, the house he'd constructed for me was perfect. Up a nearby staircase lay thirty-five bedrooms. Enough for all of us, our mates, a few guests and sufficient room to construct more if it were necessary. Charles and I shared a bed, but there'd been no coupling—we still didn't have enough energy for that. All we could do for the moment was what we'd done already—send mental nudges or mindspeech here and there, where it was most needed.
Ashe was the one who'd instructed Nefrigar to take Kifirin's Thifilathi to the Larentii Archives—a choice would have to be made eventually as to what to do with it. I intended to traverse time the moment I was able, to ask a question. The answer to that question would decide many things for the future.
Lissa grieved for Kifirin—I could feel it if I reached out to her mentally. There was no question he'd loved her, and the blame for so many things he'd done couldn't be fully attributed to him.
We knew Quislus was partly responsible for Kifirin's actions. He was also responsible for Kifirin's death. That alone would gain him an audience with at least one of the powerful—eventually.
"My love, I can feel your thoughts," Charles's hand covered mine. "This is why I enjoy corporeality," he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it. "This isn't possible while we're energy."
"It adds another dimension, definitely," Ashe walked in and sat on my other side.
"You look tired," I reached out with my other hand and smoothed light-brown hair off his forehead.
"I made my bed," Ashe offered a wry grin. "It wore me out."
"We're a mess," I sighed.
"It'll get better," Charles observed philosophically. "Besides, I have a plan."
"What's that?" Ashe asked.
"Think about this," Charles began. I looked from Charles to Ashe as Charles outlined a course of action, and watched as Ashe began to smile. Something about Charles's suggestion triggered an almost-memory for me, however. It bothered me, too, so I'd have to consider it further as time allowed.
* * *
"Sixteen people gunned down in an L.A. slum," Bill shook his head. "I'm afraid to contact the President. He may be obsessed."
"I worried about something Quislus said," I responded.
"What's that? I wasn't there," Bill reminded me.
"He said that Gavril's mind cloud was transferred onto him, I figure from Gavin. Quislus told us that mind clouds can take over a weakened mind."
"You just described many politicians in Washington," Bill snorted.
"I figure it's Calhoun," Trajan wandered in and nodded to me. "The one Hank pointed out in that photograph." Trajan lifted the photograph in question off the kitchen island and waved it at me.
"Not much to look at," I shook my head.
"Probably a purloined body, don't you think?" Trajan asked. "I get the idea that a lot of the enemy have bodies that way."
"Yeah." I took the photograph from Trajan and studied Calhoun. He had dirty-blond hair, a slightly crooked nose, brown eyes and a medium build. "So you think Calhoun has been visiting politicians, likely with a Sirenali in tow?" I said, setting the photograph on the island again. "Once a handful are obsessed, all they have to do is convince others that what they're spouting is the truth or the right way to go and here we are. This is only going to get worse," I rubbed my forehead, where tension was building and threatening to become a full-blown headache.
"We've said all along it wouldn't take much to nudge some people in this direction," Trajan said. "What can we do about this?"
"I have no idea," I sighed.
* * *
The Sirenali's lines were a jumble, but eventually I selected the proper ones to change. "What will he be after you're done?" Reah asked softly at my side.
"Mostly human," I replied, setting to work. "He'll still be able to change to look like a Sirenali, but his ability to place obsession will be cut off."
"Too bad," Farzi muttered. "He bother, he die, now."
I wanted to smile—the reptanoids were quickly becoming friends. There was no deviousness or insincerity about them—they spoke plainly about everything and I appreciated that.
All eight of them had provided backup for the Saa Thalarr at the gates—as snakes hanging from trees and hiding in flowerbeds or ornamental shrubs. Rezil had no idea how much danger he'd been in when he strolled casually past the humanoid-appearing guards and into San Gerxon Palace.
Tybus placed compulsion on Rezil while I'd changed the wizard's lines—none of us were susceptible to the Sirenali's obsession, so I'd waited to change his lines after the others were taken care of.
Aurelius had seen to the other two humanoids—both acting as bodyguards for the wizard. He wouldn't need them any longer, but it was wise to return them to Hordace the way they'd left—intact and seemingly normal.
"You know, I like you so much better this way," I said softly after finishing my work. This Sirenali could no longer obsess anyone.
I liked Rezil helpless and quivering beneath Tybus' relentless glare, too, but I didn't voice that opinion aloud. Rezil should be afraid—I didn't think Tybus or Aurelius planned to let him live after we were led to Hordace Cayetes.
"You will contact Hordace now, and inform him that you have killed the target and taken the other captive," Tybus hissed as he gripped Rezil's shirt in strong, capable fingers.
"Yes," Rezil nodded like a bobble-head doll.
"Kay, come," Tybus held out a hand to me. "You will pose with Master Rezil, to convince Cayetes that all is well."
I had no difficulty expressing my fear as Rezil held me against him—I was trembling and the image transmitted to Hordace recorded my pale face and wide eyes. He'd believe it—because it was real.
* * *
"I like this idea," I nodded toward Lendill Schaff. Ildevar had reached out to me, so I’d arrived immediately. He and Lendill Schaff explained what they intended to do, and apprised me of the situation on Noppen.
"I can arrange to place you in an orbit close to that of Falchan's. Your seasons will remain much the same," I added.
"Good," Ildevar breathed a sigh. "I worry about the people here. If we can make the transition relatively painless, they will adapt quickly."
"Adapting is better than perishing," Willem Drifft observed. "What can we do about Noppen?"
"I've already cut off all shipping and interstellar travel," Lendill said, tapping the last of a message on his comp-vid. "I have something to show you as well." He handed an envelope to me, which bore his name. I already recognized the stationery; I merely wanted to read the offer inside.
"Pan'Warha," Lendill said before I could slide the card from the envelope. "Father received one as well. His was Al'Riyu."
"So it wasn't only those invited to the Archives." I nodded to Lendill. "This increases your father's gifts greatly, does it not?"
"He says as much," Lendill agreed. "He tells me that he sees better and farther now, when he applies his abilities. He says at times, he can even see past the clouds surrounding the Sirenali, but he imagines that these are the younger and weaker ones of that race."
"That may be of enormous help," I said. "Ask him to track as many of these as he can and pass messages to those who need the information. Ildevar and I will set about moving this world and leaving a decoy in its place."
"Father is linked with me—the message has been received," Lendill said.
"Good," I nodded at Lendill before studying Ildevar's power and linking it with mine.
* * *
Ry was always the one who kept records and journals. A good thing, as it turns out, since he's King of Karathia. It was odd that I had the sudden desire to write things down, although Mom would be proud of me for it.
We were currently training with Falchani blade masters on their world; Jayd sent most of us to learn what we needed to know to become the elite fighting force required by Li'Neruh Rath. So far, he hadn’t told us what he meant for us to do.
Dragon actually grinned when I stepped up to spar with Drake—Drake and Drew taught Ry and me years go. My skills were rusty at first, but they improved before the bout was over. It turned out that I lasted longer than any other High Demon who'd sparred with a Falchani, so Drake put me with the small class assigned to Caylon Black.
Caylon's assistant turned out to be a werewolf—Salidar DeLuca. He checked and measured before ordering two blades for me from the Falchani smith who’d been assigned to Caylon's contingent.
"How does a werewolf end up a blademaster?" I asked as I sat beside Salidar during the midday meal.
"Ashe," Salidar shrugged. "Call me Sali—everybody does."
"Ashe—the Mighty Hand?" I asked.
"Yeah. We were best friends when we were young. Ashe understood me, even when I didn’t understand myself. He contacted Dragon years ago, to get me lessons in how to fight with a blade. Dragon sent me to Caylon Black. If you haven’t figured it out, yet, Caylon trained Dragon and his brother, Crane. Caylon will beat you into the ground if he spars with you. Thank him for the lesson afterward."
"Will that make him go easier on me the next time?"
"Nope." Sali grinned and sipped his cup of Falchani black. "That means he'll spar with you again, and you'll stay where you are, learning from the best. Fail to appreciate that and you'll likely be sent elsewhere."
"Has anyone ever beaten Caylon?" I asked.
"Once," Sali nodded.
After our midday meal, those in Caylon Black's contingent were set to exercises. We practiced drawing blades and going into the middle position. Sali watched us closely as we pulled blades in unison. He barked or growled if any one of us was too slow. By the end of the day, my shoulders sore from the training, I walked toward the bathing tents to clean up before going back to the cooking tents for the evening meal.
* * *
I thought Lendill might explode when I informed him where Rezil had taken us.
We thought Hordace was on Du'Ferias. We're on Noppen. Rezil and his Sirenali directed us here instead,
I returned Lendill's mindspeech.
Reah, I can't think of a more dangerous place—Noppen has gone rogue and we're in the process of moving Wyyld into an orbit around Falchan's sun. Noppen's president informed Ildevar a click ago that they're pulling out of the Reth Alliance.