Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The King's Challenge #365 and #366

TKC 365 and 366

The conference space aboard a ship is always premium. Firstly, it is for imperative meetings and tactical sessions and, secondly, there is not much by way of actual space. Six Glonu generals with two aides each have already cramped what is available and when we enter – His Majesty, Commander Gennerin, Iniri Makar and myself, along with Gennerin’s summoned aide, Corporal Allin – there is barely room to move in. There certainly is not sufficient seating.

Leffandir has somehow created a space around her. She strides back and forth on the far side of the rectangular table, her expression thunderous. The Empress is much cleaner than the last time I saw her, having been allowed to bathe. She has donned an ornate gown, split in front to gift freedom of movement, and wears a man’s hose under it. Leffandir certainly appears royal, and she is glorious to behold now that all the grime has been washed away.

No wonder Enris Makar fell to his knees before her in another time and place.

“Linus!” she snaps as the king takes a seat midway at the table with Gennerin and Iniri on either side of him. “What is there to discuss? You have won this round and we acknowledge defeat. Now it is time for the fleet to return home.”

King Linus settles his gaze upon her. “Take a seat, Empress, or we go no further.”

Huffing, she flounces to the chair directly opposite the king, waving the seated general in it aside. He nearly stumbles in his haste to vacate. Smacking her hands flat onto the surface, she glares at Linus. I barely hide my amusement. Clearly the Empress is not impressed.

“We will reach for a long-term truce between our nations, Leffandir,” Linus remarks. “This cycle of war has to end and no one leaves orbit until we have agreement.”

“I cannot sell peace.”

“Can you sell love?” Linus murmurs.

She blinks, glancing swiftly at Iniri before focusing on the king again. “I do not understand.”

“I am talking about my son, Leffandir.”

She rears back and blinks repeatedly. “Meaning?”

“If you love him, marry him, and gift our worlds a new future.”

Every general and aide snaps heads sideways to stare at her, mouths agape. “Empress?” a large man sporting a goatee growls. “Glonu do not wed Ilfin!”

Leffandir ignores him. She leans onto the table, her hands in her hair. From that lowered position, she asks, “Where is Enris?”

“Missing,” Iniri responds.

The Empress looks up. “He does not wish to be at this meeting? He has absconded as the coward he is?”

I step in. I move around the table to the Glonu side and peremptorily gesture another general from his seat. He swears under his breath, but leaves when his ruler nods at him to comply. Swinging the chair to face Leffandir rather than the Ilfin complement, I sit.

“What are you doing, lap dog?” she snarls. “Why do they not answer? Where is Enris?”

“I am a Soul Keeper,” I state.

Again she rears back. “Where is Enris?”

“We do not know and even this Soul Keeper cannot find him.” Using one finger, I tap the table, a slow rhythm. “By your reaction, Empress, I believe you do care for Enris Makar …”

Pandemonium ensues as the Glonu give voice to their fury.

“SILENCE!” Leffandir screams, hurtling to her feet. Silence is given instantly, and she stares down at me. “How did he vanish?”

“There is another soul inside him, one he called to for aid. I suspect she removed him from this reality.”

This time the chaos is on the Ilfin side. King Linus roars, “And you only reveal this now?”

Iniri, placing a hand on her father’s arm, murmurs, “Mirlin told me, but it changed nothing. We still could not find him.” The catch in her tone tells me that Iniri thinks of Coltern also, caught in this trap of nowhere.

Leffandir sits, and stills my tapping hand. “Do not try those tricks on me; I need no calming. A female soul, you say?”

“You seem unsurprised,” Iniri accuses.

“Glonu play with souls, Lady Makar. There is precedent for what happened to Enris. Now allow me to concentrate on your Soul Keeper.” After glancing once at Iniri, she asks, “Does he know the female?” When I nod, she continues with, “Blood or water?”

“Blood.” I have no proof that Iliri is a Makar, but my instincts tell me it is so.

“How close?”

“My twin,” Iniri murmurs.

Well, her admission creates panic … for her father. Linus pales and doubles over, causing Gennerin to shout for a medic and Glonu to press against the walls in the event they are accused of something.

Ignoring everything and everyone, Leffandir leans across the expanse and grips Iniri’s hand. “Do NOT let go. Do you understand?” Inhaling raggedly, Iniri jerks a nod. “Gift me your talent, Keeper,” Leffandir says next, holding out her free hand. I grip it. “I will now find Enris. Do not move.”

We becomes as statues, Iniri and I. King Linus has straightened and watches us, as unmoving, as silent. In fact, all time seems to grind to halt inside the conference cabin, as if we are cast into stone for eternity, all of us, down to the smallest microbe.

For the life of me, I cannot say how long we remain in stasis, but I do see how Leffandir begins to shake. At first it is a light tremor as if she is slightly feverish and then it is full-blown undulations. She keens and wails, and suddenly collapses, releasing her holds on our hands. I catch her before she hits the deck, realising as I do so that animation has returned.

Someone roughly settles into the space beside me to take the Empress. “Give her to me, Mirlin.”

Enris. “She did it. My prince!”




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