"You could have brought Findal back with you, and you didn't," she was shouting and crying at the same time and then she slapped me. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. Maybe. I didn't.
"Yeah?" I shouted right back at her. "Did you think for even one minute that Black Mist intended to let him live? Did you? They don't pay out unless there's no other way. Did you know that when you and Findal made your deal with them? Did your daddy know what you intended to do with the money? Did he? Stupid bitch," I muttered, and walked around her to get out of that sanity-challenged hellhole.
"I have an announcement," Norian shouted over the ensuing din inside the Hall of Hearings. That stopped me in my tracks-I was just about to get the hell out of there and go sulk somewhere. They'd intended all along to make me pay, although I hadn't had anything to do with any of this. Now Norian wanted to talk? What the hell was he doing?
"I am here as a representative of the Alliance," Norian went to stand in front of the judge. "I was sent by the Founder and Twenty Charter Members to observe these proceedings and record your judgments in this case. They have been witness to this travesty and they now ask me to inform you that Cloudsong will never join the Alliance. A copy of the writ will be forwarded to you." Norian turned on his heel and headed in my direction.
"Wait," Kenderlin was trying to shout over the noise that resumed after Norian had his say. Norian didn't stop; he just kept walking in my direction.
"Well, honey, that was some speech," I said, taking his hand. I folded both of us the hell away from there.
* * *
"You like sitting on rooftops?" Norian looked green, perched as he was on top of the highest dome of my palace.
"Honey, I'll take you down, but I'll be coming right back up," I told him. He seemed relieved when I dropped him off on the steps leading to my palace before misting back to do more roof sitting. Kifirin came to sit beside me. At least heights didn't make him uncomfortable.
"Honey, I appreciate your showing up. Did you empty all the gold from Le-Ath Veronis?" At least he wasn't blowing smoke at the moment. He was Kifirin, too, and not the god right then.
"You did not listen to my words," he actually smiled at me. "I said, 'here is your gold.' I didn't lie-it was theirs-I pulled it from Cloudsong. They paid themselves. Unfortunately, many of their lodes are now empty and unless I miss my guess, Cloudsong will become an isolated world.
I cannot imagine that many will wish to work for the crown, when their treatment of you is made known. No wizards will come to protect them, out of fear for their lives. The opposing faction that wished the Prince dead will again wage war against the crown. We will see how they fare without outside help."
"What will happen to miss bitch pants?" I grumped. I could still feel the slap she gave me and it pissed me off every time I thought about it.
"The only reason she isn't floating on the breeze as separated atoms is because she is pregnant," Kifirin replied. "She struck a Larentii's mate. Connegar and Reemagar are still angry over that. Meanwhile, I think Glendes of Grey House is hammering out a writ of detachment and handing Melida back to Marid of Belancour as quickly as he can. I wish them luck with one another."
"I'm not going back to Grey House." I repeated my words to Shadow.
"Avilepha, you do not have to go anywhere you do not wish to go," Kifirin murmured and pulled me onto his lap.
"They never intended to ask Grey House for anything. They were coming after me," I muttered. "As if I would drain all the profits from the casinos for them." I shivered in Kifirin's embrace. My head hurt so bad from stress and anger I thought it might explode.
"Reason cannot be named as one of their assets," Kifirin placed fingers against my forehead. Yeah, he can place a healing sleep just as well as any Larentii. Better, maybe.
* * *
"I need to take her back to Trell-we have business there," Norian walked next to Kifirin, who carried an unconscious Lissa in his arms. Kifirin stopped in the hallway, leveling a gaze at Norian and breathing smoke.
"Or not," Norian backed away.
"Never do that again," Erland grabbed Norian's elbow and pulled him backward as Kifirin continued down the hall. "Do you have any idea what Kifirin is?"
"Perhaps you should explain it," Norian grumbled. Erland folded Norian to the library, where Lissa's other mates were holding a meeting.
* * *
"I can't find anything that this impacts," a tall, brown-haired man was raking fingers through his hair as he stood before a good-sized crowd. Norian recognized Lissa's mates and a few others from the hearing. Many he didn't recognize, however. He sat down to listen.
"We're not hearing from Belen on this and she pulled Brandelin out just before he died." A platinum blonde woman spoke up next. "I know that is how we've gotten some of our members-Winkler, Aurelius and Thomas Williams, to name the most recent.
"What are we discussing?" Norian whispered to Erland, who sat next to him.
"There are some who have the power to bend time. They just can't use that ability to impact any part of the timeline," Erland whispered back. "Remind me to see if we can't find somebody to give you mindspeech."
"Connegar placed the image of Lissa when she folded away, I just don't know how they're going to explain Prince Brandelin's sudden appearance," the blonde woman was speaking again. Norian hadn't been watching Lissa at that moment-he'd had his eyes on the judge and the King of Cloudsong.
"Were there any cameras inside the Hall?" Someone else spoke up and Norian thought that Drake and Drew looked very much like this man.
"That's Dragon, Drake and Drew's father," Erland explained. "Time to confess-you had cameras, didn't you, Norian Keef?"
"I had cameras-the Charter Members wanted the information so they could deny membership in perpetuity if justice was denied in the case," Norian stood. "The feed went directly to one member, who requested it." Norian sat again, hoping he wasn't in trouble. He was certainly outnumbered at the moment.
"Griffin, do we need to negate that information?" The blonde woman asked the tall, brown-haired man. Norian watched as the man's eyes became unfocused for a few seconds. He came back with a sigh.
"No, Kiarra, we don't need to do a thing about this." In fact, Griffin was almost smiling.
"Griffin is Lissa's father, and fine outside that role. As her father, he's the biggest asshole ever," Erland settled in to gossip. Norian was now staring at Erland in alarm.
"You're joking?" Norian said before he could hold back the words.
"I am Lissa's father, and calling me an asshole is being kind," Griffin was now standing over Norian, who was ready to turn if things went badly. "There's no need to allow the snake to manifest. You are in no danger here."
"Tell me what all these people are, and Kifirin, too," Norian said. Griffin walked away, leaving Erland to explain things to the ASD's Director.
"When I tell you, you won't be able to tell anyone else-knowledge of the race protects itself," Erland grinned. "I know you've already heard the words Saa Thalarr. It means Hope and Vengeance in Neaborian."
"Neaborian is a dead language," Norian said.
"Did you know there are people living on the planet again?" Erland grinned. "But that doesn't have anything to do with the Saa Thalarr. They were created to combat the Copper Ra'Ak, you know."
* * *
"Lissa, you should wake and eat something." Karzac settled on the side of my bed and brought me back to consciousness with fingers to my forehead. Too bad doctors everywhere didn't have that talent. No anesthetic needed, thanks.
"Honey, what are you doing here?" I mumbled, doing my best to force my eyes open.
"Lissa my love, your mouth always works before your eyes or the rest of your body."
"Honey, you are so funny," I huffed, cracking open a single eye to stare up at him.
"I have never been accused of being anything close to humorous," Karzac stifled a smile.
"I'm buying you lessons in stand-up," I forced my other eye open.
"I will skip my classes," Karzac rolled his eyes at my suggestion.
"Karzac, why aren't you naked?" I reached up and tugged on the collar of his shirt. I had a feeling that Grace and Devin shopped for him-I couldn't see him taking much time for that sort of thing.
"Is that what you want, my love? You want me in your bed?"
"Yeah." Karzac leaned down to kiss me, and then kissed me again. He removed my clothing before he removed his, and what happened afterward was worth every second of the undressing. We were extremely late getting to dinner.
* * *
"Lissa Beth, I want to be jealous." Norian hauled me away from the dinner table the minute I set my napkin down. We were now inside the hotel room in Rezael after rousting Lendill from his office on Le-Ath Veronis, where he'd been doing even more research. I'm not sure that guy ever took a break. He'd still looked like Flavio, too, so Reemagar came and adjusted the disguise. Lendill now looked like Flavio's cousin instead of Flavio.
"Why are you jealous?" Lendill had already gone to bed inside his bedroom-we had a three-bed suite inside one of the nicer hotels in Rezael. Reemagar had accomplished that for me, too, fabricating a new credit chip for each of us, and all of it tied to an account that Adam set up for us at one of the banks on Le-Ath Veronis. The funds would eventually be paid out of my account; Norian said the Alliance would reimburse the expenses. I didn't really care because we ended up in a nicer place.
"I want to be jealous of every one of your mates, breah-mul. They are welcome in your bed." Well, Norian might be wrong on one account-I hadn't heard a word from Shadow. I wondered if he and his family were wiping their brows in relief and working to get me out of their system.