Reaume Part 2’s Audio Book now live

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A mist-ridden hill on an empty plain conceals an abyss able to swallow worlds, and is discovered in a place forbidden to all. Ancient beings and shadowy spheres of influence tell a new tale of what was and what is.

The stones of a dreamer are a soul labyrinth.

As the Warlock Tymall steps up his murderous campaign against the Vallas, Torrullin vanishes into a realm created by dreams and need. Paramount is his search for the means to end his son’s reign of terror, and the answer no longer lies in reality. He will suffer the labyrinth of his soul and negotiate the marker stones of his past.

Torrullin must release his demons. To stand at the edge of the abyss, he must retrieve his innocence. He will not stand alone. Guiding him into and through another realm is Lowen Dalrish, the child-woman Torrullin saw as the nemesis of his future.

Another arises, the Warlock’s secret ally, a creature nursing vengeance since ancient days. After Margus breaks oath, this creature’s manipulation is set free, and a new army invades.

The animated spirit, according to legend, is the potion of forever, and his name is Elixir, embodied in one strong enough to see, hear, taste, smell and touch everything everywhere in order to mete out justice. If Torrullin survives the dream realm, does it mean he is strong enough to accept this duty? His world, his people and his loved ones require his strength, as he needs it to face the might of what lies beneath ancient Grinwallin.

After all that went before, Torrullin will face the power of stones raised when time began, before he may bow from the arena. Torrullin prepares, after all, to meet the dark man of his visions.

The time for meeting is now close.

Chapter 1

If it is not created with hands, friend, it is not real.

~ Universal untruth

Cèlaver

AN OMINOUS SHUDDER shook the great cavern of magic inside the planet Cèlaver. This was the world within, a biosphere of trees and water and light Torrullin gifted a long-deceased king. Seasons came and went in the heart of the rock; it was true magic, more profound for being inside a world sterile and uninhabitable on the surface. Animals, birds and insects flourished, speaking to the people of the caves and tunnels of life taken for granted elsewhere.

Initial reactions to the chamber after its creation was wonder, and fear. At first the fear was for the incredible power able to bring forth such wonder, entrenching true cycles of nature, to have it continue independent of the source of power. Later that fear developed into something more – the fear of having it vanish to trap them inside the rock the magic displaced. After a time the fear was selfish. Cèlaver grew to love the magic, needed the magic, and was afraid to lose it.

Two thousand years on, fear was forgotten. Nobody now remembered the cavern of wonders was a thing of magic. Forests were real, as were lakes, rivers, pastures, sun, clouds, rain, snow, and wind, all of it. The cycles continued as a force unto itself. The forests were old, died in some areas and renewed in others as nature intended. Watercourses altered after heavy rainstorms. Birds and animals adapted and evolved as well. New species had come. It was real and required no magic to thrive.

Yet it was magic. A space was created.

The shudder intensified and low keening filled the air.

Countless were paralysed with dread. As one, casual strollers, boating fanatics, fishermen, lovers and picnicking families remembered what they had forgotten. Magic.

In log cabins, in tents and in the elements, holidaymakers froze, hikers stumbled on paths, and remembered. Magic.

Something was wrong. Nobody could move and not a sound was spent. If the magic that created this space was to vanish, there simply was no time to reach the exit. Panic would serve no one.

Another tremor rippled through the space. A child cried somewhere, the frightened sound audible into the furthest reaches.

And, abruptly, panic.

THE KING AND his family enjoyed a welcome break from duties, a treat they allowed themselves infrequently, because to enter the cavern was to desire to remain. One stated allotted time at the entrance and if one overstayed, one was prompted to leave. The first king of this magic, Ophuls, instituted the system, having quickly realised the addiction.

Had he not, the entire Cèlaver nation would have moved in, crowding the cavern and killing the wonder. Industry and the like would even today come to a standstill without the system.

His Majesty of the present had three more days available to him, but time had a way of speeding by here and he at first thought they were being prompted to leave, before realising, seeing it in the eyes of his stricken children, the shuddering was widespread, and everyone appeared to hark to the unearthly wailing. By the time panic overcame paralysis, he was ready.

He put a bullhorn to his lips and called for attention. Silence returned and he told them their fear would aid the sundering, and panic would hasten it. He told them to stand fast; to trust in the inherent good of the old enchantment, for doing so would thwart whatever attempted to cause them harm.

Whether it was truth, what he said then in haste, he did not know, for there was no precedent, yet he felt calmer, and relayed his composure on to his people in the certainty of his voice.

Calm prevailed. They stood fast. Rivalries, factions and enmities were forgotten as those within stood together and trusted.

The entire chamber seemed to wobble. It was not the ground as in an earthquake, but the tangible air. Then, a yellow streak of light appeared out of nowhere to race about the vast perimeter, thereafter commencing a crisscross action in the spaces between. A comforting hum overrode the ear-splitting wail, ever stronger and growing, growing, growing …

The Cèlaver watched in wonder and felt renewed. Gradually they joined in with the hum, a harmony of voices, and His Majesty hummed along with them with tears in his eyes.

It felt right. The soul song.

The distortion vanished. The wail receded to a bearable pitch and, heartened, they strengthened the vibration, a full-throated monastic chant that raised gooseflesh on every participant.

It was beautiful, spiritual, uplifting, romantic and mythical.

The wail vanished completely in the overwhelming notes. At first it was drowned out and then it disappeared in truth.

All shuddering stilled and was no more.

The hum continued in homage and thankfulness, and the streak of light slowed and coalesced as a glowing orb in the centre of the mighty chamber. It gradually sank to zigzag its way as if searching, until it halted before His Majesty and hung there.

The king lifted the bullhorn to his mouth and quietly announced the danger had passed. The orb dipped. The humming lessened. The king added Cèlaver now knew how to counteract a future threat, should it come. The humming stopped altogether, and the orb dipped up and down as if it pleased with the king’s insight.

His Majesty lowered the horn and asked in a normal tone, “Is that right? The hum counters?”

The orb dipped again, and then neared. It circled the king’s head once, twice, three times and then hurtled into the magical heavens. Trust in the power of the Light. The words were an unspoken thought transmitted to all.

The orb vanished.

ON A STRIPED blanket a fair distance to the left of the king and his family, two heads swivelled.

“It feels as if Torrullin is with us,” the man said after a moment, and had to clear his throat.

She nodded and lay back to stare up at the magical heavens. “Because he is. Any day now he will wander back into our lives. Two millennia are now officially scrapped.”

THE DREAMER STONES

Chapter 1: The Sleeper Sword

The Sleeper is Awake

Two thousand years have passed since the epic explosion in what is now called the Black Valley. Torrullin is in the invisible realms and the Darak Or is with him, and the universe enjoys a time of unprecedented peace.

A new threat rises on the cursed horizon.

It is time for the Sleeper Sword to awaken.

Ready to return to Valaris, Torrullin cannot exit the otherworld without aid. Samuel is his kinsman, his fate forged to the greatest sorcerer the cosmos has ever known. He swears to hold his hand out to Torrullin, to aid him home.

The old players gather for a renewal of the fateful games. This time the duel between a father and son will wound many, including Valla kin. Torrullin needs to build a relationship with his grandson Tannil, save Fay from hell, rescue Saska from captivity, and find the means to end Tymall. Their contest will reverberate through the spaces.

In an endless adventure of urgency and drama, the on-going saga of Torrullin’s role as saviour is as a sharp as the sword he reclaims and as blunt as his acerbic tongue. Wherever he goes someone will be hurt. To love him is to be ruined, to hate him is to be ruined.

Perhaps true catharsis lies in the realm of dreams.

Chapter 1

Even after all has changed, time has a way of bringing forth the familiar. One day you look around you and remark, “Nothing has changed.”

~ Book of Sages

Valaris

Western Isles

Valla Island

“AND WHAT DOES this say, Aunt Fay?” The boy pointed at writing under a depiction of a sceptre.

Fay turned the book to see what caught his attention. “That, Teroux, is Minara’s Sceptre. He travelled much and desired it as proof of his status.”

“He was Vallorin?”

“Indeed, but not for long. The poor man caught a virus on an offworld visit and the Valleur healers did not know how to cure him.”

“That is sad,” the earnest boy whispered.

“It was a long time ago, and we found the virus after. Nobody was sick from it again. We now have an enchantment to arrest alien infections until a cure can be traced or manufactured.”

He nodded sagely. “We did that after the Plague of Torrke.”

“Yes, after that terrible time.”

“Why did he need proof of status? He was Vallorin.”

“Apparently, inquisitive one, he was unsure most of the time. His sceptre gave him authority inside.”

Teroux puckered his lips. His father was Vallorin, and he was not unsure inside. He drew breath to ask another question, but then his father entered, and all thoughts fled. He ran into those waiting arms.

“You were gone so long!”

Tannil squeezed him. “I missed you, too.” He kissed his son on the forehead before lowering him. “Find Kismet and see what I brought back for you.”

Squealing, Teroux charged out.

“You were indeed some time, brother. Problem?”

Tannil crossed the room to embrace Fay, and sat at the table. Drawing the book closer, he answered, “Nothing serious. We seem to have it cleared away.” He smiled at the image. “I take it Teroux asked about this?”

“Oh, yes.” Fay glanced at the books on the table. “He loves the Oracles.”

Her brother grimaced. “He studies them harder than I ever did.”

“You wanted to speak to me?” she asked, distracting him before the gloom of his heritage overcame him anew.

“Yes, Fay.”

“I will not like it, obviously.” She placed her pen on the table, put the letter she attempted to write amid Teroux’s questions face down over it, and folded her hands in her lap. “Tell me.”

He glanced sideways at her. “I have an offer for your hand.”

“Tannil, no. I shall marry where my heart lies.”

“You do not even know …”

“It does not matter, brother. I know I am not in love; thus I am not to wed.”

“Fine. I told him that. Luckily he was not offended.”

“Who?” she asked, curious despite her determination.

Tannil grinned. “Teighlar.”

“Are you completely insane? He is immortal!”

“You are to live a long time.”

“Unable to bear children, unless I have a liaison on the side.”

“Goddess, Fay!”

“Oh, quiet, I would like to be a mother and marrying an immortal will never allow that.” She rose and stood before the window to gaze into the ocean.

This side of the Palace hung out over the depths and white gulls swooped into view, diving from on high into the embrace of the water, erupting, almost without exception, with a fat fish. The sound of the ocean was muted, it was that far below, but the gulls were noisy.

She twitched the sash closed, dampening their never-ending screeches. “Why would the Emperor want to marry me?”

“He thought it would serve to bind the Senlu and Valleur closer.” Tannil, Vallorin of the Valleur, grinned again. “That is what he says, but I think he is rather taken with you.”

She snorted. “He has only seen me once.”

“No man forgets you, dear sister.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

Fay, short for Fayette, was golden glory akin to most Valleur, yet even among an attractive people she stood out. Her name meant Great Beauty, for she was that, and no man was immune. Suitors delivered marriage proposals daily and she denied them with a kind word or letter; she was busy with such a communication when her brother arrived.

Returning to the table, she stood behind Tannil to ruffle his hair. “You do not need to worry about me, my lord.”

He snorted and swatted her hand away. “Teroux will be an old man before you present him with a cousin.”

“But I shall, one day.” She sat. “Admittedly, the Senlu Emperor is a sexy man.”

A rap at the open door sounded and both looked to see their mother enter, and from behind an excited Teroux barrelled past. The boy jumped at his father, placing kisses all over his face. His grandmother looked on fondly.

“You like, Teroux?” his father ventured, laughing.

Teroux nodded, setting a-wobble golden ringlets, and sidled off his father’s lap. Breathless, he tugged Fay’s hand. “Come see, Aunt Fay! A pony!”

Fay allowed herself to be manipulated. The two vanished into the corridor.

“MOTHER.” TANNIL KISSED his mother’s smooth, perfumed cheek.

“Tannil, a pony?” Mitrill queried. “Where, son, shall we find the space?”

He laughed. “Kismet will work something out, and Teroux should be astride a horse already.” The latter was said with the constraints of an island existence in mind.

“Take him to Luvanor, as you were at that age.”

He grimaced. “I will miss him.”

“You spend much time there already. Teroux will probably see his father more.”

He knew she was right, but Valaris was their home. Then, spending time on Luvanor would broaden Teroux’s horizons, as it did for him. No islands there to confine him, continents of space, incredible diversity and an ancient history. The Valleur had been in these Western Isles too short a time for that kind of antiquity.

“I will think more on it.”

“You should consider moving everyone. As our space declines, families split apart – half here, half on Luvanor.”

He was surprised. She always advocated they remain on Valaris.

“I know what I said in the past. We have grown; soon we cannot sustain ourselves here. Ferrying supplies from Luvanor is impractical.” She approached the table. With deliberation she closed the open volumes of the Oracles. “I, and a few of the court, could remain here.”

Tannil had not expected to broach this subject upon his return, but he was not one to leave things unsaid either. “What does Caltian say?”

Mitrill looked up. “I have not spoken to my husband.”

He stared out of the window at the blue sky. Gulls flitted by with comforting regularity. “How long have you pondered this?”

“A while.” She sat, hands twisting in her lap. “Tannil, we must discuss this, and do so formally with the Elders. I am not advocating mass exile …”

“… but I should transfer my court to Luvanor.”

“It would be a practical choice.”

“I am loath to leave here. Three Valla men gave their lives for Valaris. My father died for the Enchanter, and why? Because the Enchanter loved this world.”

Mitrill shook her head. “Your father loved his father, Tannil, and their deaths were more than a sacrifice to a world. Both of them would prefer the Valleur live without hardship and tension, and if that is on Luvanor they would be the first to make it happen.”

Tannil rose. “Yet we exiled to these islands; you contradict yourself.” He ran a hand over a hefty tome. “You are right, space has become an issue. We shall have your formal discussion and I shall advocate the majority of our people move. Teighlar and I discussed this yesterday.” He looked up. “My court remains here. I shall divide my time between two worlds as I do now. I heard my grandfather speak to me, and I shall hark to his words until I am no longer Vallorin.”

His mother blinked. “You have never spoken of this.”

“You are Mitrill, one of the final few to speak with the Enchanter, and I was there. He recognised me and spoke to me. He asked that you take care of me and look out for his exiled people. He asked something else of me. I aim to remain on Valaris.”

Mitrill paled. “Will you tell me?”

Tannil enfolded his mother in his arms. Trebac glowed, for she was a trueblood Valla. “You loved him more than you let on, but I cannot tell you this.”

Usually self-possessed, mention of the Enchanter could send her into a dither of uncertainty.

“I will respect that,” she said, and stepped back. “You are a good son and you know me better than I suspect. I loved him, but not quite the way you think. I did not know him, for he kept me apart from himself and his sons, for my protection. It is the idea of him, the memory, the ideal he has become. Caltian knew him and spent time with him through all manner of strife, yet even my husband will admit to loving the ideal more today.”

“Why can you not say his name?”

She was silent for a moment. “He becomes too real, as if he is in the room with you, inhabiting your space. If I say his name, it is yesterday and he kneels before me, talking to my unborn son, recognising you in my womb. If I say his name, I feel again his lips on mine. Tannil, I enjoyed your father, but that one farewell kiss haunts me.”

She said more than intended, but Tannil already knew.

Mitrill left. Tannil watched her go. Many told him he took after his mother, had the same cleverness, and thus he felt he understood her. Although unborn at the time she spoke of, he was there and possessed clear memory of the event.

MITRILL DESCENDED to the Throne-room below. Unseeing, she crossed the vast space, blind to the simple, clean beauty of the white floor and walls. Then she halted and faced the ornate wooden chair opposite the massive doors. Her face twisted, seeing another seat, one of memory, and a single tear escaped.

“Torrullin,” she whispered.

THE VALLEUR RECALLED life to Torrke, but were unable to summon the Valleur Throne. The golden seat resisted all attempts. The resident magic of the valley had not returned either. After five hundred years of trying, stealthily as human hatred of Valleur intensified, they surrendered to the inevitable. The Throne and the valley’s ancient magic belonged to Torrullin. Only the Enchanter could recall them.

Thus they waited and watched the skies.

Two thousand years had passed.

THE SLEEPER SWORD

Chapter 1: The Nemisin Star

Destiny stalks the twins

Margus and Torrullin are the two faces of a coin. No matter how opposite they are, they remain equal, except Margus has no qualms in using Torrullin’s twin sons against him; an agenda he knows causes his enemy suffering. To negate their destiny, desperately seeking release from their symbiosis, Tymall and Tristamil must fight until only one remains standing.

The Forbidden Zone is behind them; the wars of attrition return to Valaris. In a golden city waits a temple raised from a vision, and one night in every year a star shines through the aperture overhead. This is a connection to the world of Nemisin, the first homeworld. In this place where stars meet Torrullin must choose life and death for his sons. The scythe, however, forever silences someone dear to him; is he paying for his choice in the temple?

As the universe searches for the Light in all its brilliance, seeking peace, Torrullin begins to see himself as a prince among demons and therefore decides to change the rules. Death, after all, is not an end.

Too many lives have been lost.

Too many hearts have been broken.

Sometimes the only way to find peace is to lose oneself.

Chapter 1

Cold is pretty. Ice forms lace and the air is so clear it heralds angels. Leave me here; I am happy.

~Aris, Druid of Akanth

Valaris

Torrke – The Keep

26th day of Dormire

CLOSE ON SIX months had passed since the stolen ship left Valaris airspace on a mission to deal with Neolone and the Dragon Taliesman. Leaving in high summer, they returned as the first month of winter drew to a close. Snow had not yet fallen, the land was dormant and the air cold, animals were in hibernation and rains had swollen rivers and filled lakes.

Torrke, seat of Keep and Throne, was quiet. Like to the rest of the continent, the valley awaited the first snowfall. The Keep was ready for winter; roof tiles were replaced, gutters cleared, general repairs affected, and food and fuel stocks laid in. From the courtyard delicate potted plants moved indoors and the mosaic pool’s pump was off.

Into this courtyard the marauders alighted, doing so during the midday meal on a sunny day. Staff and Elders ate al fresco, and akin to avenging angels they appeared. A maid dropped her tray of dishes and went screaming back to the kitchens.

Torrullin dragged his headgear off, throwing it to the paving underfoot, and his fair hair was a beacon. It grew over the past months to coil untidily in his neck, a fringe flopping over his familiar forehead.

“Lord Vallorin!” Pretora gasped, recovering from shock.

“If I had not been who I am, Elder, this Keep would now be seized. Are you not on war footing?”

A dark cloud passed before the sun to snuff daylight. To a Valleur that was an omen, and Pretora was no different in his perceptions. He blanched, stared at his lord, and knew serious trouble had landed.

“Of course, my Lord.”

Torrullin strode forward, his companions following more slowly, with Caltian wide-eyed. The Atrudisin had wondered what Valaris would be like and admitted to curiosity over the Valleur Throne.

“Triple your efforts,” Torrullin said, and entered the Throne-room. He set muddy boots to the blue aisle carpet and paced towards his Throne.

Caltian stared at the golden seat. So long was Atrudis isolated that ages had passed since a Valleur from the Forbidden Zone had seen it. It was a simple seat, and it was imposing; dear Aaru. He wanted to run his hands over it, but the warning spoken about its effect on those not known to it was now imprinted. He dared not touch it. He could lose his life if he did.

Outside, dishes were whisked away, most with food on them, and tables and chairs vanished with alacrity, and so, too, the retainers. Their Vallorin had moods to be avoided.

Grim of face, the others arrayed to the sides of the seat. Torrullin sat, gripping the armrests as power infused him. He welcomed the infusion. He needed the infusion, although the thought was unformed.

Pretora was hesitant as he approached, and behind him Kismet was hasty as he entered. Kismet caught up, slowed him.

“What, Pretora?”

“A face like thunder? We are in for it, Kismet. Quiet now.”

Both men glanced at Caltian, a stranger from another world, and searchingly at Saska, but were themselves under scrutiny and did not react. Whatever emotion lay behind those faces, all of it spelled trouble.

“My Lord,” Pretora murmured, bowing. Kismet wordlessly did the same.

“Pretora, did Camot return from Atrudis?” said Torrullin.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Send for him. Where are the Q’lin’la?”

“At the Temple, my Lord.”

I am on my way, Enchanter, Quilla sent before he could be contacted.

Torrullin grimaced. All gods, he wanted to sleep forever.

“Lord Vallorin?” Kismet said.

Torrullin looked at him.

“My Lord, there are Dragons here.”

Torrullin leaned forward, eyes sparking. “Yes?”

“They arrived on the cargo traveller with many Thinnings aboard.”

“They were guised as Xenians,” Pretora added.

“Where are they?” Torrullin asked.

Pretora put his hands together. “We have incarcerated them.”

“Goddess!” Torrullin snarled. Alongside him heads were shaken. “Did you not tell Quilla or Krikian? Release them immediately.”

He rubbed his eyes and drew breath. Her Majesty Abdiah, Kallanon ruler, Dragonne Queen, would have a few succinct words about this. Fortunately, she harked to diplomacy.

“Abdiah planned ahead,” Vannis muttered nearby, his voice on the edge of amusement.

She clearly sent the two Dragons as forerunners, suspecting the battle for the Light would come to Valaris. Abdiah, as Torrullin once remarked, was her own advisor.

Kismet ran out, leaving Pretora clutching his robe.

“Thundor was successful, thank Aaru,” Taranis murmured. “If duped.”

Thundor saved the Thinnings in the Forbidden Zone from Murs annihilation. Great foresight, but he might have brought his brethren to new disaster here.

Torrullin did not respond.

“Lord Vallorin, what is wrong? We thought you were able to end …” Pretora’s voice petered out when his ruler swung a silvery gaze to him.

Quilla appeared and instantly read the situation. He frowned at Pretora. “Leave, Elder; all will be explained. Prepare the bedchambers and order up …” He glanced at the bunch around the Throne. “… food and wine.”

“We have no time to drink, birdman!” Vannis snapped.

Quilla ignored him. “Go, Pretora, and better put some sedatives in the food.”

The Elder stared at him in horror and then noticed twinkling eyes. He made himself scarce, relieved. The birdman had a calming influence on the Vallorin.

Quilla swung back serenely to the group of marauders; their reputation had reached Valarian ears also. He had not believed a word of it and now wondered if he was wrong. He looked them over critically and his gaze fixed on Torrullin.

“You had a hard time of it, obviously, but there is no call to frighten your Elders and retainers. You need them.”

“They have been lax.”

“They have not. We ourselves only returned two weeks ago. We found Valaris secure, as you will no doubt recognise when you open your eyes. They do not know the full tale and are unaware of new dangers, but they are prepared as if mindful of every facet.”

“But they know the Dragon is gone.”

“That was, after all, the point.”

Caltian swallowed. He killed the creature and thus fulfilled his destiny.

“Where have you been?” Torrullin asked.

The birdman studied him calmly as he said, “We were on Atrudis. Much fear arose with the re-emergence of Emperor Teighlar and, despite the documents you prepared, insufficient Valleur believed in you to take you at your word. We stayed to smooth matters and that took some doing. Eventually the charisma of the Emperor himself won hearts, but it meant we were delayed in returning. What would you have us do, Enchanter? Leave that world to a different war. A civil war?”

Torrullin rubbed his eyes again. “You did well, and I am sorry.”

Quilla smiled.

“Grinwallin?” Saska whispered.

Grinwallin was a mighty city in the eastern region of Atrudis’ Tunin continent; a city built of stone set atop a great plateau. It delved the mountain behind it as well as stepping in tiers down to the plateau. Grinwallin, when they attained it in search of the Taliesman, was in ruin, but the ruins were odd for a city ninety million years abandoned; it seemed as if it fell into disrepair a mere century before. Magic kept the spirit of a fair city alive, proven when its resident Emperor, Teighlar, rose from ghostly form to become real.

Teighlar and Grinwallin were gifted a second chance. The team left the city before it arose in splendour, before Teighlar’s people, the Senlu, awakened with him.

The birdman gazed up with wonder upon his angelic face. “I am not one for cities and many people, but I would happily change my ways for Grinwallin. She is beautiful, simply entrancing.”

In leaving, they gifted the Senlu their second chance without the strife a Darak Or would unleash. It was decidedly a point of light.

Saska smiled.

Quilla transferred his gaze to Torrullin. “Her architect was a genius. Grinwallin was conceived with heart and soul. You would–”

“What?” It came out as a warning.

Quilla heard it and sighed inwardly. Perhaps the Enchanter knew the truth about Grinwallin. “… be proud, Torrullin.”

“Why would I be proud?”

“We were part of her renewal, Enchanter. We should all be proud.”

Torrullin’s silvery gaze moved away.

Quilla prompted, “Is he here?” He meant Margus.

“We think so,” Taranis replied when his son did not. “We lost him out there and there are no longer traces.”

“Full circle,” Quilla murmured. “We deal with it. For the present, you bathe and rest, eat. Leave the rest to me. I shall see the sites cloaked immediately and that Camot is ready.” He quirked his head. “You are home and amongst your own, and we shall aid in carrying this burden. Take some time to find your good humour before you speak again.”

The birdman swung around and exited the chamber.

“A breath of sanity, our Quilla,” Taranis murmured.

“Yes,” Vannis agreed, and left. Back home now, the death of his beloved Raken was again new.

Tristamil, his face expressionless, followed. He wanted desperately to see Skye, and knew it would be hard for them.

“Well, we are a cohesive unit,” Taranis said, and strode the carpet into the courtyard. He ignored the few curious retainers outside and bounded up the outer stairs to the suites.

“Matt, show Caltian to the guest area.” Torrullin waved after Taranis, and the two left without a word.

“I assume I may still claim a place in our suite, husband?” Saska asked. Her emerald eyes were cold and simultaneously challenging.

He stared at her. “You are my wife.”

“I am a stranger to you.”

“Gods, I cannot do this now. The suite is yours; I will find somewhere else.”

Saska stood before him. “You have sucked all the joy from me and treated me like the enemy. Do not humiliate me as well. It is our suite, and you will join me in it.”

“As you will, my Lady.”

She nodded and left.

TORRULLIN SAT FOR many hours. A gentle prompting from Kismet to eat went unheard and Quilla came and went, but he merely left the Enchanter to his thoughts. None of them realised it was more than introspection, more than strategies that kept him there, although those were factors.

The Throne held him, asking questions, receiving answers, without conscious thought. A communion, for the ancient sentient seat needed to know what was new and what was changed. One day the sentience would gift the kind of answers that would completely destroy Torrullin of the present, to remake him, but that day had not yet arrived. For now, the communion was mutual and satisfying. It, more than anything else, told him he was home.

It was dusk when he finally stirred, standing like an old man. He felt old. He felt guilty.

He wanted to sleep forever.

SASKA WAS UPSTAIRS and had arranged food and drink for him. He looked at her, silently sat, and ate slowly. He did not speak, and she did not interrupt. She watched, waiting for a sign of something more than enmity, but he revealed nothing. He was far away. He was also clearly drained.

“I have drawn you a bath,” she said, when he eventually pushed his plate aside.

Nodding, he entered the bathroom, closing the door. Sighing, she sat on the bed.

He eventually emerged bathed and shaven, wearing a dark blue robe, and halted in the doorway. There was a spark in his eyes and her heart tripped. Whatever it was, it would be better than cold anger.

“This is my fault, Saska. How do I deal with this?”

“I have no answer, Torrullin.”

He came to sit beside her. He smoothed her hair from her face, the first tender action since she appeared to him on Atrudis, and then dropped his hand and looked away. “Forgive me.”

She gazed towards the window, taking a breath. “Sleep. I shall keep watch.”

“There are many watching. Come, sleep as well.” He peeled the covers back. “We need to rest now.”

She studied him a while and moved to her side. Together they climbed in, lying stiffly until she turned to lay her head on his shoulder, pushing her hand through the flaps of his gown to lie upon the skin of his chest. He stiffened and then drew her close.

Gradually they relaxed, and sleep came.

They were home.

THE NEMISIN STAR