78

“I received some of your recent news broadcasts, and saw the King Ascendant waving your arm around. I admit to some amusement. You must have pushed him far.”

“Oh, hardly at all. He didn’t need much help.”

“Are you surviving it well?”

“Other than painful attempts at using an arm that isn’t there, I’m in good health. They gave me rush treatment to be sure I’d be well enough to receive my verdict.”

“You sound fine, and it’s good that you’re healthy. The time is upon us.”

“My elements are in place. There’s no reason to change any part of the arrangement. Go forward without hesitation.”

“What about the scion?”

“Her spirits have improved, even if her confusion has grown. I think she’ll be coming to more specific understandings shortly.”

“This could go of two ways. I believe people will prefer your version. We hope your plans hatch properly.”

Sturlusson felt the contact dissipate. The door of his room opened quietly, and he raised his eyebrows. In came the girl, slipping in sideways. She closed the door and paused by the wall, appraising his condition with a grimace. He lay back in a hospital recliner, right shoulder heavily swaddled. Soleil could detect a smile beneath his unwavering gaze. She took a deep breath, blinking.

78

He dipped his head. “Your Grace the Princess.”

She stepped toward him with a controlled voice. “You were in my vision during my coma sleep. Who are you and and what are you doing here? Why couldn’t I speak until I saw you?”

He stretched his head back to gaze at the cieling. “Not much I can tell you, Princess, that would give you greater insight.” Around his neck and face a roiling shimmer formed. Soleil stepped backward, and Raev Sturlusson met her eyes without moving.

A consistent swirl formed between them. Soleil looked into it, and lifted her hands to cover her eyes. She staggered a little, but kept them there, breathing. The volcanic earthquakes of Genesee filled her sight, and she zipped through a whirlwind of relays – the Aquari Home Fires, portals bursting with newly familiar presences, and depthless chasms emptying in conflagration. She tore her hands from her eyes and looked over at the prisoner with dread.

She went to the door, looking back at Raev Sturlusson one more time before she left.

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