24.4 \ 206

Dispelling her thought chatter, Soleil began working into the requested guidance actions to send the vessel to their destination. Captain Wendel Harper could be heard hooting over the com as her ship spun up in ways undreamed-of. When asked what it was like working with higher-level awareness in Drift X, she smiled and said its personality hadn’t changed; it was just better at expressing itself, now.

The wavering dislocation of the jump settled into the feeling of normal presence, and people filtered up to the fore to get a view. Images of this planet haunted Soleil’s childhood. She was here for a very good reason, certainly. So many scenes, she could recall: mourning, the monument, ongoing refugee struggles. It was the birth planet of a major economic contributor, and of a notorious social enemy – an enemy who’d spent no energy on showing her personal malice, though she’d been well placed to receive it. Sturlusson was purposeful.

Next to Drift X in space was a familiar fighter ship, and she figured who was in it. Returning her gaze to the planet Hirylien, the Princess felt a rock in her gut.

24.2 \ 206

“After much adventure, these are the friends we requested that you meet, when you asked on your home planet what service you might be able to do for us after we relieved your stranded state. If you perceive any imbalance of effort, feel assured that will be corrected. We Kao-Sidhe live or perish by the transactions of our innate currency.”

“Right now, I’m not deeply concerned with balancing the books. For how long have your peoples known each other?”

“Though Aureny have only inhabited their home planet, Kao-Sidhe are in a great many places. Our familiarity springs as though from the dawn of time. They had little trouble recognizing those of us who had some connection in their affairs. We make our way around, as certain things create for us a calling. In fact we are, at this time, yourself and company included, receiving a calling – being summoned, if you will.”

“To where?”

“A place you know of, where you have never been but is a part of your home. With people you know, but not very well, who you will have a chance to know better. This is my most succinct and accurate summation.”

Soleil resisted the immediate pull towards an available action. She hadn’t had time to her own thoughts regarding the new situation in the royal family. Though her feelings had become complicated and she suspected the greater truth was even more so, she loved Celeste; she would have to deal with that loss on her own time. She sensed that some hours for reflection rested just around the corner. The functioning shift in rulership would mean instant changes for everyone, with herself a factor of increased importance. Soleil felt alerted to the impending possibility of when she should call a halt or take an exit in order to do what was necessary when a point of departure should arrive. In some version of events, they could be keeping her entertained and occupied at playing diplomatic head of state while everything fell apart and her seat was dismantled. In this case, the directed action still seemed appropriate. Perhaps just this one more.

23.4 \ 205

A change occurred in the air, the kind that happens when musical instruments reach the same key. An accord of acknowledgment. They took a moment to reach emotional balance before continuing. From the center of the sledge seated in her bubble of serenity, Rosy Glow continued to focus the channels of communication. She altered hand positions like directing flows of energy, but otherwise remained in stillness.

DOES THIS HAPPEN A LOT?

Soleil reflexively covered some of her face with her hand. “It is an occasional bad behavior that may be done to other people or one’s own. The majority find it to be as reprehensible and shocking as you do.”

IF WE ARE MET WITH ACTIONS OF GENUINE RESPECT, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WE MAY EXPECT?

The Princess turned to look at Wendel, Toller, and Derringer as though they were her council. They didn’t require her partially upraised gesture to know they needn’t speak, that this was a consultation of silent support. She just needed to look at the faces of other humans to collect these thoughts. “If you were to become citizens of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, you would possess all the participatory rights. I understand if that isn’t very appealing at this time. Bans on exploitation and a modicum of diplomatic negotiation seem baseline, at a time of due recognition.”

YOU BELIEVE THESE WOULD BE ADEQUATE DETERRENT FOR SUCH OCCURRENCES?

“In honesty, you have incredible riches that would be difficult for strong enterprise to resist. Any effective commerce you might conduct could allay the pressure to appropriate, while strengthening your status in negotiations. I am beyond grateful that you’ve given me the opportunity to appreciate the treasures of the Aureny for the importance and beauty they contain, than for the commerce they may attain.”

WE ARE JUSTIFIED THAT YOU HAVE FELT EVEN ONE SUCH MOMENT OF APPRECIATION.

One stomp of a limb traveled from one member of the Aureny assembly to another until all had made the gesture.

WE DO NOT AIM TO ALTER OUR COURSES OF ACTION. THIS IS WELL FOR YOU – EVEN AS WE MAKE CERTAIN THAT OUR VOICES REACH CONSIDERATION, WE HAVE PLANNED TO SHOW YOUR PEOPLES SOME RESPECT. YOU AFFIRM THAT IT IS RIGHT FOR US TO DO SO.

“Ominous, yet forgiving. I certainly have a lot to consider from this. We have now met. You know people who can find me, and I say that you may find me, best if anyone, regarding matters of organizational liaison.”

There came a moment of troubled conference that went untranslated between the nearest emissaries, then it was Mystvall who clearly addressed Soleil. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT YOU HAVE NOT RECEIVED THIS INFORMATION, WHICH MAY COME AS A SHOCK. The focus she received from Mystvall felt like a direct gaze, though it was given without the visual affirmation of pupils. YOUR GRANDMOTHER, QUEEN CELESTE, MAGUS THE 24TH, DIED PEACEFULLY.

“My grandmother, the Queen,” Soleil reiterated, shaken, hand to her chest.

23.3 \ 205

In empathic overdrive somewhere between anguish and rage, Princess Ascendant Soleil controlled her breathing and held the moisture in her eyes. She broke an expectant silence.

“I had not previously known of all this. It sounds characteristic of the misfortunes of private enterprise, not necessarily with any direct involvement of the Pan-Galactic Imperial government or the Magus Dynasty. This could even have occurred without any other parties observing, though one could possibly indict our entire societal structure for creating the likelihood of this unscrupulous mentality.

“Blame will never salvage what was lost, aside from token scraps. I realize this. Alone, that the amazing people of this planet should exist to human knowledge without being celebrated or honored is a hideous mistake.

“You are likely aware that I, personally, can make you no guarantees. But I am listening now, and can aid your communication where possible. I am able to reach the ears of every level of our government, and they know that someday mine may be the hand of power.”

19.3 \ 201

“It is I: son of Rossalin.” He wielded his sword with the same determination of existence with which his grandmother swung her flail thresher at her homesteader’s pile of grain. Launching himself forward, he swung an arc at a scaly mass that was nearly close enough.

“I am the one who illuminates the decipherment of thought when need calls you to me. I am the brightness in the dark.” A quick lash of Ignivus’ tail barely missed the ducking crown of the battler’s head.

“It is I: son of Leta.” The flowers in his grandmother’s hair and garden surrounded him with a soft feeling of safety, smoothing his movements with sureness of love. He whirled his blade as the dragon closed, avoiding him yet.

“I am the one who can lead you out of chaotic jungles to have all the many things you desire, novelties and passions.” The Dragon snapped at the sword but fell just short. “I am a magnificence!”

“It is I: son of Veres.” Veres, who made his way to another galaxy as a beacon of the future for his family. His determined reach was in his grandson’s sword as it scored a breadth of scales that were surprisingly easy to slice. Ichor hissed and bubbled at the edges of the cut, Ignivus roaring with anger as well as pain. The swordsman marveled momentarily at the way Dragons reform themselves into different kinds of bodies that are yet alive.

As Ignivus rushed in a lightning rampage toward him, the man avoided the smashing feet and coils with a series of tumbles and slides, getting knocked around a little but keeping hold of his sword, which may have made a couple slices. “I am the one who weaves between worlds as you discover them. I give the first and last breath of hope for life in another place.” Ignivus crushed er feet into the pavement, cratering the terrain. “I am an essential sign of your survival.”

“It is I: son of Keron.” Keron, who bent the world with benevolent forces to build a beautiful and great home. He gave his grandson something to fight for. During a rushing sweep, the swordsman leaped, grabbing onto a spine near the head of the Dragon, blade dangling firmly in his fingers.

“I am the tenuous connection in the essence of dreaming, as you and many beings know it. The history of ideas and invention without me is bereft.” Ignivus writhed furiously, while the swordsman gained and retained purchase among horns and spines.

“I, brother of the lost but redeemed.” He made his way forward, looking for the spot, the moment, the strike, keeping astride the motion of a mad world.

“I, who kindle and blossom.”

“I, love to the rapturous stalwart.”

“I, who rids the stale paradigm.”

“I, father to a voice of wisdom.”

“I, who keeps the heart alive and beating.”

“I, friend to efflorescence in twilight.”

“I, who lit an age to the depths of its corners.”

“I, champion of life’s passing sweetness.” Getting close to the edge.

“I, who from the formless personified a reality. You, do you think that you are greater than I?” Ignivus snapped er head back, sending the swordsman spinning and flipping in midair, light glancing everywhere from the blade still in his grip.

He fell close enough to catch a protrusion in the center of the Dragon’s forehead, and for a fraction of a breath he dangled looking Ignivus directly in the eye. “No. I know we are the same.”

He launched the hiltless sword deep, deep into the recesses through the gazing orb of awareness, exploding in that moment as the sword flew forward, like into a destiny it had already known.