Ianus awoke on a cold, hard bed.Sitting up, his eyes slowly focused in the bright light.Daru’s face broke into a smile.
“Good, You’re awake,” she said, brushing her hand across his forehead.
“Where am I?” His throat burned.
“You are on the SRV Kanthanka.It had just come into orbit to pick up Barami and Tara.They had the best medical facilities in the system.”
“Where’s dad?”Ianus glanced about the room.
“He’s in a bed next door.The doctors are doing everything they can for him.”
“He’s still alive?”Ianus threw off the blanket.He was still in his initiatory robes and surcoat.“I have to see him.”
“No, you don’t!”Daru held him down.“Just sit down and listen to me.”Ianus gave her a hard look, but settled down to hear her out.“They had to sedate you just to get Ihy away from you.It’s understandable given what had just happen.You were in a terrible panic, which your system doesn’t need.You still have some of that torturous gas in your system.You need your rest.”
“I have to see him.I have to see with my own eyes that he is still alive.”
Daru’s lips quivered.“Do you think you can keep yourself calm?”
Ianus sighed, “I won’t do anything rash, if that’s what you are afraid of.I just have to know I did the right thing.”
Daru gave a defeated huff, and stepped out of the way.Taking Ianus by the hand, she led him to Ihy’s bedside.
Pryor sat with his back to the door, and his arms around Maya.They both turned and nodded at Ianus.Maya wiped a tear from her eye.They were red and a bit puffy.
The doctors had cleaned Ihy up considerably.Various tubes ran into him from every side.One obviously delivered blood, another some strange aquamarine fluid, Ianus guessed was medicine.His skin was radiating a brighter blue than it had the last time Ianus saw him.
“How is he?”Ianus asked, afraid he already knew the answer.
Maya stood up and sniffled into her handkerchief, “I think I need to pace about for a while.”
As Maya left the room, Daru looked out after her, “I think I’ll go with her.”Smiling at Ianus, “You don’t do anything I would disapprove of while I’m gone.”Daru left the room.
“Well,” Ianus said to Pryor, “How is he?”
“That is hard to say.He keeps muttering to himself.Maya’s just beside herself.”
“You avoided my question.”
Ihy gasped.He squirmed uncomfortably.“I am Ihy,” he mumbled, “The jackal of the light, the luminous wind.I am Heka, the Divine word that cannot be destroyed.This I call my soul.I am the first to emerge from darkness.”
Ianus was confused, he glanced at Pryor.Something Grabbed his arm.
Ihy tugged on Ianus’ arm, pulling him closer.A sharp pain tore through Ianus’ right arm.The hematite colored Sukallin mark began to shimmer with an electric, silver light.
“This is the voice of Hahu, who separated the waters of the sky, who divided the abyss.It is now for you.Go to the grove of the A’nath-ari at Usekht Maati.Stand between the earth and the sky.”
Ihy’s arm fell limp, and his breath became less labored.
“Now, that’s new,” Pryor said, standing up.
“What’s new?What was that all about?”
“He has been rousing from time to time and saying that first bit about the Jackal and Heka, but he would soon just drop back off to sleep.”
“I didn’t understand that.What was he talking about?”
Pryor avoided looking into Ianus’ eyes.“There is something you should know.Ihy’s parents.Ihy’s father.”
“What about them?”
“You know that Ihy is the only son and heir to Auset, the Lady of Ammaau.O, how can I put this?His birth was an accident.His father, you see, was a Raewyn.He was a close friend of Auset’s, and well, the Raewyn aren’t exactly like the rest of us are they.Somehow, the Lady of Ammaau became pregnant.”
“He’s half Raewyn?That is why his skin began to glow.”
Pryor sighed, “Yes and no.You see when Ihy was born, his tiny body couldn’t maintain the balance between the Shedu and the Raewyn.His very cells did not want to maintain cohesion.Lady Auset entrusted him to a young maker.After seven days of intense effort, he was able to stabilize him.That’s the problem you see.He is becoming unstable again.The doctors, well, they don’t know what to do.They have given him two weeks to live.”
“So what was that chant about?”Ianus distracted himself from the words Pryor just said.
“It is a prayer he was given to help him maintain his composure.”
“What was that other part then?What did he call himself?”
“Hahu.That is the name of his Sukallin.I suppose it was trying to tell you something.”
“I will find who has done this to him,” Ianus began to shake, “I will repay them for this.”
“Beware of vengeance.It has a way of destroying the avenger worse then the target.Uncloud your mind.Now is the time for seeing clearly.”
Daru and Maya entered the lobby at the end of the hall and sat down.
Maya took a long deep breath.
Daru took Maya’s hand and tried to look hopeful.
“Is there anything I can do for You?”Daru asked.
“Just being here is enough.Is Ianus taking this...” she stopped and lowered her head.“How is Ianus taking all of this?”
“He’s angry, but I think that’s understandable.I will have to watch him carefully to make sure he doesn’t do anything rash.”
“Good luck,” Maya laughed weakly, “He has always been a handful.It was all Ihy and I could do to keep his passions reigned in.”
“You love Ihy, don’t you?Why didn’t you ever marry him?”Daru closed her eyes, “I’m sorry.That was not a very delicate question.”
“That’s all right.I wanted to marry him, but the law would not allow it.He is part Raewyn.If we went in for a license, that would come out.The Raewyn have never been accepted.‘They are untrustworthy.’ ‘They are a threat to our civilization.’‘They are freaks of nature.’I’m sure you are quite familiar with what people have to say about them.”
“Yes, but I’ve met many Raewyn in my travels with Pryor.I don’t know where those ideas come from.”
“We did have a service in the temple, Pryor presided.That was one of the happiest days of my life.It’s all over now, isn’t it?”
“I’m sure you’ve been through worse than this.”
“But never before has Ihy’s secret come out.Even if he survives this, he will have to fight to keep his position.”
“I’m sure Master Theron would never take action against his most popular friar.”
Maya sank down in her seat, “I’m not so sure about that.Master Theron has become erratic lately.More and more, he tries to speak ex cathedra.”
“But the Camarilla would never allow him to concentrate power in just one person!”Daru protested.
“They have allowed him to become politically active!”Maya’s eyes turned to steel.
“That is forbidden!”Daru straightened up.“The spiritual authority vested in the makers gives us too much influence.”
“I know, but he has been actively supporting ‘reform’ of the government of Adrakaya.He rallied support for the term limits act, and the right to popular referendum.”
“But, why is the Camarilla letting him get away with that?”
“They are afraid.Master Theron is powerful and popular.Just last week Ihy received notice that he was being considered to replace Master Betzalel.He was so excited.”
“He would have made a great addition to the Camarilla.What am I saying?He will make a great addition to the Camarilla.”
Maya lifted her head and smiled gratefully.“Thank you for trying to help me through this, but if Ihy doesn’t make it.If his light goes out, my world will become darker than I’ve ever known.Daru, if you ever find someone who completes you, who lights up the worlds around you don’t ever let them go.Hold onto them with every once of your being.”
The elevator doors swished open.Tara wandered out and looked around for a sign she was in the right place.Seeing Daru and Maya, her face went pale.Slowly, she walked up to them.
“I’m so sorry, Maya,” Tara’s voice trembled, “I am so sorry that this had to happen to you.”
“Thank you, but this didn’t happen to me.It happened to Ihy.It happened to that sweet, overly heroic man lying in a bed down the hall.”
“I’m sorry,” Tara stammered, “I didn't mean anything by it.Do they know who did this.”
“No, there are theories.The city police have gotten involved, but they don’t have a clue what our life is like.They think it was simple vandals.Like any mundane thief could have taken Ihy down!”
“Will he survive?”Tara’s voice cracked.
Daru looked at her carefully.She looked distracted.*She didn’t know Ihy very well, if at all,* she thought, *What is she so troubled by?*
“These doctors,” Maya answered, “They don’t have a clue what to do to help him.What makes this all worse, is that the To’asaa was stolen.Not only has someone killed Ihy, but they have tarnished his memory.He will not be remembered as a powerful orator, but as the man who lost the most holy relic of the Jade Moon.”
“You don’t know that!Ihy might pull through,” Daru said indignantly.
“And if the To’asaa is never found?”
“It will be.It has been lost before.”
“And dark times followed.”
“What’s to say that a new golden age is not at hand?”Tara asked.
“You poor girl,” Maya said, “There has never been a golden age and there never will be.Tien Shaa said, ‘beware those who come to you preaching the glories of a utopia, or the current state of dystopia.Neither has ever been realized, and none ever will.’The worlds have always teetered between order and chaos.Now the balance has shifted again.”
Ianus sat alone in his room, nervously fidgeting in his bed.*They have no right to keep me here,* he thought, *I’m fine.I should be out there trying to find those two attackers.*He huffed loudly, but there was no one there to hear him.
*I wonder how long they think they can keep me in this bed.I bet Maya put them up to this.She’s probably afraid I would do something foolish if I was allowed to run free.I’m not a child.I can take care of myself.*
“And Ihy couldn’t?”Tuun demanded coldly.
Ianus looked up.Pryor, Aashen, and Tuun were carrying in the things that Ianus had asked for them to bring him.
“Don’t look at me like that!”Tuun continued, “If you want to maintain your privacy you should learn to control your emotions.”
“I was hoping someone would hear me!”Ianus said defiantly.
“Then why were you so shocked that my brother overheard your thoughts?”Aashen stepped between Ianus and Tuun.“Calm down, both of you.This isn’t a contest, Ihy is like a father to us, and he is your father.Now relax!”
“I think we got everything you asked for,” Pryor changed the subject, “But it wasn’t easy.Your room is a mess.”
Everyone laughed, Pryor was extremely happy that the mood had lightened.
“How are you holding up in here?”Aashen asked.
“I’m not imprisoned here, am I?”Ianus chuckled, “All in all, pretty well.I’m getting stir crazy.You know how I feel about keeping still and quiet.”
“You are a lot like Aashen in that,” Tuun smiled... “I’m sorry.They won’t let me in on the investigation.”
“Not that it’s stopping you,” Aashen said, “Me either.I haven’t been able to find much.No one has a clue what’s going on.I think I might though.”
“Well?”Ianus asked, sitting up in the bed.
“I think it had to be an inside job.”
“A traitor in the Jade Moon?”Pryor asked.
“Yes.That is the only way they could have known the To’asaa was here, where it was being kept, and what night we would all be distracted.I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that this robbery took place on the night Master Barami was holding a conference in the temple, and Ianus was taking his initiation.”
Pryor and Aashen looked at each other.Tuun glanced back and forth between them.They each exchanged strange expressions.This confused Ianus.His eyes widened.
“That’s not fair you know,” He said, “I may not be a telepath, but I can tell what you’re doing.”
“I’m not a telepath either,” Pryor said.“So don’t feel left out.”
“Yeah, but both of them are, and they can read your thoughts.”
“Well, we needed to make sure we wanted to go through with this.”
“Ihy wouldn’t support this decision,” Tuun said.
“He didn’t,” Aashen responded, “We can’t know what he would do under these circumstances.”
“It’s three against one,” said Pryor, “Maya agrees with me.”
“She never understood Ihy’s reasons for keeping it from him.If she had her way, she would have told him years ago.”
“True, but we have to tell him now.I’m not going to continue to argue this.We have voted.Ianus, listen to me very carefully.When you were born, the Vaticinars came and, well, they pronounced a prophecy over you.They said, ‘The time of the old black dragon wanes, his slumber is at hand.The Red Dragon of the promise is born this day, while the green still sleeps in her maternal waters.Behold, the child of centuries past, born to preserve the future.This child will see without eyes, and will wander through the dark nights to come.We have sealed the words of this prophecy.No augur shall know it’s interpretation until we make it plain.’And then they just left.No one has seen them since.”
“I am the Red Dragon?”Ianus muttered, “In my first vision.I saw a Red Dragon, then a voice said it would kill Ihy.”
“But you weren’t the one who attacked Ihy!”Aashen said.
“But I didn’t stop the attack either.”
“This is all pointless speculation,” said Tuun, “The Vaticinars have sealed the words of the prophecy.There is no way you could interpret what they have sealed.”
“So we are all bound by prophecy?”Ianus voice trailed off.
“Everything is connected.”Pryor explained, “Augurs only read the patterns they can see.So many things influence us all that we are unaware of.They move us forward along the path that we were born to.”
“Born to?”Ianus said sarcastically.“Ihy gave me this speech before, but if everything is so interconnected, do we really have any choices?”
“Every action we take is a choice,” Tuun answered, “Don’t ever forget that.”
Pryor handed Ianus a book.“The Psalter of the Mne Seraphin,” he said, “Many believe the interpretation of the prophecy is in there.”
“What are we going to do about Ihy?”Ianus asked, “We can’t just let him die.”
“He survived this once, when he was born, he’ll survive it again.”
Faroh danced around his room, grabbing his clothes out of the dresser, and throwing them into his bags.He hummed a jovial tune.The lights in the room dimmed.
Panthera’s shadowy form slid in through the open balcony door.“You are right to rejoice.You have done very well,” he said.
“Tara did lack the courage of her convictions, but I did as you asked.It was easier than I thought.I would have finished Ianus and that woman off as well, if that infernal Akeru hadn’t screamed so loud.”
“I was not aware that Ihy had died.”
Faroh stopped packing, “Don’t worry, he will.I’m told the doctors do not have a clue how to save him.He will be dead soon.”
“And if he should recover?”
“Then I will have to finish the job, won’t I?I didn’t think it would be a good idea to attack him on a ship swarming with Jade Moon Makers.”
“Did I say anything about doing that?What has gotten into you lately?Your voice is becoming distant in the song.”
Faroh turned his back to Panthera
“Don’t think you can lie to me!”Panthera roared, “I can see through you.The Machine judges the world.Surely it shall judge rightly.”
Faroh fell on the ground, clenching his teeth to keep from screaming.A cold, acidic pain leeched the thoughts from his mind.The room went black; he could not see.It felt like something was crawling up his spine, sinking at least one-inch long talons into his flesh.Chills racked his body.He dug his own fingernails into the palms of his hand to keep himself focused.
The pain faded into a dull ache.His vision returned.
“You have been judged and found wanting.Blessed be the One who judges rightly.”
Faroh struggled to his feet, “I have done nothing wrong!”
“You have been judged.Do you dare to question the One who sees all?”
“I do not question the song or the machine.”
“But you question me?”
“No, my Lord, I do not question you.”
Panthera laughed, “Do not lie to me!You have been tempted, but by who?No.You don’t honestly believe that you have met Hlachar Cythraul, do you?”
“I met a man who said that was his name.”
“Cythraul has been dead for over four thousand years.”
“The man I met was a Raewyn.”
“Even so, no Raewyn could live that long.Someone is trying to deceive you.”
“Maybe you’re right, but if it is Cythraul, shouldn’t I find out for sure?”
“But you are letting him have undue sway over you.He even has you questioning me.”
“I do not question you.I know where my allegiances are.They are to the song alone.I respect any who share my loyalties.”
“I see now, you wonder if I am as loyal as you are.”
“Obedience is required.”
“And you will enforce that obedience?”
“If I must!”
Panthera reached out a thin, gloved hand, and placed it on Faroh’s shoulder, “Good.I am pleased to hear it.Soon, Ihy Khem will be dead, and with him all opposition to me will be removed.I will be able to return to public life.”
“But what about this Akeru?”
“He could be a problem.Take him out.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?”
“Watch him. He has to leave that ship sometime, and when he does, kill him.”
“It will be done.”
Aashen walked around the bridge of the Valkyrie, overseeing Mista and Sangrida.
“You are aware that we were born to this vessel?”Sangrida asked.
Aashen was hovering behind her, “I know but I have to do something.Ihy wanted this ship space worthy as soon as possible.At least, when I am working on it I don’t have time to think about him.”
“Master Khem is a wise man,” said Mista, “He will have made plans to survive any crisis.”
Aashen walked over to Mista slowly.He was lost in thoughts.A faint hope rose into his mind.“Mista are you saying that Ihy told you this was coming?”
Mista looked up from her station, “Master Khem could see storm clouds on the horizon.He would talk to us about concerns, and his hopes.”
“And?What did he say?”
“He said that he had done all that he could to weather the hurricane to come.”
“What did he do?You have to know what he was working on.”
“He did not tell us.”
Aashen squinted at her, “You mean to tell me that Ihy was down here working on some provisions to get through this tragedy, and you don’t have a clue what it was?”
“It is not my place to push myself into Master Khem’s business.”
“So how are these plans suppose to help him if no one knows them?”
“He did say that everything was set into motion.”
“O!Get back to work,” Aashen commanded, pointing at the console she was working on.
Mista shrugged her shoulders.
“We do what we are told,” said Sangrida, “I think you should know that Shipmaster Fallon and two others I do not recognize have just boarded.They are approaching the bridge.”
The door slid open.Tuun, a very large woman, and a man wearing a burgundy liripipe coiled and wrapped around his neck.
With a flourish and an over exaggerated salute, he bowed in call, “Hail and salutations to the newly crowned Shipmaster of the republic fleet!”
Aashen and the two strangers laughed.
Tuun scowled at the lot of them, “You think that’s funny?I have just succeeded in the trials to get my license and entrance into the Helmsman guild.”
Aashen noticed a metallic glimmer in Tuun’s eyes, “They gave you more implants?How much flesh is left on those old bones?”
“They are mandatory.A helmsman must be able to fully integrate his thoughts into the system.You have your implants, all makers do.I don’t see why you can’t share in my joy.”
“I was trying to.I thought it was funny.”
“You never take anything seriously.Every time I get a smile on my face, something happens to take it away.”
“I’m sorry.I really didn’t mean to upset you.I’m proud of you, you know.You are trying to realize your dream.I don’t know that I even have one.”
“How can you be so strong?”Tuun asked.“With Master Khem laid up in the hospital, and our very future in jeopardy, how can you be so upbeat?”
“I have to be.If I just sat down and thought about everything that has been happening, it would probably destroy me,” a tear ran down Aashen’s face, “But as long as I am working for their future, there is hope.”
“Hope.It has been a long time since I let myself believe in anything.I doubt myself daily.You are right,” Tuun forced a laugh, “Ihy needs our help, not our sorrow.”
Tuun shook as he suddenly remembered that they were not alone.“I brought these two to help us.This is Khensu Min.”
The dark tan man in the burgundy liripipe, bowed his head and smiled.
“And this is Sakkara Corazon.”
The large woman bowed her head, her wild, curly hair fell off her back and covered her face.Her dark, cinereous skin captivated Aashen.
“Sakkara is pleased to meet Master Fallon,” she said smiling, “Master Fallon thinks Sakkara looks strange?Sakkara am Kahraman.Very few of us have become Makers, but Sakkarais strong.”
“She is seeking a master to finish her training,” Tuun said, “and Khensu is an oblate.He serves in the local magistrate’s office in Shiloh.”
Aashen nodded to show that he was paying attention, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Sakkara. She must have been at least seven feet tall.Her massive arms hung down by the side of her round body.
“Aashen,” Tuun called, “I have another piece of good news.”
Reluctantly, he looked away from the Kahraman, and did his best to look interested.
“The Guild pulled some strings, and marshaled a change in the status for this ship.We are now classified as a Sovereign Republic Vessel.”
“Under interstellar law, the Valkyrie is now considered a sovereign state.It generally takes years to secure the upgrade.We are now standing on foreign soil.In other words, in the eyes of the law we must be extended diplomatic courtesy, whenever we travel.”
“Simplify that for me.”
“This ship is now a legally recognized province of Al-Benu, and an official envoy of the Jade Moon.”
“Master Khem sought this honor before he was attacked.”Sangrida said.
Silence filled the room.Tuun walked up to a console near Mista.He pulled a gold card out of his pocket and inserted it into the console.
“Verify, Shipmaster Tuun Fallon Ken-Leor.”The computer beeped, “In honor of Master Ihy Khem, I confer authorization to the SRV Valkyrie, as of this date.”
Ianus sat alone in his hospital room.He could hear the doctors roaming up and down the hall.He was upset that they wouldn’t let him leave his bed.“You still have dangerous levels of toxin in your blood.Just rest and you will get out soon,” they kept telling him.
*How am I supposed to rest in a strange bed, with my father dying in the next room?*He thought.
Picking up his prescience book again, he thumbed through the pages.He knew the answer had to be in there somewhere, but more than half of the pages were still encrypted in some strange script.
A sudden pressure hit him between his eyes.His vision blurred.
“Not now!”Ianus said, trying to hold the vision at bay.
Silver mist flooded the room.Ianus felt as though his entire body began to vibrate.Shifting violently from hot to cold, his skin tingled and twitched.His stomach felt as if thousands of leaden worms wriggled within.
Darkness intertwined itself throughout the silver haze.Dazzling lights flashed on either side of him.
“Stop, go away,” Ianus screamed, “I don’t have time for this.”
The fog lifted, and Ianus looked upon himself lying motionless on the hard ground.
“Burn him!”A hissing voice cried out behind him.
“He is of no use anymore, let him pass,” said another voice.
“Yes, yes, better dead than a failure,” said the hissing voice.
The scene went black.Strange glyphs burned into Ianus mind.
“Let me out!”He screamed.
“Ianus?What’s the matter?”Daru’s voice broke through the darkness.
Pain, like a knife, thrusted through his right shoulder.The vision shattered, and faded from sight.Daru’s hand rested gently on his right shoulder.
“What’s going on?”Daru asked.
“I had another vision.Another vision I could not contest.Strange signs and voices.I have to learn how to quiet my mind.”
“You will be all right.Every thing’s going to be all right.”
“I hope so.”
“I do have some good news.Aashen and Tuun almost have the Valkyrie ready for service.”
Ianus struggled to smile convincingly, “So Tuun is a Helmsman now.”
“Yeah, he is so happy.I’ve never seen him so light on his feet.He has wanted to be a Helmsman for so long.”
“It’s good that someone’s dreams are coming true.”Ianus opened his mouth to say something, but closed it quickly.
“What is it?Is it your vision?”
“In a way.Last night I had a dream.Threads wove themselves together, but they weren’t ordinary fibers.They seemed to be made of thoughts, words, and some were like strips of film showing peoples actions.”Again Ianus fell silent.
“Did you see the future?”
“Please tell me.You can’t leave the story like that.”
“Several of the threads have been cut.They will not lead to anything.The problem is, I don’t know what paths continue and which ones have ended.”
“Don’t let that bother you.No one really knows the future.Just rest.The doctors say you will probably be able to go home tomorrow.But if you don’t relax, that won’t happen.”
Ianus looked hard at her, his eyes full of scorn.
“Go ahead.Get mad at me if that will make you feel better, but all I can do is help you, and tell you what the doctors tell me.”
Daru stood up, smiling at Ianus.She left the room.
Ianus shook his head, and noticed his prescience book out of the corner of his eyes.Picking it up, he thumbed through the pages again.
*These glyphs,* Ianus thought, *They look like the one that appeared in my vision.*
Out of curiosity, Ianus turned to the front page and scrawled the strange glyphs he had seen to the best of his ability.
The encryption suddenly vanished.He could read the book in its entirety now.Thumbing through the pages he looked for any mention of Ihy’s birth.
There it was:“His mother, fearing him beyond hope, consigned the dying child to the care of the Camenae Maker, Selwyn Avrum.After seven days of desperate effort, the child’s life was saved.”
Looking up from the book, “We have to find this Selwyn Avrum.”