In The Name Of The Mother
City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia
Bran snored. Cille had been amused by that, and
had somehow never gotten around to telling him about it. She knew
he'd never believe it. She'd wondered if she'd ever get used to it.
Eventually, she had, and had come to think of it as comforting, in some
undoubtedly bizarre way. Not tonight, though. Tonight it was
simply keeping her awake.
Cille knew she was just being picky. She would
not be able to sleep in stillness anyway. She'd probably feel even
worse than she did right now, staring at a blank wood wall, resting her
cheek on her pillow, wondering how long she'd be allowed to live here.
Or live at all.
She was, after all, by mutual consent, a traitor.
Thor had intended to keep the discussion between
him and Bran quiet and between the two of them alone, but that hadn't lasted
long. Bran's vehement denials of the hunter's accusations had snapped
"You're wrong," Bran was yelling. "She isn't
"What are they saying?" she asked, looking over
at Kara. She had never quite been able to bring herself to become
friends with the Advisor. It wasn't because of Bran. At least
not exactly. She knew he still had feelings for her. This marriage
was not entirely one of love, and she'd known when she asked him that the
beginning, at least, would be difficult. But when he had married
her, she had stopped seeing Kara as a rival. Now she was...
Whatever. She was always polite to her.
Kara looked grim. "I think you'd better listen
Cille did, and stood up in alarm.
Bran looked at her, furious. "Cille, don't
listen to this. Thor's spouting nonsense."
"Look, Bran," Thor said. "If you want to involve
her, fine. Don't think you can just ignore this."
"Ignore what?" she demanded. "If you think
I'm a traitor, just say it!"
"All right." He faced her squarely.
"I think you're a traitor. I think you've been reporting back to
Lune from the beginning. I think you're the one who sold us out.
Maybe you did it for your people. Maybe you did it for thirty meseta.
Maybe you did it because you're Lune's woman. I don't care.
I just think you're the one. Now deal with it." He folded his
arms and stared at her defiantly.
She didn't know what to say. She sputtered.
"Don't worry, Cille. I don't believe it.
It's just Thor."
"Prove me wrong," Thor said. "If she's not
the traitor, fine. I apologize. But let's hear it from her."
"I'm not the traitor!" she said. Bran stepped
over to her, put an arm around her. "I know you're not," he said
firmly. "I trust you."
Kara rose, slowly. "Bran... I think
we need to hear this thing out."
Bran lost a little of his anger, but he still shook
his head. "Cille can't be the traitor."
Thor repeated his arguments for the women.
"What it comes down to is that she's the newcomer. She joined us
after war broke out, from a place that is currently in Layan hands.
She could easily have reported our plans to Lune."
Cille drew herself up. "I would never do anything
like that. I am an Orakian now."
"I'm sorry," Thor said, "but I don't believe you."
"What about the attack on Landen while Bran and
Orakio were away?" Kara said. "Cille hadn't joined us yet."
"No, but Bran and Orakio had just been to see her.
And she helped Lune to escape from Orakio. We might have won before
we'd begun if it hadn't been for her. Lune could have doubled back
after they'd left, and Cille could have filled him in on the news.
She knew they'd be pressing on."
Kara sank back into her chair, a thoughtful look
on her face.
"It's true," Bran started to say.
"How can you say that?" Cille said, a horrified
look on her face. "How could you even think that about me?"
"No, no," Bran said hastily. "That's not what
I meant. I just meant it's true you helped him escape."
"So you do think I'm a Layan spy."
"I told you I don't believe it. It's true
you helped him escape, but I talked to you after that. You explained
to me that you helped him because you didn't want to get involved in anything.
You wanted to protect your people, just like I do. You wouldn't betray
"Unless that was the only way to protect them,"
Thor said, shrugging. "It's the most charitable explanation of treason.
Lune could be holding the Divisians hostage for her good behavior."
"Nobody's going to prove it one way or the other,"
Kara said. "Thor's got a suspicion. Cille denies it.
So does Bran. That's all."
"Then I'd say," Cille said, "Suspicion overruled.
Two against one."
"I don't know," Kara said. "Maybe Thor's right."
"So what do you suggest," Bran said, flatly.
"What does Thor think?"
"I admit, I can't prove anything. Neither
can she. But it wouldn't hurt anything if we kept her out of our
discussions. And that means no telling her anything later, Bran.
If she is a traitor, she won't have anything to tell Lune. And if
she isn't, then no real harm done."
"No harm done?" Cille said incredulously.
"I can't believe any of this."
"Cille, look. We need to hold these alliances
together. If this is what it takes to keep us functioning, then we
may have to do it."
She slapped him.
Bran rubbed his cheek. "I don't believe you're
a traitor, Cille. I don't. But maybe we should think about
this. If you were willing to step down off our council, well, that
would be a sign of good faith, don't you?"
"You're just going to count me out. On his
word. Or is it hers?"
He frowned. "That was uncalled for."
"Go to her, then! Just forget about me.
I'm only the backstabber, after all. Maybe I should become a Layan!"
Maybe I should become a Layan. She
hated herself for saying that, right to his face. He deserved better
than that. She was the one who had overreacted, not him. But
she couldn't afford to step off the council. Her people were depending
She sighed, softly. Bran wasn't going to wake
up. Sound sleeping wasn't the half of it. And she wasn't going
to get much sleep either. So maybe the best thing to do would just
be to go and see Alec.
Had she gone across the street to a dimly lit building,
she might have seen Orakio, wandering around in the large room, seemingly
aimlessly. Bran would have known something was wrong. Orakio
never did anything without a purpose. But the few healers who drifted
around the room didn't realize that he was on a mission. To them
he was Lord Orakio, one who was not to be questioned. And anyway,
they were doing the same thing themselves, drifting slowly around the room,
mumbling a few kind words to those who lay on the tables and cots.
Thanks to the Palmans' "technqiues," their unique
ability to tap an energy Orakio still had not been able to understand and
use it to create astounding and almost magical effects, and the simple
fact that the crises of old had made the descendants of the survivors tough
and quick to heal, few injuries were life threatening. Even in a
world struggling to survive without Mother Brain's super technology, most
Palmans died of old age, shortened, perhaps, by a lifetime of toil.
At least, that had been the case until the war came.
The Orakio-Laya War, as it was already beginning
to be called, changed everything in many ways. Not the least of which
was that healers, who once performed their specialty as a casual service,
saving lives without much thought, were now required to stand by over the
critically injured, the dying, in rooms like this one.
Here were laid out to die those who had been fatally
wounded in the battle against Lune at Rysel. For one reason or another,
techniques and stamina were simply not enough to hold the body together
and to allow it to mend. But they had been brought home by grieving
friends, given into the care of the healers. Hopelessly. The
healers did what they could, but it was not enough. And so they drifted,
trying to give some kind of aid in these unfortunates' last hours.
It was a grim duty, and an unappreciated one.
Those gave their lives for the cause, at least,
the Orakian cause, whose ranks were made up of willing volunteers rather
than dedicated fanatics, grew bitter towards the end. The healers
who watched Orakio's progress wondered if the android appreciated that
some of that hatred was directed at him. Not always did the fading
soldiers blame the Layans for their deaths.
Possibly Orakio did know, but, quite naturally,
even if he did he wouldn't have cared. Not only did he not possess
any emotions to allow him to care, but from a coldly logical standpoint,
what did it matter what the dying and the dead thought? His concern
was the living, and their preservation from Laya's unprovoked attacks.
The big android stopped before a bed. A man,
obviously suffering, lay on top of the sheets, groaning. Most of
his body was wrapped in bandages.
"Your name?" Orakio inquired.
The man hissed, painfully opened his eyes.
When he managed to focus enough to make out his shape, or when the knowledge
finally penetrated his aching brain, he gasped. "Lord...Orakio..."
he said faintly. "I...can...not rise."
"Your name?" Orakio asked again.
"Kale," the man said.
"Kale. The Layans did this to you, correct?"
"Yes...they attacked...we weren't ready...No...honor."
No, Orakio thought. No honor at all in attacking
a defenseless planet for no reason. He spoke again. "Would
you fight the Layans again?"
Kale tried to chuckle, but it ended in a racking
cough. "Yes...but...I don't think...I'd do...any good."
"I can save your life," Orakio said. "If you
are willing to let me do it."
Kale stared, not understanding.
"I will make you a soldier, Kale. Like no
one else. You can fight the Layans again." He remembered his cultural
files. "You can take your revenge."
The man stared again, but not with confusion.
"Do you want revenge?" Orakio asked, wondering if
he'd misapplied his research. "Perhaps you do not."
"No!" Kale said, fighting to sit up. "I do.
"Shall I save your life?"
"You must give up certain things."
"Anything." Kale's eyes were burning brightly.
Orakio wondered if the man had contracted a fever. With those injuries,
it was certainly possible.
"You will be my soldier forever. Are you still
"Yes. Forever. Anything. Please."
Orakio nodded. "Very well." Without
speaking, he summoned help to lift the man out of bed, and bear him away
to Nurvus. It was always better to have a volunteer, he thought.
Bran always wanted one whenever something that involved danger had to be
done, and now he couldn't argue later that this had been done against Kale's
Siren took Kale away. The man would never
return, Orakio mused. But the second champion would. Fitting,
then, that his brother should be with him from the beginning.
City of Divisia, Elysium Habitat, Planet Motavia
"So you return to us at last," Alec said. "You
are the Princess Cille, aren't you? I don't believe we've met, face
"I'm Cille," she said. "And no, we've never
formally met. But I know all about you. You're the mastermind
behind the Layan offensive."
Alec frowned. "I'm sorry, I don't remember
seeing you in the assault on Divisia. You were distressingly absent
when we finally gained entry to the palace. Did I miss your panicked
flight? I did have a lot on my mind. How would you know it
was me? I'd barely even heard of you."
"At Rysel," Cille said, clenching her fists.
"Lune mentioned you."
"Naturally," Alec said, grimacing. "He hates
me, you know. He thought his near victory would impress me.
"Is there anyone who doesn't hate you?" Cille asked.
"Bran did, too, that's how I know who you are. You tried to kill
Alec shrugged. "That's true enough.
But I doubt that Bran hates me. He's not the type. And I'm
sure he thinks I died out in the 'wilderness' anyway. As if anybody
could die in this formal garden we live in. And anyway, you don't
hate me. If I'm not mistaken, you're here to ask me for a favor."
Cille sagged a little. "Yes. I might
have known you'd know."
"My dear, I was expecting you quite some time ago.
But then when I found what you'd done..." His voice, smug and self-assured,
suddenly changed. It became pensive, almost sad. "I hoped you
"Then you don't intend to help me? I gave
myself into your hands for nothing?"
Alec looked up, his voice full of contempt and arrogance
again. "Of course not. You know I'll help you, for a price."
"You'll free my people? If I become a Layan?"
"I cannot free them. Free, they would become
Orakians. That's not quite my plan at the moment. But I can
promise you that they will not be hurt. I have the power to see to
that. Not from me, not from Lune, not from the Sages."
"You met them at Rysel, I do believe. They're
here to lend us some assistance in our fight."
"To destroy Orakio."
"Actually, we say to free the Palm people from Orakio's
grip." His looked at her with suddenly intense eyes. "Orakio
will die. You have to swear to it."
Cille tried to act nonchalant. "Orakio doesn't
mean anything to me. I'll swear it."
"And Bran doesn't mean anything to you either?"
Alec leaned forward. "You can't go back, you know. They won't
let you. You're a traitor, and if you're thinking about double-crossing
me and going back to them you can forget it. Nobody over there would
accept you back. Not even him."
She tightened her fists, feeling her nails bite
into her skin. "No, of course not. He doesn't mean anything
"So the only thing that means anything to you are
"If they are not Layans," she quoted bitterly, "then
they are corpses."
Alec laughed shortly. "A little hack, but
not bad. Yours?"
"Should have guessed."
"It was the moons that convinced me. He wield
that much power. I have to do everything I can to protect my people
"The moons..." Alec reflected. "Azura and
Dahlia. They frighten me, too. I can understand your feelings."
"You don't understand me at all," Cille flung back.
"I hate you and Lune and all the Layans. But I'll do what you want
if you'll hold up your end of the bargain. The Orakians never did
anything for me either."
Alec shook his head. "You are so close to
understanding it all. But I doubt you ever will."
"What?" She looked confused.
"It doesn't matter. I can see it's too late
for you. You'll never see anything but black and white, will you.
Well then, so be it," Alec said, sitting back. "You'll help us, and
I'll save your people from the war." He didn't look as elated as
Cille had somehow thought he would.
"I'll become a Layan."
"Oh no," Alec said softly. "There's more to
it than that. You know there is."
"Yes," she whispered.
"You are in a unique position. You can help
us right now."
"You want me to..."
"If he doesn't mean anything to you, you shouldn't
have any problem."
"I don't think I could do it," Cille said.
It wasn't really a protest. Just a last, faint hope.
"You can do it. And you will." He raised
his voice slightly. "Gart! Get out here." Nothing happened.
"I know you're here somewhere. You're spying on me. Now make
yourself useful, for once. If you can tear yourself away from your
A shadow on the wall detached itself, melted away
from the form of a tall man in blue. "You require assistance," Gart
said, not deigning to explain himself in any way, neither denying nor confirming
"Yes. I want you to teach Cille some magic.
I believe you said these kind of spells were not difficult?"
Gart nodded. "It can be done quite easily.
Allow me." He reached out for her. Cille shied away, suddenly
afraid of one of these strangers, these Sages, touching her. But
he moved with surprising speed and seized her arm with one hand, lifting
his other to her forehead.
"The word of power," he breathed. "Nei."
Cille's eyes opened wide, and she stopped struggling.
Knowledge exploded into her mind. "No!" she said. "No, no!"
She went limp, and Gart caught her. He eased her down to the floor.
"Do you think she'll do it?" Alec asked.
"I think so." the Sage replied.
"And she'll be able to? I mean, the spell
will be powerful enough?"
"Of course. She knows the word."
Alec considered. Lune, in a rare fit of cooperation,
had told him about the magic of the Sages.
Many people have already discovered that the power
of magic is in emotions. Magic, a force that comes from within rather
than from without, can be shaped and empowered by feelings. Two of
the most powerful feelings are love, and anger.
And for a Palman, no one word could summon up both
of those feelings like that one simple word. Nei. Rolf's lost
love, the child of Mother Brain. The half-woman, half-monster.
Rolf had loved her and she had died in his arms after killing her own sister
to save Rolf from a fight he could not win, and for her sake he had fought
Mother Brain and freed Algol from its darkest peril. The living machine's
mistakes had killed her, and Rolf was determined to make her pay for that.
Love, and a righteous anger.
And for any Palman who had ever heard the story
of Rolf, that one word brought back that tragedy, and with it, powerful
feelings. Although Lune hadn't said anything to him, Alec already
suspected that the legendary Neisword might well have been any Laconian
sword. What made the difference was Rolf's feelings for Nei, brought
to the surface every time he swung the blade that Lutz had given her name.
Love, and a righteous anger.
Alec only wondered if she could bring herself to
He needn't have worried.
She went back to Landen, blankly, like someone sleepwalking.
She walked across the plains underneath the new moons. She looked
down on him, sleeping, like she'd never seen him before. She placed
her hand on his chest, feeling the steady beating of his heart. And
she called on the new power Gart had given her. Dark clouds seemed
to swim across her vision, and she could see with something more than ordinary
sight lines of blue fire tracing a design across his body. "Diem,"
she whispered, hoping the tears falling on him would not wake him before
the job was done.
She needn't have worried, either.
Her hand still pressed against him, it was easy
for her to feel his heartbeat slow down.
But it wasn't until after she had fled the room
that it stopped entirely.