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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Twenty-Three


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 her awake.

"You're wrong," Bran was yelling.  "She isn't a Layan!"

"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 for yourself."

Cille did, and stood up in alarm.

"What?"

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.  "Me?"

"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 them."

"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 on her.

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.  With hope.

"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.  Please."

"Shall I save your life?"

"Yes.  Save."

"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 willing?"

"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 will.

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 to 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.  Hardly."

"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 him."

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 wouldn't come."

"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."

"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 to me."

"So the only thing that means anything to you are the Divisians."

"If they are not Layans," she quoted bitterly, "then they are corpses."

Alec laughed shortly.  "A little hack, but not bad.  Yours?"

"Lune's, actually."

"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 from him."

"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 overspell."

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 the accusation.

"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 do it.

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.

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