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In The Name Of The Mother

Part Eight


City of Divisia, Elysium Habitat, Planet Motavia

Cille had been expecting one of the Dezo people, of course.  Lune shattered her expectations, although she had to admit if he wasn't tall, skinny, and a liar he was at least slightly green.  She was fascinated by his almost glowing green hair, so much longer than any of her subjects.  It fell all the way just past his rather broad, powerful shoulders.  Not that Cille was concerned at all with his appearance.  She would go so far as to admit that whoever had selected him as a messenger had made an extremely good choice, that was all.

He wasn't from Mota.  Cille didn't have any problem at all in believing that.  He seemed out of place in the world.  A lot of people were intimidated by the spacious meeting room, but no one in her experience had felt compelled to stare at the walls and respond, when asked why, that wood was fascinating.

With a little effort, she wrenched her mind back to the actual message, which she had yet to hear.  So far the meeting had consisted of a brief introduction and some abortive attempts to put Lune at his ease.  She had offered Lune some precious wine, a leftover from the days of Mother Brain, whom legend said had invented it.  Certainly no one on Mota knew how to make it.  But despite its story, the wine had been received with extreme suspiciousness, and after one or two sips the stranger had grimaced and set the goblet aside.  Small talk was apparently unknown on Dezo, and the only topic Cille could come up with that Lune might understand was the weather, and a brief consideration had caused her to realize that the man probably didn't consider it 'nippy.'  So, that left only business.  A pity.  But she'd still have some opportunities to keep him around a little longer.  More, depending on what he wanted.

Lune himself was a little nervous.  A personal meeting with a leader was absolutely nothing like a panicky address to a mob.  He was missing Alair.  She was always calm and confident, and she'd know how to respond civilly to the princess.  Why had he ever sent her off?  He needed her here.  He wasn't at all sure he was responding correctly.  If he offended the ruler of this city, the mission would be in jeopardy.  This was a quiet fact-finding mission, and the last thing he wanted to do was to cause trouble.  That was, of course, the reason both of them had been sent.  He saw that now.  No more splitting up, he vowed, but that was a little too late to help him now.

"Lune." said Cille

"Princess."

That settled that, she guessed.

"I believe you have a message for me?"

"Of course.  Would you like me to play it for you?"  Whew.  He was beginning to wonder if she'd ever ask him about the message.

Lune brought out the projector.  Laya's image formed in the air above the table.  The message was identical to the Aerone one, with the simple exception of replacing Aerone with Divisia.  Cille's reaction was much more subdued, however.

"Amazing!  What is that device?"

"It is a holographic projector.  It plays recordings like the one you saw."

"And who is this woman, this Laya?"

"Laya controls Dezo.  She sees to it that the systems continue to run, and manages Dezo to keep it stable."

"Stable?  I don't really follow you."

"Well, Dezo is a world of ice.  One of the systems of Dezo is Climatrol.  This system prevents the blizzards that should sweep the planet.  It allows the Dezo people to live on the surface instead of just underground.  It allows more biological life to survive than otherwise would.  But Dezo needs occasional storms to replenish the level of snow.  A careful balance must be maintained."

"Why replenish the snow?  Why not let it melt?"

"Laya's orders are to maintain present conditions."

"Who gives Laya orders?"

"The Mother."

"Her mother?"

Lune frowned.  "I suppose so."

Cille sat back.  "And this Laya wants to know how we feel about the cliffs, or walls, around our lands."

"That's right.  She believes that Orakio has made a mistake.  We were sent to help him see that."

"That sounds serious," said Cille, frowning.  "You plan to attack him?"

Lune recoiled.  "No, no.  We just want to present him with a petition.  The people of Aerone have already joined the movement.  Now we ask that Divisia join us, if they feel unhappy with the state of the world."

"I don't like this talk of joining, and movements," Cille said, drumming her fingers on the tabletop.  "Divisia rules itself.  And I think we like things the way they are.  Enough, at least, that we don't see the need to form armies and go knocking on people's doors demanding change.  Who exactly is this Orakio, again?"

"He controls Mota's systems like Laya controls Dezo's."

Cille drummed her fingers again.  "Why would I want to antagonize him?  If he controls the weather, I'd be pretty stupid to make him angry, wouldn't I?"

"I don't understand."

"Isn't it obvious?" Cille laughed.  "If I make him angry, he could cover Divisia in ice, or burn it up, or flood it."

Lune shook his head.  "Orakio is artificial life.  He has none of the emotions we do.  And Orakio wouldn't harm your people.  He has a responsibility to their welfare.  He serves the greater good."

"What if the greater good required our deaths?" Cille said quietly.  "If we are seen as rebels, then I would say Orakio would be perfectly justified in attacking us."

Lune sat there, helplessly.  He was more confused than ever.  Raised by Orakio's counterpart, his experience told him that artificial life didn't make such fine distinctions.  Laya had always considered all biologics her responsibility, and never harmed any of them, any more than was necessary to maintain the balance.  Cille had a point, but Lune didn't really believe that Orakio would perceive unhappy people as a threat.  They were simply making their opinions known.  Maybe if they attacked the systems.  Laya had to kill Dezolisians sometimes, when they threatened those systems.  But that wouldn't happen.

"I don't think we can help you," Cille said.  "Not until we know a little more about what's going on.  But I'd like you to stay with us for a while.  Be my guest in the palace.  I'd like to hear more about Dezo.  We don't know very much about our sister world."

"I really should be moving on.  My mission..."

"Please.  At least one more day.  We would be very grateful."

"All right.  I can stay another day.  But then I have to be moving on."

"Of course.  I'm sorry I can't show you to your room myself, but I have some more business to attend to.  The man-at-arms there will escort you."

Lune and the guard at the door left.  Cille frowned.  The door at her end of the room opened quietly and her advisors entered, took their places at the table.

"Quite a story," one said.

"If you believe any of it," the princess replied.

"You think he's lying?"

"You say the people from Aerone consider Laya to be the God of Palm come back?  Lune never mentioned anything about that."

The advisors looked uncomfortable.  "What if she is, though?" another said.

"You think she is?"

"Nobody knows what the God of Palm looks like.  Even if we don't believe it, plenty of people will.  Lune may not have mentioned anything to you, but his followers have been talking to the townspeople.  They're trying to convert them."

Cille slammed her palm down on the table.  "I was afraid of that.  And there's nothing we can do about it.  If we isolate them, that's definitely going to bring trouble."

"Maybe you shouldn't have asked him to stay."

"I'd like to keep Lune where I can see him.  And we can learn a lot from him, even if he is stringing us along.  But if it means his people have a free hand...I don't know.  He's not telling the truth about something.  I can feel it.  Why else wouldn't he have explained the god business?  I think he's trying to persuade me that he doesn't mean any harm while his people stir things up.  But why?"

She pointed at the advisors.  "I think we'd better learn all we can about Lune and his mission.  If he's really traveling all over Mota, we'll be hearing about him from the other lands.  In fact I think it might be a good idea to get in touch with the council in Landen.  They're the closest big city.  And Lune's next stop, I believe.  One other thing.  The mother of a god is somebody significant, I'd say."

"Let's see what we can find out about Laya's mother."

City of Landen, Landen Habitat, Planet Motavia

   It was not, Bran grudgingly admitted, as elaborate as he had feared.  But the sight of all those people standing up in rows before the hastily constructed throne was intimidating.  These were the people he had considered his friends.  They were his family.  They were the people he had worked alongside all of his life.  Now, or in a few minutes, they would be his subjects.  He could give them orders and they would obey, not necessarily because they agreed with him, but simply because he had told them to.  (Privately, Bran had a sneaking suspicion he was being a little optimistic about that.  They could just as easily revolt.)

Escorted by the beautiful but lethal Mieus, Bran advanced down the aisle respectfully cleared for him, and knelt before Orakio.  Kara was in the front ranks of the crowd.  The throne itself was flanked by two Wrens.  Orakio held a circlet of silvery metal in his hands.  Unbelievably, it was made of Laconia.  Well, it was difficult for Bran to believe, but then again Orakio's systems reached down into the roots of the planet, and mining, for him was not a problem.  Not that this Laconia was likely to be freshly mined.  Most probably someone had handed it over.  It was difficult for anyone to refuse a gentle suggestion from "Lord" Orakio.

He felt a gentle pressure on his temples as Orakio placed the new crown of Landen on his head.  A subtle reminder, perhaps, of the pressures he was likely to be under from now on.  Have to stop reading so much into things, Bran thought.  He was starting to depress himself.

"I crown you Bran, King of Landen," Orakio said.  He turned to the crowd.

As one, the Wrens beside the throne shouted "Hail Bran, King of Landen!"

"Hail Bran, King of Landen!" the crowd thundered.

Bran rose, and seated himself on the throne.  On with the show.  "As my first act, I name my chief advisors.  Kara of Landen!"

Kara came up from the crowd and bowed, then took the place of the Wren on the left side of the throne.  The crowd broke into applause.  Kara had become something of a minor heroine herself.  Although in reality she hadn't done much besides agree with Orakio, the popular perception was that she had helped to defuse a dangerous situation.  With the cynicism that seemed to have developed in him with recent events, Bran considered that Orakio probably thought agreeing with him was an act worthy of reward anyway.

"And Lord Orakio of Mota!"

The biggest ovation of all.  Well, there it was.  Bran had been hoping the people of Landen would thank Orakio for his help and forget about him, but no such luck.  People really did think that Orakio and his troops had brought an end to the tension in Landen, and perhaps they had, but Bran still blamed Orakio in part for the murder attempt.  Amid the cheering and cries of "Hail Lord Orakio!" the systems controller stood quietly, accepting the accolades without response.

Bran declared the rest of the day a holiday, an idea Orakio had suggested from ancient information in his database.  It didn't mean a whole lot to a society built around farming and hunting.  Still, people seemed to appreciate it.  It was a justification to go to the tavern and toast the king's health, maybe.

The people filtered out of the throne room, a noisy crowd full of good spirits.  Orakio didn't say a word, but the Mieus and Wrens slipped out the back way.  "Where are they going?"  Bran asked.

"The Wrens must return to my command center.  I cannot afford to have them away from their duties for longer than necessary.  The Mieus will serve as your honor guard.  They will escort you back to your home when you are ready to leave."

"Is that necessary?"

Kara sighed.  "Of course it's necessary.  Alec would probably love to have you die on the way back from your coronation."

Orakio nodded.  "To assist you in your defense, I have procured for you a replacement weapon."  He reached behind the throne and brought out a sheathed sword.

Bran eagerly took it and bared a length of the blade.  "It's beautiful!  It's not Laconia, is it?"

"It is.  The metal is most symbolic for your people.  A Laconian sword is most appropriate for a king to wear."

Bran slashed the air a few times.  "Good balance.  I'm no fighter, but I can tell this is a master's sword.  Thanks, Orakio."

The robot inclined his head gravely.  "It was the best sword in storage.  No information on its history.  It has obviously seen a great deal of usage, but Laconia is remarkably strong and hard-wearing."

"Does it have a name?" Bran asked, sighting along the length of the blade.

"A name?"

Bran looked up in surprise at the tone of Orakio's voice.  He'd never heard the android less that totally certain of himself.  "Yes, a name.  In the stories, all the good swords have names.  Like Neisword."

"I am afraid I do not know this sword's name.  I will check my files."  There was a split second hesitation.  "No entry in my files.  The main files might contain more information, though.  I will check them when I have the time for it."

"It's no big deal.  I just wanted to know.  It would be interesting to have a name for the sword."

"The reference to it in the storage index is LCDN, if that is any help."

Bran frowned.  "Elsiddin?  Not terribly impressive.  Well, you can't have everything."

"It's a nice sword," Kara said dismissively.  "Shouldn't we get on with business?"

"Didn't you hear?" Bran said, grinning.  "I have declared it a holiday.  And my word is law.  There's no business today!"

Kara arched an eyebrow.  "Then we're missing the party.  Shall we get on with that?"

"Sounds good to me!"

"You will not have time to join the general festivities," Orakio said.  "Instead, you should be assembling a group to go to Aerone."

"Aerone?" said Kara, frowning.  "That's in the land to the southwest, right?  They've got a king, too.  Or something."

"You're thinking of Divisia.  And it's a princess, actually," said Bran.  "Princess Cille.  Never met her, but she's sent emissaries from time to time to the council.  She said she likes to keep in touch, but I think she was keeping an eye on us.  She strikes me as a pretty nosy person.  But you got the right land.  Aerone's just a clear spot in the woods, according to reports.  I don't think they even have a formal government.  Just a bunch of people."

Orakio folded his arms.  "Their numbers have increased now."

"What do you mean, lord?" Kara asked respectfully.

"A ship has come to Mota from Dezo.  My last communication from Dezo suggested that the planet is now somewhat hostile towards this one.  The ship and its contents must be detained so that their mission can be determined."

"A ship from Dezo?  That's incredible!  I know people who think Dezo is just a legend.  This will change their minds.  When did this ship come down?"

"Two days ago."

"Two days ago...that was the day your Wren contacted Bran.  I don't mean to pry, lord, but why didn't you investigate it at once?"

"It was necessary to gain help from your people.  If I were to advance on Aerone with an armed force, it could cause problems.  Now you can assure the townspeople that I mean them no harm.  It was a calculated risk.  Readings indicated only two lifeforms were present on the ship, and no artificial life.  I do not think they could have caused much harm in the time they have been on Mota.  I estimated that the delay would be more efficient in the long run."

Kara bowed.  "I am sure you were right."

"Nevertheless, the time is now right for us to go to Aerone."

"What are your orders?"

"Assemble a group of trustworthy people.  Former councilors would be a good idea.  Bran and I will depart with them as soon as they are ready."

"Do you plan to leave today, in spite of the holiday?"

"Yes."

"Then you should prepare to leave.  I can have your group together right away."  Kara paused.  "I noticed I wasn't mentioned."

"You must stay here.  Bran and I will both be away, and someone will need to lead the people in our absence.  It is a part of your duties to be that person."

"I understand, of course.  I wish I could come with you, though.  I've always wanted to meet a Dezo person."

"You would not gain much from the encounter.  Dezo people do not speak Palm language.  Additionally, I doubt that the ship transported Dezo people.  Their ideas about technology are rather illogical, and they would be totally out of their element on Mota.  No, the ship could not have contained Dezo people."

"Who, then?"

Who, indeed.  It was Orakio's best guess (meaning, of course, that probability analysis showed that this outcome was the most likely) that the ship had transported the genetic constructs Lune and Alair.  As Laya's primary assistants they were the logical choice.  Laya herself could not have gone, she would not have left her duties.  And besides, she would have shown up on the scan.  The problem was that the second best guess was the more problematic.

The second best guess was that the two representatives were Espers.  Espers, powerful in their art of magic and knowledgeable about the ways of Palmans.  They represented a much greater threat than Lune and Alair, who were simply imitation Palmans, genetically superior but innocent in the ways of the culture.  The only reason the odds were lower with Espers was their strong custom of neutrality and secrecy.  It was difficult to believe that Laya would have persuaded two to go on a mission for her to another world.

"I cannot answer that accurately until we have located the ship."

"Then I'll get your team together."  Kara hurried out of the room.

"That was nice," said Bran quietly.  "You didn't even need to wake me up."

Orakio looked down at the seated king.  "Your part in this has already been decided."

"So it would seem.  But once you have the ship and its passengers, you'll go back to wherever you've been, right?"

"There are certain things that need to be settled on the surface.  When everything is taken care of, I will return."

"So there's more to this than the ship?  What else are you planning to take care of while you're here?"  Bran straightened.  "What other towns are you going to turn upside down?"

"That depends," Orakio said, "on how things are in Aerone."