Jupiter spun lazily, hurtling through the void of space, with no conscience about the coming death of trillions hidden by the bulk of its sheer size. Being three hundred times larger than Earth, someone should have thought to look behind it. When they finally did (thanks to a question from an eighth-grade science class in Pillsbury, North Dakota), using the ancient satellite, Tyris IV (because it was the only one with the view they needed), they discovered the source of Jupiter’s recent changes.
The planet was brighter than it should be.
In the preceding six-months, Jupiter became twenty-three-percent brighter and developed a halo. Astronomers were baffled. But twelve middle-school kids reminded them that light gets refracted when passed through ice crystals around a massive body, and Jupiter has long been suspected of having a water-layer in its upper atmosphere. Maybe there was something brighter than Jupiter, behind Jupiter?
Those kids were right.
Tyris IV: the satellite designed to warn of incoming nuclear attacks centuries earlier, before the inhabitants of Earth realized how insignificant their disputes were, and set aside their differences, was in a unique position (orbitally speaking) to have a glimpse of space past Jupiter. It was just a sliver more, a slice of sky they hadn’t thought to look at, and the view was chilling.
The image they received was the head of a rogue comet, its tail streaming out behind brightening the sky, unseen or suspected, on a collision course with the third planet from the sun.
John Harlan shoved the door open. Luckily, there was no one on the other side. The door hit the stubby rubber-coated-metal stop embedded in the floor, and the glass rattled in the frame—it got everyone’s attention. He stalked through the metal detector and glanced at the security guards when it went off—the look on his face said, ‘not right now.’
They both nodded and waved him through. He didn’t need the shiny NASA badge clipped to his uniform pocket: they all knew who he was.
Kennedy Space Center should be full of tourists touching moon-rocks and fawning over space-shuttle displays, but not today. The streets had been similarly deserted on the drive here. Since 6:42 Eastern Standard Time, the only thing on people's minds was Karnasov’s Comet.
Professor Karnasov was undoubtedly basking in the glow of validation, whatever that was worth. He’d predicted this event, and his peers (the ones who claimed he was mad for thinking a planet-ending collision with a celestial body could sneak up on them) were appropriately subdued—by the fact that he was right—never mind that it was a prediction of the apocalypse.
Vacations ended abruptly, and everyone returned home to await the end of the world. Radio stations reported a worldwide panic, with people crowding grocery stores, fighting over the last case of bottled water, as if it might prolong their lives, somehow.
At the end of the main hall, he turned left, pushing the double-doors to the conference room open.
“It’s about time you got here, Commander.” Derrik Holden snapped.
“It’s been twenty-three minutes since you called me, Doctor. This is the fastest I’ve ever made it. The streets are deserted. It’s a little eerie.” John threw his hat on the table and pulled out a chair. “Calm down and concentrate on the problem. Is Houston online?”
Derrik punched a button on the remote, and the main video screen popped up, showing a depressed-looking General Whitaker shaking his head and yelling at someone off-camera.
“The other file. The red one! You know it’s going to be red, why would you pick the non-red file? They’re always red.”
An anonymous hand passed him the disputed crimson folder after a few seconds, and he began flipping through it.
“Uh, General…” John said.
Whitaker’s eyes snapped up. “Oh, I didn’t see the screen come on…” He tried to fake a smile, but it was superficial.
“Understandable, sir, I’m sure you have a million things going on.”
“No, just one, John. It’s a huge frozen chunk of rock, headed right toward us!” Spit flew from the corners of his mouth, and the vein on his head that everyone talked about bulged. “The damn thing missed Jupiter, but they said it would, so that’s no surprise. Where are you on the ARK project? I know this is short notice, but we have three-and-a-half months to get those ships ready…”
“We’ll be ready. How are they going to handle the lottery?”
“I haven’t talked to the President about it, yet, but he decided on something different. I’m sure it’s weighing on his mind; it is on mine.”
John nodded. “Yes, sir, I can only imagine. Six-hundred seats… how do you fill them?”
“There’s a plan. I don’t necessarily agree with it, because it doesn’t include me...”
“Please tell me it’s not the richest-and-smartest plan, from six months ago… I thought we killed that?”
“Yes, they dropped the richest part; I guess you really can’t take it with you.’ He chuckled to himself, and the grin seemed genuine. “Now, it’s just the smartest plan.”
“That’s better, I suppose… What’s the IQ cutoff, Gary?”
“One-seventy, which leaves me out, and they’re spreading it over multiple disciplines, so it’s balanced. These are the best and brightest in their fields, John: the top point-three percent.”
“I get to fly a bunch of brains to a different galaxy… sounds like a blast.”
“John, if you weren’t one of three qualified pilots, you wouldn’t be going either, and we could sit on the beach outside my cabana and drink a beer as the world explodes.”
Alisha snapped awake, sitting up in the dark, wondering where she was. It was another of the dreams from her childhood: one with the soldiers. She hadn’t thought about them in years. But, Sa’riya said the other one, the one with Zaril, was a vision, not a dream.
Maybe this one is too…
She concentrated, focusing her thoughts.
“Jerain, are you there?”
Jerain waved her hand over the candles lined up across the windowsill. The wicks sparkled and caught fire, casting a flickering glow around the bedroom.
Alisha looked around, remembering where she was.
That’s right. We’re at Dalancy castle.
“Well,” Jerain said, a bit impatiently, “here I am, aren’t you going to say hello?”
Alisha shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m not completely awake yet. Hello, Jerain…”
Jerain walked to the bed. She sat next to her upon the soft down mattress Alisha slept on for so many years. This was her room, in her adoptive parent's castle. She’d grown up here, and the memories flooded her mind.
The Dalancy’s brought her home from the orphanage when she was fifteen. She was too old: even the social workers said she’d never be adopted, but the Dalancy’s had taken her, anyway, and they’d loved her as their own—and they’d given her two sisters: Becca and Carril—the best sisters in the world, although it didn’t start that way… but that’s another story.
“Still here…” Jerain raised her eyebrows.
Alisha laughed. “I’m sorry, Jerain, I was just reminiscing.”
“About your sisters, and all of your adventures here...” Jerain smiled and nodded.
“I want to take them with me… Becca, Carril, and Dalo. You said I could take anyone I wanted.”
“Yes, I did. I also said you should expand your possibilities. Take more people, with different skills; you never know what you might run into…”
“No, the four of us can handle it.”
“If that’s what you want.” Jerain looked at her, pride swelling her face. “I think you’ll be fine.”
Alisha squeezed her hands. “You said something about three clues…”
“And you just got the first one.” Jerain smiled.
“You mean, that dream?
“Dream, vision, call it what you want. You first had that dream when you were young, do you remember now?”
“Yes, there were several of them, but they were strange, like watching an old science-fiction holo-vid.”
“They were visions of the past, Alisha. Visions of your history, your ancestors. Few people remember how humans came to be on Erador. But you know, you simply have to remember. Your power, the change that you went through when you absorbed the multiverse made you immortal, but it also broke a block in your mind created by The Forgetting—you’re no longer affected by it. What you experienced was genetic memory.”
“What memory?” Alisha looked confused.
“A memory of where you’re from, and not just you—everyone.”
“I get the feeling, you know. Why not just tell me and end the torture?”
Jerain laughed. “If I was omniscient, yes, I might know. But I already told you, this multiverse wasn’t created by one super-powerful being. There are a lot of us, all doing our share, in different parts of the galaxy. But you can remember where your people came from. The memory is there.”
Alisha swung her legs off the bed and walked to the wide doors leading to the balcony. Shelves of dusty leather-bound books lined the walls, staring down upon the scene in quiet dismay, or superb disdain, depending on their titles.
She pushed the doors open. The mountain wind hit her in the face, strengthening her resolve. It woke her up, erasing all tinges of fear and uncertainty. “We’re all from Erador.”
Jerain’s swell of pride bloomed, and she was suddenly standing next to Alisha on the balcony. “When I said that was your first clue, I meant it.”
“Seriously, Jerain, why can’t you just tell me where the Triscale is?”
“Because it wouldn’t respect your authority.”
“You mean, I have to show it who’s boss?” Alisha asked.
“In a manner of speaking.”
“But you control it, don’t you?”
“Yes, and that brings me to a point I forgot to mention.”
Jerain turned and walked away. She leaned on the balcony wall, staring at the forest and the mountains beyond, the wind blowing her hair back. “You need my mark, to control the token, but it has to be your choice.”
“Your mark…” Alisha stared at her, “What does that mean?
“It means you can control the Triscale. It’s impossible without it.”
“But I used the other Tokens when I was young, and I never needed a mark,” Alisha said.
“You used them. You didn’t control them, and that’s what you have to do with the Triscale. I usually require the bearer to devote a significant portion of their life to my service, but for you, I’ll make an exception.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because our goals happen to be aligned.”
“You want the Prophet dead?” Alisha asked, her eyebrows rising.
“I want order restored. If that requires the end of someone, then that’s the natural way of things. I think very long-term, Alisha, and you can’t grasp what I know, so be happy with what I give you.”
“No, that’s not good enough. I put up with this from my grandmother and great-grandmother, but I’m not related to you, so tell me the truth. What do you want out of this?”
Jerain spun around, crossing her arms. She stared at Alisha with those haunting chestnut eyes for a long time: long enough to make her uncomfortable. “I want you to replace me.”
Jed and Jacko delivered them to Dalancy Castle two nights past, by virtue of having the largest ship. Alisha had begged for rest, and the other humans agreed: it had been a long month. The immortal members of the party didn’t need sleep—they went off to do what immortals do when no one is watching, except for Kat, she stayed with Delia.
Cyrus and Glory Dalancy were charming hosts. They made them all feel like family, even the Draggon Queen.
Katreena was on her best behavior, and not a faux-pas was uttered.
In total, they slept a combined fifty-six hours, in fragments and fits, rolling and tumbling, fighting with fevered dreams and memories of battle. It was sleep, of a sort.
Alisha and Jerain found Nu’reen in the dining nook by the kitchen, the morning light streaming through the windows bounced off the gray streaks in her hair; she had a pot of mint tea steeping on the table. She waved her hand over the crystal surface and two more delicate cups shimmered into view. She filled all three.
“Where is everyone?” Alisha asked.
Nu’reen set her cup down, waving her free hand at her lips. “Be careful… that’s hot.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Alisha said, her eyes thinning. “Where is everyone, again?”
“Don’t take that tone with me, young lady…” Nu’reen glared at her, pupils flaring.
“Then stop acting strange, Nu’reen, and tell me where everyone is!”
“Both of you quit before someone gets their feelings hurt: especially me…” Jerain made some motion with her hand that Alisha couldn’t see, and suddenly she felt light and carefree like nothing bothered her. She looked at Nu’reen; she had a stupid grin on her face too.
Alisha shook her head and turned to Jerain. “Whatever that was, stop it now.”
Jerain smiled. “I didn’t think that would hold you for long, but that was quick.”
Nu’reen snapped out of the charm seconds later and slapped Jerain on the forearm. “Stop doing that! That’s how you separate fighting Na’Geena children.”
“Fine! Then both of you stop arguing and treating each other like enemies.”
They exchanged apologies and promised not to do it again.
“What has your problem been, though, great-grandmother?” Alisha stared at her.
“She’s anticipating the power she’ll receive when you kill her sister,” Jerain said, sipping her tea.
Nu’reen’s eyes burned again. “How can you say such a thing?”
“Because it’s true. She’s been a thorn in your side forever, I should know, I’ve settled more than one of your disputes… if it weren’t for the K’Pa law forbidding sororicide, you’d have killed her yourself, long ago, you told me as much, many years back. I would have applauded your efforts. And I still can’t say I’m opposed.”
Nu’reen cocked her head and grabbed her cup, an unspoken thought, twisting her face as she sipped the steaming liquid. She didn’t argue the point.
Alisha looked at Nu’reen and asked, “You’ll ascend when I kill her?”
“Not unless she takes a mate of a different species,” Jerain answered. “But she will become much more powerful, regardless. The ascension process for K’Pa is two steps: either step will increase your power; both steps will make you very nearly a god.”
“I always thought you would choose me when you got tired.” Nu’reen lowered her cup and stared at Jerain, but pointed her finger at Alisha. “But now, I find you’re focused on another.”
“You shouldn’t be eavesdropping on conversations you’re not a part of…” Jerain’s brow clenched.
“It’s the curse of having exceptional sight,” Nu’reen said. “I hear everything, especially things close to me.”
“Do you mean, Jerain asking me to replace her?” Alisha asked. “You heard that?”
“Yes. It was difficult not to; you were so emotional.” Nu’reen squeezed her hand.
They were all quiet, searching each other’s faces.
“I haven’t decided if I should.” Alisha continued, turning to Jerain. “Why is it you want to quit again?”
“Not quit: retire,” Jerain said, sipping her tea. “I’m tired. It’s time for someone else to deal with things for a while.”
“Deal with things… what things?” Alisha asked.
“You know… the dimensions, the multiverse—this corner of it, anyway—watching my boys, making sure they don’t fight.”
“Sounds like babysitting to me…” Alisha grinned.
Jerain smiled. “Babysitting three transcendent beings isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when they have minds of their own—they argue a lot… You can continue to live your life, like normal, but you’d have some additional responsibilities.”
“Like what?” Alisha asked.
“Stopping plagues, wars,” she shrugged, “stuff like that. Making sure it rains where it needs to and stops where it doesn’t…”
“You make it sound simple.”
“It’s not that hard, with some practice. Mostly you just feel what needs to happen. I have faith in you.”
“But not me?” Nu’reen asked, pain crawling across her face.
“Are you jealous, Nu’reen?” Jerain asked her. “Is that what this is?”
Dalo stepped into the kitchen from the front hall. “I’ve never known her to be anything but helpful. But she can be a bit harsh at times.”
He pulled a stool up to the table.
Nu’reen created another cup and filled it. “Thank you, Chieftain, it’s nice to know someone still believes in me.”
“Oh, stop,” Alisha said, rolling her eyes. “We’re not here to attack you, Nu’reen.”
“Then why are you here?” Nu’reen stared at them.
“Is this one of those metaphysical questions that have no answer?” Dalo asked, grinning.
“No, it’s a serious question,” Nu’reen said. “Your mother needs help, my sister and Varran Razzius need finding, and you’ve all slept for two days. When are we going to get this roller back on the road?”
“Wow, and I thought Andi was tough!” Jed Larkin nudged Jacko’s arm as they walked into the kitchen. He caught himself and scanned their faces. “Uh, we’re not breaking up some huge scheme, are we? Because that would be awesome! I mean, if we can be involved in it…”
“You don’t mind if I fix us all some breakfast, do you?” Jacko asked, pulling the cooler door open.
They looked at him, smiles across their faces. He went to work.
“What’s the new plan?” Jed asked. “Didn’t we kill the bad guy, previously?”
“Yes, and no,” Alisha said. “We dealt with half the problem. But there’s a lingering stench of evil that needs purging.”
“Ji’yael is not evil; she’s misguided,” Nu’reen said, sipping her tea.
“She’s evil enough to assist in the deaths of every human on this planet.” Alisha snapped.
“You sound as if you want to save her…” Jerain said, her eyes twinkling.
Nu’reen sighed. “She’s crazy, but she is my sister.”
Karnass Keep floated above the Plains of Nadeen. Stray showers of loose rock and dirt cascaded back into the jagged hole below—loosed from gnarled roots and hollow voids in the soil ripped from the pit. Occasionally, a massive chunk broke free and breached the containment bubble that held the castle aloft, crashing into the abyss with a thunderous rumble.
There was no one around to notice.
The Prophet raised her palms, pointing at the wall of the Great Hall. Two alcoves formed, side-by-side, the bricks crawling and shuffling themselves around, creating the proper shape. One was six-feet-tall, the other much smaller, and waist-high.
“Just put it in there,” The Prophet said, crossing her arms and pursing her lips. The walls rang with her voice, bouncing from columns and paintings, carved statues, and stained glass. The light from the windows augmented by the glow from the fireplace, and the numerous torches held fast in iron bindings. The flames gave a crackling undertone to the scene: a thin, sizzling hiss.
Varran eyed the alcove she created. He looked like he’d smelled something bad. “And what’s this supposed to do, again?”
“The shape of the stone amplifies the power it can absorb,” she said.
“And the power we’re trying to absorb, it comes from the planet?” he asked.
“No, straight from the Orphic currents.”
“How is that possible, wouldn’t you need a void wraith or something to channel it?”
“These Tokens are connected to the void, Varran,” she slid the Scepter of Taiji from her robe and placed it into the smaller opening. A soft blue beam enveloped it and flashed from the diamond tip, showering the walls with multicolored fragments of light. It hung suspended in the alcove, slowly spinning. “Think of it as a battery charger, except that there’s no limit on the charge.”
Varran’s eyes widened. “You mean, we could absorb it all?”
“No, but we can drain this dimension, and that’s more than enough to perform our bonding. After that, we can go anywhere. We’ll be free.”
Varran turned the staff over in his hands. He didn’t like the idea of being separated from it. “How long will this take?”
“Two or three days, but we have another problem.”
“What’s that?” he asked, watching the scepter spin in place.
“When these Tokens start draining power from the multiverse, some people are going to notice—people who could hurt us. We need some protection.”
“We’re floating above the planet, in a flying castle, I think we’re safe,” he smirked.
“I’m not talking about people that need to walk anywhere: I mean immortals and those pesky relatives of mine, and maybe the Draggons, although I doubt it; since Darkonus is dead, so is our deal.”
“What did you have in mind?” Varran asked.
“I don’t know how to summon elementals, Karon never showed me.” Varran shook his head.
“You haven’t really tested your power, have you? I mean given it a real shot, something spectacular…”
“I created a world,” Varran defended himself, “part of one.”
“That’s interesting,” she rolled her eyes. “I had something grander in mind.”
“Like using your D’jinn nature to protect us.” She glared at him. “Have you not been following along?”
“But, I told you, Karon never showed me how…”
“Then you’re lucky you have me.” She ran one hand down his cheek. “Come with me. But first, place the staff where it belongs.”
Varran held it forward, the orb spinning violently in protest, mirroring his anxiety. When the blue beam washed over it, the rotation slowed; he could feel it, it calmed down, reflecting the cobalt gleam.
The Prophet waved her hand at the wall. A bright blue halo surrounded both Tokens, and a semi-transparent shield formed over them. She grabbed his arm. “They’re safe, let’s go.”
The Prophet led him out of the keep, into the courtyard. The morning suns burned the stone with amber and yellow beams. The green of the trees caught the light, swaying in the gentle breeze blowing up from the grasslands.
She pulled him to the center of the stone walkway and pointed at the altar: a huge rough boulder embedded in the ground. “You proved you didn’t need the staff. Do it again.” She waved him toward it.
Varran placed both hands on the rock and summoned his spirit. It burst into his mind like an explosion without fire. All his experiences and those he knew from his ancestors flashed through his head. He felt the D’jinn connection to the elementals, the difference in thought-patterns was huge, but he understood it. He made contact. He felt them enter his mind and become a part of him.
The feel of rock drifted across his skin, like rubbing against a stone wall with a bare shoulder. He pulled his right hand from the altar and aimed it at the ground surrounding them. Thirty golems emerged from the courtyard stones: yellow and amber light spinning in vortexes of creation. The stones twisted together, reinforced with dirt and gravel. The resulting monsters tramped around, raising more dust, and then spaced themselves out across the castle grounds.
“That’s something.” The Prophet nodded, watching them go.
Varran held his hands in the air and dug deeper.
He remembered the wind: the feel of it, the soft brush against your cheek, the light touch. And then he amplified it to a ferocious howl until it hurt his ears, and then he set it free.
Violent gusts of air twisted into spinning hurricane fragments: blue tornadoes. They blew so hard they couldn’t keep themselves anchored. Floating wild, they managed to irritate the earth golems, but nothing vicious ensued, rocky-arm-waving, and hot air, mostly.
“What about fire?” Varran asked, “or water?”
“I think we’re too far from water, and if the Draggons come, fire wouldn’t make a difference.”
“Okay, so now what, what do we do?” Varran asked.
“We wait for the Tokens to charge, and hope no one notices.”
Becca and Carril walked in, swinging shopping bags. They saw Alisha’s look, and set the bags down, separating them into two neat piles, so they could remember which ones to grab.
“Hey, sis!” Becca beamed, her bright red hair flashing under the great-hall lights, holding her arms out to Alisha.
“Where have you two been?” Alisha asked, folding her sister into a tight hug.
“We had some shopping to do,” Carril said. “You said we were going on a trip; we can’t be wearing last year's clothes. How stupid would we look?”
Alisha smiled, “You’ll look how I make you look. What you wear will make no difference. Sorry… But hey, you got some new clothes!”
“That sucks, I guess, but yes, new clothes!” Carril grinned. “What do we need to know?”
“We’re traveling to the past. Actually, to a memory of the past,” Alisha said, “ We can't alter anything, so step on bugs if you need to, it won’t change the future. It will affect the memory, though, so try to contain the mayhem to a minimum.”
“Is this time-travel? I thought that was reserved for immortals?” Becca asked.
“I am immortal,” Alisha said. “There have been some changes.”
“I see that.” Carril stared at the silver gleam in her eyes. “How do we fit in?”
“You’re both powerful adepts, and our magics have always blended well,” Alisha said.
“That was years ago, Alisha, how can you be sure it still works?” Carril asked.
Alisha pulled them into a void-space. They felt the walls but found them stable, turning toward her with confused looks on their faces.
“Okay, so who do we have to kill?” Becca asked, rubbing her fingers along the inside of the bubble.
“We’re not killing anyone,” Alisha said. “But we have to go back into a memory, and it requires we enter the place where dreams sleep.”
“Wait, we have to go to the void?” Carril asked, her mouth hanging wide.
“It’s not as bad as it seems.” Alisha grabbed her hand. “We’re there now, in a sense.”
“Yes, protected by a bubble…”
“You know I’m ready.” Becca chimed in. “Anything to break the monotony of Business School. Father wants me to take his place…”
“Oh, no!” Carril mocked her, “Daddy wants you to take over the family fortune; poor dear.”
“Carril, if you want to run the company, please feel free, I’ve told you that many times, and you refuse. And you graduated much higher than I did. I admit it, you should be in charge, so take it and shut-up.”
Carril shook her head and grinned at Alisha. “No, it’s far too boring.”
Alisha laughed at them. “I’m glad to see some things don’t change. You’ll both come with me?”
Carril and Becca smiled and grabbed her hands.
“What do we need to do?” Becca asked. “You know we’re with you, sis, always.”
“We’ll leave tomorrow; Dalo is coming with us.”
“Mmm, yes, Dalo…” Carril’s eyes glazed.
“He is my brother…” Alisha slapped her on the arm.
“He’s not my brother.” She grinned.
“Can we not make this weird?”
Taiji noticed it first, attuned as he was to the scepter: the trickle that flowed where it shouldn’t. A stable stream of energy ending at two Tokens. He didn’t recognize the staff, but he appreciated the craftsmanship and the power it took to make it. He watched them fill, the void slowly loading them with energy. They were protected with a shield, but it didn’t concern him: he wasn’t here to stop anything. He hated to, but he did have to report this to the others…
“They’re draining the Orphic energy from the void?” Yin gasped.
“I can’t believe you’re surprised.” Yang said, “This was bound to happen. All that high praise you have for people goes up in smoke along with the bridges burning, doesn’t it?”
“What are we supposed to do about it?” Taiji asked, glaring at Yang.
“We can’t stop it,” Yang said. “We swore not to interfere directly… so long ago I can’t remember.”
Yin smiled. “That’s why we have agents.”
…The frog jumped off the rock. Delia lunged for it, but she lost her balance and landed on her side, a sharp stone poking into her ribs...
Delia sat up, in total darkness, completely confused. She brought her palms together, a spark left her hands and floated to the ceiling, shining soft light around the room.
She was in a bedroom, not lying on her side in a freezing creek being stabbed by a rock, and she wasn’t alone.
Kat sat in a chair by the bedside, her legs crossed, one hand on each knee with her eyes closed; they snapped open when Delia stirred. “Delia, are you okay?” she asked, reaching for her hand.
Delia snatched it away, her face clouded with distrust. The memories came back, slowly, and she recognized Kat, but she saw no reason to include her in the plan: the plan she formulated in her dreams (except for the frog thing, that was just random): the method for her revenge.
Kat smiled at her with a touch of sadness in her eyes. “Take whatever time you need love, I’ll wait.”
This might be a problem.
She needed to get out of here for her plan to work, and now she had a babysitter that wouldn’t go away: one she couldn’t use magic on.
“Kat. It’s Kat… right?” Delia reached for her hand, the force of Yang pushing her to be kind, to get her way, despite the burning desire to kill someone eating a hole through her soul: subtle persuasion worked better than bodies that couldn’t answer your questions—it was a tactical decision.
Kat’s forehead wrinkled, and she took Delia’s hand. “Yes! You remember me?”
“I do, but it’s fuzzy like I only have half the memory.”
“Because you only have half of your soul. Jerain said this might happen. What do you remember?” Kat asked. “But, more important, how do you feel?”
“Feel? I don’t feel anything, except a need to get out of here and get to work.”
Delia took a deep breath and waved both hands, like smoothing a bedsheet.
Time stopped. Kat had half a word out in response, and it hung frozen in midair, undelivered.
Delia jumped from the bed and yanked the wardrobe open. She pulled her cloak on and grabbed the extra bag lying in the bottom. She had no idea what it held, but the colors matched.
She glanced at Kat before she left. She felt a stir of emotion, but it wasn’t strong, and she couldn’t define it—couldn’t decide what it meant. There was something there, she sensed it, but it would have to wait. She had some people to kill.