Authors: P.S. Power
The Young Ancients
Tor: Book Seven
Orange Cat Publishing
Tor sat back a good ways from the others, the cushioned crushed green velvet bench under him not feeling nearly as soft as it should have. That had to do with a combination of factors, including the fact that he was ready to spring up and charge the giant in front of him from across the room. Not that doing so would actually be a good idea. The huge redhead was the Prince after all.
his best friend.
"It's not that... Look Tor, you have to understand how delicate this whole thing is... Father can't really side
Count Morris in this, which..." The words trailed off, a thing that Tor got at least. The whole situation was a vast problem. One that didn't have a good solution at all.
Three days before, Count Morris' heir, Sandra, who was also the head of the Lairdgren Group, murdered a young woman named Regina Helmsley. Right in front of Tor too, so it wasn't like he didn't know that she'd done it. No one doubted that part. The problem, it seemed, was that the Conserina hadn't been
to kill anyone at all. She'd just been planning to knock Tiera down and hadn't really realized that the other girl was standing too close behind her for the trick to work right. The poor thing hadn't lasted even seconds, her head being torn in half like it was. By a weapon that
His sister's girlfriend.
Tor kind of wanted to get up and flee the Palace about then, but didn't, because it would be cowardly and probably not protect him from what was coming anyway. His sister wasn't... in her right mind. Not at the moment. No, there was going to be backlash from this, and if they all got out alive it would be a miracle.
Rubbing at his face, trying to wipe away the whole thing if he could, a sense of exhaustion took him. It wasn't real. He'd slept well enough, except for the image of Regina falling to bits in front of him the whole time. The poor thing.
just tell Tiera to back down, and I really don't think that she's going to hold off all that long. She's been hiding her thoughts from me, but the pure rage coming from her pattern kind of gives how she's feeling away. I don't suppose you have a plan? I'd normally suggest groveling, but... Honestly I don't think it will work this time. Not yet." That last line got addressed to the other red haired giant in the room. The King. Richard.
Instead of glaring at him for suggesting the idea of humbling himself to a fourteen year old girl, the man just nodded and sighed. It was a huge thing, one that spoke of having had very little rest himself in the last few days. Then, he had a lot to worry about, didn't he? An overthrow attempt, along with a possible civil war coming and all that.
"I know. This is perhaps the worst timing for a thing like this. Even if all were peaceful and calm I doubt that I'd get out of it unscathed. Right now..." He looked at the far wall, then after about fifteen seconds of silence his gaze slid over to Count Lairdgren.
The much smaller man was about four or five inches taller than Tor, but otherwise looked like a slightly older version of him. Identical in a way that only twins could be, normally. The actual reason why was different than that, supposedly, since the Count was several thousand years old and Tor only twenty, but in a way it was kind of reassuring. After all, the man was great looking. Black hair, brown eyes, and pale skin meeting up with perfectly balanced features that made him look almost unreal. Enough so that it was like he had make-up on, even though Tor knew that wasn't the case. It wasn't something he controlled, but it beat being ugly, as far as day to day life went, since he didn't have a choice in how he looked really. No more than anyone else.
It was a strange thought, and he snapped out of the state he'd fallen into as soon as the man spoke, the voice a little flat sounding, like his own used to be a lot, and still was from time to time. It had a heavy sound to the undertone, as if the fellow had already done this before and was only going through the motions of caring. Maybe he had? Just because it was new to Tor, that didn't mean someone as old as Burks wouldn't have seen it, or something close enough to not make a big difference as to how it made him feel.
"I know Richard. Tiera won't take this well, I fear. It is, of course, my fault. I assured her that making peace with the Morris family was a good idea, and that has not gone well at all. I don't see a good way out of this. It will most certainly end in death. We need to pick who dies for it carefully however. Doing otherwise might lead to much greater losses than we wish to bear."
Tor felt like glaring, but before he could say anything nasty sounding his younger brother Timon spoke up. He was sitting across the room, very close to Princess Karina actually. Enough so that the back of her hand was resting against his leg. It would have made him jealous, before. Karina and he had been close friends once. Maybe they still were? It wasn't like that had been years before, and they hadn't had a falling out or anything. It seemed a bit strange that she was trying to be that cozy with his little brother, but Timon had already spoken of it. She was setting the stage for a marriage with him, in just a couple of years. They couldn't have sex to tie them together yet, Timon being too young, so the Princess was being friendly in other ways.
Her skin was a nice tan color, and her rust red hair was cute enough, but her face was a little thin at the moment. Like she hadn't been eating, or was growing just a bit too fast.
Tim stared at the Count, his eyes dead. It really seemed like he was about to suggest something rude to the man, but he didn't. His words were polite enough even, considering everything.
"It won't be Tiera that dies for this." It was a statement. A simple thing that didn't give even a nod to pleading for his sisters continued existence. "She isn't the most easygoing person in the world all the time, but she's still my sister and really, in noble terms
isn't in the wrong here. The whole thing lands on Morris, at
Those last words got a strange reaction from the room, since everyone except Tor nodded at them.
The Queen, Connie, actually closed her eyes.
"Can you imagine what anyone else would be doing in the same place? A lover slaughtered before their own eyes like that? I expected to wake with the palace falling around our ears that night. Then taking in Sandra like we had to... I understand the reasons, but it's such a poor plan." She glared at her husband a bit. "I don't see a good way out of this, do you?"
Huge shoulders hunched and the man shook his giant head slowly.
"No. If we turn on Morris now it will serve to drive too much of our support away. After all, those on the fence are just looking for an excuse to not participate in the coming war. We need their troops and support though. If we do nothing... we may well have the same reaction, if from a different quarter. Tiera has some friends already, some of whom have pointed out that allowing Count Morris to act dishonorably during that farce of a duel is a sign that my reign is... less than perfect." Rich leaned forward and picked up the large metal goblet that sat on the low wooden table in front of him. "Those are
supporters too. Nothing I can do will fix this. Nothing at all."
The room was silent for a few moments. Finally Tor spoke, his voice somber, trying to think out loud.
"I can try to talk to Tiera again. Explain it all..."
That got a snort from Timon that was derisive enough Connie glared at him a bit. She did soften after a few seconds though, and glanced at the boy as he spoke instead of staring daggers.
"That won't really work. Sandra Morris is
, Tor. She doesn't know it yet, but it's coming. Her father too. Probably her mother and younger sister as well in the end. We might be able to save those last two, if we do it right. I don't know if that's possible. On the good side we can take them out of the kingdom for a bit, since they're scheduled to go to Soam for the trip there in a few days anyway. I..." It wasn't his habit to just stop talking like that, but it was clear that his mind was working through a thousand different possibilities at once, and he just didn't have room for anything else for a few seconds. "Really we should have someone with her all the time now. We do have to explain it all, but just because it was an accident, well, that won't save anyone, will it? I suppose we could strand Tiera in Vagus or Tellerand for a while, but she'd find her way back eventually."
Tor was almost certain that last part was supposed to be a joke, but at the moment it sounded like a plan to him. If they took her Fast Craft and flying gear away and set her up somewhere else like that... Well, it would just be cruel. She needed her friends and family right then, having suffered a huge loss like she had. It was frustrating though, since it didn't seem like they could just count on her to be reasonable.
"I wish this were someone else. Then we could just explain things and get them to calm down, at least for long enough to get through this war." It was a stupid thing to say, he knew, but no one called him on it directly. Connie smiled at him sadly, and shook her head.
"I don't think that's really the case. Most nobles would be plotting right now. Making ready to destroy us all for our parts in this. To her grief stricken mind
did this to her, stole her love from her. In many very real ways that's just the case. If it were some other time we'd simply have a trial and allow the Council of Counts to deal with it..."
She stopped and made a hard and slightly sour face that didn't fit with how she normally looked at all. Not around Tor at least. There were a few new lines there though, that hadn't been in place before he'd left. Vertical ones around the mouth that seemed like she'd been frowning a lot. Worried about something. Possibly him? They were very close after all. He'd been fine though, just hiding in the wilds, away from everyone so that he could work. His original plan had been to hunt down the Larval Assassins and kill them all, but then it occurred to him that he could use magic to cause them to all flee back to their homeland. It didn't even hurt them, the magical field just made it so they couldn't help but go there, interfacing with the nano systems that were built into them. True, he could kill them too still, with a simple device that he'd built that would cause their bodies to just stop working for a while, but this was better, for now. Kinder.
Connie shook her head a little.
have the Counts here. Should we leave it to them? It will be harder for anyone to criticize us personally. I hate to make such a thing political, but what else can we do?"
Count Lairdgren started to nod gently, but didn't say anything for a very long time. No one else did either, though Timon clearly didn't think it was as brilliant a plan as the others did. His face was set, but there was a hint of anger around his eyes, as if he knew something that Tor didn't about what would happen. Reaching out, Tor let his mind brush against the boy's field, only to find that it was closed to him. That or he wasn't allowing himself to react at all. His brother looked over and shook his own head, once, and then looked at the King while Lairdgren started speaking.
"It's a plan at least. I don't know what it will actually do. Probably serve to split the Counts completely. Still, we don't benefit from waiting in a war like this. The longer it takes for the conspiracies to come into play, the less likely we'll be to find them all in time. The King's Army and those of his allies hold a clear advantage at this moment in weapons and training. The longer things rest, the more likely it will become that someone finds a way to even the playing field. I think we should set this up then. If I get a vote that is. Richard? It's your kingdom after all."
The Ancient looked across the room to where the man sat and waited, focused on him so tightly that Tor could feel the ordering of the world between the other two. Rich finally looked back, his voice going a little deeper in response to the implied threat of being stared at like he was.
"Let's do it. Can I count on your aid in this? The largest problem here might be addressed by such an action, the Counts placated by having a say in the matter, but if Tiera takes action counter to what they decide..."
For a few seconds Tor wondered what he meant by that. What was his little sister going to do? Go and kill the Morris family by herself and steal his County? Then he realized that was
what the man was suggesting. It was hard to remember that the girl had already successfully defeated the man once already, using hit and run tactics and a lot of property destruction to cripple his economy and military might, without even killing a single person. In about a week.
She could do that again, or worse, and legally no one could really stop her. That part was a shock to Tor, but he kept forgetting that his sister was a Conserina. Technically Count Lairdgren could order her to stand down, which was what the King was suggesting he do, but given her anger at the moment, Tor really doubted that it was going to go well if they tried it.
The Count just bowed.
"I'll make the needed suggestions. Tor, would you stay with your sister for the time being? Close to her if nothing else? You've been living at the school, in your house there, haven't you?" It was asked, not stated, but everyone in the room already knew it was the case. He'd only been back for a few days himself, before everything had happened. His wife, Alyssa, was a student there, so it made sense for him to be nearby.