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Authors: Sharon Green

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Intrigues

BOOK: Intrigues
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I’ve discovered that writing in a journal is terribly habit-forming, and I’m not one who breaks habits easily. We defeated the Seated Five and came to terms with the invading Blendings from Astinda, but those victories just meant that our hardest jobs were still ahead of us. We could no longer deny the fact that we
would
be Seated as rulers of the empire, even if we still weren’t terribly happy about the idea. A lot of changes had to be made, and with too many of those changes we were the only ones who would be able to accomplish them. Like letting the world know that we were the first Sixfold Blending… Adding the talent of Sight would
not
be like adding the balancing force of Spirit…

It wasn’t necessary to have Sight magic to know that we would soon dampen the delight of many of those who now followed us. The question was, would the dampening go all the way to full drowning…?

 

Chapter 1

 

Naran Whist sipped quietly from her cup of tea as she watched and listened to the discussion going on among her Blendingmates in the house they continued, for the moment, to occupy. It was still a thrill to realize that she
was
a full member of the group, an experience she’d never before had in her life. She’d always thought of herself as a complete freak, but now she not only had people she belonged among completely, she’d discovered she wasn’t quite as unique as she’d feared.

A private smile curved Naran’s lips, the tenor of her thoughts causing the amusement. The world held quite a lot of people who would have been delighted to find themselves to be unique, but that was only because they hadn’t had
her
experience with the condition. Living all alone in a world filled with strangers, terrified that someone would find out just how different she really was… The time had been as far from pleasant as it was possible to imagine…

“What do
you
think, love?” Rion asked suddenly from his place beside her, his hand tightening gently around her own. “Do you see something that would affect our decision one way or the other?”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I’m afraid I was daydreaming a bit,” Naran admitted with an apologetic glance for the others, her cheeks warming very faintly. “The woolgathering kept me from hearing the last of what was said.”

“You’re entitled to be distracted at the very least, Naran,” Jovvi told her at once with one of those beautiful smiles. “Finding out you’re not alone in the world after all must be a delight, but almost an overwhelming one after so long a time of believing otherwise.”

“And if anyone should know how that feels, I’m the one,” Tamrissa put in with understanding amusement. “It isn’t fun to stand against the world all by yourself.”

“Nor is it pleasant to be cut off from all the rest of humanity save for one solitary individual,” Rion agreed with his own sweet smile. “I, too, have some idea of your feelings, my love, but not entirely. I was not left on my own at a very tender age.”

“But Jovvi was, so she must have the best idea of what Naran went through,” Lorand put in with clear commiseration for both of the women he mentioned. “I may not have gotten along completely well with my family, but I still felt myself a part of them.”

“And I’m feelin’ almost guilty,” Vallant offered with an uncomfortable expression on his face. “Of all of us, I’m the only one who had a family he both loved and
wanted
to be a part of. With that in mind,
I’m
the odd one in this group.”

“That’s right, you are!” Tamrissa exclaimed with a wicked gleam in her eyes as she put a hand to Vallant’s face. “My poor dear, the only one to be cursed with a loving family. How my heart goes out to you.”

“Don’t tease him, Tamrissa,” Lorand scolded lightly with a chuckle as Vallant looked at her with narrowed eyes. “My family was fairly loving too, or would have been without the pressures put on my father by the nobility. If Vallant is odd, then I’m almost the same.”

“Thank you, Lorand,” Vallant said politely, pretending to be very formal while looking at Tamrissa coolly. “It obviously takes a gentleman to understand another gentleman’s position. What a shame some
ladies
are bereft of all compassion for a man they’ve been
claimin’
to feel something for.”

“Claiming?” Tamrissa echoed at once, that gleam still in her eyes. “
I
haven’t made any claims like that, not as far as
I
can remember. Has anyone here heard me say anything like that?”

“No, not a soul,” Jovvi answered with a laugh as Vallant bent a really stern look on Tamrissa. “But since we do need to make a decision, let’s get back to what we were discussing. Naran, we were trying to decide whether to introduce the members of your link groups to our five-member Blendings, or to ask Dom Ardanis to send more of his people who might want to join a Blending. Everyone will need a wide choice, I think, so I’d like to hear your opinion.”

“My opinion is that the question is more involved than that, and also less involved,” Naran answered with a small laugh. “I know my response was no help at all, but that’s because the situation is really two situations. May I explain?”

“No, Naran, absolutely not,” Tamrissa answered dryly as everyone else nodded or urged Naran to continue with words of encouragement. “We
enjoy
being completely confused and in the dark.”

“Now you’re teasing Naran, Tamrissa,” Lorand said with a good deal of surprise evident. “And it’s just come to me that you’ve been doing a lot of teasing today. Has something happened to change your usual mood that the rest of us don’t know about?”

“Jovvi says my new mood is relief at surviving after coming so close to dying,” Tamrissa answered with a small, faintly embarrassed laugh, sending her glance to everyone in addition to Lorand. “She also said the new mood won’t last forever, and before you know it I’ll be back to my usual sedately shy self. Won’t that be a relief?”

“I’m still thinkin’ about that,” Vallant countered dryly, making the rest of them chuckle. “Meanwhile, why don’t we let Naran get on with explainin’ what she means?”

“To begin with, there’s a situation we’ve spoken about, but not really thought all the way through,” Naran said before Tamrissa could distract everyone with more teasing. “You’ve already begun to show others how to Blend, but so far there are only a double handful of other Blendings besides ours. All the rest of our people are in link groups, which we needed for fighting purposes. When are the members of those link groups going to be allowed to form Blendings of their own?”

“You know, I never really stopped to think about that,” Jovvi acknowledged with brows high, seemingly as surprised as everyone else. “But you do happen to be right, so we ought to discuss the point right now. Link groups can be formed by any five people with the same talent, but Blendings
should
have people who have some interest in each other. Until now, most of our followers haven’t had the chance to get to know each other.”

“So that means we need to throw a really big party,” Tamrissa said, her frown of concentration showing Naran that the Fire magic user considered the matter a serious one. “We introduce everyone to everyone else, and then they can all look into forming Blendings. If something comes up where we need the tandem link groups, ten new Blendings will give us the link groups as easily as link groups alone.”

“That’s a good point,” Lorand agreed with an equally thoughtful nod. “There’s no real reason for our people not to form their own Blendings, but what about everyone else? How and when are we going to show the people in the rest of the empire how to Blend?”

“It isn’t goin’ to be done all at once, that’s for sure,” Vallant said, his expression faintly vexed. “We’ll have to start with the people here in Gan Garee, and then send teachers to the other parts of the empire. By then we might know how to handle the problems that come up.”

“I agree that we need to do it a little bit at a time,” Jovvi said as Rion nodded, both of them looking just as thoughtful as the others did. “A party is a good idea, Tamma, and we ought to hold it in the palace when we move in. But that still doesn’t answer our question about your peers, Naran. Will we just be inviting your link groups, or as many others as Dom Ardanis cares to send?”

“Jovvi, you won’t need to
invite
anyone with Sight talent,” Naran pointed out gently, matching her smile to the words. “If you feel you’d like to be formal you can issue general invitations, but those who will be joining Blendings already know where it will happen – and they’ll be at the party.”

“Obviously we all have adjustments to make in our thinking,” Rion said ruefully as the others reacted in different ways. Jovvi closed her eyes before putting her head back, Tamrissa shook her head with a sigh, and Lorand and Vallant groaned. “It never occurred to me that your talent peers would already know that.”

“It’s fairly clear that we all should have known,” Jovvi said with a headshake of self-annoyance. “And the way you mentioned Tamma’s idea of a party… Am I correct in assuming that it was a strong possibility even before Tamma mentioned it?”

“It was a strong possibility then, but it’s a near certainty now,” Naran agreed, examining the shadows again even as she spoke. “We’ll also be turning over this house to the people from Astinda fairly soon, to let them get on with processing the former nobles. Our being here is only slowing the processing.”

“And it’s time we relocated anyway,” Tamrissa put in with a sigh of accepting the inevitable. “If we try to delay any longer, most of our ‘followers’ will get so frustrated that they’ll haul us bodily to the palace and toss us in. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it right.”

“And we’ve already decided we’re going to do it,” Jovvi agreed with the same kind of sigh. “That means any more foot-dragging is just plain silly, so let’s stop talking and start doing. Does anyone have a reason why we
shouldn’t
go to the palace right now?”

None of the others cared to put forward a note of dissention, which made Naran smile to herself. The shadows had already told her that the decision to go at once would most likely be made right now, but there was no need to mention that. Too much foreknowledge seemed to make people feel as though they were being manipulated by events rather than doing the manipulating themselves. Some events
did
force certain actions, but those actions were never the only options available. They were usually the
best
available, but some people still felt a need to choose second best.

Naran had no idea why that was, but when the others began to gather themselves together, she did the same. Something she did know about was one of the things that awaited them in the palace: her instruction on the best ways to use her talent would begin once they were settled. The thought filled her with more excitement than any of the others could possibly be feeling right now, which made her really wish everyone would hurry…

 

Jovvi waited beside Lorand as their horses were brought out of the stables, a million plans and necessities buzzing around in her head. It really didn’t make much sense for them to hold off on taking up residence in the palace, and they’d decided to start things off right. Instead of using the coaches some of their followers had expected them to show themselves off in, their Blending would arrive at the palace on horseback. That informal an arrival should give the first hint that the new Seated Blending meant to institute changes…

“I wonder if anyone will realize why our ‘escort’ is so large,” Lorand commented as he watched the horses being brought out. “Having our link groups with us probably won’t excite much comment right now, but in a little while everyone will know who they are – and wonder why we feel we need the protection.”

“If anyone asks, we’ll tell them,” Tamma put in, looking back over her shoulder at Lorand. “I seriously doubt if everyone with a grudge has already come at us, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. If anyone dislikes the idea of us wanting to protect ourselves, they can just look the other way to spare themselves the discomfort of seeing what we do.”

“But we’ll try not to put it quite that baldly,” Jovvi said with a smile for Tamma’s obviously fading teasing mood. “We’ll be doing other things to protect ourselves, and some of those things will be more upsetting than having our link groups following us around.”

“If we’re goin’ to be surrounded by armies of servants, I think we have a right to know where they stand,” Vallant put in, his tone a bit more reasonable than Tamma’s had been. “We need to have our Blendin’ entity check those people, and for that Jovvi especially needs her link groups.”

That was the first of the things on Jovvi’s list for doing as soon as they got to the palace, and one Jovvi wasn’t looking forward to. Invading people’s privacy left a bad taste in her mouth, but there was really no other choice. The usurping Blending had been poisoned more than once, and there was nothing to say that Eltrina Razas had been responsible for both occurrences.

BOOK: Intrigues
12.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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