The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2) (5 page)

BOOK: The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2)
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Elrose stared at Maelen from behind the councilor, giving him a very puzzled glance. He had only met the councilor on a few occasions, mostly formal, and she had never met Maelen before, but here she was.

Trevin entered with a smile. “I know it’s odd, but I was so struck by both of your expressions when I mentioned Bastet’s name that I felt it important to speak with you while things were still fresh in your minds.”

Maelen nodded and gave her a pleasant smile. “That is often the best course with visions.”

“Would you like some wine?” Elrose asked the councilor.

“That would be so kind of you!” Trevin said as Maelen gestured to the nearby sofa.

Trevin moved to the sofa. “So my sources tell me that you, Dr. Serenanus, came to Freehold to discuss visions that both you and Master Elrose have been privy to?”

“Indeed, My Lady Councilor,” Maelen agreed with a polite nod.

“Well, good then, I would love to hear all about both the prior visions you two have had and the ones you had today,” Trevin said.

Maelen glanced at Elrose, who was behind Trevin at this point. The sorcerer shrugged. The woman was clearly determined, and they’d planned to talk with her about this in any event.

 

~

Bess arrived in a flash of light on the telepad outside the main gates.

Jeshbella approached, smelling her and looking at her with her True Sight. She finally nodded and smiled. “Greetings, mistress! I was not expecting you to return to New Nyjyr so soon.” The sphinx gave Bess a concerned look.

Bess sighed, shaking her head. “My precious, you know me only too well.” She placed her right hand on Jeshbella’s shoulder. “We have a slight complication; a new player, in fact. The dynamics on the ground are changing rapidly, and our plans may get accelerated.”

Jeshbella shook her head in dismay and moved forward to rest her head on Bess’s shoulder to comfort her mistress. Bess hugged the sphinx and purred in rhythm with her. After a few moments, Bess pulled back and smiled. “I need to discuss this with Anup. Is he in his quarters?”

Jeshbella stared off into the dark, star-filled sky above the horizon behind Bess. “He is. Shall I let him know you are coming?”

“Thank you, my dear,” Bess replied.

Jeshbella simply nodded and looked through the gateway for a few moments. “He will meet you on the veranda between your quarters,” she informed Bess.

Bess nodded her thanks and proceeded to the giant archway. She pulled her sistrum from her pocket and played the required notes. As she did this, Jeshbella sang her song, both vocally and mentally. As their small duet ended, the previously empty gateway held two large stone doors. Bess moved forward and traced an invisible inscription on them while Jeshbella mentally performed her part of the ritual as well. The two stone doors opened and Bess walked through them into New Nyjyr. She waited briefly for the doors to shut behind her and then headed down the path, where a chariot was just pulling up.

Bess stepped up into the chariot, taking a position in the rear passenger seat. She glanced at the driver, who appeared to be a young man in a silk kilt. While she had not seen him since his last reincarnation, Bess had no trouble recognizing Bakari, who had driven her through many incarnations, along with several other members of his family. “Bakari, it is good to see you. How long have you been driving in this incarnation? I haven’t seen you since your last birth, and I doubt you remember that.”

Bakari had turned to bow at Bess, and he straightened, smiling. “My mistress, you honor me with your remembrance. I turned sixteen last month, and so have rejoined the service. The work the soothsayers have accomplished since my previous reincarnation is remarkable. It only took four years for me to regain the memories of my last three incarnations. They believe that I will be able to recall my lives back to Old Nyjyr within a few more years, hopefully by my twenty-first birthday.”

Bess clapped her hands. “That’s incredible! In your previous incarnation, your memories were not at this level until your early twenties. I shall remember to thank the soothsayers for the work they’ve done to improve the process.” She looked at him with a touch of sadness. “I am so sorry we have to do it this way, but I thank you for all you and your family have gone through.”

Bakari shook his head. “No, my queen, do not thank me. It is you to whom we must all be grateful, you and all the Ennead, for all the sacrifices you’ve made to protect us.”

Bess shook her head in turn. “I must not forget how hard it is to thank you or compliment you, Bakari. I remember now; this is my most serious criticism of you.” She smiled brightly at the young man, and he returned her smile. This was a joke going back many lifetimes for Bakari.

~

Anup was on the veranda as promised, leaning against the ivy-covered marble balustrade when Bess arrived. She could see the concern in his eyes as she approached. They gave each other short kisses on each cheek and then grasped each other’s elbows in greeting. “You’ve returned unexpectedly. pêTah is out. He’s working on the slow diplomacy we’ve settled on.”

Bess nodded; she had assumed as much. “I assumed so, but I needed to get word back while I could. There’s been a complication,” she said.

“The book being lost and playing musical owners wasn’t complicated enough?” Anup asked with a smile.

Bess shook her head. “I think we should sit down. I know you will find what I have to tell you as unsettling as I did, when I witnessed it.”

[Select Pantheons with a Presence in Astlan]

 

~

Trevin made her way deep into the depths of the palace’s underground towards one of her most private workrooms. She needed to discuss these visions of Elrose and Maelen with Elraith. She winced slightly at her own brusqueness in barging in on them as she had, but their reactions today to her mention of Bastet had gnawed at her.

Unfortunately, speaking with them about their visions had only succeeded in making things worse. Much worse. She sighed. This would likely be tricky. Those wards were quite effective at cutting off all outside contact. It was for this reason she was going deep, very deep, down to the very bedrock upon which the palace and Freehold stood.

Waving her hand to open the last of the sealed doors on her journey, she entered the cavern she needed. Technically, it was more of a cave than a cavern; it was not that large. The air pressure on the other side of the door shut it behind her, as she had willed. The room was pitch-black and absolutely silent, but she needed neither wizard sight nor light to find the small throne that had been shaped from the bedrock floor.

She sat on the throne and willed herself to relax. The stone throne, part of the bedrock itself, was rather antithetical to her own preferred element of air, but Duranor had fashioned it for her for just such situations. She only hoped the Grove’s chief geomancer and representative to the Grove of the Modgriensofarthgonosefren would not be listening in.

She allowed herself to sink into the stone as she began chanting the ancient phrases that would virtually transport her to the Grove’s own similar chamber. She closed her eyes as she felt herself sink deeper into the bedrock, becoming one with it. Concentrating on the Grove’s version of the throne, she worked to juxtapose her current Freehold self with a simulacrum of herself in the Grove’s throne.

 

Trevin heard the gasp of the gnome on duty to monitor the throne chamber in the Grove. She opened her imaginary eyes in the dark chamber. Being one with the rock, she could sense the presence of the gnome, although she could not see him in the dark. She was actually rather surprised she had made it through the wards. However, she had been fairly sure this form of sympathetic geomancy was not something Lenamare would have ever considered.

“Monitor, it is I, Trevin D’Vils. Is Elraith awake?” Trevin asked. The deep bass of her stone simulacrum surprised even her. She had not used this method in several centuries.

“Mistress, he meditates,” the gnome replied.

“We must wake him,” Trevin said.

“Very well. This may take some time.”

 

One pleasant thing about being stone was that time passed quite quickly comparatively, Trevin reflected. She had no idea how long it was before the very old, formerly human Senior Elder of the Grove arrived in the chamber.

“My dear. So sorry to keep you waiting,” the ancient druid said.

“Not a problem, love,” Trevin told him. She could sense no other presence in the chamber; he was alone and they were in private, as she needed.

“So what brings you to use this rather drastic form of communication?” Elraith asked curiously.

“And wake you from your meditation?” Trevin asked with a smile.

“I was not going to mention that, but since you brought it up… I am going to sit down; it takes me a while to recover from being so deep.” He sat down on a ledge facing her stone throne and simulacrum.

“We have had exceedingly portentous events, the details of which will have to be revealed to the Council of Elders. But I needed to speak with you first, in private,” Trevin said.

“Go ahead,” Elraith said, listening intently.

“First, Freehold is surrounded by both the Rod and the Sky Fleet of Oorstemoth.”

“That is an issue, but I think the Council of Wizardry can handle that.”

“We are,” Trevin said, “but we also discovered that the city was overrun with about a thousand lesser demons and two or more archdemons, something else and someone else.”

She could sense Elraith nodding. “Now things are seeming a bit more interesting.”

“We expelled the demons, but in so doing revealed the identities of what we thought were three archdemons.” She sensed a raised eyebrow. “I believe one of the beings we had thought was an archdemon is actually Bastet of the Nyjyr Ennead.”

She could sense Elraith pausing on that point. “That would be quite interesting. Why would she be posing as an archdemon? I did not even realize she was anywhere near the localverse.” Elraith shook his head. “And the others?”

“The second archdemon is Ramses the Damned, formerly of the Time Warriors; the third, our neighbor Exador,” Trevin said.

“Exador, son of Exador, etcetera. That actually makes quite a bit of sense, and helps explain Abancia.” Elraith shook his head. “I still regret not doing more then. They were next door, so to speak.”

He paused. “Ramses the Damned, also a demon. Never liked any of the Ramses. I can assume they were all the same, like the Exadors?”

Trevin shrugged. “At the moment, you know what I know. But that would be likely.”

“He is a threat to us. The Anilords were a threat to us, and the various Ramses were particularly annoying,” Elraith noted.

“Well, it gets more complicated yet. And I still have not gotten to the point that concerns me the most, and I am sure will concern you,” Trevin said. It was exhausting to talk this way. Stone was not the best method for rapid communication. “We also have what we thought was a greater demon who possessed a bunch of priests and then somehow broke into Tiernon’s illumination stream.”

That made Elraith gasp. “That should not be possible!” the druid said.

“It should not, and it’s going to annoy Tiernon very much,” Trevin said.

“So that is what you are concerned about? Tiernon’s people coming to Astlan and interacting with the Nyjyr Ennead again, and various demons that have apparently been sitting on our doorstep and making threatening noises?” Elraith asked.

“I am, but again, not so much,” Trevin said.

“My dear, you are drawing this out too much. I am an old man. I can’t take too many more interesting things, each of which is worse than the last.”

“This is it, then. A sorcerer who works for Councilor Lenamare and a senior fellow from the Society have both had visions of a great war, perhaps several.”

“That sounds probable, given what you’ve said,” Elraith pointed out drily.

“Yes, and that’s the level I am working with them on, or plan to. It is certainly dire enough. However, in more offhand remarks they mentioned a few other visions, which they made less of than I do. The first was of armies of orcs and armies of alvfar.” Trevin could sense Elraith’s shoulders sinking. “Further, visions of smiths—two smithies, in fact. At least one located under a volcano with large channels and floes of metal. However, they could see only one of the two smiths; the other was hidden from their Sight.”

“Oh, dear,” Elraith breathed to himself.

“And one odd note: this was not clear to them, but they mentioned having a sense of orcs attacking from the skies,” Trevin said.

“Orcs attacking from the sky? They don’t have that kind of magic; at least, not on any large scale,” Elraith stated.

“I know. It means a very sophisticated orc army,” Trevin said.

“And the smiths? The volcano, a smith hidden from the Sight? You think this portends the god Hephaestus?” Elraith paused and added, “Who, as I recall, is also known as pêTah among the Nyjyr Ennead.”

“And one of the preeminent gods of the Modgriensofarthgonosefren,” Trevin said.

“I don’t suppose they saw Hephaestus making alvaren steel by any chance?” Elraith asked.

BOOK: The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2)
8.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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