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Authors: Lana Krumwiede

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BOOK: True Son
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Taemon didn’t have to tell Hannova about the message scratched on the wall, because word of mouth beat him to it. Before the sun had set, Taemon found himself in another council meeting at Hannova’s office to discuss this latest development. Why did adults always insist on meetings? It made him feel like he was in trouble.

Then again, he
was
in trouble, along with all of Deliverance.

“Three days?” said Drigg. “The delegation will have to leave tomorrow to get there in time. That’s no easy trip, even in the summertime.”

“How many people are we talking about?” Solovar asked.

“This whole thing is just too risky,” interrupted Mr. Parvel. “I can’t guarantee the safety of the delegation.”

Of course not
, Taemon thought.
No one can guarantee anyone’s safety
. But he kept quiet. It was just their fear talking right now. They needed some time to get over the shock of it all.

“Everybody settle down,” Hannova said. “Let’s work on one thing at a time. I’ve already got people working on gathering provisions for the trip. But we need to decide who’s going.”

When it was all hammered out, seven people had been named to the delegation. Hannova would represent the colony, and Solovar would represent the city. Da was going to represent Free Will and its followers. Amma’s father and her two adult brothers would be bodyguards for the group. And Taemon would go because he was the one General Sarin had invited — and, he suspected, because he had psi. He couldn’t blame them for feeling safer with a psi wielder around, even if he himself wasn’t ever quite sure how best to help out.

Drigg would drive them as far as he could in the hauler; they’d have to walk the rest of the way. Amma had argued to be included, but her father refused to allow it.

They were trying to settle on a departure time when Yens burst into the room.

“I demand to be part of this council. I’m the True Son. I’m the one General Sarin should be negotiating with.”

“Sit down, Yens,” Da said.

“I’m an influential leader in the city,” Yens continued. “I should be included in this. I should —”

“Then sit down like your da told you.” Hannova stared Yens down until he sat in the seat between Solovar and Mr. Parvel, who jumped to his feet.

“Do I need to remind everyone that this is the maniac who burned my home and stole the books from the library? That one act began all of this! I don’t care who he thinks he is. He doesn’t belong here!”

“He assaulted me, too, Birch,” Hannova said. “But many unhappy events led to The Fall. I’m not convinced they were all Yens’s doing.”

“That’s right,” said Yens. “It was Naseph. He had this whole scheme worked out with General Sarin, and he only told me parts of it. He told me we needed the library to keep the Republik in check, but I had no idea that he would destroy your home to get at the library.”

Amma’s father stood up with clenched fists. He glared at Yens and took a deep breath through flared nostrils. Taemon winced, anticipating the shouting that was sure to follow, but it was Amma who spoke next.

“But the books ended up in the Republik,” Amma said. She spoke forcefully but calmly. “Would you care to explain that?”

“There were spies from the Republik in the temple. Not even Naseph knew that until it was too late.” Yens’s tone was careless, as though he fully expected them to believe him and to grant him a spot on the delegation. His talents for using charisma and confidence to get what he wanted had started when he was captain of his psiball team, and he’d sharpened them in the past couple of years at the temple.

“It doesn’t matter,” Da said. “Naseph was a self-serving, weak leader, and everyone knows that now. He doesn’t even come out of the temple anymore, from what I hear. The priests from the temple take shifts at the farms and queue up at the food lines just like everyone else these days.”

Solovar nodded. “The church isn’t supported by the people anymore, and not just because they can’t afford it. I’d say that many people feel that church isn’t even relevant anymore. The church existed to regulate psi, and that’s gone now.”

“Now, just one minute,” Da interrupted. “The church was never about psi. The church was there to help people turn their hearts to the Heart of the Earth. That hasn’t changed — psi or no psi.”

Solovar shrugged. “I’m just explaining the general sentiment in the city.”

“This is where I come in,” Yens said. “As the True Son, I can be the leader that people turn to for spiritual guidance. I can bring the church’s influence back to the people.”

“I’m not sure that will work,” Solovar said. “Some people think the True Son thing is over and done with. Some people think your psi is gone now, too.”

Yens leaned back in his chair and let out an exasperated sigh. “What about the battle with the archons? How do they explain all the things I did to defeat Gevri and his soldiers?”

You mean all the things I did
, Taemon thought. But he had made an agreement with Yens to make his brother look like the one with the psi, and he wouldn’t go back on that now.

Solovar rubbed the white stubble on his chin. “You haven’t displayed your ‘powers’ since that day. Many people wonder if that was your last act as True Son, if that battle sapped whatever psi you had left.”

Yens threw a fierce glare at Taemon.

“Those rumors didn’t come from me,” Taemon said. “I’ve kept up my end of the bargain.” The truth was, he was happy to let Yens be the public figure of the True Son. Yens was better suited for grand speeches and showy displays. That had never been Taemon’s style. “Look, we really don’t have time for this right now,” Taemon continued. “Let’s just figure out what we need to do to make this delegation work.”

“He’s right,” Hannova said. “The rest will have to wait.”

“Only if I’m in the delegation,” Yens said.

“Fine,” said Hannova. She held up a hand to silence Mr. Parvel’s protests. “There will be plenty of people to keep an eye on him, Birch,” Hannova assured him. “We won’t let him do anything foolish.”

Yens smartly kept his mouth shut at this, though Taemon could practically feel his brother bristling. What did he expect, though? Unlike the poor, deluded souls at the temple, everyone in this room knew Yens was a phony and a traitor.

When the meeting was finally over, it was dark. Amma wanted to study the message that had been left by the Republik, so she and Taemon walked back to Drigg’s workshop.

“I’ve been reading the book Vangie gave me,” Amma said.

“The one about Kertrand Lasky?”

“Not about him, but written by him. It’s slow reading. Really dense, academic stuff. He studied a lot of philosophers of his time. He tried to connect those philosophies to psi and how it worked from a scientific point of view.”

“Wait — when was his time?” Taemon asked.

“He lived at the same time Nathan did. He was one of the original followers who came with Nathan to Deliverance. He was pretty old at the time; he lived most of his life in the Republik.”

Taemon thought about that for a moment. “Do you think he saw Mount Deliverance being raised up by Nathan?”

“I haven’t read anything about that, but I suppose it’s possible. Wouldn’t that be incredible?”

Taemon nodded.

“If you want, I’ll lend you the book when I’m done,” Amma offered.

“Sure, thanks,” he said.

They stopped when they came to the wall with the message on it. “The letters look angry and threatening,” Amma said. “Do you think they meant it to look that way?”

Taemon shrugged.

“Skies, I can’t believe they’re letting Yens go and not me.”

“Your da just worries about you,” Taemon said.

Amma humphed. “He thinks everything’s too dangerous. I
need
to go to Kanjai to find out more about the books. Those books rightly belong to the colony. They’re part of our history. Not just for the colony, but for all of Deliverance.”

“You should talk to your da about it. Maybe you can persuade him to bring it up as part of the negotiations.”

Amma frowned. “How would I know that he’d keep his word, though? What if the negotiations don’t go well and he decides it’s better not to push too hard?” She shook her head. “It has to be me. It’s my fault the books were stolen in the first place. I’m the one who needs to get them back — however much it ruffles General Sarin’s feathers.”

Taemon knew better than anyone just how relentless Amma could be when she set her mind to something. “So how are you going to convince your da to let you come along?”

“Would you come with me when I talk to him?”

“I’m not sure how that’ll help. He doesn’t like me, remember?”

“That’s not true,” Amma said, though they both knew her da still placed some of the blame on Taemon for what had happened with the library. “Anyway, with you in the room, he can’t yell so much.”

“I can think of plenty of times when he’s yelled with me in the room.”

“It’s worth a try. Please?”

Her eyes told him how badly she wanted to go. And he
had
told her he would help. “All right,” he said.

Suddenly Amma gasped. She took his arm and turned him around. “Look,” she whispered, pointing at the trees near Drigg’s house.

Taemon squinted at a silhouette. But of what? Not a person. It looked more like a . . . like a
jaguar
.

“Is that Jix?” Taemon whispered.

Amma nodded. “What’s she doing here?”

They watched as the jaguar stood, still as a statue, and stared intently at them.

Taemon felt a shudder run down his spine. That cat always made him nervous, and her stare was thoroughly bone-chilling.

“What’s the matter, Jix?” Amma asked gently. “Are you hurt? Is Gevri hurt?”

Jix didn’t move a muscle. She stood frozen in place, her eyes fixed on them.

Out of nowhere, strange images and sensations flooded Taemon’s mind. He had experienced this once before, but it was no less disconcerting now. Jix had created a telepathic link and was trying to tell him something. The jaguar’s thoughts were not expressed in a language, and it was difficult to make sense of them. But she seemed to be showing him a memory.

Jix was in a cage. A cold cement cell with no windows. The floor was damp and smelled of stale urine and putrid meat. Taemon nearly retched from the strong odors. Not only that, but he felt what Jix felt. Sick, weak, hurting all over, and a headache that pounded on her skull. She could barely hold her head up.

Taemon saw gruesome flashes of what had brought her to this state. Experiments. Torture. Withholding food, water, and fresh air. Forcing her to do things she didn’t understand and had no desire to do. Forcing her to fight people, hurt people, even kill people. The only way to survive was to do what they wanted — to develop a telepathic ability so she could understand her master’s orders and carry them out. The experiment had killed her mate, and it had nearly killed her.

Then Taemon saw Gevri enter the cage. He had long hair, like when Taemon had first met him, and looked quite a bit younger, maybe twelve or so. Jix felt no fear of humans any longer. If this human killed her, she would welcome it. If this human hurt her, it would be but one more drop in a lake of hurt.

The young Gevri approached Jix and did nothing. Said nothing. Only lay next to her on the filthy floor and draped his arm around her. Jix used her telepathic ability to search Gevri’s mind for his intentions. She found no malice, but nor did she find pity. Only a desire for companionship.

Every night, young Gevri came to Jix’s cage and curled up next to her. Sometimes he brought fresh meat and sweet water. Never before had a human given her good food. In return, Jix taught Gevri how to communicate with telepathy. And one night, when Jix was strong enough, Gevri helped her escape.

Escape. Escape. That part of the message repeated over and over in Taemon’s mind. Torture, misery, hopelessness . . . then escape! Alone, helpless. The rescuer comes, and escape! Escape!

Okay, I get that
, Taemon tried to relay to Jix.
I understand why you are loyal to Gevri. But why are you telling me this? What does it have to do with me?

The escape scene from the cement cell vanished. The connection was still strong, but Jix was pausing. Demanding Taemon’s attention but not communicating anything.

What do you want me to do?
Taemon asked.

Still nothing, but Jix would not allow Taemon to break the telepathic connection. How did she do that? Jix was one of the strongest telepaths he’d ever experienced.

The images of captivity followed by rescue were repeated over and over, increasing in speed and intensity until it became almost painful.

The connection broke abruptly, and Taemon watched as Jix turned and padded away.

Amma gasped softly. “Did you see that? Jix locked in a cell and Gevri helping her?” Her voice quivered.

“I saw it,” Taemon said. “Is that the first time Jix has sent you a message?”

“Yes! But . . . how? I don’t have psi.”

“You don’t have to have psi to receive a message. Only to send one.”

“That is the eeriest thing ever.” Amma shook her head and let out a big huff. “What was it supposed to mean?”

“I wish I knew,” Taemon answered.

BOOK: True Son
2.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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