"I knew it would kill anyone connected to the circles. I had no idea they would call in even the weak and the young."
"You said nothing," Thurlow accused.
"I have made the promise not to interfere."
"But these belonged to the Light."
"That matters not to me." A curl of smoke escaped Kifirin's nostrils. "I did not make the decisions that placed them in this danger. It is not my duty to counsel them, in any case. All these decisions were theirs to make."
"Wait, I am receiving mindspeech from Lissa," Thurlow turned away from Kifirin for a moment before turning back. "One survived, and another may still be alive. Corent lives and Willow's body was not found." Thurlow watched Kifirin's face and felt satisfaction when he saw the brief glimpse of confusion and disbelief settle there before it disappeared.
"You did not expect that, did you?" Thurlow accused.
"They weren't connected to the circle, then."
"Lissa says they were. Corent rose and walked away after the others died, and Willow's body cannot be found."
"That should not be possible," Kifirin declared, breathing smoke.
"You wanted this, didn't you? The moment Toff was away from them, you allowed this."
"I have no care that they thought Toff would reach his majority at age eighteen."
"You did nothing to dispel that rumor, then. You never said when your judgment would fall, except that it would come when Toff reached adulthood. Theirs come to adulthood at age eighteen."
"I am not responsible for anyone's misconceptions." Kifirin's face turned dark. Thurlow knew the Thifilathi threatened.
"Did you repair Le-Ath Veronis' core afterward?" Thurlow asked his final question.
"It has been repaired?" Kifirin lifted an eyebrow in surprise. Thurlow stared at the dark god—he was just as shocked as Thurlow had been at that turn of events.
"It has been repaired. I can only imagine that any adverse effects will be neutralized quickly, since it has only been a short time after the initial tapping. Surely you know how unusual this is."
"I had nothing to do with it. Are you sure?" Kifirin's black gaze settled on Thurlow's face.
"I cannot lie—of course I am sure," Thurlow snapped. "I will leave you now." Thurlow turned to go before he made the Lord of the Dark Realm angrier than he already was.
"I wasn't sure at first," Belen settled on a corner of my desk while Gavin pulled me onto his lap on my sofa. "The signature is there, for those of us who have been gifted with the knowledge to detect it."
"Kifirin?" I asked. He was the first I suspected of healing the core.
"Kifirin had nothing to do with healing the core. I have received a message from Thurlow, however, and he says Kifirin withheld information from the Fae on when Toff would come to adulthood. They thought it was when the child reached eighteen years." I inhaled a shocked breath at Belen's statement. "Lissa, you must understand," Belen continued, "Kifirin is Lord of the Dark Realm. If he fails to behave accordingly in some things, at least, complete balance cannot be maintained."
I gaped at Belen. "You're not kidding, are you?" My voice was a whisper.
"No, beloved, I am not, as you put it, kidding."
"Then who healed the core? The Larentii? Did the Wise Ones do this?"
"The Wise Ones had nothing to do with this, although it did involve changing What Was."
"Who else can do that, then? I thought they were the only ones." I was completely confused, now. The Mighty Hand had mentioned that ability to me once, as had Connegar, but it was relegated to the Wise Ones and generally was directed at individuals, not entire planets. This was changing What Was on a much larger scale.
"We believe that the one who did this also is responsible for relocating Willow," Belen added. "He is currently on Morningsun. I think he will be acting as advisor to King Brandelin and his brother."
"And the fact that he holds power won't go amiss, either," I muttered. "Is Willow all right?"
"He is confused, just as Corent is, but he will be a good fit where he is. Another of the Mighty is responsible for this, Lissa. Do you know what that means?" Belen's eyes are usually bright—sometimes so much so that it is difficult to gaze into their depths. His eyes were now dark and troubled. Both of us knew about one of the Mighty already. Belen was saying that another had come.
"What does it mean?" My breath hitched as I watched Belen's face.
"When all three appear, the god wars will come," Belen whispered. "That information cannot leave this room." I nodded, stunned at his words. The god wars. Anyone who knew of the Mighty also knew of the impending god wars. Renegades belonging to all the echelons holding power would break away and wage war against those who would try to hold the universes together and steady against them. The Mighty would be hidden when they were thrust into a humanoid existence, to keep the renegades from destroying them in their new bodies. Becoming corporeal was the only way the three would be allowed to interfere. Without them, everything could be destroyed.
It was at that moment, too, that the baby moved. My eyes widened and my hand went to my belly.
"The child is Gavin's son," Belen announced before disappearing abruptly.
Gavin rose with me in his arms. Carefully, he placed me on my feet before kneeling before me and wrapping his arms around my waist. Until that moment, I'd never seen Gavin weep. These were tears of joy.
"Young ones," Master Morwin began, "Many things happened that night."
Toff was still struggling to understand any of it, and he, like Tory and Ry, hadn't been given the full tale. They realized this, too. Perhaps they would learn more from Morwin.
They missed Trik's presence. He was now at Grey House, learning from Shadow and Raffian. Master Morwin was spending his mornings at Grey House, so Toff's lessons had been moved to the afternoon with Tory and Ry, after working with his father most mornings at the winery.
Toff was still trying to grasp that all the Fae were dead except Corent and Father Willow. Queen Lissa referred to Corent and Willow's survival as a miracle and refused to talk about it. Corent had been at the palace for two days before moving to the beach house, which was still undergoing repairs. Toff had visited with Corent while he was at the palace, but Corent still seemed confused by the ordeal and hadn't talked much.
"We know the core was tapped, and I had to beg Dad to tell me what that meant," Ry offered.
"It has been repaired and that is a great miracle, all of its own," Morwin nodded, his bushy eyebrows wriggling animatedly. "I hear that your Uncle Thurlow went to speak with Willow on Morningsun, but he is quite confused and remembers little of what happened. Corent, sadly is much the same."
"Do we know anything, Master Morwin?" Tory asked.
"Very little. Your mother is still searching for many answers. I have not the reason why these souls thought they were strong enough to do this deed. Perhaps a few Larentii might accomplish this, as they are the most powerful beings that I know. The Fae are many steps below the blue giants. This was a foolish attempt, and had they consulted the Queen, I'm sure she would have told them so."
"They felt responsible," Toff muttered, hanging his head. "I learned that from Corent. He didn't think the Queen knew that Gren tapped the core, and they wanted to make the repairs before she found out. Tiearan said they owed her a debt, and they wanted to pay it."
"Young one," Morwin came to stand before Toff's desk, "I beg you to never say that to the Queen. She will feel guilt over it, and that should not be. None of this is her fault. Surely you can see that."
"I do," Toff nodded. "Papu says the same. I only say that here, because I know you will protect the information. And the Queen."
"I will protect the information. Do you agree?" Morwin turned to Tory and Ry.
"Dad says the same," Tory nodded. "He knows."
"My dad does, too," Ry said. "Mom won't hear it from us."
"Very good," Morwin's eyebrows danced. "Now, shall we turn to the geography of Wyyld? There are unexplored mountains and forests there, did you know?"
"I don't care that the core has been healed. When we attack, and we will soon, we will tap it again. It was probably those fool Larentii she has following her around like lapdogs," Zellar snapped at Tandias' report.
"I trust this one will not be as clumsy as he was before?" Tandias turned dark eyes on Gren, who cowered before the strange Ra'Ak. "I know you take pleasure in the deaths that resulted from this one's fumbling, but it also alerted the Queen to the fact that her planet had been tapped. Had it been done smoothly, we could have continued to drain the core without her knowledge." Tandias was angry and barely holding that anger back. If he didn't feed soon, these two might make a useful meal.
"Tandias, please feed, your testiness has not gone unnoticed," Zellar muttered. "I will discipline this one," he jerked his head in Gren's direction. Gren backed against a bare, stone wall, frightened immediately.
"Lissa, I had second and third thoughts before bringing this one to you." Aurelius, golden-haired bear that he is, stood inside my office, a filthy, scruffily dressed Elemaiya gripped in one of his large hands. Aurelius had recently learned that he would be a grandfather. As Gavin's sire, he claimed that honor. "You asked me to let you know if Narissa met her end, and that is the news this one brings. He has another tale to tell, however." Aurelius shook the Elemaiya, who cringed in the tall vampire's grip.
"What tale is that?" I asked, staring at the Elemaiya. Once he'd been a Queen's guard for Friesianna—I knew that from Looking. At least my Looking skills and mindspeech didn't affect the child; I could use those talents whenever I wanted.