"That isn't good." Belen folded in, shining brightly before gathering his light and forming a corporeal body.
"Yeah. That's not good," I agreed. "And if there's more of those schmucks out there, well, who knows what will happen? If somebody challenges them, can they just place compulsion to win the battle or send somebody back to destroy things from within?" I was thinking about my twins, Gavin, Tony and Jeral. It made me feel sick, to be honest.
"Conner's inviting us over for breakfast, so I don't have to cook," Kiarra had gotten silent mindspeech, her beautiful face set in a frown as she received the message. All of us were folded to Connor's, I didn't know by whom, and Franklin was sitting down beside me in a blink, telling me I was exhausted and needed to eat and then sleep. He'd gotten his hands on me, first thing, using his healer's skill to fix what he could.
"Honey, I appreciate the concern, but this is scary," I muttered. Franklin sat down and ate breakfast beside me—Shane and Thomas had fixed enough to feed a real crowd. It was a good thing, too—a crowd showed up. I listened while Kiarra, Belen, Conner and just about every other Saa Thalarr came in and talked the whole situation over.
Dragon and Crane were there, of course, with Grace and Devin. Fox folded in with Wlodek, Weldon and the rest of her mates. Gilfraith came to give me a hug. I patted him on the back and smiled. Cleo arrived with her mates; Glinda even folded in, Jayd and Garde right behind her, with both tiny girls asleep in carriers. The babies were growing, though, and that was nice to see.
"Are you stirring up trouble again?" Russell came in and patted me on the back.
"You haven't seen trouble, yet," I teased him halfheartedly.
"We can't seem to get a handle on this, to tell if there are any more out there," Kiarra sighed after conferring with Conner, Dragon and Grace.
"There are plenty of other voids—Lissa only sealed up the biggest one," Joey was helping himself to the breakfast buffet.
"So, there could be Ra'Ak everywhere, and a lot more full-blood Elemaiyan Ra'Ak," Dragon sounded worried. "Who would know about the Elemaiya—enough that we might figure this out?"
Well, Griffin must have been listening in, because he folded in shortly afterward, his mother—my grandmother—gripped by the collar. She looked as if she'd been freshly washed and dressed, and I hoped Narissa hadn't given Amara too much of a fight while she did it. "I think maybe Lissa can get answers out of her. I wasn't able to, before, and I only started thinking about that recently," Griffin muttered.
He didn't meet my eyes as I stared at him. He was right, though—when he'd taken Cleo, Kyler and me to meet Narissa, she'd told him then that it was a good thing I'd placed compulsion. Of course she'd tried to cover it up, muttering some nonsense about Wylend and a spell he'd cast. I hadn't thought anything about it either, at the time, thinking that Wylend Arden, as King of Karathia and perhaps the strongest Warlock on that world, had managed to achieve that particular result. He hadn't. He'd only been able to keep Narissa from telling others whose child she'd had. Compulsion had nothing to do with it. Her talent, combined with Friesianna's, had likely accomplished that feat.
"So, grandmother," I began, "tell me about the Elemaiya and compulsion."
"Many might have some form of compulsion," she snorted. "But that’s not what this is. We use another word for this," she snapped. She didn't want to be there, no doubt about that. I put a plate of food together and handed it to her. She ate as if she hadn't had a meal in days. Most likely that was true.
"Then what word do you use and what, specifically, is this?" I asked when she'd slowed down on her eating.
"We use le'meruh," she muttered.
"Extreme coercion," Griffin explained.
"Only a few are born with the talent," Narissa went on, scraping up the last of her eggs with a fork and a wedge of toast. "Bright and Dark. It is coercion so strong, few can withstand it—even those among the powerful. The ones born with this gift have to be handled carefully, so they don't turn on the others. Friesianna was born with it. Became Queen, as soon as she was old enough. Some say she forced the old Queen to step aside."
"Is the old Queen still alive?" I asked.
"Don't know. She was forced from camp and we never saw her again."
"The new Queen is the one who made the deal with the Dark ones and the Ra'Ak?" Griffin was getting in on this. I didn't care, as long as we got to the bottom of it.
"Yes. But she has done many things in the past that should not have been." Was it me, or was my grandmother starting to sound more reasonable?
"So, not everybody agreed with her? That sounds like she forced some people to do her will, then."
"Yes. Many were afraid to say anything against the Queen's decisions, because of it." I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to ask my grandmother if she'd been for or against the Queen on that one. "Rabis tried to warn her, but she ignored him as she usually did. He also tried to warn her against the alliance with the Dark ones and the Ra'Ak, but when she refused him that time, he disappeared and did not return."
"Rabis was their Seer," Griffin said softly, when I raised an eyebrow. "He knew I had the gift."
"She still plays Queen, though she doesn't have a drop of power to her name—even the le'meruh is gone, now. She holds court and her pretty males are still lined up to do whatever she asks. They've killed for her, as often as not. She'll kill to get a handful of berries away from the ones who've gone out to pick them, rather than lift a finger for herself." There was contempt in my grandmother's voice. Well, she'd just described what I thought she'd become.
"Mother, don't sit there and tell me you didn't follow along right behind her, all those years when life was good."
"I did." She didn't look at Griffin when he spoke to her. "I should have gone to Rabis and asked him about it, long ago. He'd learned to keep his mouth shut, though. He wasn't volunteering anything, unless he thought there wasn't any other way. She would have gotten rid of him, too."
"So, you're saying that Rabis wasn't there on Kifirin with the rest of you?"
"No. There were a few others, too, that have disappeared over the years, one or two at a time. Rabis was the last to leave, before we met up with my granddaughter there. I wish Rabis had told me about her." Narissa nodded in my direction; she seemed particularly miffed that she hadn't been informed of my existence.
"My fault," Griffin said. "I knew somebody would come looking for her, so I brought her forward in time. I thought she'd died in the future, too, just as most of the others did."
"That's why he didn't see her. She skipped over some years." Narissa snorted.
"Around three hundred," I muttered. "Grandmother, I have to say you sound a lot more reasonable now than the last time I saw you."
"My great-granddaughter," she mumbled.
"I did it." Cleo came in and looked down at Narissa. "When I made my pronouncement, it broke any remaining compulsion that Friesianna had on her. I didn't realize it until later. That doesn't mean she's undeserving of what she got," Cleo held up a hand. "She still had some will left in the matter. She just chose not to exercise it."
"Until now," Narissa looked at Cleo. "It brought home to me just how mortal we are. Friesianna is killing, whereas she didn't do that so much before. The Ra'Ak influence, I think, in addition to her alliance with Baltis."
"Let's get back to the le'meruh thing," I sighed. I might have to go back to Evensun and sort out a few murderers. Later.
"I don't know that there were any with the talent left on the Dark side," Narissa went on. "The Ra'Ak, though; they're full of stories about how some of their own will come for them and make them Ra'Ak again."
"Is she saying that the Ra'Ak took or were handed the Dark Elemaiya with le'meruh, and they were made Ra'Ak?" Kiarra had been silent, listening carefully up to that point. Now she was thinking the same thing I was thinking.
"All I know is that they disappeared. It makes sense, though, and Rabis may have known about it, but I do not know where he is, either." Narissa was looking hopefully at the table. Cleo went to get another plate of food. A glass of milk and some coffee were provided, too.
"Thank you, I haven't had coffee in a long time," Narissa sipped it, first.
"Sounds like we need to find Rabis," Kiarra muttered. I was in complete agreement. We talked for a little while longer, but my grandmother didn't know anything else of value.
"They'll kill me when I get back," Narissa whined when Griffin moved to take her.
"I know what to do with her," I sighed. Well, the Green Birth Fae owed me, so I set up fifty acres near the Green Birth settlement for my grandmother. I think everybody who'd been at Conner's came along, just to see what I intended to do. Adam put up the house and I placed a shield around it. Narissa couldn't get past a certain point, and nobody could come in past a certain point. Food and other things might be left on the perimeter for an exchange, but that was all. Narissa was in a prison of sorts, albeit a comfortable one.
"I expect you to hand over regular reports," I informed Tiearan, who now stood among us. "Make sure she has food and clothing. If she needs anything else, let me know and I'll make a decision."
"We will do this to discharge part of our debt," he agreed.
"Let me know if she mistreats anyone," I added. Tiearan nodded.
"Where should we start looking for Rabis?" Kiarra blew out a sigh. We were in my private meeting room, which we seldom used. At least it held all of us, although not everybody got a seat at the table. Even the Spawn Hunters were there this time, and Drake, Drew, Gavin and Tony were giving me looks, letting me know that they'd been left out. Well, I'd grovel in a little while. When this started, I didn't know that it was going to be anything except a conversation with Kiarra and possibly her mates. Now it was something quite different.