"Where did she go?" Erland shouted as Lissa's body went limp and dropped to the floor.
"She has gone to energy, Warlock," Reemagar replied. "That is not the least of our worries, however. Nemizan's sun is now dead and the blast from its destruction is coming our way. And we have these." He nodded toward fifty Ra'Ak who'd appeared from nothing. "I will protect her body," Reemagar went on. "But be prepared when we," he was unable to finish his sentence; the planet lurched beneath their feet.
"What the fuck?" Erland shouted as the grinding noise began. Wood and marble floors buckled and split beneath their feet, windows cracked and shattered in the walls around them.
"High Demon, the cameras are no longer recording," Connegar folded in. "Reemagar and I are protecting Nemizan's sister planets. Might you slow down these Ra'Ak? They think to destroy Lissa, then feed and fold away at the last moment."
"I'll most certainly slow them down," Garde muttered and went Full Thifilathi. His roar caused more glass to fall from shattered windows and the wind created when he flapped huge, leathery black wings caused Alliance guards to lose their footing. Roaring again, Garde launched his black-scaled Thifilathi toward waiting Ra'Ak.
"I can help with this," Erland strode forward as the planet lurched again. It barely slowed the spell Erland hurled against the first of many charging Ra'Ak. Gardevik Rath had already twisted heads from three coppery bodies and was now chasing after others. His deafening roar created new cracks in the ceiling overhead.
"They're running outside," Heathe shouted as he slid to a spot beside Erland. "They're eating people out there."
"I won't mind if it's only politicians," Erland snarled and leveled another blast at fleeing Ra'Ak. He was thankful that Gardevik's Thifilathi negated a Ra'Ak's considerable power—these were racing away from the High Demon in an effort to regain their folding ability. A High Demon in full Thifilathi could neutralize a Ra'Ak's power for a hundred yards, and these Ra'Ak were only beginning to discover that fact. They could either run to regain their ability or turn and fight with the strength in their scaled bodies.
"I'll help those outside," Rigo rushed toward the doors and the Ra'Ak who were killing in the courtyard. Rigo moved swiftly as he attacked the first two Ra'Ak he reached. They screamed in pain, too, from the deep slices dealt by his claws.
"Oh, no," Heathe murmured as twenty-five Ra'Ak turned to attack Garde's Thifilathi.
"No worries, young vampire," Erland said. "I've been saving this one." The blast that erupted beneath twenty-five huge, scaled serpents blew them upward and through the meeting hall ceiling.
We must hurry, he urged me on. I don't have the ability to change What Was. At this moment, only the Larentii Wise Ones hold that talent, and they may only use it to affect individuals or isolated incidents. For this, their power is terribly insufficient.
I knew—in some way—what he meant by What Was. It didn't involve bending time or interference. It involved standing in the present and changing what had already happened. Somehow, those who wielded that ability had the talent for reversing any negative impact on the timeline. The Larentii Wise Ones were called that because they were wise enough to recognize when their talent was required and when it wasn't. They didn't use it often.
Grace was alive because of the Larentii Wise Ones—she'd died when Graegar was born. Even as a newborn, Graegar held a great deal of power and he'd combined his talent with that of the others and brought his mother back. It was something I wasn't supposed to know, but I did. Connegar had told me.
Here, I shouted.
"Yes. This is good, he agreed. We'd found a suitable sun. Now, all we had to do was move three planets—in less than two minutes.
Lissa, you must hurry—the blast is arriving, Connegar sent. Oh, lord. He sent images, too—the five Ra'Ak who'd pooled their power to destroy Nemizan's sun weren't finished; they were speeding up the blast, somehow. Fuck. We didn't have as much time as we thought. I turned to the one helping me. If I'd been corporeal, I would have wept.
Think of the planets as tennis balls, he shouted inside my head, pulling me away from my mental dismay.
"Where the hell is Lissa? The fucking planet is breaking apart!" Erland shouted.
"There are dead people all over the courtyard outside," Grant panted as he came to stand with Erland and Heathe. "Either poisoned or crushed by Ra'Ak. Rigo is doing what he can and some people got away, but Ra'Ak are chasing them, now. There's just too many of them."
"They'd better fold away soon, before everything is blown to the void," Erland hissed, shooting another blasting spell toward a Ra'Ak threatening Gardevik's back. The Ra'Ak was thrown against a wall with a resounding boom, causing the wall to collapse in a pile of dust.
"I think we should fold away soon, Warlock," Thurlow said as he coalesced beside Grant. "We will take Lissa's body. I have been energy outside the planet; things are not going well, my friend." The planet lurched again and they watched in horror as Garde's Thifilathi lost his footing and fell beneath a horde of attacking Ra'Ak.
Lissa, no! he shouted. What was I supposed to do—dally with three tennis balls until their equators fell at exactly the right spot? I wasn't about to do that while my High Demon mate was attacked by Ra'Ak. Three worlds were slapped haphazardly into place before I refocused on Nemizan, my mates and the Ra'Ak.
I'm sorry to say that I ignored the shouting (and a little cursing) as he yelled for me to place three worlds in better spots. Garde would die if I didn't do something. Ra'Ak lives popped out of existence as I directed power into their brains. My High Demon's Thifilathi was slowly rising from a cracked and broken floor, his wings torn and black scales ruptured and broken in many places. He was alive and that's all I cared about.
Then, ignoring pleas to go back and fix the rotations of three planets, I went looking for the five who'd done this to begin with. Did they think to hide from me? I laughed at their petty plans and small minds. I was powerful as energy, and the fragile tether that held me to the worlds and my corporeal existence was ignored as I searched them out. Did they truly think to hide from me? The tether loosened.
"I'm fine, stop fussing," Garde wanted to brush Karzac aside. That wouldn't do. The curmudgeonly physician would only return, with help from Jayd and three other High Demons, if necessary. Garde chose to ignore the healing and allowed his eyes to stray to Lissa's body instead. It lay on a table where Reemagar had placed it, appearing lifeless except for the random, occasional breath that lifted her chest. Garde turned away—it was difficult seeing her like that.
Rigo received medical care as well—he'd been clawed by two Ra'Ak while trying to slow them down. Jeff, Shane and Franklin worked on the ancient vampire's wounds. He, too, often turned his gaze to Lissa's body.
Erland had sailed through the fray without a scratch, although he now sat on the floor, breathing heavily from exhaustion. If the battle had lasted any longer, he would have drained every bit of his reserves.
The meeting hall was roofless and crumbling with only three walls standing. The rest of Nemizan looked much the same. At least a sun's light was shining down—even if it wasn't the sun Nemizan recognized. "She should be back by now," Grant whispered. He'd come to stand next to Garde and blatantly stared at Lissa's body in fear. Garde blinked in alarm at Lissa's vampire assistant.
So many things went through my consciousness as I flew through the universe. All the things that troubled me in my corporeal form weren't so troubling while I was energy. In fact, they weren't troubling at all. All my cares and worries, left behind to trouble small lives on tiny planets. My body remained on a world the inhabitants named Nemizan. I barely gave it a thought as I flew free. I was of the Nameless Ones, after all.
Yes, I knew our name, but it wasn't something any of us could repeat, except to one another. I felt good as energy. Better than I'd ever felt before. I had no pain. No price on my head or stolen child. No father who'd betrayed me, time and again. No loved ones dying or deserting me. No beatings, deaths or near-deaths. The universe was feeding me as I raced through it. I realized, then, that I didn't have to search them out. As energy, I could call them to me. The tether broke and five Ra'Ak died with barely a flick of my power.
"I was afraid of this." Kifirin reached out to touch Lissa's cheek, stroking it lightly. "She has discovered her true identity and is now flying unfettered through the universes, merely for the pleasure of it."
"But she's still breathing," Erland growled softly. Reemagar held Lissa's body in his arms, and even the power of the Larentii, great as it was, couldn't bring Lissa's spirit back to it. They all stood inside the meeting hall as members of the Alliance stole back inside. Few realized how closely they'd come to annihilation. Many had died, but many more survived. Lissa had done that for them. Now, Lissa no longer inhabited her body.
"She has a decision to make, now," Kifirin replied. "To return to her body or stay as she is. I warn you, if she does not come back to her body voluntarily within four weeks, I will allow this body to die. If she does not return within that time, she will not return. You may keep her body alive until then." Kifirin folded away.
"Rigo, Heathe and Grant stayed at the Conclave, but Rigo won't have a voice, he can only take notes," Erland paced inside Lissa's library at the palace. "Kifirin says he'll let Lissa's body die if she doesn't come back within four weeks."
Dragon and Devin had come to be with Drake and Drew, who were having difficulty understanding any of it. "She just flexed her power and suddenly forgot about us?" Drew was extremely upset.