Super Secret Hidden Page
The Lost Temple of Psiere
Mystery of the Makers book 2
Excerpt from chapter two:
EVENING HAD FALLEN and Commander Tosh found more to be worried about than a destroyed moto from the newest assassination attempt. Oathing tradition meant that the first of three dinners would always be with the immediate family of the initiator of the oathing request. Since Olivienne had been the one to ask Castellan on the back of a dirigible high above northern Endara, they took their first dinner at the palace. It was a quiet meal with only five in attendance. Perhaps what surprised Castellan most was that the family dined at a smallish round table. It seemed strangely intimate in such a grand room, and certainly less formal.
Castellan was seated between Olivienne and her sib, Sub-Connate Kesharan Dracore. On the other side of Kesharan was King Keshian, and the Queen sat between Olivienne and the King. The Queen watched Castellan with those disconcerting purple eyes that were so like her daughter’s. Even though everyone in attendance had met each other before, it was strangely awkward. Olivienne couldn’t stand the tension but her words were tightly directed to one person.
“Maman! Quit staring at her like that. I know you like Tosh, be nice and stop trying to intimidate her.”
Olivara turned her gaze on her daughter. “Who says I’m intimidating her? I think you know your commander better than that. But fine, I’ll do my official duty and welcome her to the family.”
The Queen casually swallowed a spoonful of soup before turning her regard back to Castellan. While she was fairly positive about Castellan Tosh’s feelings for her daughter, as the ruler of the nation she felt it was her job to be one hundred percent sure. The upright commander was much too powerful to simply slide inside her thoughts without her knowing but Olivara was not so easily deterred. The only way to get the information she sought was to make Tosh momentarily slip the tight reigns of her control. But her daughter was wrong about Olivara’s technique. She knew that something as crude and simple as intimidation would never work on the noble commander. The Queen had been ruling for many rotos and was a consummate schemer. Olivara had other more subtle ways of getting the information she needed.
“So Commander Tosh, you are certainly unceasingly handsome. Have you had many lovers?” The King snorted and Kesharan clapped a hand over his eyes and prayed to the Makers that his maman wouldn’t do such things when he finally brought home someone to oath to. Tosh had just taken a swallow of her vineo and began choking on the liquid as the Queen’s words registered.
“I’m only asking with a paren’s concern, after all. I need to be sure that my daughter isn’t just another dalliance with you.”
Castellan turned red at the implication that she was less sure of her love for Olivienne simply based on her lack of past serious relationships. She abruptly stood from her chair and the entire table held its breath. The King sighed first, recognizing what his par was trying to do but he too waited with bated breath to see the commander’s response. The Queen smiled as Castellan’s tight focus momentarily slipped, not that she learned anything more than what the commander’s own words iterated in the meen that followed.
“Does Archeos dally in the sky with Illeos? Olivienne is my sun and I am hers, and together we burn more fiercely than any I have met before or will meet after. By the Makers I pledge you this, there are no words you can utter that would cause me to doubt or turn me away from her!”
She glanced at her lover and was surprised to see tears in her eyes. “’Vienne?”
“I love you.”
Castellan took the offered hand and let Olivienne pull her back into her seat. When she once again met the Queen’s eyes, she saw affection warring with pride. “My apologies for the outburst, my Queen.”
Rather than Queen Olivara answering, it was the King. He knocked upon the table twice and gave Castellan a smile. “Well-answered and welcome to the family, Commander Tosh.”
Queen Olivara smiled at Castellan and the commander knew then that her future mamanar was only trying to provoke a reaction with her off-color remarks. And based on her past interactions with the sovereign, she had a feeling she knew why. But unlike past incidences, Castellan didn’t get angry at the flagrant breach of privacy. When she met the purple eyes of Olivara Dracore she addressed her suspicions in a silent exchange. “Did you get what you were looking for when my shield dropped?”
The Queen didn’t respond to the accusation directly, but Castellan was mollified nonetheless. “Olivienne is very lucky and I gladly welcome you as a consoral daughter.”
With that response Tosh gave a slight nod and let the subject die. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t spoken with the Queen on many occasions. And she knew for certain that the woman approved since Olivara had all but forced Castellan and Olivienne together initially. She sighed at having conquered the most difficult hurdle when entering into a consorage with a royal sovereign, the Queen’s official approval. However, the commander’s reprieve didn’t last long since the Queen turned the conversation to another more serious matter. She was straight to the point as usual. “Tell me about the moto incident todae.”
The King looked up from his dish of seared greens and roots. “Moto incident?”
Castellan sighed. “Yes, ser. Specialist Calderon was sent to retrieve one of our team’s transports from a routine maintenance visit. Just before reaching the front gates, he noticed a suspicious package on the floor the next seat over. He quickly pulled over and exited the moto as the explosive device ignited. The blast flung him away from the transport with some force. Luckily he was able to slow himself with levitation but still received some scrapes and a sprained wrist from the ordeal. The doctore said he should be fighting fit in five daes time.”
“By the Makers! I spend an entire dae stuck in meetings with the Imperium and this is what I miss?”
Olivienne put down her eating utensil. “It’s all fine, Papan. The moto didn’t even breach the palace walls. Whomever was responsible did a shoddy job.”
The Queen spoke up with a clipped tone that betrayed her fear and frustration. “That’s beside the point, ’Vienne!” She turned her purple gaze toward Tosh. “What is being done about this, Commander?”
“Lieutenants Savon and Madlin were on the scene first as I was in the middle of our clothier appointment. They contacted Shield headquarters and requested quarantine for the transport and a team of investigators. I spoke with General Renou and she informed me she’d flag the incident for high clearance only, per my request.”
The Queen narrowed her eyes. “What are you thinking, Tosh?”
Castellan sighed and rubbed the space just above her nose. “I’m thinking that the moto is already a high security item by nature since its part of the sovereign’s fleet. The maintenance yard is within the joint Defense and Shield storage area with limited personnel having access.”
The King grunted and sat back as his dark brows drew together. “An inside job then.”
“I’m afraid so, ser. But too many people have access and unfortunately the maintenance area has no record of comings and goings so we have no guesses as to whom could be the culprit. In an effort to glean any clues, the general loaned me one of their top Shield psychometrists. Unfortunately the blast rendered most physical items, including the explosive device, naught much more than slag. So it looks like a dead end where that is concerned.” Shoulders slumped around the table as the initial course grew cold in their dishes.
“I hate this!” The outburst came from the youngest member of the Dracore family. Seventeen rotos in age and a new Academy attendee, Kesharan still had the youthful timbre to his voice and no facial hair to speak of. And while he remained tall and slender like his maman, his bone structure and deep blue eyes were all that of the King.
Both the Queen and King looked confused at his outburst but Olivienne knew. She was his sib after all. “It’s fine, Kesh. I have many protectors and this one didn’t even come close.”
He turned to look at Olivienne in full. “But it could have. You have a target on your back at all times while I sit safe, twelve hundred mahls away at the Academy in Scola. It’s not fair to you!”
“Kesh…” Olivienne trailed off and glanced toward their maman. He was more than a decaroto her junior and there were things she knew their parens kept from him. Things they kept from her until she came into full maturity. And it wasn’t her place to tell her sib what those things were. Castellan watched, understanding that someone had been keeping the Sub-Connate in the dark about certain details. Their oathing dinner had turned quite serious, but then they were residing in serious times.
The Queen shifted and moved her napkin to dab at the corners of her mouth. A server came in with the third course and she waived the man back out. “Kesharan, there are truths that come with being a Dracore that most of us don’t learn about until we reach a certain age. Your papan and I were hoping to wait a bit longer to tell you but the security threats against our family dictate otherwise.” She paused to order her thoughts. The words were difficult because no paren wanted to have to tell their child that their life was in danger, that it would always be in danger for as long as they lived. The ruler of Psiere turned strangely hesitant and she cast her dark gaze toward her par, hoping for some help.
King Keshien grasped her hand tightly in his and gave a nod before turning to Kesharan. “My son, what your maman is trying to say is that you and your sib were born with targets on your back. There have been assassination attempts on every member of the Dracore family for as long as Dracores have been ruling Psiere. Even you. To date, your Shield team has been able to handle any incidents that crop up, but the guardians maintain a diligent vigil over our persons at all times. So if you think that you sit on Instrucia Island safer than the rest, perhaps there is some merit to your thought due to the distance alone. However, I assure you that you are no less a target.”
“Kesh, I have a dangerous job compared to the rest of my family. We all know that. And my duty as an adventurist takes me all over the two continents, which exposes me to peril significantly more than you at Academy, or maman and papan here in Tesseron. The attempts on me tend to be more public, more dramatic, because I am in the public eye quite a bit. That is why you see me targeted more than yourself or our parens. I’m sorry that you’re worried for me, truly. I’m sorrier that any of us have to worry but we all have excellent teams to guide us and guard us from danger. Trust your team, and trust ours.
The young psi looked stricken, his pale face standing out dramatically against the nearly purple black of his hair, a hair color that was a signature of the Dracore line. His voice was quiet. “I had no idea. My whole life I just assumed we were always safe, that attacks were rare.”
“Big attacks like todae, or in the plaza down in Pentole are rare. What is different now, the reason such things have accelerated, is that your sib is working on a secret mission for me and your papan. Very few know the truth of what she searches for or the treasures that success could yield.”
Kesharan looked at his maman, then turned his gaze toward Olivienne. “The lost temple! You’ve found it then?”
Olivienne nodded and grinned back. “We did.”
“And you’re only just telling me now? You used to tell me about all your great finds.”
His dark brows furrowed and lips turned down into a frown. Keshian’s hurt feelings were written all over his expressive face and Olivienne couldn’t have that. She loved her sib immensely as they’d grown up quite close despite the thirteen roto age gap between them. “We’ve only had the final key for a lune or so. We retrieved it on my last adventure to Dir Nubila. You were away at Academy until a dae ago and the mission is so restricted that I could not send you a missive for fear of interception. But with maman and papan’s permission, perhaps you could come to my residence after dinner and Tosh and I can fill you in on what we’ve discovered.”
Kesharan’s face lit with excitement as he turned to his parens. “May I?”
Olivara looked to her par and everyone could tell a wordless exchange occurred between the Queen and King. Then Olivara turned toward her only son. “I think that should be fine. You are a Dracore and a trusted member of this family. As long as you know that what we say is to be kept under the highest security. Savvy?”
Olivara didn’t look toward them but she directed her thoughts to Olivienne and Castellan. “You can tell him about everything but the skeleton and the antoraestones. I’d rather no one have that knowledge but the few of us, for now.”
“Yes, my Queen.”
The King clapped, startling all of them. “Good, now that the heavy discussion is complete, let’s turn our conversation to lighter things. For instance, who wants to lay odds with me that the good commander here,” he winked at Castellan, “suffers a faint when she stands for the official oathing?”
Olivienne laughed delightedly, much to Castellan’s chagrin. “You better hope not, papan. Otherwise the actual consoral ceremony may just kill her!”
Castellan cleared her throat. “I think I will manage just fine, my King.”
“Oh, none of that!” he exclaimed. “I’m to be your future papanar. No need to be so formal.”
Keshien made a face and Olivara patted his arm. “Sorry, love. But our dear commander is vexing like that. So very formal.”
Seeing an opportunity to give as good as she had gotten throughout the dinner, Castellan called out with a smirk. “And dashing, my Queen. Don’t forget that you once called me dashing and said that I would have turned your head to oathing in your youth.”
The Queen winked back at her and raised her glass in salute. “So I did.”
Olivienne looked scandalized. “Maman!”
“Oh, stuff your aether, sib! You know maman only ever looks at papan. They are nauseating like that.”
“Stuff your aether?” Olivara’s right eyebrow rose, so very similar to her daughter’s familiar reaction.
“I think it means to hold tongue, my Queen.”
Before Olivara could respond, both the King and Olivienne burst out in laughter. “Oh, Makers save us, Kesh, but you’re totally right. Maman and papan are completely gone on each other.” She turned to her lover. “I suppose I have no worries then since…what did you tell your own maman? I believe you said that I was the most amazing person on all of Psiere, save the Queen.”
Castellan made a slight noise of protest as an uncharacteristic flush moved from the commander’s neck up to the top of her forehead.
The rest of the table responded with laughter as the staff brought out the next course. The Queen had telepathically contacted the head of the kitchen when she sensed that the conversation was steering into safer waters. Castellan wished the next night’s dinner suffered from a lot less drama, though knowing her maman as she did, she wasn’t holding out hope.