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    Chapter 1

    "Is that what they do?" Wyatt was gripping his grandfather's arm so hard it probably would leave a bruise on the King of Karathia.

    "The Larentii Wise Ones Change What Was—when the time is right," Lissa explained. They couldn't really see anything—Kifirin had relinquished Reah's body the moment the five Larentii and their Protectors appeared. All of them pulled the pertinent people out of the ballroom of the San Gerxon Casino. Inside a private banquet room, the Larentii Wise Ones, surrounded by their Protectors, were working with their energy over Reah's Thifilatha.

    "But how will she be if they bring her back?" Wylend worried.

    "The same. Anyway, that's what I hear."

    "Mom?" Gavril's voice floated from behind, filled with worry.

    "Son, go back out there, you need to calm your guests and let them know it's over," Gavin took his son's arm. For a moment, it seemed as if Gavril were seventeen again, instead of nearly seventy.

    Gavin walked out with Gavril, while Farzi, Nenzi and six other reptanoids came rushing in.

    "How our Reah?" Nenzi was nearly in tears.

    "The Larentii are doing what they can," Lissa tried to reassure him.

    "I felt her die." Aurelius arrived as quickly as he could—someone had taken over for him on an assignment.

    "Aurelius, the Wise Ones are working on her," Lissa did her best to hold the old vampire back. Tory was on his knees as close to Reah and the Wise Ones as he could get. Norian had come and he and Lendill were in a corner with Kaldill Schaff. Norian and Lendill's father were both trying to calm Lendill.

    "Something's happening," Wyatt breathed. A flash of light came and the Wise Ones gathered in a tighter knot.

    "They've forced her out of the Thifilatha," Lissa sighed. "Is Kifirin still here?"

    "I am here, avilepha." Kifirin appeared at her elbow. The god sounded tired. Exhausted, actually.

    "Tell me what happened," Lissa demanded.

    "Something that should not have been," Kifirin sighed. "That is why the Wise Ones appeared—this event was not in the timeline. Neither was Reah's child's death. Unfortunately, the Wise Ones cannot recall an unborn child."

    "Then what changed it? What made this happen?"

    "Someone who shouldn't have the ability has tapped into the Telling Winds to change things," Willem appeared. "Until now, only I have been able to tap into that power. I didn't see the baby's death until it was too late." Willem shivered. "I understand that Reah healed the core on Cloudsong before she came here."

    "She healed a dead world? That's incredible. Kifirin, does this mean the other worlds that Zellar killed will live again?" Lissa stared up at the dark god.

    "Avilepha, we cannot send her out to do these things. If she chooses to go, I will not hold her back. I think she needs protection, love. She saved your youngest, did you know?"

    "He said as much." Lissa lowered her gaze. "Will she go back to him now?"

    "I cannot answer that." A collective sigh drew their attention—the Wise Ones were stepping back. And then as one, they all disappeared. Tory was off his knees, but Wylend reached Reah before him.

    "Erland, stay here as my ambassador," Wylend ordered, lifting Reah in his arms. "Wyatt, Corolan, Garek, with me," he added. Wylend disappeared with Reah.

    "Son, let's go see what we can do to support Gavril," Erland muttered to Ry. They took off toward the ballroom.

    "Mom, I need to be with Reah," Tory was at Lissa's side in as little time as it took to skip there.

    "Child, Reah's mate should never wait for approval," a tiny curl of smoke came from Kifirin's nostrils. Tory was left staring at empty space as Kifirin disappeared.

    "I am going. Do you wish to travel with me?" Aurelius asked. He'd not taken his eyes off the Wise Ones or Reah the whole time, listening to this conversation or that with only half an ear.

    "Yeah. Let's go," Tory sighed.

    "I'll see if I can bring her out." The voice was vaguely familiar, but I hadn't heard it in turns.

    "Wyatt?" I stared up at the warlock who wanted to be a healer instead of heir to the Karathian throne.

    "Here is my love," Wylend came into view.

    "Where am I?" I felt dizzy and confused.

    "In my suite," Wylend smiled at me.

    "Wyatt, what can you tell me?" Karzac appeared from nowhere.

    "Dizziness, probable confusion. The wounds are healed but there is still bruising around the sternum, ribs and thigh, with the sternum bruise the most severe," Wyatt said.

    "Good. What else can you tell me?" Karzac lifted an eyebrow at Wyatt.

    "That she should rest for at least ten days, with no strenuous activity during that time. No skipping, folding or sex. Until I say so," Wyatt added.

    "Very good." Karzac smiled.

    "I have a headache," I muttered, rubbing my forehead with fingers that shook.

    "And a headache," Wyatt laughed. "I can handle that." He did. The pain left as soon as his fingers moved mine aside and touched my skin. "Now, you should likely eat something—clear broth and liquids at first."

    "Please, no," I mumbled. "That last stuff I got was tasteless."

    "See, this is the difficulty in treating a Master cook," Wyatt chuckled.

    "I brought these; they were having a meltdown, Em-pah." Lissa appeared with Farzi, Nenzi and the other six reptanoids.

    "Corolan, find some rooms," Wylend directed.

    "Reah?" Aurelius moved Wyatt aside and sat on the edge of my bed.

    "Auri?" I was weeping in his arms in seconds. All except Farzi and Nenzi faded from the room.

    "She's sleeping—Farzi and Nenzi are with her," Aurelius raked a hand through his gold mane of hair. "Cried herself out, I think. Over the baby and everything else."

    "She wouldn't let any of us near enough to do that," Tory grumbled.

    "Torevik, what did you expect? She was troubled when you appeared to turn your back on her and the child. Gavril didn't help—he should have seen it, yet he pulled you away at every opportunity, leaving Reah by herself or with me." Aurelius gave Tory a level look.

    "I didn't know what to do," Tory moaned.

    "You could have gone to your father. Or to your mother or any number of other people. Yet you walked away from Reah instead. If you'd bothered to explain to her how you were feeling, it might have made a difference."

    "Doesn't matter now—she won't even look at me."

    "Love doesn't turn on and off, like a faucet," Corolan patted Tory's shoulder. "Keep that in mind and stand in front of her. She'll notice, I promise."

    "Corolan knows what he's talking about," Wylend gave Tory a hug. "Don't give up, child. We'll make her smile again."

    "This is good. Very good." I sipped my broth—it was seasoned perfectly. I could imagine small chopped leeks or scallions in it, with seasoned croutons added at the last moment. I said that aloud without thinking.

    "And that is how I usually serve it." The cook had come to the table. Wylend had summoned him, I suppose. He was younger than I imagined and smiling at me.

    "This is Radolf, who might be a very good warlock if he didn't stay in the kitchen constantly," Wylend chuckled.

    "Why is there any need to be a warlock when you can cook?" I smiled at Radolf.

    "Exactly what I've always said." Radolf sat next to me. "I was thinking about adding noodles to this, or pasta of some sort."

    "Nothing heavy," I agreed. "Something thin and light, and not too much of it. Just enough for the taste and to entice the appetite."

    "Exactly," Radolf nodded.

    "Is that why the soup bowls are small?" Corolan wrinkled his nose at Radolf.

    "Of course. We slave over the main course—you think we want you to be full after the soup?"

    "There's a duck recipe I've been working on," I told Radolf. "How do you feel about allowing someone else inside your kitchen?"

    "I won't mind if I get to help."

    "Don't tire her out, son." Garek gave Radolf a look from his place at the table.

    "That's your father?" I looked from Radolf to Garek. Garek gave me a blinding smile. Both had dark hair, but the eyes, noses and chins were different.

    "Yes. I disappoint him constantly," Radolf grinned back at his father.

    "You do not," I elbowed Radolf gently. I was too weak to do otherwise, and I had to admit that I liked Radolf immediately. It made me wonder how old he was—I couldn't gauge ages well in the Karathian race. Wylend was thousands of years old and still looked young—not much older than I.

    "I think I tripped our exalted King more than once when I was little," Radolf declared.

    "At least six times, running underfoot," Wylend gave Radolf a pointed look. "Thank goodness it was always in my private quarters."

    "It would be too undignified for the formal hall," Wyatt agreed, smiling.

    "Don't laugh, I think I tripped over you a time or two as well," Wylend grinned at Wyatt. Wyatt was only a year or so older than Tory and Ry.

    "How are the meetings going on Campiaa?" I asked quietly.

    "Couldn't be better—I got word from Erland before dinner," Wylend said. "The delegates who were reluctant to join were merely afraid of the Strands. Gavril has the Strands locked up at the moment—it appears they may be the first to feel the bite of justice from the Campiaan Alliance." Wylend sounded happy about that.

    "And their warlocks?"

    "Dead, including Nidris," Wylend said softly. "That one Gavril killed himself. Let us hope there are no others who know how to tap cores."

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