Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 14
Taelin watched as Sasham Varan exited from the great gates of Silan-Luria, turn with that characteristic precision and execute a perfect Six and One to the Monitor who’d led him out before turning and trotting down the wide white steps to the waiting Streetwing. “Taelin! Thanks for coming to get me!”
“No thanks needed, Sash. Everyone’s looking forward to seeing you, and most of them worried that they’ll have to try to walk the mist so as to not upset you.”
His friend’s face seemed to lose a bit of its usual animation for a moment, but the brightness which had slowly re-emerged in their travels returned. “No. I’ll bring up the subject myself if I have to. Diorre wouldn’t want that.” Taelin smiled slightly, pleased, as he noted that Sasham had finally said Diorre’s name without hesitating. “No, really, Taelin, I’m not totally over it. And maybe I never really will be. But I’m not broken any more.”
“Good! Because now that you’re here we intend to make it a great vacation for you!”
Sasham glanced over at him with an expression of concern. “Hey, I’m not one of the Five Families, Taelin! I’m here for some Towers-hidden secret project and to do a lot of work, not to visit with friends!”
“Don’t worry so much, Sash! Sure, sure, you’ve got work to do. So do we in the Families, you know. And that’s exactly why you’ll be spending a lot of time with us and the Dellitamas and so on.”
As Taelin expected, Sasham immediately acquired that half-pleased, half-embarrassed self-deprecating look which, in 99% of the humanoid population of the Galaxy, would be a pretty deliberate act, but in Sasham Varan’s case only showed exactly what the Korealan Navy Officer felt. “Torline’s Swords, Taelin,” he muttered (and it took considerable self-control for Taelin to not giggle at his friend’s favorite yet utterly old-fashioned curse), “I just barely make it out of that disaster alive through some freak of luck, and then Shagrath’s talking about my possibly getting the Directorship, and you’re talking about keeping me at high-profile parties when I’m not working? Don’t you know how bad that’ll make me look, like I’m trying to leap into the Families or something?”
Taelin pulled the Streetwing out of the standard airlane and parked it, floating in the late-afternoon sunshine above gold and rose-tinted clouds, lights just becoming visible in the shaded land below. “Sash, you are such an idiot sometimes, you know? I put up with it because you’re an idiot for such incredibly upright reasons.” He smiled in exasperated fondness at the almost hurt look. “Sasham Varan, you great blank-eyed innocent, that’s exactly what it should look like, because we’ve been trying to get through a Nomination for you for years! You think my parents forgot that you might have saved me from kattasi or maybe even worse that time on Wyllas? That the Families stopped looking for the best of the best? If you were anyone else I’d think you were just playing for me to say this, but, sad to say, you’re just that way. I mean, believe me, the Families — the Five, the Great, the Lesser — all are real happy to have people like you under us, the foundation of the Empire, but we keep the Families the way they are by making sure that the best get to become part of the Families. The Emperor had told us we had to wait until you did something else that would make it worthwhile — just one more bit of proof that you were Family material — but he accepted our confidence and had set the proper possibilities in motion for whenever you did something notable.” He touched the controls and set the Streetwing in motion again. “Then you went and pulled off something so impossible that we almost needn’t have bothered starting the process earlier.”
Sasham stared ahead out the windscreen, his cheeks noticeably darker despite their naturally-dark tint.
“See! You’re embarrassed! You’re about to tell me — again — that it’s just dumb luck. That you’re hardly worthy. Well, let me tell you, that’s the kind of attitude we need in the Families more. The older ones — mine included — sometimes forget that we’re no different than the regular people out there. We’re supposed to be smarter, better, faster, all that, but, well, sometimes I’m not so sure. I’m sinking sure that we won’t be that way if we don’t keep looking for the best and bringing it to the top.”
“Well…” Varan finally said, slowly, “… I know mom and dad would love to hear that I made it.”
“Of course they would. It’s the dream of everyone at that level. But there’s so few chances that people basically mostly give up, or just don’t understand how it works. It’s the ones that don’t pay any attention to that possibility, but make the grade anyway, that my Dad said we should watch for. And that’s you. By your own favorite Swords, Sasham, we talked for a while about whether Mishel should allow you to pledge to her, since –”
“What??” If anything, Sasham looked more stunned than he had when Taelin first surprised him in his cabin.
“You have a problem with my sister, Varan?” Taelin said, mock-seriously. “Not good enough for you?”
“I didn’t — that’s not –”
“Oh, stop looking so shocked. I know your people only marry for love, not politics, but it’s not like we’d have asked her to do it if she found the idea repulsive. She thinks you’re sweet. And that would have been a perfect way to bring you in without having to argue with the Family councils.”
He heard Sasham mutter “Torline’s Swords!” again before his friend settled down into thoughtful silence, the old-fashioned oath reminding him of their little recurring religious debate, and he grinned. He did have to admit that the few Atlantaean relics that had survived were often impressive enough to make you understand the religious awe some attached to the long-vanished civilization. He’d actually been on board one of the few remaining Atlantaean warships, the Niaadea, and there was something about it that was unmistakably different. The corridors, older far then even the ancient Imperial Palace, still shone as though they had been forged yesterday; light glowed from the walls or ceiling as needed, as though the ship itself knew exactly how much light you needed, and where; it responded to commands as though it was a fighter, not a warship twenty kilometers across, and by some mechanism still not understood was able to bring Taelin (or anyone else, for that matter) on board, and send them back to the surface of Oro, without need for a shuttle. Just blink! there I am, and blink! now I’m back. The strange teleportation device did not work through battle shielding, either Longshot Barrier or Gradient Shields — a somewhat comforting fact — but it was still a mystery as to how it worked.
Taelin glanced over at Sasham, seeing his friend was still gazing outside without really seeing anything. He also didn’t say anything about his talk with the Prime Monitor yet. Well… I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk that out later. He guided the Streetwing around a large cloud, rose-tinted in the sunset, and noted the indicators in his implanted field of view showed he was approaching the estate.
“Okay, enough letting your head wander the stars, Sash,” he said. “We’re about to land, and you’re going to enjoy yourself if I have to drag you to every party on Oro!”
“I’m doomed, then.”
“You certainly are.” The Streetwing settled to its accustomed location near the entrance of the Mel’Tasne mansion. Taelin had barely popped the canopy when the doors burst open.
“Sasham! Sasham, welcome, welcome, welcome!” Mishel was first, smiling, embracing Varan tightly. Taelin smiled as he saw Sasham’s face darken again, even as he hugged her back; he obviously still was thinking about the fact that Mishel had been considering pledging to him, and even Taelin had to admit that his tall, slender sister with her cascade of black hair and dusky skin was stunningly attractive.
Sasham was saved from any more potential embarrassment — at least from that source — by the arrival of Lukhas. “Sasham, good to see you.” His brother gripped Sasham’s forearms tightly and spoke quietly. “We’re all sorry, terribly sorry, and hope you will heal soon.”
“All of us!” agreed Mishel, looking slightly put out that Lukh had beat her to the condolences.
“Thanks… Thank you, all of you. I –”
But Sasham didn’t get to finish whatever he was going to say, because this time Treyuusei cannonballed into him, almost knocking him down. And right behind her was Erylle, Taelin’s mother, and a mob of other guests, all of whom knew Sasham more or less well. In the middle of the sea of greetings and condolences and social questions, Sasham finally caught his gaze long enough to fix him with an accusing stare — a stare to which Taelin responded with an innocently clueless gaze. Varan’s eyes narrowed — though with a humorous glint — and he mouthed something that appeared to include the Atlantaean word setta’ai, which meant “avenged” or “vengeance”.
Taelin laughed and followed the crowd in. He can try to get all the revenge he wants — but right now, I think he’s feeling better than he has since it all happened — and that makes everything worth it.