Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 25
Taelin couldn’t help but laugh at the stunned amazement on his friend’s face. “You complete child, Sash! And I mean that in the best possible way, but by the Fall you’re innocent! There was never any doubt that the petition would pass, not now, not after everything you’ve done!”
Sasham’s storm-gray eyes actually shimmered for a moment in a way that made Taelin suspect tears were trying to emerge. Fortunately for the Navy officer’s dignity, Treyuusei threw her arms around him and gave him a resounding kiss on the cheek. “Congratulations, Sash! You’re going to be one of the Families!”
Sasham wobbled and almost fell, then laughed weakly. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just all so much. I –” He cut off suddenly, and Taelin got the impression of someone trying to dam a river at peak flood. “Thank you, Taelin.”
“You can thank everyone at the Elevation ceremony. Don’t waste them on us, we’ve been planning this for years, and getting you here is our reward,” Treyuusei said. “Now I’ve got to dash, I’m stuck on two judgement panels today, two of our less well behaved Great Families are having a spat.” Taelin slowed her long enough to enjoy a drawn-out kiss, and then regretfully let her go.
“You’re a lucky guy, Taelin,” Sasham said, watching Treyuusei leave.
“I am at that,” he answered with a grin. “And if you can notice, I guess you are getting better.”
Sasham laughed, this time more naturally. “Maybe… maybe I am. Diorre sure wouldn’t want me to spend my time mooning over the past. That doesn’t mean I’m planning on seeing anyone yet, though. That’s… not something I’ll be comfortable with for quite a while.”
“No one will expect you to, unless they’re too politically ambitious for their own good.” He punched Sash’s arm affectionately. “C’mon, you’ve got just this one day with us before you have to go back to your top-top-ultra-secret work, let’s get in all the fun we can! How about some Doubles Targets?”
For a moment he saw a shadow cross his friend’s face; something about the question touched on that same loss. But then Sasham nodded slowly and a smile came back to his face and even showed in his eyes. “Yes, I think that would be fun.”
Taelin had thought as much, but he began to reconsider after Sasham whipped him the third straight game. I thought I was a good shot. He’s amazing. Of course, he’s had real under-fire practice, while no one’s ever let me out into the field, at least not where I’d have any chance of getting in trouble.
“Don’t you ever give a guy a chance?” he said, watching two of Sasham’s targets disintegrate before he could get his first to break up.
“Give you a chance? And what would you say about giving me a handicap in Six Towers?” Varan’s answer didn’t slow him down a bit.
Taelin had to admit that he had a point, but that didn’t mean he had to actually let Sasham know that. “I’ll bet you weren’t that cold to Diorre.”
The mention of her name did make the pistol waver the tiniest amount, but that only gave Taelin a chance to not fall behind any more. “You know … knew Diorre Jearsen, Taelin. If I’d cut her any slack, especially after we started seeing each other, she’d have beat me like a Fallday rattlestick. She wanted that competition.” He destroyed his last three targets in rapid succession, leaving Taelin several seconds to catch up, and wiping a tear from his eye along with sweat from his forehead. “And so you know, the last thing we did together — before that attack — was Doubles Targets.”
“Oh, vorces, Sash, I didn’t –”
“Don’t apologize! I’m glad we did. It’s always been one of my favorite sports, target shooting, and wouldn’t it be terrible if I’d let that memory take it away?” He nodded and smiled. “I’m going to remember her every time I do this, and I’m going to be happy I remember her.”
Taelin could almost see Diorre Jearsen for a moment, red-gold hair tumbling over broad shoulders, a white-flashing grin in a deeply tanned face, an athletic figure just a bit larger than life, faster, stronger, tougher than anyone she met, standing behind Sasham, almost a head taller. “Then I won’t even complain about losing,” he said, echoing Sasham’s smile. “But I think I’ve done enough of that for now. Look, let’s get back and clean up — Ghelliq’s party will be starting not too long from now.”
“Ghelliq… they’re Tanemell, right?”
“Right! See, you’re learning already!”
“Pfah. That’s my Navy training — you memorize the unusual ones first. Humans and derived-human are the majority — more of that evidence of Atlantaea, eh?” he said with a sly grin as he got in the dig, “so I always remember the aliens in a group first, and Tanemell are memorable anyway. Not many amphibious sentients around, and the Tanemell are freshwater types instead of saltwater amphibians like the Mydrwyll or Lomdallu.” They passed inside and headed up to the secure private quarters; as they passed the threshold Varan winced and wavered, putting a hand to his head.
“What is it, Sash?”
For a moment his friend just stood there, eyes closed; then he opened them and smiled, though with a pain wrinkle still visible. “Headache, suddenly. I think I’ll have to borrow an inductor. Probably strained something during Doubles, tracking those darn targets.”
“No problem — use the one in my room, it’s closer. I’ll have someone bring your things down –”
“No, no, Torline’s Swords, Taelin, I’m not crippled,” Sasham said, waving off the idea. “I can survive another few minutes going to my rooms. Just give me a few extra minutes to run this thing out of my head and I’ll join you downstairs.” He headed down the hallway.
Taelin watched him for a moment, but Sash seemed reasonably steady, so it was probably nothing. You could strain things at Doubles Targets — you were expected to move around a lot, and the targets could demand a lot of quick movement in reaction — and Sasham had certainly been showing off at points.
He took his time showering off and dressing; the Ghelliq party wasn’t that soon, and even though Sasham was getting better at handling the social whirl, there was no reason to drag him there before he’d fully recovered. A good inductor session took at least fifteen minutes and more likely half an hour.
It was more than an hour before Taelin finally made his way downstairs, seeing Sasham coming down the other staircase just ahead of him. His friend’s face was much more relaxed. “You look better, Sash!”
“Lots better. Strained muscle or whatever, the inductor and a few run-throughs of the Centers and Visions cleared it up.”
Taelin surveyed him, taking in the wrappings of colored silks and carefully-shaped foundation garments. “That’s got to be Mishel’s influence. She loves the Ankhar period look.”
“I don’t mind. I wear the same uniform so often it’s not so bad, now that I’m getting used to the idea, to just wear something so un-uniform-like.”
“It’s certainly that. But it’s stylish, in a loud kind of way — and it fits for your current social position. Selected candidates are supposed to draw attention to themselves.” He grinned. “But that does also make you a target…”
Varan gave a theatrical shudder. “I don’t care how socially advantageous it is, I’m not pledging a Tanemell, no matter how shiny her scales are.”
They left, laughing together.