"No, Reah." Aurelius pulled me against him and hugged me close. "No, my precious love. If there were any way I could make this pain less, I would. I can only hope time will take some of it away."
"Then it can't pass soon enough, Auri. I want to crawl out of my skin sometimes, just so I can be free of it."
"I know that feeling." Aurelius kissed the top of my head. "Send mindspeech, my darling, if you need help. If I cannot come, then I can ask someone else. I am not without resources, love."
"I know." I skipped away before I broke down completely.
Campiaa was busier than ever when I landed in the casino at the end of the half-moon bay forming casino row in Campiaa City. Teeg didn't own this one, so I considered it neutral ground. I thought about getting something to eat before healing the core, but because my stomach was still queasy, I decided against it. I'd eat afterward. Instead, I went in search of the spot where the core was leaking.
Breathing a sigh, I stared at the place on Teeg's private grounds. Trust Nidris to make this as difficult as he possibly could. Tall trees surrounded the small clearing and I could see leaves turning brown already, although it was early summer on Campiaa. I would have to sit down and then turn or my Thifilatha would be obvious to everyone.
I'd skipped onto Teeg's property-I wouldn't have gotten past the guards or over the wall if I hadn't. Feeling exposed, even with trees around me, I undressed and folded my clothing, setting it to the side before dropping cross-legged onto the grass. The grounds were meticulously kept-Teeg made sure of that. Only the best for him, all the way around.
Sighing, I made the turn, my head just beneath a heavy, overhanging branch. "We'll have you back to normal in no time," I promised the brown leaves hanging down around me. Closing my eyes, I focused on Campiaa's daystar.
Boss, she's here and healing the core! Astralan's mindspeech came to Gavril while he was meeting with the President of Avendor, an important member of the newly-formed Campiaan Alliance.
Avendor grew the much desired gishi fruit that sold on the black market for more money that most drugs. Gishi fruit was delicious and only grew on Avendor. Their climate and volcanic soil saw to that. And, since Avendor was outside the Reth Alliance, it was considered contraband. Until now.
President Phires of Avendor wanted to maintain a high but fair price for his planet's produce. The Reth Alliance was working out shipping and trade agreements with the Campiaan Alliance, in an effort to ensure that standards were maintained in the growing and manufacturing of goods and services for importation. Gavril's eyes may have widened a fraction, but he didn't betray himself to President Phires when the mindspeech came from Astralan.
Go and see if she needs help, but stay back just in case, Gavril cautioned. Let me know if there's anything I can do.
Will do. Astralan cut off the mindspeech. He and Stellan folded to a prearranged location-they'd known for some time where Nidris had tapped the core.
Campiaa hadn't been harmed that much, but I still felt weary and ill after I made the repair and sealed off the core. Then, it seemed to take every bit of strength I had left, just to come back to myself. I saw my little pile of clothing and reached out for it, but my vision swam and then everything went black.
Boss, she fainted after healing the core. Stellan sent mindspeech this time; Astralan was busy shouting orders to the medical personnel who'd strapped Reah to a gurney, preparing to take her inside the San Gerxon palace.
I'll be there quickly, Gavril sent, standing and thanking Phires for the meeting. Things would work out with Avendor, but Gavril wanted to be elsewhere swiftly. Gavril thought he might shove Phires out the door before all was said and done. Instead, he handed the President off to Galaxsan, who smiled and talked with the President, leaving Gavril standing just outside his private study. Gavril folded away as soon as Phires turned the corner.
"How is she? What happened? I thought this wasn't possible anymore," Gavril was talking worriedly from the moment he appeared, rushing toward the gurney and the med-techs pushing it.
"I think she's fine-her blood pressure and vitals are all good," Astralan passed on the information he'd gotten.
"I'll be the judge of that," Karzac growled, appearing from nowhere and shocking the med-techs.
"He's a physician, you have nothing to fear," Gavril placed compulsion in a relieved tone.
Two of three straps were torn away before Karzac could calm me down. I'd wakened tied to a gurney and it brought back bad memories. The fact that Teeg was talking and issuing orders hadn't helped. I didn't have a broken arm and leg this time, or fractured ribs. I could move and I did, scaring three people half to death.
"Reah, calm down, baby, you're only strapped down to keep you from falling off the gurney, I promise," Teeg had his hands held out, attempting to bring me back to reality.
"Young one, please let me handle this," Karzac's face came into view. That's when I sighed and relaxed. If Karzac had come, then things were all right. "Reah, tell me what happened. When did you eat last?"
"Yesterday." I cringed, knowing the lecture was coming. I wasn't wrong, but it wasn't loud or hurtful.
"Reah, you are small. And thin. You have little reserves. You cannot go without eating; your metabolism is higher than that of humanoids. Do not do this again, little girl. You will harm yourself."
Teeg was handing out compulsion to the attendants, telling them to forget I wasn't humanoid. Karzac just growled low and didn't say anything. And to top it all off, they pushed me right into Teeg's bedroom and transferred me to his bed. I might have come right out of it again if Farzi and Nenzi hadn't shown up. Teeg dismissed the attendants, Farzi and Nenzi fretted on the far side of the bed while Karzac went over me, Teeg right behind him and Astralan and Stellan behind him. Astralan got a glass of juice from somewhere and I was sipping it after only a few moments while Karzac checked me over.
"Low blood sugar, mostly," Karzac pronounced. "And exhaustion. You need more rest than you're getting. Now, I should get back." Karzac patted my hand, his eyes crinkling a little with his smile. Then he disappeared, leaving me with Teeg and the others.
"Reah, don't scare us like that," Teeg settled on the side of the bed.
"I need to go home," I said, trying to move around him and get off the bed.
"No, Reah, stay." Nenzi was begging.
"Sweet man." I held my arms out to him. I had him and Farzi in bed with me in a blink.
While Farzi and Nenzi snuggled on one side, Teeg slipped off his shoes and wriggled in on the other. "Go find a sandwich," Astralan said to someone. I was eating in Teeg's bed not long after that, with Teeg's arms around me while I ate and Farzi huddled against my side and Nenzi curled in my lap as lion snake. I was stroking his head between bites and then kissing Farzi once in a while. I missed my reptanoids.
"I don't know where it came from, or why it's coming now." Lendill pointed his finger and a square of silk cloth went up in flames, turning to cinders in a blink. This was one of many exercises his father had set for him when he was small, attempting to coax out any ability Lendill might have. Norian stared as Lendill went through exercise after exercise. He burned things. Made water out of air. Pulled objects to him. Sent them away. Made them disappear.
"Have you tried folding?" Norian stared at Lendill.
"I'm afraid to-in case I only do it halfway. I could kill myself."
"I don't think it works that way," Norian almost smiled. "I didn't succeed the first time-you have to picture where you want to go. If it works, you go there."
"All right-how about over by that chair?" Lendill pointed to a chair inside his office-the one he kept at Ildevar's palace.
"Do it," Norian nodded. Lendill focused on the chair. Nothing happened.
"Close your eyes and picture it," Norian suggested. Lendill closed his eyes. And in a blink, he was standing next to the targeted chair.
"Holy gods," Lendill muttered in shock, frantically checking to make sure he still possessed all his limbs.
"I don't know why it's coming now, either," Norian shrugged. "Maybe you should practice a little more, then tell your father."
"What am I supposed to tell him? That I can do a child's tricks now? Since I'm two hundred forty-six? That'll impress my brothers."
"Better late than never, don't you think?" Norian chuckled. "Surely they're not that bad."
"You don't know Faldill and Reldill."
"You're right, I don't," Norian said good-naturedly. "That's why you need to tell your father first, and ask him to keep it to himself if it'll just shame you in your brothers' eyes."
"Easier said than done," Lendill sighed. "My father has always been an open communications proponent."
"You mean everybody blabs everything at the dinner table?"
"You don't understand, Keef." Lendill used Norian's last name-he'd done that since they were best friends in college. "My father is older than the dirt on Wyyld, I think. Nothing embarrasses him. He talked about sex when I was six. Went into detail when I was eleven. I think my mother threw food at him over that conversation."
"And there I was, looking up pornography on my comp-vid at that age," Norian grinned.
"What, with all those faked sounds and everything?" Lendill slapped Norian on the back.
"It took me months to figure out that the woman was supposed to be having a good time."
"Then you would have benefitted from my father's explanations," Lendill laughed.
"Come on, let's see you burn something else," Norian snickered.
"Reah, wake up, sweetheart."
"Huh?" I was warm and comfortable. I didn't want to wake up. I was in a cocoon where nothing might harm me and pain was far away. Waking would bring it back.