Feb. 3rd, 2017

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Before they left her suite, Ardent got a current likeness of Ocean Discourse by farspeaker, from one of her friends at court. “I’d love to trace Fallen directly, but of course she’s on the list of Play’s trace-detector customers. If she knows I’m watching her, she’ll never go anywhere interesting again. So we’ll have this thing shadow Ocean and see what turns up.”

She also interrogated Katsura in an effort to learn what was going on behind the scenes of High Court, and how much it would affect her. And Miro. Justice, I am here for just one reason: get Jinokimijin free of Fallen’s claws. I don’t want to be sucked back into High Court’s petty politics.

Too late.

Katsura’s response was petulant: “Of course I was helping you to embarrass the Sun Etherium! You were the one who told me he was your new slave.”

“Servant. I wrote ‘servant’.”

“Whatever. You made a deal with him, beat him, and dragged him back to Moon Etherium where he’s vulnerable and delicious. It’s pretty obvious who’s got all the power. Sun Etherium’s very unpopular with the High Court nowadays, so yes, humiliating them the way you were was a smart tactical move. Since you didn’t want to accent that in the usual way that Fallen was doing – another smart tactical move, one I didn’t even realize at the time – I offered an unusual one.”

Ardent fought down her aggravation and the sense that she was being used. I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to this ruse. I shouldn’t be this upset about it. Miro’s not this upset about it, and he’s the one most affected. She took a few deep breaths, and sent back: “Why is the Sun Etherium suddenly unpopular?”

“Who knows? The dullest theory is that some trade agreement the Queen wanted didn’t happen. The juiciest is that Summer Assemble, the Queen’s grandson, has defected to the Sun Host. And that High Lord Light Calls to Light was his lover and thinks he was tricked or seduced into leaving.”

“This is a rumor? They don’t even know? When did Summer Assemble leave the Etherium?”

“Not sure. The High Court announced three weeks ago that he left ‘to explore the world beyond the Etherium’, but rumor is that he was gone weeks earlier. And the High Court’s been spare on details. Maybe they’re telling the truth and he’s still Moon Host, just not in the Etherium. Maybe he’s gone barbarian. Maybe he got seduced by a Sun royal. Who knows? Did your Sun prince say anything?”

Ardent glanced up from her heap of messages to look at her Sun prince. He was reading their copy of Venodeveve’s book on channeling. “Did any of your siblings seduce a Moon Host fey recently, do you know?”

“Not that I’m aware of. Most of them don’t keep me in the loop of their affairs, though. I’d only be sure that Ama and Tiqo hadn’t,” Miro said. “Why do you ask?” Ardent explained about the rumors, and he shook his head. “If he joined Sun Host any time prior to a week ago, he must have done so with extreme discretion. Even I would have heard about the defection of your Queen’s grandson. It’s the sort of triumph my mother would take great pride in announcing. Via twenty-foot letters of burning aether, for instance. There’d have to be a compelling reason for her not to do so.”

Ardent wrinkled her nose and dispatched another message to Katsura. “He says probably not. So what shenanigans should I be expecting at the party tonight?”

“Oh, the usual shenanigans.”

“Thanks, that is so reassuring. Could you be a whisker more specific?”

“Fallen loves tormenting her new toy. I think she’s been waiting all her life to have a fey that helpless at her command. It’s kind of adorable in a cruel way.”

“‘Adorable’? Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

“Maybe adorable is the wrong word. It’s entertaining. And different. It takes a lot of different to stand out in the Etherium. You know how we are.”

“I sure know why I left, in case I was in any danger of forgetting.”

“You’re the one who chose to come back. If you didn’t want to see slaves treated like slaves then why’d you take one?”

“I was drunk on power lust. Apparently even this is not enough to sober me up. Still drunk.”

“Ooooh, what’s it like?”

“Incredible. I don’t need to humiliate or torture him to channel power from him, though.”

“So you’re trying to tell me that ripping aether through his body is not torture? Because it sure looks like torture when Fallen does it.”

Then Fallen is doing it wrong, Ardent thought, but didn’t send. “Fine. I don’t have to torture him other than by channeling. And besides, I have to be careful about it. He’s High Court. I might break him. Why are we talking about this? Is Fallen going to be torturing Jinokimijin at a party purportedly held in my honor?”

“Probably. Everyone enjoys the show. Well, everyone else does, anyway. You know how it goes: ‘he’s foolish, he’s Sun Host, he deserves it’.”

Ardent looked at the heap of messages in her lap, and abruptly swept them all away in a cloud of ash and smoke. Miro looked up from his reading. “My lady?”

She sighed. “It’s…” not all right. “Moon Etherium.” She wrote back to Katsura, “Thanks for the warning, sugar. And for the offer of clothes. We’ll be by shortly to pick it up, if now’s good.” She rose from the couch and offered Miro her hand. “I hate to say it, but I think you were right about that leash, sugar. It’s gonna be bad.”



Don't want to wait until the next post to read more? Buy The Moon Etherium now! Or check out the author's other books: A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements.

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