Chapter 1-11 are here:
“He doesn’t want to see you, Dain,” Geneal said, while he paced in the tiny windowless room set up as the command center during Dynan’s visit to the Guild Hall. There were a few tables and chairs, a comterm and nothing else. The first Approachment was in the city, Keevin. The Guild Hall was situated at the end of a long promenade. The XR-30 was parked in the big plaza in front of the building. Dain had seen it on his way over to land at the port.
“He only thinks he doesn’t want to see me. He went through this alone the last time, Geneal. I’m not going to let that happen again. I know what he thinks I’m going to say. I’m not going to do that. I’m not even thinking it. Marc told me to come out here. I’m going to see my brother.”
“Maybe just this once, you should think about doing as you’re told.”
“Did he make it an order? Did he say you are under orders to stop me from seeing him? Did he?”
Her mouth drew into a line and she rolled her eyes. “No, he did not.”
“Then he didn’t mean it.”
“He said he didn’t want to see anyone from the Palace. Not anyone. He said it twice. We all knew that you’d come here. So did Dynan. He wants to deal with this when he gets back home. Right now, he just wants to get through this day. He’s out there right now, acting like this thing hasn’t happened. He’s being asked questions on everything else that has happened though. This wasn’t ever going to be easy to begin with. He’s injured, he only just got his hearing back and it isn’t all that good, and he’s sick from this drug on top of all of that. We take a break every hour for a few minutes. He comes in here and gets sick in the washroom. If I can’t get it under control, I’m sending him home. That’s why I want you to do what he says.”
Dain smiled after the long speech, surprising Geneal. “All right,” he said, noting the ensuing doubt in her eyes. “If that’s what he wants, that’s what I’ll do. I don’t think that’s what he really wants. I’ll be out on the XR-30. Yell if you need me.”
He stepped back into the hall, fully intending to do as he said when Gaden came through the opposite door. It led into the small parlor-sized room now used for the Approachment. It was a far more relaxed setting than any Dain remembered hearing about. Small groups were ushered in, served a small tea or water, and offered seats while they waited for the people in front to move along.
Dynan stood by a high-backed chair in such a way that he could use it to steady himself without looking like it. In his left hand, he held a comboard that he occasionally made notes to. At the moment, he was speaking to an older man, or rather listening to him deliver a long tirade about how nothing was better since his return, Dynan didn’t know what he was doing, and that he should let Ambrose have the crown.
The man looked out the door and saw Dain. “And that one is the worst of the lot of you. Your good father, the King, was the only one who could control him, or you for that matter.”
Dain cringed, expecting Dynan to turn around. His brother already knew that he was there. Had known it, so he didn’t look. Dain couldn’t entirely ignore the old man though, so he went in. “I just have one question for you, sir,” he said. “Do you think it’s possible for a man to change over the years?”
The old man hadn’t expected that question and didn’t know what to say. “I suppose, yes. I haven’t noticed that you’ve changed any.”
“I think if you look closer, you’ll see that a lot has changed since we’ve been gone, and us, too. My brother is doing what’s right, so that you have a chance for a better life. It hasn’t been easy and it isn’t going to be. We didn’t know that our father would be returned to us. We didn’t think that was possible, did you?”
“Well, no, I—”
“Of course you didn’t. He was gone all this time. Entombed in the Hall of Kings. Who would expect any man to return from death? We don’t know if he’ll be allowed to stay. We could be faced with going through all this again a year from now, or a month, or a week. I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep him here. We couldn’t be that lucky.”
The man frowned, but grudgingly agreed. “That would be too lucky. But my point stays the same. Your brother hasn’t done enough to change things here.”
“But he will. We haven’t been back that long, and not everything is as bad as it was. For instance, you wouldn’t likely get away with saying these sort of things about Kamien, now, would you?”
“No. No, you’re right about that.”
“The difference is we want to know what your problems are. We want to know where things aren’t going the way they should, so we can start to fix the problems. Start to. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will happen.”
“All right then,” the man said, and turned back to Dynan. “See that it does.”
Dynan smiled and nodded, assured the man that he would do his best, and turned to the next in line. These were a large family of farmers who only wanted to see him and make sure he was really all right. They told him that they thought he was doing just fine. Then they were gone, and all the doors closed for the break.
The moment he could, Dynan sank down into the chair, putting his he head down on his knees. Dain saw that he was shaking. He wondered if he might be able to make him feel better.
He set his hand on his shoulder, and Dain became aware of a crippling nausea that he fought to control. He concentrated, thinking the process backward, and felt himself weakening while Dynan received all that added strength.
Dynan jerked in surprise, realized what he was doing and stared at him. Dain smiled. “Did it work?”
He nodded, but turned from him, eyes lowering to the floor quickly. It was one of the few times Dain didn’t know what to say. It seemed like they were stumbling into dangerously fragile territory, and one misstep would cause irreparable damage. Silence grew.
“Is that old man’s attitude the kind of thing you’ve been dealing with all morning?” Dain asked finally.
“Mostly,” Dynan said softly as he leaned back in the chair. “The explanation takes too long, and they aren’t interested in hearing it. I quit trying about an hour ago.”
“Maybe if I stay by the door, they’ll do all their complaining to me instead.”
Dynan glanced at him, hesitated a moment before he nodded, a half smile appearing. “All right. Thanks.” Geneal came in, saw Dain and glared at him, but Dynan stopped her from complaining. “You know he never listens anyway.”
“I do, too.”
Dynan shook his head at him while Geneal went about her examination. “I feel better.”
“I see that. Think you can eat something?”
“Not yet then. All right. I’m still seeing a trace in your system. Drink more water.”
“I have been.”
“How’s your hearing?”
“Not too good.”
“Trevan says he can run your receiver on a separate channel, boost what you’re hearing.”
“Tell him to go ahead. Not that I really want to hear what these people are saying, but it’ll help catch the compliments.”
Dynan looked to Kenon and nodded that he was ready. The doors were opened. The next group entered, followed by a steady stream of people. Dain greeted them all as they entered and encouraged them to tell him their problems. In general, they were in a better frame of mind when they reached Dynan.
As the day progressed, Dain began to wonder what was happening back at the Palace, a little surprised that he hadn’t heard. Dynan was thinking more and more about what he would be faced with as the time of their departure neared. The half-smile he’d kept all day for the public grew strained and finally disappeared. Dain edged over to stand next to him. They stayed an hour longer than originally planned to see all the rest of the people. Finally, the last group was ushered out the door.
The Guildmasters from the surrounding Regions wanted to see Dynan, though he was tired enough to find standing difficult. Dain didn’t think it was necessary or wise, but this too was a planned event and unavoidable. Dynan wasn’t exactly in any great hurry to get back home anyway.
Finally though, they were able to leave the Guild Hall and board the XR-30. Dain thought for a moment to go back to the ship he’d flown over, but changed his mind. He didn’t want to leave Dynan yet.
His brother turned immediately for his room as soon as they got onboard, but Dain took him by the arm and pulled him forward into the flight deck, protesting the entire time. Trevan Golyin was piloting. Dain had known him for most of his life, reading everything he’d ever written about engines and transference and any other topic the engineer had ever thought to publish. He knew every component of the XR-30. He knew how Dain intended to fly her, too.
Trevan hesitated, but hid a smile as he vacated the pilot’s seat. Kenon seemed less inclined to cooperate, but he too moved out of the way. Dain deposited Dynan into the co-pilot’s chair, turning to the guard.
“Go tell everyone to get secured, and get someone to fly that X38 back home for me.” Kenon acknowledged that request with a barely disguised frown, but he went to do as he was told. “I don’t think he likes me too much.”
“I wonder why.”
Dain shrugged and frowned down at the new control systems he’d only seen once before. Dynan watched him. “What?”
“I don’t think this is such a good idea.”
“I’ll figure it out. Besides, we’ve got some time to make up if we’re going to get you back for dinner.”
“I don’t…No, Dain. Please. I just want to get some sleep.”
“Not enough time, and it’ll only make you more tired than you already are if you try.” The nose of the XR-30 lifted up and they rose above the Guild Hall quickly. Dain turned the ship sharper than was necessary, arcing around just before taking the engines to full power. “This thing has a bad shimmy it didn’t used to have,” he called through the shuddering ascent. “Have to get Trevan to fix that.”
“It’s not the ship,” Dynan said as they pulled away from the planet and the ride smoothed considerably. He leaned back in his seat. His smile vanished quickly though.
For a moment, Dain hesitated to say what he’d come out here to say, hoping to give his brother the one thing he hadn’t managed all those years ago. Unconditional support. “When Loren finds out what really happened, Dynan, she’ll—”
“No, she won’t,” he said so quietly that Dain almost couldn’t hear him. “I never should have…”
A long silence filled the deck, broken only by the hum and chirp of controls as Dain set the coordinates for Cobalt. “You trust people. You always have. Somehow, you’ve managed to keep that ability through all this. I can’t. I don’t trust anyone any more.”
“You never trusted Liselle.”
He shook his head. “I was wrong. Okay, just don’t say anything until I’m finished, all right? Yes, I was wrong. I hated Liselle because I didn’t want her to take you away from me. That was wrong. I went to Pop. That was wrong. I helped make you believe she never cared about you, and Liselle found out about it. That was the worst one. All those wrong things piled up and what we get for it is what happened last night. My lack of trust for her comes from all those wrongs that drove her to do what she did then, and made her want to get even now.”
“You think Loren will ever understand?”
“I know she will. She’s a trusting sort of person too, and she trusts that you would never willingly do anything to hurt her.”
Dynan shook his head. “I never should have gone into her room.”
Dain didn’t say anything to that since that was one of his first thoughts. Dynan glanced at him. “Well, you got me on that one.” He bit back a smile as he powered the engines to full. “You ready to go home?”
Dynan smirked at him darkly, but he nodded. He didn’t look like he was ready. Dain wondered if he’d make it through the evening.