Chapter 3: King Avar
“I don’t want you going on his warship alone,” Mat said.
Sabine glared. Ever since she had woken up, he had been treating her like a fragile doll, ready to break at the slightest disturbance. While she had felt treasured at first, now she was beginning to feel stifled. For two days, he had been careful around her, catering to her every need. She was still weak, it was true, but strong enough that she didn’t need his help and it was starting to irritate her. And he was refusing to let her do the one thing she wanted to do. Had Mat always been this controlling and she had just never noticed before?
“Krosil made a deal with Adrian,” she said. “We have to honor it. You will give him clearance, and I will go talk to my father alone. I don’t want you there. He isn’t going to try anything.”
Mat was silent, no doubt thinking of Adrian and the fact that it was up to them to fulfill all of his deals now. She shouldn’t bring it up, but she needed to see her father and Mat was the only person with authority to let Krosil dock his ship. Adrian had left him in charge until he recovered. She reached out to caress his cheek.
“Please, Mat. I want to see my father.”
That seemed to do the trick, because he keyed in the codes to allow Krosil entrance to the system and within minutes, the warship was docking. He lifted his mask and escorted her to the ship and she didn’t complain. At least he wouldn’t try to go on the ship with her, she didn’t think. Krosil stood at the entrance to the ship, and he nodded at Bode as Sabine stepped from Bode’s care into Krosil’s. It was infuriating being under the control of men like this, and Sabine longed for the day when she could take care of herself.
“Princess Sabine,” Krosil said formally. “Your father requests your presence. May I lead you to his chambers?”
She nodded regally before stepping onto his ship, out of Bode’s control. She looked back to see him waiting at the foot of the ramp. She was touched by his concern, but it was misplaced. Krosil wasn’t going to try anything; he thought Adrian was still running the planet and didn’t want to cross the head of the black market anymore than he already had. After she had killed Bertran a couple of weeks ago, Krosil had completely taken over the planet. Well, he had taken over the skies and sent troops to the planet, but hadn’t actually attempted to interfere with anything here. He had gone through Adrian’s things and destroyed as much as he could in retaliation for Bertran’s death, but he hadn’t tried to fight the guards who were stationed here, or affect the trades going on. That would be suicide.
She was led through a familiar maze of corridors until they reached an unassuming door off one of the main hallways. Krosil typed a code into the pad outside the door and it slid open. She walked inside and the door slid shut behind her, with Krosil waiting outside. She turned her attention to the man on this side of the door and her eyes widened in shock. It was her father, but she barely recognized him.
“Father,” she cried, rushing to his side. He lay in the bed and she dropped to her knees beside him, taking his hands in hers. She stared at her father’s face, terrified by the changes she saw. His hair, once only streaked with gray, was now entirely white. His face had collapsed into wrinkles, as if centuries of age had caught up to him in just a few months.
“Sabine darling, thank you so much for coming. I wanted to talk to you before I die. I have so much to say.”
“Don’t say that, father,” she whispered. “I’ll help, I know how.”
“You can’t heal aging,” he said, running his hand across her cheek and fingering her short hair. “It seems we’ve both grown on our journeys.”
Sabine blushed and wondered what he thought of her new look. When her soldiers had been massacred on Celexus, she had chopped off her hair in an attempt to escape from her previous life. She was feeling the same impulse right now, to be honest. Cast everything aside and start anew. She didn’t have anymore hair to cut off this time, though. He had always pressured her to be a proper princess even while he grudgingly allowed her to go off to battle and do other unladylike things. What did he think of her now?
“I have to apologize, Sabine,” he said. “For everything I’ve ever done to you, for everything I’ve denied you, everything I should have done and didn’t.”
“Oh father, you were wonderful.”
“Had you been a human child, yes,” he said. “But you’re not. I know your mother taught you about her heritage. Now I must teach you mine.”
“But I thought,” she paused. Damien had told her that her mother had said Avar’s memories were gone, and Avar had never shown any signs of being an alien before. “Didn’t Bertran take your memories?”
“When he died, Sabine, I remembered everything. And I regret so much. I can’t take it back now. But I can help you.”
He gestured to a book resting against the bed and worn with age. She hesitantly picked it up and gasped as several pages fell out.
“Don’t worry. Take those pages and keep them somewhere safe. You’ll understand when you read them, I think. They were given to me by a Valeforan many years ago. She made me promise to keep them from Bertran’s knowledge and pass them on to a Lithilien when it was time.”
“I didn’t know at the time,” Avar said. “I didn’t understand her. But she was so desperate and serious that I did as she asked. Another thing I regret. I knew her well before the Exodus, but I treated her as a stranger when I saw her again. Just like your mother.”
“I know she understood, father, and she still wanted to be with you.”
Avar smiled, the creases in his face conforming into happiness. “I know. We understood each other, even if I didn’t remember. There was never anyone else for me, or for her. I just wish she’d lived longer to teach you what you should have learned. You never should have been stifled, Sabine,” he said in a voice full of regret. “In the Valeforan race, females are the fighters. Females have all the power; they can manipulate their bodies and the world around them to defend themselves and others. Had I known you were only expressing your natural abilities…” He sighed and shook his head.
“That’s why Bertran didn’t have different powers?”
“Yes,” Avar said. “Males have a power rarely expressed. The leader of the Valeforans possesses the power of past generations and has some control over living Valeforans. When we die, we give our power to the crystal towers of our people. In the Dimension Wars, the Drakor destroyed all but one of the towers in this dimension. Somewhere in the other dimension I think there’s an entire city left, but that might just be a myth. Now Sabine,” he said, “please listen. When Bertran died, power over the Valeforans passed to me. I won’t be alive much longer, and I can’t choose who gains control when I die. There are two Valeforans left, you and Jon. Krosil, as you know him.”
“Yes. His mother Clara was Bertran’s sister, last of the true Valeforan Queens. She was also the one to give me those pages. In the Exodus, she tried to help save the Lithiliens. I know she took one in for a while, but they were found by the Drakor. I doubt the young Lithilien survived. I think power will pass to Jon when I die, but you must be prepared if it goes to you. It’ll take a few days to adjust, but I know you can do it.”
Avar sighed and shut his eyes. “You must, Sabine. Jon is too much under Bertran’s control, even now. He doesn’t know what he is; he only knows what Bertran’s told him. He will try to use the tower in this dimension to reopen the door between dimensions and bring Bertran back. That cannot happen. It would be the war all over again, only this time, no one would survive. We’ve grown too sophisticated in our killing.”
“But what can I do?” Sabine asked, mind whirling with all of the new information she was getting.
“I would ask you to kill Jon, but I can’t. He’s the last pure Valeforan. He’s too important. If he gains control, you’ll have to find a way to enter the other dimension and kill Bertran. If he dies in that dimension, control of those towers will pass to you, the only other Valeforan. With that power, you can keep Jon from reopening the gate. What do you think, Sabine? Can you do it?”
“I can try,” Sabine said slowly. “I was going to do that. To find Bertran and kill him. There are some people who’ll help me, I think I can do it.”
She wondered about Damien. He controlled her power, but he was missing and probably still under Yashim’s control. When Mat had told her about Damien’s attack, she had known immediately what had happened. She hadn’t told him yet, or Adrian, but she knew. It was terrifying thinking of Yashim controlling her powers, but he hadn’t used any of them yet that she had noticed. Perhaps he was waiting until he could see her in person, or perhaps her powers were linked with Damien’s spirit and not his body. She prayed that it was the latter, because that meant that as long as his spirit was alive somewhere, she would be safe. But she needed him back in order to travel to the other dimension if she wanted to kill Bertran. At some point, she would have to track him down and if he was still possessed by Yashim, she would have to kill him. She shivered, but it was true. She would not let Yashim control her powers and she would rather kill her brother than be controlled by that monster.
“Thank you, Sabine,” Avar whispered. “You are truly a queen. Take my signet ring, return to Hotaru. When you show them the ring, the council will have no choice but to acknowledge you. You will be queen of Wendigo, Sabine, I’ll make sure of it. Now please, go and claim your heritage. Remember me, but don’t mourn me. I go to the tower at Proto Cinde, to join your mother. I’ll always be there for you.”
“Thank you, father,” she said quietly, standing up and gazing down at her aged father. She slid the signet ring on her finger and it glittered, almost as much as the other ring she wore, Mat’s ring. She bowed to her father and left the room quickly, not wanting to break down into tears. She would never see her father again.
The sight of Krosil – Jon – waiting in the hall was almost too much to bear. Surely it would be easier to simply kill him. But if he was the last true Valeforan, then perhaps he should be spared as her father requested. After all, Valeforan blood was what allowed people to use the jump gates and without the jump gates, it would be a return to barbarism. She herself had a responsibility as one of the last true Valeforans. It was her duty to make sure that pure Valeforan blood lived on into the next generation. She blushed and pushed that thought away. There would be time for that later, after she was secure on her throne. Reclaiming her throne had to be her first priority.
“I want transport to Hotaru,” she said.
“I’m sure Adrian can arrange something,” Krosil said uneasily, as if wondering if this were a trap. He was no doubt under strict orders regarding her presence on his ship.
“No. I’m not returning to Vega. I’ll contact them and let them know, but I’m leaving straight from this warship and returning to Hotaru. If you don’t give me a ship, I’ll be forced to steal one. Don’t make me kill your people.”
“I have orders to return you to Vega,” Krosil protested. “If you wish to go to Hotaru instead, you’ll have to inform Adrian and get his permission.”
“I already have his permission,” she said, thinking of the still body in the hospital. “You will take me to Hotaru.”
“Of course, princess,” Krosil said at last, and began leading her to the hangar. She followed with narrowed eyes. She had to reclaim her throne immediately, and Krosil was a huge impediment, since Mammon had taken over many of Wendigo’s systems. Krosil might not realize it, but sending her back to Hotaru was the start of a war for him. The only question was where she was going to find troops to follow her, since she was not prepared to accept anyone who had joined with Mammon in the fighting and all of the troops loyal to her had been slaughtered. Perhaps after she reclaimed her throne, she could return to Vega and recruit from the free agents that swarmed the place. She could surely find enough to start a small army, and in time, with victories, others would want to follow her.
There was one other man who might try to prevent her from regaining her throne, even if he was currently injured. He would never do it on purpose, of course, but if her troops found out that she was in love with an enemy, she would never succeed. Something would have to be done with Mat.