They were at it again, voices rising as each strove to out-bellow one another as they made their opinions known. Lord Qeldir's booming baritone managed to mostly overpower all voices, save for Lady Yiviri whose shrill soprano was backed by what had to be the strongest lungs in this half of the galaxy.
If not further.
As usual, Selan simply sat quietly and let them have their say. Everyone knew that it was his decision in the end, so what harm did it do to let them try to sway him to their views?
Very little, aside from the faint ringing in his ears. But it kept them content, or reasonably so, and the peace was maintained.
Still, if he hadn't managed to sneak away from four council meetings already this month he probably wouldn't have even shown up to this one. Sometimes he doubted the Council even noticed his absence, though Arycian always knew. His Advisor had a sixth sense for when Selan was shirking his duty. So it was either listen to the Councilors rant or get chided by Arycian, again.
He hated the look of disappointment in Arycian's eyes when the man scolded him, as though somehow he'd let his friend and Advisor down.
So, Council it was. Though if the Lady Yiviri didn't lower her volume soon he doubted he'd be able to hear much of the rest of the session. Not that it would be any real loss. He knew what they were discussing. They'd already gone over it, over and over and over again.
The Green Planet.
Everyone in Lunaria knew the tale, though the details had faded over time. Long ago they'd had to flee a terrible war on the other side of the galaxy, coming here to this place only to find that the beautiful green world they'd come to was already inhabited and that those inhabitants wanted nothing to do with the refugees from the stars. Rather than embroil his people in yet another senseless war, Selan had used what power he had left to transform the Green Planet's orbiting moon into a place where his people could prosper.
And they had, though those first few generations had been difficult.
"Are you mad?!" Lady Yiviri shrieked, startling Selan out of his melancholy ruminations. "They're barbarians, Qeldir! Violent barbarians!"
"Actually," Lord Marete pointed out calmly, "We don't know that anym-"
"And we are no longer sniveling refugees!" Lord Qeldir's booming voice interrupted as he glared at his opponent across the table. "Now we are strong, strong enough to stake a claim of our own on the Green Planet!"
"You fool!" Yiviri snapped, "I have no wish to see the blood of my people flow again."
"There's nothing to indicate that the natives are still-" Marete attempted to interject, futilely.
"Haven't you been listening?!" Qeldir demanded, slamming a fist down onto the table to illustrate his point, "We are the strong ones now! No blood will be spilled save that of our enemies!"
"Enemies?" Lord Jovit echoed, massive brow furrowing, "Isn't that a bit much, Qeldir?"
"He's right," Lord Cejar put in quietly, steepling his fingers together as he regarded his fellow councilors. "We have no idea what lies below us on the Green Planet anymore. People change. Perhaps the natives of the Green Planet have changed enough that we can co-exist peacefully."
"Never!" Lord Qeldir and Lady Yiviri roared in unison, then glared at one another as though asking how dare they agree on anything, least of all this.
Selan let out a soft breath and stood, forestalling any further arguing as all eyes immediately turned to him.
"My lords and ladies," Selan said softly, "There is no need to fight amongst ourselves. We have all that we need here, on this world. Lunaria is our home now, and I know several of you have people out exploring the other worlds in this system so there is no need to concern ourselves with the Green Planet."
For a moment it seemed as though there might be an objection, then slowly his councilors nodded. As always, they would not argue with him. Sometimes he wondered if perhaps it should be otherwise, but the rest of the time he was simply grateful for a cessation of the constant bickering.
"Now then," Selan continued, smiling gently, "Barring any unforeseen emergencies I believe I will cancel Council for the rest of the week. Please use the extra time to be with your friends and loved ones."
Several brows shot up in surprise, though again none dared object. Not to him. Never to him.
Lord Jovit's reaction was by far the most positive as the big man grinned from ear to ear. His unwaveringly good-natured support had often proved to be a lifeline for Selan in past council sessions.
"My thanks, Majesty," he beamed. "My lady will be thrilled to have someone to pass the little one off onto. Seems she's got quite the healthy set of lungs, my little Lira does."
Selan laughed softly. "Takes after you then, does she Jovit?"
Jovit grinned and winked conspiratorially, "Could be, Majesty, could be... but personally I think she more takes after her mother."
"Ah yes," Selan chuckled, "I seem to remember your courtship rather well... Threw a table at you, didn't she?"
The big man beamed broadly, his eyes softening in remembrance. "That she did, Majesty. Wonderful woman, my Merith."
Laughing again, Selan dismissed the Council. Unsurprisingly Jovit was one of the first to leave, though the fact that Qeldir was just on his heels was a bit of a surprise. He might have to keep an extra eye on Lord Qeldir, though he doubted it. Qeldir was loud and often overbearing, but not particularly given to trouble.
Lord Vidia, on the other hand...
The tall, dark-haired Councilor was the last to leave, giving Selan a thoughtful glance as he did so. His Sendrian assistant was waiting just outside the council chambers and fell into step unobtrusively behind him as Vidia swept down the marble halls.
That one had made him uneasy ever since he'd taken over from his father. The House of Vidia had always been extremely proud and rather aggressive, both before and after the great war, but the current Lord Vidia practically embodied the concepts. Arrogant, Arycian called him.
Selan shook his head to clear his thoughts and exited the now empty Council Chambers. Two of his Royal Knights awaited him just outside and bowed slightly before turning to follow him through the palace. He'd never quite been able to convince them that it wasn't him they were supposed to be guarding, but all of Lunaria.
Ah well. Children will do as they please, he thought in amusement.
On a whim he turned down a side corridor and made his way out to the palace gardens. They were his personal pet project, something he worked on whenever his power wasn't needed elsewhere for the benefit of his people. In those early years they had been nothing more than a wistful thought in the back of his mind but these days things had slowed down enough for Selan to give his gardens the attention they deserved.
He drifted along the winding pathways, pausing here and there to caress a blossom, a leaf, whatever caught his eye. As with the rest of the palace there was nothing preventing the people from entering his gardens, though they seldom took advantage of that privilege. It was as though they all subconsciously knew that this was his escape. The one freedom he allowed himself.
Almost all of them, anyway.
"Selan! Shirking council sessions again?"
Selan stopped and turned, noting absently that his two Knights had not followed him past the edge of the gardens, then looked up to meet his Advisor's exasperated expression.
"What am I going to do with you?" Arycian continued, giving him one of those looks that always made him want to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Technically Arycian was his subordinate, someone who obeyed his orders. In reality, Selan often found himself ordered around by the handsome Sendrian.
"Technically I'm not shirking, as I ended Council early today."
Arycian blinked and Selan had to suppress a laugh. Rare was the day that he managed to surprise the crafty Sendrian, though it never lasted long. Any time now, really...
"Majesty!" Arycian sputtered, silver eyes flashing in a way that warned Selan that he was about to get scolded. Again. He cut off the impending diatribe by placing a finger over his Advisor's lips.
"What harm is there in sending them all to spend time with their loved ones rather than continue to argue for hours upon end?" he asked softly. "You know as well as I that little of use has gotten accomplished of late. They are all fixated upon the same inaccessible topic."
"The Green Planet," Arycian sighed, suddenly looking as weary as Selan felt.
Arycian turned away, looking out over the gardens though Selan doubted he actually saw them.
"They don't remember. They're all too young to remember," he stated, a little more sharply than he likely intended. "To them, it's all just ancient history."
Selan sought out one of the marble benches scattered throughout the gardens and seated himself upon it, looking at the nearby flowers rather than at his Advisor.
"Do you regret that your association with me has lengthened your lifespan?" he asked quietly.
"What?" Arycian asked, startled, turning to face him. "Shards, no. If it wasn't for me and old sourpuss, you'd be the only person who remembered." He shook his head. "I wouldn't do that to you. But it's frustrating sometimes, you know?"
Releasing a slow breath, the tall man walked over and joined Selan on the bench, looking up silently at the sky overhead for a moment.
"I just... arrgh. Sometimes I just want to shake some sense into them," he growled at last.
Selan smiled faintly, watching his Advisor glare at the faultless stars above as though somehow it was all their fault. The man really was magnificent, even amongst other Sendrians. Taller than Selan by a good head at least with long, pure white hair that fell to his waist. Even sitting down he was never really still, but alert and sinuous in a way that had always reminded Selan of a hunting cat poised to strike.
Which really wasn't all that far off.
"Lords Marete and Cejar do have a point, though," he said thoughtfully. "It has been a long time. Perhaps the Green Planet is no longer as hostile as it once was."
The look Arycian shot him was nothing short of incredulous, those silver eyes letting him know in no uncertain terms just what his Advisor thought of that notion.
"A people that violent do not change so quickly, Majesty, if at all," he remonstrated. "Better that we have nothing to do with the Green Planet."
"Quickly?" Selan echoed, a smile tugging at his lips, "Now whose perceptions are off? Seven centuries is no small span of time, my friend."
Arycian eyed him, though otherwise did not argue. They remained in comfortable silence for several minutes before a thought occurred to Selan and he turned to regard his companion.
"... does Zantier know you call him a sourpuss?" he inquired with veiled amusement.
The Sendrian smirked, flashing a smug grin. "Of course. What would be the point of calling him it otherwise?"
Selan shook his head. "You are incorrigible."
Arycian laughed. "Would you have me any other way?"
Though he did not answer, Selan smiled.
A lone figure stood in silent solitude upon a high balcony, staring up at the starry sky above, the bulk of the Green Planet hanging low on the horizon. It was impossible to miss, drawing eyes full of fear and wonder for generations.
It was where he had originally intended them to go when he'd used his power to transport them all to the other side of the galaxy. A desperate gamble that nearly proved to be the end of them all when they'd discovered it was already inhabited and those inhabitants wanted no part of the Lunarians. He hadn't had the strength left to move them again, but the Green Planet had possessed a single satellite.
Transforming that lifeless moon into a hospitable land had taken every last bit of power he'd had left, but it was enough.
Selan's gaze dropped down to the spread of the city below, the twinkling of lights and the vague shadows of people moving about the streets. His people.
It had taken so much to protect them, but he'd refused to fail them again. Never again.
Was it possible for people to miss something they'd never seen? Or were they simply missing an ideal? Of all the people of Lunaria, only three knew what they'd lost. These children of children didn't remember, couldn't remember. Still, didn't they have the right to want more?
Did he have the right to deny them, even if it was their own lives he was protecting?
The question weighed heavily upon his mind. What if. What if...
His hands gripped tightly the railing as Selan made up his mind all at once, turning and striding into his rooms to make preparations before he managed to think too much and change his decision. Just the essentials, nothing more. Best if as few people knew what he was planning as possible; only those actively involved, if possible.
Arycian was going to kill him.
Selan winced, already able to picture the furious rant he was going to face when the Sendrian finally caught him. Definitely leave Arycian out of this. Zantier? No, Arycian would need Zantier's help to keep things running smoothly in Selan's absence, much as he would undoubtedly complain about it later.
Of course, that was all Arycian's fault for getting into and then breaking off a relationship with Zantier in the first place. Selan wasn't certain if Zantier was ever going to forgive Arycian.
Probably not. Zantier's ability to hold a grudge was legendary. Fortunately for Selan's sanity, so was his dignity. Much as he might hate having to work with Arycian he'd still do so and be perfectly polite about it. In public anyway.
Everything he'd decided he needed fit into a small, unornamented knapsack. He changed his clothes into the plainest things he owned and pulled his hair back into a simple, utilitarian braid. All of his shoes were the soft, indoor kind completely unsuited for walking distances but that problem he would deal with later.
Closing his eyes, Selan sought out three singular minds out of the thousands in the city, touching them just long enough to relay his message.
Wyer, Jemne, Vendris. Change into something plain and meet me at the eastern fountain. Bring only weapons that can be concealed, and your crystals. Tell no one.
He sensed their mild confusion but as expected all three immediately obeyed without question. Those three had both the abilities and temperaments that he needed for a task like this, unlike some of their fellow Knights. The seven Royal Knights were the finest warriors in Lunaria and took their duties very seriously but sometimes... sometimes he wished they'd take life a little less seriously.
Well. Now was not the time to worry about it. Now he had to sneak out of his own palace to meet three of his Knights for a mission they could not reveal even to their compatriots. If the rest of the Knights didn't know where they'd gone, then they wouldn't have to lie to Arycian when the man inevitably descended upon them.
Selan winced again. He was going to be in so much trouble for this.
Making his way through mostly deserted hallways, Selan kept a light touch upon all the minds in his vicinity to ensure that no one saw him even by accident. By the time he made it to the eastern fountain Wyer and Vendris were already waiting for him and Jemne arrived a moment later. All three had done exactly as requested and he smiled at the sight.
"Good evening," he greeted softly. "I apologize for the secrecy and lateness of the hour, but once I explain I believe you will understand my reasons. Come."
Selan led the way off the palace grounds and into the city itself, skirting along its edges toward their destination. No one paid them any heed, he made certain of that, and in short order the four arrived at their destination.
"Majesty?" Vendris questioned, a bit startled. "Where are we going?"
The dark expanse of the city's only spaceport spread out before them, normally used only by researchers and scientists as they explored the other worlds in their system. Consequently, there was no one else around to wonder what their leader and three of the Royal Knights might be doing at such a place.
"We are going," Selan announced, blue eyes sparkling, "To the Green Planet."
Jemne tripped, catching himself before he could fall and looking first to the bright green half-orb in the sky and then to Selan.
"The Green Planet, Majesty?"
"My Councilors have all been rather out of sorts of late regarding the Green Planet," Selan explained as he selected one of the smallest of the ships, "But we simply do not have enough information about what that world is like now to come to a decision. Therefore..." The hatch slid open and two steps appeared to bridge the distance between door and ground.
"We are going to go collect the information necessary."
One at a time the three Knights stepped inside, Selan entering last and sealing the door behind them. While his power had recovered enough over the centuries that he could easily have simply transported them directly to the planet below he preferred to have a back-up plan just in case.
"What kind of information, Majesty?" Wyer inquired as he took a seat, fumbling a moment with the unfamiliar harness.
"Mostly regarding the people," Selan replied, checking over the ship's controls and ensuring that all was as it should be. "To assess any threat they may still pose and, I hope, discover if there is a chance that our two peoples might become allies. Even friends."
Jemne smiled, Vendris blinked, and Wyer tilted his head curiously to one side. "Friends, huh? You really think we can?"
Selan laughed softly. "I don't know, Wyer. That's why we're going."
He strapped himself in, ghosting his hands over the controls briefly to re-familiarize himself with the way they all worked. It had been a very long time. For a moment he wished he'd felt comfortable bringing Tenri along - the girl was mad about anything that flew - but she just didn't really understand the concept of subtlety and that was vital to the mission.
Speaking of subtlety...
"Oh, and considering that we do not wish to alarm the people of the Green Planet, we will have to attempt to blend in with them as much as possible. You three will have to remember to call me Selan rather than Majesty as well."
If he'd been able to see their expressions he knew he would have laughed. As it was, he had a good enough guess that it took quite a bit of willpower to resist.
"But, Majest... Selan..." Wyer said, clearly torn, "That's not.. we're not... we can't..."
"It's not respectful," Vendris supplied.
"What's wrong with Selan?" Jemne asked, blinking. "He calls us by our names..."
There was a momentary silence as Wyer and Vendris turned to stare at their fellow Knight and Selan fought hard not to laugh.
"There now," he managed, "See, Jemne already has it figured out. You'll all do just fine."
"Yes, Maj... Selan," Vendris said doubtfully, sitting back in his chair and quietly murmuring 'Selan' over and over. This was going to take some getting used to.