JOY RIDE

Chapter Thirteen

They weren't allowed to embrace long enough in Fen's opinion before his parents broke them apart. It was all really ridiculous. He wanted to touch Blake- his fiancé! - and he wasn't even allowed to do that properly because they were in public. Bunch of nonsense! Unlike Fen, Blake seemed more amused by the whole thing. He even snickered when the parents made it a point to keep them separated by walking between the two.

From the space port, the Galadors and their party travelled via short range shuttle to a freaking hotel in the sky. This structure orbited the closest planet to the space port. It was not the Light's home planet, but it was the central hub of Cyruvi.

Blake's face was nearly completely pressed against the window as he watched this space station grow larger as they drew nearer. Since his left hand was clasped in Fen's, he used his free hand to rub his eyes. This space station looked like a city. And not like the other space stations he'd seen before this. Of course the outer hull was gleaming metal but it was sort of white in color and the structure itself looked remarkably like a colossal palace.

Blake snickered. "It's a castle in the sky," he murmured to himself.

Fen leaned over until his lips were pressed just under his ear. "That's exactly what it is. Wait until you see the inside."

"Have you been here before?" he asked without turning to him. If he turned, those lips wouldn't be where they were, and he liked those lips there thank you very much.

"Yes. It's impressive."

"Even you like it? Really must be something." Because Fenwyn wasn't ever really impressed by things like this. Take his family transport for instance. He stopped caring about all that when Fen bit his ear harshly. Blake sucked in a breath and tried to keep from moaning aloud.

And then Fen jerked away from him with a muttered, "shit."

They both needed another distraction. "Why didn't Zarth come with us again? And Zari?"

"Zarth had things he needed to do at the space port. Not sure what exactly. Zari and Tyk were going to wait for him and take a later shuttle across. The fortress only allows shuttles to approach in waves. Only a certain number each time."

"Security protocol?"

"Yeah."

"Huh." Fen hissed under his breath and his leg started jumping in agitation. Blake kept the smile off his face. "Tyk's here too?"

"Yeah. I'll explain why he's here later. You'll be interested in knowing that space station can also travel through space."

"No way!" Blake twisted back to the window, studying it. He cocked his head a little, squinted. "Suppose it kind of looks space worthy. The bottom half anyway. That's sweet!"

"At some point I'll sneak you in to see the engines."

Blake grabbed Fen's arm to hug tightly and dropped his head the spacer's shoulder. He really did love this guy. He tipped his head back a little and wasn't at all surprised when Fen's sexy mouth covered his to kiss him in a much less innocent way than he had at the terminal. His eyes slipped closed and his free hand had just slipped into the hair at Fen's nape when they were both jolted apart by sharp smack against the tops of their heads.

"Behave yourselves!" Lynti hissed, eyes narrowing on them when they twisted around to look between their seats at her. "Honestly! I will separate you two!"

They both muttered an apology before turning back around, putting only a little space between them. And then hissing in laughter like little boys. Lynti sat back frowning until she realized what she just said. And then her eyes misted with unshed tears of joy and her hands covered her mouth.

"Dear?" Maro whispered, a thumb pressing against her cheek.

Lynti leaned into him. Her smile was so big. "I never thought," she began in a trembling whisper, "I'd ever be able to say that to them again, Maro. It's just so… wonderful! A miracle!"

Maro smiled and nodded, grasping her hands tightly. "Kiira would be pleased with this turn of events."

"Oh she would, Maro. She really would be."


"So I guess now's the time I really get to see Prince Fenwyn," whispered Blake teasingly as they disembarked from the shuttle, accompanied by many guards and an entourage of attendants. Blake thought it strange that he really didn't feel strange about it.

Fen groaned. "Shut up."

Blake laughed as his eyes lifted to study the tall vaulted ceiling, most of which was made of clear material so once again he could see the stars around them. They were in the vast lobby, four floors high, which was a bundle of activity of people checking in and meeting one another. He'd never been in a place as lavish as this. Not even the Galador transport was this golden. Thankfully.

There were dozens and dozens of different species walking around too. And just as their group was, most of these people were being escorted by their own guards.

"Stars, I could use a drink," Fen muttered as he closely studied the surroundings, looking for a certain group of Tefmau.

Blake nodded absently; he was still busy with taking in the surroundings. Then he gasped. "A cyborg! Sweet, man! I wonder how she works…" and he started walking after the half human half robot without another word. Fen didn't notice this as he was still scanning the crowds, and the rest of the party didn't realize he'd gone as Maro and Lynti were in front being led by their attendants to the transporter stations, which would whisk them quickly to where their rooms were located.

It was actually the lack of comments on the transporter and out loud thoughts from Blake that clued Fen into the fact his betrothed had disappeared on them.

"What the—Blake?!" he spun around, eyes scanning the immediate area. When he didn't see him, Fen's heart started racing. He was sure this time he was having a panic attack. "Blake!"

"He's that way," Maro told him, taking Fen's shoulder and turning him in the right direction. He looked back at his wrist device. "Not far. Near the shops, I'd say. No need to panic. He's safe here."

Once Fen was gone, Lynti took up her husband's arm and they watched their son speed walk through the sea of people. "Do you think he acts this way because it's Briion?" she wondered.

"Perhaps," Maro replied, watching his son quickly disappear. "But Zari reported he was like this before we realized Blake might be Briion. She says they ran into pirates on the way home and Fen went into a panic then as well during an altercation where he lost sight of Blake. Maybe his heart already knew it was Briion and he's not about to let him out of his sight again... I suppose Fen can travel the rest of the journey with us, love. I'm nearly completely convinced Briion has returned to us and keeping Fen away from him at this point would be absurdly cruel."

Lynti gasped and hugged his arm tighter.

"But a chaperone will probably be in order."

Fen found Blake nearly ten minutes later in a bar, chatting some cyborg up. He would have been furious if he weren't completely relieved to see him well. He blew out a relieved breath as he walked up behind Blake where the ass was leaning up against the bar.

"For a young one, you are… very charming," the cyborg purred, her voice heavily accented.

"Thank you, but I'm taken," he announced proudly. The smile on his face had the lady smiling even more, but in a different way. Less flirty, more amused and wistful.

"Yes, I see that," she replied, eyeing the engagement ring. "Never hurts to try, yes? Lucky person."

"He is," Blake said with a firm nod that had her laughing.

The lady's eyes drifted away from him a moment and a dimple appeared on the side of her face which wasn't metal. "Ah. This must be the lucky man now," she murmured a moment before an arm wrapped around his shoulders and he was tugged against a nice chest.

"Never do that again," Fen muttered in his ear.

Blake just kept smiling. "You're just in time," he replied as a bartender set three drinks down at the bar in front of them. Blake handed one to the lady and then picked up the tall glass with purple acid and held it up for Fen, who took it with a thankful grunt.

Blake took up his own drink. "Fen this is…" Blake's eyes then got so wide. "God, I'm so sorry. I didn't even get your name."

"You couldn't pronounce my real name, even with a translator. Call me Zero."

"Fen this is Zero. She was telling me about cyborgs. I was rude and asked her before realizing it might be a sensitive subject."

"You were very polite and have made me smile, so no harm done. Just be careful in the future. My kind do find it an intimate subject."

"Anything mechanical and he loses his mind," Fen responded with a very fond look at Blake.

Blake could only shrug. It was true. "You said you wanted a drink. It was fortunate Zero came in as well."

"Wait." Fen set down his glass, studying Blake. "You wandered off on purpose?"

"Sure. Knew you'd follow me. That's why I ordered your drink before you were even here."

Zero smiled at them and then placed her empty glass upon the bar. "Thank you for the drink, Blake. And the conversation. It was very refreshing. But now I must go and join my party. Perhaps we'll speak again before the Ornalia has finished."

"That'd be nice."

She inclined her head, and then winked at Fen. "Take care of him. There are others that would gladly do the same."

Zero moved off before Fen could respond to that and Blake took up his hand and pulled him through the crowds to a small table he saw just vacated.

"You really did learn a lot out with my parents," Fen said once he sat across from Blake.

"How so?"

Fen shook his head. He didn't want to explain now. Then again, it could just be inherent. Now that Blake was off Earth, his upbringing was coming back. Would his memory?

"So you said Tyk's here?"

"Yeah, and he's changed since you last saw him. You'll get a kick out of it. We've decided we're going to help him. And then Zarth's going to start something with Kessle's people. His clan is trying to mate him with a Yenyt."

A look of horror appeared on Blake's face. "No way! His intended is one of those people?! Someone like him with a Yenyt? I met one of them a couple of weeks back. So not Kessle material. No wonder he was so distraught about it… aside from the fact he's in love with your brother."

Fen laughed. "Yeah, so that's on the horizon. But Zarth's still being stupid. About Kessle."

"Don't worry about that. He'll get a clue soon enough and then nothing will stop him—you're not drinking fast enough, Fen."

Fen found Blake staring right at him- not smiling- with that brilliant intense look.

Blake tapped the rim of his empty glass with a finger. "I know your parents well enough by now to know they'll either come searching for us themselves, or send a chaperone. Probably Myurgal if Zarth hasn't met up with them already. You already know where we're staying, right? And I know we'll be expected to attend dinner with everyone in a few hours…"

"I'm done!" Fen shot out of his seat. "C'mon, Blake. Move it. Get your skinny ass out of that chair."

Blake laughed as he allowed Fen to drag him out of the bar and through the lobby, easily cutting through the crowds of people until they arrived at the closest transporter stations. There were a dozen lined side by side at this part of the lobby. Blake studied the rooms people were going into, four or five people at a time. He assumed they were elevators, so he was quite surprised when after a moment, the people in the transporter directly in front of them disappeared into thin air.

"Holy sh—no!" he exclaimed when Fen tried pulling him in once it was their turn. He yanked his hand away and planted his feet. "Hell no! This is basically just digitizing people's particles. How can anyone get into one of these things with a smile? Aren't there stairs we can climb, Fen? Bodies are basically torn apart at a molecular level and then pieced back together again… by a computer! Transporters are insane!"

Fen growled. "Step in! You're the one who said we don't have much time."

"You really have nothing to worry about," the man beside him said. Blake turned to him and got a ghost of a smile. "You are correct about how it works, but I can assure you, the transporters here are constantly monitored with thousands of fail safes in place to make sure there are no errors or malfunctions. I can say this with assurances as I helped develop and build the transporters on this vessel."

"Do you work here?" Blake asked as he studied the man. He looked to be in his thirties and obviously Cyruvian so he was probably way off on the age guess. But it was a little reassuring to be reminded all this was Cyruvian technology.

"In a manner of speaking. Where are you two headed?"

"The Crescent Waterfalls."

"Ah. Do you mind if I come along? This is where I'm headed as well."

"Not at all. Get in!" Fen shoved Blake into the room once it became vacant again.

"Do not touch," the man warned when he saw Blake reach for Fen.

"Blake, relax and think about our ship's engines. I can't believe you of all people are afraid of this."

Blake gnashed his teeth together, squeezed his eyes closed and held his breath.

"Engines?"

"He's a genius mechanic and engineer. Loves fixing things. And building things. And taking things apart to rebuild them."

"Ah."

There was a moment of silence and then, "there you go," the man said and tapped Blake's shoulder to get him to open his eyes. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Blake blinked. They'd already travelled and were apparently in a different part of the floating space castle. They stepped out onto plush carpet and high vaulted ceilings. Wherever they were, it looked more like the exquisite hotel and less like an active space port. Blake took a moment to study his hands, touch his face, pull the waistband of his pants forward just slightly so he could make sure he still had all his parts. Fen went on to chuckle like a clown again.

"Nice meeting you two. Enjoy your stay, Galadors. Your Family quarters are down the hall and to the left."

"Hey thanks," Fen called as the man walked away, genuinely grateful for the man having tried to calm Blake down. "Hold on—how did you know…" but the guy had already disappeared.

Blake shivered tremendously and then glared at Fen. "You're going to teach me how to fight and then I'm going to kick your fucking ass!"

Once they turned to the left, they were stopped by two huge wooden doors which were immediately opened to them by two of their travelling staff.

"Sirs," a man said, popping out of nowhere. He bowed to them. "I am to lead you to your rooms."

Fen frowned. "Has the rest of the family arrived?"

"Yes, sir."

Fen's room came first and that's as far as Fen allowed the attendant to go. "We can find Blake's room on our own, thanks."

The hard edged smile on his face kept the attendant from pressing the matter.

"Alone at last," Blake sighed when Fen bundled him up against his chest and pushed the door open where they both fell inside.

"Thank you very much," Fen hissed against his mouth; one hand already working on getting Blake's outer coat off.

And then they heard a very distinctive throat clearing and went very still. Fen then pulled away just slightly and leaned back out of the doorway to find his brother there, leaning against the wall, grinning at him.

"Where did you come from? Never mind. Blast off!"

"Fen, where are your manners?"

Fen decided he was going to ignore Zarth and started to kick the door shut.

"Father has decided to allow you to accompany them on the rest of their trip." This had Fen pausing in the slamming of the door. "However, he will change his mind if you do not adhere to tradition. You've been caught. It's time to stop now."

Blake hissed through his teeth and pulled his hand away from Fen's already fully blown arousal. "Okay, now the tradition stuff is starting to get annoying."

"Only now?!" Fen cried in astonishment, which had Blake laughing.

"But if it means you get to travel with me the rest of the two months…"

"Stars…"

"I'll escort Blake to his room. We're all meeting in the family room in half an hour. That should give you enough time to… fix yourself," Zarth said to Fen.

"I really hate you sometimes, brother."


Maro laughed when half an hour later, Fen and Blake walked into the general meeting place. They both had a sulk about them. "Suppose Zarth found them in time."

Lynti giggled. "They'll find their time together."

"We did, didn't we?"

They all gathered in the center of the room and took seats together. Blake found it nice. But there was one person he didn't recognize at first. Then his eyes blew wide. "Tyk? That you?" he twisted around to the man next to him. "You said he changed, you didn't say he changed species!"

"I am Cyruvian. I had to change in order to hide." Blake wanted to know more about that, but he knew they would be getting into that later.

"Ah and Zari's back in a dress."

"Blake…" she warned.

"It's really not fair for you to deceive people with that sweet innocence you've got going on."

Zari laughed and sent him a rude gesture.

"Have you seen Kessle, son?"

"Yes," Zarth answered his father; tone clearly not pleased. "He is not allowed to interact with us, or really anyone. I won't get near until the Ornalia." Then he went on to quietly mutter in low dangerous tones, "ears are down, tail limp, but his fur is sticking up on end…"

"What about the rest of his clan? Can we not go and speak with them tonight?" Lynti wanted to know, trying to distract her son who was well on his way to losing his happy place. Never a good thing for anyone.

Zarth leaned back, tapping a knee with his fingers. "I had plans to visit Zyrxic tonight- the Yenyt Kessle is promised to… I will need to be with you when meeting with Kessle's clan. They will expect nothing less." He straightened and looked back at his parents. "Wait thirty minutes after I've gone to Zyrxic and then meet with Kessle's people. I will meet you there. They will be dining in the Emerald sector tonight. At Luc Stray."

"How do you know that?" Zari asked.

"They won't let me get near Kessle, but that doesn't mean we aren't able to communicate."

There was a certain vibe coming from Zarth and Blake found himself extremely interested, despite figuring out exactly what Zarth planned to do. Aside from being interested, Blake also realized someone should keep an eye on Zarth. The man maybe wasn't being rational, in control of his actions in this instance. Understandable, but it might make everything worse. Blake wasn't sure how he knew because outwardly Zarth looked perfectly composed as usual, but he just knew the man was currently enraged. "Can I come with you when you meet the Yenyt?"

"Same here," Tyk put in. The look in his eyes also clued Blake into the fact he figured out what was going on.

"Tyk, I wouldn't mind. I could use the back up. But you, Blake…. I'm not certain you would want to be there."

"It's not a good idea," said Fen.

"I understand exactly what I'm asking." And then he turned to look at Zarth and his parents. "And since I'm going to be family you shouldn't be afraid to include me in things. I want to see someone get on Zarth's very bad side. And knowing something of the Yenyt now, I know this is an inevitable."

Lynti's small frown turned into a gentle smirk and she nodded, pleased with Blake.

"In that case, I wouldn't mind," Zarth returned. "If you're sure."

"I am." Blake nodded firmly and turned back to Fen. "I'm sure."

Fen flashed him that handsome smile.

"That's settled." Zarth shot his brother a smirk. "I'd rather have your intelligence anyway as opposed to Fen's… whatever he has."

"Come on!"

It was always funny when Zari or Zarth ragged on Fen. Being the middle child, he probably had it a lot. And he always reacted as they wanted him to. With frustrated indignation.

"He has a very nice body… also great hair."

"That's all?" Fen demanded, and Blake smirked.

"Yes, well," said Zarth. "Not as appealing to me as it is to you, Blake."

"It is," Blake replied with a firm nod, grinning. "Very very appealing."

"Don't you people have somewhere you need to be?" Fen snapped at those around them.

"Very subtle," Tyk murmured with an eye roll.

Blake laughed, though he understood and agreed with Fen. It wasn't really fair. They should be given time to spend together after the separation, and he very much wished Fen could be making love to him. Right now. Though he doubted if Fen had the opportunity to get his hands on him now that it would be a lovemaking session. He was pretty sure they'd have a quick lovely fuck, which was also always nice.

"What's your name then?" Zari demanded. "You're old enough to have your Letter, aren't you?"

All turned to see she was glaring at Tyk. Clearly she was still annoyed he hadn't told her everything.

"And perhaps it is time you come out with everything," Zarth suggested. "Since we have invested our time in you and your plight."

Tyk straightened, nodded hesitantly. His eyes going to Maro and Lynti, who watched him curiously. "I mean no disrespect, but can we do this without your parents here? I will not have them involved."

Lynti frowned, opened her mouth to object but Zarth responded before she could. "Very well. Mother, Father, if you wouldn't mind…"

Maro watched the Cyruvian intently for a moment before nodding.

"But Maro!"

"They do not want us involved. We will stay out of this," he told her as he took her hand and pulled her out of the room.

"But it could be dangerous, dear! Why should they have all the fun?!"

Blake laughed. Tyk nodded, looking at Zarth. "I like your parents. It's clear now where you three get it."

"Get what?" Zari wanted to know.

"You're right," said Blake to Tyk. "But it's Lynti more than Maro. She's a lit fuse all the time. It's been awesome travelling with them."

A ghost of a smile crossed Tyk's face. "You're just like your mother then." Zari sniffed and crossed her arms over her chest, completely ignoring the complement. "Zari, don't be angry. I had to keep it secret. I had to keep you safe."

"I don't need to be kept safe," she grit out. "I need to help you."

"Zari, let him speak," Zarth commanded.

"Being who you are, your family," Tyk began, "I'm sure you've heard of Ruald'I of the StarGuard."

Zarth nodded. Fen had to think about it for a second. Blake and Zari were clueless. "The guy who tried to overthrow the Light, yeah?" said Fen; Tyk nodded. "He was caught, wasn't he? Him and most of his regime. Thrown into prison for life."

"Yes, and I put him there. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, heard the wrong thing. Didn't keep it to myself. Maybe I should have…"

"I was sure that little birdy had been killed," Fen said.

Blake looked at him in confusion. "Why?"

"Ruald'I is a very powerful man still. He was high up in the Cyruvian court and had countless followers," Fen explained. "And though most of his regime was caught, not all."

"His supporters were and are deathly loyal," Zarth put in. "Vengeance is our problem here. I'm amazed and impressed you're still alive," he said to Tyk.

"Thanks," was the dry reply.

"Aside from that, there are those in the Court who could protect you and your family. You did the Light a great service by stepping up."

"Who could I trust?" Tyk balled his fists on his knees. "In the grand scheme of things, I'm a nobody. From a small city… who would I go to? It's not as if I could walk right up to the Empress and ask for her help."

"True."

"So what's your plan, Zarth?" his brother asked. "You had a plan made almost immediately after Zari showed you that disc."

"Except Zari's information was vastly lacking in detail, as was Tyk's up until this point. I had no idea it was Ruald'I's people we would need to knock down. However," he went on with a calm smile, "the fact that years have gone by works to our advantage. I need to get with Kessle on this. Find out what he knows…"

"What could he know?"

"He's a well of information. Kessle travels around the universe and remembers it all. People, places, things. And unsavory information is his favorite."

"I didn't mean to sound rude or ungrateful…"

"It's okay, Tyk. We're used to it." Blake grinned when Tyk shot him a grateful smile.

"So what do we do now?" Zari asked.

"For now, Zari my dear, relax and enjoy the Ornalia." Zarth stood. "I must be getting on. I have something to take care of immediately. I will call you two when I need you," he said to Tyk and Blake.

Blake watched him go, noticing Zarth was way more tense than he let on. He wondered if that were about Tyk and his problems, or his own problems regarding Kessle. He was willing to bet it was all about Kessle though. He had more at stake concerning the Tefmau.

Blake knew more about the Tefmau now than he had when first meeting Kessle. He'd researched that race, as he had been curious. He wondered if Zarth was familiar with the ordinary ways of Alphas and their Betas. He wondered if Zarth thought Kessle's feelings for him stemmed only from him being Alpha and that's why the man was strictly on a no go there.

Someone needed to tell the man Kessle was way more affectionate towards him than betas tended to be with their Alphas.

Blake shifted, leaning heavily against Fen's side when an arm around him shoulders dragged him closer.

"When was the last time they caught up with you?" Fen asked Tyk.

"About two years. That's when I met Zari."

"Two years." Fen balked. "What makes you think they're still even after you?"

"They said as much. I'd settled down. Stopped running, looking over my shoulder. Thought maybe I could make a place… every time I start thinking like that, they appear out of nowhere. If I stop running, I'm dead. If I stop running, my family is dead."

"If these people are so bent on vengeance, how are your people still safe?"

"They hide in the open. But should I be caught, or make too much of a fuss… my family won't stay hidden for long."

"How hard is it to get a private audience with the Light?" Blake wanted to know.

"Extremely," Tyk answered. "She is hardly ever out in public. You must know the right people."

"But…" Blake turned, looked at Fen. "He knows someone who knows someone, right?"

"Possibly. Zarth or my parents may be able to accomplish a meeting. That's a very slim chance though. And just like Zari said, my brother already has a plan. Stop worrying about it right now."

Tyk glared. "Easy for you to say."

"Sure," Fen grinned. He turned to Blake, noticed he was staring off at nothing. Thinking.

"What is it?"

"I wonder if Zarth is going about solving this the wrong way. The Kessle situation. Obviously he's emotionally attached to this. Extremely. Even someone like Zarth will make mistakes under such circumstances. And if he really is… you know, with Kessle, then that thing with your family, that would be driving him too and he really can't see the big picture."

"What are you getting at," Fen asked; getting the gist of it but still not fully understanding.

"Like I said, I'm insanely curious about seeing someone get on Zarth's very bad side, but I don't want his desperate actions to hurt him or Kessle, or their chances. He has no reason to go after Zyrxic right now, except for the Yenyt is moving in on his territory. Zarth should only be concentrating on Kessle's clan at the moment. He needs to sweep the rug out from under Zyrxic, not do him harm. That may backfire.

"I know Zarth is smart enough to know that. He rules the Three Worlds when your parents are gone. He's familiar with politics. The Galadors are a monumental power within your galaxy. He could easily do this the political way with the governing power of the Tefmau and not even have to entreat with the Yenyt. Now that I've thought about it… I don't think we should let him do what he's planning to do. Not at this point. The consequences could only hurt them."

And this, Fen thought, was why when they were kids, they hardly got into the trouble they should have gotten into. They were caught sometimes, but the times they got away with their mischief was far more. Now that Blake has his feet firmly grounded after leaving Earth, he was more and more resembling the best friend he lost all those years ago.

Fen stood. "We better go and find him then."

Zari and Tyk stood as well. The spacer seemed to be invested in this as well, which was kind of surprising, but then again, Tyk and Kessle had gotten along during the Tefmau's visit. The spacer had seemed to like Kessle to a degree. Fen realized there was probably a lot about Tyk's personality none of them knew, even Zari. The spacer had been running and hiding for so long. He'd had to make himself be another person. Maybe they were now helping him become who he was, just like Blake.

"You three go. I'm going to see Kessle," Blake announced. "His clan doesn't really know me yet, do they? I might get near him."

"You're my intended. Everyone knows it now," Fen stated. "There is not one guest on this ship who doesn't know it. We may not be married yet, but at this point you are already regarded as a Galador."

Blake turned, saw the cocky grin. Sort of melted. "Uh, yeah. I guess so."

Zari saw the sappy grin on Blake's face, snorted. "News travels super-fast across the galaxies, Earthling. Especially considering the news of a Galador's impending nuptials."

"Stop calling him that, Zari. He's not from Earth!"

Blake assumed this was a rebuke from their time with the pirates and took no notice of it. Zari and Tyk on the other hand, took it as the slip that it was. They understood Fen had just given away a secret and eyes widened. Fen had forgotten those two knew nothing about the recent discoveries of Blake being Briion. Zari had probably been too young to remember Briion very well.

"Let's go catch Zarth, and then we can see about getting you near Kessle."

They didn't need to travel far. Zarth hadn't even left the Galador quarters yet and was found in the main hall speaking with one of the security detail. He raised a brow as soon as he dismissed the guard, suddenly finding himself surrounded on all sides.

"Yes?" he inquired with amusement. All four of them had the same expression of seriousness on them.

"You're making a mistake," Fen ventured, the first one brave enough to bring it up. "We're all in agreement. This is the wrong way to do this. This shouldn't be your first course of action."

"My mind is already made up but I thank you for your concern," Zarth answered as he turned, prepared to brush between Zari and Tyk.

Blake jumped forward, grabbed at the man's jacket and planted himself before the man. "Zarth, please listen. I know I'm not anybody important. I know you have no reason to trust me-"

"This is not so, but please continue," the older replied.

"Going after Zyrxic right now is the worst thing you could do. If there's some other motive regarding the Tefmau and Yenyt, the Yenyt would only replace Zyrxic with someone else. You need to go above Kessle and Zyrxic first."

"His behavior with Kessle is unacceptable." And there lay the true reason for Zarth's immediate rage.

Blake blew out a frustrated breath. "Why don't you tell him already!" he snapped. "Tell him how long you've loved him, Zarth!"

Zarth drew back slightly.

Blake shook his head, eyes narrowed. "You two haven't been truthful with each other. If you had, none of this would be happening right now!"

Fen swallowed his amusement. "Blake…"

"No! Are you so blind, Zarth, you wouldn't realize Alphas and Betas do not act the way you two act? Have you never been to their planets, studied this for yourself? Are you that much of a coward?!"

"Blessed stars," Zari murmured behind a hand. Her smile was not quite covered.

Zarth stared at Blake with slightly narrowed eyes. He swallowed thickly, looking for once, out of his element. Fen wondered what his brother would do, say.

It was fortunate, or Fen thought unfortunate they were interrupted at that moment by a company of Cyruvian soldiers who came marching down the hallway. All banded around a Cyruvian male. Someone high up, Blake thought as he tried to get a good look at the man's face.

Fen took his elbow and drew him back to press against the wall. Zarth, Zari, and Tyk immediately doing the same, all bowing heads in respect. Blake had no idea what was going on.

"Royalty," Fen whispered.

"He is our Dominae," Tyk announced. There may have been some reverence in his tone. And while the others had only bowed their heads, Tyk placed a fist over heart and bowed at the waist.

Ah. Blake lowered his head as the The Light's Consort approached them. His eyes snapped up again when he realized he recognized that face. "But that's the guy-"

The party of seven stopped upon reaching them. The Light's husband turning to face Zarth. Fen's eyes were now on him, widened. He hadn't realized either. This was the man who traveled the transporter with them. No wonder he knew who they were.

"Zarth Galador. Your presence is requested immediately. The Light of Cyruvi wishes to speak with you."

"Ah… with me, Dominae? Are you sure you aren't looking for my father?"

"No. My wife wishes to speak with you."

Blake blew out a relieved breath. Now Zarth had to put aside his current objective. He wouldn't dare say no to a summons from the Empress. He wouldn't dare, nor would he want to. No one would want to miss a chance at an audience with the Light.

And then the Dominae turned to the others. Focused solely on Blake and Fen for a moment. Maybe the ghost of a smile drifted across his face. Blake thought they would be dismissed at that point, but the man started speaking again and surprised all of them very much.

"The Light has already expressed her pleasure with the festivities and it has only just begun. It is because of you two. I think she wouldn't mind being in company of all Galador children." He turned back to Zarth. "You may bring your companions if you wish."

Zarth nodded and immediately fell into step behind when the Dominae turned to leave.

"Tyk, this is perfect," Blake hissed in excitement even if being frightened at the thought of moments being in the Light's presence. He learned much about her on his travels with Fen's parents. He learned the Cyruvians basically thought of her as a deity. There was some talk of the Light having some sort of mystical powers, but he figured that was all fanciful talk.

"Perhaps," Tyk answered. He looked just as nervous as Blake felt.

"First let's see what she wants with Zarth and if we have the opportunity, we might be able to bring up Tyk's situation," Fen responded.

"What do you think she wants with Zarth?" whispered Zari to Tyk. "Zarth, did you do something bad?"

"Not yet."

The Dominae must have heard that. He glanced over his shoulder at Zarth, smirking at him. The knowing in the Cyruvian's eyes had Zarth clearing his throat.

They had to take two transporters on the way to where they were going. To the amazement of all, the Dominae led them to the Light's personal quarters.

"Now this is irregular," Zarth murmured to himself, but his family heard him. A large assembly of guards were posted outside the Light's quarters and just inside the welcome room, where they were made to leave any weapons behind, but beyond that once the Dominae led them into the Inner quarters, only two people were within. One guard and the Light. The guard didn't look like the usual. This woman was the Light's personal bodyguard and had been watching the Light since she was born. She would never move or speak unless the Empress was in immediate danger.

"This isn't normal at all."

"No," Kemt'I replied to Zarth.

The Light sat at a table, near a set of open double doors which led to a balcony. The view from the balcony was beautiful. The planet below right in front and the stars around. A shield kept the vaccum of space from killing everyone.

The first thing Zarth noticed was the fact that Light's face was visible. Usually when she made public appearances, Tryntalia always wore a headdress of some kind. It was rare for anyone to get a good up close look at her face in person. But he could see her now and remembered.

"You were at the space port." And then he shook himself and dropped to a knee as Tyk had already done. Tyk's wide eyes were on the marble floor; they wavered in shock. He'd seen the Light's face!

"Zarth Galador. Come," the Light waved the eldest Galador over. "Come sit with me. There is something important we must discuss. Give us a few moments alone, please," she said to the others. They nodded and remained where they were as Zarth made his way to the table.

"You were at the space port," he said again.

Tryntalia laughed. "Yes. It is a hobby of mine, people watching. You shouldn't have been able to see my face and yet you did."

"Forgive me, Your Grace. This is… an extreme honor."

Tryntalia dipped her chin, smiling at him. Dimples appeared on her face. She turned a moment, saw Kemt'I was speaking to the others, or more specifically, was engaging in a discussion with Fenwyn's fiancé while the others were standing back listening.

"I was there, yes. And I heard your conversation with your brother. Forgive me for eavesdropping."

Zarth simply nodded. He felt she didn't need to apology for anything. She was the Empress and it was her space port. When her smile faded a little, Zarth would admit to the nerves.

"I know your Kessle," she started without preamble. "I've met him twice now. I've met so many people throughout my life and forgotten them as soon as I turned my back," she admitted with a small apologetic smile Zarth thought was unnecessary. "But some people I will always remember. Some people stick out to me like the light of a burning sun. And the Tefmau Kessle is one of these people. I admit to looking forward to speaking with him again. He always makes me laugh and his stories are delightful.

"The reason for bringing you here is because of what I overheard. Also from reports I've had lately of Yenyt movements. And," here she smiled again, her eyes twinkling with mischief, "you, my dear Zarth. A Galador. Strong and passionate, ruthless and merciless. And your family's Blessing… yes, I know about that," she went on with a laugh at his widening eyes. "You plan on doing away with the one Kessle has been promised to. I have no doubt you would have made a move tonight or tomorrow. But this is something I cannot allow."

Zarth took a deep breath. "Your Grace," he began levelly, "they have turned him into a prisoner."

"Yes. I have already seen this." She paused, studied him. "You are so full of rage, Zarth. And yet you hide it extremely well."

"Are you telling me to leave it?"

Tryntalia didn't reply right away. Instead she picked up the glass before her and took a sip, all the while continuing on with her intense study of him. "The Tefmau nation has become nervous, some even fearful. More and more the Zorans attack the Tefmau planets. Eventually, soon, the Zorans will begin a full invasion and the Tefmau are aware of this. Should they be invaded, they would lose. The Tefmau are a strong nation, but they do not have the military power to hold off and defeat the Zorans. The Yenyt have promised to join forces… but of course we both know should the Tefmau do this, they would only be causing themselves more problems. The Yenyt will betray them."

Zarth nodded in agreement.

"Should Kessle leave the Ornalia with the Yenyt, you will never see him again. No one will. He would be killed as soon as they reached the Yenyt home system. This is their way. It is rumored the Yenyt and Zorans have already made an alliance and the Yenyt are simply looking to create new military bases for the Zoran closer to their attack points. The Tefmau home planet is the perfect place for this. The Zorans are only biding their time, waiting for the Yenyt to accomplish this goal."

Zarth shot to his feet and the Light appreciated the dark fury in his eyes.

"it is not a well-known rumor, but I hear things many others do not, you understand."

"Yes," he grit out.

The Light smiled again and reached out to him. She could feel his emotions. This was a strong man; a brilliant leader and as she said before, ruthless and merciless and when it came to the one he loved, she would not want to be the one standing in the way. Luckily for those galaxies that are in danger of an invasion, the Yenyt and Zorans were now standing in Zarth Galador's way.

After a moment of hesitation, Zarth took the hand reaching out for him. She pulled him around the table until he was kneeling in front of her. She dropped his hand and then reached out to place hers against his cheek. "Let us do this the peaceful way, shall we? Will you let me help? Already there will be too much bloodshed in the months to come. There will be a war, Zarth, it is inevitable. The Zorans wish to sweep across the galaxies, destroying anything and anyone they do not agree with.

"The Tefmau do need help and your System is in the position to give them that help, as well as the entirety of the Cyruvian Fleet should the need arise. I can no longer ignore the actions of the Zorans..."

"What is it you want from me?"

The Light smiled again, and again the dimples appeared. "Isn't it obvious? I wish for a union between the Three Worlds and the Tefmau, thus inviting the Tefmau to be closer allies to both of us. They are a beautiful species and must be protected."

"They could have come to us in the first place, but they didn't. They accepted the Yenyt."

"The Yenyt went to them first, as you are very slow."

"What… what are you saying?"

"I did not think you would have any objections at all if it were you Kessle was promised to."

"They would never accept me."

"And why not?" the Light demanded. "You are Prince Zarth Galador. Aside from your parents, you are the most powerful man in your galaxy. They would be fools to turn you down, regardless of your Alpha status. Have you ever asked them for Kessle's hand?"

"Well, no… I'm his Alpha. I couldn't do such a thing. I will not take advantage of Kessle in such a way!"

"But you love him."

"How do you even know all this?!"

"Oh," Tryntalia laughed. "I've pushed a button."

Zarth quickly looked to the ground, shamed. "Forgive me, but I will not force Kessle-"

The Light began to laugh in delight. "You silly boy!" she exclaimed. "You really are as your brother says. Blind. Those stories Kessle told me? Well of course you were in every one of them. These were wicked stories. My favorite was his rendition of the Qurt attack which you led at the tender age of twenty. You were only in their base for half an hour before they decided a surrender would be better than having to face you."

"The Qurt were warned beforehand to clear out my galaxy. They didn't. Instead they attacked several of our profitable manufacturing bases and were feeding information to the likes of the Yenyt."

"No need to explain yourself. You do what you must for the benefit of your people. This is why your people love you. This is why the majority of your people wouldn't mind it should the Galadors take the throne once again. Have you heard this?"

"I have. But I took it for nonsense. Why would they want to dispose of the democracy?"

"Ask your parents. Ask them who the people have been calling out to be crowned King."

Zarth fell back on his ass, his eyes wide blown on her face.

The Light laughed again. "Another button!"

Zarth sputtered. "I-I knew there was some unrest with the Senate lately, b-but this…"

Across the room, Blake noticed what was happening. "Um… does the Light, uh, can she do magic?" he whispered. "Cause it looks like she has Zarth under a spell."

"Looks like the Light has shocked him stupid," was Fen's input. "That's a first."

The Dominae chuckled and then cleared his throat to try and disguise the sound.

Tryntalia peered down at Zarth with a raised brow. "Kings don't usually sit on the floor. Up." Zarth immediately did as she commanded, and once he was back in his chair, they went on with the discussion. But not the taking back the throne part, as Zarth wanted none of that discussion right now. He needed to think about that in private, or better yet discuss it with Kessle.

"As I said, I would like to help you in this. I will give you a public endorsement of the union. I will also offer to you any resources you need to help with the negotiations. This includes troops posted on every Tefmau planet until we know the Zoran danger has passed."

"…Kessle's clan. Half the reason they agreed to the union is due to greed. I don't think they're doing it for the good of all Tefmau."

"No they are not. Otherwise they would have found a better option. They would have gone to you. Now, as a gift to you for considering what I have proposed, I have summoned Kessle to dine with me this evening, along with his clan and yours. They wouldn't dare keep him from answering my call. The Yenyt and his people are not invited." Here she smiled, and it wasn't innocent. "And after, I will insist Kessle stay here with me for the duration of the Ornalia. The Yenyt nor Kessle's people will be able to get to him unless he wishes for it. I will see to his every comfort, Zarth. And you are welcome to see him whenever you like. And in this way, no one needs to lose their life. At least not here."

"Why… why are you doing this? Why would you concern yourself? The problem with the Yenyt, the Zorans. You could easily find another solution to that problem without having to help Kessle."

"Kessle being forced to marry a Yenyt? It's absurd. Of course I have something to say about it. Of course I will do something about it. And it would be nothing but advantageous for all galaxies around should the Tefmau align with the Three Worlds. This is where your peoples were going before their new Grand Vizier was chosen. It's why Tefmau started fostering on your planets in the first place."

"I always thought something was strange about that, the power shift."

The Empress nodded. "It's possible the Yenyt have more influence with the Grand Vizier than we know. You want to keep Kessle safe? Happy? Keep him free? This is the way, Zarth. Only you think marriage to you would be a burden to him. Think on it."

All Zarth could do was nod that he understood. She wasn't really commanding him to do it, and yet she was.

"So," she went on, lifting her hand to her husband, who immediately set to ushering the others to the table. "Your brother is set to wed."

She watched his face, watched that wide genuine smile appear. "Astonishingly yes."

"It's a surprise?" she asked as the others nervously took chairs around the table. Zarth watched the Empress smile openly at them all and he marveled at how informal the Empress was being with them. He also wondered why.

"I was sure Fen would never settle down," he responded as he watched the Dominae draw out a chair for Zari before taking the empty seat next to his wife.

"Who says we're settling down?" was Fen's question to which Blake nodded.

"Fen promised to show me the stars. Can't do that if we're settled down."

"We'll see what happens after the wedding," Zarth replied to them.

"Would you mind telling me how you two met?" Tryntalia inquired of the young couple who clearly could not keep their eyes or hands off each other for longer than two minutes.

"I met Blake on his planet and he helped fix my ship."

"His planet?"

"Oh. I'm from Earth," Blake responded without thinking about it. But the thought of lying to the Light didn't even cross his mind until everyone went still.

The Light studied everyone at the table before settling on Blake. "Why would you say that when you're clearly bred from the Three Worlds? Earth? Of course you aren't. I've met humans from Earth and you are not one of them."

"You couldn't possibly be from Earth knowing our engineering the way you do," was Kemt'I's input.

Shit, thought Fen and Zarth together. The Light noticed this. Noticed their panic. Noticed Blake and the others' confusion.

Blake wasn't sure what to say. He didn't want to argue with the Empress of the Cyruvian Empire. "Um…"

The Light turned to Zarth. "Is something wrong here?"

"It's a complicated situation, Your Grace."

"What's complicated? I'm from Earth. That's the truth."

Fen turned to Zarth, begging with his eyes for his brother to do something. They couldn't bring it out like this. Unfortunately, Blake saw this. "What's going on?" he demanded.

"But you are not from Earth," the Light insisted.

"I… I don't understand why you're saying that. Why do you keep s-saying t-that?" Blake's face had gone pale, his eyes flickered, and he looked like he was in pain. "Fen, why does she keep saying that?"

The Light abruptly stood and quickly rounded the table to him. She took his face, planting the heels of her palms against his temples and applied the slightest of pressure. "Shhh," she whispered gently. Blake's eyes rolled to the back of his head as he was pushed unconscious. The light gently eased his head over to rest against Fen's shoulder.

"I see," she murmured, keeping one hand to his head. "This young man's memories have been tampered with." She looked to Zarth.

"Father thought it might be that. Especially since every time he's questioned about his past, he seems to either ignore the question, or he'll answer and then immediately forget about what they were talking about."

The Light nodded. "His mind has been programmed to keep from thinking about the past. This programming is what caused him pain just now. He's alright," she assured Fen. "He'll wake in a few minutes and wont even know what happened."

"Zarth, what do we do?"

"At this point, I don't know. The programming…"

"Most of his memories are gone, I'm afraid. But the programming can be reversed."

"If that's the case, we shouldn't do anything until we've opened that lockbox," Zarth murmured. "He'll want some sort of answers when we finally tell him…"

"AHEM!" Zari was looking at them with a little annoyance and she gestured to Blake. "He's not from Earth?! When did we decide that was for real?"

"Zari, love. It's a long story."

"So tell it."

"Yes. I would very much like to know the backstory. Perhaps I could be of more help should I know it," Tryntalia said. "Do not worry," she went on to Fen. "I will let you know when he starts to wake."

Soon the story was told, all of it they knew of anyway.

"That is a beautiful and tragic story," Tryntalia murmured once Zarth and Fen were finished recalling all they could. "I can put one question to rest. He is your Briion." She smiled when both Fen and Zarth blew out breaths of relief and Fenwyn's arms went around Blake like a vice. "There are still memories of when he was a little boy, before the devastation of Marshee. You're still in his memories, Fenwyn," she assured with a smile. "And when the programming is done away with, those memories may return."

Shortly thereafter Blake woke up with a start and he looked horrified that he might have fallen asleep at the Light's table. There wasn't any time to be embarrassed however as the other guests arrived. Kessle arrived with his people along with Lynti and Maro.

Zarth was the first one on his feet, already striding towards Kessle. He staggered back as he usually did when Kessle tackle hugged him. He started to laugh until he felt the body against his trembling; when he felt a wet nose against his neck. Something was very wrong, aside from the obvious. Zarth pulled back just enough to see Kessle's face. To see the terror in his eyes. Eyes that were cast to the ground.

"Kessle?"

He didn't get an answer. Zarth's eyes dropped to the Tefmau's neck where a dark scarf was wrapped around. Kessle abhorred anything around his neck that wasn't jewelry. Even as he reached for it, Zarth felt the fires of hell start to burn in his chest and when that scarf was off, he went blind in rage. He didn't hear those standing around gasp upon seeing the vicious dark marks around Kessle's neck. It could have been made by hands or it could have been from a very tight collar. Knowing the Yenyt, it was probably both.

Zarth started nodding. Just nodding and then he set Kessle on his feet and gently pushed him into his mother's waiting arms. Still all he could do was nod as he quickly strode across the room, heading for the door.

"Zarth! Stop!" he father shouted.

Zarth didn't stop. In fact he started running and as he passed one of the guards whom accompanied Kessle's people, he easily disarmed him, taking up his sword as he ran by.

"Kemt'I! He mustn't!" Tryntalia cried out. "Now is not the time!"

Blake watched as the Dominae withdrew his own weapon, a gun of some sort, and pointed it at Zarth's back as the enraged man neared the door. Before he could call out a warning, Kemt'I pulled the trigger. An orange yellow stream of light streaked across the expanse to hit Zarth in the back. The man stumbled and fell to his knees, his hands twitched, and the sword fell out of his slackened grip.

"It's just a stunner," Kemt'I told the Galadors because it looked like every one of them were prepared to attack him next. He holstered his weapon and crossed the room, extremely surprised Zarth was still awake, still on his knees. "You are very strong for a human."

Zarth panted harshly, still halfway blind to his rage. "Did you see…?"

"I did, and I understand—don't make me shoot you again," he said when Zarth struggled to his feet. "There is a time and place for such things. Now is not the time or place, Galador."

"HE PUT HIS HANDS ON KESSLE!" Zarth bellowed.

Within Lynti's arms, Kessle sniffed. "He needs his happy place."

"He's not going to find it now," Lynti whispered. "Not until he's gotten his hands on that disgusting Yenyt. Oh you poor thing. I'm so sorry we couldn't stop this," she whispered, softly petting his neck while Maro stood behind them with an arm around both and he was also petting the top of Kessle's head.

"I'm alright," Kessle whispered. "I'm alright now."

"Where were your people, Kessle?" Maro demanded.

"They left me with him…"

"Stop right now, Galador!"

Kemt'I had drawn his weapon again as Zarth had grabbed up the dropped sabre and was back on his feet.

"I-I don't want to go back there," Kessle whispered brokenly. "P-Please don't m-make me. Zarth!"

Kemt'I moved until he was toe to toe with the seething man. "He's calling for you. Do you intend to ignore him?"

"With all due respect, Dominae," Zarth growled, "move out of the fracking WAY!"

Kemt'I pulled the trigger, hitting Zarth square in the chest. The man was jettisoned off his feet to land on his back several feet away. He didn't move again.

Blake turned to Fen. "Now I understand what you mean about never getting Zarth riled up."

"This was beyond riled up. I've never seen him this mad."

Kemt'I holstered his weapon. "I apologize," he said to Lynti and Maro.

"If he were going to ignore Kessle as well, that was the only thing you could have done," Maro responded.

Kessle wrenched away from the arms around him to race to Zarth, dropping to his knees and pulling the man against his chest, nuzzling his temple before licking the side of his face. "Zarth."

"He'll be okay. Won't wake for some time, but he'll be fine. Might be a little sore…"

Kessle glanced at the Dominae, nodded, and then went back to nuzzling Zarth.

"He has one hell of a temper," Kemt'I went on, and noticed the corner of Kessle's mouth twitch up.

"Oh, he does. Yes," the Tefmau purred before swiping his tongue along the unconscious man's temple repeatedly.

Kemt'I studied Zarth a moment more before looking to his wife. He smirked and nodded. To which she smiled back in agreement before ordering Zarth to be taken to a room within her personal quarters to rest until he woke. Unsurprisingly Kessle went off to wait at the bedside. When Kemt'I returned from making sure the two were comfortable, he found his wife standing out on the balcony. The Galadors and Kessle's parents were standing together speaking quietly.

The Tefmau's abuse was upsetting to Tryn, but she was also enjoying her time with these people, the Galadors. She'd sent all the Tefmau away with the exception of Kessle's parents, Lemat and Antut, whom looked nervous to still be there, as they rightfully should as no one was happy with them at the moment. And the only reason why they were still allowed to be in his wife's presence when she was being so informal is because she wanted something from them. She wanted their son.

"They're comfortable," he murmured upon standing beside her, running a hand over the long tresses hanging down her back. "I sent someone to check the Tefmau's injuries as well."

"Thank you, Kemt'I."

The man peered back over his shoulder. "It appears we've lost two."

Tryntalia giggled. "I don't think they've been given a moment alone since being reunited at the space port. They have hidden themselves over there behind the trees," she murmured, gestured off to the far side of the room where the youngest Galador child sat on a bench with a Cyruvian male amongst a corpse of trees. Directly behind the bench was said tree. It had branches spread out from top to bottom, so the two hiding behind it were completely hidden.

The Dominae focused on the Cyruvian. "The quiet Cyruvian with them. He looks familiar."

"I thought so too, but I cannot recall… I sense they wish to speak to me about something involving him. I will broach the subject with them at dinner. But first," here she smiled in excitement, mischief and raised her hand high into the air, "it's time to set things into motion."

As he always did when he wife did this, Kemt'I watched enraptured as particles of light gathered from the very stars before them and was drawn into her outstretched palm. Tryntalia inhaled deeply as her skin glowed ever so slightly. She turned, placing a hand on his cheek and Kemt'I felt her power seeping into his skin as well, into his being and as always felt rejuvenated.

"So you do like him?" she whispered against his lips moments later.

"Very much so. It's one thing to hear about him, quite another to see it with my own eyes."

Dimples appeared on each side of her mouth. "He reminds me of you a little bit. That temper especially."

"I think I've grown out of that."

"Zarieth! Don't just sit there. Stop them!"

"But mother!"

The two on the balcony returned to the room to find Lynti Galador marching towards the corpse of trees.

"Here of all places?!"

"But Mother! The Light said he's Briion! That's the boy who used to tease me and then build me little robot pets, right?"

This had Lynti freezing mid-step and she spun around to face the Light. Her hands covering her mouth. "T-truly? We were almost sure, b-but…"

Maro had also paused in speaking with the Tefmau; he looked to be under less emotion, but he was just affected by what was just said.

Tryntalia hastened to the woman who looked ready to collapse. She nodded as she took the woman's hands. Smiling in understanding of the emotion. Lynti burst into tears and the Light didn't hesitate to wrap her in her arms and lead her to the table.

"It is joyous news, isn't it?"

"Yes, we… We were sure, but there was still that doubt because we don't know how," she whispered. "After months of search and rescue missions, we found Kiira's body. We never found her brother or Briion but that was the same for many hundreds of people…"

"I discovered memory tampering, on more than one occasion," the Light murmured as they sat and gestured her husband over with the Tefmau couple along with Maro.

"Maro, it's really him!"

Maro took up her hand and kissed her white knuckles hard. Unshed tears in his eyes. Tryntalia savored these emotions, savored the bittersweet joy these people were currently feeling.

"I wonder if he heard Zari just now?"

Lynti suddenly laughed, smile wide on her face. "You think they're paying attention to anything but each other right now?"

"True."

Kessle's parents joined them at the table and the Light's smile changed; more formal and frigid and it was time for more manipulation.

The Light of Cyruvi turned to the Galadors. "Your son, Zarth, seems unaware your people are calling for his coronation. How is he in the dark?"

The Galadors took this question in stride since they were already very aware. The Tefmau however, had not been, and then went very still in shock. Eyes widening at the implications of this. Pairing Kessle off to the monarch of a very powerful galaxy- who had very powerful allies- was exceptionally better than joining with the Yenyt.

"Our son has been hearing rumors, but he doesn't believe them," Maro explained. "My wife and I travel the galaxy and so we are in the position to hear these things, see things. Zarth doesn't really realize what we've been doing when we've gone on tours these last two years. He's also been extremely distracted in between his work. Kessle and Fen's absence."

"What of your Senate?"

"The Senate answers to the people," Maro answered. "They will vote according to the separate states. As of right now only one third is calling for an official vote but that will soon change, especially with the looming threat of war."

Lynti nodded. "Zarth has already proven himself a capable leader, a strong warrior, and a compassionate man who would rather love than hate, unless of course someone puts their hands on the one he's in love with!" she snapped, her eyes burning as she stared Kessle's parents down. And then the civility she'd been hanging onto broke. "How could you?! How could you do this to Kessle? A Yenyt? Have you lost your fracking minds? HOW COULD YOU?!"

The Tefmau shrank back away from her fury. Kessle's mother looked distraught but his father continued to hold some defiance in his eyes. "It is our business-"

Lynti shot to her feet, slamming her hands on the table. Fire was in her eyes. "He's our son too whether you think so or not! Why couldn't you come to us? You know we love him, Antut! We would have given anything you asked for!"

Kemt'I leaned back in his seat, enjoying this. Enjoying Lady Galador's justified anger just as her husband was. He almost told his wife to stop when she reached out to gently take Lynti's hand, to calm her. The Light looked to the Tefmau.

"And would you have any objections now to a union with the Galadors?"

Of course they wouldn't, Kemt'I thought with disgust. Not now that they knew there was a very good chance Zarth might become king. If Zarth became king, he would hold more power than many of the powerhouses within the surrounding galaxies. The Three worlds galaxy was a peaceful nation, but their army was legion- again all thanks to Zarth's direction. And put that together with their closest ally- the Cyruvian Empire… well honestly the two Empires could take over the universe. Could even knock back the Alliance.

"This is… this is very sudden," Kessle's father, Lemat murmured.

"You will answer right now," the Light ordered.

"Yes!" Antut exclaimed and she ignored her mate's glare. "Yes, we would. Please, Lynti. Please have our son. Please keep him safe."

"Antut!"

Antut pressed her trembling lips together and dropped her eyes to the table.

"Then it is settled," the Light declared.

"With all due respect, Your Grace, I have not decided."

Maro took a deep calming breath before speaking. "What is it you want, Lemat?"

"It isn't about what I want. This is about what the Grand Vizier wants, Maro. He has ordered this union between Kessle and Zyrxic."

"Allowing the Yenyt, therefore the Zorans free access to your planets," Kemt'I announced. Lemat's attention snapped to him. Surprise in his eyes.

"You really didn't see it."

"You have more than a dozen children, so I understand why you don't care much about your youngest," Tryntalia stated.

"It's not true, Light!" Antut cried. "It's not. I didn't even want to send him away for fostering but I never have a say in the matter."

"Antut."

"Fostering was probably the best thing you ever did for him," Lynti responded lowly.

Antut nodded without hesitation.

Lynti's eyes softened. "And you did take very good care of Fenwyn when he fostered with you, despite your anger over Zarth becoming Kessle's Alpha."

"It was not done on purpose. We know that," said Lemat.

"And yet it seems you have been punishing Zarth for it ever since."

"Should we agree to this, there will be grave consequences," Lemat went on. "I have the entirety of my clan to think of."

"Your Grand Vizier is dirty," Maro replied. "And now you know it. We can provide you with protection. Provide your planets with protection. Surely there are others in your court to stand with you."

The two Tefmau looked to each other. Antut took up her mate's hands. "Please, Lemat. Please for once give Kessle what he wants."

"We will also provide assistance," the Light declared. "Protection from the Yenyt and Zorans when they finally arrive. Because they will. In full force. And their main objective would be to wipe out your civilization."

"This is happening," Lynti stated, her nose raising just slightly. "I'm tired of waiting for my litter of grandchildren. I want them now."

Antut suddenly reached across the table to grab Lynti's hand, nodding briskly. They were smiling widely at each other. Kemt'I couldn't stop the snort of amusement from leaving him. They were seriously ready for that.

"Again, you're getting ahead of yourself, Lynti."

"Pshhh!"

Maro shook his head, though he was smiling. "Lemat, we formally invite you and all of your clan to Solndaire. You will stay with us until we are sure it's safe for you at home. Until we have the Grand Vizier's assent for the union. He will give it, one way or the other. Zarth will see to that."

"You would do this? All of us?"

"Of course!"

"Just stop being aggressive to Zarth about being Kessle's Alpha."

"He was very enraged just now, wasn't he?" Lemat responded quietly.

"He doesn't want to admit it out loud, but he's been in love with your son for years and years. He never acts on it because of the bond. Sometimes Zarth can be too… virtuous."

It was around that time Blake managed to get Fen off him and tugged him from around the trees. He was embarrassed he'd allowed Fen to instantly destroy his defenses since, you know, The Light of Cyruvi was right there! And he had this strange feeling that she could see anything.

"What did we miss?" he asked Tyk and Zari, eyes going across the room to the table.

"I'm not sure what's going on," Zari murmured. "But mom was shouting a minute ago."

"They are negotiating a union," Tyk replied. Cyruvian hearing was much better than human. He could hear everything. And then before the other three could respond, Maro and Lemat both stood. Kessle's sire extended a hand and Maro took it to shake. Between them, the Light sat smiling serenely. As she usually did when things went according to her plans.


A/N: Thank you for reading! Hope you enjoyed and have a great week :D