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22 September 2018 @ 09:53 pm

The king chuckled. “No, you hate realizing how close to an utter disaster you came close to creating.”

Rael blinked. Right. All those scary powerful people I just met—wizards and witches—and an angry Army General. If he’d killed any of them, or if they’d killed the Spear . . . One! Can you call it a civil war when it’s a couple thousand magically powerful people verses the rest of the kingdom?

Rufi sighed. “Perhaps we should try this lunch that has been mentioned.” He glanced at Rael. “We rarely have formal lunches, just the dinners are back enough. I can only hope enough people show up for this one to spare you the attentions of your own diplomats.”

Chapter Eight

Half the bloody royal family showed up to look her over.

The vast majority of them with Garit’s golden blond hair.

The Dominate Blonde Gene. One of the ones we have in common. Unlike the version of the Red gene that I got from my Comet Fall father, which only occurs here . . . or possibly on some of the other Exile Worlds.

A spectacular silver-haired older woman looked her over with sharp eyes as she accepted the King’s arm to lead her to the table. Queen Nez

Crown Prince Rolo was a handsome man in his fifties, and his wife Princess Nez a gentle-eyed brunette beauty.

Colonel Fossi grinned and shook her hand. “From the stories I thought you be seven foot tall with glowing eyes."

Rael batted her eyelashes and giggled.

He blinked. “I see. Even more dangerous.”

The King’s eldest son, the Spear Prince. General Rufi’s successor.

“I know you know Garit, but have you met Prince Staven?”

Another blonde. Shaking his head. “So . . . Xen’s Femme Fatalé. Better luck next time?”

Garit punched his shoulder. “He’s mostly kidding. And this is his wife Lady Mihala, she’s one of the Karista Bay witches.”

Rael blinked. “I had heard that some witches do marry.” And you certainly have glow!

The witch shrugged. “Karista High Society is snooty about it, so for the sake of the children, we made it legal. If Staven gets roped in as the Crown Heir, they’ll find him a wife with better connections.” Her smile went crooked.


“Well, I had to either accept that or walk away from him forever. I didn’t walk.” A suspicion of moisture in her eyes. “But then I’ll finally have time to get advanced training in Ash.”

Rael nodded. “But you won’t consider it a good trade off. As I . . . won’t destroy my security rating with an unwise marriage.”

Her brows rose and she nodded. “It’s . . . unwise to love some people, but no matter the anticipated pain, we still do it.”

A bevvy of blonde women, half with escorts approached. Impossible to judge their ages, although none of them glowed. The king’s power gene must be a version of their Mage gene, on the Y chromosome, so it’s inherited father to son, and the daughters get nothing. But I doubt any are over forty, and those two look like teenagers.

Princess Felashi grinned at Staven. “My big brother is hoping to duck out of the Crown. Poor man doesn’t seem to realize that he’s still going to get stuck in the Government somewhere.”

“No problem. I’ll be going home to the woman I love.”

Then Rufi offered her an elbow and led her off to a glittering table, all snowy linen and cut crystal and gold plated flatware.

Where the Crown and Spear sat side-by-side at the end of the broad table. Queen Nez was at her husband right hand, and servants pulled out the chair at Rufi’s left for Rael.

She raised an eyebrow, and the old man grinned. “Xen’s my great grandson, my closest male descendent. Got to show official respect for his . . . whatever.”

Rael nodded. “Whatever.”

His grin widened. “Besides, if I don’t outrage High Society regularly they’ll start thinking I’m getting old.”

The King grinned. “You are old. And any decade now you’ll start acting like it.”

Garit sat at her other side. Staven across the table from him, sat beside Queen Nez.

The Queen had a twinkle in her eyes. “We have you surrounded. Now you must tell us all about how you met our Super Spy.”

The servant setting the soup plate in front of her gave her a second to think back.

The first time I set eyes on Xen . . .

“Oh . . . well, I was guarding the president’s daughter at a horse show. She was in with a dozen teenagers who were showing that day, and there was this rider working with a real brute of a horse. Half the teenagers stopped to drool over the rider—I mean, handsome, muscular bare arms, shining with sweat, creatively dissecting the horse’s probably ancestry—fortunately Paer was more interested in the horse than the rider. And I barely drooled. Honest.”

Several snickers.

“Anyway, I saw him around occasionally, and when a check on him—because he was competing against Paer and in frequent proximity—turned up a connection to some people we were investigating in connection with counterfeit ID—Your people. Major Easterly, Major Janic, Q, and another witch—we watched him closely, thinking he was how the counterfeits were being smuggled.” Rael shook her head. “It’s embarrassing that we never caught on.”

Grins all around.

A wishful sigh from Prince Garit. “They never let me do the fun stuff. But did you ever talk to him?”

“Not until he was hired to coach Paer while she and her horse convalesced from that bad fall.” Rael shook her head. “I bounced out to meet this hot stud . . . and he backed up about half a meter to barely shake hands. I think I scared him.”

Garit laughed. “Now that we know more about you, I’m not surprised that Xen saw you as a major threat to his mission. The news vids of you jumping out of an aircar, in flight, to slaughter about fifty Helaos troopers was a real eye-opener.”

Rufi chuckled. “Why yes, we do get a whole lot of publicly available material from the Empire. And of course, nothing classified or sensitive, anymore.”

Rael eyed his innocent expression, and dammit, dimples like Xen’s. “Of course not, sir. We would never suspect such a thing.”

Down the table, she could feel a power gather, with a tinge of anger.

Careful ambassador! This is not a safe place to lose your temper . . . Except glancing down the table she could see Ambassador Osma on the far side of the table spooning up soup. The power gatherer was on her side, hidden behind half a dozen bodies.

Someone’s angry, but why the power draw?

This isn’t a safe place to play magic gottcha . . . is it?

How strong are Easterly and Janic? How well trained are they? Deena said she wasn’t raised by witches . . .

Deena Janic was standing back out of the server’s way, just two steps from the king. A casual turn of her head toward Prince Garit caught Easterly in her peripheral vision.

Not quite behind me. And his shields are up, wary of an attack . . . from me? Can he even feel whatever’s going on down the table?