“. . . and nothing on Xen.” Rael was keeping her face neutral, not able to fake anything else.
All three directors and the President were looking perturbed. Poor Izzo, less than three months into his presidency and his first crisis is stretching out with no solution in sight. At least it’s happening on Embassy, not here. Yet.
It’s not personal, for him or the empire. Me, on the other hand? Oh shit yes.
“So. An all new, completely unknown, dimension traveling civilization. That thinks we destroyed a world. Who took out our, Disco’s, strongest magician right off the bat.” The president sat back, eying Rael. “But Q says he was alive?”
“Yes.” Rael forced her hands to relax. “Unconscious. Hard to imagine him staying captive for a month, but considering the apparent ‘distance’ he may be having trouble locating home.”
President Izzo’s eyes narrowed, for a long moment of thought, then he nodded. “Right. At this point we don’t know enough to do anything but guess and jump to conclusions. Rael, go back to Embassy. I want you there when they show up again, or Xen gets himself back home. Aid Disco, at your discretion, and please try to keep Q from doing anything that might get her killed.”
Rael nodded. No tears allowed. Professional. I’ll be where I can help. Where I need to be.
She had dinner with the family, well settled into Versalle. And spent extra time with Ryol and Arno, who were worried enough about her to come home for the evening. And worried about Xen, but mostly because of the effect of his . . . kidnapping . . . on her.
I didn't bond deeply enough with his kids, and mine didn't bond with him at all. He's just Master Xen, a respected teacher.
She shook herself out of that line a thought and concentrated on these two. Xen's children and mine. "So, how's Spring Semester going?" Second year of college! Dear One, they're adults!
"Much more interesting." Arno perked up. "More challenging, too. And the last few Wednesday Night Current Event Seminars were really interesting. All the news clips and analyses . . . but not a whole lot of new information on the New People."
"Disco's calling the head guy Poohbah. And we don't have any more to go on than you guys have." Rael hunched her shoulders. "Sorry."
Ryol sighed. "I just wish so many people didn't think he was dead."
Rael nodded. "Me too. But when Poohbah and his court come back, we'll be ready to trace them."
Arno eyed her. "So long as they do come back."
"That, unfortunately, is not something we have any control over."
The river was about thirty-five miles to the east. Xen wobbled over a hundred feet of loose cobbles to the main channel. Nice and deep, with a strong flow to the north. Cold.
Xen looked back south, but from down here he couldn't see the mountains at all.
"But there must be more and higher down there. This has to be snow melt, less than five hundred miles away, to be this cold."
Hunter lapped water, and trotted down stream.
Xen dipped his fingers into the chilly water and decided against a swim. "Although it's almost hot enough to be tempting. Give it a month and the cold will be a plus rather than a drawback. I'll explore the other side then." He turned and followed the wolf.
The hills got lower, the river started meandering a bit, and out at the limits of his view from the tallest hilltop he could find, it looked like it joined another river. He camped on the hill, watching for any sign of human habitation. But the night was dark, with no sign of campfires, and in the morning no smoke. No sign of lumbering, no croplands.
He collected and cut wood, and had a bonfire the second night.
No sign anyone spotted him.
He spent a week out there, checking out the larger river, dodging small herds of some sort of bovine—large wild cattle with enough longer hair over their shoulders to make him think of bison--and observing a pride of faintly striped, short tailed lions hunting them.
"So, Hunter, how come you look like an ordinary wolf? Those guys are vaguely Pleistocene." Xen circled wide around the kill site. "Well, rabbits and deer . . . Those are pretty ordinary white tails we've been hunting."
Hunter just kept watching the lions, or bobcats on steroids or whatever, with low growls.
Xen thought wistfully of a nice beef steak, but headed back north. No doubt the bison would wander their direction eventually, and he could hunt them within reach of his home base.
Not that there appeared to be any reason to stay so close to his arrival spot.
Two months. Not a sign of anyone.
And why should they bother checking on me? Marooned with no magic is probably the smartest way to deal with me.
But I'm getting stronger magically.
I'll get myself out of here, eventually.