Emre snorted. “One! Nick, I thought you might do that if the idiots got pushy. But Lucky Dave . . . I’d ought to have known it would be you.”
“It’s not funny.” Jeb turned and glared. “Davy . . . you, you always were impossible!”
Lucky Dave ignored a snicker from Ra’d. And eyed the fallen priest.
The other . . . were they head priests? Senior priests? Whatever. Ytry bent over Unvu and peeled an eyelid back. “Heh. Serves him right. Medic’s on the way. Emry, why don’t you haul your guests off to your house while Jeb and I deal with the wandering flock.”
Lucky Dave stepped in between the commander and the white uniformed guards. “You lot back off.”
The one with the most frufru on his uniform bristled. “It’s our job.”
Lucky Dave looked him up and down. “And what were you doing while,” nod at the man who was being loaded onto a gurney, “he was orchestrating an attack on the Prophet Nicholas One?”
“That was not . . . not . . .”
He snorted. “You were following that priest’s orders. Well, your mind is now your own—I suspect you have until Unvu regains consciousness to decide if you want to keep it, or be mind-slaved again. Good luck.”
Dave turned and followed the two Prophets. Makkah had not expanded much in the intervening centuries, but buildings had been replaced, landscaping changed.
Emre had a small house in a garden.
Dave ordered Scar to spread the Black Horse guards around, and gave the house a quick search. Isakson and Davos were hovering over the two prophets, so he stepped out the front door. Oldy and Ahsi were bracketing the door, and Ra’d and Ebsa were further out, facing some priests.
Lucky Dave stalked out to join them.
“. . . just want to go home!” The young man, boy really, all teenage gawkiness, had a high childlike voice.
Dave shuddered and eyed the group. “You all look very young. I thought they’d stopped taking children.”
The spokes-boy nodded. “I think I was the last. Six years ago. But they’re out of my head and I want to get away from here before they came back. The guards stopped the train, and took us off. If Nicholas One orders them to let us go, they will have to obey. Won’t they?”
Ra’d pulled out his father’s bag . . . no, this was a shiny new one. And produced a jar of virulent green stuff. “All of you take one swallow of this. It’s a multi-medical spells potion. In three weeks you’ll experience abdominal pain while your newly grown testicles descend. Pain and muscle relaxant spells will help. One. Swallow.” He handed it to the boy.
Lucky Dave eyed the bottle. “Doesn’t look much like that . . .”
“They call it grass clippings, because of the color. Possibly because of the taste, but I’ve never tried grass pureed in white wine, so . . . Anyway, it’s got all the healing, and none of the fun.” Ra’d took the nearly empty bottle back from the last young man.
Ebsa looked them over. “I’d guess half of you are under twenty-two. Give puberty a year, get your voice settled, then there are various ways to suppress your hormones so you Priest gene can maximize your magic. Give it until you’re twenty-five of so, then let it go.”
A boy of perhaps eighteen glanced over his shoulder. “But will they let us go? And what do we do then?”
Ytry stalked up. “Indeed, didn’t think past running away, did you?”
Ebsa ignored him and looked at the boy. “Let me ask the prophets what they are going to do about this situation.”
Lucky Dave boggled a bit, and followed the crazy man back inside.
Ebsa stood politely for a minute, until Emre leaned back and eyed him.
“So, the young man so concerned with justice. Who are you rescuing this time?”
“Some of the priests wish to leave. To try to have a normal life. Will you help or hinder?” Ebsa’s voice was polite, mild and . . . calm.
Emre thought that over and nodded. “We will help our fellows who wish to leave. What do you have in mind?”
“Money, to get a new start with. Umm, I’d recommend two thousand rials a month for ten years. Long enough to remediate any schooling they missed, plus college or trade school, or start a business. If any older priests wish to leave, and have no families to help them, you might offer the hospitality of the remote mosques and churches.”
“Humph. That’s not unreasonable. And this healing potion . . .” Emre glanced over at Ytry with a smirk. “Better than the one some people got dosed with.” His eyes unfocused for a long moment. “Right. Excellent idea young man. Tell the children out there to report to the financial offices for their first payment. That should get them home . . . well, they’ll need all sorts of things eventually, but the civil authorities can sort that out.”
Ebsa bowed and backed out.
Lucky Dave stayed.
Emre shook his head. “I wish I’d been alert enough to appreciate that boy the first time he came storming in here demanding we do the right time.”
Ytry snorted. “I’ve ordered the priest to stop being silly and just go about their jobs. Have you decided whether to form up again, or not? Unvu’s starting to wake up, and the guards are hovering over him.”
Emry sighed. “He’s going to be a problem. Always trying to take over. Coming quite close, when I was at my weakest. If I allow him to form a compass, there will be large problems.”
The nasty crackle of a strong magic-user dying had them all turning to stare in the same direction.
Emry winced. “I misjudged that. The guards weren’t there to protect him. They were there to protect themselves. Well. The next few months should be interesting. I wonder how many will leave?”
Lucky Dave shrugged. “Once it’s their choice, some will return. And once you stop think you need children, some very wise or powerful people may chose to come here and help in their retirement.” He looked at Jeb. “Remember?”
“Old crippled Warriors coming home, and lending their mental strengths to Compasses here? Yes . . . it’s going to be a huge upheaval.” A wry smile. “Here. We may be humbled to discover how little the outside world cares, or even notices.”
They stayed for another twelve hours.
Emre had a doubled fast room—Nicholas took him up on his offer, and started emerging every fifteen minutes for lav and food, then back into the room.
By midnight he was alert and energetic. He thumped Eme’s shoulders and wish him luck rebuilding the One and they walked quietly back through dark buildings to the cars.