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"Saphira?" High King Angarian mused while his solicitous blue eyes shifted from Lord Orinian to his Cyborg agent Atrey and back again. "A daughter of Reikan? I wonder where that old bastard might've squirreled her away all those years. His significant other was Lady Julianne, who divorced him after the slipshod insurrection. The ill-faithed woman chose exile, and left for Earth. That's about as much as I know about her."

They had sat down in a Royal Longue, where the bright midmorning sun was shining in through large, round windows, bringing out hues and shades in the smoothly elegant, dominantly white furnishing and adding gently saturated depths to the calming blue walls which displayed hints at sea-inspired murals. The exquisite rays glittered, fractured and decayed into green in the water of an aquarium were the most brightly coloured, exotic fishes were indolently swimming about. This lofty place of lenient and comfortable less-is-more elegance was quite a bit more casual than Angarian's formal office and the king had offered light refreshments which they enjoyed while Atrey reiterated to the king what she had told the Tarondan Lord the day before.

"Reikan told about his daughter when he was heard almost immediately after his capture," explained Atrey as she fearlessly met the eyes of her King. "According to him, Saphira was prophesied to banish a big threat to the Seven Cosmoses about four standard years in the future. Consequently Reikan appealed he would have to be pardoned to enabling him to teach her how to fight, naturally unmanageable when in prison."
"Sounds to me rather a condemned man grasping at straws, than a sighter telling of possible futures," Angarian snorted. Orinian had to stop himself from rolling his eyes, it was evident the King knew very little of, or cared very little for how sighters worked – or perhaps he was just letting his mind be clouded by his old aversion of the former Lord Reikan of Ursain.

"Sire, he was under hypnosis when telling this," Atrey elucidated. "95% of all sighters perform their divinations and receive their visions while being hypnotized or drugged. It's no secret that very few people can accomplish a true sighting during normal conditions. The Celestian brain, as with most thinking specimens, is simply too preoccupied with external sensations through the normal seven senses to be able to reach those channels which are receptive for the imprints in the time-space flux and able to see possible futures or past occurrences. Not to mention evaluating them. They need to shut down most interference, like sights, sounds, smells, electromagnetic currents and further on - to quintessence on the flux. Often only doable under altered conditions."

"What you must take in mind, gentlemen, is that Reikan was not put under hypnosis because of sighting reasons," Atrey went on. Angarian was now studying her intensely. No matter how used he was to Cyborgs these days, he still felt a certain discomfort upon viewing a person who didn't move an inch in her relaxed, contemplating status. Most people tended to shift position, blink or scratch themselves somewhere now and then. Cyborgs did neither; they had no need for these little ticks. Atrey was akinetic like a statue.
"Reikan was under because you were questioning him," the king stressed matter of factly. "To ensure he was telling the truth. Common procedure of criminal investigation."
"Of course," Atrey avowed. "However none of the jail personnel knew the man was a sighter. So no precautions for that aspect were taken. We were completely startled when Reikan fell into sighting trance and began talking about common occurrences."

"How accurate were they?" Orinian asked. At the same Queen Colombina slipped inside, closing the hallway door silently behind her. Without a word she came over and seated herself in one of the vacant chairs, the silk of her blue tunic whispering faintly as she arranged it gracefully over her long legs. The king gave her a silent nod of a greeting and Colombina nodded back, a gentle smile gracing her red-painted lips, her countenance lighting up, dark eyes twinkling. Orinian observed the royal duo thoughtfully; it was obvious that they had found a low-keyed, down to earth love after all those years. Who could have thought....?

"The sightings were correct enough," Atrey commenced after a courteous acknowledgment to the queen. "Upon investigating them I found them coming close to a probability of 80% - at least in those parts I've been able to analyze hitherto. Including the economic recession we've just emerged from and which is still plaguing Earth, Nibiru, Xanadu and Avalon Occidenta. Add to this the assassination of president Dekarmon in Elasastia."
"So how about Reikan's presumed daughter?" Angarian probed.
"That's the focal enigma, Sire. I've been trying to locate this Saphira now for quite some time. First I thought her to be a biological daughter of Reikan, but I found no records of earlier marriages of his, in spite of his age of almost 200 years. Neither any indication that he should have sired a child otherwise. So I began looking for disciples. Women who could've been his children in spirit rather than flesh and blood. But there were none of that kind either. Reikan was not the teaching kind, the one to take youths under his wings. He left that for others in his county. For instance his younger brother Calen, the alchemist – the present lord of Ursain."

"You're talking about Reikan's daughter Saphira?" Queen Colombina suddenly cut in and Atrey glanced over at her.
"Yes, the presumed daughter Saphira," the Cyborg replied. "The one I've failed to locate in spite of years of tries, and am now beginning to believe to be non-existent."
"Oh she exists all right," the Queen said in an arid no-nonsense voice, yet her lips twitched in a barely concealed jollity. "She's the daughter of Lady Julianne. They live on Earth in a place called England."
"I know what England is," Atrey confirmed. "A part of United Kingdom, an island kingdom of Western Europe. They speak English, a deviation of Commonspeech, spiced with local lingua and without the Curzulian tenses."

"Yes," the Queen confirmed as she brazenly tasted some sparkling wine out of her husband's glass. "Most probably the language made Julianne choosing that part of the world. However the English language is common in many other places on Earth including on a large part of the Atlantean double-continent. The one the humans these days refer to as America, the demise of Atlantis having been reduced to nothing but legends with these fast-living people. But I digress. Reikan and Julianne's daughter was born just about a season before Julianne became exiled from Eralda and left Lealia entirely. Julianne brought her young daughter with her to Earth, where she was named Sarah."

"Sarah?" Orinian raised a brow. "As in Lord Abraham's wife?"
"Yes," the Queen nodded her head. "Sorry to say, it was probably not to commemorate your late nephew, more a way of making the girl blend in, Sarah is a rather common name in these parts of Earth. Saphira would be more – well, exotic. Since Julianne wished to hide, it was better to give her daughter a neutral name. I've been keeping an eye on the two of them from time to time, primarily because I felt responsible for them. I've even visited Sarah a while back, and held a short interview with her, trying to probe how much she really knew about her origin. Which turned out to be very little of significance. She's not even aware of her status as a Celestian."

"Wait a moment here," Atrey cut in. "A season before Julianne was exiled, My Queen is saying? This denotes that the girl is less than four years old."
"Yes, 15 of the Earthly years to be more exact," Colombina replied.
"I was looking for a mature woman," Atrey went on. "Someone about ten Lealian years of age. That should explain my failure."
"But how can we expect someone as young as her to take on whatever has come through the spatial fabric?" king Angarian looked more worried now with this knowledge at hand.

"Perhaps this heralded battle won't take place until years in the future," the Queen guessed. "Perhaps it won't even be a battle in our belligerent nous. Don't forget that whatever came through to our realm is probably totally alien. We're even referring to it as the Alien. So how do you defeat something so outright different? Probably by fighting in a way we do not comprehend now. Yet presumably possible for this four cycles old girl to grasp. In any case we need to locate the Alien." Now Columbina directed her attention to her husband. "Angarian, I came here primarily to tell you that the Voidwalkers have arrived. They've been lodged in the Western Palace Wing by now and are establishing themselves as we speak. I'm here to ask you when you may be able to receive them."  
The king stretched his neck and rolled his shoulders, aiming to gain time. Sure, he had invited the Voidwalkers to Whitehall, to receive help with locating the Alien. But even he couldn't hide the discomfort when thinking of these strange, more or less creepy humanoids. The Voidwalkers had a habit of constantly slipping from your mind, you forgot about them even if they were in the room, you lost sight of them as if they were truly indiscernible and you disremembered their features the moment they left. In some cases you almost forgot they had even been there. All this happened since they didn't really exist in the real, fourth dimensional space, but primarily on a level next to it, slipping in and out of through declensions in reality as easy as smoke whirled through openings in a structure. Thus they played tricks on the brain, which defended itself by choosing to disremember their presence.

"Tell me about them!" the king urged and Columbina reached inside the inner pocket of her thin, gray satin jacket to retrieve a note paper. She folded it open in her lap and dipped her eyes to brief over her scribblings.
"The man is called Antolas; he's been in the business now for a bit more than ninety Lealian years. I've, uh, jotted down his appearance the best I could. Tall, fair-skinned, green eyes. Thulean of origin like most of his kind. He's a pro, at the prime of his career. The best there was according the Royal Recruiter who sent them here. He has brought with him his daughter. Cleanthia is still a novice, still in training. Looking a lot like her father, from what I could make it. Her mother was a Regular. A Lealian woman, from the Republic of Neltra. This makes the girl something as unusual as a Voidwalker cross breed. Most probably she became included in the package because our Recruiter believes that she, with her mixed race status, could have some new angles to contribute with."

"How old is the daughter?" Atrey asked, facing the Queen, who looked up at the Cyborg.
"Twenty Thulean years, that's roughly five of ours."
"Then she ought to befriend Saphira," Atrey reasoned. "That can be useful; the girl will probably be petrified when the veils covering her future get torn aside."

"Al right," the King decided to bite the bullet. "I'll see them within three hours from now, I'll send a servant." Then he turned to the others. "The Royal sighter Sarmonian told me to invite Julianne for this year's Hallow Ewe, however he couldn't perceive why. Now we know it. Saphira is apparently on her way already, and that should make some of our difficulties easier to deal with. Atrey, thanks for your valuable contribution in this matter!" he then dismissed the Cyborg agent, who stood and left the room.

When the Cyborg closed the door behind her, the king turned to Orinian.
"Will you have the time to lunch with the Queen and I? I've invited Queen Sarentona, who arrived early this morning. She's a bit jet-lagged but she accepted the offer. I hope we may engage in some more pleasant subjects than the dire matters at hand for a while. Just to rest our poor brains."

That was something Orinian found delightful and agreeable, and he accepted the offer with a placid smile pulling at the corners of his lips.  


When Julianne had finished, Sarah sat in silence, taking her eyes from her mother and trying to deliberate on the scenery as it went by, but she was too overwhelmed to actually focusing on anything passing by out there. Seconds felt like minutes. Then minutes stretched too far in both directions, into memory and distress. Her mind was in turmoil, it had been quite a lot to take in during such a brief period of time. Umbrianna had been partly right and now Sarah understood that what she reminisced of her father and their mansion had not been from England or even Earth, but over in this unfathomable realm which was called Eralda. Where they were going now.

As if her thoughts had triggered it, the carriage began rolling faster and faster until they were heading straight into the air! With a gulp, Sarah closed her eyes and took a firm hold of the armrests. The vertigo pitching her stomach and lacerating her mind was definitely one of the scariest feelings in her life. It wasn't like flying to Spain two years back; a trip in a plane had felt quite different, quite safer. They hadn't been half as vulnerable inside that large and air-tight machine as they were now, in this small, old and suddenly very rickety-feeling carriage.

She was almost certain she had fainted because when she opened her eyes the carriage had halted on a rocky outcrop. Her mother opened the door on her right hand.
"Final stop," she smiled, "all passengers off!" But her smile, Sarah noted, failed to reach the eyes. Instead she appeared quite edgy, hard-strung nerves all over the place. They disembarked and without further ceremonies began walking, something that surprised Sarah a lot - her ever-polite mother had forgotten or neglected to thank their driver.

But as she turned to look, she noted that the whole equipage was gone, as if it had never been there.
"Mother," she pulled at Julianne's arm, making her halt and turn around.
"Darling, I'll answer all the questions you can think of, no matter that I know they are plentiful. But later. Now I must concentrate on where we're heading, because I have to make sure I make the correct impression after all those years. There are no second chances for these things, you know."

Sarah didn't, but she kept her mouth shut nonetheless. The air was very thin and chilly so she stayed close to Julianne as they continued the ascent on foot, up narrow stairs cut out in the hillside. As she glanced to her right, she noted a myriad of glistening lights, like a blanket of sequins - a small town residing within a valley surrounded by blunt and bluish, snow-capped mountains partly obscured by small, elongated clouds.
"That's Elefteria. The capital of Eralda," Julianne offered upon noting Sarah's gaze. "It's not even one tenth the size of London, but mesmerizing nevertheless. That would be for another visit."

So they were going back later! Anew, Sara felt excitement stir within her.

Night was beginning to fall, careered from the far side of the skydome and only birdcalls and the sounds of wind whistling through branches interrupted the silence. The breeze ruffled flower petals and dandelion fluff floated in the cold air like small vessels bound for arbitrary destinations. Sarah was a bit riled that she hadn't thought to bring something warm. She was starting to feel small again and she wasn't sure whether she liked it or not. Craning her head, she noted that quite a handful of stars were out already, peeking out between ranks of cumuli, even though the sun had yet to disappear in the west. On the eastern horizon a large and copper red moon was climbing. Or was it another sun? It shone so bright it was almost impossible to tell.

Suddenly, a golden glow filled all her senses and she felt surprisingly light and happy. The very next moment a high and ornate iron gate appeared before them and it opened to let them in. This gate also carried that coat of arms with the dragon and the swords, thus Sarah understood that they had now reached the goal of their journey. Whitehall, where this enigmatic king dwelled. Sarah turned to see if there was anyone who operated the gate, but she spotted no one, it seemed completely automatic, or at least managed from a distance.

Julianne led them through and they come upon a number of complexes which formed what looked like a small village. It was certainly richer than any other town Sarah had ever been to, even if its size was a far cry from Chelsea, let along London. But it was posh to say the least; this gated society with opulent villas with large and elegant gardens and with fancy vehicles parked in the driveways in front of the houses. They didn't look like any cars she knew, and she wondered what kind of vehicles they really were. She wished she had felt safe to ask her mother, but that would certainly have to wait.

As they passed through the surprisingly empty streets, Sarah felt that the place stretched on and on. Towers started showing over some of the buildings and gradually Sarah realized they were coming upon one of the greatest structures she had ever seen. Even larger than the Wembley Arena where she, Doris and Lydia and Lydia's mother Renée had gone to see Justin Bieber the same spring. All this wealth made Sarah feel quite out of her element and she wished to cling a little more to her mother, something she tried stringently to not show.

When they rounded one last corner they were finally able to behold their radiant destination. As if born of the wind and the rain, an elongated but low cliff rose from the surrounding land. Crowning this vertical structure was a fabulous palace. It blazed in the dazzling light of the setting sun, a gigantic Fata Morgana lit all over with golden, pink and purple floodlight, subjugating the gathering dusk, sparking white fire from white stone and proclaiming a vain triumph over the surrounding lands and destiny - an imaginative explosion of beauty and colour.

Instinctively Sarah reached for her mother's hand and yet was she ambivalent about the fact that the grip she got in return was firm and sure. This was the Whitehall Palace, no doubt about it! Too late to go back now. Her life was about to change forever, she was intensely aware of it.

It only took them minutes to walk the bricked way leading across pastoral lawns and up to the entrance of the large structure, where a broad staircase took them up to a magnificent portico. The doors of the palace made a grinding sound as they were opened, obviously operated from afar as well. Sarah felt her stomach twist. Just beyond those doors awaited the rest of her life.
10. A revolution in a faraway land  

On Friday afternoon Sarah was quick to leave school; she dashed the last few blocks from the bus stop, flew across the front yard and leapt up the stairs to the third-floor flat. She had used her savings to purchase a nice, red dress for the Hallow Ewe Fiesta. On sale, in a supermarket store, but that was the best she could do on such a short notice and her mother didn't want to disburse one extra nickel on dressing up. Julianne had really never done that, save for making sure she looked smart when going off to work.

The moment Sara arrived home, she threw off her regular clothes and jumped into the shower, where she made sure every nook and cranny of her body became prudently cleaned, let the hot jet stream baptize her into a woman – a party-goer. Then she took the time to put on some make-up. Nothing fancy, her mother was very clear with her opinion of 'painted girls' as she called them. But some mascara and eye-liner, rouge on her jawbones and a soft lip-gloss was fine, Sarah guessed. Her hair was brushed until it was soft and clean. She considered pulling it back but decided to leave it down, and last of all she fastened two gilded clips in her ears, wishing for the umpteenth time that her mother would let her pierce them.

A glance in the mirror – not bad. She wouldn't stand her own against a sophisticated model, but she was pretty and she looked youthful and healthy.

Julianne was awaiting her in the living room, wearing a knee-long deep-green flapper dress with rich golden embroidery all over. A beautiful, slim belt wrapped around her waist, her feet clad in heels and over her shoulders a short fox-fur jacket. Sarah had never seen her mother this elegant - her hair was even up! Furthermore was she wearing jewelry, a three lines pearl necklace around her slim neck and pearls in her ears as well! Only her nose was unadorned, the green stone she usually wore had been removed. Sarah felt ashamed of herself for dressing so poorly, even though she knew for a fact that this was the absolute best she could do.

Unexpectedly Julianne smiled at Sarah when their eyes met.
"You look absolutely lovely," she surprised her daughter by saying, her voice like sweet honey. She nodded her head towards the door and expectantly Sarah followed her out of the flat, down the stairs, across the front yard and out in the street.

"So are we waiting for a taxi?" Sarah asked since her mother made no move in the direction of the bus station.
"Not exactly," came the short answer.
"So what..."
"Just wait and see," beneath the calmness of Julianne's voice, Sarah could sense a slight trace of nerves. Her mother, the down to earth accountant, was uneasy.

Then she heard it, the clipped sound of hooves rattling against the asphalt. A horse? Not a common sight in their neighborhood. She wondered who might be riding here.

Not thirty seconds later, a small closed carriage became visible as it rounded the corner and the unexpected vehicle proceeded down their silent side-street until it came to a stop right in front of their house! The coach was blazingly crimson, gleaning gaudily in the slanted afternoon sun and adorned with polished brass details such as handrails and window-frames. Painted upon the doors in blue and yellow was the same coat of arms as the letter head bore. The coat of arms of Whitehall. Four large, spiked wheels were carrying the vehicle and it was pulled by a single gigantic dun stallion. The driver, sitting beneath a purple canvas canopy up front, was a middle-aged man wearing crimson livery and a high hat and he displayed a very vacant expression. Sarah felt her eyes widen at the strange equipage, she had hardly ever seen anything like it in real life, let along riding in one, but Julienne opened the door without hesitation and indicated for Sarah to step on board.

Julianne entered right behind her and seated herself on the seat opposite her daughter and as Sarah slumped down on the red velvet of the cushion, she was surprised at its softness. Looking around the small compartment she was charmed by the vintage look of reds, brass and dark wood and she inhaled the smells of leather, textiles, oil, horse, stale perfume, tobacco and some unrecognizable aromas. She couldn't help smiling as she felt the build-up of excitement starting to bubble like a spring brook within her chest. With surprise she saw her mother mimic her expression, her face looking unexpectedly lovely in the dim lamplight glowing from a tiny, round brass lantern in the ceiling. A moment later the carriage started with a jerk and they began to move down the street.  

First Sarah turned her head to look out the small window, trying to see if there were any neighbors or others in the street seeing their departure. But her mother was softly calling her name, so Sarah turned her attention towards her instead.

"My girl," Julianne began and crossed her legs, fingering on her small crocodile skin purse (Sarah had no idea her mother owned such an elegant piece). "There are a few things I need to tell you," she went on before holding up her hand to stall Sarah from cutting in, perceptibly seeing such a desire in the countenance of her daughter. "Actually there's a lot I need to tell you. Quite a bit of an explanation do I owe you. I'll ask you to not interrupt me before I'm done, because this is quite a lengthy bit and I risk losing the thread if I should answer your questions meanwhile."

***  Julianne's story ****

My dear Sarah, I know how you've constantly been questioning the dull life you and I've led in Chelsea. The school and the anonymous flat. The dismal conformity of it all. You wanted something else, something more, the fire in your eyes told me that so clearly it almost hurt. For you're right, my dear girl. You're perfectly there with your thoughts about your identity and your place in the world. You and I, we are not the average British suburban dwellers, we are not even regular humans to be true.

No, we are something called Celestians. That's an old, powerful race of humanoids coining from Lealia, a planet in one of the other six known Cosmoses. Lealia is the same realm as the gods of old originated from and our kind can say to be descendants of them. We are not immortals though, but we are quite a bit more long-lasting and durable than the regular humans. Stronger and more creative and intelligent. That's why you've always detested school, you have been way ahead of the rest of the kids and unchallenged. But I couldn't let you set yourself apart, not until you were ready to know the truth. I could not be that irresponsible, it might be devastating.

For the same reason did I try to protect you from the human boys. I couldn't take the risk, no matter how miniscule, that you became pregnant with one of their children. That would be devastating! And no, before you claim that a fifteen year old doesn't get pregnant with a boy of the same age, the risk is there and I'm not willing to let you take it. Not when I know the price of it. A human child – you'll see it age and die – outlive it with centuries, and it would hurt you beyond reason!

Now you might wonder why this charade. Why we have been hiding here outside London instead of living with our kin people in Lealia. That's quite a long story, long and painful, but I'll try to cut it short. It all boils down to one simple sentence. I fell in love with and married the wrong man. Yes, regardless of loving your father to the bits and bones, he was no prince charming. No matter that I love you more than life itself, and would never have your conception undone, entering a marriage with Reikan, the Lord of Ursain, was nothing but a disaster. But how could I know? Perhaps he didn't even know it at the time, the kind of future he was entering into.

At that time our High King, Angarian of Whitehall had just led our nation Eralda through a long and dreadful war with the southern neighbor Umakia. We had exited the conflict as victors, but it had cost us quite a bit. A large part of Lealia was marred by the war and millions had died. Among the survivors were countless who had lost their homes and all they ever had. It was a tragedy, truly a dark time for our people and our nation. We had a lot to rebuild and naturally we were vulnerable. Sure did we look over our shoulders for new threats. Yet never did we suspect that the next menace would come from the inside. Especially I did not, it would never cross my mind to fear my own family.

Not once did I suspect my newlywed husband Reikan of Ursain to find a dark twin soul in my father Utrorion, for them to contrive against our king. They planned a coup to dethrone Angarian and to discharge the ruling Council, which works as a kind of government, to instead split all the power between themselves. Their plan had originally been some kind of palace coup, but to make it work, they also instigated revolts among the commoners, people very much similar to their humans cousins here on Earth. Reikan used hired thugs out there to bring about hunger riots and plundering, after the war it wasn't exactly hard to acquire – and soon the unruliness spread and threatened to overtake most of Eralda. It ran almost out of control for a while. Being caught up right in the middle of it, I quickly understood where it was heading. Down the drain and fast. Obviously the forces my husband had set in motion were too powerful for them to handle – the movement among the commoners was developing too fast, the upheaval spreading like wild fire. Shortly it was threatening all of Lealia and it became evident that Reikan and father would never be able to take the palace in time.

Naturally the king hit back. Brutally and efficiently, the way he's known for doing. He found those behind the revolts, disposed of them and his forces managed to calm most of the riots. Eventually those clear-outs put king Angarian on the path to us. To Reikan and Utrorion. When he vanquished them, the quietus became quite the blood bath and in the end my father got killed while my husband was seized and sentenced to prison. And I – I became exiled. At that time you was just one year old, my dear, and a well-kept secret within the family. With so much hatred out there directed towards us, Reikan and I decided it was safest to keep you a secret as long as possible.

Before my adjudication I had appealed to the king. Tried to make him listen, tried to present witnesses who had heard my efforts to impede the upheaval, heard me pleading with my husband and father to stop the insanities. But Angarian didn't want to hear me. He and his Council had already found me guilty. The only reason he let me go, did I learn first years later. It was because of his wife Colombina, she learned that I had been pregnant, and understood that you had come to be - and she wanted to give me a chance to protect you, which I would not have been able to do in prison. A small mercy for a burdened woman. For that I am her eternally thankful.

So I came here to Earth with you, and I chose to go to England, where the people speak almost the same language as in Eralda. I settled outside London, cloaking the two of us anonymity. Then it took me ages before I met another one of our kind again, someone finally willing to lend me an ear and give me a fair treatment. Her name is Cordelia, the only friend I can count on having in Whitehall. You'll meet her when we get there.

I should not blame the King really, he did what he had to do to keep his kingdom safe, still I do count myself as acrimonious. He could have endorsed me to lustrate my name. Now I will forever be regarded guilty among the people of Whitehall, that's why I'm so very reluctant to go where we are going. Still Angarian has chosen to end my exile now after four Lealian years. A holy number according to the Celestian calendar. Accordingly I must go to the castle and stand up for who I am, show that I am not one to skulk in the shadows, even if that's what I very much feel like doing now. But I have to come clean and try to reclaim at least a little bit of my dignity and my former life, even if most of our old Eraldan estates are gone by now, confiscated by the Council as damage claims for what Reikan and my father caused.

But most of all, I'm doing this for you, Sarah, to give you the chance to face the society which should have been your birthright.  


As Antolas and Cleanthia approached the valet entrance of the Whitehall palace, Cleanthia's attention was fixed to the opulent structure.
"This must be the most affluent and sophisticated place I've ever seen," she exclaimed as she glanced over at her father.
"It is lovely indeed," Antolas answered, his ice green eyes reflecting the bright lights of the palace.

Antolas handed over their credentials to a ramrod-straight doorman. He made an impressive sight in his uniform of deep navy, set off by gold buttons and braid. With a flourish, he opened one of the double doors and held it for them. As Cleanthia passed through, she noticed the artistic detail of the art noveau scene etched in glass set into each brass-framed entry door. Bell-shaped flowers with swirling steams and large heart-shaped leaves. The design was echoed in the lamp fixtures to the sides of the door and in the huge chandelier hanging from the high ceiling in the entrance hall.

As two Voidwalkers made their way through the crush of people, Cleanthia felt the unusual sensation of being watched. She turned to find a tall and supple woman studying her. Her primary blue dress set off a flawless bronze complexion. Leaning nonchalantly against a pillar at the far end of the room she followed them every movement with calculating sapphire eyes. Cleanthia blinked in surprise, being a Voidwalker, with a form that constantly phased in and out between perceived realities, she was used to never been really seen. She was cognizant that most people seemed to not notice them if not spoken to directly and then they often appeared startled. But this woman had seen them instantly. Who was she? When her father suggested they move on, Cleanthia was again struck by an odd sense of relief mixed with disappointment.
The riddle of the Labyrinth 10
10. A revolution in a faraway land  
The cross-vaulted ceiling was whitewashed, the lighting hanging down bounced off soft burgundy walls warming the room; deep red booths lined one side of the wall while the counter seats had worn black leather. This wasn't one of those cheesy suburban taverns. This one played off the dark woods from the moldings, counters, tables and bronze hardware beautifully, the floors in a black and off white pattern fit seamlessly, the whole place gave it an aged sort of vintage look. Lord Orinian had found this particular diner ages ago and since then he had always visited it when he was in Eralda, sometimes difficult given his profession. Tonight the place wasn't crowded, just a few booths had been occupied and even less people sat at the counter, most of them giving off the impression as regulars – inventory more or less rooted to the furnishing.

Orinian had placed himself in the bar, a magic field of anonymity spun across his shoulders and forehead, a glass of Earth Whisky in front of him, the resin yellow beverage gleaning warmly in the soft, ambient light. Upon sensing her enter the tavern he raised his head curiously, craning his neck just a bit in the direction of the entrance to regard her. Atrey Oine. The Cyborg.

He hadn't met many of her kind – especially not one as remarkable as Oine was said to be, so he was perhaps a tad miffed that it should be under such dire circumstances. He had wanted to devote some time delving into this strange woman's thoughts and emotions. Was she a woman really? Yes, at least on the outside, he could tell as he shifted on his high chair to get a better view of her. Not one hard to look at either. She was lean and delicate, yet curved in the right places, golden-skinned and with piercing aquamarine eyes, an odd combination but quite appealing on this brunette woman. With a determined stride she made her way up to him as if it was the most natural thing in the world that she had the powers to locate him just as he knew who she was the very moment she'd stepped over the threshold to the tavern.

"Atrey Oine?" he stood from his chair as she stopped in front of him. She was about half a head shorter than him and she looked somewhat vulnerable, like a little girl almost with her long lashes, petite nose and narrow chin. Still looks could be deceiving and they definitely were in this case. King Angarian had described this Cyborg as one of his best secret agents. Strong and enduring and with a fast mind - not thinking twice when a deletion was needed in the name of her King and country. Orinian had studied and her – as well as her brethren and sisters. The cybernetic race, an ilk without counterpart in any of the other universes.

Sure, they were not the only man-made specie, far from it, there were the Bouleves and the Rizans and the Trolls, the latter having been made for slave labour in Saninger some four thousand years ago. A failure, since they had been hard to pet and a lot of them had run away, some of them even as far as to Earth. Conversely this woman was as about far from a Rizan or a Troll you could get and still be considered humanoid.

"Yes, and you should be Lord Orinian of Alozzia," she smiled gently, her teeth shone like pearls against her shimmering skin and red lips. "General Tirkar informed me that you wished to see me that it was supposed to be quite unofficial. So I guess that explains the choice of location."
"Sure," he established as he took the offered hand, noting that her grip was strong and hard yet gentle. "I wanted to ask you a few questions, more as confirmation of my own suspicions than an actual hearing. I imagine you can envisage what it is about."

"The Cosmic break of course," she said as she detached her hand. "And the presumed intruder." The next moment she had slipped up on the high chair next to his, so quickly and agilely that the Lord was uncertain how it had happened.  Had she actually levitated? "Besides, since you're the interviewer, I imagine the drink is on you as well," she gave him a flirty glance before she turned her attention to the barman. "A Jinx please – make it a double," she ordered and the mustached old man nodded to confirm he had taken her order.


Queen Sarentona hadn't been to Whitehall in over a century, but she had not forgotten King Angarian's ostentatious marble palace high on its cliff. The portal she and her entourage used was not located that far from the walled in palace, so they made over there by walking, allowing them to take in the exquisite vista. Whatever one might have to say about Eralda and its people, one had to give them that they lived in a truly lovely place. A paradise of beauty and verdancy filled with lush greenery, high, snowcapped mountains from which large waterfalls streamed down in lakes and streaming rivers and with a diverse fauna of birds and mammals, more species than anywhere else. Striped, stag-like animals crowned with mighty mother-of-pearl shimmering horns graced the grass and jumped agilely from tuft to tuft, stalked by silent feline carnivores skulking in the shadows beneath the proud, wide-crowned trees. In the air an abundance of birds loped and dived, ascended and darted to and from while calling out to each other with shrill melodies.

The uneven ground was mostly covered in grass and flowers of all kind of colours and among them there buzzed insects of all varieties. Butterflies with colourful wings the size of human hands, dragonflies with shimmering gossamer wings and small bees and gnats. Above the scenery the sky spanned higher and bluer than it ever became in Ebraa, dotted with fluffy little clouds and pierced with a handful of daystars. The place had moons too, but none of them were visible right now. The queen knew that if they went down to the sea, the horizon would appear much farther away than in her own world, as Lealia was a much larger planet than Ebraa.

The guardians had opened up the large gates, Sarentona noted as they turned a curve. Their arrival was anticipated. With slightly hastened steps did they cover the last leg, up the tree lined white-bricked road to the palace, which shone alabaster white in the brilliant sunshine and from pointy towers and spires fluttered banners and flags in bright colours. Most of them were the red, yellow and purple diagonalized tricolor of Eralda but Sarentona also spotted the yellow and blue standard of Whitehall, the dragon and the two crossed swords.

The prosperous king himself sat on the porch steps watching two of his many grandchildren play chase across the driveway. He was dressed for riding in high boots and a red jacket and his long, flaxen hair was tied away from his tanned forehead. Beside him stood a young woman, wearing much the same, her dark hair tucked in under a garnet hat and she carried what appeared to be an electronic notebook in her glowed hands. Angarian stood to politely salute Sarentona and her entourage and kiss her on her outstretched hand.
"My noble and beautiful Queen Sarentona, it has been too long. Welcome back to Whitehall. And Tilathian, always a pleasure." The king then proceeded to shake the hand of the diplomat, who had removed his hat, in the honor of the royalty.

Lastly the woman approached them, waiting for Angarian to introduce them. Her make-up was immaculate, perfectly applied to emphasize her almond eyes and regal cheekbones. She looked glamorous and somewhat haughty, disguising the turmoil that raged within her, but which Sarentona knew to be there.
"I don't believe you've met my great-great granddaughter Kaine," Angarian turned towards her. "She'll be responsible for your group, my Queen. Anything you need - food, drink, entertainment - just ask her!"
"It's an honor to meet you, your majesty, ambassador," said Kaine and curtsied. "If you follow me, you'll be staying in the east wing of the palace on the second floor. Your rooms have a wonderful view of the lake Affira."

Moments later the younger woman was leading them through the cool shade of the porch and into the entry hall. They turned up a grand curving staircase, their footsteps echoing across the high-ceilinged room. Not much had changed since Sarentona's last visit. There were a few new works of art covering the wall and the red carpets from Persia, Earth, were replaced with deep blue ones which seemed to be made of some kind of intelligent matter, since they were changing when threaded upon, displaying signs and arrows, guiding people where to go.

Raising her eyes from the floor, the queen paid attention to their guide, who had begun saying a few words about herself. Kaine was the daughter of Lady Idre, a Celestian woman who had been a member of the royal family of the Northern Harne Kingdom, before it became the United Harne Republic. She looked very much like her mother with the same bluish black hair and full lips in a fair-skinned, heart-shaped face with high cheek bones.

The queen of Terandabar had a useful aptitude; she was very able to actively take care of two things consecutively. While listening to the young woman, she closed her eyes partly, concentrating on things said but not heard – at least not by the other ears in these hallways. Thus she learned that the whispers of the spirits had a lot to say about Kaine. Kaine wasn't married yet; she spent most of her time either on horse-back or breeding the same animals. She was also composing some music, and had written a play or two. But her main contribution to the Eraldan society was about 30 egg cells. Cells which had been fertilized in petri-dishes and become the biological base materials for the cyborg race. Thus Kaine was 'mother' to Sarentona's trusty Kelmar. That made the queen feel some kind of bound with the dark-haired lady, however she didn't say anything about it – mostly because their hostess was quite talkative herself.

"So what's a boy have to do to get a drink around here?" asked Tilathian when Kaine paused in her tirade. His voice was oddly flirtatious and that made Kaine turn her head and grin at him.
"I can offer you our wide selection of beverages," she replied. "We have the finest wine from the Senria, as well as Cider imported from Kathira, hot spiced rum from Valnadaran, Ale from Elasastia, an assortment of hard liquor and beer. There are also a selection of non-alcoholic beverages like pressed fruit juices, hot and cold teas and coffees, resin mead and finally Coca Cola and Red Bull and similar carbonated refreshments from Earth.
"I think I settle for that Coca Cola," Tilathian said. "I've never tasted it, but I've heard a lot about it."
"I take the same," Sarentona decided. "But add some rum to it. And lemon and ice. The way they do it on the human's planet."

"I'll take care of it," Kaine promised as she turned a final corner. "Now, here we are at your suite. Your body guards will be longed at the opposite side from yours, so they'll always be in contact with you."
"Thank you, Kaine," said Sarentona, as the young Eraldan opened up a large, white door and stepped to the side, admitting the party inside of a large suite. "We'll call if we need anything else."

The living room was bright from the windows lining the eastern wall. It was painted pale blue and the walls were inlaid with seashells and the fossils of sea critters. A low table was surrounded by three long couches and set with a bowl of fragrant oranges. Two doors led off into their separate bedrooms, each as pleasant as the common area, and beyond her bedroom, Sarentona could glance a bathroom, and in that instance she felt that she really needed to refresh herself after the long trip.


"Do you know what's the most interesting thing, Orinian?" Atrey said after she had consummated her recollection of her research of the damaged time-space fabric and the alien creature which was believed to have come through.
"No?" the Lord of Alozzia asked after a momentary silence. He had to admit to be bit dismayed; the Eraldan Secret Service hadn't really learned much more than he and his sprits in spite of having all those hi-tech machines. Sometimes he was convinced that good old magic was much better for understanding what made the universes tick – and what might damage them.

"In the early years of my career, I arrested a man," Atrey went on, either not noticing or pretending to not notice that Orinian wasn't exactly satisfied. "Now, that's not uncommon, but this was a very special arrest. The distinct man I took was a traitor, a trouble maker. He and his father in law made a failed attempt at a revolution, trying to dethrone king Angarian."  
"Reikan," Orinian said, wondering at where Atrey was going with this sudden change of track. "And Utrorion. I know about them, yes."

"I didn't take part in the entrapment of Utrorion," the Cyborg shook her head, long fingers twirling the now empty glass in front of her. "Reikan was the one I brought in, he was a very accurate sighter. Since he could see into the future he was quite so hard to catch. One would think performing a revolution then would be futile, as he knew how it would play out. But apparently Reikan thought differently. My Lord, you might wonder what this has to do with the alien we're now trying to frame. You see, one vision Reikan had dealt with this very Alien. Reikan knew this creature would be coming for us. Furthermore, he foresaw that it could be overpowered. If the right adversary was pitched against it. He talked about a daughter of his – a young woman named Saphira, who would be able to hamper the beast."

"Who's she?" Orinian asked. "I've never heard that name."
"I'm clueless at that too, My Lord. For the time being at least. Reikan is in prison now, where he's unable to sire a child, since he's kept on chemical castration to dull him down. Moreover, his wife divorced him and went in exile. Thus I've been looking elsewhere for this woman now for a while. In vain."
"So you think she exists? You don't consider this another dead end?"
"No, Saphira exists, trust me on that!" Atrey's earlier so soft and pleasant voice had taken on a steely edge. "Reikan saw her very clearly. Now, since the alien beast is already here, we're in quite a hurry. We have to find this Saphira."


It had found her!

The Being limped through the shadows, not really knowing where it went, the players around it invisible in their ghastly, night-lit pantomime. Its feet found a narrow path leading up the man-high iron fence, the leafless fruit grove hiding it; the parked cars shielding it. The moonlight picked it out though, pouring silver over an unearthly beautiful apparition as its two hands cradled the cold bars of the fence like a convict wanting out. Beyond the dark it could just see the faint glimmer of the window rectangles cutting through the dark. Somewhere inside was it able to sense her. The one it had come to collect, its number one price. The daughter of the revolutionary, the one who would stand up against the gods themselves and cast them down in the abyss of darkness forever, avenging those who had lost everything. But the being knew it could not reach her now. She was still not strong enough for his purpose. It was yet too early, it had to bide its time. To wait. Wait....
The ambassador and the queen

The queen of Terandabar watched the hazy city rocking in the distance; though in truth it wasn't the landmass, but the ship tipping beneath her feet. The Carcharodon was one of Terandabar's fastest vessels, lithe and narrow with great yellow sails catching the strong Meltemi and converting it into velocity. Queen Sarentona stood steady on the prow, clutching the Titanium railing with anticipation, her free-falling raven hair fluttering in the wind like a banner. To the fish and sea elves who looked up at her through the waves, she seemed to be perched on the head of the great sea-lizard which served as the ship's figurehead, its tusks spearing foremost through the salty air. The queen knew the other rulers would send ambassadors to Eralda on Lealia, the wealthiest and most powerful of all the nations both since they feared the might of High King Angarian and because they couldn't face the terrible truth of the situation without some diplomat to soften the blow for them. Sarentona though came herself, an act of boldness that some would consider to be downright reckless. Or so it seemed.

The southernmost of the great nations of the Lawrian Continent, Terandabar, lay so close to the planet's equator that the skins of its residents had darkened like burnt wood. They shone with the dimness of the night and knew the mysteries of the planet Ebraa. Mysteries, which would baffle even the Lealians. For there, in the heat of the double sun, the ether between worlds was at its thinnest - resilient enough to still be a barrier, but delicate enough for whispers to travel. The queen of this strange land heard things in her high mountain palace, these whispers rising up into their world and echoing through her stone halls.

At first she had thought them to be the voices of the dead, screaming and laughing and singing from the Yonder Dimensions, but as she listened more closely, the cool breaths of sound took shape. Others could hear the whispers, too, though they were never presented sensibly to them. They only spoke to Sarentona, telling her of the Outer Universes, realms beyond the Seven Cosmoses. Dimensions about which even Orinian and Angarian only had a vague idea.  

The voices told about a longing, an intense yearning, a desire to drink of the vibrant energies that made up the Seven Cosmoses. To sample the magic and the electricity, to digest the radiation and most of all to drink the souls of the ones living here. Sarentona knew things, not in the way mathematicians knew things through logic and probability, nor sighters through divination. The queen of Terandabar knew things that no one should know. There were things out there, which one day might come through. Things they needed to defend themselves against. But the Queen didn't know how at this time.

Sarentona had earned a reputation for rushing headfirst into hazard, thrilling at the unknown with a childlike disregard for death, and emerging victorious from impossible situations. She had cleaved the head from a charging Manticore while prostrate in the desert dust with two broken legs. She had charmed the very sirens off their island and convinced two of them to drown each other. Still perhaps the most impressive and inconceivable of all, she had convinced King Angarian to help her substantiate her theory that it was possible to bind a soul to a machine. Thus Kelmar, her own walking talking super-computer had been born. After him emerged several others of the race they called Cyborgs. These days Angarian even kept some of them within his army.

The scents of peach and citrus were already carried over to her nostrils by the warm summer breeze, mixing with the ever-present ship aromas of oil, rust and brine. The suns made their lazy way overhead, shining down on the sparkling water and warming the dolphins as they slaughtered their fish. The seagulls would swoop in to pick off the missed bites, only to be occasionally picked off by the dolphins themselves. One brave bird made a daring plunge, only to be swallowed whole by one of the largest dolphins Sarentona had ever seen.

"We're passing by the United Ocean Republic, then?" she asked the captain, a lean and lined old man, with the salt of the sea forever embedded in the wrinkles of his black face.
"We should be passing well north of it, My Queen, but sometimes hunting parties will travel this far up."
"I can deal with President Chairethan just fine, but out here on a little boat in the middle of his vast sea, I wouldn't tempt it."
"We aren't at war with the UOR, ma'am," replied the captain, who knew much about sailing and little of politics. When Sarentona stayed silent he continued. "I mean, we're going to be allies. If there is a war to come, we've all got to be allies."
"Just speed up, I'll converge with the sea president's envoy on dry land. Thus we may cross the Portal together with the other diplomats to Eralda."

The sea between the Lawrian Continent and the much smaller Tirsh was narrow and calm, but still took over three hours to cross, even with Terandabar's fastest ships. Sarentona knew that she could send President Chairethan to his knees on land but she also knew he could sink her ship and drag her down to the ocean's depths, so the queen was relieved when they finally entered into the port of Tirsh. Not for the first time did she repine the fact that the only Portal on Ebraa was located on the small continent in the south. But such was the composition of the large landmass in the north that its very rock interfered with the dynamics of Portal magic, making it impossible to open up a stable entry point to any of the supplementary universes. The magnetism of the iron in the ground obstructed the magic needed.

She knew though that it was worse in other places. On Earth for instance the only possible location for portals were either in orbit or in impossibly thick lead structures – so durable was the magnetic field on that planet. Once had Sarentona visited Earth, and she had been nauseous all the time, the magnetism doing weird things with her perception.

The ship pulled up gently to a sturdy dock, where a tall man waited, silhouetted by the dual suns, a wide-brimmed gray hat shadowing his face. He abandoned his restful stance and posed himself more or less at attention while the gangplank lowered and the queen began to descend like a diva. Right behind her followed the trio of men who made up her bodyguard, hands near the guns in their belts as their ever vigilant senses alertly scanned the area for anything that might threaten their employer.
"Tilathian," Sarentona crooned, "how are you, baby?"

Those serious gray eyes almost surrendered to a moment of mirth when Sarentona sauntered up to him, swaying her wide hips dramatically, her ginger dress flouting around her like wild fire, the beads adorning her hair gleaning in the strong sun light.
"You're like my sisters, you know, always having to make an entrance," Tilathian laughed. As his mellow tenor rung out he was showing off a brilliant set of snow white teeth, with the sharp pointed carnivorous fangs prominent even for an Ebraan, his bronzed skin still unwrinkled in spite of his almost five hundred years of age, his ears pointy the way they tended to be in the Southern Territories. "But it's my younger brother you should save your hip shaking for. I'm afraid its charms are almost lost on me."
"You don't fool me for a second. Come here," Sarentona pulled Tilathian's wiry body into a hug. "Cheer up, babe. Don't you know I'm here to save you?"

That time she did get a smile. Yet Tilathian was quick to withdraw, as he knew that time was dire. He then reached inside of the inner pocket of his jacket and produced a folded together digital screen.
"Here is all the information I've been able to gather about the believed threat. King Angarian has been unusually forthcoming; it seems that he's more worried about what happened the other week than keen on withholding information against his old rival for the leadership of the realms. And that worries me."

Sarentona took the offered plastic square and folded it open, then she quickly thumbed it through, just to get a brief impression of the amount of stored content.
"Good work, ambassador. As usual you manage to impress me with your skill to dig up information. I shall go over this as soon as I get a moment for myself, but I can already now presage the seriousness of the situation. I hope this extra gathering of the Council will be focused on result rather than drama this time."

"Believe me, it will," Tilathian assured her. "Even Jareth will drag his lazy legs up from his green world."
"Jareth huh," Sarentona huffed. "Well, in his case I believe it's rather about the upcoming Hallow Eve Fiesta, which will so conveniently collide with this extra gathering."
"Yes indeed," Tilathian's voice was sombre. "Perhaps the coincidence with the seasonal turn will calm most people, making them believe it's all about coming together to drink and to gossip."
"Do you really think so?"
"I hope so at least. Otherwise we might have a panic at hand, my Queen. Come on now, our ride is waiting!" Tilathian almost smiled before he led them across the loud planks to an awaiting carriage pulled by two proud percherons. One turned her big grey head and snorted at the nearest bodyguard, who hissed like a cobra in reply.

"It's just a horse," murmured Sarentona, not wanting to start an argument this soon in the meeting. She climbed into the carriage and, once Tilathian and the bodyguards had joined her, she snapped the thick door shut, closing them off from the fog and the curious eyes of the people at the shoreline. These people did not yet know the gravity of what had befallen their world. All they had heard were rumors that the Intercosmic Council was holding an extra meeting, something which hadn't happen in decades. For the Council to hold and aseasonal meeting, something extraordinary must have occurred, but what they did not know. So the speculations concerned another war or another plague or something which was horrid indeed, but still possible to handle.

"The lid is on, outside the innermost circle," the ambassador went on as the carriage jerked to a start.
"Understandable," Sarentona replied. "Since we cannot afford a panic."

"Who's driving us?" barked one of the bodyguards suddenly, glaring through the curtained window suspiciously. "I didn't see anyone get on."
"The horses know the way," drawled Tilathian, calmly.
"A couple of nags are leading us!" the bulky man exclaimed, frowning his broad forehead.

Sarentona glared at the man, a wordless warning.
"They're quite intelligent," the ambassador pointed out in a patient voice. "Not like the steads on the main continent. The foals of Tirsh are partly Lealian, and thus bestowed with brains unlike regular horses."
"Freaks, you mean," the man murmured, silent enough to serve as a worded thought but loud enough for the queen to hear and she made an intake of breath.  
"Keep your prejudices to yourself, or I'll have to dismiss you from this mission. You'll be asked to return to Terandabar with the Carcharodon and as a result I'll end up one man short in Eralda. Which will not only mean I'll endanger myself, but also that you will most probably not see your contract renewed at the end of the season."

With some amusement the Queen observed how the young man turned morosely back to the window, neither of them paying much attention to Tilathian as he prattled on about horses, not that he exactly expected them to.

When Tilathian later mentioned something about Voidwalkers, Sarentona felt herself go rigid with attention.
"Sorry, what did you just say?" the queen asked softly.
"The High King is bringing in Voidwalkers," clarified the diplomat.
"Really? Who told you so?"
"Chervin of Alozzia told me about them, because even my other informers are too afraid to talk about them. The face-less, they're called," he smirked at Sarentona's obvious annoyance. "My dear queen, you may know more about the Spirit World than any other here on Ebraa, yet you aren't the only one who knows about its secrets. Not even you were forewarned that a break in the time-space fabric was about to happen."

"No, but I heard of it as it transpired," the queen replied somberly. "Something coming through, and rests of what might have been an extremely ancient soul left in its wake. A horrible abomination, ending up right in the middle of the realm of Orinian. If it could get inside that hard old universe, then our own, much softer and younger might be in tremendous peril. Naturally the spirits of harmony are distraught. They aren't making much sense right now, I'm afraid."

The carriage tilted backward as the path began to wind up the steep slope to the structure in which the Portal was housed. The passengers completed the rest of the trip in silence, not saying a word until they heard the gravel crunching beneath the carriage wheels. Tilathian became the first to exit the coach, stepping out into the bright sunlight, speckled under the overhanging oak branches. Turning around he held out his hand, politely letting the queen down from the vehicle. More a gesture of protocol than anything else, as Queen Sarentona was agility herself.

Tilathian handed a few coins to the livery-clad boy waiting in a bit away, ordering him to disconnect the horses, feed them and give them boxes in the stable. The boy bowed deeply for the queen and her entourage before proceeding with his duty, and the ambassador lead the way up the granite stairs to the old, red-bricked two-story building that contained the Portal.

Crossing a Portal between universes was not something people normally did, as a matter of fact 95% of the population of the Seven Cosmoses lived out their whole lives without even doing it once. But for heads of state and their aids, frequent travels were part of the work description. After a dozen or so of trips you tended to count it off as nothing special. No matter that the regular population was prone to believe all kinds of stories about portal travelling, including ideas that you lost small parts of your soul every time you stepped through to another universe. Other things said were that too many portals and too much usage of them was slowly ripping the universes apart. Destroying them.

But nothing of that was true. As a matter of fact a Portal was simply an opening in the structure which made up a universe, an absence of atoms across a smaller area. A controlled fistula that made it possible for bodies and additional objects to pass through and reach a set numbers of hypercoordinates in the destination universe. True was that it took a lot of energy to manage a Portal, so it was generally kept shut down when it was not needed. Since it took about an hour to start up, Tilathian had called ahead in good time, to have them avoid waiting.

Sarentona and her entourage was met by a voluptuous, fair-skinned woman with a round and merry face, who greeted them with a short summary of the status of the Portal.
"It was already open, your majesty, when Mr. Tilathian called us," she small talked as she led the way through a set of double doors and into a large two-floor chamber which occupied most of the building's space. There in the middle of the hall, on a small platform and surrounded by what to an untrained eye appeared as a jumble of instruments, stood the Portal. It was circular in shape; a torus of enforced Titanium held up by strong abutments and also fastened in the ceiling with thick chains. In the middle of the Portal shimmered and rippled a turquoise field, looking a bit like a horizontally aligned well of water lit from behind.

"It was open?" Surprised, the Queen raised a brow. "Who used it earlier?"
"President Chairethan," the orderly said as she stopped in her tracks, turning slightly to meet the dark eyes of the Queen. "He and his wife Ennoea left earlier today bound for Eralda on Lealia. That's where your majesty is going too, Mr. Tilathian told me, so I don't even have to re-set the hypercoordinates.
"No, that's quite right," the Queen said absent-mindedly. So the president of UOR had also gone to Lealia. Now, that was most probably NOT a coincidence. Since she was the elected Council member of her realm, she wondered what it might mean that the President had travelled to Lealia too. Was he up to something? In his case it couldn't just be about visiting the Hallow Eve Fiesta. That simply was not him.

Just the slightest shake of her head, but the ever vigilant Tilathian had observed it and he raised a brow at her small gesture. A quick exchange of barely notable communication as they threaded the platform. The orderly made a minor adjustment of some levers on one of her consoles and then she saluted the group, telling them it was all clear to pass. So with two of the body-guards leading the way the small group passed through the sea-like force field – and stepped out at what at first glance appeared as the same place. Their entry-point was through a portal in a very similar-looking building to the one they just left.

Yet Sarentona quickly noted the minor difference, old habits had taught her that. The air felt a bit thinner and with a damp chilliness to its quality and the gravity was higher, making her walking feel flimsy. Another orderly managed this portal. A young man in a toppy uniform cap who bowed politely at them before they all stepped through the front door and out in the milky light of Lealia's single sun.

"So here we are now in Eralda," said Tilathian and tipped his hat. "Oh what a joy."
"Indeed," Sarentona replied as she heard that slight sarcasm that spiced her diplomat's voice. "I wonder what beast is the worst, the Alien that apparently came through to Lord Orinian's world. Or one of the women and men we are here to meet. I am so not looking forward to it."
The riddle of the Labyrinth 8 - The ambassador and
Chapter 8. The ambassador and the queen

Journal History

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