Javen trembled as he climbed the spiraling stairs, resisting the urge to vomit. He stepped around chunks of marble as he passed Devin and Karina’s floor and looked up at the hole in the spiral. He didn’t want to think about what had just happened, but just as when Drenan had killed Astora, it kept replaying in his head.
The whole plan made him nervous. He’d had a hard time concentrating in the days prior to Yolken and Kaylan returning to Onta. He attended the planning meetings, but hardly paid attention to what Devin and Drenan discussed. The first portion of his role was relatively simple: greet Kaylan to reassure her that she was safe. That had gone as well as it could have. Kaylan wasn’t happy—he had known she wouldn’t be—but she was safe from the fighting. The second part was what roiled his stomach for days, making it so he could hardly eat: confront Yolken. The moments immediately before Yolken arrived in the roundabout were the worst, but when he’d arrived and Javen approached him, a calm overcame him. He did what he could to talk some sense into Yolken—but then Yolken had attacked him! His brother!
Yolken and Javen had had their fights growing up, but never in his life had he thought Yolken would actually hurt him. And now that they both possessed the gift of Synthesis, Yolken had used it to attack Javen. Javen had hoped that Yolken had resisted the rebels’ lies, but now he knew that Yolken was completely corrupted.
He’d been unable to participate in the ensuing fight. Despite knowing that Yolken was lost to him—no longer his brother—he couldn’t bring himself to return Yolken’s attack. He didn’t want Yolken to die any more than he wanted Kaylan’s mother or uncle to die. Instead, he’d lain there on the ground, at the foot of the palace steps, and watched, in horror, what was likely his brother’s final moment of life. Yolken had fought back against several regents—something Javen still couldn’t believe—but Javen had known the regents would eventually overpower him. He was one against many, and the regents had centuries more experience with Synthesis. When Yolken stumbled on a broken piece of marble, he knew Yolken was losing. Like a coward, Javen had looked away. He couldn’t watch his brother die.
But then he’d heard a deep, booming roar overhead. He’d looked up and couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw a dragon diving toward the roundabout. The dragon had crashed to the ground amid the fiery maelstrom, then carried Yolken away.
When cleanup in the roundabout began, he’d heard about casualties on the east bridge. As Devin made his way back into the palace, Javen asked permission to go inspect the bridge, and Devin had granted it. Javen needed to know what had happened to Kaylan’s mother and uncle. The sight of the first burned bodies was more than he could bear. The anxiety that had been building over the last several days finally erupted in him, causing him to double over and vomit. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then forced himself to inspect every single corpse. Fortunately, he didn’t see anyone he recognized. They survived, he had convinced himself.
When Javen arrived at the final landing, Reago’s floor, it was blocked by a dozen guards. Standing behind the guards, Reago’s modestly dressed servant said something that made them part. “Right this way, Master Javen,” the girl said.
Javen still trembled as he followed her down the hallway. When she opened the door leading into Reago’s quarters, shouting from within greeted them. He paused a moment before entering, but after taking a deep, shuddering breath, he proceeded.
“I insist we give chase!” Drenan shouted as Javen stepped through the door.
“I said no,” Reago said, through teeth clenched on his pipe. His hands were in his pockets.
“They attacked Onta! They’ve never done anything so brazen!”
Javen stood by the door and observed the scene. Instead of meeting on the balcony, which seemed to be their preferred place of gathering, they were in the sitting room, the first room within Reago’s quarters. Are they afraid of being outside?
Drenan and Reago stood on opposite sides of a chaise, and Devin sat about five feet away on a couch. When the door closed behind Javen, the two regents and chancellor turned to look at him. Drenan sneered before returning his attention to Reago.
Reago took the pipe out of his mouth and said, “I permitted you to undertake your fool plan, and you failed. Besides, it seems we aren’t simply dealing with a few weak rebels.” He replaced his pipe, and it spontaneously started smoking. Javen figured Reago had a dragon bone in his pocket.
“So they found a dragon and convinced it to fight on their side,” Drenan said. “We’ve dealt with them before. We destroyed them. I’m not worried about one dragon.”
Reago removed the pipe once again. “We don’t have the Machinery to deal with a dragon in Onta. By your report, it killed two dozen guards at the east gate. Besides, the dragon is not what worries me.”
“Deanna has aligned herself with them.”
“Deanna?” Drenan said. “Deanna is dead.”
“That was certainly the story Drakonias propagated,” Reago said.
“It’s treason to suggest that the emperor lied.”
“It’s not treason if it’s the truth,” Reago said. “The truth is that she disappeared, and Sheal was unable to track her down.”
“How do you know it was her who attacked the gate?”
“That’s what Javen’s brother said.”
“He was probably lying,” Drenan said.
“What other reason would the Order have for going to Kvorga?” Reago said.
“K-Kaylan said they went there to find her,” Javen said.
Drenan’s eyes twitched toward Javen, who hadn’t moved from the door, then back to Reago, who stood firm, not budging. Then he looked over at Devin, and Devin nodded. Drenan shifted his stance. “So, let me see if I understand you correctly,” he said. “Deanna assaults your city, damages the east gate, the boy attacks you on the steps of your palace, killing dozens of guards in the process, the dragon kills dozens more, and you’re going to simply let them go?”
Reago remained fixed like a statue. “I’ve made my choice.”
“You’re afraid of them,” Drenan said derisively.
“Drenan,” Devin interjected from the couch, “we must accept defeat when it has been dealt. We need to regroup and consult with Father.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Reago said.
“So you’re conceding defeat to the rebels?” Drenan said. “If this had happened in Hantlo I would have—”
“It didn’t happen in Hantlo, though, did it?” Reago said. “And yes, I’m conceding defeat. You said there were several casualties—not only in the tower but on the bridge as well. And none of the casualties were rebels. Only guards under my authority and innocent bystanders.”
“The rebels have never—”
“Haven’t they, Drenan? How’s your wife? What about your daughter?”
Drenan stepped toward Reago and said, “How dare you! Never speak of them!”
Devin stood and moved between Drenan and Reago. “You were assaulted by Deanna, Drenan; Father’s sister. And the boy was much stronger than we anticipated. Not to mention that he has somehow figured out how to Synthesize without dragon bones.” After a pause, he added, “And… Draego’s Fire… they have a dragon!”
Drenan shook his head and stepped back. “I refuse to accept defeat. They assaulted the city, so we must give chase!”
“You assaulted them!” Reago shouted. “They were merely passing through, and you assaulted them. In my city.”
“It doesn’t mat—”
“Enough!” Reago shouted.
Javen hugged the door, wishing he could pass through it.
“I have had enough of your insolence, Drenan,” Reago spat. “You will do as I say, or you can return to Hantlo.”
Drenan stood rigid. “What is it that you propose, Uncle?”
“We will go to Kyinth and consult with Drakonias.”
“Myself, Devin, the boy,” Reago said. He gestured toward Javen with his pipe. “And you, if you lose the insolence.”
Drenan glared toward Javen then turned back toward Reago. “Consult with him about what?”
“I believe what is transpiring is much larger than killing the son of a dead rebel against whom you have a vendetta,” Reago said. “It’s time to put behind us the policies of a war that we never should have fought. As evidenced by what transpired tonight, we are still experiencing the fallout of what we did four hundred years ago. We must at last face the ramifications of what we’ve done.”
“Again, you speak treasonously,” Drenan said.
“As I said, it’s not treason if it’s the truth. On the morrow, we will travel to the capital. And, because of the urgency of this… situation, we will use a Train.”
“That is treason,” Drenan said.
“Stay behind if you wish,” Reago said, “but Devin, Javen, and I will leave at first light. Now leave me be. I intend to spend the remainder of the night in peace.”
Devin and Drenan moved toward the door. Drenan eyed Javen icily as he approached and shoved the door open.
When they were gone, Reago said, “See you at first light, Javen.”
Javen nodded, and followed Devin and Drenan out of Reago’s quarters.