It has been a while since the friends have gathered, not since their trip to Trella. On the way there they had a wonderful time telling stories and just hanging out together. But after the VReoria had attempted to kidnap the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko, a dark cloud hung over the return trip. As it turned out, that dark cloud was farther reaching than they first thought. They were just beginning to come out from under it, and it felt great. Gathered on the lower terrace of Misko, overlooking the Schwarth Sea, the odd group is together again. To say they are an odd bunch is an understatement – the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko look human but aren’t, they possess powers that not even they know of yet; Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau, both look regal, he in a formal jacket, she in long gown, but both are far more than the dignitaries of Ploosnar; Ferocity, the Dragon bonded to Agent Brzko, able to breathe fire and ice, and fly; Lelelu, a Trelod blue from her bald head to her nailless toes; Zri, a Gaznzulian, a reflective being that to the observer look to be the same species as themselves, rarely does a non-Gaznzulian see them in their true form (in this group only M and Lelelu have had that honor); and tonight, there is one more, Iysuno, Lelelu’s father, also a Trelod, thought to be long since dead but actually held in captivity by the VReoria.
Sensing that Ferocity may be in need of sustenance, his well seasoned Ploosnarian butler, Whotov, has taken it upon himself to deliver a tray of food and a fresh bottle of espidrun. “Please forgive the intrusion Master Ferocity.” He said announcing himself as he came down the stairs. “But I thought you may need something to eat.” He placed the large tray on the table, followed by a beautiful titanium bottle filled with espidrun.
Before Ferocity could respond to his butler, Empress Nalau was up and hugging Whotov. “Whotov! How wonderful to see you! We miss you at the palace.”
“Oh your Majesty, please forgive me. I didn’t see you…. and the Emperor sitting there.” He said with the hint of a question because he knew that the Emperor of Ploosnar was expected to travel with palace guards and there were no guards here tonight.
“Hello Whotov.” Bartala said. “Is the Dragon treating you well? If not, you are welcome back at the palace anytime.” He teased.
“Oh, I should say your Majesty! No, no, Ferocity is a pleasure to serve. And if you will all excuse me, I do not want to be gone long, in case the young Dragon should wake.” He headed for the stairs.
“Stop trying to steal my butler, Bartala! You can’t have him back.” Ferocity teased. When Whotov heard this he grinned from ear to ear. He loved living on a remote island and being the butler to a Dragon, it was like something out of a children’s story – spend a lifetime in service at the Ploosnar palace and retire to become butler to a real Dragon.
“OK, OK, don’t shoot fire at me.” Bartala teased. And that made them all laugh. “So do I know you well enough now to ask you something Ferocity?” Bartala continued.
“Considering how much espidrun I’ve had this evening, you can ask me anything.” Ferocity said, helping himself to an apple off the the food tray.
But before Bartala could ask his question Lelelu interrupted. “Wait, you told us on the Trella trip that alcohol doesn’t have an effect on Dragons.”
“I lied.” He said, offering no further explanation, making everyone laugh.
“Wow! You certainly do hold your liquor well.” She said.
Ferocity grinned at her, and a grinning Dragon is rather frightening. He tossed the apple up, opened his snout, grabbed it and began chewing the entire thing with his mouth closed.
“OK, back to my question. How does one request being bonded to a Dragon?” This grabbed everyone’s attention.
“A request is made to the Great Assembly or to a young Dragon’s parents.”
“And do females ever bond?”
“Some do, yes. Most stay on Dragona to raise other Dragons, but some do not want to be parents.”
“Uh -huh.” Nalau said, like this was confirmation of all females having the right to choose not to be a parent, as she looked over at M with a satisfied nod.
Bartala ignored her and continued, “And what criteria is used to determine if a request is to be honored?”
“Are you going to ask for a Dragon, Bartala?” M asked confused.
“No, of course not, but…”
“Wisssi!” Nalau interrupted.
“Yes, Wisssi. What is to become of the young Dragon that was rescued from the VReoria?”
Ferocity held Bartala’s gaze for a moment. “This is an interesting idea, Emperor. Preparing to be bonded would give her a purpose. But it is too soon to tell if she will be up to the challenge. She is at a disadvantage, having not been raised by Dragons.”
“Or perhaps that is an advantage.” Bartala said, snatching vegetables sticks that looked like purple carrots, off of the tray.
Ferocity tilted his head, “Explain.”
“If one only learns the ways of their ancestors, they may be ill prepared for our ever changing universe.”
“I see your point and I agree, but the knowledge of our ancestors should create the foundation of knowledge.”
“What will she be called?” Nalau asked.
“Does that name have special meaning?”
“Yes, it means strong in one of our ancient languages.”
Nalau decided to change the subject, “I have a question.” Everyone turned in her direction, she looked at Lelelu, “Were the two of you together on the trip to Trella?”
Silence hung over the group, it was a very direct question about an intimate relationship.
“Yes. But we weren’t ready to share it with everyone yet.” Lelelu answered.
“I told you!” Nalau said as she slapped Bartala’s shoulder.
“I should never doubt the intuition of a female!” He said.
Taking a softer approach, Nalau had another question for Lelelu, “So how are you Lelelu? Were you injured during the abduction?”
“Not physically, just a few sore muscles from fighting back. But… my self esteem.” She paused, considering her words before she continued. “I used to think I could handle anything, I didn’t think I was invincible but I thought I was better prepared. But it turns out, I’d just been lucky. I’m going to make some changes, I’ll be training with you on Gaznzul and…”
“Oh yea!” Nalau squealed, allowing the effects of the espidrun to be heard.
“And I plan to upgrade my ship. If your husband is so inclined, I’d like him to have his engineers build one like yours for me.”
“Of course, of course, Lelelu. I’ve already requested a trio of them, just in case. And they are going to be like nothing we’ve seen before!” Bartala said.
“Thank you Bartala. I intend to give my ship to Baba. You’ll need something to get around in, I know you won’t want to stay put for long.” she said turning to him.
He’d been so quiet that they almost forgot he was with them tonight.
“Thank you Le. I’m sure it will be a while before I’m ready to travel, and when I do I think I’ll employ some of your security team Zri.”
“Good, I wouldn’t have it any other way Iysuno.” Zri said standing up to pour everyone another round of espidrun.
“Is there any specific place you want to see?” Brzko asked.
“Yes. There were a few telepaths in stasis, my contact with one in particular kept me from going insane. Over the years, we managed to keep each other’s minds challenged, thinking of something other than our situation.”
“Where was he from?’ Brzko asked.
“She is from Suus.” Iysuno said. “And the knowledge she shared of her home leads me to believe it is one of the most beautiful planets. I’d like to see it with her, if she survived.”
“I’m sure we can arrange that for you.” Brzko said taking his tablet out and unrolling it, calling up the list of evacuees on Gaznzul. “Do you remember her name?”
“Her name is Faaf, but aren’t the Suus uh… selective about who visits their planet?” He asked.
“Yes, they are Baba. We just learned that a Suus named Xiix will be moving to Misko with us, as a member of our team. The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko are good friends with Ciic of the Naan family. They saved her life as a child.” Lelelu explained.
“The Naan family? Aren’t they the leaders of Suus?”
“Yes.” Lelelu answered.
“You know the leader of Suus?”
“Yes Baba, she is a friend, an ally. M and Brzko attended her wedding.”
This rendered Iysuno speechless for a moment. He leaned forward so he could see past Lelelu, to Bartala and Nalau, “So I suppose you really are an Emperor and Empress too? I thought maybe those were just nicknames.”
This made everyone laugh. “Oh no, I assure you Iysuno, we really are the Emperor and Empress of the planet Ploosnar.” Bartala said, still smiling.
“Le, you seem to have fallen in to a good crowd here.”
“Faaf did survive, Iysuno.” Brzko said, putting his tablet back in his pocket. “Her prognosis is good, she has the same muscle atrophy that you do. But she’s expected to make a full recovery. Would you like to go see her tomorrow?”
“Oh my, yes. I would like that very much.”
“So Iysuno, you’re telepathic then?” M asked.
“Yes. Ancient Trelods were telepathic and the children’s stories suggest that some Trelods could even fly. I spent a very long time alone, unable to move, only my own thoughts to keep me company. At some point I realized I would go mad, so I started focusing my mind on ‘hearing’ others. At first I only heard noise, like static on a communications device. Eventually I was able to receive clearly. And later I developed the skill of projecting. I think all Trelods have the ability, but it lies dormant. It’s not comfortable for us.”
“That’s the truth!” Lelelu chimed in. “When I was on that ship Baba had a Suus send me images of the stasis tubes telepathically. I thought my head would explode with pain.”
“When we met you Iysuno you suggested that you’d heard of beings that could travel through their own apertures, I think you called them Clyreans?” M asked.
“Yes, that’s right. My grandfather would tell me stories about them while we were on seaweed gathering trips.”
“Do you remember any of the stories?”
“Oh yes, those were my favorite times. I loved being alone on the water with him. He told me about Dragons too, but I wasn’t sure I could believe him. Most other adults thought he was a little ‘off’ if you know what I mean.”
“We do, we do.” Brzko stood and grabbed the open espidrun bottle, making the rounds to refill everyone’s glasses.
Iysuno continued, “Grandfather told me that something had happened in their homeland and the Clyreans had scattered around the Universe, trying to blend in with others. He thought that no more than two were on any given planet, and the children were hidden with host parents. So was I correct, you two are Clyrean?”
“We don’t actually know Iysuno. We were both raised by pretend parents on a planet called Earth.” Brzko said. “We know we’re not human, as Earthlings are, but we don’t know for sure what we are.”
“Can you travel back in time?”
Iysuno nodded at Brzko. “Telepathic?”
“Given the magnitude of the rescue operation, I’m sure that you have high levels of strength and endurance. What about invisibility?”
“Invisibility? I wish!” M said.
“Ha! Really!” Brzko added. “No, we aren’t able to make ourselves invisible, at least not yet.”
“Obviously you’re omnilingual, and I assume immortal?”
“What? The Muse of Mischief is immortal? No! Say it isn’t so!” Bartala quipped, getting up to retrieve more snacks.
“So I assume those are all things your grandfather said about Clyreans?” M asked.
“Yes, they were looked upon favorably long ago. They were always helping others, it seemed to be their purpose – defending the weak, protecting the vulnerable. The heroes of the Universe.”
“Did he say who had attacked Clyreans?” Brzko asked.
“He described them as tall and slimy, with tentacles on their faces, he said it was a species that wanted to take their powers. Sounds like the VReoria to me.”
“Yes, it does.” Brzko said. “We can chat about this again, once you’ve had more time to recover. We don’t need to tire you out completely. But if you don’t mind one more question?”
“Not at all.”
“Did your grandfather ever tell you where Clyrea was? And would you be able to find the location on a chart?”
“Oh I think so. It’s a very special planet.” Iysuno said.
“How so?” Lelelu asked.
“Grandfather called it a world engine. It has dual rings – they cross at a ninety degree angle. He said the dual rings create a bizarre effect that outsiders can’t seem to withstand, and that’s if they can even get past them to land on the surface. But if it’s true that they scattered throughout the Universe then maybe the VReoria figured out some way to get through. Oh Le, I wish you could have met your great-grandfather. You are very much like him, an explorer.”
M and Brzko had to make an effort to stay calm. Could they actually be close to finding the planet where their species originated?
Brzko once again unrolled his tablet, this time he extended it and used it to display a chart of the Universe, he started with the area near them on the Planet of Portals.
Iysuno leaned over the chart, taking his time. “We’re here.” He said, pointing to the Planet of Portals. “So if my grandfather was correct Clyrea would be out this way.” He was dragging his finger along the tablet toward the left, it responded by extending the chart in that direction. “Oh, I see there have been advancements in technology.” He continued. “So do you see this ‘hazy’ looking area here? Grandfather said the ‘haze’ is created where the rings intersect, it keeps Clyrea hidden.”
“Interesting.” Brzko said. “That’s not too far from Trella.”
Zri got up and went over to the chart to see the area they were discussing. After studying the chart for a moment, he asked Bartala a question. “How soon will the new ships be ready?”