Emperor Bartala stopped in front of the main entrance to the west wing of the palace. There is a huge double door, ornately carved from the bright blue wood of a native tree. He waited for everyone to gather in close. “Long ago this was the original palace, it’s been renovated many times and used for many different things. I had them keep the great hall as it originally was, three stories tall.” He nodded to the guards at the door, he opened the doors and stepped back, the small group entered the room. No one spoke, they just stood there absorbing the opulence. The main room, or great hall, has been refreshed since Ferocity lived here. There is a variety of furniture, all of it brilliant shades of blue, from the peaked ceiling there are blue tapestries billowing lightly. On each side of the room there is a large fireplace, Bartala had both of the fires lit for their arrival.
Bartala clapped and a stocky being immediately came from another room and stood next to him. “This is Zushiri, your head butler. He will take care of anything you need.”
Zushiri stepped forward and bowed to them, they all just stared at him. Empress Nalau broke the awkward silence. “Zushiri, it is a pleasure to meet you, this is Numia, Guug, Guld, Snov, Strupa and Kyruzia. Please tell us a little about yourself.” What she really meant was tell us what you are. Zushiri wore a suit similar to the style worn by most of the palace staff, the visible parts of his body are covered in fur, even his face. He is a luxurious brown color, with a cat like nose and whiskers. His face is surrounded by a mane.
“Ah yes, pleasure. I am a Feliovis. Like many others I was taken by the VReoria and I cannot get back to my universe, at least not yet. Feliovis are social beings, like most advanced beings we live in family groups. The questions I hear most often are, am I completely covered in fur and do I have a tail. Ah and the answers are yes and no. I look forward to getting to know each of you.” He stepped forward and took the time to greet each one, repeating their names to make sure he was saying them correctly. “If you will follow me I will show you around, there are private rooms for each of you, and a garden patio out back.” He didn’t wait for a response, he turned and headed out of the room knowing they would follow.
“Oh Bartala, you’ve outdone yourself this time!” Nalau exclaimed as they headed to the door.
“Do you really think so? So you’re pleased then my darling?”
“Well I don’t know.” She teased. “I think so, but I haven’t seen my new ship yet.”
“Ha! Listen to you! Would you like to see your ship? I had a special hanger built for it, you may have noticed it when you landed the shuttle.”
The couple slowly walked down the path leading from the west wing to the main palace entrance. Empress Nalau took a deep breath, enjoying the scent of the flowers along the path. “Actually darling, the ship can wait until tomorrow. I’d love to spend the evening alone with you and Wisssi, maybe some quiet time in your study. Do we have any espidrun?”
“Of course! We’ll never run out. The Muse of Mischief keeps a large supply of it hidden in her rooms. I could always ‘borrow’ a bottle from her. Why don’t you go and change into something more comfortable and meet me in the study. I’ll find Wisssi and have the kitchen prepare a casual dinner for us.” Bartala said as they entered the main palace.
“That sounds divine my love. I just need to return Zri’s shuttle so he can leave.” Empress Nalau veered away from the entrance, heading to the shuttle. She activated her earcom link.
“Zri, are you on com?”
“Yes Empress. What can I do for you?”
“We’re all settled in here, I’m sending the shuttle back up. I’ll see you tomorrow on Misko.”
“OK Empress, enjoy your evening at home.”
Empress Nalau manipulated her armband and watched as the shuttle ascended until it was out of sight. She had two more calls to make before she was ready to relax with her husband and son. Again she activated her earcom link.
“Numia, are you on com?”
“Yes Empress Nalau.”
“How are your accommodations?”
“They exceed all of our expectations, thank you.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear that. We’ll be leaving for Misko first thing tomorrow. Please make sure everyone is ready. Until then, enjoy your first evening on Ploosnar.”
“Will do Empress, thank you. See you tomorrow.”
“Muse of Mischief, are you on com?”
“Yes Empress Nalau, I’m here. Is everything OK?” M answered.
“Yes M, everything at home is fine. I just wanted to confirm that I’ll see you tomorrow on Misko.”
“Are you at the palace now?”
“Yes, in the side garden.”
The Muse of Mischief appeared before her. “Empress.” M walked toward her and embraced her. “It seems like you’ve been gone for so long. You look fantastic! I heard all of your training went well.”
“It sure did. I realized I’m even stronger than I thought I was.”
“I’m not surprised. You impressed all of us on the VReoria rescue mission. How’s the crew? Are you comfortable with all of them.”
“Yes, so far. I’m looking forward to taking them on a mission though. They all excelled at the training and testing on Gaznzul but in action things could be different.”
“We’ll come up with something tomorrow, something you and your crew can do right away.”
“Good. I haven’t seen the ship yet, but I’ve reviewed the specifications. So I don’t expect any delays tomorrow and….”
“Oh I should have known it was you that was detaining my wife.” Emperor Bartala bellowed as he walked toward them. He grabbed his oldest friend in his usual bear hug. “How are M? I haven’t seen you for a while.”
“I’m doing well Bartala, doing well. How are you and that little rugrat of yours?”
“Oh he keeps me on my toes, we can’t thank you enough for the piano. He’s really learning to play. Come in, please, have a drink with us and let Wisssi play for you.”
“Next time Bartala, tonight enjoy your wife. Tomorrow she’ll be busy.”
“OK, Give Agent Brzko my best.”
“Certainly will, g’night.” M left Ploosnar, returning to her dining room.
“How’s the Empress, glad to be back at the palace?” Agent Brzko said as he sat their dinner plates on the table.
“She’s great. I’m sure she’ll enjoy her own bed and shower tonight but she’s also eager to get to work. Oh and of course she’s glad to see Bartala and Wisssi.” M said mischievously.
“Of course. So what’s the plan for tomorrow?”
“We need to work out a plan for getting to Clyrea X9. I think we should ask the Empress to take Iysuno and Faaf to Suus. It will give her a chance to test out her ship and her crew.”
“Good idea. But you know Iysuno is going to object, he’ll want to be on the mission with us, to see if his grandfather was right about Clyrea X9.”
“I know, but it’s just too dangerous. Besides, we can’t let anything happen to him for Lelelu’s sake.”