Jeramie, age 19.)
He did his best to still himself. Being obviously fidgety would reflect poorly on him. Being the youngest, most junior, of the Council, he had to work a little harder. Even if he was a Kithrayn. To his House, he was lord and master… but to Janos and the other Councillors, he was a boy just emerging from his teens.
It was enough to make him grit his teeth when dealing with the older Councillors, sometimes. A necessary evil, he reminded himself.
But today, it was difficult to be calm. Today, he was to see the product of the Council’s breeding program.
Years ago, when Jeramie was a naïve child in truth, the Council that had governed Shayara for centuries had realized that the Talthar Kithrayna was reforming – that the Kithrayna of all of the great Houses were being reborn, all to live in the same time and place. That a full circle would exist once more.
That the Council’s services would no longer be required.
Having grown fond of their political power, the Council found this unacceptable – and Janos had an idea, one so dangerous that it was shared with only a handful of Councillors at first. The Kithrayna of the other six Houses were being reborn – but not that of House Tamra.
Not the Lishaya, the reincarnation of Tiala na’Roth - the ruler of all Dasaroi.
If the Council could somehow control the new Lishaya, their power would be guaranteed.
What if the Council created the new Lishaya?
Janos undertook research, and found three women likely to bear the next Lishaya. One was sterile. One was diametrically politically opposed – and Jeramie spared a thought for her. Jessamyn ni’Tamra. Beautiful, fiery Jessa.
The last woman, Katrina Stone, actually had a preexisting relationship with a fellow Councillor, Stephen. It was easy to bring her into the fold. Her first child was a failure – not remotely powerful enough to even pass as the Lishaya, and almost no physical characteristics of her House. But the second child was reportedly another story – and was arriving here today.
Janos and the other Councillors were milling about the foyer. Jeramie stayed on the stairs, leaning against the railing – he wanted a little distance for this. It was as yet unknown whether the experiment had worked – whether the child truly was the Lishaya. She had yet to be successfully read. Her power had been measured, though, and it was enormous for a girl of her age. Likely to grow in strength as she grew up.
He stilled himself as the door opened.
He’d met Stephen ni’Tamra before, of course. Councillor in absentia, he managed their considerable interests outside the city. Stephen was tall, blond, and impeccable in every way – to the world outside, he’d look like a Fortune 500 mogul. Perfectly tailored suits, a near-smirk, and cold-steel power.
Jeramie wanted nothing more than to be Stephen when he grew up.
And hiding behind his legs… little Alanna. She peeked out at the crowd, golden curls falling over her shoulder. Stephen spoke soothingly to her, coaxing her out from behind him – and several of the more junior Councillors openly gasped.
Tiala na’Roth had never been a child – but if she had, she’d’ve looked just like Alanna. Huge Tamrani eyes, long-lashed and grey-blue. Sweet little heart-shaped face. The cascade of golden hair almost to her waist, pinned back by barrettes that were the same deep green as her long velvet dress. Her House color. Not a tomboy, this one – she wore the formal dress with ease.
Lovely. Quiet. Biddable. All of four years old, and ready to be trained.
What will we make of you, little girl?
She looked up at him as if she’d heard his thought. Who knows – maybe she had. She was young for that, but if she was the Lishaya – it wouldn’t be entirely surprising.
He found himself descending the stairs almost without noticing, his eyes fixed on hers. Almost hypnotized. Are you her?
No flicker of response on the little face. His imagination, then.
He knelt before her, surprised to find himself doing so. Janos and Stephen, until then absorbed in their own conversation, looked down at him curiously, but he only had eyes for the child. “Welcome to Shayara,” he said quietly. “My name is Jeramie, Kithrayn ni’L’Arath.”
She gave a grave little nod, but didn’t shake his extended hand, clinging to her father’s hand with both of hers. “I’m Alanna.”
Stephen freed his hand, patted her on the head. “Alanna what? We practiced this.”
She clasped her hands behind her back, looking disappointed. “Alanna, Lishaya ni’Dasaroi, um… Kithraya ni’Tamra.”
“Good girl,” Stephen smiled. Alanna grinned and seized his hand again.
Jeramie stood. “Pleased to meet you, Alanna.”
“You too. You – um –“
She wrinkled her brow. “You were Nisar, right? At the beginning?”
Indeed. Among other things. “Yes, I was.”
“Daddy made me memorize people,” she confided, looking relieved.
Jeramie smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
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