70: Joanna

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“I take it you encountered the contingency we feared,” Tirith’s hunting partner noted as she took her seat in the flyer.

“Bart,” Joanna responded with irritation, “speak in Bruxilan around non-English speakers.”

Her clan was a strange collection of individuals. After the Fall, the last leaderless survivors on Chald had fallen back to the final stronghold of Nurinie, and became divided between the various stronger clans there. Tirith’s father had held a few together in a pledge not to let the clan end, and Tirith had pulled the many fragments together, even reaching out to find the scattered orphans growing up among the Osri and Xi. The result was a clan without a common language.

Beritehies, her attendant’s hunting partner, had grown up as ‘Bertrand’ or ‘Bart’ in one of the English-speaking enclaves of the Dominion of Parha. He often spoke English to her because he was more comfortable with it. But Tirith didn’t speak English, and barely spoke decent Bruxilan, the dominant language of the Multiworld. He was best in Gireidil dialect, an almost unintelligible (to her) variation of Bruxilan. She was still struggling to master it.

“Please pardon the indiscretion, Dhanryo,” he replied with a smile and a deep bow of the head.

She sometimes felt like both he and Tirith saw her as a daughter of sorts. They both occasionally treated her in the affectionate, fatherly manner she had seen on TV shows and wished for, while growing up.

“”It is of no importance. As noted, the event that was feared was encountered,” she answered in Bruxilan. “The thieves indeed implanted the weapon stone. The extraordinary power wielded by the Osrin gave evidence of that. It is troubling that the Gireid with that one apparently knew the implantation method, but if the thieves came for it, it is not surprising that the thieves knew how to use it.”

Although it was quite troubling that the Earther had apparently become acquainted with how to use the thing so fast. She could draw a fair blast of raw flux herself using her stone, but she could not wield the amazing level he could. It was the simplest attack in the weapon stone, but in his hands, it had been hideously dangerous.

“The outsiders were powerful warriors,” Bart noted. “Not the sorts one would expect to encounter normally. Those must have been powerful, to best a warbeast enhanced with such an extraordinary weapon.”

“Those were certainly outsiders then?” Tirith asked. “The Osrin certainly, but the other two were Gireid.”

Bart answered, “The Gireid man was from Parha, by the attire. The Gireid woman was from Alyrhia, by the attire. Another Trinan land.”

“It is so,” Tirith nodded, now that their clothing had been noted. “Mato’khra include many from both lands.”

“And the Osrin was of Earth,” Bart added, to her surprise, but then he explained himself in English, in response to her unspoken question. “I’ve seen the uniform while watching Earther TV shows.”

They get Earther TV shows on Trin? she wanted to ask, but decided it wasn’t relevant.

“Is it so?” Tirith retorted. “The Earthers are not noted for flux artists.”

Dhanryo is of Earth,” Bart noted.

Tirith chuckled, with an apologetic nod to her. “It is so. Please pardon the indiscretion, Dhanryo.”

“It is of no importance,” she answered with a smile.

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“The question of what is to be done now must be asked, Dhanryo,” Tirith stated.

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Her smile faded. She nodded and pursed her lips. The trio was fast receding behind them; in fact they would arrive back at the kriojjin very shortly. The problem still existed, and she still had to deal with it.

A pain began within her as she recognized she had no choice, thanks to the tyranny of Benjamin’s damned stone. She had to keep trying to recover the ‘Rock’, the prototype of the only successful line of weapon stones. Even though she knew her people would suffer and some would possibly die in the attempt.

She swallowed, then stated, as her heart sagged, “The only that can be done. The previous attempt used insufficient forces. This Dhan was remiss in believing herself and two comrades sufficient.”

“Greater forces will be sent, then,” Tirith stated without hesitation.

“This Dhan welcomes a second chance to stand beside the attendant in battle,” she stated with a serene manner that didn’t match the way her guts were tearing up. She hated this.

“No, Dhanryo,” he answered. “Your attendant and his partner shall remain behind with the Dhan, as guards. Mato’khra cannot risk losing its Dhan to these, whose power is unassessed and already known to be extreme.”

Her mouth opened to protest, then she realized she could not. This situation truly did have too high a risk of putting the clan back into its former precarious state. After they acquired a proper Dhan, too much had changed. Too many had chosen to come, now that it was a proper clan once more, too many who might abandon them if Mato’khra returned to its leaderless days. Even though she believed they would be better off without her, they would not be better off without a Dhan in general. And, they could not repeat the legal fiction of marrying her to the dead prior Dhan, now that he had a spouse that ‘survived’ him. She was their only link forward or back.

“It is understood,” she said, as the stone allowed her assessment to stand.

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