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The Priestess and the Warrior - Underground
Posted By: Jillybean<jbean_gotmuse@yahoo.co.uk>
Date: 19 February 2005, 11:32 PM

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The Priestess and the Warrior

Author: Jillybean


Truth felt a headache begin beneath the inter-pressuary point on his skull. A good massage was what he desperately wanted, and a dirt bath. He longed to feel his dead skin cells sloughing off in sand, and a drink of rum wouldn't kill him either.
      "Truth?" Regret pressed, leaning forward in his throne.
       Opening his eyes to the Hierarch chambers, instead of the Spa on Glorious Victory, Truth gritted his teeth against the spiteful comments he could make. Regret had to be handled with caution. He was useful, expendable mind, but preferably, Truth wanted the younger Prophet on his side.
       "Noble Regret," and he didn't even stress the honourable title, "I promised you a seat on the Hierarch-"
       "Yes! And it's been a year!"
       "And a seat on the Hierarch you shall get," Truth soothed. He smiled benevolently at the youth. "Understand that as intelligent and virtuous as you are, you would still be noticeable in the Hierarch for your age. Hope's death was a grievous affair-"
       "Hmmph." Regret's attitude was unsettling. Too ambitious. Still, Truth had primed him for this, and he would rather not choose another.
       "Give the Covenant time to recoup. The Brute attacks will intensify, the Forerunners have warned me personally."
       Another, slight, derisive snort.
       Eyeing the upstart, Truth moved his chair a little bit closer. "Your time will come, Regret. But it must be your time, no one else's. Do you understand?"
       "I . . . do." Regret relaxed into a sigh. "Noble Truth."

Three Sangheil Years Later
Convent High Charity Ninth Age of Reclamation

With a delighted squeal, Senior High Priestess Hera' Solatta swooped down on the cradle and swooped up the tiny baby into her arms.
       "Oh, but she's gorgeous, Jalahass!"
       Smiling, a little apprehensively it could be said, Jalahass watched her excited mentor play with Jalahass' daughter. "Thank you, Solatta. I'm just glad she is now a cycle old."
       Solatta's expression was sympathetic as she returned the baby, somewhat gingerly now, to the cradle. "The Forerunners would not allow a child of yours to be taken. That, I promise you, Jalahass. Although . . ." she hesitated, glancing around the crowded chamber. "Perhaps, it would have been wiser to give her to a crèche? They have experience with illness-"
       "No." With one claw, Jalahass tucked the Lekgolo silk cover over her daughter's tummy. "Saia' Lyueem is my daughter, and I'll look after her."
       Sitting beside her old friend, Solatta hid her amusement badly. "Jalahass, my sweet, you were on a spaceship in the middle of a battle when Lyueem Hatched."
       "I know." Shifting uncomfortably, Jalahass felt laughter bubbling inside her. "Ah. But she is alive and Named now. Excellent service by the way."
       Thinking back on the painfully long winded speech, the draughty Great Hall and the wailing child, Solatta shivered. "I suppose, for a Naming ceremony, it could have been worse."
       Jalahass cackled. "Do you remember Karte's? I swear until my dying day, Solitude fell asleep."

Drawn like a magnet to the sound of his name being slandered, Solitude hobbled up. One hand gripped his walking stick, the other a glass of wine. "I did not! Whatever it was you were accusing me of, dear Priestess."
       "Of course not, Noble Solitude." Jalahass reached forward and lifted her daughter up, delivering the gurgling bundle to Solitude once he was comfortably seated. "I am glad that you accepted the burden of Entrustee."
       "I am Honoured that you thought of me," Solitude replied. He cooed down at the squirming child and laughed as she reached for his jowls. "Lyueem, Priestess Solatta chose your Name well. You are indeed the Strong One."
       "Well, she seems perfectly happy," Jalahass stood, brushing off her gown. "If you'll excuse me, I have some social duties to perform."

From his secluded spot on the curving window ledge, Fulsamee caught sight of his mate working the room and suppressed a grin. She was looking for him and there was no way in all the Hells of the Prophets that he would be forced into making polite chit chat with the up and coming new Councillors.
       "Father," Karte' tugged at his sleeve impatiently.
       "Trick," he implored, pointing at the trinket that sat between them.
       "Ah yes," Fulsamee feigned thoughtfulness as he picked up his old trophy. "Now, if I remember correctly, this arrowhead disappears."

The crowd parted somewhat for High Priestess Fera' Kianall. Her tiny frame was dwarfed by the wampa fur she had draped around her shoulders, but her skin had a healthy orange glow and she walked unaided.
       "High Priestess," Jalahass said when she noticed Kianall. She conducted a formal bow in deference to the older Priestess, then embraced her. "You're looking very well. I'm glad."
       "Yes, I do look well," Kianall said, her tone odd. "May we speak in private?"
       Glancing at the corner where she had left Solitude and Lyueem, Jalahass hesitated for a moment.
       "Is there something wrong, High Priestess?" Fulsamee materialized beside them, Karte' in his arms.
       "I only wished to speak with Jalahass in private."
       "Go," Fulsamee bumped foreheads with her, pausing long enough to let their son do the same, before he retreated to Solitude and his daughter.

"Galatash used to be like that," Kianall remarked as they walked through the corridors. "Protective. He loved his children."
       "You loved him very much," Jalahass rubbed her arms. High Charity was built for all Covenant kind, and its temperature was just below the comfort level of the Sangheili. The convent's high, open windows chilled the entire place. Jalahass' formal gown offered little warmth and she appreciated why Kianall was wearing the fur.
       "Hmm," considering this, the High Priestess agreed. "But my choices were made long ago. I'm going to die alone."
       This brought an uncomfortable silence until Jalahass realised she was being lead down to the underground libraries, the place she loved the most in the convent.
       "Galatash took Fulsamee under his wing," Kianall didn't switch the lights on, and instead took an old oil lamp from inside a cubby hole. They proceeded by the flickering light of the flame. "If he hadn't, Forerunners know where you'd be, my girl."
       "Uh . . . Priestess? Where are we going?"
       "Do you ever wonder, Jalahass, what happens to the babies no one wants?"
       They came to rest in between two huge catacombs. Kianall no longer looked well and friendly, her face was strained and thrown into harsh relief from the flame. The shadow on the scrolls behind her was sharp and spiky, flickering as the fur shifted.
       Struggling with the silence for a moment, Jalahass hung her head.
       "I know that you did not misfile Lia' Wuanna's bonding. I know you too well for that."
       "They would have killed Kin' Olapaa's child," gritting her many teeth, Jalahass clenched her fists. "That cannot be condoned by the Forerunners, surely?"
       "Oh, but it is." Kianall glowered. "According to the Councils, according to the scrolls I teach those young Priestesses above us, according to the Covenant - what you did was wrong."
       "What will you do?"
       With a harsh cackle, Kianall shook her head. "I will tell you about my mentor, Hasamine, a wonderful Sangheili. She was a rebel. You think you caused me trouble? Hasamine told me, before she passed away, about the legacy her High Priestess had left her." Swallowing, Kianall turned to the wall, swiping her hand over the metal and revealing a holographic panel. "This place cannot be found by any of our AI, because quite simply - it does not exist."
       Jalahass peered into the dark hallway and knew that this was very real.

"I was much like you at the time. An Honourable Mate, I had three children though, including a First Daughter, whom I loved dearly."
       "Fera' Talsamee," Jalahass stuck close to the High Priestess. She was afraid of the endless shadow around her, and the flickering oil lamp did not give her much light.
       "Yes. Hasamine told me a heart breaking story about a servant Sangheili, a young child really. After Laying, this child died, in a back alley on some dingy little planet, and the egg stayed on the streets."
       "That's horrible."
       "The egg was Hasamine. She was rescued and brought to a secret group of Sangheili working to protect as many as they could."
       Jalahass stopped in her tracks. "Orna'," she guessed. "Orna' was one of these children, wasn't he? You pushed him through to be accepted in training, didn't you?"
       With a shrug, Kianall kept moving. "I may have. Undoubtedly Orna's prowess helped him along the way. However, in our world, prowess is nothing compared to blood. But I doubt you understand that."
       "Of course I understand it."
       "No." Kianall brought her into a long chamber. There were several Sangheili there, their eyes wide with apprehension as they saw the newcomer.
       A child, not much older that Jalahass' son, ran up to fetch his ball, giving her a sunny smile before fleeing back to his game.
       "These Sangheili," Kianall whispered to her, "truly have nothing. Dishonoured. Impoverished. Those who the Covenant have forgotten. Here, we do our best to educate them and give them a place in society."
       "I recognise you." Jalahass took a step forward, her jewellery and finery jingling as she reached out to point at the noble Sangheili female sitting on a low bench. "You're the daughter of that Heretic. I remember your face."
       "Splashed all over the news bulletins," the Sangheili spoke politely, although her face was very bitter. "Yes. I remember too."
       "I'm sorry," Jalahass stopped pointing. "I should have thought."
       "Fasamo had been sentenced to death for her father's Heresy. She lost her family, but still has her life. She teaches the children here."
       Staring around the chamber, Jalahass saw a few Sangheili with the Mark of Shame burned into them, others who were just born into the wrong family, or abandoned because they were too difficult to explain when your Mate had been shipped out for a year.
       "There must be more chambers," she realised quietly. "This cannot be all of them."
       "There are many, many more. Underneath the city."

In a tiny, but homely office, Kianall poured them both warm tea. "I'm dying, Jalahass."
       "You've been saying that for years, Priestess." This time, Jalahass knew it was true.
       "I look healthy because the pain killers I am taking are strong enough to sink a Hunter. Jalahass. I. Am. Dying."
       Setting the tea down, Jalahass hiccuped back tears. "You're asking me to take over all this? I could be killed for just listening to what you're saying!"
       "I know." Kianall leaned forward, pointing at the door. "But walk out there and return to your beloved family. Forget all about these children who don't have a father like Orna' to watch over them. Who don't have a mother like you to protect them."
       "You've made your point." Jalahass felt sick.
       "You'll be a High Priestess when I'm gone," Kianall said. "But will you really take over my work?"
       "Reassign food for the convent? Make up excuses on your feet? Risk destroying your family every time you give another Sangheili a life that they may call their own?"
       "I said 'yes'."
       Satisfied, Kianall finished her tea. "I'll stay here for a bit. You go back to the ceremony."

Jalahass didn't. She fled through the long dark corridor and into the library, watching the wall seal behind her. In amongst the scrolls she still couldn't feel safe.
       "Forgive me, Forerunners," she whispered. "But I must blaspheme once more."

"Where were you?" Setting down Lyueem, Fulsamee frowned at his Mate. "Is there something wrong?"
       "Is Karte' sleeping?"
       "In his chambers, yes." Fulsamee let her pace around distractedly, he was preparing to go to sleep. "These functions exhaust me."
       "I know, Love. Thank you for covering for me," Jalahass called from the adjoining chamber. She returned with Karte' in her arms, easing onto the bed and settling him under the covers.
       Fulsamee frowned. "He hasn't had a nightmare yet."
       Fetching her daughter, Jalahass glanced at him. "Indulge me tonight."
       "Why change the habit of a lifetime?" Fulsamee shrugged. He shifted his son over to give himself some more room. "Will you tell me what it is you are afraid of?"
       "Can't or won't?"
       Jalahass thought for a moment. "I . . . don't want to. I want to pretend it's not happening."
       "Maybe I could help?"
       "You probably could." She settled under the covers, regarding her children. "If we weren't rich, Orna', wouldn't you like to think someone was looking after them?"
       "Did Wuanna tell you what I did for him and his Mate?"
       "He did. He was grateful. I can't say that I agree . . ."
       "So you would have rather had them all killed?"
       "When you put it like that." Fulsamee sighed. "I'm not going to get any sleep tonight, am I? Tell me what it is, Saia'."
       "You asked for it."

Glorious Victory The Ninth Age of Reclamation

The Kig-Yar servant hesitated by the archway, its chest heaving in the blisteringly dry heat.
       Down the alabaster sloping floor, the Kig-Yar reached the deep sand baths, the vestigial feathers on his neck bristling in anticipation.
       "Yes?" Truth surfaced from the dirt, eyeing the servant coldly.
       Chirping nervously, it proffered a data chip and scurried away.

Glowering into the shadows, Truth made sure that he was completely alone, before he thumbed the switch on the chip. Red letters scrolled in the air, flashing occasionally. Orna' Fulsamee's next orders. An escort service through the Gracious Nebula, a very Holy, but Brute infested area of space. The dignitary who had requested the mission was Regret's younger brother, Content.
       Now that was most advantageous. The death of a Prophet, albeit a minor one, would prompt further reform in the Council and ease Regret into Grace's position in the Hierach. Grace was tiring on the politics, and Truth sensed it would only take another blow to knock him out of the competition. Solitude, the only other candidate, would have his name sullied if Fulsamee could be implicated in Content's death.
       The little Sangheil hurried through the room. "Yes, Noble Prophet?"
       "A massage," Truth rolled onto his stomach, settling into the dirt. "I need to relax."

The Convent of the Priestesses High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation

A large Priestess coughed politely at the entrance to Kianall's study.
       "High Priestess?" she asked.
       "I'm listening." Glancing up from the holographic display, Kianall rubbed her neck and blinked in the light. "What?"
       "Councillor Fera' Talsamee is here to see you," the Priestess said, bowing and retreating.
       Kianall sat straighter, stretching. The odd euphoria that came with the pain treatment dulled her wits and she didn't want to face her inquisitive daughter now.

"Mother," Talsamee greeted warmly. Kianall's First Daughter approached, bumping foreheads lovingly, and sitting opposite her desk. "What are you looking at?"
       "Work," Kianall said with a tired smile. She shifted in her chair to regard the Councillor, marvelling at how pretty her daughter was, and how deluded. "I'm sending more emissaries to the outer colonies."
       "Is that wise?" Talsamee frowned. "It's getting very dangerous there."
       "All the more reason to have spiritual guidance readily available." Kianall tapped her console and the holograms dissipated. "I know I've not been the best mother . . ."
       "You had your duties. And now I have mine. I know you're dying, Truth told me." Talsamee sighed deeply. "I would really like it if you appointed Hera' Solatta as your successor."
       Kianall gritted her teeth. "You know I can't do that."
       "Why not?" Talsamee wailed. "Solatta is a wise Priestess, she has never been accused of Heresy and she has never stolen anyone's intended either . . ."
       "It's true, Mother!" Growling low in her throat, the Councillor stalked the floor. "It would be easier for me too to have a connection in the convent."
       "Well," Kianall said coolly, "Jalahass' Mate was your intended, as you are so fond of reminding people."
       "She'd be as likely to go against my recommendations out of spite." Talsamee flopped onto the day bed, sulking.
       "I sincerely doubt that," Kianall murmured. "But most importantly, she will not be Truth's pawn. She will not be anyone's pawn. That is what this convent needs and that is exactly what Solatta could not give. Leave me now, I tire of your conversation."
       Talsamee stormed out.

That was the last time Kianall saw her daughter.


"Has Fulsamee gone already?" Solatta peered around the chamber that Jalahass used when she was staying at the convent. Their possessions were packed and Karte' was playing on the floor, his sister sleeping in her crib.
       Jalahass emerged from the adjoining room, folding robes over her arm. "Yes, he's escorting Content through the Gracious Nebula."
       "Oh." Solatta sat down beside Karte'. The news seemed to get her down. "I'd hoped to say goodbye to him."
       "Hmm," Jalahass said, taking a quick inventory.
       "Why not get the Unggoy to do this?"
       "I prefer to do it myself," Jalahass strode past her. "Fulsamee often ships out quickly. You're not usually so bothered about him, Solatta."
       "I forget that he can be polite company when he chooses to be."
       "All part of his charm." Jalahass returned into the main chambers, clicking her mandibles absently. "What have I forgotten, Karte'?"
       Her son blinked, shrugged, and rolled onto his back, reaching for the pretty head-dress that Solatta wore.
       "Oh no," Solatta reprimanded. "Help your mother, be a good son."
       Grumbling, he scrambled to his feet and reached his mother, tugging at her skirt.
       "Come here." She picked him up, searching the room for any stray items. "Do you have Lyueem's-"
       "Priestess!" An Unggoy fell through the door, breathless and frantic. "Come immediately! It is Fera' Kianall!"


The small congregation of Priestesses and holy figures that clustered around the door to Kianall's quarters were completely silent as they watched the two members of the Hierarch approach.
       Stepping forward, Solatta bowed, raising a hand to halt them. "You may not enter."
       "Why not?" Mercy almost snapped.
       Grace took a more understanding approach, greeting Solatta properly. "I take it the High Priestess is undergoing her Last Rites?"
       "She is." Solatta shivered despite herself. "She is bequeathing her status to Priestess Saia' Jalahass."
       Mercy growled low in his throat.
       "She did not run this decision by the Councils," Grace glanced at the few Councillors who were waiting. He noted that Kianall's daughter was not there.
       "It is my understanding that there was no time," Solatta choked back the guttural sorrow that threatened to overwhelm her. "Jalahass and Kianall were in agreement. Rather than risk being unable to complete the Last Rites, they wanted to make sure that Kianall would be safe in her Journey."
       "Understandable," Grace said, with a glare in Mercy's direction. "When will they be finished?"
       "I do not know."

Star Clipper
The Gracious Nebula The Ninth Age of Reclamation

The small team of Warriors, Glory Squadron Hope, regarded their enigmatic leader as one of a kind. He inspired loyalty, brought out the true hero in every Sangheili, they said that his silence could be worse than even the cruellest Prophet's words. Even Hope Squadron's Commander was slightly in awe of Orna' Fulsamee, explaining in hushed tones that Saia' Jalahass had visited the Commander's sick son and healed him.

Fulsamee found it slightly ridiculous, and he was having trouble keeping his mandibles relaxed whenever the team bestowed another compliment upon him. Whomever had planned this mission had it in for him, because Glory Squadron Hope were incredible. He was keeping a list of their funniest outbursts, intending to compare notes with Galatash.
       Fulsamee believed in the Great Journey. He believed in the Gods. He knew that he was good, he knew that he loved his Mate and children very much. The Hope Squadron were hand picked for their loyalty, and everything that happened was the will of the Forerunners.
       Like the children Jalahass had told him about, living underneath High Charity. Did the Forerunners intend that too? He didn't try to reason these things through anymore, because they usually ended up with very long argument and him sleeping on the day bed in the study.
       Sometimes though, the Forerunners would plant these little doubts in his mind. The Gracious Nebula. Why give such a dangerous place such religious significance? Content was praying, his words evidently all the clearer for risking the lives of the fifty warriors on the Star Clipper.
       Of course they were.

Asking the AI to perform another sweep with the sensors, Fulsamee made a few adjustments to the frequencies. He knew of some Commanders who would refuse to let their AI even handle this much work. Fulsamee didn't see the point in that. AI were there to make your life easier, they didn't miss things, they didn't need rest or nourishment.
       Speaking of . . .

"Excellency!" The few soldiers in the mess leapt to their feet when he entered.
       With a nod to dismiss them, Fulsamee sidled past their bulky armour and fetched himself a bowl of worms. The Star Clipper may be fast and defensible, but she was a small and sparse ship. He had grown used to gourmet cooking in his time on the cruisers, the Clipper might bring him back to reality.
       Reality which now consisted of a family, a suit of gold armour, and more scalps than he could count.

The computer chirruped at him, wanting his attention in the control room. Carrying his bowl out with him, Fulsamee left the bumbling fools in Glory Squadron and retreated to his sanctum.
       Two erroneous blips were moving towards the Clipper, the nebula masking their trail. It was no mystery what they were however, Fulsamee was certain they weren't acts of Gods. The Clipper's great behemoths of engines couldn't power up inconspicuously, and a quick jump away from the nebula would not make Fulsamee the flavour of the day with Content. Considering Jalahass' latest hobby, perhaps it would be better just to ride it out . . .
       No. He wouldn't risk the lives under his command just for an easy time with a Prophet. He slapped the console, sending out the call to arms. Transferring control of the Clipper back to himself, he sucked in a deep breath.

Two Brute ships ripped out from the clouds of gas, all guns blazing. They were clearly startled when the Clipper let loose with her cannons, the bulbous little vessel bristling with guns.
       Even the inertial dampeners couldn't keep up with the wild manoeuvres Fulsamee executed to twist behind their attackers. The Clipper was a strong ship, but her best defence was her huge engines. This close to the nebula he couldn't go into slipspace.
       "This is the Rebel Coalition, cease fire and we will spare your lives," growled the Brutes over the transmission.
       Grunting, Fulsamee ignored them, concentrating on dancing past their range of fire. Where did the Brutes get these types of ships? One of them was an Avenger Class, a gun ship that even Fulsamee hadn't commanded.
       The largest plasma cannon on the Avenger gun ship glowed with energy, discharging and seeking out the heat signature of the Clipper.
       Fulsamee realised, too late, that the blast was focussed on the weak point in the Clipper's shields.
       He had a moment to wonder how the Brutes had known, before the ship erupted around him.

High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation

The convent was decked out in black, the long banners that decorated the Great Hall were emblazoned with Fera' Kianall's family crest, and she herself was laid out on the pyre.
       As the crowds gathered, preparing to be seated for the last tribute to Fera' Kianall, the new High Priestess knelt by her predecessors corpse.
       "I'm going to need your help with this one," Jalahass murmured, eyeing the gathering. "I will miss you, Kianall."
       She sighed, pushing to her feet. If she had thought her old headdress as difficult, this crown was impossible to keep on her head. The guests quietened as she approached the podium.
       "My Covenant," she began.


Fera' Talsamee allowed herself to be escorted by the Honour Guard into . . . into the study of the High Priestess. Talsamee still thought of it as her mothers.
       The new High Priestess was speaking with some minor Prophets, sitting on the day bed and chatting amicably. Talsamee was resigned to waiting in the eaves, her eyes fixed on the holograms that sat on the dresser, flickering images of herself and her siblings. A large wampa head was fixed on the wall, and Talsamee could remember the long story about her father killing it, and gifting it to the Fera' household as a dowry.
       "Councillor," the Prophets acknowledged her as they left, easy smiles on their faces.

"Ah, commiseration's Fera' Talsamee." The High Priestess stood to greet Talsamee, taking her hands and covering them with her own.
       "High Priestess," Talsamee swallowed. "I understand you were with my mother when she died."
       "I was, yes," Jalahass sat back down. It was a practised movement, designed to keep her dark coloured robes and elaborate headdress in place. She watched Talsamee sympathetically, waiting for the Councillor to say what was on her mind.
       "I . . ." Talsamee glanced down. "I need guidance, High Priestess."
       "Your mother was a wise Sangheili, Talsamee, and she loved you very much." Jalahass stood, pouring a drink for the daughter.
       Accepting it, Talsamee took a deep slug, staring into the depths of the whiskey she had been given. "I was a disappointment to her."
       "Why? Because you were strong enough to make your own decisions? No." Jalahass knelt beside Talsamee, shaking her head. "No, your mother may not have agreed with you Talsamee, but she could have wanted no more for you. I know, it's what I would want for my daughter."
       "I don't agree with either of you," Talsamee choked on tears. "Politics drove my mother away from me. And I don't change my position."
       "No, you don't." Stroking Talsamee's forehead, Jalahass sighed. "The Forerunner will not punish you for arguing with your mother."
       "They - they won't?"
       Relieved, Talsamee made her excuses and left.

Sighing deeply, Jalahass went to the Guard outside the door.
       "Can you give me five minutes?"
      "Would that I could, High Priestess," the Guard told her. "But you have more visitors."
       Jalahass nodded and returned to her study, checking that both her children still slept soundly, before she plastered on her sympathetic face and faced another Sangheili aristocrat.

Hierarch Council Chambers High Charity Ninth Age of Reclamation

Orna' Fulsamee entered the chambers on High Charity, still limping, and he knew with a deadly certainty that this had been orchestrated. It often felt like other Sangheili had to point out the politics of a situation to Fulsamee, he never caught on as quickly as his Mate did, or as quickly as Galatash.
       He didn't need them to point it out now.

He bowed before Regret and the small selection of like minded Prophet Councillors who crowded the Hierarch chambers.
       "Tell me, Commander," Regret's voice shook. "Are the reports true?"
       "Noble Hierarch, Noble Regret, it is my sad duty to inform you that a rebel Brute attack on the Avenger gun ship Star Clipper resulted in the death of fifteen members of Glory Squadron Hope . . . and the death of Nobel Content."
       "No!" Regret wailed.
       Grimacing, Fulsamee gritted his mandibles and continued. "The Clipper was lost to us and only through the hijacking of a Brute ship could the remaining members of Hope Squadron and myself escape the ambush."
       Truth's eyes glinted at this, and he met Fulsamee's steady gaze. " 'Ambush' you say?"
       "Indeed, Noble Truth." Fulsamee stood, a gross act of misconduct. "We were ambushed. We have a spy among our ranks."
       "And not your incompetence!" Regret exclaimed. "No, it could not be!"
       "Do not accuse wildly," Truth reprimanded. "Orna' Fulsamee, we thank you for your report. No doubt you will wish to see your Mate."

Regret waited just long enough for Fulsamee to exit before he rounded on the others.
       "He killed my brother!"
       Grace shook his head, the lines on his face making him look very old. "Not true, Regret."
       "No? Who can say?" Mercy clasped his hands together. "Orna' Fulsamee is the only one who knows for sure."
       "Orna' Fulsamee is a highly decorated Warrior," Truth mused. "And we should not accuse him blindly."

The Convent High Charity Ninth Age of Reclamation

"We're leaving."
       Jalahass watched her Mate stalk the floor of her study, his expression grim.
       "I'm getting a deep space assignment," he announced. "A big cruiser, they accept families. We'll disappear for a few years, no one will have to worry about us. We'll be safe."
       "Orna' . . ."
       "We have to, Saia', Content is dead!" He paused, catching sight of the curtains rustling. "I do hope no child of mine is listening." This comment resulted in the sounds of scurrying footsteps away from the study.
       Jalahass smiled slightly. "I know he's dead, Orna', but that wasn't your fault."
       "Oh yes it was," Fulsamee replied. "In the eyes of Regret it was. You and I both know he's destined to be next on the Hierarch."
       "Orna' I can't leave."
       Fulsamee stopped his pacing and stared at her. "Saia' . . . Love . . . they'll kill us."
       "Take the children on the mission, but I can't leave." Jalahass leaned back on her day bed, chewing on a mandible thoughtfully. "The convent needs me. The underground needs me."
       "And your children?"
       "Don't say that to me," Jalahass snapped, her eyes flashing. "I've raised our children, while you've gallivanted through the galaxy I've stayed up all night, trying to convince Karte' that the monsters aren't behind the window."
       Properly chastised, Fulsamee sat down beside her. "I won't leave you here. In case you've forgotten, Kianall died because she was poisoned by Truth."
       "True enough," Jalahass admitted. "I can't leave."
       "You mean you won't."
       "That too."