A/N- I have been away for a long time due to my college work (which is done because I just graduated) and because of life in general. But I am now posting again and the official posting schedule is now on my profile page if anyone wants to know when chapters will be up.
If things are out of order it is because I got an idea for a new chapter before the other one was posted. Otherwise I should stick to the assigned schedule. Updates and changes will be announced either in author's notes and/or on my profile page.
Thank you for your patience,
Nita sat in silence next to the Martian that had been assigned to watch her. She wondered where Kit was and if he was managing to keep his calm in light of their situation. But knowing her partner and best friend, she doubted that he was calm at all. He was never really calm where she was concerned. At first he was cool and it seemed like nothing could faze him. But then she noticed it after the Song of Twelve. She saw that little twitch in his smile when they got into a situation that threatened her life. The first time was when they were sitting at the breakfast table a few weeks after the song with Dairine. Every time after that seemed to weigh down further on his mind from what Nita could tell. Shortly after rescuing Daryl Dairine voiced her opinion the matter as usual.
"So I thought that you were going to finally kick it and I'd get your room," Dairine said, giving her sister a disappointed shake of the head. "Shame, Nita. You're really losing your stuff."
Nita gave her sister a good natured glare and shrugged as she opened a can of her favorite soda, "Hmm, maybe I can ask Tom and Carl if there's something slightly more risky, then I'll actually be able to kick it Time Heart style." She laughed and Dairine even cracked a grin.
"Yeah, have fun, make sure to write," Dairine said. Slam. Their heads whipped around. Kit's hand was shaking a little and gripping his soda tightly to the point that it was making a crinkling noise. His mouth was smiling but his eyes were strained. He had turned around then and walked right out the door.
Nita had exchanged looks with Dairine before following him out. "Kit?" He was silent for a while, just standing there, fists clenched, facing the street, head lowered.
"Why do you say stuff like that?"
"Like what?" Nita asked, still smiling but also starting to frown as he still hadn't turned around to look at her. She put a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, Kit, what do you-" She stopped when she saw the reason he hadn't turned to look at her. He was angry. That was plain as day, but there were tears threatening to escape his eyes as well.
"Doesn't it bother you to talk about Time Heart like that?"
"Like what?" Nita asked. "Like it exists?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
Kit clenched his jaw. "Don't be flip about it, Nita. How close do you have to be to dying for you to realize that it's not a joke?"
Nita sighed. "Kit, we've joked about it plenty of times. Why are you acting like this?"
He averted his gaze. "I've been thinking," He said slowly. "I don't like how close these last few times have been."
Nita raised her head and looked around the hallway. Inside the doors to her left the other Martians were discussing her fate and just like Kit's worst fears had indicated, it was completely out of her hands. She had upset the balance of their world and thus couldn't fight whatever punishment they made her pay. Wizardry was about equal exchange. If you used power, you had to return it somehow.
"You seem oddly calm about this, Cousin." She turned to look at the Martian next to her. Unlike the others, this one wore a reddish brown robe and didn't look angry or aggressive. He was calm and much older.
She shrugged. "I guess I know that this is one situation I can't run from."
"That is admirable," The Martian said, "But foolish. Your partner would approve?"
Nita looked at the Martian with surprise. To her surprise he was smiling warmly. "Trust me, I know what love is, Young Wizard. What is your name?"
"Nita," She said. The Martian inclined his head.
"I am Re'yesh," He shook his head. "You will have to forgive an old alien for rambling. I recently lost my partner." Nita's lips parted but he held up a hand to stall any words. "She was a braver soul than I could have asked for. But she had a knack for being reckless. This was during the years when not all wizards lived in harmony with one another. We were fighting another race that was much like ours. Yet, we were so different. My partner and I were chosen to sneak in and ambush their camp. It seemed simple enough but she always took things one step further. She attacked, neutralizing them, but in her haste missed one of their soldiers," Re'yesh paused, smiling sadly, "The thing about wizards is, we often forget that not everyone is a wizard like us," He sucked in his breath, "There was only a split second before the soldier drew his sword and ran her straight through. I hit him with a spell few seconds later but by then my partner was lying on the ground, bleeding and there weren't any healing spells that could stop her from dying." He looked carefully at Nita, "So, you wonder why I bored you with this anecdote?" He shrugged. "Take what you will from it, but also know that your actions do not always affect only you. There is more to this life we live than just living and dying." Before Nita could say anything the doors opened and Re'yesh stood up. "Shall we?"
Nita stood up and followed Re'yesh into the council chamber. The architecture and design reminded her a little of a Roman council chamber, with the stairs acting as seats for the council, the pillars and the wide open space in the center for whoever was speaking. In the center stood a martian wearing the only green robe in the room. The lines on the face of the martian indicated he was probably older than most of those in the chamber, but much younger than Re'yesh.
"Stand here," Re'yesh said to Nita, gesturing to the space next to the green robed martian. He then walked and took a seat next to some of the other council members. The green robed martian lifted his hands and silence fell.
"My Bretheren," He said, "We are gathered here to determine the judgment of this wizard," He paused, looking around carefully for effect, "Who is responsible for the death of the Heart of Mars." Cries of outrage and anger echoed throughout the chamber but he held up a hand for silence once more.
"However, the Heart now lives in her," He looked sidelong, somewhat curiously at Nita, "Therefore we must be sure that whatever our actions may be," He held up a finger, "They shall be in the best interest of a fellow wizard and the very Heart of our planet." There were murmurs among the council members.
"My Duke," One said, bowing, "If what you say is true, then we are at her mercy.
"Not so," Re'yesh said, standing up and giving a respectful nod to Nita. "She is a wizard, a sentient being, and if I may say so, a being that deserves her own say in the matter. She did not ask for what happened, though her wizardry and our Heart may have chosen for her. It is done. Now we must look out for her as we would one of our own."
"Blasphemy!" Another council member cried, "Do you dare suggest we allow a foreign wizard have sway on the ways of our planet?"
"If I may," All eyes turned, quiet falling, and heads bowed, even the Duke bowed his head to the newcomer. In walked a martian, yet this one was different. She was almost the same skin tone as Nita, yet in some light the glow was like those of the other martians.
She was young, fair haired and wore rich gold robes with red ones similar to the priest's.
"The council welcomes you, High One," The Duke said, not raising his head. Nita couldn't help but continue to look at the woman.
"I greet you, Nita Callhan," The woman said. Nita felt a strange kinship to the woman before her, but she couldn't quite place why. "I cast my vote that Nita be educated of the ways of our planet and our history. Then she shall decide whether or not she wishes to stay."
"But, High One," The Duke said, other martian council members stood up in protest. She shook her head in dismissal.
"She is a living being, Bretheren," Her lips formed a thin line, "And therefore we must not harm her. It is not the way of the Martians to kill others."
Nita felt warmth and comfort from this woman, yet Nita still couldn't put her finger on why that was. "Come, Nita, I shall show you the great archives." Nita followed the woman out, but turned, concern on her face as she saw the misgiving looks that the council was throwing both of them.
Polliagdor and Kit arrived at the council chamber with Kadarn to guide them. The priest was reluctant at first to help, but then relented when he saw exactly who Polliagdor was.
"Forgive me, Guided One," Kadarn said, lowering his head as they approached the chamber. "I cannot go any further. My ways are not respected by the council. I wish you luck with your quest." Kadarn bowed.
"Thank you, Enlightened Pupil," Polliagdor said, bowing back. He then nodded to Kit and they entered the chamber.
"What is this? More humans?" The first outcry was silenced by the second.
"Silence!" The martian at the front in green robes commanded. "Hold your tongue. Can you not see he is one of the Gods?"
Silence fell. "Forgive us, Guided One," He glanced out at the council before returning his attention to Polliagdor.
"They did not recognize you," He lowered his head in reverence. Polliagdor nodded and Kit stepped into the chamber, awe lighting his face as he admired the architecture. It was like stepping into a different time period. The colors of the pillars, the arches, and the steps, were vibrant in color.
"Where are we?" Kit breathed when he finally had found his voice. Polliagdor turned to look at him, a smile crossing his face.
"Once upon a time there were many planets, who, like Earth, enjoyed bright colors, and building beautiful structures such as this. Then they became obsessed with darker desires."
"Out of necessity," Kadarn added, stepping over to the two. "I apologize, Guided One," He said, inclining his head, "I overheard." He looked at Kit, "We were once a proud race. But knowledge is as much a plague as it is a gift."
Kit knew this to be true. Sometimes he wondered if he needed to know everything about Nita, yet he did. He knew that she was vulnerable in ways that no one else could see and she rarely let them. She was creative, thoughtful, and had a keen sense of awareness. She was also brave enough to accept the harder aspects of life. Kit was not as brave as far as he could tell. He could tell he loved Nita but he couldn't be brave enough to brave life's challenges. Telling her was one of those challenges and he'd bumbled his way into saying something about it.
In fact, he had to be told by one of the Powers that Be to say something before he did. That proved Kit lacked something somewhere.
"Guided One, Wizard Christopher," Kadarn said, "You will follow me." He nodded to the council and began to walk out of the room. No sooner had his foot set down on the surface of the floor through the door Kadarn opened on the other side of the council chamber, than Kit felt himself unable to move and looked up to see the columns getting bigger. He was sinking.
"There are worse fates, Wizard," Kadarn said, "Than being eternally one within the planet's core."
"What?" Kit cried.
Kadarn's eyes seemed to lack sympathy as he said, "You made an error in thinking your partner would be the only one punished for desecrating our planet." He then turned on his heel and closed the door.
Kit looked down at the black mass sucking him down. He tried to pull himself up, reaching for the door handle, but it was out of his grasp.
"Powers, I sure know how to get myself into the worst messes," He looked around. He wasn't sure where Polliagdor had gone and he was sure that no one could hear him if he cried.
"Sorry, Neets," He said, "I guess this is one situation I couldn't get either of us out of." The mass then sucked him under and he braced himself as it covered his head.