QSFer Rebecca Cohen has a new MM fantasy/Sci-Fi book out (bi, demi, gay), Reagalos book 3: Avarice.
Lornyc hates politics. The small talk, backstabbing, and the attempts to undermine his marriage makes his blood boil and his head ache. But what he really hates is someone kidnapping his husband. The suspicion that the Valen are somehow involved is confirmed when the truth about Methian’s real parentage is revealed.
But there are other fights ahead, this time with the mage when Lornyc discovers that they were not only behind his mother’s family being stripped of their magic, but have been trying to limit the Reagalos family powers for centuries.
Kalec banged his stone gavel three times to bring the Brethren Council to order. Several of the Council members seemed to have forgotten how to behave, decorum not being their strongest suit. “If you want this meeting to end before we are all old and grey, please calm yourselves and settle down.”
The Council finally quietened and Kalec read his notes for the next agenda item. “Point of order number four: Reagalos quarterly update.” He peered at the back of the room and motioned the two Caveer Guards assigned to the current incumbent High Lord of Katraman to approach. “Cupris, Diam, you have your report ready?”
Diam strode forwards, her partner, Cupris less keen. “Yes, Your Excellency. Lornyc Reagalos appears to be settling well into his roles.”
Someone to the left snorted, it was Balvedeer, one of the older members. “Has he stopped tearing holes in the dimensions?”
Kalec shook his head and muttered, “They fixed that, remember the emergency meeting? We agreed no further action would be taken. Or had you fallen asleep again?”
Kalec groaned. The Reagalos had always been a divisive topic, but the new one was a special challenge. Half the Council wanted to smite him off the face of the multiverse, and the other half were inordinately proud of young Lornyc’s abilities, and wanted to encourage him to do more. He remembered the days when Romanus had been the High Lord, those had been entertaining times, although he’d been a bit too mischievous to be left to his own devices but they’d dealt with that. What had followed was a period when they’d thought the Reagalos would become a footnote in the Emaus Protocol archives, which would have been a different type of worry, but now Lornyc had come along, and they were back to some semblance of equilibrium. All in all, he was quite happy with how things were developing.
“Please continue, Diam. We are aware that Lornyc Reagalos has healed the tear created by an entity that escaped one of those orbs they have, but do you have anything new to report?”
“It appears that during Romanus’s tenancy as High Lord he assembled certain artefacts into a collection of sorts. Although Lornyc Reagalos is insistent he knew nothing of it, and to be fair to him, I believe he is telling the truth.”
“Artefacts? What sort of artefacts?” questioned Kalec.
Diam operated her wrist strap and projected a list so she could read from it. “Several thousand, mainly innocuous items from other dimensions, such as a bibiblo, which is a children’s toy that lights up depending on the infant’s mood.”
“That doesn’t seem overly concerning.”
“We have yet to complete a full audit, but there are several shelves protected by force fields with much more dangerous objects such as a Hunterian death sphere, which as you know is banned across all the dimensions that know of its existence.”
“But they are behind force fields so can’t be accessed, correct?” Kalec asked, trying to gauge the level of concern he should have.
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
“So safe enough, then. I would think that while we wouldn’t necessarily encourage it, if we allow them to travel we must expect that they collect things when they do. Mind you, I don’t remember Romanus travelling.”
“No, Your Excellency, he didn’t. His son, Nathaniel, did.”
“Then perhaps it was him.” In his experience usually the simplest explanation was the right one.
“I don’t think so. Nathaniel only went travelling around twenty years ago, and the collection is protected by Valen technology that is several centuries out of date. It appears that Romanus’s guards were the active supporters of his hobby. More worrying is that things appear to be missing.”
Kalec clicked his tongue. “That does not sound in line with the official Emaus protocols.”
“No, Your Excellency. It will take some time for myself and Cupris to conduct a full review. But Frik and Nien are also in attendance, seeing as Nathaniel has returned home.”
“Right, so how long will the four of you need?”
Diam and Cupris exchanged a pointed look.
“What is it?” Kalec sighed, wishing that just once a Council meeting would not drag up something that would result in excessive paperwork.
“We’re not sure at this juncture whether it would be prudent to include Frik and Nien in our investigations.”
Some of the Council members muttered amongst themselves. Kalec sniffed. “That begs the question, why?”
“Their relationship with Nathaniel is beyond that of usual guardians, they facilitated his inter-dimensional travels and their loyalty to Nathaniel means they will inform him of any irregularities.”
“You have not been a Caveer Guard long, Diam, it is not unusual behaviour to become fond of your charges, including travelling with them. It’s almost like a parent watching over their children.”
Diam didn’t look convinced. “Very well, Your Excellency. I suppose it will be quicker with all four of us.”
“Have you spoken to Lornyc on the matter?”
“Only to the extent that the collection should not be where it is and that it might take a significant time to understand its breadth and complexity.”
A few of the Council members had already lost interest. There were so many of these blips with all the different species they came across, if they lingered over them all they’d be in meetings every waking hour. “Is there anything else?”
Cupris spoke this time. “Lornyc appears to have a strange bond with his husband.”
Diam glowered at him, and Kalec suspected they hadn’t agreed to discuss this. “Go on.”
“He, Methian I mean, is a conduit for Lornyc’s powers, it generally has a positive effect, but the concern would be if something were to happen to Methian and what the resulting fallout might be for Lornyc. We saw a glimpse of this in the flashpoint over the Erion.”
“Flashpoint,” scoffed Kalec. “That wasn’t a flashpoint, you should have seen the Tipka Empire unravel into cannibalism—that was a flashpoint.”
Cupris pressed on. “Indeed, but back to Lornyc, I would suggest we investigate whether a future imbalance of Lornyc’s powers might trigger another incident. I would like permission to run additional scenarios.”
Kalec huffed. “Monitor it for the time being, and if there is an actual cause for concern bring the topic back to the next update.”
Cupris opened his mouth but he didn’t get the chance to argue as Kalec dismissed him and Diam with a wave of his gavel. The meeting continued in the same vein, every Caveer Guard seemed to think their particular charge was something unique or special, although there was no denying the Reagalos, and Lornyc in particular, were some of the most interesting, and useful ones. Thankfully, the meeting drew to an end after a protracted debate on whether extra batches of the lineregee tincture should allowed to be made after the recent discovery that it reversed male impotence, but apart from that there had been little to excite the Council. Not that an excitable Council was something to be encouraged.
He was not a young man any more, and sitting for prolonged periods on a hard chair made him stiff in a way a tincture couldn’t resolve, and he decided to speak to the caretaker of the Council chamber about getting some extra padding added to his chair. Maybe a cushion.
Entering his office, he stretched his neck muscles, then poured himself some tea. He settled down in a chair by the fire, determined to catch up with his reading here, rather than at home, and avoid the ire of his housekeeper.
A rustle in the corner of the room caught his attention. “Who’s there?”
“It’s is Liall, Your Excellency.”
Kalec tutted. The Auditor classes seemed to prefer to skulk in corners. “Come into the light, Liall. My eyesight’s not what it used to be, and I don’t have all night.”
Liall shuffled forwards. Kalec hadn’t spoken to the Head of the Auditors for a while, but he hadn’t changed much since he’d seen him last, still a little too thin and in need of a haircut, and pasty skin that would benefit from him seeing daylight rather than pouring over scans and data.
“I have something strange to report. I hesitated in bringing this to you, but I have checked and rechecked the findings many times and I can find no logical explanation for it.”
If Kalec had had a shot of jarjar spirit for every unexplained oddity that was discovered he’d have been dead from alcohol poisoning many times over, but given Liall had come in person and not sent one of his underlings it might be important. “What is it?”
“Do you remember a Council member called Stellarro?”
“Of course I do. He was a great man, a little eccentric at times, but he’s been dead four hundred years.”
“That’s the strange thing, the researchers have a new prototype scan they’ve been working on, and it’s picked up evidence that he was still active until relatively recently.” Liall looked uncomfortable. “The scans have narrowed his activities from the last fifty years down to the realm the Reagalos inhabit.”
“Wasn’t that where he was when he died? Surely there’s files on it somewhere?”
“Yes, that’s correct, Your Excellency. But that was over four hundred tears before. He was conducting some Council business at the time, although much of the high-level detail is restricted under the Emaus Protocols, that I don’t have access to.”
There was a good reason for that, and it had nothing do with Stellarro. But had Stellarro hung around in the Reagalos’s realm after his supposed death or disappeared somewhere then come back again in the last fifty years? Kalec didn’t like the sound of either option. “Are you sure?”
“Ninety-four point three percent sure that the scans from that timeframe are of him. He seems to have inhabited a city called Xenetra. But there’s currently no sign of where he was prior to that.”
Stellarro was an intelligent man, a forward thinker who in his day had rubbed several people up the wrong way. And there was no accounting for the damage he could have done during the last four hundred years without Council oversight. “You’d better bring him in.”
Liall coughed softly. “That won’t be possible, he’s dead. According to Xenetran records it happened approximately twenty-three years ago.”
“Still, we need to investigate further, and be sure he’s actually dead this time. I want to know what it was he’s been up to in such close proximity to the Reagalos. Something’s off. Is there anything else you know?”
“It is to be confirmed, but a name that came up several times was Taran Tellara. Does that mean anything to you?”
Kalec shook his head. “Not that I recall. It’s not a Valen name, but I suppose that would have would have been one of the reasons he chose it. Have you scanned the history banks?”
“In progress. But I suspect he would have been able to deflect our searches, or at least disrupt the sub-routines so they ran in circles. As I said, it was only because we have the experimental scan that we found what we did.”
Kalec remembered the two Caveer Guards who were Lornyc Reagalos’s overseers, and their concern over a collection that had no business being in that dimension. Another coincidence, and he didn’t like it one little bit. “Cupris and Diam are assigned to the Reagalos boy, I’m sure General Treal wouldn’t begrudge you some of their resources to investigate on the ground.”
“Thank you, Your Excellency. I’ll report back as soon as possible.”
REBECCA COHEN spends her days dreaming of a living in a Tudor manor house, or a Georgian mansion. Alas, the closest she comes to this is through her characters in her historical romance novels. She also dreams of intergalactic adventures and fantasy realms, but because she’s not yet got her space or dimensional travel plans finalised, she lives happily in leafy Hertfordshire, England, with her husband and young son. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and sloe gin with lemon tonic in the other.
With contemporaries, historicals, sci fi and fantasy in her back catalogue, there should be something for every taste in Rebecca’s work.