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The Exile, Part II

“Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air. ” - Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses


Ihen’Gal stirred to life as the homesun began its long arc across the horizon, splashing against the gentle purple waters of the ocean. The sleepy town along the southern ocean had never been much more than a hamlet, tucked into the Haere’au Bay. Even in the long-since-passed days before the Rihannsu had returned to the stars, and they remained bound the land, it was just one of dozens of villages along the coast, where fishermen made small but honorable livings selling the fruits of the seas.


The countryside surrounding the small town was dotted with small family farms and old estates. Here and there a wealthier family from one of the larger cities to the north or south had their summer home, or perhaps a hunting cottage. Laying just off the main road, and nestled into a quiet grove of Ethae trees, the summer home of Chaelon tr’Neirth rose just above the treeline. A brick and mortar structure in the old provincial style, it had long been in the family of the House s’Neirth as a getaway home, now however, it served a rather different purpose.


Leading along a neatly kept stone path from the back door and down towards a narrow pond, a small garden was already being tended. Kaelia t’Laenin frowned as she stopped to inspect the leaves of an aluani plant that had been continually terrorized by a small variety of beetle that had been brought to the planet aboard a passing freighter. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the point of view, the latest round of insecticide she had applied seemed to have warded the vermin off and her aluani were beginning to recover. Satisfied, she wiped sweat from her brow and took a breath, looking around her as the morning sun reflected off the dew.


Kaelia had never considered herself much of a horticulturist, until she’d taken up residence in Ihen’Gal, but had since found it a somewhat relaxing respite, and as a bonus prevented her from having to make more numerous trips to the town market where she’d have to continually maintain the facade of a mild-mannered widow who sold her estates in the city of Morina and moved here for a quieter life.


Resuming her work, Kaelia considered how silly that sounded, but it was the cover story that she had been given, and she had always prided herself on her ability to stick with whatever she was given. Of course, this was different. This wasn’t an assignment. She wasn’t doing this out of a sense of duty, but out of necessity.


How long would she have to stay here? It had been some time since she’d heard any news from her contacts in and out of the Tal’Shiar, and she wouldn’t risk contacting tr’Nerith. Her brother had survived, apparently; though he was still recovering. Such a shame, she thought. After all of this, it would have been less frustrating if she had managed to at least rid herself of Sheuji.


Sheuji. The name left a bitter, acrid taste in her mouth. So predictable. She paused in her gardening once more. The rivalry between them had existed as long as either could remember. Of the four children spawned by their parents (at least the legitimate ones, she considered), they alone had developed any real semblance of antipathy. Perhaps it was because they were more alike that either would openly admit. They were both headstrong, stubborn, and prideful. Ambitious went without say, of course, they were of the House of N’Dak. And that, as much as anything, had left a legacy for them both to live up to and under.


From their earliest days they had competed with each other. In the beginning it had been just that, healthy competition between siblings, but as they had grown older the rivalry had turned personal. For her, she had never understood why her father favored Sheuji. Her mothers favoritism towards him had always made sense. He was far more like her than he would ever admit, though perhaps not as much as their younger brother. Still she could understand it, but her father?


“Elements.” She finally said aloud, digging her trowel into the dirt a bit harder than she intended.


She had followed her father’s footsteps, entering the Tal’Shiar. She had risen through the ranks, and in many ways even exceeded her father’s own accomplishments. Yet still, he favored the elder son, despite his many weaknesses.


A thought, dark and sinister, had begun to slowly manifest in her mind. Perhaps all this time she had been taking the wrong target. While removing Destorie would certainly alleviate some of the issues, the real problem, the real obstacle was that of her parents. A thin smile crossed her face.


She wouldn’t be here forever.

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