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Old January 13th, 2016 (10:15 AM). Edited May 3rd, 2017 by Sike_Saner.
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Sike_Saner Sike_Saner is offline
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    Join Date: Oct 2006
    Location: Earth
    Age: 35
    Gender: Female
    Nature: Timid
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    Chapter 35 – Remnants

    From out of the nothingness, a gentle pulsing came, nothing at all like the panicked hammering of his heart before everything had gone black.

    A couple of beats later, Solonn realized that the sensation was coming from somewhere outside him, not within.

    He subsequently realized that yes, he was still alive.

    He opened his eyes—or tried to. They still stung terribly, making him hiss weakly.

    “No,” a gentle voice instructed him. “Not yet. Let me finish with you first.”

    Solonn fumbled about mentally for a moment, still very dazed, trying to remember just whose voice that was. The image of the mercirance it belonged to finally answered the summons. She made it… Even in the midst of all this chaos, she’d found her way back in.

    Except… where had the chaos gone? He could no longer hear any signs of battle, couldn’t hear anything at all except scattered mutterings and the occasional pained sound from someone or another.

    “There,” Quiul said, sounding a bit winded, “there. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid. But you are stable, rest assured.”

    At her words, Solonn dared to try and open his eyes again, and this time he managed to keep them open. No fighting greeted them, no colliding bodies, no stones or beams in flight.

    “Is it really over?” he asked, his voice still terribly hoarse.

    “Don’t know,” Quiul responded.

    “God, I hope so. You had me worried out of my mind there…”

    Solonn looked up, grimacing at the wave of dizziness that accompanied the motion. His expression softened as much as it could at the sight of his father looking down at him from above with tears shimmering in his crimson eyes.

    The steelix’s expression, meanwhile, did nearly the opposite as he cast a glance across the room. More gently than he’d moved before, Solonn rolled to face forward and follow it, and he saw that rapidash there, talking to Valdrey about something. She was reassuring him, from what Solonn could hear of the conversation.

    Quiul looked off in that direction, too. She sighed faintly. “Grosh… you do realize it wasn’t his fault, right? It wasn’t anyone’s fault but the one who hijacked his brain.”

    Hijacked his brain… Just the same as what had happened to him, Solonn recognized. “They did the same to me,” he said.

    “And to half of the rest of us. At least.” Valdrey’s voice and hoofbeats drew Solonn’s attention; he found the aurrade striding in slow circles around another glalie who was lying on the ground—a glalie like none he’d ever seen before. A row of spikes ran along each of the stranger’s brows, and while it was hard to tell for certain with their light extinguished, the eyes beneath them didn’t look blue.

    “I see you’ve noticed our late arrival here,” Valdrey said. “We think he’s the one who made you turn on each other.” She gave him a little kick with one of her forehooves. “Fried his own brain in the process, though.”

    “He was dead inside his own skull,” Quiul said, and she almost sounded pitying. Almost. “The rest of him just hadn’t cottoned on yet.”

    That likely answered the question of what, and who, had killed the stranger. But a multitude of questions still lingered about him. He was a hybrid of some sort, Solonn suspected… but what sort of parentage could have possibly given him abilities like those?

    Solonn gave the slightest shake of his head, sighing bitterly to himself. They’d known to expect a mind-controller among the Sinaji. They’d been prepared to prioritize any non-glalie they saw who wasn’t on their side. He would’ve never guessed that such a threat could come from one of his own kind.

    And apparently he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t. “I’m so sorry,” Moriel said quietly. “I had no idea they had any such thing on their side—I’ve never seen a glalie like this in my entire life.”

    “I don’t think any of us have,” Evane said. Alij and Viraya both shook their heads, confirming it.

    <You are not at any fault,> Oth said. <There is much your leadership did not see fit to tell you.>

    “That… that’s true,” Moriel acknowledged. But the way she still frowned uneasily at the hypnotist, guilt dampening the light in her eyes, told that she wasn’t entirely consoled just yet.

    Solonn turned his attention away from the glalie with the spiked brows, and though his body and especially his head protested, he rose from the spot, intent on finding out just how much that oversight had cost them—more to the point, if it had cost him anyone he was close to.

    The first such question he had in mind came with a welcome answer, at least. Once again, Oth had made it through all right. They leaned in midair against the wall near the tunnel Zdir’s team had entered through, their levitation a little shaky, but otherwise they looked just fine.

    Solonn moved over to join the claydol. “How many?” he asked. That was as far as he could stand to elaborate on the question, and not only because his throat was still so sore. He hoped that the claydol and their many eyes could assess the situation, or had already done so, more quickly and thoroughly than he could or wanted to at this point.

    <All but eleven of the Sinaji who entered this cavern have now been slain,> Oth reported, though their tone made it sound almost as much like a confession, <as well as five among our number.>

    Solonn fought back an urge to do a quick head count. Too many bodies. Too much mist, drawn into his lungs on every breath… He tried to shake off the unbidden, imagined sensation of it seeping into his veins, consuming him from within. It came right back.

    He shuddered hard. “Who?” he managed to spit out.

    <Three of the Hirashka: Arkhiah, Ahsrishasa, and Ghirath. Alisari and Daran were also slain.>

    Solonn felt his heart sink at that last name. He thought of Kala, waiting back in Mordial for her brother… who would never return. The preceding name clicked soon after, and the weight in his chest grew even heavier—Alisari was the golduck, the one who’d likely saved his life by neutralizing the poison. And the Hirashka soldiers, so willing to put themselves on the line for foreigners they didn’t even know—such a far cry from what the Virc forces would have offered them…

    <Three others among us have been put out of commission,> Oth went on. <Zyuirilziurn, Taldira… and Zdir.>

    Solonn abruptly turned to face the claydol. “How serious is it? Will she be all right?”

    <Quiul gave a favorable prognosis,> Oth replied, <but her recovery is expected to take a considerable while due to her age.>

    Her age. The shock drained out of Solonn almost all at once. Of course… of course she’d taken a beating. It was a wonder she hadn’t been killed outright, really. But with all she’d done for them, with all the time he’d spent training under her… even now, some tiny part of him was surprised at the reminder that no, she wasn’t invincible.

    He spotted her across the room: she was sitting up with a visible effort. Zyuirilziurn the cryogonal and Taldira the feraligatr were at her sides, both looking worse for wear. She met his gaze—her eyes still glowing, thank the gods—and nodded toward him weakly, as if to silently confirm that she would indeed be just fine.

    “Heads up, we’ve got company,” Valdrey called out, and nearly every eye in the vicinity turned toward her. Past her, hesitating just outside the chamber, there hovered another of those thorn-bearing glalie. This one’s eyes still burned bright, though their light flickered at the sight before them, and there was no question about it this time: they were green, luridly so.

    Hooves were thundering and glalie were surging and a bellowing steelix was lunging toward the new arrival in an instant.

    “No, stop!” she cried out, barely audible over the horde closing in on her. “Please, I surrender!”

    “Hold it!” Valdrey shouted, and her voice was far louder and clearer than usual. A glance in her direction told Solonn that her faceplates had retracted, revealing her gray, humanoid face.

    One of Haex’s armblades split the floor in front of the newcomer, making her dart several inches backward. Grosh brought his head very, very close to the green-eyed glalie, growling deep in his throat.

    Valdrey began striding closer, waving pokémon out of her way, her luminous sword at the ready all the while. As she moved forward, Oth began following close behind.

    “You’d best be telling the truth,” Valdrey warned the newcomer, her head tilted back to peer down at her. “Otherwise it’s gonna get a little hazier in here.”

    The newcomer nodded, her whole body shaking as she met the aurrade’s gaze once more. “We’ll all surrender, I promise you. Just… please…” She tried to look at some point beyond where Valdrey stood, but it was clear that someone was in the way. “Let me see him, just one more time.”

    “We will,” Valdrey said, “after Oth is done with you.”

    “Oth? What…” Her green eyes flitted about, trying to determine who Valdrey could mean. “What are you going to do?”

    “Oth’s just gonna have a little peek into your head.” Valdrey tapped at her helmet with her free hand for emphasis. “Just to make sure you aren’t trying to pull a fast one on us. I can’t speak for anyone else here, really, but personally, I’m not a big fan of liars.”

    The newcomer’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open slightly. “I’m not lying,” she insisted, sounding more than a little offended. “There are so few of us now, and so many of you and your… your monsters…” Grosh snarled in warning at that, at which the newcomer flinched, but then she resumed her affronted stare at Valdrey.

    “If that’s true,” Valdrey said evenly, putting a hand to her waist, “then you’ve got nothing to hide.”

    “It’s in your best interests to allow this,” Ronal told the newcomer. “Your safety—your life—is on the line.”

    Her face twisted, her eyelight wavering all the more as she hung there in place, still quaking. Finally, she closed her eyes and nodded in acquiescence.

    “Have at it,” Valdrey said, extending an arm toward the newcomer.

    Oth placed themself before her, silent and still in their work even as their subject hissed and shuddered. She only stopped doing so once they backed off, but even then she looked no more comfortable than she had since arriving there.

    “So what’d you find?” Valdrey asked the claydol.

    <Sathir is being sincere,> they confirmed.

    Valdrey held the newcomer in her gaze for one last moment before sheathing her sword. “Then today’s your lucky day,” she said, “relatively speaking.”

    The discomfort in Sathir’s expression turned to something distinctly bitter. “Can I see him now?” she asked coldly.

    “He’s all yours,” Valdrey said, and stepped out of the way.

    Sathir drifted forward, casting distrustful looks at the unfamiliar creatures among the small crowd of glalie. She soon came to a stop, sinking to the floor before the dead hypnotist. A hiss shuddered through her gritted teeth, then gave way to sobbing.

    “Someone you knew?” Narzen asked. His tone told that he’d already guessed the answer.

    Sathir looked to him with disgust written all over her features. “I don’t owe you any more answers,” she said, her voice hitching mid-sentence. But then she sighed, turning back to face the fallen glalie again. “But you’ll just take any answers you want from me, won’t you.”

    Before anyone could affirm or refute that statement, “My mate,” she informed them, “and the father of my child.” She sighed again, more bitterly this time, lowering her head. “There are so few of my people left in this world. Even fewer now, thanks to you.”

    “Hey now. It was his bright idea to try and brainwash all of us at once that landed him in that position,” Narzen said.

    Sathir’s gaze shot back up, and she leveled the sort of wild, furious stare at him that suggested she wanted to call him a filthy liar. But it quickly faltered. “Damn it, Averin…” she said almost voicelessly to her lifeless mate. “I told you not to try it…”

    “Well, he didn’t listen, I’m afraid,” Valdrey said. “He really should’ve kept that little trick to himself.”

    “You all should have,” Solonn spoke up. “Why?” he demanded. “Why did you do this to my brother? He doesn’t even recognize me now.” The lines of his face hardened with anguish, his eyelight going shaky. “He’s been stranded across the ocean, and if I ever see him again…” He drew in a rattling breath that turned to stone in his throat. “…I’ll have to tell him that both his mother and his father are gone. Because of you. Why?” he hissed again, his eyes momentarily blazing.

    Sathir wilted almost imperceptibly under his gaze. She swallowed audibly. “It was never supposed to go this far,” she said in a brittle voice. “When we sought refuge with the Sinaji, we had no idea how dangerous they were… They were outcasts, like us. We thought we were one and the same, or almost the same… We were stupid,” she spat.

    She lowered her head again. “We began bewitching a few of them, their leaders… just enough to make them safe company. We used their territory as sanctuary from the Virc, with the Sinaji as guards… but at some point, that ceased to be enough. We became resentful of the Virc for making us live the way we do, the way we have for generations… the fact that so many of us never hatched and so many have been born sick and stayed sick… All at once, we were waging war on the Virc, using the Sinaji as our soldiers. The Virc children they captured for us… would’ve joined them.”

    Solonn just stared agape at her as she sat there shaking, at a loss for words in the wake of her confession. Those children could’ve been sent to kill members of their own families, or to be killed by them. He might have been forced to take Jen’s life—and with the latter having surely evolved in that scenario, Solonn might’ve never known that the blood on his horns was his half-brother’s, that it would’ve been his fault that he and Jen would never truly reunite.

    The thought of what his mother would think of that came to mind, and he snarled. “Where are the rest of your people?” he demanded.

    Sathir hesitated to answer, still shaking.

    “We will do them no harm, provided they agree to surrender as you have,” Quiul said. It sounded as though she were genuinely trying to sound reassuring, but her tone was missing a little of its usual warmth.

    “Whereas you’ll harm me if I don’t give them up,” Sathir surmised aloud.

    “No,” Valdrey said, shaking her head. “You surrendered, fair and square. We won’t change our minds unless you do.”

    Sathir looked from one alien face in the crowd to another, still silent as she assessed the situation. Then she rose. “Follow me,” she said quietly, and began to return from whence she’d come.

    Everyone else present began filing after her immediately, with Valdrey directly behind her. Solonn could see her hand move to hover near the hilt of her weapon as he moved out himself.

    They proceeded in this fashion for some time, finally arriving at a very thick, opaque ice wall. Four Sinaji hovered before it, and wasted no time in shouting in alarm at the approaching pokémon.

    “Silence,” Sathir commanded wearily. “They’re allowed to enter, all of them.”

    The guards didn’t argue. Nothing about them suggested that any of them even thought to disagree. Most likely “bewitched”, Solonn guessed.

    The four of them moved aside, lingering against the walls. “Stay there,” Sathir ordered them; then, “Remove the barricade,” she called out to whomever was beyond it, “and don’t be alarmed.”

    There was a delay before the barrier showed any changes. Muffled, uneasy-sounding voices could be heard from the tunnel beyond. Then, slowly, the wall came down.

    “There they are,” Sathir all but whispered. “The last of the Rannia.”

    Within the chamber that was now revealed, two other glalie like Sathir huddled against the far wall. A very small snorunt, her eyes as green as the rest of the Rannia’s, leaned against one of them, looking very listless. A third Rannian glalie hovered a bit closer to where the barrier had stood, but the look on her face suggested that she’d forgotten why she’d come forward.

    And with them, staring in bewilderment, were Sanaika and Kashisha, with a number of blue-eyed and plainly frightened snorunt hiding and shaking behind the two of them and another pair of Sinaji.

    Not taking his eyes off the strangers for even a second, “Sathir… what the hell is going on here?” Sanaika demanded.

    “Party’s over,” Valdrey responded. “Your forces are down, save for you—” She swept a hand across the room, indicating the entire enemy presence therein. “—and those four out there. Your hypnotist friend here has surrendered unconditionally. I’d follow suit if I were you.”

    Kashisha gawked openly at the crowd, shocked or furious or both. Sanaika just stared in silence for a moment, an unspoken dare to contradict Valdrey etched into his features.

    “It’s true,” Sathir said sullenly. “We have to cooperate. If we don’t… Look at them, Sanaika. My family can’t defend themselves against such creatures. They’ll slaughter us.”

    “Maybe they can’t,” the Rannia who still hovered in the middle of the room said. Her eyes were wild and blazing, and her jaws quivered in the gaps between words as if itching for something to sink their teeth into. “But I can, and you can, and…” She shook her head fiercely. “No, I… I can’t give in. I won’t give in!” A snarl of erratically-twitching ice tendrils burst into being around her, forcing nearly everyone around her to leap or dart out of the way. “I won’t—”

    There was a sound like a small thunderclap, and down she went, alive but insensible. Her ice sculpture vanished into vapors in an instant under the control of another now, any hypnotic command it might’ve carried extinguished before it could really take root.

    Sathir gazed upon her with pity for a moment, then moved toward Sanaika. “I need to know if you’re going to do this of your own accord or if I’ll have to make you do it. I don’t want to, but I will if you leave me no choice.”

    “I’m not answering that question,” Sanaika said. “Not until I know what’s going to become of us if we surrender. We die if we keep fighting; do I understand correctly? The kids, too?”

    <No,> Oth said. <The snorunt pose no appreciable threat. They will be relocated, as will any of you who agree to our terms.>

    “Speaking of the snorunt… were these stolen, too?” Narzen asked.

    “No, they most certainly were not,” one of the other Sinaji said. “How dare you even insinuate such a thing; these children belong to our people and always have.”

    “Mind letting us confirm that?” Valdrey asked, signaling Oth to move forward once more.

    “Just say yes,” Sathir said wearily.

    The Sinaji who’d spoken hesitated at first, but then nodded, closing her eyes. Moments later, <These children were not kidnapped,> Oth said.

    “That’s good…” Moriel said.

    “So you’re… going to take us away… Where?” the fourth Sinaji glalie in the room demanded. “Do we get any say in the matter?”

    “You can come with us to the Hirashka nation, if you wish.” Roskharha came forward, at which a couple of his surviving countrymen cast uncomfortable looks his way. Solonn did likewise—the thought of these mind-controllers and dangerous exiles headed for the same destination as one of his best friends and the family thereof didn’t sit very well with him at all.

    “Captain… are you sure that’s advisable?” one of the Hirashka asked.

    “They’re few enough that we can handle them. Yes, the green-eyes, too,” he answered preemptively; Sathir glared and hissed at him in response. “We’ll involve the Sisterhood if need be.”

    “Hopefully that won’t be necessary,” another of the Hirashka said, and gave a faint shudder.

    “It’s up to you,” Valdrey said. “Do you wanna move to Sinnoh with these nice, gracious glalie?”

    <You may not get another opportunity to live among your own kind in the foreseeable future,> Oth pointed out.

    “…I’ll go,” Sathir said. “And my family will go with me.”

    Sanaika exchanged glances with Kashisha, at which she gave a melodramatic sigh that made her opinion of the circumstances all too clear. Nonetheless, she nodded in assent.

    “Fine,” Sanaika said, “fine. And I suppose we have to leave right this instant?”

    “Sounds good to me. What does Zdir think?” Valdrey asked.

    There was a brief silence as Oth consulted with Zdir—if indeed she was still in any fit state to respond at the moment. Apparently she was; <Zdir is in favor of this course of action.>

    “Roskharha?” Valdrey prompted next.

    “I’m ready,” he responded.

    “Quiul? You up to another jump right now?”

    “I’m up to several more, if it comes to that.”

    “That’s good—I think it’ll take at least two. Wouldn’t want you working yourself to a twitching heap,” Valdrey said. “Thuras? Go tell the boys back there to round up the live ones so we can head out.”

    The gurdurr gave a quick nod and headed back down the tunnel at Valdrey’s request.

    Sathir, meanwhile, had drifted off to join the three Rannia who were still awake. “Mother? Father? We have to go with them.” She spoke very slowly and deliberately, as if concerned that they wouldn’t understand her otherwise.

    “Have they returned?” her mother asked, her somewhat pale eyes unfocused, her tone awed. “They’ve come to deliver us; the Vanished Ones have come to…”

    Sathir held her tongue, apparently waiting for her mother’s ramblings to resume, but they did no such thing. “No… no, this is someone else. Our… our new saviors.” She didn’t bother to conceal the bitter sarcasm that accompanied those words, but it seemed lost on both of her parents.

    “Oh… all right,” her mother said, then began moving unhurriedly toward the invaders along with her mate; not missing a beat, Sathir conjured a cradle of ice to catch the infant who’d been leaning against the former. The cradle rose on a stalk like a sprouting plant, then moved forward to lay the child down on top of Sathir’s head and shifted to secure her there.

    Sanaika moved forward next, with Kashisha grudgingly following. The other Sinaji glalie in the room shepherded the snorunt along to join them, with some difficulty; some of the children were still too terrified to move at first. Solonn couldn’t help but regard them with pity—they hadn’t asked to be here, and they’d had no hand in the Sinaji’s crimes. They probably weren’t even aware of them.

    It’s over, he told himself. They don’t have to be afraid anymore. None of us do.

    Or so he hoped. Trusting it… was harder. He wanted to believe that yes, the Hirashka and their “Sisterhood”, whatever that entailed, could keep them in check, and that the Sinaji who had yet to wake up would cooperate just as the ones in this room had. That Zilag and Hledas and their daughters would be safe. But with no way to know with absolute certainty that they would, true comfort eluded him.

    To say nothing of the effect that a certain loose end remaining in Convergence was having on his ability to really, truly feel as though the struggle were over.

    It was then that Thuras returned. “Job’s done,” she reported.

    “Good. Go back and stay with them, all right? We’ll be back for the rest of you here shortly,” Valdrey said.

    As Thuras departed the scene once more, “Gather together, everyone,” Quiul instructed, motioning toward everyone present to draw closer. The Sinaji and Rannia complied, though not quite in unison; a couple of the children resisted up to nearly the last moment. Once they and everyone else were finally corralled, the former territory of the Sinaji disappeared from view in a golden flash.

    * * *

    “And you’re sure that’s all of them?” Hledas asked.

    “All of the survivors, yes,” Solonn confirmed. “Oth made sure of it.”

    Across the field in a snowy valley in Sinnoh, the remnants of the Sinaji—minus two of the survivors of the initial battle, who’d refused to be taken alive and who’d subsequently been dispatched by Sanaika himself—muttered to one another and surveyed their new surroundings with varying degrees of apprehension.

    “I’m sure they’ll be kept in line just fine,” Zilag assured her. Even as he spoke, however, he eyed Kashisha uneasily. That, Solonn imagined, was a reunion his friend would’ve rather avoided.

    “So now what?” Zilag asked. “Are you gonna stay here with us, too?”

    Solonn’s thoughts briefly drifted elsewhere, his eyes following soon after. His geographical knowledge was a bit rusty after so many years between him and his schooling, but he suspected that Hoenn lay in that direction.

    He and Zilag were of very different minds when it came to seeing their siblings again.

    “Ultimately,” he finally answered. “But first… I have to go back to Convergence. I have to find him.” He didn’t bother to elaborate. He knew he didn’t need to. “Even if we have to live apart from now on… I want to try and give back what was taken from him. He deserves to know that there’s something left of his family, his real family.”

    Zilag smiled. “I had the feeling you’d say that. I wouldn’t mind going with you and getting a better look at that place, you know? From what I remember, it was pretty crazy, heh. In a good way,” he clarified quickly. “But… yeah. I’d really feel better sticking close to my family right now, all things considered.”

    “Of course,” Solonn said, nodding in understanding. He rose. “I’ll go find out if and when Quiul’s ready,” he said, “and let the relevant parties know where I’m going. I suppose this is goodbye, for now.”

    “Suppose so. Goodbye, and good luck,” Zilag said, at which Hledas echoed his farewell and Ryneika attempted to do so.

    With that, Solonn set off in search of Quiul. But before he got very far, “Um… hey. I overheard what you were talking about there, and…”

    Solonn turned and saw Moriel there behind him. Alij, Evane, and Viraya were with her. “Yes… what of it?” he asked.

    “We were wondering if you’d be opposed to us going with you,” Moriel said. “I mean… from what I understand, there has to be some sort of funny business going on where your brother’s concerned. First he mysteriously can’t be cured of his bewitching, and then the Sinaji you brought over there mysteriously dies? Something’s up.”

    “Something is very likely up,” Solonn agreed, and as he zoomed out from his goal in this endeavor and looked more intently at the process that might be involved in getting there, having these people accompany him started to look like a good idea. Possibly a very good idea. Having very many more than that was probably ill-advised—the Hirashka nation would do well to have at least a little more than a skeleton crew keeping a watch over the Sinaji and the Rannia, Sisterhood or no Sisterhood. But surely, or hopefully, they could spare a small handful.

    “You’re absolutely welcome to join me,” he said. “Thank you.”

    “It’s the least we can do,” Moriel said. Evane nodded in agreement, while her sister and Alij looked on in silence but showed no signs of dissent.

    Solonn began leading them away, but not toward his original target. He was all in favor of having the defectors accompany him back to Hoenn for a bit, but a bad idea was a bad idea, and on the chance that pulling them away from here counted as one, he decided to seek a second opinion.

    When he reached the person he’d had in mind, he found a potential third opinion there along with her. Good. Roskharha sat there by Zdir’s side, the latter still looking somewhat weak but clearly stable and on the mend.

    “Yes?” Zdir inquired hoarsely, taking in the small pack of glalie that had come before her.

    “We want to go back to Convergence for… well, for an indeterminate length of time,” Solonn told her. “But… only if the people here can spare us.”

    Zdir gave Roskharha a questioning glance. He sized up the would-be rescue party for a moment, seemingly in thought. “I’d say so,” he finally decided.

    “Go and get your brother, then,” Zdir said.

    Solonn lowered his head, relieved. “Thank you,” he said, and resumed his search for Quiul.

    By the time he caught up with her, he’d run into both Oth and Grosh. Upon informing each of them of his plans, they’d requested to go with him and insisted upon going with him, respectively.

    After confirming that the Hirashka nation and its new citizens could afford their absence, too, he’d agreed to their wishes, and now the lot of them hovered or coiled before Quiul, with Solonn ready to ask for her assistance.

    But she beat him to the punch. “Let me guess: you’ve all got somewhere you need to go, right?” she asked a bit playfully.

    “Yes,” Solonn said. “We need you to take us to Convergence, if you would. Jen’s still there, and he might still need help recovering his memories.”

    “Well… I’m afraid I’m not much use to you where the latter’s concerned,” Quiul admitted. “But as far as the former goes, sure thing.”

    <If I might make a suggestion…> Oth spoke up. Everyone turned to face them. <I think we would do well to establish a link between the two of us,> they said, pointing a turret-hand toward Quiul. With less need for Zdir to dispense orders to her forces now, the claydol was no longer telepathically connected to her, thereby freeing up the link for another. <We would thereby be able to call upon you when we are ready to return.>

    “Was just about to suggest the same thing, actually,” Quiul said. “And don’t worry: I can keep the ghostliness to myself just fine,” she assured them.

    <I had no doubts that you could,> Oth said. If they actually did have any, they concealed that fact very well.

    Quiul made a beckoning motion, and Oth apparently interpreted the prompt correctly; <It is done,> they announced.

    “Okay then, away we go…” Quiul said. And with that, she transported them all to Convergence, and to the hope of undoing the last lingering crime of the Sinaji.