Dec 2, 2015

League of Yrinna

cover art by Mike Hinge
sunglasses not included
The first novel by Jack Vance that I ever read was Trullion, a story that was originally published in the March and June 1973 issues of Amazing Science Fiction magazine, not too long after Ted White had changed the name from Amazing Stories.

cover by Gene Szafran
(click image to enlarge)
I own a copy of Trullion that is from the first Ballantine Books printing of 1973. However, my copy of the book had been ignored and it had been kicked around for four years and finally had its cover torn off. I bought it for 25 cents at a discount store. Many years passed before I ever saw the cover illustration by Gene Szafran with a hideous merling at the bottom, reaching out to grab a snack.

The Different Drummer, Peter Max
It was much, much later before I ever saw the cover art on the March 1973 issue of Amazing. The 1970s were a strange time and the artwork of Mike Hinge fit in well. I don't know that the cover art for the March edition had anything to do with the World Trullion (I hope not).

I find it hard to shake off a mental image of the 1970s that consists of bright psychedelic colors whether they be on album covers, posters, magazines, books or plastic clothing. Think Peter Max. Thankfully, Gene Szafran was able to release his pent-up psychedelic colors on a series of other book covers before he was given the task of creating a cover illustration for Trullion.

cover art by John Pederson, Jr.
Here is how Vance described the Fens, the setting for events in Trullion: "The light of the Fens was pale and delicate, and shimmered with colors too transient and subtle for the eye to detect...the sun sets were subdued pageants of lime-green and lavender". Ya, that June 1973 Amazing cover also had nothing to do with Trullion.

The world Trullion, one of the 3,000 inhabited planets in Alastor Cluster, is the opposite of the psychedelic 1970s, although Vance wrote into his story the Fanschers, a nascent group of social revolutionaries. Vance brilliantly stood our world on its head and he crafted the society of planet Trullion as a kind of mirror opposite of 1970s USA. Vance invented a place where the parents were free love hippie types and their children formulated a revolution aimed at glorifying hard work and self-discipline.

cover art by David Mattingly
The protagonist of Vance's story, Glinnes Hulden, is a conservative who resists the revolutionary youth movement (Fanscherade) that spreads across Trullion. Glinnes wants to lead the simple life of a Trill and he can't understand the Fanschers and their desire to strive for personal advancement and accomplishment. Glinnes says:

"Everything conceivable has been achieved with all goals attained -not once, but thousands of times over. It is well known that we live in the golden afternoon of the human race."

And yet, Glinnes ends up leading a remarkably adventurous life and by the end of Trullion he has seemingly made it impossible for himself to continue living quietly as an ordinary Trill on Rabendary Island in the Fens of Jolany Prefecture, near the South Ocean.

in the Ekcolir Reality
(click image to enlarge)
After discovering, reading and falling in love with Trullion, I spent over 35 years imagining what might have been Glinnes Hulden's fate after the events described by Vance on the last page of the novel. For decades I fantasized that Vance might write additional Alastor Cluster stories and possibly a sequel to Trullion.

What if Jantiff Ravensroke first discovered that Phari endosymbionts reside inside some people and then Glinnes Hulden must continue the investigation into the mysterious alien force that seemingly guides events in Alastor Cluster? Here I go again.....

in the Ekcolir Reality
Vector space
I have a bad case of fanfiction disease and occasionally I must write down my ideas for ways to expand and extrapolate from Vance's novels into the terrain of new stories. The time has come for me to surrender to my demon and drag Trullion into the fanfictional vortex of my imagination.....

My bad...
Previously, I've brought back to my personal fan-fiction stage Vance's characters Ghyl Tarvoke and Jantiff Ravensroke and also imagined encore performances for Kirth Gersen.

Warning: turn back now all ye who do not want to see this Vance masterpiece (Trullion) profaned and infected by fan fiction disease.

in the Ekcolir Reality
The League of Yrinna
Part 1: The Merlank 
In this case, I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality, Vance's analogue, John Vance, wrote several novels set in Alastor Cluster. His sequel to Trullion was called The League of Yrinna. Sadly, no physical copy of that novel made its way into our Reality. The first part of what eventually became the full-length novel was a short story called "The League of Yrinna" that was originally published in Future Science Fiction Magazine.

What follows (below) is a third-hand account based on what I have learned about the story from Gohrlay who once read the The League of Yrinna during her existence as a teenager in the Ekcolir Reality.....

Warning: read Trullion first, otherwise The League of Yrinna (below) will probably just confuse you. Buy Trullion.

The League of Yrinna
Merlank, the lone continent of Trullion.
An early evening hush hung over the now tranquil waters of Fleharish Broad. The quiet was accented by the song of a few overeager night peepers already calling to each other in the tree tops.

All of the wedding guests had departed from Lord Gensifer's castle-like manor house and the forested park surrounding the ancient manse. The guests, all Lords and Ladies, had sailed away in their yachts, each harboring resentments over having been forced to witness the crass derailment of a solemn ritual.

The team of food service workers who had been hired for the occasion were slower to withdraw from the scene. They muttered doubts about ever being paid for their services while they packed up the expensive luxury foods that had been carefully selected and prepared for the wedding reception. The cooks and stewardesses motored off in their skiffs, baffled by the sudden incomprehensible events that had left Lord Gensifer dead on his wedding day.

Returning down the path from the manor, Chief Constable Benko Filidice came rushing out upon the dock and approached the officers of the Whelm who had gathered there. Over-Inspector Ryl Shermatz listened with interest to the constable's hurried report. Towering over Shermatz, his large chest heaving with emotion, Filidice spoke in an over-loud voice that broke the quiet of the scene: "The escaped starmenters, Dirrig and Bandolio, have been apprehended and are now both in the Welgen jail. I've called off the emergency manhunt, recalled all the search teams and cleared passenger ships for takeoff at the spaceports."

Shermatz gestured to the Whelm officer who stood at his side and performed a terse introduction. "This is Cursar Pakken, who from this moment is both acting Governor, in charge of all Jolany Prefecture, and acting Chief Constable." For a moment Shermatz watched Filidice carefully, taking note of the sudden sag of the man's shoulders. Shermatz knew all too well the look of guilt that hung on Filidice's face. Filidice had gambled and lost.

Shermatz squared his shoulders and directly spoke to the former Chief Constable with no detectable ire in his calm voice: "Filidice, you are relieved of all your official duties until Pakken completes her evaluation of your mishandling of the investigation into the kidnappings and the mysterious disappearance of the ransom money."

Filidice instantly began to complain, "But we discovered Bandolio's accomplice and also captured Dirrig..." His voice faded away as he felt and fully appreciated the stern gaze of Shermatz. Two grim and efficient Whelm officers stepped forward; each took hold of one of Filidice's arms and marched him away to a waiting aircar.

Pakken spat into the water below the dock and snarled, "I'm afraid I've already made up my mind: Filidice should be prosecuted for falsely imprisoning Akadie the mentor."

Shermatz looked up into the frowning face of Tarry Pakken. Her large, sad eyes and the muscles that seemed to always tense her rather square jaw reminded Ryl of her dark past. Pakken's black, untamed mane of hair accented her raw and unsuppressible femininity. She had rather large hands and feet that had each been crafted and hardened into deadly weapons.

Shermatz knew that as a young girl, Tarry had been kidnapped and enslaved by starmenters and memories of her mistreatment were never far from her thoughts. Now, the Connatic relied on Pakken for decisive action in difficult situations.

Shermatz had worked with Pakken on dozens of worlds where extraordinary social upheavals like Trullion's Fanscherade revolution had played out. Shermatz knew Pakken's ferocity and commitment to social justice and she played the part well: tall and sculpted from bone, muscle and gristle, she showed no qualms at handing out punishment to nefarious government officials.

Shermatz nodded in agreement with Pakken's judgment. "Keep a close eye on the jailer, Lucian Dual. At the very least he cooperated with Filidice to hold Akadie in that eerie dungeon at Welgen." Shermatz briefly reflected on the public implements of torture that were arrayed in front of Welgen's jailhouse. The inhabitants of the Fens, with their long history of taking revenge on starmenters, cultivated and deployed a refined indifference to the suffering of captured criminals.

A merlank on the globe.
Pakken patted the equipment pouch that she wore on her hip. Shermatz knew that she always carried a powerful device that could be used to inactivate a suspect's mental defenses and allow interrogators to probe for concealed knowledge about past crimes. "I'll carefully examine Dual's guilt before allowing him the pleasure of dancing on his own prutanshyr."

Shermatz made a mild gesture to suggest moderation. "Another matter: apparently half the aristocratic families of Trullion are dominated by matriarchs. Most of those clans long ago let lapse their subscriptions to the Order of Aristocrats."

Pakken had read a few background reports about the history of Trillion while inbound, but her knowledge of this world was meager. She asked, "Need I only investigate those Lords who are members of the Order?"

Shermatz shook his head and replied, "I suggest that you use your charms and try to infiltrate the group of matriarchs who have distanced themselves from the Order of Aristocrats. They may have valuable insights and information that they would share with you."

Pakken laughed loudly. "Charms! I've never needed charm while wielding a mind probe device."

"Well, perhaps you can make the matriarchs a side project. They seem indifferent to hussade, so almost none of those families was inconvenienced by Bandolio's raid on the Welgen hussade stadium. I'm not happy with myself for almost completely failing to notice the existence of these matriarchs."

"If they keep to themselves and stay out trouble then why not ignore them?"

Shermatz rubbed his chin and briefly pondered the question of just how much he could tell Pakken without risking exposure of his secret plans. "I've learned this much: several of the matriarchs were supporters of Fanscherade, so I'm curious about their role in the recent warfare here on Trullion." Shermatz could not restrain the speculation: was there a force at work, pushing the Order of Aristocrats towards extinction? He gave a delicate shrug and outlines a plan of action fro Prakken. "So, please take the time to carefully investigate all those Lords who pressured Filidice to act rashly and falsely imprison Akadie, but if the opportunity arises, also interview some of the matriarchal Ladies who were involved in launching the Fanscherade movement."

Pakken gave her head a shake that made her wild hair shift like wind-blown leaves. "I still harbor suspicions about Akadie. Why was he so quick and willing to collect the ransom money for Bandolio?"

Shermatz shrugged. "I'll be interested to read your report on Akadie, but know this: I've already carefully explored his involvement in this case. He has a strange past and a unique perspective on the aristocrat class of the Fens. Currently I have him working on a little information collating project for me, so until further notice, don't disturb him."

Pakken objected, "You made me Governor, so I'll make it my business to disturb anyone who helped Bandolio."

Shermatz explained some more background of the case: "I strongly suspect that Lord Gensifer was responsible for Akadie's tangential involvement with Bandolio. Almost certainly it was he who suggested to the space pirate Lempel that Akadie be appointed to collect the ransom money. When the money was mysteriously lost, Lord Gensifer became desperate and he rather too forcefully tried to put pressure on Akadie. Due to Akadie's dark past, Gensifer knew that he could turn the Lords against Akadie. Gensifer correctly expected that the aristocratic Lords would react as a unified group and they would all call for the constables to imprison Akadie."

"Gensifer was a sly one, but fortunately you were on hand and able to save Akadie from the gathering lynch mob." Having just arrived on Trullion, Tarry was still feeling somewhat disoriented. In an attempt to pry a few more details and insights out of Ryl, Pakken asked, "What is so special about Akadie's past life?"

Shermatz replied, "You'll have no difficulty discovering the story of Akadie's past; it is essentially an open secret. Still, it concerns a matter that just is not discussed in the overly-polite society of Trullion's aristocracy. Through the years, Akadie has made himself useful, so he is tolerated by the Lords, but at the same time they all revel in shared recognition of his inferiority. Akadie is a living warning to the Lords."

Pakken tried to understand what Shermatz was talking about and suddenly remembered an odd detail from Akadie's dossier. She said, "I don't understand what I've read about Akadie's mother."

"On Trullion, many people are captured and killed by the merlings. Officially, 'capture by merlings' was given as the cause of her disappearance, but who knows for sure? Probably not Akadie since he was just two years old when she vanished." Shermatz gazed into the dark water below the dock where only a few hours previously Lord Gensifer had been downed by a merling.

Ryl had already dispatched a fleet of robotic and remotely controlled submersible vehicles to probe and map the merling caves below the Fens. Schermatz wanted definite confirmation of Lord Gensifer's death. Too many times in the past, starmenters and their accomplices had slipped away, elusive as eels. Sometimes Ryl wondered if there were starmenter spies within the ranks of the Whelm who gave support to space pirates.

His thoughts returned to the present and he continued briefing Pakken, "There might be more layers to this affair than are immediately obvious. I can't believe that either Filidice or Dual would violate their oath of office unless they were put under extreme pressure by a group of Lords. We now know that at least two of the local Lords had dealings with space pirates. The Fens might be home to other retired starmenters in addition to Dirrig. Plots and dirty dealing against Akadie might extend far beyond just Thammas Gensifer."

Intrigued by the concept, Pakken asked, "Do you have evidence of this?"

Shermatz shrugged once more and grinned knowingly. "Call my suspicions a hunch, a guess founded on my long study of Whelm security reports. Filidice himself might be a useful source of information, so subject him to careful mind probing. Through the years I've seen several cases where the top law enforcer leads a double life and is actually a puppet of the region's criminals."

Pakken suggested, "Why not let me spend a few days perusing those security reports?"

Shermatz chuckled, "That I would never do. The reports are crafted specifically for the Connatic. Occasionally he passes a report on to me, but their content is sensitive and viewed by the Connatic as top secret. No, if those reports fell into your hands, you'd soon have a quarter of the Cluster's population in concentration camps, on the basis of pure suspicion."

"Bah!" Pakken had no patience for Ryl's mystery games. "You and the Connatic just enjoy the sport of hunting down starmenters." Pakken gave Shermatz a quick salute and flew off in her sleek spaceship to Welgen.

Watching the departing ship, Shermatz reflected on the concept of sport. It was a fact that all observers and commentators identified hussade as the most popular sport in the Cluster, but for centuries there had been far more people in the Whelm hunting starmenters than there were active hussade players. Even the space pirates themselves seemed to enjoy the sport of raiding and pillaging and challenging the Whelm to hunt them down. Few starmenters were like Dirrig, deciding to retire before they could be captured by the Whelm. Most died at work, seemingly addicted to the dangerous sport of playing cat and mouse with the Whelm.

And what of the Connatic, absolute ruler over the trillions of folk who lived in the Cluster? Through all the long history of Alastor Cluster, had the many Connatics each allowed starmenting to continue and flourish, perhaps just so that they would have a sport to keep them occupied?

Shermatz was now almost ready to depart from Five Islands; only one last matter lingered in his thoughts and kept him from returning to space. Just then, one of Filidice's search teams, returning to the dock from the Outer Banks, passed close by the officers of the Whelm.

Responding to a question from a junior officer, the posse told Shermatz that they had seen Glinnes Hulden less than an hour previously. The leader of the deputies was a golden-eyed woman who doubtlessly carried Trevanyi genes. She told Ryl, "He's with the woman who Lord Gensifer was going to wed today." Shermatz glanced off into the sea haze that shimmered over Thoune Bridge.

The deputies, who had been called in from Saurkash by Filidice, quickly got into their skiff and sped away from the dock. They were all happy to have spent only a short time on the day's "emergency" and grateful to be returning to their homes in time to enjoy their dinners.

Shermatz reflected on the events of the day and, particularly, the 30 million ozols of lost ransom money that had not been officially accounted for. The local Lords would, for a time, nurse resentments over the lost ransom money. Ordinary Trills, such as the members of the Saurkash posse, would soon forget the events of the day and give little thought to Lord Gensifer's ghastly fate.

Shermatz could easily picture the local deputies at their ease later that night. He envied them their blissful existence. They would all be enjoying their star-watches and other simple pleasures that evening. If they bothered to think about Lord Gensifer being eaten by merlings, they'd shrug and mutter to their friends, "He got what he deserved for working with starmenters!"

In contrast, the local Lords were still seething in frustration over having paid ransom to the space pirate Bandolio. Shermatz knew that conventional wisdom among the residents of the Fens suggested that the wealth of the Lords (more than the prospect of enslaving the beautiful youth of Trullion) was what attracted starmenters to Trullion. However, Shermatz was always suspicious of the easy answers that sprang from conventional wisdom.

In this particular case, almost certainly Glinnes Hulden, Squire of Rabendary Island, knew what had become of the "lost" ransom money. Shermatz mused and imagined possibilities for the future: by allowing Glinnes to keep the fortune, perhaps there might arise a new avenue of investigation into the vast interstellar network of the starmenters. Shermatz knew that a skeleton in Glinnes' closet had limited his opportunities for advancement in the Whelm, but sometimes a dark sheep was needed...

Alastor Cluster was a collection of mostly ancient stars, although it had recently passed through the lens of the galaxy and had gravitationally captured a new supply of metal-rich gas which had triggered the formation of some very young stars that burned brightly among sparkling nebulae. A hodge-podge of old and new, Alastor Custer had gravitationally captured some younger stars and planets with high metal content. The life-bearing planets of the oldest stars were mostly large water worlds, but some of the younger planets of the Cluster such as Trullion had continents that attracted human settlers.

The Cluster had originally been settled by starmenters, criminals and others at the fringes of galactic civilization. Some of those who had colonized the 3,000 Earth-like worlds of the Cluster were only seeking solitude, but for its first thousand years the Cluster had been a haven for pirates who frequently returned to the heavily populated planets of the Reach seeking material plunder and human slaves. Later, the precursors of the Whelm had arrived, seeking out and obliterating the bases of the most vile space pirates. The more clever and devious starmenters found ways to hide from the Whelm and continued their piracy.

Shermatz had studied the history of Trullion. One of the legendary settlers of the planet Trullion was Geamak the Ghostking. His home base had been near Melbo Bay where the great limestone caves served to hide his fleet of pirate ships. Eventually, after discovering Geamak's base of operations and killing Geamak, the Whelm established its own local planetary headquarters in the nearby town of Gaetu. From then on, Trullion could no longer be a home port for space pirates and the world entered into the vast, ever expanding domain of human civilization. Still, across the subsequent millennia of civilized existence, Trullion was renowned for its higher than average number of pirate raids, particularly when the statistics were adjusted for the rather low population and relative lack of wealth among the placid Trills who made up the vast majority of the world's population.

Source. (click image to enlarge)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

League of Yrinna is a fan fiction
sequel to Trullion.
Glinnes and Duissane had spent the late afternoon walking along the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks and occasionally sharing a few words that clicked and clinked together like steel puzzle pieces. Really, there was little to be said and they both simply felt the need for quiet comfort with another person who had lived through the recent termoil on Trullion.

Now, with the sun dropping towards the horizon, they still had not managed to imagine a stable picture of a shared future together, but they walked hand-in-hand as they came back across Thoune Bridge toward Lord Gensifer's stately manse. From the high arch of the pedestrian bridge, with the sun at their backs like a glowing sore oozing orange sea haze, their eyes were struck by a glorious mix of pastels where the sky and the forested islands of the Fens merged into the sun-spangled water ways.

While Glinnes and Duissane paused for a moment at the highest part of the bridge, they saw streaking off towards the west a sleek spaceship of the Whelm. The ship had risen from behind a row of tall trees beside Lord Gensifer's dock. Glinnes tugged on Duissane's arm and hurried her off the bridge and then along the stone path that led towards Lord Gensifer's private estate. Glinnes hoped for a chance to have one last word with Ryl Shermatz.

Shermatz saw the couple as soon as they stepped onto the dock. Turning away from a pair of junior Whelm officers who he had been conferring with, Shermatz waved to Glinnes and stepped towards him. The Inspector called down the length of the dock, "There you are! I'd feared that you had already gone home. I have news for you."

Glinnes said, "First, allow me to introduce you to Duissane Drosset."

Shermatz approached the handsome couple and bowed to Duissane. "I hope you are recovering from the sudden loss of Lord Gensifer. I argued on your behalf that you should inherit Lord Gensifer's estate, but the Lords who paid out ransom to Sagmondo Bandolio intend to divide up Gensifer's wealth among themselves."

Shermatz turned to Glinnes, "The same goes for Alonzo Dirrig's wealth, although Akadie and I did convince the Lords and the constables that you are the rightful owner of Ambal Isle."

Speaking once more to Duissane, Shermatz used a voice of delicate concern, "Is there anything I can do for you at this time?"

Duissane quietly replied, "I appreciate your kindness, but you need no worry about my plight. Glinnes has promised to care for me and my family."

Glinnes added, "Duissane lost her father in the violence at the Vale of Green Ghosts and ever since the battle she has been separated from her mother. We would be grateful if there is some way that you could use your influence to motivate the police to investigate the current whereabouts of Tingo Drosset and Duissane's grandmother, Immifalda."

Shermatz sighed and briefly used his bionic datalink to consult a list of known refugees from the Vale of Green Ghosts. There had been many Trevanyi death rituals being played out since the battles between the Fanschers and the Trevanyi. The Trevanyi clans demanded privacy for their rituals, so little was known even about the actual number of dead.  "Your local police are not at all effective. Rather than involve them, I'll deploy a detachment of the Whelm and find Duissane's remaining family members. I wish you both a happier future." Shermatz turned, strode the length of the dock and conferred with the Whelm officers who had waited patiently for him to finish his conversation with Glinnes. The Over-Inspecter issued orders, initiating a search for Tingo and Immifalda.

Glinnes and Duissane stepped into the boathouse and used the communicator to call his friend Carbo Gilweg. Carbo soon arrived in his runabout and took them to Rabendary while listening with amazement to the outcome of the day's events.

Carbo, rushing off to a star-watch, left Glinnes and Duissane at the Rabendary dock. Glinnes' brother Glay had been eating his super on the porch of the Hulden family house. He waved to the couple and called through the twilight, "Welcome home. Are you rushing off again? Come and eat with me."

Ignoring his brother's offer, Glinnes helped Duissane in the little boat that was tied to the dock. "I need to check on Ambal."

Glay nodded and said, "There are police guards on duty." Having risen to his feet, he now turned and returned indoors for a second serving of toasted rock fish.

With the stars beginning to glitter in the evening sky, Glinnes and Duissane slowly paddled across Ambal Broad, watching the great manse shift in and out of the cover of the giant trees that graced the park-like Ambal Isle. Lights shown in the windows of the mansion. After decades of gloomy abandonment, Glinnes still found it odd to see human activity on Ambal Island.

A voice called to them from a row of dark kepthorn bushes along the shore, "Who approaches?"

A uniformed constable stepped out upon the dock and caught the mooring line that Glinnes tossed over. Glinnes identified himself, "I am Glinnes Hulden, Squire of Rabendary. With Dirrig evicted, I am once again the owner of Ambal Island."

The Guard stonily nodded her head and secured the little boat to a piling. "You may own the Island, but Dirrig's personal belongings are all being confiscated." The deputy uneasily eyed Duissane and her wedding gown. Still uncertain about the day's events on Five Islands, she gestured up the path and murmured, "This way, my Lady." The threesome walked from the dock up the path to the manse and she explained, "Tomorrow all of Dirrig's things will be taken to Welgen and then auctioned." She looked suspiciously at Duissane, a golden-eyed Trevanyi dressed as an aristocrat. "Until then, we're on guard against thieves and looters. The hoard of expensive toys and rare art that was accumulated here by Dirrig is astonishing..."

Another police guard opened the door and allowed Glinnes and Duissane to enter. No one else was present in the big house. Responding to Glinnes' questions, the guard described how Durrig's servant, the dark hulking giant, had already been removed from Ambal and taken into custody by the police. Shaking his head with disgust, the guard commented further, "Imagine: retired starmenters living here in the Fens! We should not make it so easy for such vermin immigrate to Trullion."

An hour later, Glinnes and Duissane and completed their exploration of Ambal Island. They had wandered through all of the old manor house, marveling at the expensive furnishings that had been brought in from off-world by Alonzo Dirrig. 

Glinnes was bewildered by the assortment of expensive devices that Dirrig had installed in the house, including an array of automated robotic conveniences. The police guard allowed Glinnes to distinguish between the older contents of the manse and Dirrig's recently-added possessions. Glinnes carefully labelled those pieces of original furniture that remained from Lord Ambal's occupancy of fifty years previously.

Glinnes called Young Harrad in Saurkash and requested water taxi service. He and Duissane then paddled back across Ambal Broad to Rabendary dock.

Having completed his one pressing task as Squire of Rabendary, Glinnes paused just long enough on Rabendary Island to inform Glay of his plans. "Please tell mother that I'll be in Gaetu, staying at the Miramare."

Glay told Glinnes, "Tyran Lucho called twice today. The Tanchinaros are trying to schedule a game."

Glinnes nodded in understanding, but had nothing to say. Hussade was now the least of his concerns.

Glay asked, "What should I tell your teammates? Will you rejoin the Tanchinaros when you return from Gaetu?"

"Lucho and the Tanchinaros will have to do without me, at least for the foreseeable future." Glinnes stepped inside to get his overnight bag and filled it with a few belongings.

Rejoining Glay and Duissane on the porch, Glinnes looked around and he tried desperately to freeze this lovely view of Rabendary Island in his memory. He felt himself being dragged away from his dear home by mysterious forces that were beyond imagination and outside of his control. He told his brother, "I plan to be back here in a week or so, but call me at the Miramare if the Whelm locates any of Duissane's family."

Miramare Tower
One of Harrads runabouts came racing down Farwan Water, driven by a young boy who worked for the water taxi service. Glinnes and Duissane jumped aboard the boat. At Glinnes' command, the boy drove at a leisurely pace through the Fens towards Welgen.

The waterways glowed and sparkled, now lit by a sky full of bright stars. Glinnes and Duissane reclined on the passenger couch and Glinnes used the stars like a map to point out the far worlds that he had visited while he served in the Whelm. They caught the evening ferry from Welgen to Port Maheul and then a flight to the other side of Merlank. A half hour before midnight, they stepped into their luxurious suite at the Miramare resort in Gaetu.

Ten years previously, upon joining the Whelm, Glinnes had done his initial training at the Academy for Recruits in Gaetu. After six months at the Academy, Glinnes had been sent off world for officer's training.

Duissane walked around, exploring the large suite and its plush furnishings and then she turned to Glinnes, "Is it safe to begin spending your money so openly?"

Glinnes wrapped his free arm around Duissane and kissed her nose. "It is your money as much as mine. After what you've been through, you deserve something nice." Glinnes did indeed constantly feel nervousness. With Duissane's hands softly exploring his body, Glinnes finally dropped the bag that now contained the "appropriated" loot. For a few sweet minutes he tried to pay attention only to the magical woman he held in his arms, but part of his mind was distracted with the knowledge that he needed to buy a money vest so that he could wear the "lost" ransom money strapped to his body.

Glinnes had not yet spent a single ozol of the ransom money. With the Whelm now swarming over the Fens and carefully investigating the recent starmenter raid on Welgen, Glinnes dared not put any of the money that Akadie had collected back into circulation. He'd carefully examined the money and had found no electronic tracking devices, but the serial numbers on the bills had probably all been recorded. Imagining what it would be like to be caught with the money and tortured like a criminal on the prutanshyr in Welgen Square, Glinnes squirmed with discomfort and his back stiffened.

Sensing his tense mood, Duissane glanced into Glinnes' eyes and then rested her head against his chest. Allowing her ardor to cool a few degrees, briefly she thought of Lord Gensifer and his cold bones now stripped of flesh and stacked in some merling's cave. She had never cared for Lord Gensifer as a man, only for the opportunity to share his wealth and privileged position. It seemed a strange and wonderful dream to suddenly be free of Gensifer and in Glinnes' embrace. She again looked up into Glinnes' face and asked, "How did you know that Tammi was working with Bandolio?"

Before replying, Glinnes put his bag in the bedroom closet and then he flipped up the data console and ordered a meal to be delivered to them in their suite. He led Duissane out on their balcony from which they had a dazzling view of the glittering star-lit Gaetine Bay. From the vantage of the top floor of the tall, thin Miramare Hotel, the lights of the waterfront sparkled and shown, spread out below like a toy city. Glinnes felt a sense of unreality and marveled at the delightful sensation of Duissane's warm body pressed against his side. For a moment he stroked her soft golden hair and thought of the mysterious events that had brought them together.

Finally Glinnes spoke in reply to the question that Duissane had asked. "There were two things that made me distrust Lord Gensifer. First, the odd way that he described his loss of income: two warehouses looted by a starmenter named Bela Gazzardo. When he told me about his financial difficulties, I even felt a little sorry for him. Later, I checked into his story and, strangely, there had never been a starmenting report about Tammi's loss filed with the Whelm."

Since Duissane did not complain, Glinnes gingerly questioned her about Lord Gensifer, but she seemed to know nothing about his business dealings. Finally she said, "Naturally I was curious, but it was obvious to me that Tammi would never confide in me. He just wanted me as a prize, for decoration."

Their conversation again turned to the problem of Duissane's missing family. She told him several stories about the remarkable life her grandmother had led while her husband served as a tribal chief. "But after my grandfather died, Immifalda gave up her her role as a mischievous match-maker. She never even tried to push me towards marriage."

Glinnes shook his head. "I don't understand why anyone would allow himself to be forced into an arranged marriage."

Duissane explained, "It is not easy for Trevanyi to find a partner. Children are expected to obediently serve their parents, not run around courting each other."

Their meal arrived and at the direction of Glinnes the food was placed on the table out on the balcony. After the team of robotic food servers departed, Glinnes and Duissane seated themselves, but neither of them was particularly hungry and for a time Duissane nibbled a few items, but she mostly watched the city lights. Gaetine Bay was the most cosmopolitan place on Trullion, but it only had a population of 50,000, many of them tourists. Still, Duissane had never seen such a center of activity, sparkling with lights from brightly colored aircars flitting from place to place around the bay.

Casting his glance over the rich food on the table, Glinnes reflected on the simple life style that they both had been born into. His father, Jut, had always enjoyed the simple pleasures of life and the Trevanyi, living at the margin of society, seldom had a permanent home, let alone any significant material wealth.

While in the Whelm, Glinnes had been exposed to wealth and expensive technological gadgets like robots, but he had never related such luxuries to himself and the simple life he had led as a Trill. For a moment he pictured himself on a beach in the Fens with Tyran Lucho and the rest of the Tanchinaros, enjoying a star-watch after a hussade match. That was the type of living that Glinnes enjoyed. Next, he tried to include Duissane in that imaginary scene of ordinary Trill life, but the fantasy collapsed under the weight of absurdity. After what they had been through, how could he ever again lead the simple life of a Trill in the Fens? And what of Duissane? Could she ever accommodate herself to living with him if he insisted that she adopt a Trill lifestyle? No, the idea was absurd... what then the future?

Finally Duissane emerged from her own musings and noticed that Glinnes was deep in contemplation. "What was the second thing?"

Glinnes looked up. "Eh? Oh, yes." For a moment he just looked at Duissane, gloriously beautiful in the soft night light of the hotel balcony. "I'd remembered a story from when I was a boy. Did you ever wonder how my father came to own Ambal Isle?"

Duissane replied, "I'd heard he made a fortune as a hussade player."

"That's almost true, and Ambal Isle was bought with a hussade gambling fortune, but it was money won by Jut's father; my grandfather. The real mystery is what happened to the last living Lord Ambal and why the manor house on Ambal Isle was put on the market. This story is now fifty years old and it may have become distorted with time, but..."

Again Glinnes fell silent. Duissane stood up and walked around the table. She took hold of his hand and asked, "What?"

Glinnes looked up at her, and he sat for a minute, enthralled by the sight. Duissane's golden hair with reddish accents shimmered in the decorative party lights of the balcony and her curls framed her face which was now nearly hidden in shadows: only her odd yellow eyes visible. His thoughts drifted into the darkness. For a moment he could see an image of himself with Duissane: they were on a strange, distant planet, then her spell snapped and he felt a shock; he looked around in wonder, surprised to find himself back in his normal material surroundings. He felt a chill up the spine, more from his odd vision than from the cool night air. He pulled her by the hand and said, "Come, the night air is growing cold." Tendrils of thickening sea fog were over-riding the lights of the city below.

They stepped off the balcony and went back inside. Glinnes picked up Duissane and carried her to their bedroom. He gently set her down on the end of the large bed and proceeded to pace for a minute in silence, deep in thought. Finally he said, "I heard many strange tales when I was a boy. Sometimes I listened to my parents talking when they thought I was asleep. Also, I listened to rumors from my young friends and like a good Trill, I enjoyed creating and spreading my own rumors... One of the stories I remember hearing was that Tammi's father had murdered Lord Ambal."

Duissane showed no surprise. "Tammi never spoke to me about his family, but the Trevanyi have many oft-spoken sayings about the aristocrats and their decadence."

Glinnes let his thoughts drift back through the years to his childhood. "We loved to tell tales about the enormities of Lords and Ladies... no Trill ever takes most of the rumors seriously, but in this case there were witnesses and criminal complaints were filed..." Glinnes continued to pace beside the bed. "Fifty years ago there had been a huge starmenter raid, with four pirate ships simultaneously raiding the Fens... a coordinated attack on Welgen, Saurkash, Galgade and Erch. Tammi's mother was among those who were taken away by the pirates and never seen on Trullion again. Then a month later, Tammi's father killed Lord Ambal. As I recall the story, Lord Gensifer claimed self-defense, and there were no witnesses who dared contradict him during the trial. Half the residents of the Fens believed that Tammi's father should die on the prutanshyr as a murderer, but nothing was proved. Supposedly there were off-world relatives of Lord Ambal, but apparently none of them ever arrived on Trullion before my grandfather bought Ambal Island and gained possession of the old manor house. He called it a Trill duty to take Ambal away from the aristocrats..."

Glinnes noticed that Duissane was slipping out of her clothes. Her lovely body began to emerge into full view and he felt his heart start racing. Duissane slowly pulled off the ritual wedding gown that she had been wearing with great anticipation when Lord Gensifer had died. The gown was designed to peal off in a half dozen diaphanous layers. Now she was watching to see Glinnes' reaction. She wanted to remove all memory of Lord Gensifer from her mind. The dress, when fully assembled, was of simple and elegant appearance and it had clung lovingly to her curves, but Duissane made a bundle of the slightly glowing and expensive fabric and simply threw it towards a waste basket in the corner of the room. Now Duissane only wore a knife sheath that was strapped to her left thigh. She pulled a slim, evil dagger from the sheath and looked into his eyes. "I need to share a secret with you, Glinnes."

Glinnes, fixated on the glittering weapon, nervously licked his lips. She approached him, holding the knife between them. "I almost told you this story on that first night, when I came to Rabendary and seduced you..." For a moment she seemed lost in thought, then she again focused her eyes on Glinnes. "This is the dagger that killed your brother Shira." Her eyes glittering, she continued, "He hired my parents and brothers to play music at a star-watch on Rabendary. Then in the middle of the festivities, he came to my tent. I was frightened, but for a while we talked and he tried to make me drink wine." Duissane was an expert wielder of knives. As she spoke she casually flipped the dagger into the air and caught it effortlessly.

Glinnes, watching the dagger, asked in a hushed voice, "You killed my brother?"

"He'd brought cauch for me...he was already intoxicated, drugged and reeking of passion. He tried to force himself on me, but Immifalda heard his crass proposal. She went and got my father." Duissane said no more.

Glinnes wanted to hear no more. He'd already heard the rest of the story from her father. "What did your father do with Shira's body?"

She shuddered and replied, "I don't know. I didn't want to know."

Glinnes wondered: had Duissane killed Shira? Or had Vang Drosset taken her knife and done the bloody work? Did it matter?

 Duissane turned away and went to sprawl seductively across the bed.

Glinnes undressed and joined Duissane in bed. She said, "Today is a new day, the start of our life together. I want to forget all about Tammi, Shira...all of the horrible past."

Glinnes said no more about the past, but one idea had solidified in his mind. At some point in the past Tammi had begun doing business with starmenters, eventually leading to the recent pirate raid. What if Tammi's father had been the source of his original inroads to the secret world of the space pirates?

With Duissane warm and radiant in their bed, Glinnes wasted no further thoughts on the starmenters, but thoughts of his own family and its mysterious past crept into his thoughts even while he held Duissane in his arms. There was a mystery that haunted him, like a cold ghost that he could not abandon in the past. Glinnes noticed that Duissane still held the wicked dagger tightly in her hand. He unbuckled the leather dagger sheath and removed it from Duissane's taught leg. She slipped the dagger back in the sheath and he tossed it on the bed beside them.

2. During their first few days together, Duissane did some shopping and had begun to build up a wardrobe, mostly of rich off-world garments which she seemed to enjoy showing off in the Miramare's grand dining room. Glinnes felt rather silly pretending to be a wealthy tourist, but he wore the almost military-style clothes that Duissane bought for him and he successfully blended in with the locals.

Like his father Jut, Glinnes had never learned an appreciation for spending money. Seeing how much Duissane enjoyed spending, he worried that his supply of ozols were quickly evaporating. Luckily, he would not have to pay the bill at the Miramare until they checked out and the local shops all seemed willing to append their bills to Glinnes's account at the Miramare. Of course, he had brought Duissane to Gaetu for a purpose other than spending money...still, he had to admit that Duissane was radiant and magnificent in her stylish clothing.

Glinnes gradually realized that Duissane had first been enthralled by the fashion trend that the Fanschers had launched then she had taken notice of hussade and the bright colors of the teams' uniforms. Now, in Gaetu, Duissane was impressed by the uniforms of all the Whelm officers, many of whom could be seen in and around the Miramare. Duissane seemed to have as much concern for how Glinnes dressed as for her own appearance. Enjoying the long days in close proximity to the golden Duissane, Glinnes was willing to relax and let her have her fun by treating him like a dress-up doll.

On their third evening in Gaetu, Duissane carefully dressed Glinnes for dinner in a deep purple suit of soft fabric. She told him, "You look like a prince. Thank you for wearing the clothes that I buy for you." During their meal, she sat close to his side and often rested her hand on his sleeve. After dinner they went for a stroll along the shore and they walked arm-in-arm under a sky of watching stars.

Upon returning to the Tower, Duissane made one last tour of the lobby to show off Glinnes. She clung to him, one arm through his and her other hand reaching across her body to also hold his hand. When she had exhausted the available audience, she whispered in his ear, "Now I want to undress you." In the elevator, Duissane put her hands on his shoulders and caressed the rich fabric of his shirt. "The only thing more pleasant than playing dress-up with you is knowing that each day I'll be getting several opportunities to undress you."

The elevator opened and Duissane eagerly pulled him by the hand in the direction of their awaiting bed. They were walking down the hallway, returning to their suit on the top floor of the Miramare Tower, when they suddenly heard a deep voice behind them, "Glinnes Hulden?"

Glinnes turned and saw their neighbors from the suite just down the hall. A tall Whelm officer now strode towards them, hand extended. "I thought it was you." Glinnes allowed his hand to be shaken and examined the medals and insignia on the man's unifom.

Glinnes had previously had a glimpse or two of their neighbors, but now he asked, "Do I know you, Admiral?"

The man grinned, "No reason why you should. I'm Admiral Lane, retired. I remember watching you play hussade in fleet championship matches. I take it you are now retired yourself?"

"Yes, after my father died a few months ago, I resigned my commission and returned home, here on Trullion."

Loreene Lane
The Admiral bowed to Duissane, "If I'd had such a treasure awaiting me at home, I'd never have gone into the Whelm. But I went off to the stars and found my Herassina." He turned and beckoned to the two women who waited down the hall. "My dear wife Hera and our daughter Loreene whose husband in stationed here at the local training Academy."

Glinnes introduced himself and Duissane to the two ladies, "We are here enjoying the resort for a few days."

Loreene, who Glinnes judged to be a few years older than himself, spoke to Duissane, "How did you entice Glinnes to retire at such a young age? I've had no such luck with my man."

Duissane shyly replied, "I had nothing to do with his decision to retire. Glinnes is probably just as hard-headed as anyone in the Whelm."

The Admiral laughed, "Being hard-headed is certainly one of the qualifications for officer training in the Whelm. Well, I don't want to keep you two standing here in the hallway. Maybe we could have dinner together some evening."

Glinnes bowed to the two ladies and felt Loreene's dark eyes upon his own. She was tall, like the Admiral and Glinnes found her features to be exotic, not like those of a typical Trill. Her slightly wavy brown hair tumbled past her neck to her shoulders. Both she and her mother wore simple but elegant gowns and some flashy jewelry, not at all of the the folk art variety favored on Trullion.


The next day, Glinnes awoke to find himself alone in bed. The muffled sound of voices came through the door. The bed looked like a battle field. Glinnes paused to pick up scattered pillows and bedding from the floor and toss it all back on the bed. He found Duissane's knife and set it on the night stand. Listening to the muffled voices from the next room, Glinnes decided that he could hear Duissane talking to another woman. Apparently she had not felt the need to strap on her knife before allowing this visitor into the suite.

Glinnes quickly dressed and emerged from the bedroom to find Loreene and Duissane eating together in the breakfast nook and making plans for the day.

Duissane jumped up from the table and hugged Glinnes, "Do you forgive me for sneeking out of bed?"

"I will, if you forgive me from interrupting your breakfast chat." He gently kissed Duissane's forhead, but she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and kissed his lips.

Loreene said, "My husband's habit is to be up each day before dawn, like a good officer of the Whelm. If he can sleep in, Glinnes seems to have adjusted well to civilian life."

Glinnes saw that neither Loreene nor Duissane were yet dressed for the day. They both wore the silken robes that were provided to guests by the Resort.

Glinnes reluctantly pried himself out of Duissane's warm embrace and looked over the array of food that had been delivered and set out on the bar. He sampled a berry and said, "I still like to rise early and go for a run. That's my sports training. Hussade players can't afford to lose their stamina."

Duissane said to Loreene, "I first witnessed it while I was sheirl on the hussad field, but this week I've developed a new appreciation for Glinnes' stamina."

Loreene laughed, "Really? Tell me more."

Glinnes chuckled, "This week I've developed a new appreciation for stamina. Duissane is giving me special training, pushing me to heights I'd never even imagined. Not at all what I expected for an innocent Trevanyi girl."

Loreene nodded knowingly, "All it took for me was a brief glance at her wild eyes and the slinky way she walks; I could tell that Duissane is not innocent."

Duissane sat back down next to Loreene and made space on the small breakfast table for Glinnes, "Don't believe a word he says." She whispered to Loreene, "Glinnes has an excellent, or should I say, surprising imagination." She sipped from a goblet of fruit juice.

Loreene said mischievously, "Oh my, you're a lucky girl Duissane. My husband is rather rigid in bed, sometimes barking orders as if I was a recruit in training!"

Duissane laughed, spitting some juice out. She set down the goblet and said, "Of course, Glinnes is rigid, too. I can't complain about that." In the space between herself and Loreene, out of Glinnes' view, she held up an index finger pointed towards the sky.

Loreene said to Glinnes, "When I first saw Duissane, I could tell that she is a seductive siren, but I thought that the sheirls of Trullion all had to be virgins."

Glinnes nodded. "True enough; by convention a Trullion sheirl should be a virgin. And there is a funny story to be told about that. Duissane, tell her about that day in the Magic Tench. I'll be right back, but I need a shower before I'd dare sit close to Loreene." He went off, returning to the bedroom and leaving the two women to finish their meal together.

Loreene's eyes followed Glinnes as he left the room. "Mmmm... he moves like a dancer."

Duissane felt a hot flash of jealousy. "Yes, he's gorgeous." Duissane disliked that way that Loreene looked at Glinnes, like a merlank watching a fly; ready to eat him up. She gave her head a violent shake to dislodge that image from her mind and she forced herself to smile. "And I must confess that I find it difficult to keep my eyes off of your gallant Commander Teheredd. I have a thing for men in uniform. That was him I saw the other night, wasn't it?"

"Yes, he has been spending evenings here while my parents visit, so you probably saw him when we passed you in the lobby two nights ago."

"He is quite dashing. I first noticed him at once, three nights ago, from across the dinner tables. You two are a very flashy couple."

"After all these years I still swoon when I see him in his uniform. But I've learned that the most important thing about officers is getting them out of their uniform, then they are simply men. I fear that my husband will never retire from the Whelm."

Duissane relaxed and admitted to herself that she was enjoying Loreene. Maybe she looked at all men with predatory eyes? She nibbled at a spice cake and said, "You were telling me about your mother."

"So I was. But now I want to hear the story of the Magic Tench."

Duissane told the tale of how she had become a sheirl and how her virginity had been placed under suspicion.

Loreene shook her head, "Growing up as a brat on military bases, I never understood the concept of virginity. I trained in Hemenshi-Cha, which involves physical activities like wrestling boys and swimming in the nude with a group of children. I learned to welcome my urges and the needs of my body. When I was ten or eleven I had to make use of the boys to release our sexual desires so that we could remove the distraction of their erections and get on with our martial arts training. Why is virginity of concern on Trullion?"

Duissane explained, "It is a market phenomenon. Virginity is so rare. On Trullion, most girls start making babies at a young age. The Trills are blatantly sexual and their children are like you, playing erotic games from an early age. However, I was born into a Trevanyi clan and I was expected to guard my virginity until being married."

"That must have been frustrating for you, being embedded in a culture where most girls were free to explore their sexuality."

"It was. I was angry for years, without really knowing why. But now I have Glinnes and he's smoothing away all those years of tension and anger." Duissane reached out and felt Loreene's slim and taught belly. "You've never had children?"

"I'm not really interested in children. Sometimes I think that my hobby of giving birth to stories is the psychic equivalent of making babies. My mother was the same way. She jokes that I was a simple mistake. Still, she was a good mother."

Duissane said, "Tell me more about your mother."

"She's probably awake by now. I could call her over and let her explain everything herself."

"I'd rather hear it from you." Duissane now placed her hand on Loreene's leg. "Do you mind me saying that I feel like you are my sister? I always dreamed of having a sister."

Loreene took hold of Duissane's hand and let their fingers intertwine. "I suppose it comes from being sheirl and standing there in front of a wild have a powerful charisma. I feel like I've always known fact, it just came back to me, I had a dream about you."

"A dream?"

"Last night. You were on a hussade field." For a minute Loreene let the misty dream memories solidify in her mind. "Strangely, I saw Glinnes through your eyes. He approached, flashing down a runway then leaping the gap...he crashed into you and fell...and fell."

"In your dream, Glinnes tanked you?" Duissane giggled nervously. "I fear I can never leave you alone with Glinnes."

Loreene spoke seriously, "No, the dream was about you. You were knocked off of the runway. You fell and fell...I was terrified for you."

"Sometimes I dream of flying, of being held in the arms of a Death Bird."

Loreene shuddered. "But I was you. In my dream, I was inside of you. Now I feel like I understand you, completely. I shared your consciousness."

"If you know me so well, then tell me what will happen to me. I'm so confused. I always tried to be something else, but I am Trevanyi." Duissane rose from the table and threw open a closet. She pulled out a flashy coat that she had purchased and put it on. She had bought the fancy lady's coat two days earlier and worn it that one night only. "How can I be anything else but a Trevanyi? But I love dressing up in disguise and pretending to be a different person."

Loreene asked, "Who do you want to be?"

Duissane replied, "Ever since I was a small girl I've had a vision of my future self. In that fantasy I am a Lady, raising my children in a large mansion." She took off the coat and put it back in the closet.

Loreene said somberly, "You almost achieved that. I still don't understand how Lord Gensifer died."

"It was ghastly. He killed himself rather than let the blood-thirsty Trills torture him to death."

"A nightmare, to be eaten by merlings! But enough of these night-horrors...I was trying to tell you about my mother."

"You said she was in the Whelm."

"Yes, and still is, like my father. They are both Reserve Officers, still on active, but reduced duty. They get to vacation a lot, but they are always on call for new missions. They go on special assignments all through the Cluster." For a while Loreene collected her thoughts. She pushed away her plate, put an elbow on the table and daintily rested her chin upon a palm. Gazing intently at Duissane, their faces only a few inches apart, she said, "Herassina is a sociologist. She can diagnose a sick society like a physician can recognize a fever. She thinks you must be crazy to expect Glinnes, a Trill, to make you happy."

Duissane laughed. "Oh, we tried to hate each other, and failed. From the moment I first saw Glinnes, I knew he was in my life for a reason...I'm not sure what, but we will discover that, together."

"Well, my mother knows nothing about the Trevanyi, so don't let her foolish ideas tarnish your love affair. I can tell that you are happy." Loreene leaned back in her chair and observed, "You simply glow."

Duissane nodded, "I'm deliriously happy and I don't want to spend a minute worrying that my feelings for Glinnes will fade." She finally let go of Loreene's hand and pried open a jelint fruit husk. "How did your parents meet?"

"They met in officers' training school. Herassina taught a course on sociology. My father destroyed her teaching career by seducing her. She got kicked out of the Academy for having fallen in love with a student. She argued that it would only happen once, but in the end she was glad it had happened. For twenty years my parents followed each other around to a dozen planets on various assignments and postings in the Whelm. I grew up living on one world after another. To this day, there is no place I know as home."

Duissane mused, "My family always moved about, too. For me, home is always where I am."

Loreene nodded. "I like living on Trullion. Still, I do get restless if we live on one planet for more than a year. It is an adventure to arrive on a new world and discover a new culture. No two planets of the Cluster are the same!"

Duissane asked, "What do you do with yourself while your husband is training recruits?"

Loreene explained, "I'm a writer. I write mystery stories."

"How marvelous! I'll have to read some of your stories."

"Well, if you do, you might stop feeling like I'm your sister."

"How so?"

"I'm always watching my friends. In fact, last night before I fell asleep I started writing a new story about you."

Duissane tittered modestly, "About me?"

"Well, if I must be honest, so far it is mostly about Glinnes. I started imagining that he is here in Gaetu for a dark purpose."

Duissane was intrigued. She was just about to ask Loreene to explain, but Glinnes returned to the room. Duissane said, "Welcome back. I smell soap on you instead of sweat. Will you join us now?"

Glinnes put some food on a plate and sat down at the little table. Looking at Loreene and Duissane he had they eerie feeling that the two women had been talking about him. Duissane rested a hand on his leg an suddenly an image of the two women holding hands flashed in his mind: dark woman and golden girl, linked like two poles of a dynamek. He blinked and took a sip of his steaming tewa. "I'm glad you two get along. With each passing day I feel increasingly that I can't keep Duissane entertained. I've almost exhausted the tricks in my dating repertoire."

Loreene asked, "So you two are dating, eh? Do you hope to marry Glinnes?"

Duissane lifted Glinnes' hand to her lips and kissed it. She replied, "I'm afraid we are soul mates. Even if we never marry, I intend to be with him the rest of my life."

Glinnes nodded, "Duissane is a witch. From the first day I met her, I've never been able to get her out of my thoughts."

Loreene sighed, "It is fascinating to watch you two. I envy your unity and easy solidarity: you were obviously made for each other. I argue with my husband about everything."

Duissane wondered, "Is it best not to marry?"

Loreene shrugged. "On many worlds marriage is viewed as an annoyance; a social obligation. People who need to be together are together, no matter what."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Later in the afternoon, Duissane, Herassina and Loreene went shopping together while Admiral Lane and Glinnes attended a hussade match. That evening at dinner, Loreene's husband, Commander Teheredd, joined them in the Miramare's grand dining room. The Admiral commented on Duissane's extraordinary attire, "You are an image of fantasy, my dear. If I did not know better, I might guess you had just walked off the pedestal from today's hussade game."

Duissane smiled and made a small unnecessary adjustment to her gown. 

Glinnes watched, marveling at how Duissane had successfully deployed just a few ounces of finely-crafted fabric and succeeded in simultaneously personifying Trevanyi forlostwenna, hussade sashei and the classic elegance of Trullion Ladies. He admitted, "Duissane was at one time sheirl for the Tanchinaros."

"Tanchinaros? I seem to recall..."

"You may have heard of the Tanchinaro victory over the Gorgons, at the match terminated by Sagmondo the Stern's raid on Welgen Stadium."

"Ah, yes. And now Sagmondo is dead, his despicable pirate fleet finally captured by the Whelm." The admiral rubbed his chin. "Duissane, I trust you did not suffer at Sagmondo's hands. He was an evil man."

"I was not captured by the pirates."

"I'm surprised they left behind a prize like you."

"Glinnes acted quickly during the starmenter raid and save both me and the Gorgon Sheirl."

For a time, the dinner table conversation became fragmented while the main courses were served with grace and precision by a team of bustling robots. Herassina, speaking to the Admiral, finally said in a marveling voice, "The amazing part of Duissane's story is that she is Trevanyi."

Gazing speculatively at Duissane and her flashing yellow eyes, Commander Teheredd nodded slowly and commented, "Occasionally there are Trevanyi sheirls here on Trullion, but not often."

Duissane explained, "My brother, Harving, was fascinated by hussade and followed the exploits of all the teams in the Fens. When he saw how good the Tanchinaros were, he suggested to my father that I become their sheirl." She looked towards Glinnes from the corner of her eyes, "I was surprised to find that Glinnes was on the team."

Herassina asked, "Oh, so you two had already met before you joined the Tanchinaros?"

Duissane nodded, "Years before, I had first met Glay, the twin brother of Glinnes. Glay traveled with my family for a while. When our journeys brought us to the Fens, Glay invited us to Rabendary Island where the Huldens lived. But Glinnes was then off planet, serving in the Whelm."

Commander Teheredd mused, "Strange that one boy joined the Whelm and the other became a gypsy."

Duissane asked, "A gypsy?"

Commander Teheredd explained, "Sorry, that is an ancient term, from Old Earth. More often they are known as the Romani. The planet Romanic and its migratory tribes are famous across the Gaean Reach.

Duissane nodded, "We Trevanyi are descended from the ancient Trigane tribe on Romanic."

Glinnes told the Commander about his childhood. "For a time it was my brother who made plans to travel to far worlds. However, when my first love, Loel, became sheirl and then married a Lord, I joined the Whelm. Glay explored all the districts of Trullion and spent time with several Trevanyi clans, eventually ending up back in the Fens just when Fanscherade was taking shape."

Admiral Lane frowned. "Ah, yes, the Fanschers. What has become of them since their bloody battle with the Trevanyi?"

"The Fanscher survivors are now scattered and totally demoralized." Glinnes added, "My brother Glay is a good example. With their great revolution in ruins, I wonder how they will ever adapt themselves to an ordinary Trill life."

Duissane asked Glinnes, "And what of you? How can you even imagine continuing to live the fantsy life of your boyhood self?"

Glinnes laughed. "My whole life seems dream-like. Who knows what the future will bring for us?"

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

After dinner, Commander Teheredd escorted Duissane, Herassina and Loreene to a theatrical performance. Admiral Lane and Glinnes went for a walk. Gaetu had originally been founded on an island off the Merlank mainland and the early settlers had a strong nautical tradition. After the Whelm built the recruit training Academy, the island slowly transformed and was now dominated by retired veterans of the Whelm and tourists. In need of more land, the swamps and byways had gradually been filled and Gaetu was no longer an island; its streets had long ago spilled over and the town now merged seamlessly with the mainland.

As they walked along the waterfront, the two men discussed hussade and the Whelm. Glinnes eventually asked, "Do you intend to retire here on Trullion?"

"No, Herassina and I are just here visiting our daughter. In a few more day's we'll be off. Officially I'm retired, but I'm quite active in the Reserves and we travel all around the cluster. In fact, if you ever become bored with civilian life, you should join the Reserves."

Glinnes shook his head, "My ten years in the Whelm already seem distant, like a mostly-forgotten past life."

The admiral shrugged, "For a fact, Duissane seems like a handful. Not many Trills have the nerve to marry a Trevanyi woman. With her in your life, perhaps you will never become bored."

What had been a hot day had transformed into a warm, muggy night. The two men paused on breezy deck and watched the boat traffic out in the bay.

"Duissane and I are not married. In fact, we've only been together as a couple for a few days."

"Really! You seem quite natural and comfortable together."

"Already I can't imagine living without her."

"Ah, well, you are a lucky man. I'm a bit curious: why would someone of obvious wealth ever join the Whelm?"

"I never knew that my father had wealth until after he died. He trained me to live like a carefree Trill and not think about money."

The Admiral observed, "And now you found a girl who is happy to spend your money."

"If spending money amuses Duissane then that seems a good use for it." Glinnes admitted, "Civilian life has only one disadvantage. I miss having access to the Whelm intelligence service... but I suppose Shermatz will investigate everything and resolve all the mysteries of the Fens."

"You know Ryl Shermatz?"

Glinnes explained to the Admiral how Shermatz had helped uncover both Alonzo Dirrig's attempt to transform into Lord Ambal and Lord Gensifer's dealings with the evil Sagmondo. The admiral laughed, "That's Shermatz, always on hand to make the critical discoveries!"

"You know him well?"

"I work for him. He sends me to hotspots around the cluster where I function as his eyes and ears." The two men stepped into a seaside bar and ordered cold drinks. The admiral quickly downed half a mug of ale and then he asked, "Why do you need access to Whelm intelligence? I thought Shermatz already cleared up all the starmenter mysteries in the Fens."

"There are multiple layers of mystery." For a time, Glinnes sat in thought, watching the bubbles in his mug of ale. Finally he spoke again, "Ten years ago, when I was a trainee here, I saw the piracy statistics. The Fens have always been heavily targeted by starmenter raids."

"Well now, that's true for all of Trullion, not just the Fens. Low population worlds like this get proportionally fewer Whelm patrols and therefor more starmenter raids. It is a well-known correlation, but there is little we can do about it."

"Have you ever heard of a starmenter named Bela Gazzardo?"

"Gaz the Razor?"

"I only heard his name once, from Lord Gensifer."

"When I was a young Patrol Captain, thirty years ago, a Gazzardo was among the top wanted starmenters. Then he disappeared from view."

"If it is the same pirate, then according to Lord Gensifer, he's still active."

Admiral Lane drained his mug. "My work seldom concerns starmenting, but allow me to check my sources. It would be disturbing news if Gaz the Razor were still active and somehow avoiding his fair share of attention from the Whelm."

The next day, while Duissane and Herassina attended a play, Glinnes went to a back alley of Gaetu and exchanged the 30,000,000 ozols of ransom money for 25,000,000 ozols of "clean" money that could not be traced.


3. Glinnes and Duissane had almost a week together in Gaetu. Most of the days they spent their time together, usually relaxing on the nearby resort beaches. Sometimes in the evenings they met the Admiral and his family and sometimes the ladies went shopping together for a few hours in the afternoon.

Finally one day after lunch, their peaceful days of relaxation in Gaetu came to an end. Glay sent word that Tingo and Immifalda Drosset had been brought to Rabendary by the Whelm. Glinnes and Duissane immediately checked out of the Miramare Resort. When Glinnes settled the account, he spent more money in five minutes than he ever had before in his life. Catching the next outbound flight, they returned to the Fens with haste.

Glinnes rented an aircar in Port Maheul and flew directly to Welgen where he paused briefly to transact business at the Welgen Bank. With a half hour to herself, Duissane went to the stadium and let her thoughts return to the day of the starmenter raid. She had watched the game play with mixed emotions, knowing that Lord Gensifer had already promised that they would be wed when her time as sheirl was over. Still, when she had felt a Karpoun hand on the gold ring of her gown and faced denudement in front of the roaring crowd, she had flashed with resentment and looked to Glinnes and the Tanchinaros to defend her.

Departing from Welgen, Glinnes and Duissane went by boat back to Rabendary Island and discovered that Glay had moved the Trevanyi into the manor house on Ambal Isle.

Glinnes and Duissane ascended the curved walkway up to the ornate front door of the manor house, triggering a robotic alarm system that Dirrig had installed. Glay's face appeared on the monitor screen. With more than a bit of exasperation, Glinnes complained, "I knew that someday you would find an excuse to abandon Rabendary and take up residency here."

Glay remotely activated the door opening sequence, allowing Glinnes and Duissane to come into the large entry hall. Glay called to them from down the hallway: "I believe you'll agree with my reasons for not staying in the Rabendary bungalo."

Now entering deeper into the mansion, Glinnes could hear several female voices and a baby crying. Duissane exclaimed, "That sounds like my aunt Nadya!" Leaving behind Glinnes and rushing past Glay, she ran down the hallway.

Glay said, "The Whelm agents found Nadya and her family with Tingo and Immifalda. They also needed a home."

Glinnes stepped into the Grand Parlor and noticed that all of Dirrig's fancy off-world furnishings had been removed, leaving behind only the original, more sedate belongings of Lord Ambal. The old manse was still in excellent condition due to its automated maintenance and cleaning system. Glinnes had heard stories about the mansion's robotic kitchen that during Lord Ambal's tenure would prepare and serve a meal to fifty visiting Lords in Ladies. During his time in residence, Dirrig had spent a fortune upgraded all of the robotic systems in the mansion.

Across the large room, there was Duissane, hugging and kissing her mother, Immifalda. To the right was another woman about Tingo's age and height, who Glinnes assumed to be Nadya. She stood near three children, one a baby who was held in the arms of the oldest child.

Glay pointed to the youngsters and explained to Glinnes, "Those are Nadya's two children. Nadya's man was a tribal hetman, but he was killed along with Vang Drosset during the battle at the Vale of Green Ghosts."

While Duissane excitedly spoke to her mother, Glay continued talking to Glinnes, "Casagave had left behind quite a hoard of food, so it seemed neat and efficient to move the Drosset clan in here rather than try to cram everyone into the house on Rabendary."

Glinnes allowed his ire to evaporate. It would now be useful to have Glay around. He handed his brother an envelop that bore the Welgen Bank symbol. "This bank account holds what remains of Shira's wealth and our inheritance from Jut."

Glay was surprised. "Given the circumstances of Jut's disappearance, I was told that our inheritance would be held by the bank until four years passed."

Glinnes lied, not wishing to reveal that he was now spending the "lost" ransom money. "With help from the Whelm, I've been able to obtain physical evidence that confirms Shira's verbal testimony concerning Jut's death."

Glay raised a quizzical eyebrow, "Physical evidence?"

"The Whelm brought in robotic dredging equipment to find Lord Gensifer's remains and certify his death. Down in the merling cave network, they found thousands of human bones. DNA analysis confirmed that some of the bones were our father's."

Glay asked, "What about Shira?"

"Shira is still officially just a missing person, but as you know, I found his money in the hands of Vang Drosset." Glinnes tapped the bank documents, "Use the money to support Duissane and her family while I am away from the Fens."

Glay opened the envelop and was surprised by the amount of money in the account. "I had no idea that Shira and Jut had been so resourceful."

"Most of the money was originally our grandfather's. As you know, Jut never spent any money."

Glay pocketed the bank account documents and asked, "Where are you off to now?"

Before Glinnes could answer, they were interuppted by more crying from the baby. Glinnes suddenly realized that the oldest child of Nadya was the mother of the infant.

Glay followed his brother's eyes and said, "Her name is Violka: she also lost her husband in the recent warfare."

Glinnes watched Violka nursing the baby and for a moment, quiet fell in the room. Immifalda spoke, "Thank you for taking us in. Good deeds are always repaid."

Glinnes was uncertain if Immifalda had spoken to him or Glay, but Glay nodded and said, "Yes, unless misunderstandings get in the way. From this day on, may we forget past strife between Drossets and Huldens." Everyone in the room nodded and gave murmered acknowledgement of Glay's wishes. Duissane, Nadya and Tingo went to the kitchen to prepare a celebratory reunion meal.

Glinnes now noticed that Violka was a young woman of rather exotic prettiness. In a dozen ways the features of her face reminded him of Duissane, although he guessed that she was about three years younger. He said to Glay, "Well, it looks like you will have your hands full here. I'm leaving at once to go off planet."

Glay mused, "I recall a day when you accused me of making a mess and then running away." He chuckled and showed no ire. "Don't worry, we'll be fine. I feel some guilt for the hardship that Fanscherade brought upon these women. Perhaps it is justice that I be thrust into the role of helping the Drossets get through these evil times"

Glinnes pointed to Nadya's other child, a young boy, who now sat talking to Immifalda. "What's his name?"

"The lad is Meriqano. A sad case; next year, by Trevanyi custom and law, he becomes an adult, but he has no remaining male relatives to initiate him into adulthood."

Glinnes glanced back at Violka. She and the baby seemed to have fallen asleep on the couch. He looked around the room and his gaze fell upon a painting of one of the Lords of Ambal, which one in the dynasty Glinnes could not guess. "Do you remember the story that Jut used to tell about the former Lord Gensifer?"

Glay pondered for a moment then asked, "About the murder of Lord Ambal?"


"Jut told many stories. Do you think that one was more than just fable and fancy?"

Glinnes shrugged. "I'm going to try to find out."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

That night, when Glinnes told Duissane about his plans, she insisted on going with him. Glinnes said, "I thought you'd want to be here with you mother and help her adjust to living on Ambal."

"After all that she's lived through, she'll have no trouble adjusting to a life of peace and ease." Duissane pressed herself close against Glinnes. "I don't want to let you out of my sight."

"I have a job to do. This won't be like a week spent relaxing at the Miramare Resort."

Duissane asked, "Where are you going?"

"To Numenes"

Duissane exclaimed, "I've long dreamed of seeing Lusz!"

"I'll be using the research and library facilities. I won't have time to be a tourist."

"What must you research?"

"That's part of the problem, I'm not entirely sure. Do you remember what I told you about Tammi's father?"

"Do you remember that I want to forget all about Tammi?"

"I've not forgotten that. Your needs are why I thought it best if you stayed here with your mother. I'll be back in a week, possibly two, depending on how easily my researches go on Numenes."

"No, I'm going with you. I don't intend to let us ever again be apart." Laughing like children, they left the manor house and returned to Rabendary, attempting to relive the thrill of their first night together.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

In the morning, Duissane took her leave from Tingo, Immifalda and the rest of her family. She and Glinnes began their journey to Numenes, the Capitol world of Alastor Cluster. Departing from Ambal Isle, Glinnes steered their rented skiff northward and he explained, "Before we leave Trullion, I need to see Akadie." He guided the boat along the misty shore of the Prefecture Commons, where he had once played a merry trick on Vang Drosset.

Duissane asked, "Why are you smiling?"

Glinnes replied, "Do you recall when you used to live here?"

"Of course, but I want to forget all of that, all the struggles I had while trying to make a life for myself." She leaned against Glinnes and shivered: Glinnes could not tell if he shudder was a reaction the cool morning air that rushed past them or if it arose from some memory of her difficult life as a nomad.

They reached the dock at Rorquin's tooth and then made their way to Akadie's front door. This early in the day, Glinnes was not surprised that his mother, Marucha, came to open the door. "Glinnes! I thought never to see you again."

Marucha gave Duissane a cool welcome and led the two guests into the manse. Glinnes was puzzled by his mother's odd comment and said, "It's not that easy to get rid of me."

"Of course not, but Glay told me you are leaving Trullion."

"True, for a quick visit to Numenes. We'll be back soon enough."

Marucha sighed and wistfully exclaimed, "I've always imagined going on a journey through the stars and visiting the great Palace of Lusz!"

Akadie's shouted question was heard from above: "Who is at the door so early in the morning?"

Marucha told Glinnes, "He's up in the North Tower."

Duissane and Glinnes climbed the steps and found Akadie sitting at a great wooden writing desk and surrounded by papers. He put down his pen and exclaimed, "Glinnes! I feared it was another Lord, here to harrass me. They are relentlessly seeking to refill their drained coffers with my ozols." In a puzzled tone, Akadie added,  "And Duissane Drosset?"

Glinnes gestured to the papers on the ancient desk and asked, "What's all this?"

Akadie skowled and replied, "I'm forced to perform another irksome task. Can you believe it? The Lords even confiscated my fee for collecting and delivering the ransom money, hence this new toil, all so I can continue to afford your mother's expensive tastes."

"Why can't you keep the payment for your work? You did your job, performed the needed task. Your fear and worry earned you the ransom collection fee."

Akadie darted a glance at Duissane and commented, "Yes, my work even included being robbed by a group of masked bandits. Fortunately, I had taken sensible precautions against thievery...I performed my task with efficiency and professionalism."

Duissane asked, "Where did you hide the money while awaiting Bandolio's messenger?"

Akadie rubbed his chin and spoke after a quick look at Glinnes, "I'm surprised you could not guess."

Glinnes chuckled and observed, "Duissane does not guess. I'm convinced that she can read minds, both mine and yours. Still, most people believe that you never actually completed your work for Bandolio."

"Yes, yes: I suppose you are here to borrow money! It is a nightmare that will haunt me the rest of my days, but in all honesty, I did my duty and survived, despite the great risk! Now all the identified starmenter funds, including my payment, are going into a pool to compensate the Lords who lost ransom money."

"And for this reason you sit here writing?" Glinnes picked up a sheet of paper from the desk and gazed upon Akadie's hand writing. The page seemed to be an analysis of the family lineage of one of the local aristocratic families. "Writing what?"

Akadie explained, "Do you recall Ryl Shermatz?  He has commissioned me to write a history of the Fanscherade movement. Now I must spend my days researching the tiresome lives of malcontents like Junius Farfan."

"Who cares about the Fanschers? Let their misguided adventure will fade from memory, the quicker the better." Glinnes set the paper back on the desk. "Shermatz must be paying you well if you are willing to put up with such annoyance."

Akadie complained, "Bah! It is money that I already earned by collecting the ransom and passing it on to that vile starmenter's messenger, may he yet be found and duly punished!" Akadie gestured towards the sea of paper on the desk. "Still, I have been led from my study of Farfan into investigation of his family and his connections to the wealthy clans of the district. I've discovered one or two interesting facts during my study of the local aristocrats who supported the Fanschers."

Glinnes pointed to a document on the desk, "This is stamped with the seal of the Order of Aristocrats."

Akadie picked up the document and nodded, "Shermatz gave me access to all of Lord Gensifer's records...some of the dealings, and double-dealings of the Lords are remarkable. As secretary of the Order, Tammi had access to a vast collection of data."

Akadie paused and looked at Duissane. "May I express my condolences for your loss?"

Duissane shrugged and replied, "I'm sure you could guess that my marriage to Tammi was to be one of convenience. I don't mind admitting that I only agreed to become a sheirl out of hope that I would catch the eye of a Lord. That eye happened to be attached to Tammi."

Akadie sighed, "Attracting a Lord is a long and well-trod path towards wealth and comfort. We all do what we can to get through life." He turned to Glinnes, "Still, I'm surprised to see the two of you together. Of course, Glay told Marucha of your trip to Gaetu and your return to the Fens yesterday. And now you two are going off to Numenes?"

Glinnes sat down in a large leather arm chair. "Yes." Duissane sat on one of the arms of the chair and put an arm around Glinnes' shoulders. "Duissane insists on going off world with me."

Akadie glanced at a painting on the wall that depicted the Palace at Lusz. "Well, enjoy your visit to Numenes. Perhaps you will bump into the Connatic!"

Time was pressing. Glinnes changed the subject of the discussion. He asked Akadie, "Did you ever talk to my father about how the Huldens came to own Ambal Isle?"

Akadie seemed shocked by the question. "As you well know, Jut never wanted to have anything to do with me. However, I suspect that you don't know why that was the case."

Glinnes smiled and suggested, "He simply did not like you and the schemes by which you ingratiated yourself with the aristocrats."

Akadie shook his head. "It was never all that simple. It all goes far back to before our fight over Marucha."

Glinnes was puzzled. Here was a story he had never heard. "You two fought over Marucha?"

Akadie slumped against the wall and gazed out the window into the early morning mist. For a minute he thought back across the years and decades. "I offered her the chance to live with me in my little cottage on Serpassante Island. Of course, she chose Jut, who at that time already owned Ambal Isle. It was not until five years later that my brother died and I inherited this manse. Marucha was stuck with Jut and Shira had already been born, although by then she'd given up all hope of getting Jut to move into the manor house on Ambal Isle."

Glinnes reflected. "I never heard how you came to own this mansion."

Akadie flopped into a chair and sighed. "It is not a story that I have ever wanted to tell. After Wendek died, I was the last of our family. I'd taken to calling myself simply "Akadie", my mother's name. I did not want to keep the past alive."

Glinnes said, "Wait, your brother was Wendek? Lord Wendek Ambal?"

"Yes, yes. Legally I must still use my father's family name: that is a condition of my ownership of this mansion and the surrounding land. But to the people of the Fens, I routinely present myself as Janno Arkadie. Now, after all these years, very few trouble themselves to recall the old days and my illegitimate relationship to Lord Ambal."

"You were always Akadie the Mentor, to me."

"So I was, but I was also the bastard son of Lord Ambal. When Wendek learned that he was dying, he had no alternative, and according to the terms of his will, he passed the Ambal family holdings here on Rorquin's Tooth along to me, the illegitimate and disgraceful bastard son."

"So, how did my grandfather come to own Ambal Isle?"

Akadie rubbed his chin, "All that happened long before I was born. Then there was some scandal that involved my father and Jut's father, Danno. A popular rumor was that Danno was involved in the death of my father."

"What? As Jut told the story, Lord Densifer killed Lord Ambal."

Akadie shrugged. "There were several rumors arising from the stories told by different people. But it goes further back. Centuries ago, the Ambal clan was large and prosperous, then later, after it had fallen on hard times, the Ambal dynasty fragmented and dwindled away. The Ambals of the far past had owned the whole eastern half of the Fens. Slowly, through the generations, that great empire crumbled. When my father and Danno were still friends, he sold Rabendary Island to Danno. Danno had won a fortune gambling on hussade, and my father needed cash." Akadie fell silent.

After a minute Glinnes asked, "Why would Danno have killed Lord Ambal?"

"I don't know. In any case, he always claimed that it was an accidental death. That was the testimony he gave at the trial. I've read the court transcript." Akadie looked suspiciously at Glinnes. "After all this time, does it matter?"

"I don't know, but there is a secret in all this...something from the past that hangs over me. If my hunches are correct, there is a terrible hidden history that haunts all of the Fens. Something larger than just our parents. I'm going to Numenes so that I can do my own research and try to sort all of this out. I know this: a starmenter like Dirrig does not just happen to arrive on Trullion, casually claiming to be Lord Ambal."

Akadie rose to his feet. "Ah, yes, the Connatic's Library. I visited it once when I was young. While you are there, perhaps you could check on one or two small points for me?"

"Such as?"

Akadie hesitated then explained, "Wendek was not born on Trullion. He claimed to be the son of Lord Ambal, but I never knew what world he was born on."

"Does that matter?" Glinnes closed his eyes and tried to make sense of what he was hearing. "How do you know that Wendek was truly your brother?"

Akadie jerked his head in annoyance. "Both he and my father made no secret of our relatedness. We were the last poor remnants of a once-great clan. But now that you mention it, I have sometimes had my own doubts...Wendek looked nothing like me or my father." Akadie laughed. "I don't know! But yes, there is an odd pattern here. As you point out, Lute Casagave, or Alonzo Dirrig, or whatever his name, also claimed to be a relative of Lord Ambal. On the face of it, that seems absurd."

Glinnes stood up. "I plan to carefully investigate the history of the Ambal clan when I'm on Numenes, along with Tammi's family. Now Duissane and I must be on our way if we are to reach Port Maheul in time for our starship's scheduled departure today." He took Duissane by the hand and retreated down the stairs of the North Tower. After saying farewell to his mother, Glinnes drove at full speed through the waterways towards Welgen.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

By mid-day, Duissane and Glinnes were in the first class passenger lounge at the Port Maheul spaceport. Glinnes had already returned the control circuit for the aircar to the man at the rentals desk, just across the pavilion from the baggage clerk and locker 42, where Glinnes had found the 30,000,000 ozols. Now, a robotic page approached Glinnes and confirmed his identity before leading him to a communications terminal in a secluded alcove.

True to her word, Duissane refused to be separated from Glinnes. Suspecting that the call was from Glay with a complaint about being tasked with caring for Tingo and Immifalda, Glinnes sat in front of the imager and pulled Duissane onto his lap. Before them appeared the projected image of Admiral Lane. "Ah, Glinnes and Duissane. What a charming surprise. I was told that you rushed back to the Fens, but are now in Port Maheul."

 Glinnes explained, "In an hour we'll be in space, cruising to Numenes."

The Admiral seemed surprised. "What takes you to Numenes?"

"I plan to investigate the life of Bela Gazzardo and do research into the origins of some aristocratic families of Trullion. We'll visit the Connatic's Library at Lusz and hopefully return home in a week or two."

Lane nodded. "Perhaps I can save you some effort. As you know, the official data about starmenters that is available through Whelm intelligence is much better than anything on the public record....." The Admiral hesitated and looked back and forth from Glinnes to Duissane.

Glinnes asked, "What have you learned?"

The Admiral hesitated then spoke, "What I've learned is something I don't mind sharing with a reserve officer of the Whelm, but there is danger. I don't care to put a civillian at risk."

Duissane indignantly asked Glinnes, "Did you rejoin the Whelm?

"No, but someday I might wish to do so."

Duissane looked into his eyes. "I thought you'd put that all behind you. Don't you want to forget your past struggles and just be with me and bask in a life of leisure and joy?"

Admiral Lane said, "I see that this is not a good time for me to toss further complication into your young lives. You've been through too much too quickly. Enjoy your visit to Numenes." He added mysteriously, "I'll send my information on to you through channels." The communication ended and moments later Glinnes and Duissane were called to board their spaceship.

According to Gohrlay, the above roughly corresponds to Part 1 of The League of Yrinna.

in the Ekcolir Reality
Part 2 (originally published as a short story in Sci If magazine) takes place during the trip to Numenes and on that planet after Glinnes and Duissane arrive. Shermatz needs Glinnes and Duissane to go to the planet Yrinna as his undercover agents. For cover, Glinnes joins a hussade team that is going to Yrinna to play a championship match.

Yrinna is the world where Lord Gensifer's warehouses were plundered and the home world of the ancient Gensifer and Ambal clans.

Written in the Asimov Reality.
Duissane "on" Yrinna.
Original cover art by Johannes Bruck
Part 3 takes place on Yrinna.  Duissane is recruited to be sheirl for a champion hussade team of planet Yrinna. In the version of hussade played on Yrinna she wears a uniform and is expected to run the ways and laterals along with the rest of her team.

Glinnes learns that the ancient League of Yrinna originated on Earth and has always been at the core of starmenter activity in Alastor Cluster. Glinnes and Duissane slowly unravel and reveal the hidden secrets of the League of Yrinna and the secret history of Glinnes' family and all of Alastor Cluster.

Next: the future science of cryptesthesiology.

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