Welcome to the fourth entry in our re-read of The Evolutionary Void! This week we're tackling Inigo's 21st Dream and Chapter Four. What has Edeard been up to since we last saw him?!
Inigo's 21st Dream
As Edeard exits a rather unhelpful meeting with Mayor Trahaval a strong farsight sweeps over him, and it's not the first time it happens. But it is gone as soon as he notices it and is unable to track where it originated. Makkathran is more peaceful than it has ever been, with Edeard heading up a special committee on organized crime for over two decades that has done all he wanted it to do, and now he feels it's time to step away from it. We get caught up on everything that has happened with the criminal groups and the Grand Families, and what Edeard has been doing to address all the old issues within the city. We also learn that an election is a mere three weeks away, and Edeard is a candidate for Chief Constable! As he mulls all the details over while observing the ceiling in the Liliala Hall he spots something new that wasn't among the constellations and planets before...
Ranalee longtalks him, knowing just what to say to raise his anger:
“You’re very bitter tonight. Were those livestock certificates so desperately important to you?”
Every time. She could do it Every Single Time. Edeard pressed his teeth together as he tried to quash his anger.
As they talk back and forth the true reason for her contacting him becomes clear: Salrana's oldest son is in trouble with the constables again. Edeard's relationship with Salrana has deteriorated over the years, and Salrana effectively hates him now for all that has happened.
I can’t interfere.
But Salrana was his fault. She always would be. That meant she was his responsibility, too: a charge that would never end.
Edeard contacts Felax to deal with the problem which he is confident will be resolved by the following day.
He is back at home on the balcony with his telescope as Kristabel enters the room, clearly not happy after the council meeting that day.
He made an effort to calm down. You know she’s always like this after an Upper Council meeting. And a lot of other times, too, these days, he added regretfully.
As he beckons her closer to take a look through the telescope she wonders what he's looking at, thinking that it isn't centred correctly. That is until Edeard tells her that the object is moving:
Kristabel’s anger vanished. She gave him a shocked look, then bent to the telescope again. “Is it a ship? Has it come from outside the Void like the one which brought Rah and the Lady?”
“No.” He put his arms around her and smiled down into her confused face. “It’s a Skylord.”
Edeard and Kristabel are attending a party thrown by the Mayor, though Edeard, as always, doesn't like the politically mingling he must undertake. He does manage to talk to some of his children while there with the typical parent-child talks going on, much to embarrassment of all concerned. He catches up with Macsen - looking rather well-fed these days - and they talk comfortably about many things, including his running for Chief Constable and the way the city investigates criminal activity these days, and going forward.
“All I’m saying is we need to get smarter, to adapt. Life is different now. It would be the worst kind of irony if we’re the ones who can’t keep up and benefit.”
Macsen gripped Edeard’s shoulder, smiling broadly. “You know what your real trouble is?”
“What?” Edeard asked, though he’d already guessed the answer.
“You’re a glory glutton.”
deard is lying in bed thinking of how life is going, and how his and Kristabel's relationship has changed over the years. Unable to sleep he takes a walk, reminiscing and enjoying the quiet, though the farsight passes over him again.
“I’ll find you one day,” he longtalked down the strand of perception that stretched across the city to Cobara. “You know I will.”
He looks to the sky, still unable to see the Skylord without a telescope, but knowing where it is regardless.
All of his mind’s strength was focused into a single thought of welcome, one he visualized streaming out through space.
And eventually the Skylord answered.
Edeard visits Finitan, now retired and living in one of the Eggshaper Guild houses kept for such people. Though he is in great pain and taking potions to help with it, Edeard uses his farsight to examine him.
“For the Lady’s sake, Edeard, accept I am dying. I did quite some time ago. Or are you going to start making politician’s talk about how I’ll be up and about soon? Cheer my spirits up?”
They talk a little about the upcoming election, and Finitan soon realises that Edeard is there for a specific reason.
“A Skylord is coming.”
“Dear Lady!” Finitan twisted around abruptly and winced at the spike of pain the motion caused. “How do you know?”
Edeard convinces him to take guidance, and with the Finitan announces that the election is over:
“How do you see that? Have you got a timesense you’ve been hiding all these years?”
“You’re going to be the Waterwalker again. You’re going to be the one who calls the Skylord to Querencia. Then in front of the whole city you’ll hoist me up to the top of the tower so I can be guided to the Heart. You, Edeard. Just you. Who’s not going to vote for a saviour like that?”
At a campaign session at the Eggshaper Guild Edeard announces the imminent arrival of the Skylord, to shock and silence - and then everyone wants to ask questions!
“It’s very simple,” the Waterwalker said. “The Skylords are flying to Querencia again. The first will be here in just over a week. It will guide Finitan through Odin’s Sea to the Heart.”
The city is quickly talking about this announcement, with some desperate to find the Skylord in the night sky, others critical at what they believe is a stunt in order to attract votes. Despite all this Edeard and Dinlay go to Finitan five days later in order to take him to the Lady's Church. On the way up Edeard and Finitan have their last talk, laughing and discussing what he can expect in the Heart. The farsight sweeps across him again during this climb to the top of the tower.
“Today is hardly secret,” he shot back.
The farsight ended.
“Who was that?” Finitan asked.
“I don’t know. But I expect I’ll be finding out before too long. You know Makkathran: always trouble brewing somewhere.”
As they reach the top and continue their conversation Finitan suddenly stops.
Edeard turned to face the Lyot Sea. Right on the horizon a peculiar haze patch was rising above the water to expand across the sky. “It comes,” he said with simple happiness.
Finitan’s hand grasped his tightly. “Thank you, Edeard, for everything.”
Edeard must now leave Finitan and descend to the streets below before the arrival of the Skylord.
Edeard stood and looked at the thick pillar that was the start of the stairwell, then glanced across to the edge of the platform.
“Go on.” Finitan chuckled. “Be the Waterwalker, today of all days."
And with a final goodbye he runs and jumps off the top of the tower, soaring down for the city to assist him in a smooth landing by his family.
“Daddy,” Marilee scolded.
“That was so bad.”
“Teach us how to do that.”
And with that everyone turns to watch the approach of the Skylord, a massive creature. It comes for Finitan:
“Edeard,” Finitan’s longtalk called, firm and strong. “Oh, Edeard, it hears me, the Skylord hears me. It will take me! Edeard, I’m going to the Heart. Me!”
And with that many of those on the streets below shout, begging for guidance.
“My kindred will return to guide you to the Heart,” the Skylord promised them. “Be ready.”
On Oaktier Laril is working away on ways to assist Araminta should she reappear and contact him. He is using methods that he believes to be untraceable and highly technical, constantly checking and wiping his progress to avoid being caught by any factions on the watch. He ends up arranging a meeting with a person called Ondra who says that there are certainly custodians able to offer advice to a friend of the Second Dreamer. After arranging multiple taxis to avoid being tracked, and careful entry to the arranged meeting point. However, once he arrives it soon becomes clear that this meeting isn't going to go as planned, with his connection to the unisphere dropping out and three heavily enriched men revealing themselves and blocking him in.
Valean has tracked Laril's rather pathetic attempts in avoiding scrutiny while conducting his search and assumed the Ondra persona to arrange a meeting with him. As she and her three colleagues close on Laril he suddenly and simply disappears...
“What the fuck!” Digby exclaimed.
Examining his sensors Digby sees that a t-sphere had manifested to teleport Laril away from the coliseum. Worse than that is the fact that the t-sphere didn't register in any Oaktier security network.
That would take a level of ability that went way beyond a team of faction agents.
He called Paula. “We have a problem.”
As they analyse the data they discover where the centre of the t-sphere lays:
“Oh, my God,” Paula said.
“That’s the center,” Digby said. “1800 Briggins. Registered to a Paul Cramley. Actually, he’s lived there for … oh. That can’t be right.”
“It is,” Paula told him.
Paula tells Digby that Laril will be safe, but Araminta won't be able to contact him now...
Laril appears in a house, dreary and dark, but completely ordinary. As he approaches, the man introduces himself as Paul Cramley, and informs Laril that he has been played by the Accelerators from the start. He also tells him of the other ultradrive ship in orbit that knows of him.
“Okay, so who are you? What’s your interest?”
"You should be about to find out. I’m guessing that an old acquaintance is going to call any minute now. And when you’re as old as me, your guesses are certainties.”
And then Paula calls, thanking him for extracting Laril.
“It won’t take Valean long to determine your location. She’ll visit.”
“She’s not as stupid as Laril, surely.”
“No,” Paula agreed as Laril bridled silently. “But she has a mission, and Ilanthe won’t give her a choice.”
She also asks Paul for its access code, and when he plays dumb she tells him there's no time for that, so he obliges. Laril asks further questions of Paul, learning that he's over 1,500 years old! Paul also fills him in on his philosophy, and that ANA isn't the only way to go. As they continue to talk Paul abruptly announces that Valean has found them, and Laril starts to panic, to which Paul tells him:
“You can’t get anywhere safer in the Commonwealth.”
As Valean walks up to the window and dissolves it at a touch Laril's fear increases, but Paul does not seemed bothered in any way.
“I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave now. Laril is my guest.”
“He must come with me.”
Laril’s exovision showed him those weird quantum spikes again. A pale green phosphorescent glow enveloped Valean and her team.
“I’m afraid your T-sphere won’t work,” she said. “We’re counter-programmed.”
Paul cocked his head to one side, long hair flopping down his cheek. “Really? How about I use irony instead?”
And as he says this Valean and her team start moving incredibly quickly inside what appears to be a contained forcefield, their movements blurring until they eventually collapse, their skin turning to leather and cracking open and oozing liquid.
"I accelerated her inside an exotic effect zone, like a miniature wormhole."
When Laril asks how long Paul tells him: two years, during which time her biononics organelles fed off her body, like a supercancer eating her from the inside. And Paul simply teleports them away. When Laril asks him what will happen now, and Paul informs him that he is now his house guest until either Araminta calls him, or it's all over...
Paula is put through to the SI by Paul, and she asks it if it can get through the Sol barrier.
“Sorry, no. If ANA can’t, what hope does an antiquity like me have?”
They discuss motivations and current events, with the SI telling Paula that Troblum was going to try to get hold of her, even after the Sol barrier came into place. They further talk about what will happen now, with the call ending with the SI promising to be in touch should Araminta contact Laril.
After this she calls the High Angel to talk to Qatux. Qatux tells her that the High Angel will shortly leave for Sol in an attempt to breach the barrier, though he believes it will not be successful with it being based on their Dark Fortress technology. Qatux admits that the barriers around the Dyson Pair are of Raiel origin, and that the Anomine borrowed them in order to contain the Primes. He also doesn't know if the DF spheres - the last line of defence against the Void - will work when the time comes. Finally, he promises whatever help Paula needs....
Araminta is riding with Clouddancer and Bradley Johansson following the festival, travelling along the paths.
“I’ll do my best, I promise. I won’t let you down.”
Bradley presents her with a small pendant - the true sign of a Silfen Friend. She asks if they have any advice for her, and they tell her that Laril could still be helpful, but the advice would not be his own. They tell her that Ozzie may be able to offer her help, and Oscar could get her there, but that she must be careful from here on out. After a final word from Bradley, Araminta leaves.
She turned her back to him and strode forward, refusing to let any doubt gain refuge in her mind. Ahead of her the path began to open.
Oscar and his team have secured an apartment on the ground floor by Francola Woods to await Araminta's return, and they're not the only ones waiting around there. Paula contacts him, they discuss where Araminta may be, and Paula gives him some information:
“Someone called Troblum may get in touch. If he does, I need to know immediately. And you must not lose track of him. If possible, take him directly into custody.”
“Okay, so who is he?”
“A slightly strange physicist who may know how to get through the Sol barrier. I’m sending his file. Oh, and the Cat is after him as well, so be careful.”
“Is she? Well, that’s just made my day. Anything else?”
“That’s all, Oscar. Thank you.”
As Oscar reviews the file on Troblum, Beckia tells him about the news - things are getting much worse on Viotia. With Living Dream pulling out of other cities the locals are taking out their anger on the Living Dream followers and rioting. It's then that Oscar realises that something is happening with the path, and the Welcome Team are also on to it...
Troblum is in orbit above Viotia, and things aren't great with Catriona, with them arguing and Troblum convinced that if he gave her a real body she would soon leave him. His starship then detects weapons discharging in Colwyn City.
Araminta is now on the path to Francola Wood and she uses the mélange program that Likan gave her to enhance her senses. With this she can more fully feel the path, knowing that its end is fluid, and presses her wishes against it to move the end to where she wants: Bovey's house. She learns that five of his bodies are now dead, though he is glad that she has come to him. As they talk it is clear that something is going on in the Francola district, triggered by her use of the path again. Despite Bovey telling her that they can run off together she tells him that what happens now is down to her.
“You’re sweet, too sweet. After this is over, I want us to be together. I really do. That’s why I’m here, so you know that.”
He hugged her tight again. “It’ll happen,” he whispered fiercely. “It will.”
“There are things I have to do,” she said. “Things I don’t want to, but I can’t see any other way. I have an idea, but I’m going to need your help to make it work.”
That's us done again for this week. Join me here next time where we'll go through Inigo's 26th Dream and Chapter Five, and things are starting to get rather interesting...
THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS, the first book in a new Commonwealth series, published on 9th October 2014, and you can read an extract here
NIGHT WITHOUT STARS, the gripping sequel to THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS, will be published on 22nd September 2016.
Whilst you're waiting, check out the cover reveal post!
You can also catch up on the whole Void Trilogy Reread: