She met the calculating gaze of the commandant with all the calm that she could muster amid the flurry of emotions. "Do you have infirmary vids?"
Exasperation passed over his face. He turned aside to another viewer and keyed something from the side opposite her. Everything turned backwards on the viewer panel from her perspective.
The viewer going static confirmed what she had suspected from his expression. Either they were toying with her or Soroya had done more than put the medical staff to sleep.
"I was hoping you could tell me," Renvil said. "For several minutes, the cameras malfunctioned and doors stayed locked. Then...everything worked and your friend was gone. The medics remember nothing. I have only your word."
She remembered the awakening of the medics and the rush of soldiers with weapons ready. That accusatory glare on his face directed at her and Mychel wasn't going to get the answer he wanted. "It wasn't us. It was her."
"Do you accept that daemons are real?" Mychel asked.
Commandant Renvil's glare darkened on Mychel.
Really?! After seeing with his own eyes, he still didn't believe? It was useless explaining the truth. The Peacekeepers wouldn't listen. "Then you wouldn't believe me."
"Mister Viltis has given us some information about a war that I find quite interesting."
Interesting, as in, unbelievable. She was arguing with a wall. She might as well have been telling Deringer that the rover had fallen into a crater on Deiavo. Both men set their minds on what they wanted to believe and blamed someone else, and no one could change them once that happened.
"Commandant, I can't tell you anything you want to hear," she said.
He shrugged. "Then tell me what you know."
"A being from the Shadow Realm came and took him away."
"A daemon," he said with a note of disbelief.
"No. His mother."
"A daemon's mother?"
The commandant's crossed arms meant that she'd lost him completely. It would be useless to explain.
"I already told you, Am—Commandant…" Mychel corrected himself upon the stiff-jawed glower from the man. "These daemons were the dark side of the Eternals, what our ancestors knew as Gods. Luriel are the light side. During some…magical event, they were split and have been at war since."
"I don't need another lecture on your religious nonsense."
"It's not nonsense!" Lilly slammed her hands on the table. How had Mychel convinced her?
He hadn't. Jazmin and the daemons had.
If his own eyes couldn't convince him, there was nothing more she could do.
"If you cannot give me a rational answer for the disappearance of your friend, this Darrac, I will be forced to investigate without your cooperation."
I give up! It was pointless to argue the truth.
When he tapped a series of keys on his end of the long table in the room and the viewers pulled up an image of the hill that was the hidden fortress of the Velokians, Lilly's breath froze.
"We monitored you emerging from this location, Miss Lowreth."
Mychel's eyes burned through her.
Those eyes soon lifted to watch the activity on the screen. That activity sank her heart.
A nearly-complete circle of Peacekeepers closed ranks with weapons aimed through personal FIZ shields from the generators of special gauntlets they wore. That circle of several hundred closed in on the mound that was the magically- and technologically-hidden ruins of Keigan Castle, the fortress of the Velokians serving Frael Darrac.
Seconds pounded in her chest.
And one realization struck like a hammer through glass. She barely contained the rage boiling from within. "You planned this all along!" Her blood ran hot, then cold in dread of what he meant. They monitored everything.
Commandant Renvil stood with the same haughty air that had left her disliking him since the first time they had met.
The soldiers double-lined where they ran out of room to move shoulder-to-shoulder, until one of them vanished. They had hit the barrier between the outside and inside. It was passable by anyone, but in that remote area of Casanna Province, it was unlikely that anyone would stumble upon it.
She had led them right to it. This was her fault.
I'm sorry, Darrac…and all of you who tried to help us. The Velokians weren't evil or dangerous, not like the daemons they served. They were men in search of a purpose, in search of a resurrection of magic, the power that fueled the Shadow Realm. Granted, some sought power to dominate—Harrel came to mind—but many were simply intrigued by the old ways.
And she had hoped they would teach her.
The soldier who vanished stepped back from the grassy mound and lifted a fist. The helmeted figure turned aside to another, who gave a nod.
She could see no expressions behind the black HUD displays covering their faces, but clearly they were communicating.
After a tense minute, the first soldier paired up with another and, together, they disappeared. More pairs followed until only a single circle surrounded the mound that was Keigan Castle.
Lilly swallowed, her eyes unwavering on the viewer. Please don't get Saul. Please don't find any of them. Please don't be able to find the secret wall… She could only hope the Velokians stayed behind that magic barrier. They were her only connection to Darrac and the bridge to Fal Oroneth.
"Would you care to share what my men can expect?"
"No." She wouldn't give the commandant the satisfaction, and she didn't want to miss anything on the viewer.(c) 2018 Melanie Nilles and may not be reproduced without permission.
Enlightenment is coming in June 2018!
Barnes and Noble
Also available as a paperback.