VaiTides – Chapter 18

Darion was sitting beside Tezza at a large video console, once again reviewing a series of images on the screen. He was already frustrated that he hadn’t been able to see the footage sooner.

“How did your conversation with Jarrick go?” Tezza asked, as she worked on sharpening the images.

“It’s finished and that’s all that matters to me,” Darion replied.

“Did you reconcile?”

“Can we not discuss that right now?” Darion gave his friend a withering glance, his impatience growing. “Can you just roll the footage?”

“I’m only trying to make sure you’re alright,” Tezza replied tersely.

“I know, Tezz,” Darion assured her, his voice now gentle. “However, the situation with Jarrick can’t be a priority right now. I need to see more of what happened at the bazaar.”

The watch Darion had required Tolrek to wear had only proven to be useful to an extent. Able to record activity up to 60 feet away, it had streamed content back to a device Tezza had given Darion. However, Tolrek’s watch had been crushed in the fight. When Darion had tried to intervene, his receiver had also been severely damage.

Tezza had painstakingly pieced the images together, only recently feeling that she’d sufficiently rebuilt the information. Now, for the third time, the two were looking at the material from Tolrek’s time at the bazaar. There was less data than either had hoped to get.

Tolrek had let Darion know that several individuals had been following him. The video confirmed that. However, the identities of those trailing him were unclear.

Tezza continued to play back the material from the recording devices. She rotated the shots of the unidentified individuals in different directions, trying to make out as many features as possible. Then she paused the images, sighing and pinching the bridge of her nose. She rubbed her eyes, which were becoming strained.

“I’m not sure what more we can learn,” she admitted. “No one shadowing Tolrek revealed much of anything, especially the one in the blue cloak.”

Darion leveled a demanding gaze at her.

“Don’t you give me that look,” Tezza told him. “I’m not a damn magician. I can’t think of anything else to try.”

Darion stood, pacing the room as he processed what was on his mind.

“I’m mostly interested in the one in that blue cloak. That person kept hidden quite well,” he noted. “We only have confirmation on height and build. Maybe the person was female but we can’t even be sure of that.”

Darion’s level of frustration rose.

“This is ridiculous!” he shouted. “I wish I could be more directly involved.”

“You need the layers of separation,” Tezza reminded him. “Your position is too important to risk tangling with informants. Besides, who knows what could happen to you? We’re not sure how many are involved or what they’re planning.”

“I understand all of that, Tezza,” Darion bellowed. “I’m not an idiot!”

“You’re doing a great impression of one!”

He was about to sting her with a retort, when the frosty look on her face stopped him. Her left eyebrow was arched high and she didn’t have to say anything else. Darion knew he could get thrown out of her Emporium. He immediately apologized, realizing that he was being difficult, despite how much she was supporting him.

“You’re being unreasonable; you’ll play into your enemies’ hands,” Tezza quietly said him.

“This is very true.”

He stared morosely into space. He despised feeling powerless. Currently, he felt that he had little control over his life or Tolrek’s. There were too many unanswered questions.

Tezza noted her friend’s downcast expression and tried to reassure him.

“D, you might be in a better position than you think. Consider what you know and how to best use it.”

“I feel like all of the pieces are there but I can’t connect them.”

“Then let’s talk through what you have.”

Two weeks ago, Darion had found out that Tolrek was from Ledona, a country located in an adjacent sector of the galaxy. At his request, one of Tezza’s most skilled informants had been researching the rebel’s background even before Darion and Tolrek had left Vaironia. The informant’s efforts to learn more details were now being severely curtailed, as Tolrek’s homeland was in the midst of a 35-year civil war.

Darion felt guilty about what he knew. Tolrek hungered for information about his past. And yet, Darion couldn’t reveal what he’d learned. For the time being, Beilon had instructed him to remain quiet and the secret was weighing on him. Darion hoped he would be the one to tell Tolrek, if only to soften the anger his lover might feel. Even so, there were more immediate matters that needed the negotiator’s attention.

“My biggest concern right now is that he’s strong, Tezz,” Darion continued. “If he ever taps into his full abilities, he’ll be incredibly dangerous. That fight was just an indicator.”

Darion didn’t know how many people were aware of the real threat Tolrek posed. He was worried that if more found out, those like Meric would imprison Tolrek again or have him executed. Tolrek would fight and Darion didn’t want to imagine where that would lead.

Tezza reached out to touch Darion’s cheek. Then she pulled him close, giving him a soothing hug. She had hoped to be more helpful to him. Yet, at this moment, all she could offer him were words of comfort.

“One of the most influential Vaironians is on your side,” she told Darion. “Beilon will do everything in his power.”

“He is not the ruler of Vaironia. His authority only goes so far.”

“But Prime Minister Kebehde values his opinion more than that any other official. Your PM is still in power because of what Beilon has accomplished.  You’ve helped your mentor achieve the goals the PM set. Don’t forget any of that.” Tezza pinched Darion’s cheek, trying to completely change his mood. “Stop looking for so many ways things could fail, you sexy fool.”

“When did you become so smart?” Darion teased.

“When did you become so illogical—and lovesick?”

“Lovesick?” Darion chuckled, his mood successfully changed. “I didn’t know if I wanted to fall in love again. Not after what happened with Jarrick. Tolrek really has gotten to me, hasn’t he?”

“For the better.”

~~18.1~~

Darion straightened the jacket of Tolrek’s suit for the third time, causing the rebel to laugh. The adjustment had been unnecessary on all three occasions.

“D, you need to relax.” Tolrek gently brushed away his lover’s hand. “I know how to present myself.”

Darion smiled when he realized what he’d been doing. The two were dressed formally to meet with Tildar’s leader. Darion’s only outlet for his nervousness was fiddling with Tolrek’s clothing.

“I just want us to be at our best,” he said. “Behadan Kyniska is—”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. Two of the Behadan’s attendants opened the massive wooden doors to the greeting chamber, beckoning him and Tolrek inside.

There was a low table with a variety of food and a selection of drinks in the center of the room. Except for the table and several multicolored cushions, including one upon which the Behadan sat, no other furnishings were present. It reduced the chances of an enemy using anything for concealment or as a shield.

Six male guards were clad in black uniforms, three on each side of the walkway to Kyniska. They gave Darion and Tolrek deterring gazes. Tolrek gauged that each guard was easily seven feet tall. Their unwavering stares were a message that they were willing and able to inflict a great deal of damage, or worse, should any situation require it. Two female guards, also wearing black uniforms, were on either side of the Behadan, vigilantly scanning the room.

Darion and Tolrek passed the male guards, walking the twenty feet towards the raised platform where the Behadan was centrally located. Though Tolrek had seen pictures of the Tildari leader, he was unprepared to be this close to her. She was beautiful and he found himself mesmerized by her.

Her slender body was dressed in soft layers of turquoise silk and she sat calmly on a large, golden, velvet cushion. Her black hair was styled as a braided bun, a thick turquoise ribbon woven through it. Golden bracelets, accenting her medium-brown skin, were on either wrist. Her intelligent, hazel eyes didn’t waver, as she studied the two visitors. A small smile graced her glossed, shapely lips, as she had been looking forward to this meeting.

The Behadan motioned for her guests to be seated on the cushions that were by the table. After the two were settled, she leveled a penetrating stare at Darion.

“Darion, I wasn’t expecting to see you under these circumstances,” Kyniska began. “Beilon submitted a special request to let you bring Tolrek here. I was hoping there would be no incidents.”

“I know, Behadan. The altercation was…regrettable.” Darion cleared his throat.

“My understanding was that you could properly do your job. Yet, that appears not to be the case. Many of the bazaar’s attendees were severely disturbed by the violence.”

“I deeply apologize for this and am prepared to make proper amends.”

Darion kept his head lowered, remorse reigniting inside of him. Given that his father had occupied the same high station, he felt ashamed that he was being reprimanded by Tildar’s present leader. He felt that he had caused Ryam embarrassment, though his father hadn’t addressed the matter with him. Several times, he’d considered talking with Ryam about the situation. However, he was simply still too humiliated.

As if the Behadan had read his thoughts, she began speaking of his father.

“I had a discussion with former Behadan Ryam about all of this.”

Darion raised his head, surprised.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “He and I remain in contact. He was one of our strongest leaders. We became quite prosperous under his guidance. And, I know he and Saha have raised good children. Those are the reasons why I am not prepared to be harsh with you.”

“Thank you, Behadan Kyniska,” Darion murmured, bowing his head.

As Tolrek listened to the conversation, he felt pained. He knew that Darion prided himself on the success he’d attained in his career. For the first time, he fully realized how the fight had impacted Darion’s reputation. Even in a culture that prided itself on developing martial prowess, there were boundaries, and he had eagerly crossed them. He was determined not to add to Darion’s shame, wanting to show the Tildari leader the proper amount of respect.

The Behadan turned her focus on Tolrek.

“You are Vaironian Security Branch Prisoner 43. Or, Pet A-21,” she stated. “However, I prefer to call you Tolrek, as I like that name very much. I’d even suggested it to my daughter for her baby’s name…And just like my grandson, who is now two years old, you have quite a way of bringing attention to yourself. Naturally, I quickly found out about the altercation. Many merchants complained about their damaged goods. As I mentioned earlier, numerous attendees were also horrified by the viciousness of the fight.”

“Behadan, I sincerely apologize,” Tolrek bowed his head deeply.

“You are not truly sorry,” Kyniska told him. Her eyes dared him to back away from his real feelings about the matter.

“No.” Tolrek looked out of the corner of his eyes, noticing that Darion had become more tense. “Not about the fight itself but for the difficulty it has caused.”

“I appreciate your honesty,” Kyniska replied. “If you had lied to me, you would have been immediately escorted out of my country.”

“Well then, it’s a good thing I didn’t lie,” Tolrek said. “I would miss your sublime beauty. And by the way, I would certainly start a rebellion in your name.”

Darion shook his head, cursing under his breath. He’d hoped that the rebel would behave himself. However, the earlier promise to do so had apparently been quickly forgotten.

Instead of showing any signs of anger, as Darion had expected, the Behadan simply laughed.

“You have such obnoxious charm, Tolrek,” Kyniska noted. “I appreciate that.”

Darion sighed inwardly. He really wished the Behadan wouldn’t encourage Tolrek but he could hardly admonish her.

The leader ordered Tolrek to kneel directly in front of her. When he did, she took his face in her hands, turning his head from side to side. Satisfied with her perusal, she nodded. Her suspicions were almost confirmed. She decided to broach the topic that really had been on her mind.

Kyniska had watched the fight continuously and frozen the face of Tolrek. A series of other images had turned in the back of her mind. He looked like someone she had repeatedly seen before, an individual who had attended various international negotiation conferences, as she had. She hadn’t believed that she was correct at first because of what she’d been told about Tolrek’s history. However, now having Tolrek in front of her and studying his features, studying his energy, she was certain he was related to someone she’d known decades ago.

“I have to admit that you intrigue me, Tolrek,” she told him, motioning for him to relax and sit directly in front of her. “I can’t completely figure out why. Yet, at the center of what I’m considering is that you are not Vaironian—or even from this sector of the galaxy. You see, I used to travel with Darion’s grandmother. I still am an avid student of hers. At any rate, I had the opportunity to go to multinational symposiums; one of the frequent attendees was a government official of Ledano.”

Aware of where the conversation could lead, Darion slowly shook his head at the Behadan, beseeching her with his eyes to change the subject.

“I had several opportunities to speak with him. I believed that he was a striking individual, who would be quite an asset to his nation,” Kyniska continued, nonchalantly ignoring Darion. “One with such a presence is simply not forgettable. I can’t deny the notion that you have some connection to him. This official’s name was—”

Understanding that the situation had become quite problematic, by now Darion was frantically waving his arms. The guards were now eyeing him with keen wariness. They put their hands on their guns, ready to intervene, if necessary.

The Behadan stifled a laugh, the ungainly exhibition by Darion amusing her. She nodded, acquiescing not to reveal all of what she believed. With his reaction, she realized that she might be closer to the truth than she originally suspected. If that was the case, the repercussions were going to be quite significant, once Tolrek learned the truth. She hoped for Darion’s sake, that the rebel learned it from him.

“Then again, perhaps I am simply wrong,” Kyniska stated lightly. She motioned for her guards to relax. “What do I know? My eyes might be playing tricks on me.”

Darion sighed and bowed repeatedly, mouthing, “Thank you” to the Behadan.

Tolrek turned to momentarily look at Darion, having a feeling that something significant had happened. The negotiator’s face was clear of any signs of having tampered with the course of the discussion. In fact, he seemed like he was about to chastise Tolrek for turning around while in Kyniska’s presence.

Kyniska smiled, thinking that the two made such an entertaining pair. Then, she changed the topic, asking for more details of the fight, admitting her fascination with it.

“I feel as if I should ask for your autograph,” she said, her rich laughter traveling through the air. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

“Well, Darion does hold some responsibility for the fight,” Tolrek began with a flourish.

As he listened to Tolrek’s recounting of the brawl, Darion marveled at how the rebel managed to charm himself out of so many situations. But, Darion knew he had larger worries. Tolrek had almost heard the truth about his background. Now, the negotiator realized that the rebel would store the Behadan’s words in his mind. There was only so much Darion could do to prevent Tolrek from investigating.

~~18.2~~

When Darion saw what Tolrek was doing, his initial reaction was to panic. The rebel was in the study, researching a subject that had caused Darion quite a bit of concern. As expected, the Behadan’s comments earlier that morning had piqued Tolrek’s curiosity.

“What are you doing now?” Darion asked quietly, as if he didn’t already know.

“I’m educating myself about Ledano,” Tolrek replied, as he clicked through a series of web pages. “The Behadan mentioned it.”

“She also said she was unsure,” Darion reminded him. “Her words were quite…speculative.”

“Then some investigation shouldn’t make you so uncomfortable,” Tolrek stated casually. He noted that Darion was squeezing an arm of the couch in which he sat.

“Why do you say that?” Darion relinquished his grip on the furniture and leaned back, attempting to appear relaxed.

“You can’t hide your emotions from me the way you do with others.” Tolrek shook his head and laughed. “Now, you’ve been hovering, as if I’m doing something I shouldn’t. Why?”

“After the fight, is there any wonder?” Darion demanded.

“That’s not what I meant. Ever since our visit to the Behadan, you’ve been tense. What don’t you want me to know?”

Darion’s guarded demeanor only created more pressing questions in Tolrek’s mind. There were mysteries surrounding the rebel and Darion had much more information than he was providing. Tolrek was losing patience.

Why did the Behadan say the things she did?” Tolrek asked more forcefully.

“This damn topic…” Darion grumbled. He settled deeper into the armchair. Then, he took his time folding his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, his level of belligerence growing. “I swear, you could make a saint commit murder. Just be happy that the Behadan let you stay in the country.”

Tolrek found his fingers inching towards a nearby paperweight. He was picturing himself hurling it at the negotiator’s head. Few people managed to infuriate him as Darion could.

The rebel took a deep breath. Then, he tried another tactic, appealing to the trust the two had built over the years. He went to his lover, sitting down and staring directly at him. Out of the corners of his eyes, Darion warily acknowledged that Tolrek had closed the distance between them. He wondered what the rebel was planning. Tolrek waited until Darion sighed and turned to face him fully.

“D, I grew up in an orphanage,” Tolrek began. “I want to know about my past. If there’s a chance for me to get answers, would you really prevent me?”

“If everything was in my control, I wouldn’t be denying you answers,” Darion admitted, his expression now pained.

Darion watched the range of emotions that crossed Tolrek’s face; sadness, confusion and then fury. The cold, quiet tone of the rebel’s next words belied the storm that was inside him.

“Navarr, you can’t hide behind that kind of statement forever,” Tolrek said firmly. “One day, I will learn what you’re keeping from me. You’d better hope it doesn’t destroy our relationship. There’s only so much I will forgive. And sometimes, I have a defective conscience. You think about that, right before you close your eyes tonight.”

Tolrek’s words cut deep into Darion and the negotiator felt the weight of keeping his secrets. His lover left the room. The image of Tolrek walking away, his body tense with anger, pulled at Darion.

~~18.3~~

Tolrek turned up the volume of the television. MPN, The Multiplanetary News, was once again reporting on political intrigue and unrest in Vaironia. He wanted to make sure he was hearing things correctly.

The focus of the news story was the upheaval that had created the rebellion he’d led. Five years had passed since the Krezka pilots had been detained in the Isolation Zone. The news correspondent had been permitted access to the IZ. She began providing a tour of the living quarters of its previous inhabitants. The images led Tolrek back through a trail of memories.

As an officer, he had been offered the opportunity to avoid being sent to the IZ. This was so, despite strong opposition by Meric, who had presented an ultimatum that Tolrek found to be unacceptable. The official had wanted the seven most high-ranking Krezka officers to endorse the isolation of the very people whom they had led. The unanimous response had been a resounding refusal to bend to Meric’s will. All of the officers, their immediate families and closest colleagues had been arrested within hours. They’d been promptly transported to the IZ.

Tolrek remembered his quarters quite well. The housing had been within the sector for Krezka officers and their families. As the leader of all the Krezkas, he’d been provided the best accommodations. However, a gilded cage was still a cage. Having already predicted how the government would act, he’d made plans. He understood the leverage he had and suspected that there would be additional opportunities to gain much more influence.

He’d never had any intention of quietly accepting his situation. He’d exercised extreme patience, taking an entire year to refine his strategies to bring the government to its knees. Then, for three years, he was the country’s most wanted man, toying with Vaironia, making the VSB wonder when he’d have the Krezkas attack. And then, he’d had to deal with Darion.

His choices during those negotiations had led to him now sitting in front of the television, thinking about the long, winding path that had brought him to this location. He became lost in more thoughts of those times, pondering everything that had happened.

~~18.4~~

As Tolrek was viewing the news, Darion was in his study, receiving an update. Beilon had informed him about a major development that would impact Tolrek.

Adine Relk. Itan Sera. Mado Kahn. Those were the three high-ranking Krezka officers who had recently been killed. The news was unexpected and most definitely unwelcomed.

“How did someone manage to do this?” Darion asked, stunned.

“We’re still gathering intelligence,” Beilon answered. “However, it’s likely there will be increased efforts to hurt Tolrek. I might be playing into the enemy’s hands but I want him back on Vaironia.”

“When do you want us to return?”

“Soon. I’ll contact you again to let you know exactly when. I’m finalizing a few more details. Behadan Kyniska has authorized several military convoys to accompany you. With a clear Tildari presence, your vessel won’t be attacked. You’ll leave from Sedan Air Base. And, once you find out when you’re leaving, do not let anyone besides Tolrek know.”

“Of course, sir.”

Darion’s mind raced, as he took in all of this information. He knew he would have more time to process everything he was hearing. However, his usually composed demeanor was beginning to crumble. Not wanting to give away the fact that he was feeling anxious, he merely expressed that he understood Beilon’s expectations.

“Darion, when you return to Vaironia, come to my office,” Beilon continued. “Also, for your home, I’ve already authorized the adjustment of the security parameters. By the time you arrive, Fei will be at an entirely different protection level, thanks to Reya. She has removed the protocol preventing Fei from using deadly force. Also, Kejaro will be permanently stationed at your home. Both he and Arjan have permission to kill.”

Darion’s worries about Tolrek were steadily increasing. He was already starting to doubt if any of these measures would be effective. Regardless of what security parameters they set up, there were so many variables. Now, more than ever, he needed to be careful. Some Vaironians definitely still considered Tolrek to be a national threat. Having Tolrek out of prison, even though Darion was monitoring him, was unacceptable for them.

Meric had ridden that tide of anger to increase his political influence. Darion had learned that he had agents on Tildar who’d attempted to intercept information. In an earlier briefing with Beilon, Darion had also been told that Meric had authorized the hacking of the security robots in Darion’s home. Beilon, however, could not challenge Meric directly, as he needed stronger evidence. Another complication was that, over the last year, Meric had amassed a surprising amount of power. Ersha had become aggressive again, as the VSB had anticipated. Meric had used people’s fears to gain influence.

Darion speculated that the official was behind the recent deaths. Some of the repercussions were quite apparent. The news would be difficult to contain for long. It would cause even more dissension between those who supported Tolrek and those who were against him.

There were other ramifications that Darion could only hope to avert. It would be impossible to keep Tolrek from finding out what had happened. Darion wanted to be optimistic about the rebel not exacerbating the situation. However, he understood it was likely that Tolrek would have an extreme reaction. The negotiator would just have to calm Tolrek down the best that he could, while protecting him.

He was well aware that Tolrek was in danger but the pace of the enemy was astounding. The boldness of the adversaries was also of significant concern. The murders of those three Krezka officers were particularly disturbing, considering that they had been closest to Tolrek. He’d valued their opinions, consulting with them on training for the other Krezka pilots and had them as his three main points of contact during the rebellion. They’d respected him and it was reciprocated. To kill them was to send a vicious message.

“Now, regarding Tolrek, I want you to tell him about the casualties,” Beilon added. “He must have some time to realize what has happened and grasp what the implications are. Help him to deal with the deaths. If he finds out in another way, he’ll be harder to control. I know this will be difficult but you must tell Tolrek after this conversation. I expect that news will be interplanetary within the next few hours.”

“I understand, sir.”

There was certainly much for the negotiator to manage. The main variable was Tolrek, who, once he heard about the deaths of his friends, could prove to be incredibly uncooperative.

~~18.5~~

Darion knew that Tolrek would be devastated when he heard about the deaths of his comrades. When Tolrek had been given the materials to build replicas of the Krezkas, he’d first constructed Alrak Nor. Then he’d created the fighting units of his closest friends. It had been clear how much they meant to him; one of the few mementos Tolrek had was a picture of them during their days at the Academy. The four individuals had looked directly into the camera, pride, intelligence and a bit of mischief evident in their eyes. And now, that memento would mean much more to Tolrek.

Darion went to the living room to speak with Tolrek. As he was making his way there, he was going over in his mind how to relay the news. There was no perfect way to say it, no real way to reduce the pain it would cause.

“Tolrek,” Darion began, sitting down next to his lover. “I need to discuss something with you.”

“What’s wrong?” Tolrek gauged the troubled expression on Darion’s face. He turned off the television and gave Darion his full attention.

“There’s been a…development.”

“What did I do now?” Tolrek asked, teasing him. “Are you still bothered by what I said last night? I’m not apologizing. You deserved to hear it.”

“No, it’s not about that.” The negotiator’s sullen appearance caused the smile on Tolrek’s face to disappear. “Tol, not many people are aware of what I’m about to say to you. Several of your fellow Krezka officers were recently killed.”

Darion spoke the names. Tolrek closed his eyes momentarily, overcome by the anguish and disbelief.

“What do you mean?” Tolrek demanded. “Were they activated in the military again? Was there some confidential mission they had to carry out?”

“No.”

“Then how did they die?” Tolrek shouted. “They were some of our best trained soldiers!”

“They were targeted. They died at virtually the same time.”

“Then they were assassinated?”

“Yes, that’s what the VSB has determined…”

“I see.”

Darion felt a chill sweep through him. The look in Tolrek’s eyes was familiar to him. He’d seen that same level of rage when Tolrek had been mercilessly beating Jarrick. The anger hung in the air and Darion was momentarily unsure about how to continue. Then, he pressed forward.

“We’ll need to get you back to Vaironia,” Darion said quietly.

He explained that transportation was being prepared for them. When they found out the final details, they would take only their essential items and anything else would be shipped to them.

Tolrek absorbed all of this, looking down at the floor morosely.

Darion reached out to sooth the rebel but his touch was brushed away. He was hurt that Tolrek had rejected his attempt to sooth him.

In truth, Tolrek didn’t want Darion anywhere near him. He stood and paced the room, the questions he really wanted to ask twisting through his head. He wondered if Darion had somehow been involved in the deaths. He wasn’t sure he wanted the answer but the need to find out was grinding at him.

He thought back to how forcefully Darion had negotiated with him. He wondered if that same intellect and drive could have engineered the death of his friends. And if that were the case, what was the goal of the assassinations? Had that been the real reason Darion had taken him to Tildar, to neutralize his ability to get information that would help him predict what was going to happen? And what about all of those hours Darion had been apart from him on Tildar? What exactly had he been doing? What was worth the risk of the negotiator leaving him for such long periods, even putting up little to no arguments about allowing him to work at Tezza’s place? Had he often been with Jarrick, struggling to decide what to do with his former lover? Or, was that just a convenient excuse to disappear for hours? Had all of this tidily fit into some major plan Darion had created before they’d even come to Tildar?

Unable to resist, Tolrek finally voiced the question that was driving his deepest anger.

“Were the deaths of my friends part of your plan all along?”

“What?” Darion was incredulous. “Tolrek, I swear I just found out! I had nothing to do with what happened.”

“Am I supposed to believe you?”

“Listen, I’m telling you the truth. I—”

“You lie for a living!” Tol shouted. “Have you forgotten that?”

“Negotiating is not the same as lying,” Darion responded. “You know I would never—”

Never what? Put me in a position to be used by the government? Step on my neck to make your way to the top? Don’t say anything at all. It would just be more lies anyway.”

Out of all the scenarios Darion had considered, he’d never thought that Tolrek would be furious at him. He’d wanted so much to be a source of comfort to Tolrek and, instead, he’d just been accused of murder. Darion was stunned.

Read Vaironian Tides, Chapter 19