That dinner, on the night when Edward returned to Nimmar after his wanderings through the distant parts of Alskar Province, was informal with only a few of the Governor's friends around the table. To Edward it passed in a blur of changing emotions and of wonder that he was not only once more back in the Mansion but was accepted by the very people who had exiled him. If anybody had asked Edward even minutes after it had finished what he had talked about, what he had eaten or even what he had been drinking, he would not have been able to answer.
Like a ship adrift without a rudder, he sat and let the winds and the currents of his feelings carry him along through the evening. He did talk to other people and answered their questions but it was as though he had no control over his feelings. Everything passed in such a way that things happened without him making any conscious effort to absorb what was happening. Even though he still had no idea why he had been brought back to Nimmar by Boric, he was content to wait for the morning to find out why he was here.
Kitty sat by his side, very close but even she did not say very much except to make rather polite conversation about his health and what he had been doing for the last three years. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, she would hold his hand, smile at him or press her thigh tightly against his under the table. It was as though she needed to reassure herself all the time that he was truly sitting beside her. All she wanted to know was that his presence was real and not some figment of her imagination. She seemed to cling to him, willing him not to vanish like a dream on the coming of dawn to a bedroom.
And so the meal passed for the two of them, blissfully unaware of what was happening around them. In the soft warmth of an autumn evening after the meal was finished, they went out with the others onto the terrace for drinks.
Tentatively both Boric and Rulask tried to sound Edward out about the loyalty of the Rombuli in Alskar Province to the Empire. They were hinting that there was trouble in the Empire and Rulask might need the people of Rombuli on his side but they could not hold Edward's attention for long enough to make sense of what they were telling him. In the end, with knowing grins, they gave up and left Edward to sit quietly beside Kitty holding her hand and talking about nothing in particular.
Late in the evening after dark with the lanterns casting long shadows across the shrubs, people started to leave until Edward was left with only Boric, Gloria and Kitty still sitting on the terrace in the soft glow of the lanterns.
As Boric was leaving with his wife, he said rather dramatically, “ Well Edward, I will see you in the morning in the Governor's office straight after breakfast. We start early so do not be late. There is to be a meeting about how we can face this trouble that is affecting the Empire. The Governor has said he would be grateful for any advice you can give concerning free Rombuli. Have a good nights sleep.”
Then they were alone for the first time since parting on the road out of Nimmar that fateful night when Edward had rushed home to find his parents dead, killed by the Covenent. Kitty put her arms around his neck and kissed him long and hard. Edward responded as though he was making sure there was no chance of her getting away from him again. After their passionate embrace, taking her arm, Edward walked with her back through the now silent Mansion to her rooms.
When they reached the door to her apartment still holding hands, Edward took Kitty into his arms again and kissed her fiercely. “ Goodnight Kitty. Seeing you like this has made me pleased to be back though my feelings about the Empire have not changed. I will see you tomorrow after this meeting and then we can sit and talk about our future."
Kitty smiled her most beautiful smile, the smile he remembered which had always made his resolve melt. “ Oh no Edward Eastland, you are not getting away from me that easily again. This is not the same as it was down by the river. You will come into my room and discuss our future, as you put it, now. After that, or before maybe, we will demonstrate our love for each other in the only way I know how. You remember the time I came to your room and found you with the Covenenters? Well, I am about to fulfil what I promised to myself that night. “
With that remark, Kitty opened the door and pulled him inside her apartment. Standing just inside her sitting room, Edward hesitated but found events were now out of his hands. It was so obvious Kitty was in control, once more he let events carry him along on their currents.
“ The bedroom is through there,” Kitty announced still with a soft smile of amusement at his hesitation. “ I will be a few moments and then I will join you. When I come back, I expect to find you in bed.”
Turning on her heel, she left him standing opened mouthed by the door.
As though the air in the room had become too heavy, Edward struggled against his wonder and fear but managed to walk to the bedroom. To him the bed was enormous and seemed to dominate the room. He undressed quickly as though he felt that if he hesitated he would not be able to carry on. Pulling back the covers, he climbed onto the bed and snuggled down under the bedclothes.
Kitty appeared moments latter and Edward could only stare from his position on the bed. She was dressed in a simple white shift that fell straight from her shoulders to almost the floor. Every movement she made emphasised her figure and the fact that she was not wearing anything underneath. Crossing the room, she climbed into bed beside Edward and snuggled close.
That night Edward and Kitty discovered the joys of love. They soared together on the currents of their passion, sometimes slowly, sometimes almost brutally but always with loving care. Using their instinct, they explored each other’s bodies, cocooned themselves in the warmth of their mutual need and never left each other's arms. It was as though the outside world had ceased to exist, as though there was no past or future only the present. In between love making, they talked, not about the future but about their awakening love. Finally they fell asleep in each other’s arms, sinking into an untroubled sleep which floated their problems away on the currents of their warmth.
Edward awoke with the sun streaming through the window of the bedroom, casting the room in a golden glow. He felt completely at ease with his world as though all the cares of the last few years had been made to vanish in the arms of the woman he loved. Kitty lay across his body sleeping soundly though even in sleep she appeared to smile. Gently moving her aside, Edward climbed out of the bed and looked out of the window. Kitty's room faced across the river to the town that was starting to bustle with activity as people went to work. Stretching, Edward turned from the sunlight and went to search for a drink.
The rattle of the door handle in the sitting room made him rush back into the bedroom to put on his trousers. Kitty's maid Zita came into the room followed by Tula. They were both smiling hugely at his startled expression and giggled in unison when they saw Kitty. Tula was carrying a bundle of his clothes that she laid out on a settee ready for him to dress.
“ You had better get dressed soon,” Tula said trying unsuccessfully to contain her mirth. “ You are due in the Governor's office in an hour and he will not be pleased if you are late on your first day. Zita is going to get your breakfast and you should be washed and dressed by the time she comes back.”
“ Thank you Tula,” Edward said putting his arm round her shoulder, his face breaking out into a grin.
“ I will move all your stuff into here during the day,” Tula said trying not to look too smug. “ I am pleased to see that after all this time you two have finally come to your senses. If you had asked me for advice, maybe you would have done this a long time ago.”
Turning on her heel, she left Edward standing in the centre of the sitting room lost for words.
After eating breakfast alone, Edward kissed the still sleeping Kitty and went out to find the Governor's office. As he walked through the corridors trying to find Rulask and the meeting room, he soon discovered the Mansion was all ready alive with hurrying officials and labouring servants. For some reason Edward had the feeling that they were all smiling with him and in the glow of his happiness the morning appeared brighter than normal. After asking a passing soldier the way, he was soon standing in the outer reception to the Governor's office. A man bent over what appeared to be ledgers, rose from his desk, bowed deeply and ushered Edward through the door to the Governor's office.
There were four people sitting round the large highly polished oak table when Edward entered the room. This was the Governor’s small private office not the much larger Council Chamber beside the Great Hall. The highly polished table could seat twelve people, the inner circle of the Governor's advisors. Around the walls were other tables and chairs obviously for the secretaries to sit and take notes or for other people to join in the discussion. Through an open door behind the Governor, Edward caught a glimpse of a room with comfortable chairs and low tables that must be the Governor's private sitting room. The tables near the walls were unoccupied despite the neat stacks of paper and quill pens ready for the secretaries to record what transpired in this room.
At the head of the table sat Rulask, the Governor of Rombuli and Sandaria. His face was grave even though he tried to smile when Edward entered.
“ Welcome Edward Eastland. At last you have taken up my offer of a place on my advisory council. You know Imperial Master Borovic and Latask, the Covenenter. This is Imperial Grand Master Silker, the commander of the Army in Rombuli and Sandaria. Please take a seat next to Latask.”
Once Edward was seated, Rulask looked round the table and said. “ Now we are all here, I can begin. Most of what we have to say will be for Edward's benefit though I want you all to report as though everything was new. In that way we may pick up something which we can use to our advantage or that we have over looked before. I would ask you all to be brief. I think Latask should start, then Silker, and I will sum up at the end. Borovic is here because he is the one who is going to have to help you in the end. Latask?”
Latask lent back in his chair and looked at Edward from under his eyebrows as though trying to weigh up Edward's likely response to what he was going to say. “ I will not go into too many detail so you will all have to accept what I am about to say. To speak bluntly, the Empire is crumbling before our eyes. To put that another way, because we do not know for certain what is actually happening, the structures that the Covenent has encouraged in the Empire are crumbling. We round this table have to accept, openly now, one of the major factors in the success of the Imperial system has been the support of the Covenent for those families who hold the power. I need not describe that power or its basis to you Edward. Suffice to say, one aspect of that power is the means to get people to follow whoever the Covenent decided would be the next Emperor. Another has been the Covenent's ability to communicate with each other over long distances indeed from any point in the Empire. There have never been many of us, nineteen at the most but by establishing temples with priests in all the far flung corners of the Empire, we have known, through our ability to read those priests minds over those long distances, what has been going on in any part of the Empire instantly. By utilising some of our other abilities, we have been able to physically transfer ourselves between different places in an instant so that we could be at any trouble spot before the trouble became too great for us to handle.”
Edward laughed harshly and interrupted Latask. “ So that was how your Covenenter was able to beat me to Alskar from Nimmar when he attacked my family and killed them. I wish I had that power and then I would have been able to help my family that night.”
“ Yes that is how we travel so quickly between places though it is not that easy and can be very tiring. Actually, we have taught our priests to open their minds to us with a picture of the place where they are and we can then use them as a conduit along which we travel.” Latask's eyes narrowed. “ I was not there when your parents and friends were killed but I do know that the Covenenter who was assures me there was no other option. Enough of this for now though I will return to that subject latter.”
Latask shook his head and shrugged away the angry look Edward directed in his direction. “ What is of more concern to me, and should be to you at the moment, is that I have lost contact with the rest of the Empire. I do not know how but projecting my thoughts beyond the borders of Sardonia is like entering a void. There is nothing there, no thoughts, no contact. The only two Covenenters I have contact with at the moment are two in Walloon but they cannot help me because they are helping their army remnants to retreat across Walloon and have no time to pass the time of day with me. They do say though that as the army retreats so they lose contact with all the land behind the enemy lines. Since my last contact, they have retreated so that the mountains mask their thoughts and I can no longer thought transfer with them. Therefore we must conclude that what is causing this loss of contact is very powerful and is intent on capturing the whole of the Empire. In case you were wondering Edward, I have sent my two other Covenenters, into the void that is the rest of the Empire to try to find out what is happening. They have not returned or made contact since crossing the Ford. I am now all alone. We have to find out what is happening in Parison but I have no idea of what else we can do to gather that intelligence. In other words I need help from you.”
Rulask cut in. “ Silker, now for your report.”
Silker sat upright in his chair like the soldier he was, as though he was on the parade ground inspecting his troops. “ Briefly, we sent half our troops across the river to find out what was happening in the Empire and assess what we had to do to counter the threat. We thought it must have been a rebellion by some of the troops. Not one of those soldiers has returned or managed to get word back to us. I know some of them might have joined the other side but quite a few were very loyal to me, Borovic and to Rulask. Sorry, Latask but I cannot say they were loyal to you because that would be a lie. Scared maybe but not loyal. What this means is that we do not have enough soldiers to defend this province from an outside threat. Indeed we have barely enough to keep order inside the Province. If there is an attack on this Alskar and Sardonia, our only hope is to mobilise the population of both Sardonia and of Rombuli. To do this the Imperial army needs help. First, we have to convince the people that the threat is genuine and not being used as a means of oppressing them even more than they feel they are oppressed now. Secondly I have been told that you have the power to communicate with your mind just like Latask and the Covenent and that there are more like you in Rombuli. Any army that has a means to communicate instantly has a distinct advantage over its enemies who have to use messengers to physically carry messages which takes time. This is the advantage the Imperial Army has always had with the Covenent and their trained men. What really concerns me is that we seem to have lost those trained men in attempts to find out what is happening in the rest of the Empire.”
Rulask looked once again at Edward. “ So you see all or what we have been speaking this morning boils down to the fact that we need help. We need help from your people and we need help from those with power. One thing you can do Edward is co-ordinate the mobilisation of your people. Borovic will help you with that and you two can go away after this meeting and start to make the plans for the mobilisation of the Rombuli people. Silker has found somebody to do the same in Sandaria. Latask though also has a request.”
Latask smiled faintly. “ As we have all been saying to you, we need help. As far as I can make out there is only one person who could help me in the way I need help. Edward, that person and I will have to agree to forget our past differences if what I have in mind is to work. Will you agree to help me and at least suspend your dislike of me?”
Edward looked from one person round the table to the other and then shrugged his shoulders. “ The way you all put the arguments to me, makes me believe that as in the past I have little choice but to do whatever you all ask of me. It seems, whenever I have been mixed up with the Empire, people have got hurt and many killed, including my family and friends. With that in mind, I see I have no option but to agree with your requests. As for helping you Latask, I haven't the power to help in the way you want.”
Latask laughed grimly. “ Oh, Edward Eastland, don't kid yourself. You have far more power than anybody else from outside the Circle I have ever met. You have to believe me and through this time of trial you will surely learn how powerful you are. That night in your room you resisted our power and nobody other than one of the Circle could have done that. Enough of this. You can help me by getting in touch with Nelvask.”
Edward laughed and shook his head. “ Don't be silly, Latask. I have no idea where Nelvask is let alone how to contact him. It is over four hundred years since any of the Rombuli have seen or heard from him.”
Latask was getting angry. “ Use your mind power you fool. That was why it was given to you!”
“ I have only ever used my mind to make contact with five other people in all my life. My father, Mr. Fox, you, the other Covenenter and Mr. Fox's daughter. Except when my father was in danger, I have always been looking at the person or at least know precisely where they are when I have thought transferred.” Edward shrugged. “ I would not know how to start.”
Latask lent across the table and grasped the front of Edward's shirt, his face suffused with anger. “ Boy, this is important. You have to take this seriously. I need one of my own kind to help me. From what is happening in Walloon, I cannot call on the two Covenenters to leave what they are doing and help me. They have their hands full trying to help their people and, like me in Rombuli, that is what Tulka sent them here to do. They tell me there is an army moving into position for an assault in the spring which is at least four times as big as their own. They are needed there. All the other Covenenters have disappeared into the blank void that seems to be covering the rest of the Empire. For all I know, they are dead. Boy, I hate to admit this but I am scared. For the first time in my life I am not in control but having to react to events without any information. We can't keep in touch even with the troops in Sardonia like we used to by mind contact, only by sending messages by horse rider. The priests that I have left, the ones I did not send into Parison, are no good and will not go to the front even when I threaten them. Oh I could force them but they would be useless, shaking with fright and trying to run away all the time. I need help. The only other person like me who is free from the effects of the cloud covering the Empire is Nelvask. You have to get in touch with him and convince him to come here and help me.”
Edward shrugged free from Latask's grasp and sat looking blank eyed out of the window. How was he to get in touch with somebody he had never met before? First he had no idea what Nelvask looked like or how his brain waves would react to Edward's. Second he had no idea whether Nelvask was even alive.
The voice of Rulask interrupted his thoughts. “ Edward, you will have to help us. I know it is hard for you because of the way you have been treated in the past but we need your help.”
Edward refocused his eyes on the room. “ All right, I will try my best. I have no idea how I can help you but I will try. You will have to leave me alone while I work this out. Latask, have you a copy of the Book of the Rombuli that I can study?”
“ Why do you want that banned book?” Latask asked harshly his anger obviously near the surface once more.
“ Inside there is a picture of Nelvask which might bring me insight in how to contact him,” Edward smiled at Latask. “ Besides when I read the passages on Derek Gorland and Nelvask, my Maker might give me an insight into the workings of Nelvask’s mind.”
“ Leaving aside how you are so familiar with such a banned book, I expect I can find you a copy.” He went to the door and said something to the clerk.
Very shortly, Edward, furnished by Latask with a copy of the banned book, left the other four still discussing the situation in the Empire and went back to Kitty's room. Kitty had just risen from bed and was still in her night shift but she smiled happily when he came into the bedroom to greet her. Much to her annoyance, Edward kissed her abstractly and then sat down heavily on a settee in the sitting room. He sat ignoring Kitty, staring out of the window lost in thought.
Seeing she was not going to get any sense out of Edward or to get him back into bed, Kitty hurriedly dressed and came to sit by his side.
“ What is the matter my love?” she asked running her fingers through his hair.
Edward sighed heavily. “ I have just come from the meeting with the Governor which your brother warned me about last night. There was a lot of discussion about the Empire being in trouble, the main thrust of which I did not understand. The important thing which concerned me was that Latask asked me to get in touch with Nelvask, the ancient teacher of the Rombuli who disappeared over four hundred years ago.”
“ Well what is the problem?” Kitty asked lightly. “ Write out a message and send one of Boric's Rangers like your weapons trainer Tag to find him. I am sure he will come if you ask.”
“ Be serious for a minute will you Kitty. That maybe what happens in the Imperial Palace but here it is not that easy,” Edward told her bluntly. “ I told you ages ago that Nelvask vanished just before Derek Gorland surrendered, taking Derek's son with him. Nobody has seen him since and that includes the Covenent who have been actively searching all these years. As far as I am aware, nobody has heard anything from him since he vanished into the mountains the day Derek surrendered. For all we know he might be dead.”
“ If he is like Latask and the rest of the Covenent he won't be dead.” Kitty replied emphatically. “ By our Gods, nobody knows how old they are but he seems to have been around the Empire for longer than anybody I know has lived. The way he talks he must have been present at some of the major events in the Empires history so I guess he is long lived. If this Nelvask is the same, he will be alive somewhere. Think, Edward, on where he was likely to go after leaving the Gathering Field. It can't have been anywhere in the Empire or he would have been found a long time ago. What does the Book say? Let's start from there.”
“ The book states that he disappeared bearing Derek's son into the mountains,” Edward replied gloomily.
“ That’s where we have to start. Who knows about those mountains?” It was obvious by the way she smiled and the expression on her face that Kitty was enjoying herself.
“ No that will not do,” Edward stated frowning. “ The mountains are impenetrable from this side or so I have been told. People have tried to follow and explore them but they have always failed. Every time the attempt is made, the explorers seem to end up in dead end canyons, against sheer walls of rock or wander into valleys that cannot be crossed. The book though does tell us that the Rombuli came out of the mountains after spending the summer in Nelvask's valley but nobody has ever managed to find the way back. It is as though there is a power there making sure that the mountains are impenetrable.”
Kitty grimaced and then laughed. “ That's it. He is up in those mountains somewhere guarded by his power so that nobody can find him if he does not want them to discover his valley. Now you have the power or you talk of power. I was there when your father got in touch that time, don't forget. Why are you so reluctant to use your power to contact Nelvask? “
“ Don't be silly,” Edward snapped irritably. “ As I told Latask in the meeting just now, I have only ever made mind contact with people I know or who I am looking at. I have never met Nelvask or had mind contact with him before.”
“ But Edward when your father got through to you that afternoon, he was miles away in Alskar.” Kitty was thinking her way through the problem even though she had no idea if she was right about Edward’s power.
Edward stared at her unable to grasp what she was trying to say. Was that all there was to it? Just sit here and mentally call Nelvask's name? Surely not. There must be more to it than that. If that was all he had to do why has Latask with that much more power been unable to contact Nelvask. Suddenly Latask's words took on a new meaning. Of course, Latask had tried, had used all his experience and power but Nelvask had refused to answer. The enmity between Latask and Nelvask ran too deep for Nelvask to heed any summons from Latask. That was why Latask wanted him to try because there was a better chance for an answer to Edward's request than for a response to Latask. That still leaves me with a problem, Edward told himself. How on earth am I to get him to reply if Latask with that much more power could not?
“ All right Kitty, I'll try it the way you suggest,” Edward told her, feeling foolish, but making up his mind. “ Get the Book from over there and bring it to me. I will find the picture of Nelvask which I know is in there some place. Maybe if I have some form of reference, I will be able to get a response from him.”
They sat close together on the settee, and turned the pages of the Book until they found the picture of Nelvask. Kitty frowned and then let out a gasp.
“ What's the matter now? “ Edward asked irritably, his concentration disturbed.
“ Look at that other picture,” Kitty said pointing to another picture on the page. “You look so much like him.”
Edward looked at the picture to which she was pointing. “ Oh that's Derek Gorland as a young man before he took over the leadership of the Rombuli. I suppose I do look a little like him, though I expect half the Rombuli nation could claim a resemblance. Put that aside for a moment and let me concentrate.”
He sat next to Kitty on the settee, trying to clear his mind of her scent and her presence that gave him a very pleasant sensation but distracted his thoughts from the task in hand. Visions of her bed from the night before rose up in his mind and he had great difficulty overcoming the desire to leave Nelvask and return to her bed. With a great test of his will power, he put the sense of Kitty sitting beside him out of his mind and concentrated on the picture of Nelvask. Feeling rather foolish, he emptied his mind of all other thoughts and began.
“ Nelvask, this is Edward Eastland and I have to speak to you.”
Nothing happened and Edward shook his head. Kitty smiled reassuringly in his direction.
“ Nelvask will you please answer me. It is very important.” Edward put more power into his thoughts this time.
“ Greetings Edward Eastland. I have been waiting a long time for you to contact me. Indeed I have been hoping that more than one person would be in touch over the years.”
Edward jumped. It was as though Nelvask was sitting in the room with him, the voice was so clear in Edward’s mind. Kitty was watching him with mounting excitement, certain from his expression that something was happening, but Edward only waved his hand to keep her quiet and indicate that he was in contact with Nelvask.
“ What is so important that you feel you need to get in touch with me after all this time? I have waited for one of the Rombuli to contact me since I left the gathering Field all that time ago but in vain. Though I could have made myself known to any of the Rombuli, I thought it best in the light of the power of the Covenent to wait for one of you to contact me. Now what have you to say to me Edward Eastland?”
“ It is a long story Nelvask, but I will be brief by cutting out the details. Then if you need any more information, you can ask me questions when I have finished. Latask, the Covenenter seems to know you. Anyway, he asked me to see if you would respond to my call to you. He has tried but you have never answered him. He wants you to know there is trouble in the Empire, what the trouble is I am not sure because I only arrived here yesterday. What he wants is for you to help him combat the trouble in some way.”
“ Oh he does he? The last time I saw Latask, he was one of the leaders of the rabble who were busily kicking me out of my home on the Holy Mountain. He split me away from all my books and my study, to go wandering round this land alone and outcast. You have some idea what that is like. Only when my Maker told me to find the Rombuli fleeing from danger into danger, did my life take on a true meaning again. Why should I help him, given all the heartache he caused me? Why should I leave my retreat where I have my books, my land and my loyal servants to follow the bidding of my enemy? You will have to convince me by answering that question. What do I care for their bloody Empire?”
“ All I can say is that it isn't just the Empire which is in trouble but the Rombuli nation as well. As far as I can make out, the Empire has been attacked by something that has so much power they can stop mind contact between the Covenenters and this happens wherever these people gain control. Latask thinks that in the spring, Sardonia and Rombuli will be attacked as the last places in the Empire still free. Already Walloon is under siege. On his own, because the other Covenenters have been sent to find out what this power is and have not returned, he feels he cannot stop the advance in the spring. He thinks you will be able to help him resist this unknown enemy because he says his and your combined power will be a match for whatever it is out there in the rest of the Empire. If you hate the Empire think of the harm that could come down on the Rombuli nation you say you love. Look, I am not making much sense because I have only a sketchy knowledge of what is happening. If you will only open your mind to his, he can explain much better than I can. What shall I tell him?”
There was a long silence in Edward's head, then Nelvask's voice sounded once more. “ I think I understand though there are some gaping holes in your explanation. The best thing I can do is come to Nimmar and confront Latask. I will be able to get to the bottom of this then and decide on my response.”
“ When shall I tell Latask you will arrive?” Edward asked eagerly.
“ Oh there is no need to tell him. I will come at once. It will give me great pleasure to see his face when I walk unannounced into his room.” The laughter in Nelvask’s voice was plain to Edward.
“ How will you get here?” Edward frowned, his expression puzzled.
“ That is easy. You are going to help me. All you have to do is concentrate on the room and then open your mind fully to mine, I will do the rest. It strikes me as surprising, however with your power that you have never experimented with this technique yourself.” Nelvask sounded puzzled.
“ Experimented with what?” Edward asked eagerly.
“ You just concentrate on the room and then you will find out.” Nelvask chuckled at some private joke.
Edward got up from the settee, waving for Kitty to stay where she was. Standing to one side of the room, he concentrated on fixing a picture of the room in his head.
As the picture of the room became fixed in his mind, he felt as though his thoughts were being grasped by an outside force. There was a wrenching sensation in his head, the air in the middle of the room shimmered with a silver light and then there was a man standing on the carpet directly in the spot where Edward was looking.
Kitty let out a gasp but Edward did not look in her direction. He stood rooted to the spot unable to understand what was happening. Grinning widely, a tall broad shouldered man dressed in simple brown jacket and trousers stood in the room looking around. His face was covered in a silver beard but the mouth was smiling and the deep blue eyes twinkling.
“ Well Edward we meet at last, “ Nelvask said walking the few paces to put his arm round Edward's shoulders.
Edward stared, at first unable to say anything.
Then he spoke his voice hoarse with wonder. “ It was you wasn't it?”
“ What was me?” Nelvask asked laughing so naturally it gave the impression that he was always laughing.
“ It was you who told me what to do that night when the Covenent were trying to get me to confess that I had had a hand in stealing the Rombuli flag.” Edward demanded an answer. “ Yours was the voice which came into my head and gave me advice.”
“ Yes that was me, “ Nelvask said, the grin leaving his face. “ When you called out for help, I almost came but then realised it was not quite the time to go fighting the Covenent. I have never before felt quite so much power in one of the Rombuli. You did well that night with my help. Now introduce me to your lovely companion before her eyes pop out of her head. From the look of things we are in her room and it is the height of bad manners for a gentleman to enter a lady's room without an invitation.”
“ Sorry,” Edward muttered but grinned. “ Nelvask this is Kitty Borovic, lady in waiting to the Governor’s wife, daughter of Imperial Grand Master Borovic, the Head of the Emperor's personal guard. Kitty this is Nelvask, the ancient Rombuli Teacher, though how he got into your room I have no idea.”
Kitty rose from the settee where she had been sitting watching Nelvask and Edward.
She curtsied gracefully. “ Welcome to my room Nelvask though I am still in shock from watching you appear out of nowhere. How did you do that?”
“ Oh, Edward opened his mind to me and I used that as a conduit to reach him. He can do that as well you know if he tried. In fact I expect he could use you as the homing person if he trained you to open your mind to his. In time he might even be able to transfer you from place to place as well.” Nelvask was looking at Kitty quite strangely. “ I see you two are more than friends.”
Kitty blushed but did not look away. “Yes, Nelvask and we are to be married as soon as it can be arranged.”
Nelvask smiled hugely and kissed Kitty on the cheek. “ That is good. I can see you love each other. Can I come to the wedding? I haven't been to a wedding for ages. Enough of your wedding for now, we can discuss the details later. I suppose I had better go and talk to Latask though I would rather stay with you. Will you two show me the way to his office?”
Edward and Kitty led Nelvask through the Mansion to the office of the Governor where they expected to find Latask. The official who had shown Edward into the Governor's presence earlier in the morning looked rather hard at Nelvask but informed Edward that Latask had returned to his quarters.
“ Where is that?” Nelvask asked as they left the office.
“ At the bottom of the hill in the chalets by the Meeting House,” Edward replied.
“ So he has commandeered my home has he? We will have to see what we can do about this.” Nelvask looked hard at the corridor.
“ Please Nelvask do not cause too much trouble. Latask asked you to come in peace to help him and I said I would tell you that you will be safe while you are here.” Edward pleaded with his spiritual leader.
“ If that is the case Edward, lead on, because even if I know the way, it seems I am your guest.” Nelvask said bowing deeply in mock deference to Edward.
Edward, Kitty and Nelvask walked out of the Mansion taking along the path towards the Temple. Nelvask looked around, his face growing darker and darker the further they went.
Sweeping his arm in a circle to include the Mansion, the Temple and the wall, Nelvask grunted to nobody in particular. “ What have they done, oh my Maker? All this was for the people to come in silent contemplation, for children to play, for families to picnic. It is not meant to be shut away from the people so that only the privileged few can enjoy the peace and the beauty. Oh Latask what have you done to my people and my island! In the end you will have to answer for this to me but I will leave it for now because you ask me to come in peace.”
They came in sight of the gate leading into the Covenenter's compound and the creatures who watched.
“ That is an abomination! Half animal half machine!” Nelvask cried aloud and waved his hand in the creatures’ direction.
Edward felt the power and the anguished cry of the watchers and then they toppled from their place on the gateposts to smash into pieces on the ground. With another wave of his hand, Nelvask collapsed the force field along the hedge and grimly threw down the gates.
“ Oh Maker this is my home and I am back. Never again will the Covenent be allowed to put barriers around this place. I will see that all the people will be able to come and see this island. Given the chance, I will set my people free from the yoke of Latask and the Covenent. That will be my price for helping Latask. Come Edward and Kitty and witness the confrontation between me and Latask.”
Nelvask made no pretence of following them but swept down the steps, his cloak billowing out behind. At the bottom of the stairs, Nelvask did not hesitate but walked straight across the lawn ignoring the pathway and banged his staff on the door to one of the bungalows.
Latask came to the door and smiled. For a moment Edward felt that there was going to be an explosion as the sparks flew between these two old men but then they both seemed to relax.
“ Greetings Nelvask,” Latask said extending his hand in some semblance of friendship.
“ Greetings Latask,” Nelvask replied, taking his hand. “ We will hold our discussion in the Meeting House, so send somebody to make it ready. I see you have put shutters at the windows. Have these removed and lets get some light in the room. Which bungalow will I be staying in seeing as you are in mine?”
“ I have had the one at the end made ready for you,” Latask replied.
Nelvask turned to Edward and smiled. “ Thank you Edward. You and Kitty can go back now. Tell the Governor that I am here and that Latask and I will be in touch when we have filled each other in on what is happening in the world. Oh, by the way. Latask and I will officiate jointly at your wedding so you two had better make plans now.”
Edward stared at Nelvask and then holding Kitty firmly by the hand, walked resolutely back up the steps to the Temple. By his side, Kitty was fuming as evidenced the heat emminating from her hand.
“ How dare he start ordering us about concerning our wedding,” she finally exploded when they ere at the top of the stairs. “ I will not have anybody tell me what we are going to do. We will decide who will officiate and where the wedding will take place.”
Edward suddenly laughed. “ Kitty don't you want to marry me?”
“ Of course I do but...”
“ No buts Kitty. Let us make the arrangements. Come on let us go and see the Governor and explain.” Edward said, taking her hand and pulling her into motion towards the mansion.
“ Why the Governor?” Kitty asked getting more frustrated.
“ Because he will have to approve or we will never get married.” Edward explained patiently. “ He is the highest ranking Imperial official in the province and will see your marriage as important for the Empire. If he thinks I am of too lowly a station, he will refuse. If he thinks your father would object, he will refuse. If on the other hand if he thinks that your marriage to me might bind the Rombuli people closer to the Empire, he will approve. Let us go and convince him that our marriage will bring benefits not only to us but to the Empire.”
They managed to see Rulask that morning, telling him that Nelvask had arrived and was in conference with Latask. Rulask gave Kitty a big hug when they asked about getting married but the idea they had entertained of the ceremony being in a short time, vanished at the hands of the Governor and his wife.
Kitty and Edward were still staggering when they left the Governor, having been told that the wedding would take place in the Great Hall as a symbol of the joining in friendship of the Empire and Rombuli. The Governor's wife would organise the issuing of the invitations to all the prominent families in Rombuli. She asked Edward who he would want to invite. After some hesitation, the only people he could think of were Tom, June, Lucy and Derek. The Governor insisted he sat down and wrote out an invitation for them to visit Nimmar as soon as possible. Orders were then issued for the Army to provide an escort for Tom and his family when they travelled to Nimmar.
So it was four days later, four days in which he had been more and more pushed aside as the wedding preparations took on a momentum of their own, Edward stood on the steps of the Mansion waiting for his friends to come. He had hardly seen anything of Kitty since the date had been decided, this included his free time at night. Once the fateful decision had been taken, he had been moved out of her rooms to a suite of his own in another part of the Mansion. Next door was the suit containing a living room and three bedrooms that had been put aside for his friends.
As the pace of preparation became even more frantic and he was more and more ignored, Edward had started to wonder whether he had made the right decision in deciding to marry Kitty. He was thinking, as he waited for his friends too come, it might have been better if he had gone away to stay with them rather than invite them here. His thoughts were interrupted when he saw a coach with an escort of soldiers coming up the drive from the bridge and his excitement rose. It was as though he was waiting for his family, indeed they were the only family he had had for the last few years.
An Undermaster dismounted by the Mansion and saluted Edward. “ Your friends have arrived safely, Mr. Eastland.”
“ Thank you for looking after them for me, Undermaster,” Edward replied, knowing this was a duty the Undermaster would rather not have undertaken but as a loyal soldier of the Empire had stoically undertaken his duty. “ You can go back to your quarters and relax. I'll look after them from now on.”
The Undermaster saluted smartly and turned on his heel to march away towards one of the other entrances to the Mansion.
The coach pulled up at the door and the footman dismounted and put the steps in place. The door opened and June looked fearfully out. The footman took her arm and helped her from the coach, followed by Lucy, Derek and Tom. They all stood self-consciously looking about but their faces lighted up at the sight of Edward coming down the steps.
“ Tom! June! Lucy! Derek! I hope you had a good journey. Forgive me for sending for you like this without giving you any warning or even any time to prepare for the journey. I hope you were not too worried about being summoned by the Governor of Rombuli to come to Nimmar straight away. Did the soldier tell you why you have been asked to come?”
Edward hugged each of them in turn. “ Come on I'll show you to your rooms and then I will explain.”
After Edward had instructed the servant about where to bring their bags, they all crowded after him through the imposing Hall and down the wide corridor to the second staircase.
June followed close, her mind unable to grasp what was happening to her and her family. The house was too big, so big in fact she had no real basis on which to judge its status or its wealth. Up more stairs and along another corridor she followed hardly having the courage to look about.
Then Edward stopped at a door with a servant waiting outside. People whose main job seemed to be to open doors for her made June nervous and wanting to tell them to let her open the doors herself. The servant swung the door open, bowed and stepped aside. June led the way into the room and then stopped dead causing the others to crowd up against her back.
What greeted her was, to her eyes, the height of luxury set out in a vast room. The settees and armchairs were covered in cloth the like of which she had never seen and on the floor was a deep pile carpet in bright colours. There was a dining table and six chairs and other highly polished smaller tables around the room. Flowers in glass vases further brightened the room making June smile at the thought that even rich people liked their flowers.
“ This is where you will stay while you are here,” Edward explained pushing passed his open mouthed friends. “ You must treat this like home. Through that door is your bedroom, Tom and June. Through that door is a bedroom for Lucy. Through there, one for Derek. Through the other door is a bathroom.”
Turning to Tula standing by the bathroom door with a pile of towels trying hard not to smile, Edward said, “ This is Tula, your servant while you are here. Tula, this is the family who took me in this year and became the first friends I had for a long time. This is Tom, his wife June, their daughter Lucy and their son Derek. Look after them well while they are here. They are not used to this kind of life especially having servants to look after them. Remember how I reacted to seeing all this not so long ago when I first came here to the Mansion. Help them all you can. Now I will leave you for a little while so that you can settle in then I will come back for a drink. Later we will have dinner together and I will tell you why you have been summoned here.”
That night Edward arranged with Tula for a dinner to be served in his room for his friends.
After Tula had shown them in and they had been served with drinks, Edward smiled and said. “We will wait for a while until we are joined by somebody else. As you see the table is laid for six. Have a drink while we wait.”
It was not long before there was a knock on the door and Kitty entered the room after a servant opened the door for her. June was immediately struck by how self possessed and in control Kitty was. It is as though she expects servants to open doors for her, as though without thinking, she will put out her hand and a drink will appear. And the servants instinctively obey her with out question or hesitation. When Kitty had a drink in her hand, Edward introduced her to his friends.
“ This is Kitty Borovic, the Lady in Waiting to the Governor. It is because of her that I have had you invited to Nimmar. Kitty and I are getting married next week and I wanted you to be here to support me,” Edward put his arm round Kitty and smiled.
Kitty was watching Lucy when Edward said those words and could not help seeing the cloud which crossed her face. It was as though she had lost something important and a light had gone out in her life.
“ I am pleased to meet you all,” Kitty said kissing June on the cheek and embracing Lucy and Derek. “ Tomorrow, you June and Lucy will spend the day with me. I have arranged for a dressmaker to come to my apartment and we can have a very pleasant day being measured for and trying on dresses and underwear. The men I will leave in Edward's hands. I know they are to be fitted for some clothes but as men take a lot less time over those things, I expect they will be finished a long time before us.”
Later that evening after a very pleasant meal, Kitty managed to get Lucy on her own for a few minutes. “ Lucy, I have known Edward for a number of years and I have been trying to get him to marry me for most of that time. Don't feel bad about him. He will be upset if he thinks you are really angry with him. Tomorrow I will tell you the story of our romance and you can judge for yourself about how you should treat Edward.”
Lucy smiled shyly. “ Oh, Kitty it is not jealousy really but he was such a catch when he arrived to work for my father, I just thought I could win him. That day he looked so vulnerable and sad. I suppose I tried at first to cheer him up and things went from there. I should have known there was somebody else because although always kind to me, he kept his distance if you know what I mean. You do not have anything to fear from me as far as Edward is concerned.”
The next day the women disappeared soon after breakfast and the men were left on their own. Edward took Tom and Derek into Nimmar and arranged for their outfits to be made for the wedding. Then they spent a pleasant day lazing around the Mansion.
The wedding of Kittiana Borovic and Edward Eastland took place in the Great Hall of the Mansion at Nimmar. With the worry about the troubles in the rest of the Empire put aside for a day, people treated it as though it was to be the last social event in that part of the Empire for some time. It was just like the time the Emperor came to Nimmar with everybody of consequence vying to look wealthier or more important than the next person.
Nelvask and Latask jointly presided in a ceremony that took elements of both the Parison and the Rombuli wedding rites.
Through the ceremony June tried not to look out of place though she felt conspicuous of her social standing among so many nobles of the Empire. She had worked out, though she had not said anything to her family, that there was a social order in the Empire. Though most people would never have noticed, she had seen that Kitty was obeyed without any hesitation or questioning looks, that with Edward there was just that little hesitation when he gave orders and with her the questioning looks at first and the minor hesitation were most notable. It was different when she was with Kitty than when she was alone except for whenever she was with Tula. She looked around her now at all the splendour and wealth and lifted her chin determined to enjoy Edward's wedding.
Tom supported Edward while Boric in the absence of his father gave away the bride in the time honoured Rombuli fashion. They drank a toast as the sacrifice to the Parison God, wrapped their joined hands in a sacred chausible held by Latask before the fire. Then they lit a double candle in the Rombuli fashion, the candle burning into one while the hymn to the new creation was sung by all the guests. And June with tears rolling down her cheeks cried out proclaiming them man and wife as they walked around the aisles of the Great Hall.
At the party lasting long into the night after the wedding, Lucy was the centre of the attention of many of the young men. Tom at first tried to stay close to her but in the end gave up and let her dance with who ever she wanted. Soon June started to relax and holding Tom's arm circulated among the guests leaving Lucy to enjoy herself.
After the wedding and the meal and party, Edward and Kitty left to spend a few days at the country estate of the Governor. As they left, Rulask told Edward that the serious business would start on their return.
And so at last Edward and Kitty were married and in many ways the destiny of the Empire and Rombuli were tied together.