Chapter 01: A Household Divided

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Dedicated to my incredible readers new and old, some of whom have been on this journey with me for months and years. I wish you all the best. You have made what has been a delight to write even more wonderful. 

A/N As a head's up, this is the third book in the Tue-Rah series. You are welcome to start here but a few things may not be quite as clear, and, of course, there will be spoilers for the first two books (Identity Revealed and Ecekom's King).  You can find both of these on my profile, and I am including a link to Identity Revealed in the External Link at the bottom.

Naatos strode into the dungeon, his steps clipped, sharp, and confident. The past few days had been quite difficult, filled with challenges and complications. Strangely, the conquest of Ecekom's capitol and palace had been the simplest part. The strength of his fearsome cadre, the Shrieking Chimeras, had been more than enough to overturn the weakened Abliatos. Indeed, Naatos suspected that he and his brothers alone could have accomplished the same feat. These Abliatos were little more than shadows of the former Tiablo greatness from centuries long past. If they were not so pathetic and unaware of how far they had fallen, Naatos might have pitied them. For now though, his focus was elsewhere.

Ever since WroOth and Amelia had returned with the Shrieking Chimera Cadre, there had been one unexpected member whom Naatos had needed to deal with: FerHahn.

Ngi Kenot, one of the Shrieking Chimeras, had locked with a Shivennan and mothered a whole brood of little elementalists with him. But he had not come alone. He brought with him a brother who had managed to slip in with the rest of the cadre just before the fateful battle that drove them into the Sands of Efil where they had been subsequently imprisoned. It was possible that all of this was legitimate, but something about it set Naatos's suspicion on the forward edge of a dagger. It was too convenient, and convenience was something he distrusted.

The Abliato dungeons were as dull as the rest of their chambers. The only initial indication that these were cells rather than regular rooms was that there were no obvious doors. Instead, prisoners were kept in place through energy barriers unless Naatos himself had made further adjustments as he had with Selfan, the former Potentate. Small panels lined each of the walls along with regularly spaced intervals of shining red lights that scanned for life signs, placement, and other relevant information. FerHahn had been placed in a separate dungeon from Selfan and the splinter woman far enough from one another to prohibit conversation.

The Shivennan man, young by all appearances, sat slumped against the wall, picking at his rust colored sleeve. A lesser man of a lesser race might have been fooled by his miserable demeanor and think him innocent. Amelia would certainly have been fooled as would her previous companions. But Naatos knew better. Like most Shivennans, everything he wore indicated his core elemental gift: fire. The rust red and orange of his garb, the brilliant ruby red of his eyes, the imprinted orb design on the palm of his hand. And more than once this Shivennan had lied about the extent of his strength.

Indeed FerHahn gave every appearance of being a sub par Shivennan with nothing to make him exceptional except for his long golden hair. Even now it almost glowed beneath the too bright white light as if it had a life of its own. And that hair was precisely what troubled Naatos. Again and again the warning had come that Amelia would either be killed or die in the process of killing a pyro Shivennan with golden hair.

As if he suspected he was being watched, FerHahn glanced over his shoulder. His eyes widened. "Naatos!" FerHahn stood. His robes were mussed, and the panicked expression his face cut deep wrinkles into his forehead. He bowed his head with a deep sigh. "There has been a mistake."

"No. This is precisely where you are to be. There are some questions you must answer."

"I realize that I should have said something earlier about Amelia sleep walking. It was inappropriate for me to say nothing, but she was moving so quickly I was afraid that I would lose her before she returned."

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