Chapter 21

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Terra woke to find herself in her own bed. She slid out and quietly walked to the living room to find Will asleep on the couch.

He must have carried me to my bed last night.

She gazed at his sleeping form and watched his chest slowly rise and fall. There was both a strength and a gentleness about him that she admired. She suppressed the warm feeling that rose in her chest and replaced it with her favorite self-doubt.

He is a good man with a good heart. Too good for someone like me.

She returned to her bedroom and took a shower, cleaning off the physical remains of yesterday.  She came out to find Will sitting up on the couch and stretching his arms overhead. Again she gazed at him.

Will cocked his head and looked up at her. "How are you feeling?"

"I am better now." A thought came to her. "How about I fix you breakfast?"

"I would be happy to do that after..."

Terra interrupted him. "No. I need to do this."

"Okay then. Pancakes?

A small smile came to her. "Too complicated. You do not know how much I lack in cooking skills. Also, umm, I don't have any food, so we will need to go to your place."

While Will took a shower Terra cooked scrambled eggs, thinking that she could not mess that up. She rummaged through his pantry to find a partial loaf of sweet dark bread. She warmed two slices of the bread, scooped generous portions of scrambled eggs over them, and topped it all off with slices of cheese. She stepped back to admire her new-found culinary skills.

Will came out of the bathroom drying his hair with a towel. "Wow. This looks good. What do you call it?"

"It is, umm, eggs Terra. My new specialty."

Terra poured some tea and they sat down to eat. She was somewhat surprised that her creation actually tasted good, although maybe it was just her hunger. After finishing the breakfast Will took a couple of small apples from a basket on the counter and gave one to her.

Terra paused between bites and caught his eye. "Will, thank you for staying with me last night. I needed that. And thank you for being such a gentleman."

"You are welcome. You are worth that."

I am not so sure.

********

Far away in the Dynasty Capital City a wide-eyed soldier walked with his unit commanding officer down a long hallway. Their path led to a pair of massive wooden doors. Everything about the hallway spoke of power and wealth. The white marble floor shined in the light. Ornate carvings adorned the polished wooden ceiling supported by wooden arches. The stained glass windows that lined one side of the walls looked out on to an immaculate formal garden. He felt cowed in such opulence.

The pair reached the doors and the officer knocked. A servant in a red silk robe opened it and motioned them inside to an outer office that led to yet another set of massive wooden doors, these inlaid with gold. The officer stopped before a huge marble topped desk and addressed the robed man sitting behind it. "We have an appointment."

The robed man directed them to a set of polished stone benches along the wall. "You will wait until summoned."

They sat down and the soldier turned toward the officer and opened his mouth to speak. The officer silenced him with a gesture. "Do not speak unless requested."

After about twenty minutes the robed man stood up and opened one of the doors. "The Minister will see you now."

The two entered a luxurious and cavernous office that took the soldier's level of intimidation to the next level. He stopped and dropped his jaw in shock as he saw who waited ahead: Minister Necros, the Dynasty Chief Enforcer. The officer pushed him forward until they stopped before a large polished wooden table, behind which sat Necros and three others. 

The Minister wore a ceremonial gold mask that signified him as a very powerful Talent. And so he was, second in power only to Emperor Sage V himself. The fine gold mesh completely obscured his face, such a powerful Talent had little need for sight besides the aura. He addressed the officer. "Commander, you have some interesting information?"

"Yes, sir." He turned toward the soldier. "Private, tell the Minister what you told me."

"Umm, yes sir. I was with my platoon up in the Highland Province and during the fighting got separated from them. The Uprising was laying a lot of fire on us and..."

"Get to the point private."

"Yes, sir. I was wounded in the leg near Fairhold. I was then picked up along with some hurt civilians and taken to Freeport. While I was laying there I saw this woman doing psi-surgery on some others. She was very good at it."

Necros interjected, "Describe this woman."

"She had long dark hair and light brown skin. Probably about a hundred and seventy centimeters tall or so. She was pretty."

"Anything else, private?"

"I think her name is Terra, sir."

"It is odd that they took in a soldier with civilians. Why is that private?"

"Well sir, I took off my uniform and put on some other clothes in case there were Uprising sympathizers around."

Necros turned to the officer. "Commander, that will be all. And see to an investigation as to why this private left his platoon and appeared out of uniform."

"It shall be done, sir." The commander dipped his head and walked out with the visibly shaken private through the massive doors.

Necros addressed the person to his right, who wore a silver Talent mask. "What do you think?"

"It may be her. And there is more. Our forces encountered a powerful Talent in Freehold just yesterday. Only a few of that squad returned alive."

"She was stupid to expose herself like that. Caring for these peasants is a weakness we can exploit. We cannot ignore this opportunity."



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