26: Dunek Anmus Arrives

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Stanjah gave me a disapproving glare from across me after I'd adjusted my veil for the umpteenth time. We were heading to Ien Harbor by corin carriage to welcome Dunek Anmus. Keiran, Jarek, and Ilta had left hours before. Martin was instructed to stay behind at the mansion.

It was the twelfth of the month and I've been dreading the day for two good reasons: first was meeting Dunek Anmus, and second was my health exam.

While I was unsure if Dunek would even like me—the new Sye-Liene—I was certain that any good first impressions would evaporate once he saw my face.

Keiran and Martin both tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. Martin's take was that if Dunek didn't like me, then he wasn't worth the stress. Keiran's opinion was that the message had been relayed to his father and was convinced that he would understand. I wasn't sure which outcome would be preferable. Maybe I would just sample a little bit of both.

As for the health exam, I didn't look forward to it for obvious reasons. I'd spent endless hours in hospitals in Hemley with psychiatrists trying to pry out answers from me. As if the traumatizing experience wasn't fresh enough in my mind, here I was again about to undergo a full Elorian physical exam, and I had no clue what that would entail.

I was dressed up in a fancier-than-usual, flowing, golden dress made of satin. The tiara was much larger than usual, and my blond wig was in a partially upswept-style with the tresses at the bottom half flowing freely down my back in large coils. Stanjah was also dressed up and wore a hat that was tall and finely embroidered. The lilac colored full-length dress hugged her body with a large rectangular cut-out shape that showcased her smooth back. She looked fantastic.

"Why couldn't we go to the harbor in the same carriage with Keiran and the rest?" I asked out of the blue.

"They'll be entering the harbor from the main entrance. After that, Keiran will address the citizens," Stanjah explained.

"Won't we be entering from the front as well?"

"No. You need to board Astor-Dunek Anmus' vessel at a remote location on the beach. Many of the citizens will be at the harbor today and you need to be seen exiting his vessel," she answered.

"Don't they already know that I'm here?"

"Your presence here is classified. After today, the whole world will know that you are here; for better or for worse." Stanjah peered out of the window.

"Keiran knows this?"

"Of course. It was he that reminded me to mention this to you. Keeping you secret from the world was for your own protection."

I didn't like the idea that we were making up false truths to the citizens, but at the same time the Ankins demonstrated that they would protect me and Martin. The hairs on my nape lifted when I thought of the menacing look in the Ra's eyes when she came at me with the dagger.

"Remember, you walk behind the Anmus—not beside and never in front, unless he implicitly gives you permission to," Stanjah said when we finally landed in a secluded location several minutes' flight from the harbor. I nodded.

Two soldiers from outside helped us out of the carriage. There was no sand here—just a combination of stones and dark pebbles. These soldiers were dressed differently from the soldiers of Ien. They wore lightweight, shiny metal armor with crimson breastplates. The emblem of a stag on a red shield was right above their hearts.

Praetorian Red Shields.

We followed the guards carefully, walking closely to the shoreline, until finally one of the soldiers pulled out an oval handheld device from a notch on his belt. The image of another soldier appeared on the small display screen above the buttons.

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