"My Lady, you must get up. Lord Tr'Relvor will be here in a few minutes to see you."
Ael yawned and opened up her eyes. The room she was in was spacious and airy, the couch she slept on was firm, but yielding to the pressure of body weight. Ignoring Aidoann, she rolled over to feel Tr'Relvor's sleeping place. It was cold, but she could still feel where he had slept, smelled the slight male scent.
Aidoann gently tapped her foot. "None of that, my Lady. You need to bathe and get yourself into a new shift. You don't want the Lord Tr'Relvor to see you in this state. How are you feeling this morning?"
"Tired still, and I still have a headache."
"Perhaps my Lady should consider seeing the physician today. He did say that it would take time for you to recover from your changes in body and mind, but if you still had any problems you were to tell him. He left some medication but I really think you should bathe and eat before you take it."
Grumbling under her breath, Ael allowed Aidoann to help her out of her bed and dress her after a good long bath in the 'fresher. Her headache did seem to clear, but she still felt strange. She couldn't look in the mirror. It seemed to her that another persons face looked back at her. The other female in the mirror had her same brown wavy hair and pointed ears, but, her eyes were tilted slightly and the image seemed to stare back at her proudly, with a band of silver and black on her brow. When she tentively gritted her teeth and faced the other woman in the mirror, her head seemed to explode in pain and agony. Thrashing helplessly on the floor, she was not aware of Tr'Relvor running in and holding her down for Aidoann to administer the hypo. Blessed coolness and darkness settled in.
Ael awoke about three hours later. Eisn was high overhead, streaming its light into the room. The light seemed to catch the blue and silver of the hangings, bringing them into almost living colors. Tr'Relvor was sitting at a desk on the other side of the room flipping through papers and data padds. She struggled to sit up against the high back of the couch.
Tr'Relvor noticed her movement and smiled. "Fair morning, Ael. Are you feeling better?"
"Yes, please forgive me that I have delayed you from BlackStar. How is she and the crew?"
"Well." He came over to sit by her side. "The physician tells me that you will need to stay in bed as much as possible. You've not yet recovered from your adaptation from Vulcan to Rhiannsu. You've suffered tremendous trauma to your brain."
"Was I able to help in any way?"
He smiled and she drew back involuntairly from the evil in that smile.
"Yes my Ael, you have tremendously, but it is not over. You have to go back to those memories when you are better able. The Tal Shiar need that information to infilitrate the Federation. It's been too quiet over there since the Klingons left the Federation. Also, the business about our ships trying to wipe the Dominion out is still not settled. Both the Federation and the Cardassians want explanations for this fiasco.
"Do you really need to explain the actions of Rhiannsu?"
"No, but look what happened while I was gone aboard BlackStar. The Tal Shiar have forgotten who their master is. I need to settle them before I can build more Starbirds."
"When will I be able to go to the Unificationists?"
He gave her a measuring look. "No, my Ael. We are scrapping the plans for you to infilitrate the traitors. After what has happened to you, the physicians need to look over their treatments before I send anyone else in."
"What really did happen to me. It...it all seems so vague. Like a distant memory that I cannot catch."
He sighed and clasped her hand. "He's hiding something, but how do I know that?", she thought to herself.
"It seems that you had a illness called "Forge Fever". It seems to strike young adults in the height of summer there. You barely made it out. One of my agents named Kithe got you back here before too many questions were raised. It also seems that the more powerful in a mind gift you are, the worse the fever. As long as those headaches continue, I cannot let you risk yourself."
Ael bit her lip. "I have these....gifts?"
"Yes. I can use you in the Tal Shiar when you are well. Or at least in another department, even though as your position as Consort, you should stay here and keep my House."
Ael had stiffened at the thought of being house-bound all the time, but the thought that had her speechless was the idea of spying on another persons thoughts and or talks. The very thought revolted her.
"Jha'Dur, I don't think that I can do that. I think I was on Vulcan enough to learn that I cannot interfere in the mind of another unless I have that persons knowledge and permission."
Tr'Relvor frowned at that. "This is what is good for the Empire. I think you'll change your mind before too long. We need good telepaths in the Empire. I want the Vulcans and Betazoids to know that they are not the only top telepaths in the universe. " Then he changed the subject. "I'll tell you what. I'll send Aidoann into the town to get some fine hlai'vnau and perhaps some sweets for you. You need to build up your strength." He gave her hand a squeeze and walked to his desk and pressed a button. Aiodann came in immediately.
"Fair morning, Lord."
He glared at the woman. Aiodann was late in her life. Her hair more white than black, her chubby figure fitted properly in the long dark blue gown. She had been with Tr'Relvor's family a long time, only becoming hru'hfe only five years ago. She stood respectfully five steps in the door.
"I want fresh hlai'vnau and sweets for the Lady Ael. She is not to be disturbed and you or one more is to stay in attendance of the Lady Ael at all times. She is not to be left alone for any length of time until the physician declares it safe. You are also to report any symptoms to me or to Healer L'Cheth."
She bowed. "Yes, Lord."
He waved a hand at her and she left. Moments later a younger woman by the name of Triel came in. Newly hired, she bowed awkwardly before rushing to Ael's side. Tr'Relvor shook his head and gave her a cold glare. Triel swallowed and tried to look confident.
"I will be at the Senate for the rest of the day. I expect dinner fresh when I return."
"Yes, my Lord." Aiodann answered.
Nodding curtly, he snatched his cape and stalked out. Triel seemed to take a breath of relief until Ael cleared her throat. Gulping nervously again, she started to fiddle with the bedclothes.
"Triel, I'm fine. I would like to go to the window and sit in the sun. Surely, there could be no harm in that. Also, a few books, and some wine would be good."
"I must see what Aidoann's instructions were. You haven't eaten yet. We have the strong and the sweet for the noon hour ready at your call."
The growl in her belly seemed to answer that question. "Yes, whatever is on the fire will do. Perhaps some berry juice of some kind?"
Triel smiled nervously, bowed, and scampered out before she could ask for anything more. It seemed also as soon as she stepped out, Triel and Aiodann were back with a tray of food, drink, and books for her. Aiodann helped Ael to the window couch, explaining to Triel how to take care of a invalid with Forge Fever, not that she would need the knowledge later in life, but it was always good to know.
Ael was shaking by the time they reached the couch and was relieved to lean back and let Aiodann tuck in the covers around her. While Aiodann was placing the tray on her lap, Triel dragged another chair up and set up her sewing table around it. In this day of replicators and ready-made clothing, to Ael, nothing felt right unless it was hand-made. Aiodann had taught Triel to sew, and she was getting quite good at sewing coverlets and tapestries. It was too early to tell what it was going to be.
Aiodann bullied her into eating the entire tray of fowl porridge, green leaves, berry cider, and berry pie before leaving her with Triel.
The estate was beautiful this time of day. The trees waved in the wind, and she could see the caretakers in the front. She could see the main road from where she sat. There seemed to be a lot of flitters on the road today. Some of them seemed to have a death wish, flitting through traffic at high speeds. Sighing, she picked up one of her novels and began to read. It felt good to pick up a real book instead of a data padd. Eisn's warmth and her weariness soon claimed her in sleep.
She was thrown to the floor in front of the desk. Tr'Relvor sat down behind it and steepled his fingers, looking enraged and betrayed. She looked down. What was she wearing? White, brief, with a long skirt-flap in front and back. White boots. The collar around her neck burned her. She clawed at it in dispair. She could not end it in dignity. The room was dark and she could not make any details out as she got to her feet. Her head hurt where the butt of the pistol had hit it. Her sword lay on the desk in front of him. Tr'Relvor said something, but she could not hear it. Everything was silent. She said something. It seemed to enrage him further. He stood up, throwing the chair back and started to come after her. She turned to run.........
"Lady, Lady....wake up, you are dreaming. Wake up." Triel's voice snapped her awake. Gasping, her body wet from sweat and the covers twisted, she sat up quickly, then fell back with a groan of pain. Triel noticed this and ran for the hypo.
Triel ran back with the hypo and a bowl of water. Before Ael could protest to more drugging, she had touched her arm with the hypo. As the numbness returned to take away most of the pain, Ael lay back again to catch her breath. Triel began to bathe her face and arms. Feeling her forehead, she rushed out of the room. Curious, Ael touched her forehead. The burning touch of a fever greeted her questing fingers. Ael felt angry. She knew Tr'Relvor didn't like these milk-weak maidens who could not stir from their rooms unless they had 'vapors' of some kind. She wanted to get better so she could talk him into letting her be what she wanted....to be on a starship.
Aiodann and Triel rushed into the room. "Are you all right, my Lady?", Aiodann asked, quickly changing her into another sleeping gown and replacing the sweat soaked and twisted covers for fresh. The new clothes smelled wonderful.
"Yes. I still have the headache and weakness, but I am tired of this fever!"
"The physician has been called but he won't be able to come for a few hours. He did send over a nurse to tend you until he came. Lord Tr'Relvor will be home soon. Did you dream?"
Ael was consumed by her need to see Tr'Relvor. Disappointed, she nodded.
"You are supposted to tell us of your dreams."
Ael glared into Aiodann's black eyes. She seemed almost....hungry for her knowledge of her dream.
"No. I don't think I want to talk to you about it. I want to talk to Jha'Dur about it when he gets here. But I don't want to forget it. A padd and stylus. Now!"
Aiodann recoiled and seemed shocked at the harshness of her order, but did as she was ordered. Ael almost frantically took the items from her and began to record what she dreamed. Aiodann and Triel stayed with her until the junior physician came. His name was I'stek. I'stek was reedy-thin and jerky in his movements. He not only examined her with the diagonstic instruments, but used his hands to check her breathing, feel her head and take her pulse.
"It seems like just a touch of the Forge Fever. Your servant caught it in time. But you need complete bed rest until the headaches are gone for a day cycle or two. " He checked the hypos on the table, nodded, and left refills for them. Tr'Relvor stalked into the room. Ael held out her arms entreatingly toward him. She loved the fact that he could never quietly enter a room. He stalked in a room like a hunting selat. He sat by her side, hugged her gently, and felt her forehead.
"What is wrong with her?" He demanded.
Now I'stak was all smiles and bows. "Just a relapse of the Forge Fever, Enar. Consort Ael will be fine with bedrest and good care. Are you sure you do not want a few nurses sent to you?"
The look that Tr'Relvor gave him made the color of I'stak's face drain. "Leave.", was all he said.
The look was sufficient enough to send Triel and Aiodann from the room as well. Sighing, he faced Ael. "What happened."
"What of? Can you remember?"
"I recorded it. I hope you can make some sense of it."
He took the padd from her, stood, and leaned against the windowframe to read what she wrote. Ael toyed with the stylus, spinning it between her fingers. She was pleased with the speed she got.
"Well," her stylus went flying. Tr'Relvor looked at her annoyingly and retrieved the stylus. He dropped it on the bed. Ael picked it up and began to toy with it again.
"You, even fevered, didn't want to come back. The doctors and the Tal Shiar indoctrinated you too well. I had to place a mind block on you until you could heal and face those memories yourself. "
"I didn't know you could do that."
His eyes grew cold as if he remembered something painful or unpleasant. "I can and I did."
"Why would I not want to come back to you? To ch'Rhian. I am Subcenturion Ael t'Illumereth, Navigator and First Consort to Enar'Riov Ja'Dur Tr'Relvor. What else could I be?"
He grasped her upper arms and squeezed tightly. She braced her teeth and bore the new pain. He forced her to look into his eyes. They seemed to be afire. The normal dark brown irisis now black. "Are you really?"
Ael was confused. "I...I don't know what you mean. I am me."
Tr'Relvor's eyes took her in. Finally, as if he found the answer he was looking for, he released her arms and smiled.
"Yes, you're right. Forgive me if I have hurt you." He chuckled. "You are not that gentle to me when we are in battle."
Ael grinned. "No, you don't deserve gentleness in the circle. If you are soft, you end up sleeping with the elements. I've told you before, a cut in the circle means you survive later. "
His eyes widened and he gave her that searching look again. Abruptly, he got up and straightened his tunic. "I have to leave. There is a Tal Shiar agent that has gone over. He is being returned this eventide. Do not expect me until late. Rest well, and without dreams, my Ael."
"I have had enough of dreams, my Lord."
Ael dreamed anyway. She was on a sunny, grassy ridge. The air smelled of springtime. Ael sat on the ridge and looked into the distance at rich forests and a lake. But this didn't seem like ch'Rihan. This was someplace different.
"I'd wondered when you'd get here." The statement made her leap up and go into a fighting stance. A woman had been standing behind her. It was the woman in the dream. She looked exactly like Ael, but she wore white leather knee boots, long white tunic belted at the waist with a wide black belt. The sword
rested on her right hip, it's leather scabbard and leather hand wraps looking well worn. Her nails were long, almost claws, her eyes were the same gold-brown as hers, but were slanted as a cat's. Her hair was tied into a tail high on her head, increasing the angling sharpness of her face, ears, and eyes. She sat on the ground and grinned at her.
"Sit down. I'm not going to hurt you. We are both one and the same, if they would just let us be."
Ael relaxed but didn't sit down. She crossed her arms and glared at her. "Who are you."
"You aren't making any sense."
"No, I'm not. I'm not supposted to make any sense, but you'll have to discover your own truth. When you break the barrier, then we will be rejoined."
"Can you at least tell me your name? I demand to know!"
The woman smiled up at her. In spite of herself, she found herself liking this woman. "I could, but you might suffer for it."
"I am Rhiannsu. Pain is nothing to me."
"We are not Rhiannsu. I will tell you this before I tell you our name. This place is a safe refuge. Do you feel any pain?"
Ael took a mental inventory of herself. She didn't hurt, not anywhere. "No, I don't."
"We will be feeling some strange feelings and instincts in the next few weeks. Follow them. If we are careful, we can discover ourselves without being destroyed."
Ael angrily reached down and grabbed the woman up. She drew back when the claws scored her upper left arm. Greenish blood welled out of the deep gash. She gritted her teeth and clapped a hand to her arm, glaring at the woman. The other woman shook the blood off of her claws and licked them off.
"Listen. We don't have a lot of time. Trust yourself. We...you are Katresha Stardancer, firstborn of the Clan Stardancer."
The skies turned black and a hurricane wind began to blow. Agonizing pain burst through her skull and she began to feel a pulling sensation. She looked at the other woman. She started to disappear, then her vision went gray.
"Elements, someone get the damn hypo! I can't handle her by myself!"
Ael heard Jha'Dur's stident voice, then felt his forehead against hers. "Can't maintain it......hurts.......keep her out.....," then he lifted his head. His eyes seemed to glow in the dim lighting of the room. Her arm hurt, but the pain in her head was actually less than before. She looked around. A hypo hissed against her arm, Aiodann retreating with it in hand.
"Are you all right?" He looked at her measuringly. Ael decided not to tell him of her dream. If it was one.
"Yes. What happened?"
"You've been asleep for two days. Then you started moaning and slashed your arm." He held up the bleeding and torn arm. The fingernails on her right hand was bloody, but her nails....looked like the other woman's....no...like Katresha's nails.
"I'm sorry, my lord. Have you been injured?"
He chuckled, and laid a hand gently on her cheek. "No. I'm fine. I'll just get the healer. Do you remember the dream?"
"No. I don't. I'm sorry, my lord."
He seemed annoyed but smiled at her anyway. He leaned down and kissed her forehead gently. "That's all right, my Ael. " Triel ran into the room with the healer in tow. He treated her arm and ran a tricorder over her.
"Enar, her readings are normal. All accounts of Forge Fever are gone. She will recover in a matter of days. But there are some discrepencies....
Tr'Relvor nodded to the healer. "I will speak to you on that matter. I'm just glad to see that my consort is being well cared for." The poor healer gulped and bowed, hurredly leaving the room. Ael chuckled at him.
"You shouldn't scare the poor man like that. He was only trying to do his job."
Tr'Relvor got up and stretched. "Woman, you would drive a man to beat you for your weaknesses." She chuckled again. She knew that he didn't mean it.
Triel and Aiodann changed the sheets and got her into another clean bedgown. Tr'Relvor rummaged in a chest of drawers and drew out his nightwear. Stepping behind the screen, Ael only got to see his clothes flying out and then he came out.
White linen did really become him. Ael thought to herself. She smiled up at him and held up the sheets for him to slide under. He gathered her into his arms and hugged her gently. Jha'Dur Tr'Relvor was not a demonstrative Rhiannsu. In fact, he hated public displays of affection. He spoke more eloquently in actions, not words. It made him a bad politician, but an excellent field commander.
He kissed her on the forehead and commanded the lights to dim. Snuggling up to him, she felt him sigh and slide a hand over her hip.
"Woman, you aren't up to this yet. Just leave me alone and we'll see what happens in a few days." He whispered to her.
She kissed his throat. "At least I know I'm doing my job as a consort. You're not wandering off on me."
He laughed and hugged her again. "At least if this Katresha Stardancer and I are the one and the same, at least it doesn't feel wrong to be with Jha'Dur." She thought sleepily to herself before she dozed off.
At least the rest of this night, there was no dreams to speak of.
If there was supposted to be any pain, there wasn't. She felt energetic and well when she woke up at Eisn's dawning. She looked at Jha'Dur. He was asleep on his stomach and his face was buried in the pillow. She stripped the sheet off of him and began to tickle him. He woke up roaring, flipping over to shove her off of him.
"Damn it! I was asleep. I think I liked you better sick." He groaned. Then he pulled the pillow over his head when the chronometer went off and the room lights came up.
"Well, would you rather be awakened by the chronometer or me?"
"Give me a minute to decide."
She started to get up but was still weak from her time in bed. Tr'Relvor caught her and helped her to a dressing table. He yelled for Triel and grabbed his 'working' uniform out of the wardrobe, pulling his tunic off and glaring at the servant when she entered the room, gasping at the sight of the master of the house shirtless. Triel immediately dropped her eyes and went to help Ael to the fresher.
She felt stronger when she got out. Triel brushed her hair, braided it, and wrapped her in a green silk chiton. She carefully walked with Triel to the small private dining hall and ate fastbreak with Tr'Relvor. He was going to spend the day on BlackStar with other shipbuilders and engineers. There would be guests in the house in three days. A small gathering, but she paled with nervousness. How could she entertain guests when she had just gotten out of bed? With a kiss, Tr'Relvor left for his flitter.
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