BOOK 12 DESTINY DERIVED
(THE ROYAL FOUR RECLAIMED)
Over the next couple of weeks, the gang grew restless from being cooped up in the house, and increasingly disheartened by their lack of progress. They still didn't have a plan to rescue Isabel and there was constant bickering about what to do.
When a message finally arrived from the spy in Khivar's midst, Max called a meeting to start on a plan. He spoke to the group, gathered around the room. "The message has a current layout of the palace and the schedule of the guards, and he confirmed Isabel and my son are in the palace."
"So what are we waiting for?" Michael asked. "Let's get this plan finished and go get her."
Max nodded. "I agree. We've been here too long. We need to finalize the plan and organize a rescue team."
Michael nodded approvingly. "Okay, what have you got?"
Max smiled and started the explanation. "I think it will work best this way."
In the last couple of weeks, Khivar had helped Isabel regain several more memories of their past together. Most of them had been wonderful, romantic, but today she had remembered the day in her other life, when she had discovered that Khivar had been plotting against her brother.
The memory had sent a chill right through to her bones, affecting her as much this time as it had originally. She hadn't wanted to believe it was true, but when she asked Khivar he assured her it was. He had seemed concerned by her reaction but he wanted her to know the entire truth of the situation, filling in the blanks in her memory. And Khivar's unemotional recitation of his plan that had led to her brother's downfall disturbed Isabel almost as much as the memory.
And now hours later, unable to sleep, Isabel sat in bed and traced Khivar's form with her eyes. The more she learned about him, the more she was confused. Khivar, the man she knew and loved, was kind and gentle, loving, but she knew he must have another side to him. After all, he had caused a war to obtain her brother's throne, and he was the reason they had all been killed. But she had never really allowed herself to think about what that might mean.
When she had first arrived on Antar, Isabel hadn't really cared about the politics and the situation on the planet, worried more about herself and her life. But the recovered memories had made her curious to learn about her new home, and along with her memory retrieval, Khivar started her tutelage of Antarian customs.
But the more she learned about Antar, the more apprehensive Isabel became. The situations that Khivar described, closely echoed what had happened on Earth in communist countries after World War II. Khivar assured her that the continued military presence and control was necessary to keep order and subdue anti-government rebels.
And although she had been there for a few weeks, Khivar hadn't officially announced her presence on the planet, and Isabel was starting to wonder why. She hadn't asked him yet but Khivar seemed to have an answer for everything. But his words didn't always relieve her apprehensions and Isabel started to wonder exactly what Khivar was capable of.
(Secret Headquarters of the Resistance Loyal to the Tageonants)
Liz turned onto her side carefully, trying not to wake Max, unable to sleep because of the vague feeling of unrest in the back of her mind. Now that she'd recovered her memories, she knew how in her past life as Ava, she used to concentrate to try and learn more about her feelings. And Liz had tried, but so far she'd been unsuccessful in coaxing out any details.
It was terribly frustrating to know she could have information that could save them, but she couldn't access it.
Finally, she slipped out of bed and donned a robe, before silently opening the door into the hall.
Cuerena was there, with the other guards, instantly alert but she relaxed when she saw Liz. "You can't sleep, your Majesty?" she whispered.
Liz mentally cringed at the use of her title but nodded. "Nedra mentioned that there was a library in the house. With everything that's been going on I haven't had time to check it out but I thought maybe I would try to read for a while."
Cuerena motioned to two of the guards, "Jaetus and Heran will take you, your Majesty."
Liz let her eyes roam over the many volumes covering the walls of the house's library. Some of them were ancient texts dating back thousands of years, the titles so familiar to her. Others were books she had read and cherished as a child, and many were titles she had anticipated studying at college. But that had never happened.
She smiled, remembering her other life. When she had been Ava, she'd made many plans for the future, including moving to the capitol city of Tageonon to attend the best university. All of her life, she had looked forward to the time when she would be old enough to attend, but then she had met Zan.
Now that she had recovered her memories, Liz could remember every detail of the night they had first met, and it had been as magical and unexpected for her as it had been for Zan.
Although, he had seen her when she first entered the room, she had been disinterested to meet him. She had seen pictures of him of course, who hadn't? Zan was the crown Prince, heir to the throne of Antar, the most eligible bachelor on the five planets, and she had to admit he was very handsome. Most of her friends were completely in love with him and had looked forward to the ball for months, hoping to catch his eye. But she had heard the rumors about Zan's spoiled, foppish ways, and she considered the whole evening to be a waste of time. But her father was the Governor and the host of the ball, and it was her duty to meet the Prince.
She had dithered as long as possible getting ready, but finally her handmaid had hurried her into the ballroom. And after a too short time in the reception line, she had finally arrived before Zan, and her father made the introductions.
Zan had greeted her mother first, as was proper, and then he turned to her. And when his eyes met hers, she had known instantly all of the gossip about him had been lies. It was as if through his eyes, she could see into his very soul, and there was nothing foppish or spoiled about him. He was a man with deep feelings and passions, intelligent, caring; and totally unexpectedly Ava felt a jolt of recognition race through her. Even though she had never met him before, she knew this was the man she had been waiting for all of her life.
Without taking his eyes off her, Zan had extended his hand to her. "May I have the honor of the first dance, my Lady?"
Ava had placed her hand in his unhesitatingly and Zan led her to the center of the dance floor. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew that every set of eyes in the ballroom was focused on them, but she didn't care. And as the music started, and Zan took her into his arms, she knew she was in love.
So she had chosen to forego college and marry her love. She had not even come of age when she married Zan, had never lived outside her father's house, had never been away from her own province; very much like her life on Earth. But none of that had mattered to her in the least, then or now. It was like she had told Max just a few days ago, college and everything else was so unimportant. All that mattered was being together.
Coming out of her reverie, the title of one of the books suddenly caught Liz's eye and she reached for it. The book had been one of her favorites as a child and she had read it many times. She opened the cover, skimming the familiar words on the first page, as the memory washed over her.
"Why am I not surprised to find you in here?" a voice from the door interrupted her.
Liz turned to the speaker with a smile. "I wouldn't have thought this was your kind of hang out," she teased.
Rath leaned a casual shoulder against the door jam and met her eyes solemnly. "You don't know everything about me."
Liz nodded, instantly contrite. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."
Rath shrugged and walked into the room. "You didn't." He crossed to the shelves, stopping beside her, scanning the titles. "I don't remember reading any of these, but I must have."
"It will come back to you in time," Liz assured him. "Or you could read them again and have the pleasure of the first time all over again."
Rath motioned to the book in her hands. "What have you got?"
Liz smiled, running her hand down the open page. "It was my favorite book when I was a child. I read and re-read it, maybe a dozen times."
"You liked it that much," Rath said, as he crossed to her, looking over her shoulder. "Maybe I should start with that one. What's it about?"
"It's about a young girl, who goes on a magical journey to save her best friend . . ." Liz trailed off as she received a sudden flash.
She saw that Rath had been in the library many times since they had been in the house. In her vision, she saw him seated at the table, with piles of books around him that she recognized as law tombs.
And suddenly Liz caught a hint of Rath's emotions and intentions. But she didn't have time to act before he grabbed her from behind, pinning her arms to her sides and clamping a damp cloth over her mouth and nose. She struggled against him, but his superior size and weight were too much for her, and the smell of the substance on the cloth quickly clouded her brain.
But before she slipped into blackness, she called out through her connection to Max.
Liz's frightened voice in his head woke Max immediately and he jumped out of bed, quickly scanning the room for her. When he didn't see her, he pulled their connection sharply into focus. He could feel her through the connection but when he called to her, she didn't answer.
He burst into the hallway and confronted Cuerena. "Where's Liz?"
"She couldn't sleep and went to the library, your Majesty."
"You let her go alone?" Max asked. "She's in trouble. She called out to me, and now I can't get her to answer."
Cuerena instantly activated the silent alarm. "She didn't go alone. I sent two guards with her. We'll lock down the house and search it top to bottom. Nothing will get in or out. We'll find her, your Majesty."
The sounds of people rushing around filled the house, as Michael emerged from his room down the hall. "What's going on?"
"Liz is missing," Max said over his shoulder, already starting down the hall in the other direction. He called back to Cuerena, "Where's the library?"
Cuerena hurried ahead of him. "I'll show you."
Michael jogged to catch up. "What do you mean she's missing?"
Max shook his head as he quickened his pace. "She called me through the connection. She was really scared and now she won't answer me."
They reached the library moments later and a quick glance was enough to tell Max that no one was there. But one thing did catch his eye, a book lying on the floor. He crossed to it and picked it up, recognizing the title immediately. It had been Ava's favorite as a child.
But beneath the book, was something that made his blood run cold. It was the necklace they had found at Atherton's house, that he had given to Liz. Max knew she never took it off and he noted that the cord was broken. He picked it up, clasping it tightly in his hand and suddenly, images flashed through his mind.
Liz looking at the book
Rath entering the room and Liz talking to him
Rath grabbing her from behind and pressing a cloth over her face
Max came out of the flashes, as a soldier ran into the room. "Your Majesty, we found no sign of the Queen but we found four dead guards. Two who were guarding the Queen, and the two…
Max cut him off, "And the two assigned to watch Rath." He turned to Cuerena and Michael. "Rath took Liz."
It had only taken a few minutes to figure out that Rath had simply opened the door in the library that led into the garden, and taken Liz out that way. Michael and several of the troops were still searching nearby, but Max didn't have much hope in their chances.
"What about an alarm?" Max asked. "I thought this house was protected."
"It is, your Majesty," Toaks assured him, "but we never intended the alarms to keep people inside. Rath simply turned off the alarm in here."
Nedra took Max's hand. "I know you're in shock, but we have to leave the house, Max."
"What?" Max asked incredulously. "But Liz . . ."
"It isn't safe here," Nedra cut him off gently. "Rath could be giving our position to Khivar even as we speak and there will be no chance of saving Liz if we are in Khivar's prison or worse."
Max nodded, pushing his grief into the background. "You're right. We have to go." He turned to Toaks. "Pack only the essentials and get the Granolith out on the first transport."
Toaks bowed and hurried out the door as Kyle rushed in.
"What the hell is going on?" Kyle asked. "I heard Liz cry out and I ran to your room but everybody was gone, and now I find you all down here."
Max grabbed Kyle by the shoulders. "What do you mean you heard her?"
"I heard her call for you, at least I think I did, your room is at the other end of the house. I was sleeping and she woke me, but the weird thing was that it was like I could feel her fear." Kyle glanced around the room, noting Liz's absence. "Where is Liz? Did something happen to her?"
"Rath took her," Max ground out.
"What?" Kyle asked incredulously.
"And he's done something to her because now I can't contact her," Max said, "but I think we can all guess where he's taking her."
Kyle nodded. "Khivar."