Chapter 20 - Coincidence
Jyle led them into a small conference room where a familiar little girl was waiting for them. She was wearing a much fancier dress and her hair was well-groomed, but Mikaen still recognized her.
"Hello, Meryl." Mikaen said, smiling down at her.
She hugged Jyle's leg, a shy smile on her cute little face.
Patting the girl on the head, Jyle said, "Elduran had mentioned he was looking after someone named Mikaen. I thought it was you, but I wanted to be sure. When he sent word that you were coming in his place, I sent my daughter to check on you."
Kneeling beside Meryl, Jyle whispered, "Why don't you go grab yourself a cookie while daddy talks with his old friend?"
"Yes, Papa. Goodbye, Sir Mikaen!" Meryl curtseyed to Mikaen before running off, giggling.
"Your daughter?" Mikaen said, watching the child's pretty blonde hair bouncing as she ran. "Wait, your daughter? You have children?"
To his amazement, Jyle blushed. "Yes, well … for now, have a seat."
As they sat, Jyle told them, "I've been here for over seventy years, ever since I got caught in the rift at the Rip in Utah. I certainly never expected to see you again."
Mikaen frowned. "Since when is there a Rip in Utah?"
"Since the day you disappeared." Jyle replied, "Some thought you actually fell in. Everyone else gave you up for dead, but I told Syrin, 'Not a chance. Mikaen's too stubborn to die.' Still, it was three months before I finally managed to get to Utah."
Jyle chuckled, continuing, "I half-expected to see you hanging onto the edge of the Rip. Unfortunately, all I saw when I got there was this strange circle of light and swirling colors."
Somewhat sheepishly, Mikaen said, "Yeah, it was a portal. My fault, but we'll get to that later."
"Well," Jyle continued, "You know me; I started poking around with it. Sure enough, it pulled me in and bam! I'm here on Vinta."
"Wait a second," Mikaen interrupted, "I just got here seven months ago. If you went looking for me three months after I disappeared-"
Jyle finished, "-how did I end up here seventy years before you arrived? Good question."
"Jyle? Are you in here?" A gentle voice called out.
A slender idestan maiden with golden hair that contrasted sharply with her black skin entered the room. Her clothes seemed fancy, but it was the circlet she wore that most caught Mikaen's eye, as it was identical to the one Jyle wore.
She walked over to Jyle, saying, "We really must to speak to Rydiana."
Jyle nodded, saying, "Of course, love, of course. We'll have a word with her right after I finish with Mikaen here. Oh, Mikaen, this is Julia Cressia, my wife."
She turned her surprised gaze to Mikaen, who was looking equally surprised back at her. "Mikaen of the Knights of the Star?"
Jyle nodded. "None other."
Mikaen held out his hand, saying solemnly, "I've just got to shake the hand of the lady who tamed him."
She laughed and clasped his hand gently for a moment, her cheeks flushing ever so slightly. "Then perhaps you could tell me something of my husband's past? Every time I ask him about it, he changes the subject."
Jyle shook his head and waved his hands emphatically behind her back.
Suppressing the urge to smirk, Mikaen replied respectfully, "Perhaps later, ma'am."
Helping his wife to a seat, Jyle said, "When I arrived here, I crashed through the glass walls of one of the outer palace gardens, right at Julia's feet."
Julia continued, "He was badly hurt, but when I knelt by him to see if he was all right, he asked me if I was an angel."
"Yeah, that sounds about right." Mikaen said with a grin.
Smiling, Jyle said, "Julia took care of me while I recovered. Her visits were the highlight of my days in the palace infirmary. Long story short, we fell in love."
He put his hands on Julia's shoulders, adding, "After a few years of badgering from both Julia and me, her father agreed to allow us to marry."
As she put a hand on one of his, Jyle continued, "Julia's the best thing that ever happened to me, Knights included."
He kissed her on the cheek. She blushed and glanced at Mikaen, who pretended to be interested in a nearby plant.
Jyle returned his attention to Mikaen, saying, "Enough about me; what have you been doing the past seven months? What happened during your mission?"
"Everything went smoothly; I met up with our shadow, retrieved the chip, and was on my way back when I suddenly blacked out. I woke up on Vinta …" Mikaen paused, not sure whether he should mention One.
Deciding against it, he gestured toward Jeronem. "… and I eventually found my way to Homestead. I've been living there ever since. Made myself a house, helped the local community, and killed some local monsters: that kind of stuff. Elduran sent me to take his place at the upcoming Council seeing as his wife's expecting."
"Expecting?" Jeronem didn't seem to understand; apparently Elduran hadn't told him yet. "Expecting what?"
"A daughter, I'd imagine." Mikaen said with a wry smile.
Jeronem let out a sigh of relief. "So that's why they didn't walk me to the city gate."
"Kathryn's with child?" Julia said, sounding both surprised and excited, "That's wonderful! With a brother like Jeronem, she's bound to be a top-class spell-shaper." Jeronem blushed to the tips of his furry ears.
"Not to trivialize Kathryn's pregnancy," Jyle began, "But you mentioned that portal by the rip was your fault. What happened?"
Mikaen started to respond but hesitated; it still felt odd to think that he wasn't human. Shaking his head, he said, "According to the Seed of the Center of Knowledge, I'm a sentient."
Jyle and Julia could not have looked more surprised if Mikaen had sprouted wings right then and there. Jyle's surprise was to be expected, but even Julia seemed taken aback. This struck Mikaen as odd; hadn't Elduran said that sentients were native to Vinta?
Pushing his questions to the back of his mind, Mikaen continued, "According to Trystan, I created the portal unconsciously because I'm near my … " He glanced at Jeronem. "What was it he called it?"
Mikaen nodded. "Yeah, my Gineros."
"Well, that explains how you got here," Julia said, looking thoughtful, "but what about my husband? The portal couldn't have lasted three months, could it?"
"Maybe it could."
Everyone looked at Jeronem as he pulled 'Twelve Tribes' out of his pack and began to flip through it. "Hang on a sec. Ah, yeah, here we go; it says here that portals have a manye harmonious stream flux, just like your standard enchantment. Assuming they behave similarly, it'll only last until the residual energy of the spell is gone, but they can sustain themselves if near a source of pure stream."
After a moment of silence, Mikaen replied, "That was very Elduran of you."
Jyle nodded, adding, "Some of it almost made sense. The smaller words definitely."
Unable to hide her smile, Julia slapped Jyle on the arm. "Now dear, be nice."
"So basically, you think the rip's keeping the portal open." said Mikaen, scratching his chin.
Jeronem nodded, still looking a little annoyed at their reaction to his statement. "It would also explain why you appeared near Homestead instead of Rising Star or one of the ground-based sentient settlements. According to the book, you were supposed to appear in the city where you were born, where your people would help you prepare for your coming of age. That much stream energy probably warped the portal a bit."
It seemed plausible to Mikaen, though he would be the first to admit he was no academic on magical matters. It was the time delay that bothered him; Jyle and Mikaen arrived fairly close to each other in terms of location, but seventy years apart. Temporally speaking, he supposed it wasn't that big of a difference, but it still bugged him.
"Well, at least you'll be able to have your Gineros among friends. You hear that, Julia? Our little boy's going to become a man!" Jyle pretended to dry tears from his eyes, adding sadly, "They grow up so quickly."
Julia gave him another whack on the arm. "Behave yourself!"
Rubbing his arm where it had been hit, Jyle asked, "So what are you going to do now?"
"Well, I agreed to participate in the Council in Elduran's place. After the Council, Trystan's gonna teach me how to get home."
"Ah. Well ... that makes sense."
Jyle started to reach up before he caught himself, but it was too late; Mikaen recognized the gesture as one his old friend made when he was nervous or uncomfortable.
Raising an eyebrow, Mikaen asked, "Is something wrong?"
Before Jyle could respond, there was a knock on the chamber door.
A look of relief on his face, Jyle called out, "Come in."
The old man who had been with Meryl earlier (obviously some kind of butler or attendant) entered. After bowing respectfully, he said, "The representatives from Longshore are here sir. They wish to speak with you immediately."
"They're in Muonsol already? Excellent. Would you bring them here please?"
As the butler left, Jyle turned to his wife. "Honey, why don't you go see if you can catch Rydiana? I'll meet up with you as soon as I can so we can have that little talk with her."
"Of course, dear." With a nod to Mikaen and Jeronem, she left the room.
Mikaen chuckled. Seeing Jyle's curious glance, he said, "Sorry; I'm still trying to get used to the idea of you as a responsible family man."
Jeronem looked at him curiously. "I don't understand."
"Jyle was the biggest flirt in the Knights." Mikaen explained. "He couldn't see a pretty girl without making a pass at her."
Jyle blushed. "I was the ladies' man back in the day. Fortunately, I've matured since then."
"I wouldn't count on it." Mikaen whispered to Jeronem just loud enough for Jyle to hear.
Jyle glared at his old friend. "Shall we get moving then?"
After a short walk through the palace halls and a ride up a long elevator shaft, they entered a chamber with a noktal tree growing in the center. There were doors set at regular intervals around the room, each marked with the symbol of the vuestan people (a sprig of leaves wrapped around a golden triangle).
A woman with nut-brown skin was tending a healthy growth of mevos vines. Her skin seemed a little rough around her arms and legs, and her long hair was in actuality leaves and flowers.
She smiled and nodded at them as they entered the room. "The rooms are all prepared."
"Excellent work, Nathalia." Jyle gestured to the tree, adding, "I see Bob's doing well too."
"He's glad summer is here." She ran her hand across the bark of the Noktal tree for a moment before turning her attention to Mikaen. "I can feel her on you as well."
"Excuse me?" Mikaen asked, a bit alarmed.
"Syrin." Jyle quickly explained.
"Indeed." Bowing to Jyle, she said, "I will return to the garden, if there is nothing else."
"Of course. Have a good day, Nathalia."
As she walked to the lift, Jeronem asked, "How did she know about Syrin?"
"She's a dryad." It was Mikaen who spoke, a bemused look on his face.
"Syrin or Nathalia?"
"Both. Dryads can't leave their trees, so they tend to leave imprints on those around them to communicate amongst themselves."
"Communicate? Like leaving messages or something?"
"When I first met Nathalia, she knew who I was, my position in the Knights of the Star, and some of my less than stellar habits. She also knew that Syrin trusted me, which is why she didn't give me too much grief for landing in her garden." Jyle clapped his hands together. "Anyway, this is the vuestan guest tower. All the rooms are currently unoccupied, so just take whichever suits you. The Council can't convene until the rest of the reps show up, and the Cleftans are notorious for showing up a week late, so you might as well get comfortable."
Jeronem reached for the nearest door, yawning. "Not that this hasn't been fun, but I could use a nap." Without waiting for a reply, he slipped inside his room and closed the door behind him.
Jyle waited a few moments before turning to Mikaen and saying in a low voice, "Look, I know it's been a while especially for me, but I can trust you to keep things quiet, right?"
"Of course." Mikaen replied, distracted. There was something in the back of his thoughts, like a fond memory he couldn't quite remember. It wasn't static, though; he could feel it moving ever so faintly, even though he didn't even know what 'it' was.
"Then we'll see the girls first. The Galden rooms are a bit better suited to you, at least for the moment, and they're right next to the Shoran rooms." Jyle snorted, as though he had heard an odd joke.
Mikaen raised an eyebrow. "Something I should know?"
Jyle shook his head, looking embarrassed. "It's politics. Forget I said anything. Anyway, you promise you won't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you? I know rumors have already leaked out, but I'd like to keep a tight lid on this until I have something solid."
Mikaen shrugged, saying, "Sure Jyle. What is it?"
Once he was satisfied that they were alone, Jyle said in hushed tones, "I have three children, little Meryl, Rydiana and Jekstial."
Mikaen tried to suppress the urge, but ended up letting out a snort of laughter.
As Jyle glared at him, Mikaen shook his head. "Sorry, I'm still getting used to the idea of you having children."
Ignoring the remark, Jyle continued, "Jek's a great boy: a hell of an athlete, great with machines, not unpopular with the fairer gender. He's a lot like me when I was younger."
"Is the universe ready for another Jyle?"
"Funny, aren't you? Anyway, Jek's a great kid, and you've seen how sweet Meryl is. Their sister, on the other hand, is a bit on the rebellious side."
Mikaen raised an eyebrow. "I think that deserves an explanation."
Jyle sighed. "Rydiana's been having a relationship with somebody, but I don't know with whom. What's worse, she's been sneaking out of the palace to meet with him every three months or so. I'm concerned."
"Naturally. You are her father, as weird as it feels to say that." Seeing Jyle's eyes narrow, Mikaen coughed and continued, "Anyway, where do the Shoran delegates come into this?"
"Well, apparently a Galden attacked them a few days ago. They weren't far from the city, so I couldn't help but wonder if it might be the person Rydiana's going out to see. It's been about three months since her last disappearance."
"I doubt it." Mikaen replied, "Unless she's into monks."
Jyle stopped. "Excuse me?"
"Well, the Galden that attacked us were Brothers of the Celestial Church."
Jyle's sudden shout made several maids who were walking by jump. They looked at him with expressions of concern and confusion.
"My apologies, ladies." He quickly said, flashing his usual charming smile. "Just talking with my friend here. Pay it no mind."
He waited until they had passed before pulling Mikaen to the side of the hall. "Did you get a good look at them?"
"Well, I didn't get a good look at their faces or anything, but I've seen Celestial monks before. I'm pretty sure they were trying to capture us, though. They used this." Mikaen handed the device the monks had dropped to Jyle before rubbing the side of his head. A strange feeling of anxiety was beginning to come over him, despite the fact that he had no idea why he'd feel that way.
Jyle took it and prodded at it for a few moments, his eyes alight with the intrigue of a new toy with which to play. "Huh. This is Galden technology, a stasis-projector if I'm not mistaken. Still, what would the Church be kidnapping people for?"
Shaking his head, Jyle handed the stasis projector back, saying, "I'm friends with the head priest of the local chapter, Gerald Kyrie. I'll see if I can't corner him and ask him if he might know what's going on."
Jyle shook his head. "I still can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to attack the delegates. I mean I'd understand if the reps were fional. I don't know if you've ever seen a fional, but-"
"Simply put, rabbit people." Mikaen interrupted. "I've seen a handful passing through Homestead."
Nonplussed, Jyle continued, "Fortunately, the Shoran reps had no such trouble. Of course, only an idiot would've tried to ambush two tigreth, let alone the Myssohn sisters."
"Myssohn?" Mikaen's eyes opened wide as Jyle reached for the door handle. "Wait a-"
His voice escaped him as the door swung open to reveal the same conference room they had earlier occupied. From her seat at the small table, in the very chair in which he had earlier sat, Daughter Tirinia Myssohn looked up and met his gaze.