The 13th Kat

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Chapter 5

Nadalia and Korian spent the next few months organising the ceremony, sending invitations out to family and friends, and practising the traditional joining dance. Nadalia had practically moved in with Korian at this point, but a week before the joining she went back to the house she shared with Mari. Tradition said that a couple shouldn’t see each other during the week before they became lifelong partners, supposedly to have time to reflect on the coming ceremony and prepare for the commitment, but usually so they could go out and celebrate their last few days of being single.
“Hey Nads,” Mari said when Nadalia knocked on the door. “Looking forward to the big day?”
Nadalia grinned. “Of course I am, only a week to go now,” she said.
“I know, I can hardly believe it. I always thought you and me would stay single and get old together. Be the mad spinster aunts to everyone,” Mari joked. “Still, at least when you’ve moved in with Korian permanently I can turn your old room into a giant wardrobe or something.”
“You mean you haven’t already? Mari, you’re slipping, I thought you’d have filled it up by now,” Nadalia quipped as she dumped her small bag in her old room. She looked around at the underwater themed murals she had painted when they first moved in. “I should imagine you’ll be redecorating in here as well.”
“I figured I’d wait until you’d officially moved out before I did anything drastic in here. Anyway, you’re going to love the week I’ve got lined up for you. I’ve hired V Zero for the whole night tomorrow, and I’ve got all your friends coming along. Even the ones who can’t leave the water,” she said with a smile.
“How did you manage that? “ Nadalia asked incredulously.
“Mobile pool. I’ve got some blokes to install it in the centre of the main room, so you’ll be able to go swimming with Leniya and your dad, and anyone else who wants to.”
“Wow, thanks Mari. Hey, any idea who you’re going to the ceremony with yet?”
“There is a guy I met a while ago…”
“Guy? Unusual for you, he must be either very good looking or very interesting,” Nadalia interjected. “So, tell, who’s the lucky man?”
Mari smiled. “He’s called Valamir. I met him a few months back, we were working on a campaign event together and we kinda got talking.”
“Lucky you, maybe I’ll be going to your joining soon then.”
“Nads!”
Nadalia laughed. “Joking, Mari. So, sounds like we’ve got a fun week lined up. Anything planned for tonight?”
“I was thinking we could have a nice quiet night in tonight, since I’ve lined up some pretty hectic parties for the rest of the week.”
“Okay by me, I’ll go make some drinks then.”
The day before the ceremony, Nadalia was wandering around the blue district after a nice long swim with Leniya. She noticed a new coffee bar and decided to pop in for a quick bit of cake before heading home. It was pretty quiet, so Nadalia could hear the news on their radio, and she sat and listened while she had her slice of cake. The newsreader was saying something about the accident that had happened a few months back.
“Investigators are looking for Nazar and Levon, two young male chimpanzees who are believed to have had some connection with the car that initiated the accident. If anyone has any information on their whereabouts, please report it to your local authorities.
“In other news, the rock star Elvira was found dead in her house yesterday. Initial reports indicate suicide, however a full inquiry will be undertaken. Fans of her band, Black Kat, have been leaving tributes outside her house.”
Oh no, Nadalia thought. I wonder if Mari’s heard this? The news reader continued talking to some Black Kat fans who had left tributes. She then cut to a previously recorded interview with the rest of the band.
“Yeah, its awful. I don’t know why she would have done it,” the guitarist Aleyn was saying. “I mean, she wasn’t having any problems that we knew of.”
“We were almost done recording our new album, and had a massive tour coming up.” Ovsanna piped up. “We’re still releasing the album, as a tribute to Elvira. But we don’t know what we’re going to do about the tour. It’s far too soon to get someone else in.”
“We’d also like to thank everyone who sent tributes and condolences to us, we really appreciate it,” said Ulfilas.
Nadalia had finished her cake by then, and thought she’d head home and talk to Mari.
“Mari, I’m back!” Nadalia called when she got in the door. “Have you heard the news?”
No answer. She’s probably out somewhere, Nadalia thought to herself. Maybe she has heard and gone to leave flowers or something. I’ll see her tonight.
Mari, unknown to Nadalia, was actually inside a car just across the street. She was sitting between two large and very intimidating gorillas, and wondering who the shadowy figure on the opposite seat was. “What’s going on? Who are you people?” she demanded.
The figure opposite her snickered. “Mari, after seven months you don’t recognise your own boss? I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised,” said Saphrax, leaning forward. “After all, I did ask them not to tell you anything. Couldn’t have you running off and spreading rumours like poor Elvira did, could we?”
Mari stared for almost a minute. “Elvira was working with you? Wait, did you have her killed?”
Saphrax gave her a cold smile. “Don’t concern yourself with that. She failed, that’s why she was… dismissed. You have worked well so far. Don’t disappoint me, and you could be doing very well for yourself in a few years. So, are you in or out? Let’s go, Melicia,” he said to the woman in the front.
As the craft gathered speed, Mari sat in silence, staring at her paws and considering. This man has probably been controlling my political career from the start, she thought. He’s as good as admitted to having Elvira killed, and she’s probably not the first one. I know about some of his dodgy policies, and from what I’ve heard he wants to send everyone back to the dark ages, with himself in charge. But, perhaps on some things he does have a point. And considering how Elvira treated people, maybe she’s not such a great loss after all. I certainly don’t miss her that much. She looked up to see Saphrax watching her intently. Their eyes met, and in that instant Mari knew that if Saphrax was heading for the top, she was going with him. “Alright,” she said. “I’m in.”
Saphrax’s eyes glittered like shards of ice. “I’m very pleased to hear that, Mari. Actually, you could do something for me right now. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Korian’s joining is taking place tomorrow. You wouldn’t happen to know where it is, would you?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. I was invited,” she answered.
“Because of your position as Region Governor?”
Mari hesitated for a split second before replying. “Yes,” she said. She was playing with fire, she knew that. Whatever happened to her, she still cared about Nadalia and didn’t want to drag her into anything if she could avoid it.
Thankfully, Saphrax didn’t seem to notice her slight delay in answering. “Excellent. Well, I want you to make some excuse for not attending. I don’t want you suspected of being involved,” he said before going on to tell her what he was planning to do. “You see, I have other plans for you, and they can’t be done properly if people think you’ve had something to do with it.”
“Ah, I see. And his partner, what are you planning for her?”
Saphrax shrugged noncommittally. “Depends how much she knows, and whether she’ll cause trouble afterwards. Any particular reason?”
Mari spoke casually. “Not really, just curious. You hadn’t mentioned her when you said what you were going to be doing.”
“Fair enough. Anyway, once we get back to base you need to look up Vasag. He’s my language expert, he’ll teach you what you need to know for when you’re writing up any reports for me.”
“Writing?”
“Yes, I make sure all my operatives can write, in the language we use. It stops just anyone working out what our plans are,” he explained.
Mari thought for a second. “Okay, I’m sure I can pick it up fairly quickly.”
Nadalia fretted all the way to the pool, where the ceremony was taking place. Mari had been out all night, and still hadn’t shown up. Maybe she decided to head straight there, she thought. I hope she’s okay. They arrived at the pool a few minutes early, so Nadalia got out and started looking around the crowd for Mari. There were several guests milling around the large paved area at the edge of the pool, and a few splashing about in the clear, weed-free water. She found Nazeli, Korian’s sister, and they spoke for a little while. Her son Drystan had gone off with some of his friends, but was probably going to turn up for the party afterwards. Nobody had seen Mari though, and about half an hour after the ceremony should have started, nobody had seen Korian either. Nadalia was really starting to panic at this point.
“He’s probably just got caught up in traffic or something,” Nazeli tried to reassure her.
After an hour, Alaric came running up to the pool. Nadalia was relieved to see him for a second, until she noticed his expression. “Alaric, what’s happening?” she cried.
“Nadalia… Nazeli… you’ve got… to run,” he was completely out of breath and looked terrified of something. “I’m sorry… Korian’s been poisoned… Saphrax… he’s coming here… you’ve got to go… hide…”
“Poisoned? He’s dead?” Nazeli asked in disbelief.
Alaric nodded. “You two have to run… Saphrax wants to capture you both…” Suddenly, he collapsed, a dart sticking out of his back. The crowd parted in confusion, and Nadalia could see several big primates heading for her and Nazeli.
“Come on, this way,” she said, pulling Korian’s sister along. They walked quickly past the guests and jumped into the pool, diving straight to the bottom and swimming through one of the underwater passages to another pool. Once they had surfaced, in a pool on the other side of the district, Nadalia broke down crying. It had taken several minutes for Alaric’s news to sink in, and part of her still refused to believe it. Nazeli tried to comfort her, but she was crying too.
“What should we do? We can’t just run off and hide, can we?” Nadalia said when she’d calmed herself a little.
Nazeli looked at her. “I don’t know. I have to find Drystan, make sure they haven’t got to him. After that, I really don’t know what to do.”
Nadalia blinked repeatedly, to clear her eyes. “I can’t just run away. This Saphrax has killed Korian. I bet he’s going to somehow get himself elected in Korian’s place, we can’t let him take over. I’m going to do something about it. I don’t know what yet, but I’ve got to do something.” She turned to Nazeli. “I hope you find Drystan, keep yourself safe.”
“I will. You look after yourself too, Nadalia.”
The two women separated, one to find her son, the other to begin a campaign against the man who had killed her true love.
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