From THE BERFET
“You should apologize for disturbing me with your foolish questions.”
Tetralanna leaned forward. “Yes, foolish,” she hissed. “Foolish to think I would allow anyone under my charge in House Balamont to bring shame upon themselves, or upon the House, or upon our proud history by following Gredin’s dark path.” She straightened. “We are the keepers of cherished traditions. That is why you find no Balamont names listed on your talking device. I have instructed the House in proper behavior, and have scolded into silence those reckless enough to question me. There are no Balamont names now, and there will be no Balamont names in the future.”
“You think it right to prevent your House Members from recovering their hlinga?”
“I think it right for the Head of House to set an example and lead the way. I will do everything I can to prevent those of my House from taking such a step.”
“But… you can’t be serious. You are condemning them, and yourself, to a living death!”
Tetralanna shrugged. “If so, it is the Power’s will, and we will have the comfort of knowing we made the honorable choice.”
He was horrified, and knew that it must show on his face.
“Don’t you see, Historian? You have fallen into that foolish girl’s trap, believing whatever tale she tells you, to your detriment. Besides, you have lost no Chosen, and therefore have no right to question my decision in this matter. Go back and inform Gredin that she has no say in House Balamont’s affairs.”
“Gredin is still a member of House Balamont. She is concerned for all of you. She wants no one to be separated from their gyfte.”
“I care nothing for Gredin’s concern.”
“You should,” Keegan said, anger beginning to build in his chest. “She only wants what is best for the members of our community.”
“She embraces new words and new ways far too easily. And she will say anything to entice the weak-minded to her side. She is set on destroying the very foundations of our way of life. We came here as a delegation of Houses, and a delegation of Houses we shall remain.”
Tetralanna was wrong – dangerously, tragically wrong. And yet, confronted by the force of her words, clothed in her gyfte, Keegan found it hard to defy her assertions. She might be out of Balance but her gyfte had not yet deserted her, although she seemed to have lost all scruples about how she put it to use.
“I am sorry for you and the members of your House, Tetralanna te Balamont.”
Anger tightened her face. “We neither want nor need your pity, Historian. And we do not want you here.”
“What do you want? Surely you wish to preserve your House.”
“You seek to understand me? To know what I want?”
“Yes. Please. I need to understand.”
But Tetralanna sagged and held out her hands in appeal. “Help me,” she said, her voice gone suddenly thin.
Concerned, he offered his hands to steady her, and turned his head to see who else might be close enough to aid them.
But Tetralanna’s hands closed on his, her grip firm. “Hear me, Keegan te Fliss,” she said, and her voice was no longer thin, but rich with her gyfte. “Hear me and attend. You will leave us in peace. I forbid you to address me or any other member of House Balamont who has lost their Chosen. You will not ask us your prying questions. You will not urge us to defile the memories of our Chosens by seeking to mate with another.” Tetralanna’s voice had somehow become his entire world, echoing inside his head. “And you will not seek Gredin out and speak of what has passed between us. Remember my words and obey them.” With that, she flung his hands away, swaying slightly.
“What…?” Keegan croaked, feeling somewhat unsteady himself.
Tetralanna’s smile was cold. “You are Silenced, Historian. And do not approach this House again, for none here will speak with you. Now go. Do not trouble yourself on our behalf in the future. And take that nasty thing with you. Its presence sullies the very air of my House.”
His mind reeling, Keegan picked up the crabe, hugged it to his chest, and staggered out of the Balamont enclave.