The Balance of Power

This is actually the last section of my story with Keenan… it was inspired a phrase prompt (the Real Art of Conversation) from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

Nicolae nearly knocked me flying, he came into my laboratory with such force. I arched an eyebrow at him and smirked. “There’s this thing called knocking, Nicolae,” I said, “you could try it some time. It’s when you rap your knuckles against a door and then wait for the person inside to answer.”

His brows furrowed. Releasing a sigh, he looked at me. “You don’t need to school me in manners, Keenan,” he said, shutting the door and then leaning back against it for extra security. “You are about to have problems, my friend: big ones!”

I arched my eyebrows at him. “As much as I love to practice the Real Art of Conversation,” I said, “let’s cut to the chase and get down to business.” He gave me a pained look and I frowned. “What do you mean by problems, Nicolae?”

He heaved a sigh. “Elayne,” he said, his voice barely loud enough to carry even the small distance between us. “She is fine with certain of us being little more than paid employees for her organization, you, however, are too powerful in her estimation to be allowed that freedom.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked, scowling.

He sighed again and shook his head. “For some reason, she doubts your loyalty to her cause,” he said. He smirked. “If I was her, you would be the least of my worries. Then again… I’m more loyal to you than I am to her, as evidenced by this warning. Rusty and Jakob feel the same way.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “You saying she means to act against me?” I asked.

“I’m saying that she’s going to find some way to make sure that you can’t act against her,” Nicolae said. There was a rap on the door and he ducked behind it, while I peered out into the corridor.

Jakob was standing there, looking flustered. “Elayne’s coming,” he said, sweeping into the room. He grabbed Nicolae by the arm and then looked at me. As I shut the door, he said, “If you’re going to make a run for it, I’ll help you.”

I smiled at him and then shook my head. “Touched as I am by this show of support,” I said, “I can’t leave. Truth is: I’m not loyal to Elayne’s organization. I’m spying on it for the High Council of Mages and I can’t keep doing that, if I run.”

For a moment, neither of them spoke. Finally, Jakob said, “Explains a lot.” His brows furrowed. “What are you going to do, Boss? What’s the plan?”

I nearly laughed, but I knew Elayne would be there in moments and I need a plan. “Get Nicolae out of my tower,” I said. “We’ll regroup in Rusty’s forest at midnight. Bring Raanan, Nicolae. He’ll need to be read in, too.”

There was a knock at my door and I turned away. Behind me, I heard Jakob open the window. There was the sound of flapping wings and they were gone. “Shut the window, Bartholomew,” I said, “do it now.” As soon as the window was closed, I opened the door. It was time to face the music. It was a lucky thing that I was a good dancer.

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