Watch her scream

Keenan’s brows furrowed as he watched the scene. He looked at Bertram. “Have you ever seen anything like this?” he asked over the noise.

Bertram shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he said, finally giving in and covering his ears.

Rory scowled and looked at the other two. “What got her started?” he asked. His question earned a growl from the woman in question. It also got him a vase thrown at him.

“What the…” Trenton breathed, as he entered. His brows drew together over his eyes and he waved at the woman. “Did you say something that finally pushed her over the edge, Keenan?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Keenan said, as the Royal Voice continued to rage.

There’s a bathroom on the right

“I need to wash my face,” Nicco said.

Nodding, Rory said, “Kitchen’s through there.” He pointed through an open doorway. When Nicco frown and blinked at him, he tilted his head to one side.

Keenan made a sound like something crashing and said, “The language barrier just fell between you.” He looked at Nicco and pointed down a side corridor. “Down there and to the right,” he added.

The elf nodded and spun away, mumbling to himself.

Rory blinked at Keenan. “He has to wash his face in… the lavatory?”

“Elvish euphemisms can me very confusing,” Keenan said, nodding. “They ‘wash their face’ the way some women might ‘powder their nose’.”

Bertram chuckled softly and said, “He’s in there wondering why on earth you’d do that in the kitchen.”

“Yeah,” Rory said, finally understanding the reason for the confusion. “Yeah, no,” he said. he rubbed his brow and sighed. “If he’d said he needed to wash his hands…”

“Yeah, but that’s a Shynian euphemism,” Keenan pointed out.

I’m a bee, I’m a guy, I’m a bee, I’m a guy

Keenan was trying to focus on his paperwork, for a change. He would have thought that Bertram would have chased the others out of the room. After all, didn’t the man always say he needed to get his paperwork done in a timely manner.

“What is that humming?” Trenton said, his brows furrowing. He rubbed his ear and looked at Bertram and Rory. “Can you hear it?”

“It… sounds like a bee,” Rory said. His eyes widened and he looked over at Keenan. “But, it would have to be huge to make a hum like that!”

“It’s not a bee,” Keenan snapped, turning back to his work. “It’s Brook.”

“A man is humming like that?” Bertram said, sounding confused. “How?”

Keenan sighed and set his pen aside. “With his wings, Bertram,” he said. His voice was soft. Anyone who knew him should have known he was nearing the end of his patience.

“So… is he a bee or a guy?” Trenton asked, his brows furrowing together as he tried to figure out the seeming puzzle. “I mean, if he’s got buzzy wings…”

“He’s a sprite!” Keenan pushed away from his desk and stood. Hefting the fireplace poker, he waved it at them. “Get out and let me work.” They retreated to the sitting room and Keenan dropped back down into his chair.

After a moment, he said, “You can stay, Brook.” The low humming resumed and Keenan sighed in pleasure as he turned back to his work.

the door out of the fairy-tale stands wide open

Rory sighed softly as he shut the door to his youngest daughter’s bedroom. Finally, she was asleep. He knew that the change had been hard for all the children, but she seemed to be having the worst time. He turned and headed back towards his own room.

He froze when he heard the front door open and then close again. He scowled. Ed and Al weren’t due back until the next day. He padded down the corridor, to the entryway. “Al?” he whispered, as he stepped into the foyer. “Ed?”

He gasped when he saw who it was. “Carmine?” he breathed. His heart was pounding in his chest. She turned to face him. The familiar glare – the one she’d given him whenever he’d done something that displeased her – was on her features.

“Rory,” she growled. She stalked towards him. “Give me back my children. If you don’t give them back, I’ll take them back.”

“No,” Rory gasped, stumbling back. He fell on the steps and tensed. Without even thinking about it, he brought his arms up, protecting his head. He felt the breeze of her hand and dodged.

The familiar growl of anger cut off and then, he heard a step on the stairs behind him. Gasping, he whirled around. Emily, his older daughter, was standing there, her eyes wide with shock. He spun back to where Carmine had been, but she was gone.

“Daddy?” Emily breathed. She hurried down the steps and hugged his shoulders. “Did she hurt you? Are you all right?”

“I – I’m fine,” he rasped. He swallowed thickly and then looked at Emily again. “Did you see… where did she go?”

Emily shook her head. “She just… vanished,” he said. “Just when I saw her, she vanished entirely.”

Is it a groove or a rut?

Rory watched from his vantage point across the green. Beth approached him cautiously. Occasionally, she would pause to look to the left or right. He could tell, even when she wasn’t looking out for trouble, she was listening for it.

For a moment, she disappeared from view. Rory’s brow furrowed. He waited for her to step back into view. That part of the green must have been lower than the rest. “Any moment,” he murmured.

He waited. Time ticked by and, still, Beth didn’t reappear. He bit his lip nervously. Where was she? Had someone been waiting in ambush for her? No, that didn’t make sense. But then, what was taking her so long to come up from the rut in the green?

“Rory,” a soft voice called.

He startled and spun around. Blinking, he realized who it was. “B-Beth?” he said, flushing. She’d come up behind him. How? He looked back over the green and squinted into the darkness. Now, he wondered. Had she disappeared into a small depression, as he’d thought, or had she dropped into a valley to come around behind him.

“So,” she said, “I guess someone needs to go back for a refresher course in surveillance.”

The quiet moments while the city’s still dark

Rory stared out over the city. The only light came from the lamps that lined the streets and the traffic signals at each corner. It was so late at night or early in the morning, depending on how you looked at it, that no one was on the road.

He took a sip of his tea and sighed. When it was quiet like this, his thoughts always seemed to turn inward. His sons were great kids. So were his daughters for that matter. However, the girls had never suffered at the hands of their mother. To their minds, there father was an awful person for taking them away from their mother. That was especially true for Emily.

Sighing softly, Rory shook his head. He couldn’t make them understand his decision. All he could do was be the best father he could be and hope they realized that he truly loved them.

A fearful hope was all the world contained

Perry frowned at the test page before him. He’d heard that the Agency exam was difficult, but he had no idea what that meant until he’d seen the questions.

His brows furrowed. The only rules, they’d been told at the outset, was that they couldn’t “let Master Bertram catch them cheating” and that Trenton and Rory would “answer whatever questions they could”.

His eyes widened. That had to be the answer! Moments before, Bertram had told them to pay special attention to the wording of “everything”. Perry bit his lip and looked over at Bertram.

He was talking to Trenton. Perry looked away, towards Rory. He checked Bertram again and waved the third proctor over to his desk.

“Yes?” Rory asked, leaning down so that Perry could talk softly enough not to disturb anyone.

Perry knew though, that Bertram had amazing hearing. He couldn’t simply ask for the answer. Then, he’d be caught cheating. A faint smile touched his lips and he pointed at the question.

Rory bit his lip and glanced up at Bertram. Then he took Perry’s pencil and hastily wrote the answer in the blank. “I hope that clarifies things,” he said, handing the pencil back.

“Oh, yes,” Perry said, a sly smile touching his lips. He could do this. It was hard, but not impossible.

She got a buttermilk smile and a thorny touch

“Why did you and Elayne get separated?” Rory asked.

Keenan blinked at the suddenness of the question. His brows furrowed and he tilted his head to one side. “I need a reason beyond she was cheating on me?” he said.

Rory rolled his eyes. “I’d be willing to bet that she was doing that before you were even married,” he said. “I’d also be willing to bet that you knew and married her anyway.”

Smirking, Keenan nodded. Then his shoulders twitched in what might have been a shrug. “It wasn’t a healthy relationship,” he said. He looked thoughtful as he continued. “She was using me and I was using her. She was pretty and she acted sweet, most of the time. Then, she’d turn around and threaten my life.” He shook his head. “I made the decision to end it before one of us did something we’d both regret.”

Rory nodded acceptance. In a softer voice, he said, “I really should just… cut it off with my wife too.”

“She’s worse than Elayne ever pretended to be, Roy,” Keenan said. “For all her verbal abuse, Elayne never actually hurt me. You can’t say that about Carmine.”

The Sheer Force of Sky

Rory stared up at the wide expanse of blue overhead. “It’s… amazing,” he whispered, completely awestruck.

Keenan looked up and nodded. “It’s different, that’s for sure,” he said. A faint smile played at his lips. He turned to Rory and shook his head. “You think this is something, you should see it at night, when all the stars come out. The air is thinner, so they seem… brighter somehow.”

Nodding, Rory continued to stare up at the pale blue Terran sky that was so different than the one he normally saw at home. Who knew that having a lower gravity would make such a difference?

Rory Falcon Morley

Rory has possibly the strangest background of any member of Shynian Intelligence. He was taken from his parents at a very young age by a childless couple among those high in the society of the occupying force. They raised him as they would any child of their own, however the same could not be said for all in their society.

Since he always knew the truth of his parentage, Rory always felt out of place among his adoptive parents’ people. However, he tried to make the most of his situation. He was given the best schooling and, after graduation, married a woman that his parents had selected.

From this point, his life changed drastically. Rory’s new wife was abusive of him. She would hit him, belittle him and lock him in their bedroom. Together, they had four children: two boys and two girls. Although his wife doted on their daughters, she seemed to view her sons with the same distain she did her husband. When that disdain turned to violence, Rory knew he had to get out. One night, he took his children and fled back to Shynia, where he’d been born.

Because of his knowledge of the society of Shynia’s greatest enemy, he was recruited by the Agency. For the last four years, Rory has worked closely with Keenan and Bertram to help people like himself and keep his new home free from oppression.

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