Wolf Boy Returns from Space: Chapter 17, Part I


P
an sent a formal letter to Queen Artia. He used his seal. He added Kaiden’s name. He had at least one dedicated follower.

Panfilo of the Alands and the Tates, within the protection of Raine and Ruella, with fealty from Kaiden Akuma, welcomes the good wishes of Queen Artia of the Confederated kin groups in Reforested Greenland.

“Yeah,” Kaiden said. “That sounds right.”

They went wading in the nearby ocean’s surprisingly chilly water while their bodyguards trailed them. The bodyguards, Vanessa and Ray, had taken to Kaiden. Pan spotted the three now and again on the walkways near the outside walls, forming shapes with their hands as they discussed—

Battle tactics.

—training maneuvers. Pan suspected that they’d gotten Kaiden a weapon. 

He and Kaiden went through medieval portraits that Phillipe dug up of wolves. “Does Phillipe know what Monseigneur Rhys and Canon Lider suspect about my origins?” Pan asked Francesca, who laughed and said, “No. Phillipe thinks that everyone should know everything about a particular topic. You’re an Anthros. You are here asking questions about medieval animals. You get a history lesson.”

Which proved that Phillipe was another person for Pan to keep in his potentially useful file.

“Wolves are a big part of medieval lore,” Phillipe said as they leaned over an image of the Beast of Gevaudan, a skinny wolf-like creature with a huge jaw and long tail, though not as long as Pan’s. “Some folklorists—the ones that try to get history out of story—think the tale about the little girl and her grandmother came from Gevaudan history. A whole bunch of Frenchmen tried to track down a potentially rabid wolf.”

“Little Red Riding Hood,” Pan said. “My mother raised me on folk tales,” he elucidated when Xavier raised a brow.  

Xavier nodded. He said to Phillipe’s frown, “Sometimes oral tradition is the only proof left from the past.”

“Oral tales get changed a hundred times before they are written down—changed, moreover, to meet their audience’s needs.”

“The historical hints linger.”

“Imposed wishful thinking.”

“Says the guy who works on a Congregation.”

“Documents—we look for documents.”

“Within context.”

Political know-how 101: History requires documentation but a good story is remembered.

“Anyway,” Phillipe said to Pan and Kaiden after a final scowl at Xavier, “People worried a lot about wolves. Rabies was a major fear. No way to cure it. Wild animals were sports, food, and threat.”

“One reason Anthros insist they arrived two hundred years ago,” Xavier muttered.

Pan said, “Sentience requires embracing the negative as well as the positive.”

Phillipe and Xavier eyed him. “Just a guess: you were raised by a priest,” Xavier said.

“By an adult clone who says, ‘Reality is the only reality that counts,’” Pan said.

Allec had started his life-extension procedure two days earlier. He and Pan talked beforehand. On the screen, Quin lurked behind Allec, looking worried.

“The procedure is still newish,” Allec confessed. “Extensions for clones who have already received life-extensions. I could wait. But I was the pioneer for the first procedure. I figure I should be the pioneer for this one.”

That’s why Allec was the best parent for me.

Quin said, “Are you okay? You and Kaiden?”

“Yeah. We spotted your bodyguards.”

Allec laughed. Quin grimaced. “Never hurts to take precautions.”

And why Quin was the second best parent.

In the tale of how Pan came to be raised, Samantha and Greg deserved a mention as did Meke RaykJanes—with Monseigneur Rhys and Canon Lider as Pan’s investigators.

Monseigneur Rhys had sent a private communication to Pan that morning, encrypted for the plastic sheets that bore Pan’s thumbmark. Monseigneur Rhys and Canon Lider would join Pan and Kaiden in another two days. In the meantime, Monseigneur Rhys attested that he and Canon Lider had spoken to Moon Cloning. The technicians connected Panfilo to a bone that was sent for testing forty years earlier.

The next day, a messenger arrived at Bamburgh Castle and asked to speak to Pan about "his purpose on Earth."

Wolf Boy in Space: Chapter 16, Part II

A few workers in white coats stood over flat desk computers. A harried man looked round from a table bearing a gene map highlighted from below.

“Only authorized personnel,” he called.

“We qualify,” Meke said calmly and held out an ID. “Meke RaykJanes, Diplomatic Corps. Rhys De Santos. Canon Lider.”

Rhys said, “We’re here about Panfilo Aland.”

“From the Mars Space Station? Right.” The harried man twisted his torso without moving his feet. “Gem, you should deal with these people.”

Gem was a compact person with tilted brows and a perpetual smirk. “From Mars, huh? How is Allec?”

“Were you working here when Allec arrived?” Lider said.

Lider Corporeal
Gem focused on him, puckish brows drawing together. In the lab’s steady dimness, Lider appeared a solid slim man of thirty, hands in pockets, head slightly cocked, reddish-brown hair falling into gleaming, green eyes, a slight smile creasing his cheeks while crow’s feet radiated from those eyes. Lider aged himself. Rhys never tired of his appearance.

“You’re the priest’s Cubus?” Gem said.

“Yes. And this is the priest.”

“Cubi go in for religious stuff, huh?”

“And technicians avoid answering direct questions.”

Gem chuckled. “Yeah, I worked on Allec. He’s something, isn’t he? We don’t do that anymore, you know. Grown cloning was shut down. Ethical violations and false advertising.”

They all knew that grown cloning was shut down. Gem was reciting a kind of catechism.   

“What about historical cloning?” Rhys said.

“I never worked in that division. Anyway, it was also shut down.”

“Not entirely,” Lider said. “Saint Margaret’s bone was recently tested on the Moon. A section anyway.”

“Regular testing. Nothing outside the box. Nobody wants to grow another Napoleon.” Gem spread innocent-seeming hands.

“But tempting,” Rhys said. “For the experimenters.”

Gem shrugged. The harried man who had not entirely disengaged from the conversation said, “We never dealt with historical bones. We aren’t responsible for—”

He stopped as they turned to him, and Gem grimaced.

“For Napoleon?” Meke said easily.

Gem said, “Historical focused on populations—DNA migrations. But sure, they wanted to try things, resurrect people, observe the result.”

“Can’t resurrect a mindset,” Lider said.   

“No. And I never understood the incentive. But when beings refuse to share what they've seen of the past—” Again, those innocent-seeming hands.

Lider said dryly, "The past is rarely as interesting as human imagine."

"Says the ex-Cubus."

Rhys thought, We should get Gem together with Will. They can argue about responsibility towards the truth.  

Meke said, “What about a worker named Targi? What did Targi work on?”

“Is Targi the one that stole Historical's data?” Gem apparently had decided that discretion was no longer possible.

At the moment, anyway. Rhys didn’t doubt that in a venue where Gem’s words could be formally recorded, the affable helpfulness would fade away—or become entirely cryptic.

“Yes,” Meke said. “So we’ve been told. Targi supposedly discovered information about Panfilo. Was he created on the Moon?”

“Nobody has direct knowledge of that wolf boy,” the harried man said. “Just rumors.”

“What type of rumors?” Lider said.

Rhys turned his head. Lider didn’t seem aware that he had hitched his hip against a desk. A relaxed pose. A man prepared for a long conversation. And he was more solid. Perhaps with his mind on the investigation, Lider found corporeality easier, less fraught with if-then-or questions.

Let that be a lesson to both of us. Embrace the relationship. Move forward. Stop calculating costs and uncertainties.

Gem said, “A cache of bones was delivered to the station. They ended up with Historical. And someone decided, Why shouldn’t we see what a bone produces?

“The result was a baby,” the harried man said. “Not grown, like Allec. Nine months in a vat.”

Gem said, “I heard the baby looked human at first. And then the Anthros characteristics began to come in. They thought it was a mistake. A bone from an Anthros got mixed in with the others.”

“Do you think so?”

Gem shrugged. The harried man shrugged. Rhys suspected everyone in the lab who was listening gave a collective shrug.

“They didn’t alter the DNA,” Gem said suddenly. “They would have needed our help to do that, and they didn’t get it. Different specialties. They didn’t make him. The baby came out that way.”

“And was left on Earth.”

Nobody shrugged this time—out of prudence, Rhys suspected, not moral outrage. In truth, he doubted Gem or the harried man saw anything to do with Panfilo as their problem.

But they were interested. Gem said, “Panfilo’s existence challenges claims that Anthros recently arrival on Earth, huh?”

“Unless the bone was mixed in with the rest.”

“No one truly believes that.”

 No. Moon Cloning could have withstood a controversy over human-history-come-to-life. It was the current-day political ramifications that resulted in Panfilo's abandonment.

Meke sighed. “Where did the cache of bones come from?”

Nobody remembered, but the harried man went to the computer and spent several minutes skipping through folders. Another worker joined him. She ran a hand through the holographic projection, snagged an icon and opened it.  

“The bone was sent by 'Cervos.' That’s an Anthros name. The package didn’t supply the location of the bone. But the package came from England.”

Lider straightened from his easy slouch and came to stand beside Rhys. “We should tell the Mars Council that Pan is part of Earth’s history. His exile should be lifted.”

“Give them time to do the right thing, welcome their son home.”

“All beings need to be where they are supposed to be.”

Rhys found that Lider was holding his hand.

Wolf Boy in Space: Chapter 16, Part I

The shuttle descended into an open dome. An accordion-like passage allowed passengers to enter the Moon’s extensive city without donning EVA suits.

Embarkation was uninspiring. Both space stations dumped arrivals into loud, bustling concourses where nearby businesses advertised food and entertainment and souvenirs. Moon embarkation, however, let out on a warren of drab corridors that finally opened onto a wide cavernous space of escalators and trains.

The Intersection, Rhys remembered. Signs pointed to amusement parks, restaurants, Moon jaunts, arboretums, casinos, and brothels, including Cubi-Human Clubs.

“You visit the Moon before?” Lider said to Rhys.

“When I was nineteen. I saved up. It didn’t live up to my probably Ancient Rome-inspired expectations. Neither did the Clubs.”

“You were still trying out relationships.”

“And now I’m in one.”

“You went back to Clubs once you became a priest.”

“Exactly.”

Lider muttered, “I never needed this much reassurance before.”

“I don’t mind,” Rhys told him.

He didn’t. Something was holding Lider back from full corporeality. Maybe it was the distance of Mars from the sun. Maybe it was the dangerous investigations he and Lider had undertaken in the past ten years, the strain on Lider’s being. Maybe none of Rhys’s reassurances would make any difference.

Rhys kept making them. His doubts about the relationship had vanished when Lider started his last furlough towards corporeality. Rhys was Lider’s, no matter what.

Meke had stepped away to flag down a passing cart, driven by a human. When Rhys visited at age nineteen, the driver would have been a grown clone, a worker with a lifespan of a year. Grown clones were no longer produced, not since Allec unveiled truths about those clones.

The surrounding signage didn’t include mentions of cloning operations but it hadn’t when Rhys visited either. The signs didn’t mention finances or mining either. People who visited the Moon for business reasons presumably already knew where to go—or they carried out their dealings over vigilantly shielded communications from Earth.

Meke waved Rhys and Lider into the cart’s back seat and sat beside the driver. They drove from The Intersection down more utilitarian corridors.

Lider said to Rhys, “You didn’t consider getting yourself a grown clone?”

“Made to order? Which turned out to be a scam, by the way.”

“Except for Allec,” Meke said with a quick smile from the front seat.

“Except for Allec. Sure, I thought about it. Talked about it. Everybody talked about it. But I was opposed to grown cloning by the time I hit my teens. I had some moral sense.”

Lider’s voice was fond, amused, more like usual: “The incipient priest.”

The cart halted before an office door with a rippled glass window labeled Laboratory. They thanked the driver, who drove away. Meke opened the door onto an empty waiting room with faded furniture and décor. They glanced at each other; Meke crossed to a further, non-windowed door.

This one opened into a warehouse-like room. Sounds echoed off the gray tiles underfoot and the high rafters of beams. In closer proximity, walls filled with deep containers extended into the room. Transparent plastic drawers revealed organs: a heart, an eye, something that could be a liver. Nearest the door stood large and small machines that Rhys recognized from the station infirmary. The machines here were sleeker with far more attachments. To the side stood a few tanks—originally for human-sized clones but currently split by slats.

A few workers in white coats stood over flat wall and desk computers. A harried man looked round from a table bearing a gene map highlighted from below.

“Only authorized personnel,” he called.

“We qualify,” Meke said calmly and held out an electronic ID. “Meke RaykJanes, Diplomatic Corps. Monseigneur Rhys De Santos. Canon Lider.”

Rhys said, “We’re here about Panfilo Aland.”

“From the Mars Space Station? Right.” The harried man twisted his torso without moving his feet. “Gem, you should deal with these people.”

Wolf Boy in Space: Chapter 15, Part II

Siobhan accompanied Rhys and Lider to Shuttle Embarkation for the Moon. She chattered about her sons and her husband, asked questions about the trip, commented on Rhys’s role as a “detective-priest.” She didn’t comment on the current investigation though she frowned when they reached their destination.

“You’ll be safe. Both of you? This investigation is kind of scary. An assassin went all the way to the station.”

“We’re nobodies,” Rhys assured her.

She slapped his arm and grimaced in Lider’s direction. He was in motion, so harder to pinpoint.

“We’re being met by a member of the General Diplomatic Corps,” Lider told her.

That diplomat, Meke RaykJanes, couldn’t protect Rhys and Lider with an arsenal but he had the authority of a very large and recognized institution. Good people, socialized people, respected such a body, and Siobhan relaxed. Lider didn’t mention that assassins were not socialized people. He thought Rhys flicked him a warning glance.

Siobhan hugged her brother. She waved to Lider. She called, “Goodbye” as they boarded.

“Congratulations,” Rhys said. “You’re officially a person Siobhan now worries about.”

That particular role Lider had never considered.

Meke
He sat beside Rhys on the shuttle. A few passengers gave Lider more than one glance, then dismissed him. Citizens on the ESS and the Moon were used to Cubi in transition.

Someday, I won’t draw anyone’s eyes. I’ll be one more person trekking from Point A to Point B.

Meke, at least, was gratifying impressed by Lider’s progress when he boarded the shuttle. He’d left the station shortly after Lider became barely visible.

“You’re looking quite solid,” he said, which sounded like a learned phrase—Meke was like that—but also sincere—which Meke was also like.

Lider said, “How’s Rill?”

“On the planet putting the family’s consumer research in order.”

Meke was a Siphon. His mate, Rill, was also a Siphon and being inducted into the family business. Rill was as taciturn as Meke was affable but Lider supposed Rill would feel at home amongst the company’s other enumerators as they toted up numbers. On Mars Space Station, Rill worked in Demographics.

Meke and Rill intended to return to the station—Rill was what Rhys called a “space-bound sentient,” one who passionately wanted to be in space for its own sake. Rhys wasn’t one, though he had adapted.

Does he want to go back?

Time enough to worry about that once I gain a fully functional body.

If I do—

Of course, I will.

But nothing went as planned. Rill, for instance, was back on Earth because Meke offered him family ties in a clan, what Anthros called a “kin group.” Would those family ties keep Rill and Meke on Earth? As a member of the Diplomatic Corps, Meke could work anywhere.

His family’s business was in food stuffs. It also had contacts with Moon Cloning Operations. Meke was officially assigned to Rhys and Lider as an ambassador but the choice was no error. Meke knew them. Meke knew Panfilo. Meke knew the Moon.  

Meke flipped through plastic sheets. “Queen Artia shared information with us. Apparently, the Confederation at Reforested Greenland is doing its own investigation. The Anthros who worked for Moon Cloning, the one who supposedly took away records on Panfilo, was Targi. I don’t know if Targi was questioned or if Targi was the name that emerged. The Corps wasn’t given access to the Confederation’s files.”

“What about Queen Artia?” Rhys said. “Is she sincere about disavowing Junad's act, do you think?”

“I do. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her own priorities.”

Her own agenda. But it was like Meke to use the less loaded phrase.

Meke said, “I suspect she knew more about Panfilo than we did before the assassination attempt. A lot of people are playing catch-up right now.”

“Assuaging their guilt.”

“Hey,” Meke said with a smile, “guilt is yours and Lider’s specialty.”

Crime and guilt.

Aliens, Mystery, and Romance in Space: Latest Series Published!

This week, I published The Serpentine History of the Saint alongside revised versions of the current Myths Endure on Mars books:

The books follow a chronological order but can be read separately:

  • Anubis on Mars: expanded with new cover! 
  • Saint of Mars: expanded with new short story, "Lider's Exorcism"  
  • Ithax's Offspring in Space 
  • Nerites Among the Stars
  • Wolf Boy Returns from Space (Fall 2024)
The Serpentine History of the Saint: new publication! 

With the help of her investigators, Francesca Paraclete, a devil's advocate, researches the possible canonization of a medieval saint: Lady Margaret.

If canonized, Lady Margaret will be the first Siphon or mermaid saint. Frankie must consequently deal not only with difficult-to-access and interpret historical records, she must also handle political issues--those who support a Siphon becoming a saint; those who don't.

Her duties are complicated by a possible spy from the College of Cardinals, a cat-like being who insists on accompanying her everywhere, and her personal invisible consultant, a Cubus named Will who is possibly over 2,000 years old.

To  keep things simple, Frankie focuses on locating Lady Margaret's relics. Frankie, her spy, and her consultant start the search in Bamburgh Castle in Northern England. Their investigation will take them to the Faroe Islands, the Isle of Man, King Arthur's Carlisle, a holy well, several shrines, and Norton Priory. At each location, they encounter lore connected to the sea and possibly, hopefully, the true story of Lady Margaret.

The entire series is available on Amazon.

Wolf Boy, Chapter 15, Part I

Rhys and Lider disembarked soon after arrival at the ESS. They encountered crowds on the other side of the gate. The ESS was no fonder of mobs than the Mars Station, but the herd instinct sometimes overrode civil compliance. The arrival of the HG Wells—or, rather, some of its passengers—was big news.

Kaiden and Panfilo were already on their way to Earth. Quin had arranged a bodyguard through the General Diplomatic Corps. “Other than Kaiden,” Quin added.

Quin and Allec would head to the Ohio Valley Realm where the Society for Clone Rights funded a complex of researchers and educators and grown clones, all with life extensions.

The lingering oglers might recognize Allec, who became famous as the first grown clone to receive a life extension. He was older now yet remained, in Quin’s words, “ridiculously handsome.” The life-extension society was sending its own security. Allec being Allec would likely give a few sound bites before he was escorted to a private shuttle.

Best Rhys and Lider escape before they were faced with shouted questions and blinking lights. Rhys was expected to check in with the Vatican—eventually. No one official was meeting him.

Lider certainly wouldn’t be recognized. In the bright lights of the station, he might even pass unnoticed.

“Rhys!”

They both turned. A woman hurried toward them along the concourse. She was half Rhys’s height but had his high cheekbones and dark glimmering eyes. She flung arms around his middle, and he swung her off her feet.

“Siobhan. I thought we agreed I would visit you at home.”

“You think I wouldn’t come greet my brother? After ten years away?”

Yup, Lindsey Morgan has French,
Irish, and Mexican heritage!
She stepped back, hands on Rhys’s forearms and peered past Rhys’s right shoulder. They were at the edge of the concourse and Lider’s form should be faintly discernible. He didn’t move and gave Siobhan a small smile.

Meeting the fiancé’s family. I never thought—I need to make a good impression.

I wish I was more solid.

“Hullo, ah, Lider,” Siobhan said.

Rhys moved so he stood beside Lider, their hands nearly brushing. Lider could sense Rhys’s hand, a nearby object. Propriopception. Spatial awareness. The corporeal sense that allowed the beings on the station concourse to maneuver around each other without conscious thought. Brush by that person. Avoid that foot. Don’t trip over that bag or knock that child off its father’s shoulder.

Rhys lifted his arm to stretch it behind Lider and that too Lider could sense. In a few weeks or months—praise God—he would be able to lean against it.

“Siobhan, I’d like you to meet Lider. Lider, you know Siobhan, my sister. Know about her.”

And this is why I love you—this introduction, this respect. Presenting me to the world despite wanting to keep me to yourself.

Siobhan said, “Know about me?”

“I read him your letters, all about the boys’ job interviews and your husband’s long work hours and your latest culinary inventions—”

“Goodness, Lider, how tiresome for you,” Siobhan said with a wink.

And he said, “No, not at all.”

Lider becoming corporeal
His voice—a “husky tenor” according to Rhys—startled her. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped slightly. The more it gained mass, the more a Cubus’s body mimicked its chosen corporeal form. Yup, I’m more than just a pretty face.

“I appreciate your reminders to Rhys to launder his sheets,” he said and found he was grinning.

Siobhan’s expression of surprise transformed into a wide smile.

“He’s such a slob. He looks so put-together in his cassock, so unbesmirchable, but people don’t see the dirty bowls and plates all over his room.”

“Oh, that’s how it is, huh? My husband and sister join forces.”

Rhys’s voice was relieved, and Lider relaxed into that sound, like he would against Rhys’s arm.

Someday. Soon.

Wolf Boy, Chapter 14, Part II

Pan’s first guardian when he moved to the station had been a Siphon, a member of a sentient species that lived partly in the ocean and partly on land. He, Meke, said that that many Siphons saw space as another ocean. Standing at the wall, Pan could see why. Does it ever end?

Kaiden whispered, “I forgot how unimaginable it is—all that water in one place.”

Xavier shivered then, tossing drops off his fur, and Pan couldn’t help but smirk. More cat than dog, after all.

They followed Xavier up curved stone steps and turned into a long room off-set by protruding skinny windows. The room didn’t look particularly ancient though it had narrow doors capped by stone arches at each end. The room itself was filled with tables piled with documents though it boasted an unlit fireplace at one end. The fireplace faced large couches. A thick rug lay between the couches.

“The upcoming canonization,” Xavier said, motioning to the documents. “Not a medieval personage this time but the folks here gave us the room to work. There are bedrooms through the doors. If you want to nap—”

Pan and Kaiden collapsed on the couches.

“—or I can get you some food. Are the goons coming in?”

The armed bodyguards, he meant.

“No,” Pan said. “I think they have the interiors under digital surveillance.”

“Police state.”

Kaiden said, “Pan was nearly assassinated on the station and assaulted on the ship.”

 Xavier held up his hands. “Useful goons.”

He departed, and Kaiden sighed. “I really do need a gun.”

“Xavier is no threat.”

“Yeah—but there’s so much to watch out for, you know. There were people in the ward and on the walkway and on the beach. On Mars, you’re either indoors or outdoors. And the station is all corridors. Here—there’s so much fillable space. So many possible threats.”

“Maybe the goons will give you some pointers.”

Kaiden looked slightly more cheerful.

Xavier returned with food. Pan noted that it was station-type food: algae with fish and flavored gelatin, cookies on the side. The ship served a combination of Mars and Earth food. But he appreciated that Xavier had selected what he knew Pan and Kaiden would find edible. They hunched over their plates. Xavier sat on a low seat before the fireplace, an extra plate of food in his lap.

He said, “Do you care I’m not a real Anthros?”

Pan considered. It was odd not to scent Xavier. Everyone had a smell, of course. But Anthros smells were unique to Anthros and indicated kin groups. Pan had been told that Anthros on Earth could find fellow kin in a crowd. For Pan, the smells simply indicated differences. Gerry did not smell the same as Sandy. Raine and Ruella seemed more like each other than Gerry or Sandy. But then Pan had an entirely atypical smell, which was—he gathered—another of his oddities, one that humans couldn’t appreciate.  

No smell at all could be its own difference.

He said, “I may not be a real Anthros either.”

“Worship makes you real,” Kaiden said between bites.

“Can’t be real only for that reason,” Xavier said.

Can’t I?

Both Pan and Kaiden turned as steps sounded from the furthest end of the room, and Kaiden half-rose. He settled when Phillipe slouched through the narrow doorway. Both Kaiden and Pan watched Phillipe pause beside one of the tables and pick up a document. Finally, Xavier delivered what for all the universe sounded like an exasperated “meow,” and Phillipe glanced over.

“Oh, yeah,” he said and crossed to the area before the fireplace.

Xavier said, “The Cubus, Will, is here.”

It was considered good manners by Anthros to announce a Cubus’s presence. Pan wondered if Xavier was trying to be a “good” Anthros or trying to get a reaction out of Phillipe. Phillipe reacted by rolling his eyes.

Xavier said, “Phillipe thinks a Cubus doesn’t count until he can speak to it directly.” His grin widened. “Will feels the same about Phillipe.”

Phillipe scrunched up his nose. He sat beside Xavier who draped his tail across Phillipe’s shoulders, much the way Pan did with Kaiden and sometimes Quin and Allec. Pan wondered if Xavier rehearsed such behavior or if it came with the form.

Pan said, "Does Will have an opinion about my arrival on Earth?"

"Probably. He won't tell anyone but Frankie. Closed-mouthed bastards, these incorporeal Cubi."

"Lider would agree."

"Yeah--though I gather he is pissed at me too. Hey, I'm all for people waiting to deliver an opinion until all the evidence is in. But your situation is causing waves in all communities. That you're here at Bamburgh is going to get out."

Kaiden said, "The bodyguards will call for reinforcements." He shrugged at Pan's glance. "What? I would."

"Your queen knows," Phillipe said and passed a plastic sheet to Kaiden. "She wants to confirm your arrival."

“She is not his queen,” Kaiden said at the same time Pan growled a negative.

Xavier laughed softly, enough to show his teeth. “No kin group?”

Phillipe snagged a biscuit off the plate in Xavier’s hand and said to Pan, “You could join Xavier’s non-kin group.”

Or Xavier could join mine.

“The matter is being worked out,” Pan said.

He wasn’t prepared to show his cards yet, not with the investigation still in process, but he suspected Xavier suspected what some of those cards might show.

For now, “I will assure her of a most hospitable welcome here,” Pan told Xavier and Phillipe

“That makes things easier,” Phillipe said. 

Xavier, however, inclined his head—as if he were bowing to a prince.