“What would we do if we couldn’t blame others.”
I find Nova in her living room, lying on the sofa and with her legs propped up on several pillows. She is wearing a loosely fitting nightgown and her flushed cheeks show that she is very agitated. Knocking on the doorframe, I enter the room and smile at her. Her pregnancy is in its final stage and it's clear that she overshot our goal with getting twins.
My daughter’s bloodline seems to be secured. At least that's a little relief to all my worries.
Noticing me, Nova turns her head and glares at me. “What do you want? Just that you know... I will never do this again!”
I smile and wave the large tome in my hands at her. “Don't make a promise you can't keep. Eternity is too long a time to make such exclamations.”
Nova huffs and turns her attention towards the ceiling. “What's with that tome? It's unlike you to bring me presents.”
Turning the tome in my hands, I show her the title. “The first Priestess of Nemnarch.” I take one of the chairs and pull it closer to Nova. “It's a collection of historical texts about the roots of the Mirai bloodline.” I sit down and point at the tiara on Nova's head. “I promised you that I would search through our library. It took a while, but I found something about your trinket.”
Furrowing her forehead, Nova takes off the tiara and regards it with interest. “I totally forgot about the thing. The enchantments on it are deteriorated, so it's nothing more than an accessory.” She runs a finger along one of the spikes, regarding it. “Why did it take you so long to find answers?”
I nod and clear my throat, embarrassed. “We took most of our cultural heritage with us when we fled the main continent. It wasn't like we had to flee overnight. There was time to pack our things, switch off the light and shut the doors behind us. Sadly, our oldest texts don't exactly come with an index, so my librarians had to go through every book by hand. Let's just say that we have a lot of books.”
Opening the tome, I turn the pages until I find the important section, then I show it to Nova. “This one seems to be about right.”
The page shows a large illustration of a tiara, just like the one in Nova's hands. The proportions are a little off, but it's clear that the author of the section wasn't exactly an engineering draftsman, so slight discrepancies are to be expected. Next to the illustration is a long text in finely written runes. The book’s paper is yellow and old, feeling leathery to the touch.
Nova squints her eyes at the text. “I don't know that language.”
“It says that the tiara belonged to the High Priestess of Aberline, a cultural centre of the Mir, who later joined hands with the Arai, renaming their combined people the Mirai. Apparently, the tiara was worn in a ceremony to summon the lost souls of the departed,” I explain.
“So it is a lost heirloom after all!” Nova smiles and uses a finger to twirl the artefact around.
“Indeed, which begs the question how it ended up in your possession,” I muse and lean back, crossing my legs to show that I won't leave without an answer. “I got reports about a flying pyramid which is laying waste to the Alliance's northern territories and the Sociocrathy's border. The area isn't very populous, but it's still drawing attention. There are similarities between the pyramid and Illum.
“The pyramid is now heading towards the war-zone between the Alliance and the Empire, generating an undead army in its wake. Correct me if I am wrong, but this happens exactly when it seems like the hotheads within the Alliance are about to cool down, realizing that they won't simply wipe the Empire off the map. Now, everyone who is invested in the war will try to get their hands on the pyramid.”
Nova manages to look surprised. “Really? Why do you connect the pyramid to Illum?”
“Both fly,” I answer dryly. “Be glad that there are two surviving witnesses who ruled out your involvement. They were a part of the research group which activated the pyramid, though I suppose that their survival was intentional?”
“What do you mean? Intentional? Research group?” She plays with the tiara in her hands.
“I am sure that the pyramid is your work. Aside from the tiara, this tome contains a detailed description of an old Mir temple. It's basically a pyramid. And you, my dear friend, are holding an old Mir artefact in your hands.” I point at the tiara. “You shouldn't have sticky fingers if you are really trying to keep your machinations hidden. So? What's this new peril about?”
Nova looks at me like a child who was caught with both her hands inside the cookie jar. After realizing that there is no way to deny her involvement this time, she glares down at the tiara. “Damn it! I only took it because it's exactly my style. Normally, I don’t care for treasure! I probably should have made my own one, instead of being lazy.”
I wouldn’t care either if I was a craftsman of her level. Who needs to search for magical artefacts if she can make them herself?
“At least it's unlikely that anyone else recognizes it,” I admit. “I only found out because I was right in front of you and it's unlikely that anyone else has texts about the old Mir. Or would research your crown...”
She places the tiara tentatively on her head. “Okay. I installed a little gadget inside the tombs beneath the pyramid. The whole thing is meant as a large distraction to give me time. As you can see, I am not exactly at the height of my capabilities.” Nova gestures at herself.
“How long is this distraction supposed to last?” I look at her belly and think of the ancient necropolis which Nova must have taken over. “The ancient Mir weren't like the Mirai. They worshipped death for death's sake. It would be very inconvenient if your intervention woke up something dangerous.”
“I have a feeling that it won't have to last that long. Aside from the metamorph, the other nations kept surprisingly silent.” Nova tries to sit up and I help her. “I wondered about that, but seems like their wars take most of their attention.”
“They simply don't have the resources to send a large expedition to this island,” I explain. “They would have to send enough to destroy Illum and my fleets. That still doesn't take into account that the whole Mirai island is riddled with ground-based defence systems. No. Sending an occupational force to this location would take more resources and time than anyone is able to afford.
“Though I am surprised that they didn't launch more attacks which are aimed at weakening us. After what you did to Rufus's little trade empire, I expected him to go on a rampage. That he didn't do so doesn't bode well for us. I assume that he is trying his best to unite the other reincarnated against us. He is the type who gathers his forces until he is absolutely sure that he can win. A storm is brewing, and it won't be easy to survive it.”
Suddenly, Nova gasps and reaches for her belly. “It happened!”
“What happened?” I ask, looking down at her legs, which are tightly pressed together.
“It's time! Get everyone! The healers, Castella, most importantly, get Zane!” Nova waves urgently towards the door.
Realizing what's going on, I ask. “Why do you need Zane? Do you want him to hold your hand? I thought that the two of you don't have that kind of flowery relationship. Besides, I bet that he will just pass out.”
“That's why you have to get him! The guy is supposed to see the bloody mess he is responsible for! Why else do I keep him around in the first place?” Nova starts hyperventilating, causing me quite a bit of stress.
Shouldn’t she complain about me? I was the one who talked her into this. “Okay, I'll get them. Though, I think that Zane can’t be held responsible for this…” Why does this happen exactly when I am about to get some information from Nova?
“Who cares! He is the ‘guy’ and I need someone to curse and scream at!”