ExcerptRion stared at the missive one more time, then tossed it onto the table. Dragging a hand through his hair, he stared up at portrait he’d done of Annie and Kerr, and silently prayed.
Please do not go, Annie. Please. Do not leave me.
He turned to see Grimar standing in the open doorway. He nodded for the man to continue.
"I requested a trap. And Lady Annie is on her way up."
The last surprised him. Rion knew she had left to visit with Ian, as much as he didn’t want her to. But he had expected her to be gone longer than this.
"Is she alone?"
The messenger nodded.
"Thank you, Grimar. Any word on Daralien or Jeffer?"
"No, my lord. However, the weather is beginning to get colder."
Rion frowned. "Do the predictions forecast another storm?"
"A small one, with rain and maybe some ice, but nothing major."
"Thank you. Let me know when the trap arrives."
Grimar nodded and left. Vadon immediately took his place.
"Rumor says you received an official summons from Lordess Siba. You did not tell me you had asked for legal help."
Rion watched as his brother walked in and took a seat nearby. "I did not wish to worry you."
"Worry me?" Vadon frowned. "Why? What did you ask her?"
"About Annie leaving. If I could stop her."
Rion waved for silence before his brother could begin. "Never mind. You probably already know the answer."
"She is an outworlder. She is exempted from our laws. You cannot forbid her anything. I could have told you that." Vadon rolled his eyes, adding, "Of course, you would not have believed me."
The remark got a smile out of Rion. "You know me too well."
"Do you really think she would go back to her world with the stranger?"
"I am conflicted, Vadon. Do I let her go, knowing I may never see her again? Or do I try to stop her, knowing her health may deteriorate because of my selfishness?"
Bending over on his stool, Vadon clasped his hands between his knees. "Can we look at this in a different light? What if the stranger does take her back? Let Annie spend some time over on her world. Can one of the lords bring her back with him?"
"It sounds simple, Vadon, when the reality is anything but," Rion said. "For one thing, there would have to be another lord already in her vicinity. For another, he would have to avoid detection and be in good health in order to bring back a second person. In addition, how can we be certain that Annie can physically withstand another passing through the rift? She is not like us. Her body may not be able to tolerate the stress again." He clenched his fists as his eyes drifted back to the missive. "How can we be sure the air machine can make it back through the rift? That Annie can go back?"
"Have you voiced your fears to her?"
Rion shook his head. "She already knows them. She knows I love her, and that I want everything that is good for her, even if it means... her leaving."
Indicating the official communiqué with a nod of his head, Vadon asked, "Any idea why the Lordess needs to see you?"
"No. But there’s no urgency."
Another messenger ran up to the doorway. "Your trap is here."
"Thank you. Have you seen Annie?" Rion asked.
"On her way up."
Before Rion could thank him again, the messenger hurried away.
"How much longer do you think it will take the stranger to finish his repairs?" Vadon said.
"I have Lord Brond keeping a close eye on the man and his machine. He tells me the repairs are coming along quickly."
Vadon looked surprised. "How quickly?"
"He will inform me when repairs are complete. But it would not be unreasonable to estimate another two or three cycles.
Vadon gave a low whistle. "Even if he does finish them, he will need to wait for another storm to give him access. And all of this is assuming the repairs are adequate to get the machine flying again."
"True. Brond told me the man was asking about something called ‘petrol’. It is a liquid that the machine needs to fuel itself."
"We do not have any sort of liquid that could substitute, do we?" Vadon wondered aloud.
"Not that I am aware of," Rion said.
"There is something else I have been needing to ask you." Vadon stood, moved closer to Rion, and lowered his voice. In the distance Rion could see Annie making her way over to the office, and he was sure Vadon’s closeness meant his brother didn’t want her to overhear.
"What if the otherworlder is not able to return to Earth? What if he has to remain here for the rest of his life? What then, Rion?"
"I do not understand."
"I meant... could you accept the man as a part of your life?"
Rion shot him a puzzled look.
"Surely, Rion, if the man becomes a permanent part of our world, do you expect Annie never to see him again, or never to have any sort of contact with him again?"
As the implication took root, Rion felt a chill crawl through his veins. Silently he watched Annie as she drew nearer, and a smile full of warmth and love surfaced on her beautiful face. Could he accept the otherworlder as part of his life?
Could he... share... Annie... with another man?
Outworlders are not bound by our laws.
Maybe not, Rion said to himself. But maybe it was time to change that perception...
And the laws.