Caela and Lukin touch hand into hand, facing each into shining open eyes, hug solemnly. The children feel as secure as any mother’s love could provide. Toriv as well feels that love, allowing himself the relief, the luxury of relinquishing a responsibility he had no idea how to fulfill. None doubted, assured in Caela’s confidence, that no harm would now befall them.
The knock at the door was no shock, no surprise. Neither were the officially uniformed pair of large brutes whose entrance their knocking barely preceded. They were the ones not so much shocked or surprised as amazed and disarmed by an old woman from the other side of the deep woods.
At Caela’s instigation, she, Toriv and the children were escorted to the official vehicle brought for their transport to an interrogation area.
“You mean to take these children, and the man who has harbored them, to someone with more authority than you for their questioning and incarceration, yes?” Caela had quietly, patiently suggested, clearly eyeing the soldiers. They could but nod, confused.
“Take us all to the supreme commander of your government. We have negotiations to begin.” She commanded them as surely as any of those officers they had been trained to obey with alacrity, without question. Also, there was some strange subtly commanding desire they could feel overtaking any objection before it could form in their minds. It did not feel strange at all to do as this unknown woman said. It only felt strange to have any idea to the contrary.
Off they all go to see the Chief Councilor, head of the city’s governmental body. On the way, Caela is able to collaborate with Lukin in forming a link of communication with Merin in his cell at the prison compound. He and the rest of the adult members of Sira’s extended family are being held, their jailors believe incommunicado, out of sight out of mind of those of the city’s populace enraged against them. Unthinking rage, used so easily in political rallying, is not always so easily controlled. None of Sira’s political enemies had ever intended harm to the children. They thought the outrage would die down once the maligned adults had been apprehended, sent into perdition for punishment of their insinuated crimes. Yet the people were calling to extinguish this evil subspecies, as they imagined the witchpeople to be, from their lives, utterly, completely, finally. These people had for so long been unhappy, silently or uproariously building up angers over the miseries they felt visited upon their lives from some unnamed foe. Having found a name, they now must vanquish those of that brand. To their rage, it was all quite simple. Anger can be a potent force for action. Once devolved to impotent rage, it is bereft of the solidity of reason and can only, when released, destroy.
Merin, glad for the distraction maybe even more than the hope of aid, fills Caela in on the pertinent history, the players, the games, the scores and strategies, cultural myths, background conditions, that she had missed while living her life on the other side of the woods. He is promised a detailed history of Caela’s community once the crisis has passed and there is time for the less immediate.