“Pan Ni! Fire!”
Our hug is disrupted by Yuri yelling in our ears. We separate, and if it weren’t for the energy shield I’m putting up, the flames would have engulfed us.
“This is not our fight,” Ms Pink tells Yuri while holding me back with her hand on my arm.
“What?” The look on Yuri’s face is a mix between disbelief and disapproval. “What is wrong with you?”
“Look,” Yuri points at the furious fight happening a few paces from us, “it is chaos.”
“This is not the first fight in Demortams. Neither will it be the last fight.”
“That has never stopped you from helping before.”
“Just a slight problem. Which side should I help, Yuri?”
“Something is very wrong with you,” says Yuri.
Ms Pink takes two steps back, pulling us further from the fight. “There is nothing wrong with me. I know exactly what I am doing.”
Yuri’s glare hardens suddenly. “It is her, is it not? It is because of her.”
“Say what you will. We are sitting this out.”
“I am disappointed, Princess Pan Ni. I thought better of you,” says Yuri, before turning back to join the fight.
“Ms Pink, what’s going on?” I look deep into those blazing pink eyes, trying to see what the problem may be.
My princess vampire kisses my lips. “It is time.”
I’m not sure who Ms Pink is observing but I need to tell her what I saw. “Ms Pink, I need to tell you something important.”
“What is it?”
“I saw Malvico putting the caepicta on your back.”
Ms Pink’s eyes flare up in molten pink flames. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I saw it all in Tatua’s mind. I saw your mother and your father and your mother when she was a little girl and your grandfather. And Helene. I saw Helene too.”
“Helene? What was she doing?”
“I’ll tell you everything I saw. From the beginning.”
It may seem strange for the two of us to be seated on our ‘throne’ talking while the rest of the Feds and Sovs and Pars are embroiled in a heated fight down under the dome but stranger things have happened in this realm and I really need to pass this information to Ms Pink.
“My grandfather traded me for my mother’s freedom.”
“Is that what it was about?”
“It makes sense now.”
“What makes sense?”
“Now I understand why my father had to seek support from the triple Ps.”
“To save you from the betrothal?”
Ms Pink nods. “It has always puzzled me—why my father had to seek a partnership with supers. His diaries did not speak of any desire to be involved with them, yet he appeared to be playing the power game with multiple associations with supers. But now I understand. He was looking for a way to undo what my grandfather had done. At the cost of his life and all of his family. And he still failed to save me from the supers.”
Ms Pink nodded, expression grim. “I am afraid my ties to Helene have been destined from the very beginning. And this must be why I have never trusted Helene.” She rises to her feet, hands out by her side clenched into fists. “I must fight this. Stay here.”
I stand as well, ready to protest her order but she has already joined the fray. She is going straight for Tatua who is flanked by several members of the Sovereign. I see Yuri turning towards her, face breaking out into a tiny smile, probably pleased to see Princess Pan Ni imposing her power. But that smile drops along with her jaw when Ms Pink turns her flames against Tatua’s attackers.
And that jaw drops even more when Ms Pink hollers, “Ceasefire!”
Kharne is furious. He goes for Ms Pink’s neck and fear chills my spine, but she dodges. With his muscles threatening to burst, he snarls, “Your true colours have shown, Princess. You are a traitor.”
“The trial should be resumed.” Ms Pink flexes her muscles, flaring her flames high up to the dome, separating the two opposing sides from each other. “We can be more civilized than this after centuries of existence.”
“Tatua is guilty for all to see. The trial is a waste of time. Get out of my way!” Kharne roars.
“We have endless time to waste. This trial is to be respected. What is a few more minutes in view of our endless lives?”
“Princess Pan Ni is right,” says Sintix. “Let us be civilized.” He waves his crystal wand in the air, circling an invisible point twice, and a rainbow appears over our heads, light refracted for our eyes to see. “Tatua, return to your position. Your goodwill is necessary for the trial to proceed.”
“Very well.” Tatua bows to Ms Pink and Sintix and returns to his glass jail. “My goodwill has been presented before you.”
“This is ridiculous. We supers do not deal out of goodwill,” Kharne growls.
“Kharne, please take your seat. I have a few questions for Tatua to answer,” Ms Pink says with a pleasant smile.
The smile seems to surprise Kharne and make him think the better of insisting on raw, brutal violence which is no doubt, his favourite mode of operating. Instead, he grunts and takes his seat. “You shall bear the costs of repairing Demortams to time.”
“With pleasure, Kharne,” Ms Pink replies easily. She then turns to the crowd of Feds, Sovs and Pars. Most are following suit and returning to their seats but some are still standing around amidst charred debris. With her chin up high, she speaks, “Tatua, vici of Ttrowtos, is on trial for being an accomplice in the attempt to break the treaty between supers and humans. He is also on trial for assisting Ttrowtos’ attempt to usurp the Federation’s power.”
With brilliant pink eyes, Ms Pink scans the crowd. “We have presented sufficient evidence for the latter. Tatua has also admitted to assisting Ttrowtos although his loyalty to his vicist is a justification for his crimes. But we have one more case against Tatua.”
Murmurs rise from the crowd again. What is this case that Ms Pink stopped the fighting for?
“I hereby charge Tatua with the crime of colluding with a rival of his vicist in exchange for more power. Disloyalty, disturbance to the hierarchy and disruption of law and order.”
“Who is the rival?” asks Edith who has been exceptionally quiet throughout this trial.
Ms Pink is outlined in fire when she answers. “Helene.”
The commotion caused by this name drop is intense and it takes a while for the crowd to quieten.
“Princess Pan Ni, you are accusing your vicist?” Sintix questions. Worry is written all over his face. I’m guessing accusing one’s vicist doesn’t rank high on the list of things supers should do.
“I am accusing Tatua, not Helene,” Ms Pink corrects.
Yuri speaks up. “But your vicist will be implicated.”
Ms Pink fixes a violent pink glare on Yuri. “Should that stop us from holding Tatua responsible for the crimes he has committed?”
Silenced by Ms Pink’s glare, Yuri sighs and sits down.
“With no other objection, I will request permission from the Federation to question Tatua about his collusion with the rival vicist.”
One by one, members of the Federation nod. “Permission is given,” says Miras. “You may proceed.”
With that, Ms Pink turns back to Tatua. “Do you admit to colluding with your vicist’s rival to gain power?”
“There is nothing to admit when there is no proof,” Tatua replies coldly.
Ms Pink merely smirks. “Very well. Demortams summons Helene to trial.”
It is clear that Helene is furious with Ms Pink. She makes no effort to hide it either, choosing to enter Demortams with flames burning around her charcoal black cloak.
“The audacity. Pan Ni, explain yourself.”
“Tatua has claimed his loyalty to Ttrowtos in his defence but he has betrayed his vicist by colluding with a rival vicist—that is you, Helene.”
“Have you ever met my parents before, Helene?”
Helene’s back straightens but she keeps a poker face. “Ridiculous question.”
Kharne nods. “Helene saved you from Malvico, did she not?”
Ms Pink pulls a smile that says she knows more. “How about we summon the two remaining triplets and listen to what they have to say about this?”
“What do they have to do with this?” asks Miras.
“They have been on Helene’s payroll ever since Osiris disappeared. Are none of you aware of that?”
Kharne’s face turns red as the crowd bursts into a buzz over this revelation. “Summon the despicable minions of Helene now!” he bellows.
“We are here.”
All heads turn towards the two identical supers. Praeson and Praneos stand side by side, looking every bit the gentlemen in their grey tapered suits, hair brushed back and sleek.
“You despicable minions!” Kharne growls as they descend the steps leading to the bottom.
“We have committed no sin. Our vicist vanished for a long time and showed no signs of ever coming back. It is only natural to seek a new mentor in a situation like ours.”
I can’t tell them apart so I have no idea who it is when they speak.
“That is a fib. You three are descendants of Pra,” Kharne counters.
Helene speaks then. “That is true. But their vicist is Osiris.”
A collective gasp booms around the dome.
Who is Osiris?
Kharne slams the table in front of him, and a crack appears down the middle. “Osiris never had any vicis.”
Helene lifts her chin, firm even in the face of an angry Viking hulk. “Osiris never made it known. Neither did he care to groom his vicis. I merely took them under my wing after he disappeared.”
“Helene, we have no reason to believe you if you cannot produce proof,” says Miras.
“After hundreds of years of existence, all of you are no better than humans, asking for proof all the time,” Helene spits with venom.
“You inspire little faith in us, Helene,” Sintix chips in. “A little evidence will go a long way to convince us, if you may.”
“Fine.” Helene takes two steps forward and lifts her arm. The dome above flashes and a hologram of a flaming being appears, hovering in the middle of the great hall. “This is Pra.” Sweeping an arm across the human section of the hall, Helene adds with contempt, “Imbeciles have turned our mighty lord into a stupid legend. They think it is all a fantasy. I stand here today, a prime vici of Pra and I have proof.”
I watch with fascination as Helene closes her eyes and lifts her hands towards the ceiling. Flames erupt and soar up to the dome. A hand closes over mine as the flames climb around us and I smile, knowing it is Ms Pink’s.
I continue to watch as Helene’s flames grow, flickering and gathering. A figure forms amidst the flames, eerily resembling the hologram before us. The crowd notices it too and loud whispers can be heard everywhere.
“Only a prime vicist of Pra is able to do this. Praeson and Praneos are unable to cast this figure.”
“It is easy for them to pretend they cannot,” says Miras.
Helene’s eyes flash deep red with anger. “It is an honour to be a prime vicist of Pra, our mighty Lord of the Sun. One does not deny their roots when it is as mighty as Pra.”
Kharne snorts. “Mighty? Pra was destroyed by Osiris in the end. As Pra’s eldest son, Osiris committed the ultimate betrayal, and became the most powerful Lord of the Serpent. I daresay the triplets would prefer to be vicis of Osiris than Pra. There is no honour in it for them.”
“Osiris’ reign did not last long. Ttrowtos was one of his persecutors and Osiris was almost eliminated by the Pra’s loyal forces before he vanished.” Helene points to Praeson and Praneos. “There is no glory in being a vici of Osiris for them. Only shame. They have no reason to lie about it.”
“What is the point of this debate?” Tatua snorts with derision.
Ms Pink turns her glare on him. “You are the imbecile who fails to realize what you have been an instrument of. Helene took you in for a reason. As it is for the triplets.”
“You have yet to prove I colluded with Helene.”
“I can prove it.” Ms Pink’s smile is truly creepy and sinister in this moment as she addresses all beings in Demortams. “The Erika holds indisputable evidence extracted directly from Tatua.”