376 The Executed

    Semmi cast her line, smiling at Jun Li over the empty chair that Nix usually sat in.  "It's nicer when the three of us fish."

    Jun Li nodded in agreement, her thoughts on the message Nix sent from the Serpent Clans. "What do you think about Nix's message?"

    "I looked it up.  In the entire history of Colonial, only six individuals have been executed by heads of state."  Semmi reeled in a bit of line and then leaned back in her chair.  "Shank was one of the original players in Colonial.  I can't imagine he wouldn't light up the forums afterward if the account had been erased."

    Jun Li considered her friend's words.  "Suppose Shank and the twins are still around. What's that mean?"

    "We shouldn't be guessing what since our information is spotty."  Semmi brought up her hud and sent a quick message.

    "Who then?" Jun Li reeled in her line and rebaited the hook.  "Nix always puts the worms on for me; they're so slimy."

    "Don't look at me."  Semmi laughed at her friend's reaction.  "We're thinking the Cabal, right?"

    Jun Li Nodded, grimacing slightly while she suffered through rebaiting.  "What's the name of that Nether priestess that advises the council of five?"

    "Xia, we know she's part of the Cabal.  I've already messaged Ducky."  Semmi exhaled and cast her line out again.

    "Ducky?"  Jun Li shook her head slightly.  "Does she know Xia?"

    "No.  But she knows Leva, the two of them will ask some questions."


    1800 hours Chyanama City, Nether

    Leva sat behind her desk, her dark eyes watching Ducky while she briefed her.  "Three people, that should be dead are in Seryndefi?  Could they be minions?"

    Ducky shook her head slightly.  "That doesn't work on outworlders. It's definitely some kind of cover-up, maybe a pipeline to Oasis or Everspire."

    "Should we be careful?  Xia has a lot of influence in the Nether."  Leva didn't like the dark priestess; Nix told her not to trust her.

    "More than Nix?"  Ducky looped a hand through her friend's arm.  "She'll talk."

    The two were still sitting together when Xia entered the office less than an hour later.

    Leva gestured to the chair across from them.  "Please have a seat."

    Xia's wide-set eyes were staring at the two women.  Leva had a reputation for being ruthless, while Ducky was part of Nix's inner circle.  "I don't have long."

    Ducky smiled pleasantly.  "That's fine.  Nix asked me to inquire about something.  Has the Cabal targeted him?  Or is it you personally?"

    Leva watched the dark priestess's reaction; she was definitely hiding something.  "Forget about porting out of here; you don't leave my city unless I say you do."

    Xia's pale face seemed to grow pasty, moisture oozing from her pores.  "I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth."

    "She's hiding something."  Leva had questioned enough prisoners in her time to have good instincts. "Ask away, little sister."

    "Don't waste your time." Xia's dark eyes grew cold, "I'm immune to mind influences, and the moment you try it, the Cabal will be alerted."

    Ducky has bewitched Xia the Dark Priestess.

    Ducky moved toward Xia, her blue eyes staring.  "You're quite beautiful, Xia, and so powerful.  I admit that I'm quite taken with you."

    Xia smiled tentatively.  "Oh.  I'm not sure what to say.  Thank you."

    The Water Witch caressed the priestess's face with the back of her hand.  "Any safeguards protecting you from being questioned?"

    Xia shook her head.  "No one would dare try."

    Ducky nodded in agreement.  "Nix is in danger.  Leva and I are just trying to protect him."

    "I understand. Nix is important to the Cabal; also, he's a counterbalance to the dragon's power base."

    "Can you help me solve a mystery?"  Ducky's smooth voice filled the room. "Shank, Vera, and Tula are three outlanders that were supposed to be executed in Jenzi last year; somehow, they surfaced in Everspire."

    Xia's lips curved in a smile.  "I don't know those names, but heroes who are about to be executed are offered entry positions in the Assassin Guild."

    Ducky glanced at Leva, who was using her hud to record everything.  "There's an Assassin's guild?  How does it relate to the Serpent Clan?"

    Xia shook her head.  "It doesn't really.  They've infiltrated all the Titan Clans, the human clans, and  the Dhassi in Oasis."

    "I see.  Thank you for telling us." Ducky walked back to her seat next to Leva.  "What is their agenda?"

    Xia shrugged slightly.  "Credits.  They don't have a political agenda.  You pay them to kill someone, and that person dies."

    Ducky leaned over and watched as Leva sent the interview to Semmi and Nix.  "That's about it."

    Ducky has removed the bewitchment on Xia, the Dark Priestess.

    Xia's dark eyes looked confused for a moment before she jumped to her feet.  "You two bitches!  You're both dead!  Once the Cabal finds out, the two of you are going to be hunted and put down like sick dogs."

    Ducky smiled slightly, covering her mouth with one hand.  "That's fine.  We recorded the entire interview; our people  already have the information."

    Leva nodded in confirmation.  "The secrets out."

    Xia gritted her teeth, her pale face darkening.  "I'll have the two of you tortured until you beg for death.  Nix won't be able to lift a finger to help you."

    Ducky shrugged nonchalantly.  "Send the entire Interview to that man Jun Li mentioned."

    "Right, the guy from the Cabal. Teal was his name.  Just a moment."

    "WAIT!"  Xia's voice had an edge of panic.  Her dark eyes seemed to be going through the different possible scenarios.

    Leva glanced between Xia and Ducky.  "Send it?"

    Ducky shook her head.  "Should she send it, Xia?  What will your friends at the Cabal say?"

    Xia stared at the blue-eyed young woman for a long moment before she spoke. "Don't send it.  I've shared a bit of knowledge with you.  Nothing too important, I trust Inferno will be discreet."

    Leva shared a glance with Ducky, "a mutual exchange of information.  Nothing important enough to ever bring up again."

    Xia let out a deep breath that she'd been holding.  "Right.  Just a friendly visit."

    A few minutes later, Leva was sitting behind her desk; she sent Ducky back to Loki while Xia remained behind.   The Fallen Chancellor lit a fragrant candle and leaned back in her chair to study her guest.  "This going to work out for everyone?"

    Xia nodded.  "It has too.  We will all be dead if it isn't."

    Leva grabbed two glasses from her desk and poured herself some wine.  "Would you like some?"

    "No, thanks." Xia tried to smile pleasantly, the recent events seeming to make it impossible.

    Leva inhaled the scent of the candle she lit, her eyes half-closed.  "Do you like that fragrance?  It's called cinnamon, a personal favorite of Nix."

    "It's too sweet for my tastes."  Xia tried to stand up and found that her legs were no longer working.  "W-What have you done?"

    "Hmm?"  Leva's hud buzzed, and she took a moment to read the message.  Her dark eyes turned back toward Xia.  "You should have tried the wine; it's the antidote for the paralytic effect of the candle."

    Xia's wide-set eyes showed her panic.  "What are you doing?  If you kill me, there will be consequences."

    Leva nodded in agreement while she removed a locked box from behind her desk.  "Which is why I'm not going to do that. This is your new heart."

    "Stop!"  Xia felt her vision start to blur while Leva approached her with a dagger in hand.  "Nix won't like this."

    Leva sat next to Xia on the couch.  "Your mistake is thinking that you know him."


    Semmi and Jun Li watched the interview together; they continued to fish in silence for a few minutes afterward until Semmi finally spoke.

    "This changes nothing.  I've always assumed there was something like that, I didn't think players could join though."

    Jun Li shook her head.  "Your mind is incredible, Sem."

    The blond officer offered her friend a smile.  "That's why you love me."

    "What's up with Pon nowadays?  He seems a bit out of sorts."

    Semmi sighed and shook her head.  "I thought the whole goat incident would shake him out of it, but something is really bothering him."

    Jun Li gave her a blank look.  "Goat incident?"

    Semmi grinned.  "You didn't hear this from me.  Apparently, when Nix was clearing out Goralpri, there were quite a few animals in the undergrowth that covered the city."

    "Stands to reason."

    Semmi reeled in her line and started gathering her things together.  "This mountain ram charged out of nowhere and nearly ran Nix over, but he managed to dodge to one side.  Hot on its heels was one of those jungle cats, the fast ones that blend in."

    Jun Li smiled at her friend's description, Semmi loved telling stories.  "Then what?  Nix killed it?"

    Semmi nodded, a bit of laughter bubbling over.  "Yep, it attacked, and Nix had no choice."

    "That's not the punchline.  Right?"

    "Nope.  Nix had just killed the cat when this ram slammed into his backside, launching him face-first into the street."

    Jun Li's laughter echoed in the evening air.  "Oh, god... I wish I were there for that.  Nix didn't kill the goat?"

    Semmi shook his head.  "He tried, sliced its ear off, and that thing bolted into the undergrowth.  Yuli said he burned through all his mana trying to find it."

    "How did Pon get the goat?"

    "When he heard the story from Yuli, he paid her 100 thousand credits to catch the goat for him."

    Jun Li's face lit up in a big smile; she already heard that Pon had it put in a stall with one of Nix's horses.  "That's funny, but once that can of worms is open."

    Semmi nodded in agreement.  "Payback is going to be a bitch."
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