Time’s Illusion Prologue
An Act of Fate
The planet Civantha, over 1,000 years ago…
Going somewhere, Gelasia?”
“Waldemar!” Gelasia whirled around.
He stared at her intently. Her hair was a deep gold, thick and wavy, with pale golden highlights that glowed like moonbeams. Dark gold brows arched over her large amber eyes, and her skin was a delicate shade of creamy-gold. She wore a dress of shimmering white with lavish yellow embroidery. She always favored white, yellow, and gold for her clothing. The cloth clung to her, hiding what Waldemar knew was a body as perfect as her face.
Waldemar stepped from the black doorway out into the frosty night air. The small doorway hidden in the shadows of one of the sleek towers was seldom used. It crackled quietly back into place.
“I am disappointed, my dear,” he said mildly. “Out of all seven sisters, I thought you were the most loyal.”
“You lied to me, Waldemar,” Gelasia said harshly.
“Not really. I would have told you all eventually. I merely let you know only what you needed to know at the time.”
“I loved you.” Gelasia’s voice shook.
“Loved? Past tense?” Waldemar raised a dark brow.
“You used me to help you steal the Seven Orbicules. You used my sisters.”
“They were very willing participants, as I recall. Each one was eager for the adventure of stealing the Orbicules.”
“We thought we were saving the Orbicules.” Gelasia clenched her fists and her words poured out in a rush. “Aislinn came to me and told me the truth. She told me you didn’t love me. She discovered you love Xylea, Arden’s wife.”
Waldemar frowned. “I will admit that at one time I did think I loved Xylea. That ended when I met you.”
“Do you expect me to still believe your lies?”
“I’m not lying about that.” Waldemar looked into her eyes. “I swear to you, Gelasia. I did intend revenge on Arden but not because of Xylea.” His voice hardened. “Arden and I were friends once. Then Rylante chose Arden to oversee the building of Cilcourt. I offered my assistance and was rebuffed by both Rylante and Arden. Rylante I could understand. He is an idealist, a man with a mind above reality. Arden was another story.”
Gelasia stared at him. He could feel his face tightening with anger. The energy that was his great power seethed around him.
“Arden refused because he didn’t want me to have any claim on Cilcourt. He knew Rylante intended to bestow Cilcourt on a powerful scientician. I am one of the most powerful scienticians in the galaxy. If I had been involved, Rylante might have given Cilcourt to me and Arden knew it. And then Xylea was invited to be part of the project. Xylea!”
Gelasia jumped at his sudden sharp tone.
“Arden and I met her on the same day. That was another reason Arden wanted to keep me away from Cilcourt. Xylea. He was not about to have any competition there, either.” His eyes locked with Gelasia’s. “But do not think for one moment I regret her loss. I have not done so since I found you.”
“Until tonight,” Gelasia said bitterly.
“I don’t regret that I love you. It only makes my conquest of the Orbicules more difficult.”
He took another step toward her.
Gelasia backed away. “I don’t believe you, Waldemar.”
“Gelasia, your sisters will be here soon. They will hand their Orbicules to me.”
“My sisters will not be arriving tonight.”
Waldemar stopped. “What is this?”
“They have already come and gone. I warned them of your plot. I told them to flee.” Gelasia stared at Waldemar, her amber eyes glowing with anger. “And they did.”
“That is unfortunate.” Waldemar stood in thought for a moment. “But I imagine we won’t have too hard a time tracking the Orbicules again.”
“We will not be tracking the Orbicules,” Gelasia corrected.
“My, you are angry,” Waldemar noted. “You still love me, Gelasia. I know it and you know it.”
He held his hand out. An Orbicule gleamed on his wrist.
Gelasia quickly raised her hand. “I’m an enhancer, Waldemar. You are wearing the Orbicule of Time. I have the power to increase the response of that Orbicule.” Her voice shook. “Do not make me use that power against you.”
“I know you’re an enhancer,” Waldemar sighed. “That was one of the reasons I wanted the Orbicules. Between my power and your enhancement, no one will be able to stop us.”
“Arrogance was always your downfall, Waldemar,” a third voice said.
Both Gelasia and Waldemar turned to see Arden stepping from the shadows of the tower.
Waldemar stared at his old friend and then turned to Gelasia. A cold anger ripped through him.
“So. Is that how you planned to get away? You were going to betray me to Arden?”
“No,” Gelasia gasped. “I didn’t summon him.”
“Xylea told me. You stole the Orbicule of Time and left her for dead, but I found her in time and saved her.” Arden’s voice was harsh and his gray eyes as cold as death.
Waldemar turned on him. “You have Cilcourt, Arden, and I have the Orbicules. Leave it at that.”
“The Orbicules do not belong to you.”
Waldemar’s tone was scathing. “You intend to keep the Orbicules for yourself, don’t you, Arden? But I see no reason why you should have everything. There are other scienticians in the galaxy just as powerful as you.”
“Great power by itself doesn’t entitle you to take what you want. That is something you have never understood.” Arden eyed Waldemar somberly. “We were friends once. Don’t let your hunger for more power destroy everything you do have.”
Waldemar laughed. “You are a dreamer, Arden. You’ve been listening to Rylante and his utopian dream for the galaxy where the powerful will help the weak, the fortunate will take care of the needy, and everyone will obey the rules.” His dark eyes narrowed. “We both know this is the real world where those with strength and power carve their own destinies. That is why you kept Cilcourt for yourself. You are not interested in the greater good. You are only interested in your own.”
“Rylante is the Keeper of the Realm,” Arden replied calmly. “He put Cilcourt into my hands because he knew I wouldn’t misuse its power. Anyway, Cilcourt is not mine. I’m merely the custodian for the true heir.”
“You will not stop me, Arden.”
Waldemar took a step forward and so did Arden. They began to circle each other.
“No.” Gelasia gasped. “Don’t do this.”
A blast of energy flew from Waldemar’s fingertips. Arden created a shield, deftly dissipated the energy, and then followed with another blast. Waldemar, disdaining a shield, sidestepped the bolt, which crashed into the wall of the fortress with a deafening sound. Metal splinters ricocheted in all directions.
“Stop!” Gelasia screamed. She stepped between the two men.
“Gelasia, get out of the way,” Waldemar snarled.
“You are in enough trouble, Gelasia,” Arden added. “Don’t make it worse.”
“All three of you need to step away from each other,” a new voice said.
All heads turned. Rylante stood there watching the scene with stern eyes.
Waldemar had only one chance. They were not in the Realm of the Scienticians, after all. He hurled a powerful wave of energy at Rylante.
Gelasia felt horror wash over her.
“No!” she and Arden yelled simultaneously. Arden grabbed her and surrounded her with his own energy shield.
Through the shield, Gelasia watched as if everything was happening in slow motion. Rylante’s arms flew wide. A shimmering shield of energy formed before him. Waldemar’s energy blast hit the shield and bounced back, striking Waldemar directly in the chest and flinging his body backward. He fell, arms spread wide, his dark eyes staring in surprise at the starry sky.
Arden lowered his energy shield, and Gelasia stumbled over to Waldemar and fell on her knees by his side.
“I spoke the truth, Gelasia,” he whispered. “I do love you.” His eyes moved to Arden who had come to stand over him. “I spoke the truth to you, also. Power is for those who can take it and use it to control their fates.”
His breath stilled, and his eyes stared blindly at the darkened sky.
Gelasia pressed her fists against her mouth. Arden stooped and removed the Orbicule of Time from Waldemar’s wrist. Then he closed the other scientician’s eyes and stood up.
Rylante shook his head. “Thieves always come to bad ends.”
Gelasia rose and turned on him. “He is dead! You do not need to add insults.”
Arden sighed. “Rylante, even though you are the Keeper of the Realm of the Scienticians, you have no more tact than a stone.”
Rylante ignored that. “Waldemar has paid the price for his misdeeds.” He looked at Gelasia. “You still need to be tried for yours.”
Gelasia stared at the older man. He was tall and thin with a long craggy face and thinning gray hair. A scraggly goatee curled around his chin. His cloak was brown and covered a tunic and pants of dull gray. He looked like an ordinary man until one looked into his eyes, steel blue and full of power. Gelasia saw no mercy in those frosty eyes.
“I believed the lies Waldemar told me,” she said desperately. “Once I realized I had been tricked, I told my sisters to flee.”
“Where did your sisters take the other Orbicules?” Rylante asked.
“I don’t know. I barely had time to warn them away. Perhaps they went to Cilcourt.”
“No one has been to Cilcourt,” Arden stated.
“You would help yourself immensely if you tell us where the remaining Orbicules are,” Rylante added.
Gelasia looked down at Waldemar’s body, and her lips trembled as she remembered Rylante’s remark about thieves. Let them spend the rest of their lives searching for the Orbicules, she thought bitterly. It would serve them right.
Rylante’s thin lips firmed into an even thinner line at her silence. “I will have no choice but to pronounce judgment upon you.”
Gelasia continued to stare mutely at Waldemar’s corpse.
Rylante sighed. “Very well. You will be imprisoned in the Realm of the Scienticians in a state of suspended animation. Once all the Orbicules are returned to their cities, I will set you free.”
Gelasia gasped. “But what if something happens to my sisters? What if one or two of them never make it back to the Seven Mountains?”
“Then you will never be free,” Rylante replied.
Gelasia heard the finality of that statement. For a moment, she was tempted to tell them why she and her sisters did what they did. Then she realized she didn’t care if she was alive or dead now that Waldemar was gone. He had been right. She did still love him. Preventing Rylante from finding all the Orbicules would be her revenge. She nearly laughed. The answer would be right under his arrogant nose where he would never see it or think to look for it.
She stood staring down at Waldemar’s body as Rylante took her arm and opened a portal. When she did not respond to Rylante’s tugging, Arden stepped forward and took hold of her other arm. Together the two men maneuvered her through the shimmering black door.
Arden and Rylante stood in the Realm of the Scienticians staring at the portrait of Gelasia that was carved into the stone door of her prison. She had offered no resistance as Rylante entombed her in the wall.
Arden sighed. “I wish it had not come to this.”
“It would have been simpler if she had cooperated.”
“I never knew the hatred Waldemar harbored against me. Xylea warned me about him, but I thought she disliked him for personal reasons.” Arden’s mouth tightened. “Xylea nearly paid with her life for my mistake.”
“Do not torment yourself with what-ifs, Arden. The past cannot be changed. It is the present where power lies.” Rylante’s eyes strayed once again to Gelasia’s prison. “I wonder if we will ever locate the Orbicules.”
Arden was troubled. “What happens to Gelasia if they are not located during our lifetime?”
“Then she has a very long wait until the Orbicules reappear. Any Keeper can free her, of course, but I do not believe any would until the Orbicules are returned.”
Arden looked down at the Orbicule of Time that he held in his hands. “I will try to find the other Orbicules.”
“I don’t know,” Rylante sighed. “That all of them have disappeared makes me wonder…”
“Wonder what?” Arden questioned.
Rylante stared down the shadowed length of the Great Hall. “I have a feeling the Orbicules will not be easy to locate. Perhaps this is an act of fate.”
“It was an act of thievery, not fate,” Arden said prosaically.
Rylante shook his head. “No, Arden. This is beginning to feel like fate.”