They left the Starkeep aboard their family’s star yacht, the Resilience. As large as a small cruiser, it crewed nearly a hundred men, most of them of lower nobility. There were no Groundlings serving House Medani, a sign of their power. As Aderyn stared into the red liquid of her drink, she thought they could do with some Groundling help.
Their House was small and too many of her cousins were being pushed into duties that were beneath them. She had been served the wine by Jevrey Cannith, her mother’s nephew. House Cannith was poor, but surely they could do more than have one its Heirs serve wine?
She set it down and looked out the viewport, watching as the Starkeep slid away from them. It seemed to fall into the beyond, glinting as the light of the stars caught its metallic spires and battlements. Several Chariots flew past the yacht, knights flying as escort. The small, triangular craft were so fast and maneuverable that Aderyn imagined they were a thrill to fly.
Not that I could fly one without a Spark. The thought soured her mood even more and she turned back to look at her mother. Lyana Medani sat rigid and placid. She spoke to her cousin too quietly for her to hear. Then Jevrey left in quite the hurry. She’s sent him to get her a cushion no doubt. A Medani must be comfortable, especially one like her mother.
“Stop slouching,” Lyana snapped at her. She hadn’t even turned her eyes to look at her. “Sit up for ancestor’s sake. Your cousin was here. He’ll talk.”
Aderyn sat and hoped she could avoid any more discussion until they were through the Jump Gate. It loomed in the distance, gigantic and crescent shaped. Blue and silver it shone in the darkness like a waxing, metal moon. Soon it would spark to life, Ether swirling and roiling as the portal to subspace opened. Even as she watched, it began.
Aderyn had only been planet side once during a lightning storm, but it had reminded her of a Jump Gate opening. Flashes of light, white and blue and green flickered from the center to the inner edges of the Gate. It then expanded into shimmering clouds of crimson and gold and azure before draining into a whirlpool of silver and white. There was no sound in space of course, but Aderyn always imagined that the Gate roared.
Subspace, she thought as the yacht approached. Ether comes from there. If I could just reach out and touch it, just once, would I Spark? With a jolt, the yacht touched the edge of the Gate portal and for the blink of an eye, time stood still. Her heart skipped a beat. She forgot to breath. Memories shifted and what was the past became the present and future.
Her father lifted her high and she squealed, tugging on his mustaches. Her brother Redrick sat with her in his room, pointing out each of the star systems. Ian touched her cheek and said that when she Sparked, they would get married.
A snap and her mind reverted to real time and she held a hand to her forehead. I hate that. She would not cry, not in front of her mother. Not ever in front of mother.
“You best not be sick during the war,” Lyana said without looking at her. “It would not help you to be sick.”
The trip from Meda to Hyperion took just over an hour and then it was just a single, short subspace jump to Querra. Soon they were orbiting the gas giant with its many moons and multicolored rings. Already her father’s fleet was aligned with those of Hyperion. She lay her head against the viewport, wondering which of those ships Ian served on. He was the third son of Lord Jonef Hyperion, her family’s liegelord. He would be aboard a destroyer or perhaps he was a knight and flew one of the small Chariots. It had been over a year since she spoke to him.
“Come,” her mother said and she rose. Together they left the lounge and went up to the observation deck. From there they could see much more. Aderyn could see all of Querra as it hung there, each ring a different shade of red. “Which moon will the war be on, mother?” she asked, trying to sound eager.
“Zennir,” her mother told her and held out her hand. Ether flashed onto her wrist device and a projection of the planet appeared. Her mother’s fingers twitched and the moon, one like every other, enlarged. “A pleasant moon, for atmosphere.”
“A good place for a war, mother?”
Her mother eyed her and then smirked. “Good as any, though I don’t know why they insist on making it in atmosphere. The air is not purified and there is… dirt.”
“I rather liked the wind when we went to Persephone.”
Her mother speared her with an iron gray gaze. “None of that kind of talk with the Nevans.” Her mother turned away, sparing Aderyn from having her see how pink her cheeks had become. “Sir Loran?”
A young man in House uniform came to stand before them. On his left breast was the sigil of the house, Moon and Sword glowing with the power of his Spark. He would have been handsome if his nose hadn’t been so large and his chin cleft not so noticeable. Still, he would be a better match than she deserved. Not that I could have even that much. As a distant relative, his power within the House was low but hers was even lower.
“Ma’am?” the knight said, bowing.
“Has the Nevan Host arrived?”
“They have, and Lord Rhyen bid me tell you that his son is most happy to share this spectacle with you and your daughter.”
Did anyone tell him her daughter is a Null? Aderyn felt her cheeks burn again, but she kept her expression cool. Her mother’s face took on a slightly confused cast and Aderyn wondered what had gone amiss.
“His son? Will Lord Rhyen not be joining us?”
“He will not it seems. Detained on House business he said, though he did not say what business that was.”
Aderyn felt her heart twist in fear. Having to impress her mother on any normal day would be hard but now she was feeling slighted. She had no hope in that regard. Not now.