EAD: Transcending Expectations

Title: Transcending Expectations
Author: Kylia
Fandom: Riddick Universe
Genre: AU
Relationship(s): Richard B. Riddick/Vaako
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-level Violence, Misappropriation of Canon events
Words: 5241
Summary: Richard B. Riddick dealt with the previous Lord Marshall because it was necessary. And because it was the most expedient way to get what he wanted. Now he’s the leader of a race he’d rather see fully dead, immersed in a culture he doesn’t understand, trapped on ship with creepy people, and creepier architecture…and oh yeah, his Amaia…who’d married. He’ll have to do something about that.


The new Lord Marshall, Richard B. Riddick, sat on the ridiculous throne and watched the Necros going about whatever it was they did when the armada was between planets. He could see through an open doorway into a room that looked like some sort of strategy room. A large table dominated the room, and a group of soldiers stood around it, studying something. He recognized most of the soldiers but didn’t know their names.

The one soldier whose name he did know wasn’t among them. Lord Vaako. First Among Commanders. His dame was speaking quietly to two other Dames, but he noticed her eyes kept straying to him. He wasn’t entirely sure of the terrain here.

There was an odd tension in the air. He’d noticed it slowly rise as the days passed since he’d killed Lord Marshall Zhylaw. For the most part, the Necros were accepting of the change of leadership. They seemed to believe fully in their you keep what you kill philosophy. As he was their new Lord Marshall, whatever that entailed, he wasn’t sure.

There was a lot of activity in the Basilica, but he wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. They didn’t seem to need orders or instructions from him. Riddick assumed there was a hierarchy to this, just as anywhere else.

He watched as a new commander entered the room and spoke quietly with the soldier leading the discussion. After a moment, the leader ran his eyes over the room and began issuing new orders. It sounded as though something had happened, and they were being directed to new coordinates.

Riddick closed his eyes and tried to determine if the Basilica was also changing course. The ship did not seem to be altering its orbit. He opened his eyes and found the strategy room again. It was empty now, just a large map table to show for its previous activity.

Riddick idly wondered who was giving the orders. His eyes tracked the movement in the back of the room. The two Dames were still speaking quietly with Dame Vaako. Her dark eyes found his across the space between them. Her expression gave nothing away, but Riddick found it troublesome.

He tilted his head at her. She narrowed her eyes but nodded once in acquiescence. Good. Hopefully, he’d get some information soon.

*

Dame Mayani Vaako left the two dames after giving them instructions. She wanted to look back once more at the new Lord Marshall but resisted. She could feel him still watching her. She wanted to speak with her husband before she met with Riddick. Vaako would have plans already made, and she needed to know what the new orders would be.

She entered the meditation space Vaako used and watched him silently for a moment. He had been meditating for a while. She could sense the calm in his aura. She knelt on the floor and waited for a moment, not wanting to disturb him, but knowing it couldn’t wait.

“Wife,” Vaako spoke into the silence of the room.

She couldn’t sense any change in his aura, but Vaako had supreme control over his emotions and was very hard to rattle. She sighed. “He looks for you.” She said quietly. “I have seen his searching gaze.”

Lord Vaako didn’t open his eyes nor shift from his position on the floor as he responded. “I know.”

“I fear we cannot continue to follow the same path.” She took a single step closer. “The commanders will need reassurance, and the Dames will want clarity.”

Vaako opened his eyes and stared at his dame. “We always knew Zhylaw’s time would come, and we would have to alter the course. A new Lord Marshall means a new strategy. You know this, Mayani.” He narrowed his eyes on her, “However, this doesn’t mean they are free to fall apart. The ruling power has not changed.”

Mayani flinched at his reprimand and turned away from his all too knowing gaze. “We must separate the fleet.”

Vaako’s lips twitched at her small show of concession. “Separation is already underway. I’m sending Toal and Scales to split the armada. You must speak with their Dames to ensure nothing is missed in their absence. When they have done what I bid, they will return.”

“And the ones left behind?” She asked softly.

“Those left behind will either fall in line or perish.”

“And the Lirateann?”

“She sleeps until I deem it safe for her to awaken once more.”

Mayani took a breath and heard the finality in his proclamation. She’d been matched with Vaako three Lord Marshall’s ago, and though theirs wasn’t a love match, she had learned to read him rather well. Now was not the time for doubting his decisions. She nodded once and stood up. “As you will it.” She left her husband’s meditation space to ensure that everything would run smoothly while the other Dames were away from the Basilica.

Once that was done, she’d meet with Riddick. It wasn’t her place to tell him the truth of things, but perhaps she could alleviate some concern.

*

Riddick waited for Dame Vaako to come to him. He knew she would, but he guessed she would collect information first. He hadn’t spent a lot of time with her since the Basilica was on Helion Prime, but enough to know she was something of a spymaster on this ship. Information probably came to her before her husband or the Lord Marshall.

That was fine. He didn’t have the patience to listen to everyone’s random grumbling just to try and weed out the tiny piece of important information. Nor did he have the patience to deal with the day-to-day running of a ship this size. If he truly were stuck with this Lord Marshall title and all it contained, he’d have to find competent people to do that sort of thing for him.

There was the sound of soft voices outside his room and then two sharp knocks on the door. He opened it to Dame Vaako and his guard. He’d tried to get the Necro to leave, but he wouldn’t budge. He’d finally just come inside and ignored him. He wasn’t entirely sure if the guard was there to protect his quarters or to keep an eye on him, but it didn’t matter; there weren’t many here he felt were a match for him.

“You wished to see me, Lord Marshall?” Dame Vaako asked.

Her voice was soft, but not in that seductive way she’d been when they first met. He wondered what had changed. It would make more sense for her to seduce him now when he had more power in their little society than when he’d first arrived. That wasn’t the only confusing thing about these Necros. He’d either figure it out or ghost this place and not worry about it.

“Where are the other ships?” Riddick asked, watching the woman closely.

“They’ve been given new orders.” She arched a brow at him. “My husband felt that they were not needed while you acclimated to your position.”

“Did he now?” Riddick asked. “And where is Lord Vaako?”

“Seeing to the business of running this ship,” Mayani answered.

“Who is in charge now that Zhylaw is gone?” Riddick asked, curious. Clearly, someone was. The Necros had been in shock when he’d killed Zhylaw. But it wasn’t chaos. After that whole bowing thing, they’d all left the chamber as if given marching orders. Riddick was sure someone had given orders of some type, though he hadn’t seen or heard any such commands.

“You are the new Lord Marshall.” Dame Vaako said with a bit of a twist to her lips that told Riddick there was something she wasn’t saying. “You control the Necromonger Armada.”

Riddick stared at her. She was not lying but not exactly telling the truth either. He couldn’t rely on usual tells like perspiration and heartbeat when dealing with these Necros. The purification altered their autonomic responses to such a degree such things were unreliable. But those things weren’t the only way to tell the truth from a lie.

“And when I am unavailable, who issues the orders then?” Riddick asked, staring hard at the woman’s dark eyes.

“My Lord is the highest-ranked commander.” She offered.

“The First Among Commanders?” Riddick asked. He knew Vaako had achieved some special designation shortly before Zhylaw died, but he wasn’t sure such a thing would matter now, especially since Zhylaw had been killed by Riddick, and Vaako had failed to kill him.

“That is his current title.” Dame Vaako agreed placidly.

“Even though he tried to kill Zhylaw and failed?”

Dame Vaako’s lips twitched in a barely seen smirk. “Did he?” Her eyes moved from Riddick to the room. “I will send someone to collect Zhylaw’s property…unless you would like to keep it?”

Riddick snorted. “No.”

“Very good.” She started to move back towards the door.

“Dame Vaako?” He called just as she was about to open it.

“You may call me Mayani. We are…T’Vet.”

Riddick had no idea what she meant but wasn’t going to ask. “You never answered my question.”

Mayani paused on the threshold. “Lord Vaako can answer any questions you may have about the Armada.” She slipped out the door before anything further could be asked.

Riddick frowned. There was something weird there. But this whole ship was filled with weird.

*

Lord Toal stood on the bridge of his ship and watched as the weapon Lord Vaako had designed impacted with the half dozen vessels they had corralled between his ship and Lord Scales.  There was a flash, so bright it blinded him for several minutes.  When his vision had returned he looked out and it looked like nothing had changed.  The half-dozen ships still stood between the two larger vessels.  But he knew Vaako, and his artillery was always on point.

Toal turned to his Dame.  “I’m joining the search of the vessels.  Once we are sure none survived we’ll head back to the Basilica.”

*

“If I didn’t know better I’d think you were avoiding me.”

Lord Vaako tilted his head slightly but didn’t turn around to face the doorway. “But you do know better.”

Riddick took another step into the room, allowing the door to shut behind him. “If you really wanted to avoid me, you would have gone with the Armada…wherever you sent them.”  He was only guessing that Vaako had sent the other ships anywhere, but after his brief conversation with Mayani he was sure they weren’t just scouting ahead.

Riddick could barely make out the twist of Vaako’s lips from this angle but wasn’t sure what he found so amusing. “You can’t run from this…from me.”

Vaako opened his eyes and twisted around so he was facing the Furyan.  “I am not running.”

“Looks like it.  Sitting in this room, hiding.”

Vaako’s eyes flashed gold for a second before it was gone.  Riddick wondered for a moment if it was a trick of the light, or something else, that he couldn’t quite make out his eyes in the room’s light.

“I am responsible for the safety of every life on the Basilica.  Every Necro, every slave, every creature that inhabits its walls relies on me to keep them alive.  Therefore, I am not hiding, I am doing what needs doing.

Riddick took a breath, trying to determine how much truth was in Vaako’s statement. The scent of the man nearly overwhelmed him.  He didn’t smell like the other Necro soldiers.  There was a hint of metal from the armor, but it was offset by something he couldn’t quite place.

“Why did you order the ships away?”  Riddick asked.  He wanted to know, but he mostly wanted to concentrate on something other than Vaako himself.  “Those orders came from you?”

“They did.”  Vaako agreed without giving any other answer.

“Why?”  Riddick asked again. “I was told that we had to journey to the Threshold before I could issue any new orders.”  He eyed his Amaia carefully.  “I would think the entire fleet would make the journey.”

“Scales and Toal will return soon.  We will depart for the Threshold when they do.”

Riddick knew there was something Vaako wasn’t saying, but he didn’t know enough about the Necros to figure out what it was.

“The purification chambers?”  He asked instead.

Vaako stared at him for a long moment, his body still.  “What about them?”

“They were taken offline.  Why would you do that?”  He wasn’t actually sure whether they were taken offline or just down for maintenance, but he had a feeling it was permanent.  He wasn’t sure why he thought that though.

Vaako blew out a breath and stood.  “Purification was a requirement instituted by Lord Marshall Zhylaw.  He is gone.  His edicts are as well.”

Riddick grunted, unsure what to make of that.  “And is You Keep What You Kill still the Necromonger way?”

“It is,”  Vaako answered slowly.

Riddick grinned.  “I can work with that.”  He turned around and walked out of the room.  He had plans to make.

*

Mayani checked the monitors tracking the Lirateann’s vitals.  Everything seemed to be within expected parameters.  Nothing of concern, but the sooner she was allowed to awaken, the better Mayani would feel about it.

She understood Vaako’s caution.  The Lirateann was in danger while Zhylaw lived, and while anyone remained aboard who could not be trusted.  That was no longer a concern, but Vaako didn’t have the time to explain the situation to Riddick, so it was best if the sedation continued.  For just a little longer.

“Soon, child,”  Mayani whispered before making her way out of the room and resetting the alarms and locks. 

She made her way down the corridor and around the corner.  She had just stepped into an adjacent corridor when a glint in the darkness alerted her to danger, mere seconds before she felt the slight breeze of something moving towards her face and then the sharp force of an object embedded into her shoulder.

She looked down and saw the hilt of a dagger embedded through the top of her dress.  It was the same dagger she had seen the Lord Marshall with that morning.

She pulled the dagger out and looked across the dark corridor.  “Have I done something to offend you, Lord Marshall?”  She asked sweetly.

When she was close enough to return the weapon she handed it back.

Riddick took it with a raised eyebrow.  No doubt he had noticed the lack of blood.

“I was embracing one of your culture’s philosophies.”

Mayani tilted her head to the side for a moment in thought.  “I see.”  She smirked at the Furyan, “but as you can no doubt tell, you have not killed me, and you have accomplished nothing…except to ruin a perfectly good dress.”

“We have a problem, you and I,”  Riddick told her as he re-sheathed the dagger.

“We really don’t,”  She patted him on the arm as she passed.  “But I will leave that discussion to you and my Lord, where it belongs.  Good day, Lord Marshall.”

She left the corridor quickly, but not so quickly as to appear in a rush.  She was not worried about Riddick’s attempt on her life.  She was not a mere mortal to be killed in such a common manner.  However, this was the second time Riddick had cornered her outside the Lirateann’s chambers.  She didn’t like the coincidence.

*

Vaako was on his way to the primary deck when Mayani found him and insisted they speak.  He raised an eyebrow at her insistence.  She seemed rattled.

“What is it?  Scales will be back soon.  We must be ready to depart for the Threshold when Toal returns with the items I requested.”

“The Lord Marshall just tried to kill me.”

Vaako blinked.  He looked her up and down.  He noted the slight tear in her dress, but otherwise, she was undamaged.  “I doubt it.”

Mayani rolled her eyes.  “He obviously didn’t know that a simple dagger would not get the job done, but regardless, he did make the attempt.”

Vaako touched the rip in the ruffle of her dress.  “This is not a vital area.  Even had you been mortal, at most it would have been a warning.”

“A warning he would not have thought necessary if you had spoken to him.”  Mayani hissed.

Vaako’s eyes flashed gold at her tone.  “Mayani, do not forget yourself.”

Mayani took a deep breath.  “I apologize husband.  Riddick rattled me.”

“Because of this?”  Vaako motioned towards her dress.

“No.  He found me outside the Lirateann’s chambers.  And this was not the first time.”

“His bond to her might be guiding his movements, even through sedation.  Have her moved.”

“As you wish.”

“If that is all?  I have a promise to keep.”

Mayani’s eyes widened slightly before she nodded and moved aside, allowing him to leave.

*

“You’ve come to fulfill your promise?”

The voice spoke before Vaako had finished closing the doors.  He turned around and faced the chamber.

“I have.”  Vaako agreed.

There was a sense of relief coming from the creatures, though it was hard to pinpoint if it was coming from one of them or all of them.

“We journey to the Threshold.”  One voice spoke, a slight echoing sound.

“We do.”

The one on the far left made a shrieking sound.  “You will see it troubles this world no more.” 

This was a statement not a question so Vaako remained silent.

“We are ready.”  The one closest to him spoke softly.

“Child of the night, be warned. Earth cannot bear the burden of her sisters forever.  Once Air has gone, they will soon follow.”

Vaako froze but then nodded, acknowledging their words.  He stepped in the center of the room and knelt so one hand could reach the floor of the chamber while another touched the metal keeping them secured. He closed his eyes and released the energy he had stored up for just this purpose.

*

Riddick was lounging on the throne again.  The chair was deceptively comfortable and its placement gave him a good view.  He was hoping he’d be able to see Vaako when he made an appearance and track him down.  He’d tried to find him earlier, but strangely the entire Basilica smelled of him, so it was hard to narrow him down.

*

There was a loud noise, almost like the sound of metal buckling under pressure.  Then the whole ship rumbled before everything was quiet again.

Riddick watched the Necros to determine if whatever had happened was normal or something to be concerned about.

The whole deck seemed to stutter in their activities for a moment, then the three commanders on the deck seemed to make a conscious effort to return to their duties.  Not a normal activity then, but not cause for alarm, at least not yet.

The Furyan watched as the lesser-ranked soldiers took their cue from the three commanders and returned to work.  He was about to ask one of them to explain what had made the noise when his focus shifted to one of the corridors.  He wasn’t sure what drew his attention.  He was pretty sure the only thing down that corridor was the chamber the Quasi-Dead were kept.

He focused on his senses to see if he could detect anything out of place when his sense of smell picked up that scent, stronger than before.  Vaako.

After a moment Vaako walked in through the archway that lead to the Quasi-Dead Chamber.  Vaako wasn’t wearing his helmet or armor.  In fact, he wasn’t wearing anything at all. His skin was tan, unusually so given he never left the Basilica unless he was in head-to-toe armor.  There was something…odd though.  Almost a glow or a shine, that Riddick could barely detect, but he honestly wasn’t sure if that wasn’t just a glint from the lighting.

The Lord Marshall sat watching his Amaia walk into the center of the hall, completely naked, and not bothered to be so.

The three commanders on duty looked towards Vaako, and Riddick wanted to growl at them but then Vaako gave some sort of signal, and the men returned to their duties.

Vaako took a step in Riddick’s direction and the two locked eyes for a moment before Vaako spoke. “Follow me.  We have much to discuss.”  He then turned around and walked back out of the room.

Riddick was surprised to see a large tattoo covering Vaako’s back.  It was of a planet or moon and its nearby sun.  For a moment, it looked as if the planet were moving, but he decided that was definitely a trick of the light.

The Lord Marshall got up and followed his Amaia out of the room, down a few hallways and up a couple of decks until they reached the area Riddick had found him last time.

“Mayani said you spoke to her,” Vaako stated as the door was closing behind Riddick.

“More than once.”  Riddick agreed.

“The first thing you need to understand is that Mayani and I were matched during Naphemil’s rule.  He found the idea to have potential. Our match is not like other’s in the Necropolis.”

4

“Our match is not like others in Necropolis,”  Vaako repeated as if he was trying to impart some special meaning to the words, “So attacking Mayani, even without any true intent to harm her, is unnecessary.”

Riddick raised an eyebrow at Vaako and waited. When his Amaia said nothing further he smirked.  He knew the man was aware of the encounter he’d had with Dame Vaako earlier, and that he wasn’t really trying to kill her.  Though he was intrigued by the fact that she wasn’t injured at all, and she hadn’t even bled.  However, he did think that Vaako was trying to impart some other information at the moment and decided, for now, he’d play along. “Let’s pretend I don’t know why what you just said matters.”

“Naphemil was Third.  He was known as The Navigator.  He brought the Necropolis from Asylum to the Basilica.”  Vaako looked up at the canopy of stars above them.  “First was Corvu, The Transcended.  He made the first Journey to Underverse. He started Necroism, but not as it is today.  He ordered the creation of the Necropolis but did not see it come to fruition.  Second was The Builder, Oltovm.  He built the Necropolis and created the Armada. Baylock was Fourth.  He was known to many worlds as Baylock the Brutal and was the last of the Lord Marshalls to be born into Necroism.

“Each Lord Marshall subverted Corvu’s vision further and further until it was unrecognizable.  The Fifth was Kryll, and he brought us the Quasi-Dead, who Zhylaw tainted further for his own ends.”

“You said you and Mayani were matched during Naphemil’s rule.  That was four Lord Marshall’s ago?  How long have you been a Necro?

Vaako turned back to Riddick.  “The purifier wasn’t wrong.”  His lips twisted wryly.  “When he gave that speech on Helion Prime.  We all Began as Something Else.  He loved that speech. He gave it on every world we went to.”

Riddick snorted.  “Yeah.  I’ve heard it.”

“Did you know he was Furyan?”

Riddick narrowed his eyes.  “Yes.  Did you?”

“Of course.  He had a similar resonance.”

Riddick wasn’t even going to ask what that meant.  It wasn’t important.  “Did Zhylaw?”

“He did.  He liked the thought of having one of your people under his control.”

“The Purifier offered me freedom if I left Zhylaw alone.  Said I would be hunted no more.”

Vaako nodded but didn’t comment.

“But he wanted me to return and avenge Furya.”  Riddick took a step closer.  “Is that what you wanted?  You and your Dame were plotting to take out Zhylaw, and I got in the way.”  He paused and took another step closer.  He could feel the energy radiating from Vaako.  It wasn’t heat, not exactly but it was still enticing.  “Or did I?”

Vaako’s lips quirked but he didn’t say anything.

“I’ve been watching you and your Dame the past few days.  Nothing happens on this ship without your say-so.  I don’t think that’s because Zhylaw is dead.  I think, if you had wanted to kill Zhylaw, you would have killed him, but you prefer to run things from behind the scenes.”

“Is that what you think?”

“You never answered my question.”  Riddick closed the distance between them.  When he touched Vaako’s face, there was a moment where he thought there was a surge of something, but then it dissipated.

“What question was that?”  Vaako murmured.

“How long have you been a Necro?”  Riddick repeated, the words barely a rumble of air.

“I’m not.  Never have been.  Nephemil knew that, in the beginning, but by the end, I’m not sure if he remembered.”

Riddick eyed his Amaia carefully to see if he was being honest.  “Okay. Then how long have you been with the Necros?”

Vaako’s lips twitched.  “From the beginning.  Corvu asked me to take Human form and guide his people.  I agreed but warned that they would forge their own path. When Nephemil destroyed Asylum once Necropolis was moved onto the Basilica, there was no reason for me to remain anywhere else.”

*

Mayani Vaako waited for Dame Toal in the Parlor off the main deck.  She’d received word that they were docking and she would have news soon.

Thira entered the room and sat.

“Your mission was a success?”  Mayani asked.

“Yes.”  Thira paused.  “Did Drea inform you of the return of the fleet to the armada?”

“She did.”  Mayani pursed her lips slightly.  Drea reported that Lord Scales was…unsettled by the method of my Lord’s solution.”

Thira nodded.  “My Lord mentioned that to me as well.”

Mayani nodded.  “I will inform Vaako and the Lord Marshall.”

Thira’s eyes widened for a moment before her expression blanked.

“And your personal mission?  How did that go?”  Mayani asked.

“Fine.  Once we were able to locate the cargo and devise a way to acquire it without too much interference, it was no trouble.”

“Excellent.  And where is your cargo now?”

“My Lord is seeing to its comfort and transport until the Lord Marshall can be alerted.”

“He is meeting with Lord Vaako at present so I will have them informed of the arrival.”  Mayani looked at the other Dame carefully.  “Before you retire, I would like you to have the Lirateann moved to a deck not as populated.  We’ve moved her once already but I fear the Lord Marshall might be able to find her before we are ready for her to awaken.

Thira tilted her head to the side.  “You aren’t going to tell Drea where we’re moving her?”

“Not until we have determined if her Lord can be trusted.  Now go.”

*

Drea Scales watched as Mayani left her parlor and turned down the corridor.  It wasn’t, strictly speaking, her parlor, but the Dames had a way of getting things done that was different than the way that the commanders employed.  Not that one was better than the other, just some jobs required brute force, and some required a gentle nudge or a softly spoken word.

There were cases when Commanders had grown too soft for the Armada, or Dames too harsh for the intricate working required of them.  Those things were always handled, usually by the person whose responsibility it would be to step into the void the absence would make.

It was the Necromonger way.

She observed the highest-ranked Dame as she moved further away.  Mayani didn’t once turn back and her steps never faltered, though Drea knew that the other Dame was aware she was being watched.  Once Mayani was gone from view, Drea turned back to the arch that lead into the parlor.  Thira Toal was standing in the archway.  She looked directly at Drea, her eyes solemn, but she didn’t give anything away.  After a moment she turned in the opposite direction and disappeared from sight.

Very well.  It was up to Drea now.  She traversed the ship quickly, making her way through corridors and decks easily.  She reached the door to the quarters she shared with her lord at the same time as he did.  She took in his appearance and frowned.  He was still wearing his armor, which was about the only thing about him that didn’t raise alarm.

The look in his eyes was…spooked if such a word could be used to describe a Necromonger commander.  She’d arrived just in time, it looked like.

“Where have you been?”  Scales asked.

Drea raised a manicured eyebrow.  “I had to report to Dame Vaako earlier.  Lord Toal and his Dame have also returned from their assignment.”

Scales swallowed.  “Do you know what their mission was?”

“I was not informed,”  Drea answered honestly, which, of course, didn’t mean she hadn’t figured it out on her own.  “Where have you been?”

“I went to do some research.”  Scales voice sounded both confused and terrified.

“In the archives?” Drea assumed her husband was trying to understand the history.  He was a relatively new convert.

“No.  I went to question the-the Quasi-Dead.”

“Ah.” Drea took a seat on the couch and observed her husband.  Now she understood his nervousness.

“Ah?”  Scales looked at his Dame incredulously.  “That’s all you have to say?  Ah?  Have you been to their chamber?”

“No, but the entire Basilica felt their release.”

“Release?  That’s what you’re calling it?”

Drea sighed and stood.  “Husband.  You joined us because of the Quasi-Dead.  What did you tell Lord Vaako?”

“What Lord Marshall Kryll did to them…the horrors they are forced to witness…those are things not meant for any in this world.” Scales whispered, remembering what he’d told the Velatosian when he’d sworn fealty to him and his cause.

“Do you still feel that way?”  Drea asked softly as she came around the back of the couch and placed her hands against the back of his neck, in comfort, just under where the armor stopped.

“Of course, but Drea, you didn’t see the chamber.  There was nothing…The whole room had been…destroyed.  The units Zhylaw had upgraded and installed for them…gone.  There wasn’t even any residue it was just…like it had never been there.”  He paused, hesitation in the stiff line of his body. 

“What else?”  Drea prodded, squeezing his neck lightly.

“The fleet.  When we set off Vaako’s weapon…it killed everyone on those ships.”

“That was the whole idea behind separating them from the rest of the armada.”

“Perhaps,”  Scales allowed, “But there weren’t any bodies.”

“You’re worried that at some point that could be you? Killed, and no one will know what happened because there will be no body, no sign of what became of you?”

“Maybe.”  Scales laughed.  “Silly, isn’t it?”

“A little.” Drea twisted her only keepsake from her previous life , an antique ring, around until the sharp edge was facing outward and scratched her husband against the back of his neck.  She knew he wouldn’t feel the scratch but the poison was fast-acting and it wouldn’t take long.  “Because without a body or a clear cause of death, however would I keep what I’ve killed?”

Scales eyes widened in realization, but it was entirely too late.  Perhaps he should have remembered that before she was a Dame, Drea was was an assassin.

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