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"Prisoners? Neroan?"

"No sir. They said they were Aevarian."

He leaned back in his chair slightly, taking in the information. Aevarian prisoners. That just didn't sound right.

"What were they doing here? On Cantu?"

Another look was exchanged between the two women.

Neither could tell if Aron would actually believe the story. Not that they had made it up; it was, in fact, very real. Cora found herself thinking how ironic it was that the most unbelievable stories were often times the most factual.

Payton spoke, her voice low and muffled by her anxiety. "They said they were escaping Cyrus."

Aron's facial expression didn't change, but behind his eyes the wheels were spinning quite rapidly. Cyrus? Aevar? Refugees? It couldn't be ... could it?

"How many are there?" His voice was tight with adrenaline. But it wasn't the fearful adrenaline. This sensation running through his body was from anticipation - expectant, nervous adrenaline. It was the type that heated his blood, and sped his heart in preparation for something that he had anticipated for quite some time. Years in fact.

"Nine all together."

"Nine. Are they well? Any injuries?"

Cora hesitated.

"Well, one may have a slight concussion."

Payton grinned internally. So Cora followed her own advice. Good to know, she noted. She might not have wanted to admit to that, and she hadn't given Aron the full account of how Dominic got the 'slight concussion.' But she didn't withhold information either. She was just answering Aron's questions. In her own way, of course.

Aron nodded. Only one injury for evading Cyrus and his men was pretty good considering the extent of damage Cyrus did on Cantu. If their dune planet was any indication, Cyrus must have torn Aevar apart. Aron found himself thinking about Aevar for the first time in years. If the prophecy was finally being fulfilled, the King was dead. He wasn't sure how to feel about that fact. If it was true, if the survivors were who they said they were, Aron had lost his best friend to a tyrant. But in Eamon's death, Cyrus would ultimately be conquered. Eamon's death was a catalyst for extraordinarily things to come. Aron could only hope that his death would not be in vain.

"Where are they now?"

"The office on the east wing."

Aron stood from his chair.


The boy from before entered the room from a side door that led to an adjacent, smaller room.

"I'm going to the east wing. Would you go and have Elizabeth meet me there, please?"

The boy nodded and ran off quickly.

Aron was a jumble of nerves. He hadn't expected this to happen so ... unexpectedly. He knew these events would transpire. He had known for eighteen, almost nineteen years. But over the course of time, the full implication of the prophecy had lost its impact. He had focused his energy on raising and training Elizabeth. And then recently, he had organized the survivors of Cantu. The fact that he could forget the impending death of the King of Aevar unsettled him.

"What are you going to do?" Payton asked quietly.

Aron brought his eyes up to the young women in front of them. In a voice that he hoped was reassuring, he said, "Question them. And you're coming with me."

Cora nodded and turned to follow Aron as he exited the office. Payton did the same soon after.

To the three, the walk to the east wing seemed to take forever. Every step felt light and eager, but they couldn't seem to walk fast enough. Their patience was wearing thin: Payton and Cora anxious to see Aron's reaction to the prisoners, Aron hopeful that all he had done over the years was enough.

They rounded the final corner, and saw Liz waiting for them outside the door. She looked up as she heard their footsteps, and cast a questioning glance at Aron, and then at Cora.

Aron answered her before she could voice her question. "Cora and Payton took prisoners today. I wanted you to be here while I interrogate them." She nodded without complaint or question.

Cora and Payton retrieved their weapons from their backs and aimed them at the