‘The Vanguard sent seven servants to our house,’ said Shenado. ‘They claimed they only wanted to “escort” us safely to Lagemoor, but when we refused to go with them, they attacked us. One of Mariana’s sons was fatally wounded in the battle. Another is missing. As is Zeff.’
Mevox drifted closer to Mariana and her children, poking his head forward curiously. ‘Why were they tryin’ to escort you to Lagemoor?’
‘We’re not sure,’ said Shenado. ‘They mentioned something about wanting to find Gema, Mariana’s oldest daughter, but that might have been just another lie. Not that it matters much, because we don’t know where Gema is. Even if we were of a mind to turn her over to them, we wouldn’t be able to.’
“Are you of a mind to do that?” said Octavia.
“No,” said Mariana.
‘Damn right,’ said Mevox. He turned to Jostomere, who’d thus far remained silent. ‘What’re you thinkin’? Your family works for the Vanguard, too. I suspect you’ve got a more difficult decision to make than the rest of us here do.’
‘That is true.’ Jostomere’s burning eyes fell upon Marcos’ body. ‘But this is plainly unacceptable. And if it can happen to the Elroys, it can happen to the Zabats. You can expect our full support.’
‘Ours as well,’ said Lonogren. ‘Which already puts us at five of ten.’
‘Six, actually,’ said Shenado. ‘House Cortes is guaranteed to help. Joana is Zeff’s sister.’
‘Ah, that’s right,’ said Lonogren, nodding.
‘We can ask the Intarians for help, too,’ said Wendy. ‘They might turn us down, but there are thirty more families there. At least a few will agree to help, I’m sure.’
‘Worth asking,’ said Mevox. ‘Where was Zeff’s last known location?’
“Rheinhal,” said Mariana. “He was ordered there by General Lawrence.”
Octavia’s brow twitched. “Xavier Lawrence, you mean?”
Octavia pursed her lips. “The Blue Bear, huh? I didn’t realize he was the one they had stationed in Sair.”
‘Do you know him personally?’ asked Shenado.
“Not well,” said Octavia. “We crossed paths ages ago. Very polite, as I recall. A real gentleman. His reaper, less so. I haven’t heard his name in years. Thought he might have been killed.”