The Draykon Series, Book 5

Evastany

Draykon Series #5

When Lokants get involved in our worlds, it always means trouble.

Oh, they are fine folk, no doubt about that. Powerful, intellectual, mysterious. Sometimes devastatingly attractive. But if they are not killing our citizens and reviving long-lost species from the dead, they’re kidnapping people, blowing things up or trying to take over the world. It’s always something with them.

This time it’s kidnapping. Partial Lokants are going missing, and they are not coming back. It falls to me, Evastany, Lady Glostrum, to discover why. Well, who else can be depended upon to do it?
On top of which, there is a Master Lokantor with far too much interest in the realm of Orlind; the founding (and funding) of my new Lokant Heritage Training Bureau; and I still have my wedding to plan.

It is going to be a busy year.

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Excerpt

Introduction

To

The Journals of Lady Evastany Glostrum

 

The problem with good intentions is that they are so difficult to stick to.

Good advice is even worse. How easy it is to dispense one’s wisdom to all one’s friends! How difficult it is to follow it oneself!

Yesterday I received the benefit of a visit from a dear friend of mine, Miss Llandry Sanfaer. The girl who made headlines in all the best papers not too long ago. Perhaps you read about it? She was a Summoner of Glinnery, though untrained. One of the winged folk. A talented jeweller — I’ve bought one or two of her pieces, and wear them often. Largely unremarkable for all these things, until the day she Shapeshifted into a draykon and sparked a large-scale revival of that long-extinct race.

It was spectacular.

The poor girl has since been burdened with the cumbersome title of “Lady Draykon” (and I would love to know whose fertile imagination spawned that absurdity, so I may make a note never to invite them to dinner). At twenty years old, she is co-ambassador between the Daylands realms and these new draykoni settlements that are popping up out in the Off-Worlds, and my goodness, what a mess of problems she has had to manage already. I do not envy her the task.

Naturally, then, I hastened to give her yet another job to do.

I said to her, Llan, it would be wise to write down an account of your doings for the next few moons! The draykoni have not exactly made themselves popular thus far, what with trying to destroy the finest city in Glinnery and all that. There will be those who will blame poor Llandry for a great many things not of her doing, and it would be wise for her to have her own account to hand.

Thus far, I was wise enough. I did not err until I assured her that I would be keeping a similar account of my own doings for the foreseeable future, and for similarly sound reasons. I also promised to let her read it! What was I thinking!

Well, yesterday she put into my hands a fat journal written through with a faithful record of all manner of exciting things. It is admirably detailed. I quite feel as though I had been there myself! What a fine job she has done. I am most proud.

The naïve soul was sweet enough to assume that I have been faithfully keeping records all this time myself. That I have, not to put too fine a point on it, been following my own brilliant advice. I had not the heart to tell her that I had not written so much as a word.

What can I say in my own defence? I have been busy, certainly, but that can be no excuse. Llandry has been up to her beautiful grey eyeballs in turmoil beyond imagining, and still contrived to write down her activities.

I feel quite ashamed of myself! No, I really do. I am thoroughly contrite.

So, I begin today. And today is… let’s see. The sixth of the ninth moon, 1913. Dates are important, one must be meticulous. After all, it is distantly possible that someone may actually read this someday.

I have faithfully read Llandry’s account. Every word. I stayed up half the night to do so, somewhat to the dissatisfaction of my fiancé, Mister Pitren Warvel. Not because he disapproved of my late hours, but because I swiped the book first and then would not permit him to read it along with me.

‘Eva!’ he complained. ‘Why do you get to read it first?’

‘Because Llandry likes me better.’ I snuggled more comfortably into the pillows of our beautiful big bed and turned a page.

‘Share,’ he pleaded, at his most pitiful.

‘You may have it when I am finished.’

He sighed and abandoned the attempt, wandering for the door. I blew him a kiss as he left.

Now, that may seem harsh of me but really. Have you ever tried to share a book with somebody else? No two people read at the same speed, and being expected to wait for the other party to finish the page before you can move on is perfectly insufferable. Insupportable! I made him wait.

He will have his revenge by taking the whole of today to read the book, quite ignoring our other plans in the process. I will quietly encourage this, without seeming to do so.

The events outlined in that journal are rather important, all told, and I am glad that Llan wrote them down for us. We are duly informed of a variety of events of which we were previously unaware, many of them pertinent. New draykon colonies all over Iskyr and Ayrien, the Upper and Lower Realms! Murders, of a species previously thought unable to permanently die! And, worst of all, more Lokant interfering. I had hoped that the latter had finished mucking about with our lovely worlds some time ago, since the worst of them (a chap called Krays) was deservedly eaten by Llan’s spouse, Pensould. No such luck! I should have known better than to expect it.

Moreover, we now know why the mountains in between Irbel and beleaguered Orlind tried to shake themselves to pieces a little while ago. There was an avalanche. It was exciting — all the bulletin boards said so! No actual damage was done, but what can I say. It was a slow news day.

It did worry Tren and I just a little, however. The Seventh Realm, Orlind, was held to be as lost as the draykoni for many a long age. I imagine many people still think that, for it will take some time for news to the contrary to travel as far as it needs to.

But Orlind is not lost. Just mostly so, and still somewhat contested, because it happens to be the site of the single most powerful and magnificent Lokant Library there ever was.

Or it was until a week or two ago, when the Library blew up.

That was the news Llan brought us, and I can still scarcely believe it. The Library was broken beyond repair and a madhouse, true, but it was special. Many wonderful and precious things were created there, the draykoni not least among them. And now it is gone.

It is good news, all told. Llandry and Pensould are confident that they will now be able to mend the island, get it to grow again. That would be wonderful, of course. They even talk of reclaiming some of its lost land from the sea. But the Library is still a great loss, and the way it came about grieves me indeed.

Well; it is not the purpose of this journal to repeat what Llandry has already written. She has left me with a new task, and to that I must now turn my attention. I could not help but accept it, busy as I am, because she leaves me with worrying news. I assure you, I did try to convince myself that it is not my duty to take up this problem; I hoped I might be able to delegate it to some other fool… I mean, praiseworthy volunteer. But I cannot. It falls to me, and I will have to be that fool.

At least she left a pair of scintillating and delicious assistants to help us along.

 

Perhaps I ought to introduce myself? I now realise that I have failed to do so. Llandry was far more on the ball there than I, and got the dull business out of the way right at the beginning. I, however, have rambled on for pages without offering so much as my name. There can be no excuse. To presume upon your attention without a formal introduction! All ideas of etiquette are grossly violated.

I am Evastany, Lady Glostrum. I am a member of the peerage of Glour, the loveliest of the three Darklands realms (I admit to no bias there whatsoever). I am the second of my name, my detestable father having briefly held the title before me. I was High Summoner for Glour for more than a decade, but I recently resigned that role in favour of…

… well, peril and adventure, for a time, though that was not precisely of my choosing. After the Waeverleyne war, though, and our subsequent exploratory expedition to Orlind, everything calmed down again. I had time to consider what to do with myself next.

I should also mention that I am a partial Lokant, by blood heritage. It is the reason for my white hair, which is not a sign of premature ageing, as some of the seedier papers have been so unflattering as to suggest. Lokants are a different race, human in appearance but not by any other characteristic. They have strange powers, stranger ideas and unfathomable goals. They are based on no particular world, as far as I know; instead they organise themselves into structures they call Libraries, which are like miniature worlds floating out in nowhere-in-particular. They are fond of books. They have populated our cluster of worlds with a great many species of plants and animals, as well as the glorious draykoni. They are spectacularly intelligent, far cleverer than any of the rest of us can claim to be. They are also compulsively secretive and completely ruthless. It took me some time to accept my portion of that heritage, or to understand that blood inheritance does not compel me to resemble them in any other way.

I am not the only person hereabouts with Lokant ancestors somewhere in the family tree. There are others, and they are usually easy to spot because the white hair breeds true. If you ever see somebody youngish with snow-white hair, that is a partial Lokant — if not a full one. In either case, please send them to me.

See, some of those distant Lokants have had the bright idea of using partials like me for their various schemes, and to be fair we can be quite useful. It does not tend to work out well for us, however, or for our worlds, so I would rather get in the way of any such bright ideas in the future, and harness the partials’ unusual abilities for the benefit of the Seven instead.

Tren and I have been trying to find them all. It is not as easy as I just made it sound, because the fact that they have white hair is all that we have to go on. So in the past few weeks, we have accomplished the following:

– Secured the approval of Glour’s Council for the creation of a new bureau, to be dedicated to the identification and training of partial Lokants.

– Secured provisional approval for some funding to be allocated to the project.

– Talked the realms of Orstwych and Nimdre into joining the party, and adding to the funding pot (that last is a particular coup. If you have ever had anything to do with governments, you will know how difficult it is to get them to pay for anything, ever).

– Tried to gain access to Ullarn for the same purpose, but failed (I may have slightly used and then double-crossed my contact there not long ago, which proved to be unwise in the longer term. Though in my defence, he is a reprehensible soul and absolutely deserved it).

– Talked very seriously about travelling into the Daylands to discuss this with Glinnery and Irbel.

– Procrastinated on this last part with great diligence.

All of this done, we have arranged for advertisements to be distributed via the bulletin boards of Glour, Orstwych and Nimdre, asking all those with naturally occurring white hair to communicate with us. We have an office, in a nice house in Glour City. It is one of my own properties, a pretty enough place I had no use for. I went there yesterday, hoping to find a delicious stack of post from swarms of prospective trainees, and found only two letters.

Well, it is a start.

Did I mention that I am also planning my wedding? That is no small task either, for it must be a grand event. It is expected of me, as an aristocrat, to do things in the proper style. Since I deprived society of the spectacle of my marriage to another member of the peerage, Lord Vale, I feel it incumbent upon me to make up for it by at least giving the papers a wedding to talk about for weeks to come.

I am not sure that Tren entirely agrees with me. I have hired somebody else to do all the more tiresome drudgery of the thing, however, so he has no right to be too displeased.

Into the middle of this came Llandry, with her news and warnings slightly more on the dire side than I was hoping for. I thought her journal would be about trade agreements and minor conflicts with other draykon tribes. Diplomatic relations between Iskyr and the Daylands. Maybe an occasional border skirmish between draykoni tribes. That kind of thing.

I relinquish those fond hopes reluctantly, and with a pang of regret.

That brings me to the two intriguing young men she brought me. One of them is young Mr. Orillin Vanse, a Summoner of Glinnery, one of the first hereditary draykoni of modern times, and incidentally Lord Draykon. He is a lively chap, and appealingly carefree. I like him very much. He is quite at home with us, the grandeur of my family mansion notwithstanding, and ate himself merrily replete last evening.

His companion is unknown to me, and he interests me greatly. Gio Maeval, grandson of Krays — the very same Lokant dear Pensould made a meal of a few moons ago. What a fine young man he is! And how difficult it is to trust him! But I must. Llandry assures me that his loyalty has been proven beyond doubt, which I hope is true, because poor Ori has quite lost his head over the boy.

Not that I can blame him. Gio is intelligent, self-possessed, exquisitely polite and very handsome indeed. Fortunately he appears to reciprocate Ori’s affection, and they do make a charming couple.

It is only unfortunate that Gio is also a full Lokant with a problematic family history. His grandmother, Dwinal, has been getting up to all kinds of mischief and it is my unhappy task to find out what, exactly, that is. With Gio’s help.

The woman wanted the Library of Orlind destroyed. Wanted it gone! She claimed it is to do with averting future Lokant wars over the place, and that could well be true. They destroyed it once before, after all, and if anybody were to succeed in mending the poor broken mess of it all, perhaps there would be war again.

But when the Library blew up, Dwinal was radiant with glee. So says Llandry. I have to agree with her that the reaction seems inappropriate, considering that the destruction of Orlind also killed its self-appointed guardian, Galywis — a genius looked up to by all Lokantkind, even if he was stark raving mad.

Also, Gio brings unpromising accounts of his grandfather’s doings prior to his (un)timely demise, and word that some of his former colleagues have not been content to let Krays’s projects die just because he had the good taste to bite the dust early.

What does any of it have to do with our worlds? Maybe nothing.

Then again, maybe everything.

It is all so very tiresome. A plague upon all Lokants! Except for Gio, who looks far too good in an evening jacket to be consigned to oblivion.

I promised Llandry I would do something about this, but here I sit towards the end of truenight, sleepless and at a loss as to how to proceed. Lokants are secretive to a fault and inconveniently inaccessible. Even with Gio’s help, how am I to gain access to Dwinal’s Library, Sulayn Phay? Supposing that done, how to investigate? They do not exactly welcome outsiders.

I have erred in permitting myself to become so absorbed, for the NightCloak will be coming in soon and the day (such as it is) will begin. I have not slept. I do not think Tren has, either. Today we have a meeting with the ambassador for Orstwych, and I will have to focus on the finer points of our agreement regarding the handover of partial Orstwychian Lokants for training by our new bureau. There is also the slight problem of how to train these people once we find them, for there is only me to do the teaching, and I am largely untrained myself. After all this, I have an appointment with my wedding planner in the evening.

At least I will not be bored.

Laying those two problems side by side does give me an idea, however. Ideally we need the assistance of a few full Lokants to provide initial training, at the very least. I have not previously been able to imagine a way to accomplish this, but here is Gio! Fully trained and so obliging. I wonder if he would mind being recruited as a teacher?

I wonder if he would mind being used as a contact with other Lokant Libraries, too? I have lost all of my own, having never expected (or wanted) to need them again.

I suppose it is time to find out just how obliging Gio is inclined to be, and how long he expects to remain in our cluster of worlds. Since that latter question is most likely to depend upon the progress of his relationship with Ori, I shall consider it a priority to encourage their romance by all means at my disposal.

Well, they are a happy couple. I do like to see people happy, do not you?

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