By Allanasha Ke Kiri

Chapter 8 – Interlude

Lord Darin had been fairly easy to convince. Well, in so far as giving her master a chance. Neither of them had noticed her nearby, listening. No one ever did, not unless she wanted them to. It was her job to make sure the chosen was safe and sane.

And, despite what the humans believed, Nico was not insane. That they thought so was only a way to rationalize the 'puppeteer's' behavior. It proved they weren't ready. Not yet.

Puppeteer … she didn't approve of that word either. It hinted that they were controlled, that they could do nothing without a command. Nico did not control them. They adored him and followed him because of that. It was the way with all chosen.

Kera stood in the shadows, watching the nobles, listening to them. She did it well, and without bias. It was why Nico had agreed to let her stay. She could make her own decisions; she didn't need him explaining everything to her. She was as human as she could get without being one, and, honestly, she didn't want to be one. Humans felt pain and fear. The only fear she felt was that someone would get through them and to her master.

As a human, her time had been limited to a few more years, if she'd been lucky. As Nico's, she lived as long as he did. Not that any chosen had managed a long life span. The longest lived had been Amari, who had managed a year and a half, but only because their father had needed her.

On the other hand, Clara hadn't even lasted a month. She was the reason the humans believed there'd been no 'puppeteer' for 200 years. She'd been rejected and killed by her children within three days of her awakening. But it was the only time it had happened. Clara had not been a suitable candidate. The others had managed somewhere between them, and all of them had been betrayed.

That would change with Nico, she vowed silently, her eyes flashing as she watched the nobles. These humans could try as much as they wanted, but they would not get her chosen. She would kill them all before she allowed that to happen. Nico was the one, she knew. They all did, and they would succeed where the others failed.

Her eyes followed Orion, the human prince. Something had to be done about him. Despite all his bravado, he didn't trust Nico, feared him. That would have to change. The others had been betrayed for that exact reason.

How though? He'd have to be a puppet to really understand, and that would surely lose them everyone's trust. Besides Nico liked the human prince as he was. He was coming very close to …

Perhaps, though, she could help him understand how they viewed Nico. Her head tilted thoughtfully as she considered her options. The prince wasn't ready to know 'why' yet, but he could be with time. Nico was going to choose him, after all, and he was trying. That's more than any other could say. It deserved the same attempt in return.

Her thoughts finally fell quiet, though her eyes continued to scan the hallway. Anything could be useful. She watched them as a predator, looking for weaknesses, points she could exploit, people that could become allies. She would make sure her chosen would survive.

Slowly, her thoughts turned to the small princess. She was having trouble with Nico. Understandable given the stories told to the children, stories she had helped spread. But, she couldn't allow it to continue.

Her chosen would be devastated if she shunned him. Perhaps she should have a word with the child.

Nodding to herself, she placed a small smile on her lips and slipped out of the shadows. Around her, several humans jumped servants among them. They all watched her; some fearfully, some simply wary. She made note of it, but pretended not to notice. Let them believe she was just a stupid puppet. Those who needed to knew better.

Kera heard the whispers that started behind her, but ignored them. She already knew what they said, and she didn't care. It was nothing important, nothing that wouldn't change with time. The thought brought a spring to her step, and the continued stares and whispers did nothing to bring down her good mood as she made her way to the princess' room.

Reaching for the handle, she paused. Perhaps it wouldn't be good to simply walk in. Raising her hand, she rapped on the door.

No answer.

A quick glance around showed that no one was present, so she entered. As she'd thought, the girl was out. Perhaps this was best.

Mariane had been avoiding her these past two weeks. Leaving her a note would probably be better. The poor human wouldn't be able to think properly when afraid.

A short time later, Kera left the room, a silent shadow no one saw.

Her chosen would survive. They all said so. And it was them that made the final decision regarding the chosen.