The man’s face betrayed no emotion, “I see. Well, then I suppose you did the right thing in bringing them here where they would be safe. However, we will have to make special arrangements for their passage out of here. Do you know who the Tyranni are?”
“Nix and Peterson,” Kent answered. Oriana thought she noticed a particular stress on Peterson’s name.
“Ahh, I see. They must have travelled from interstate to be here in this city then.”
“That’s true,” cut in Paul, “I have a photo of their number plate. They came from interstate.”
“I am sorry, my name is Laneg. How do you do, young man?”
“Well, I’m Paul and my knee is badly hurt.”
Instantly Laneg’s expression changed from neutrality to deep concern. “Oh dear, did the Tyranni injure you?”
Paul nodded affirmatively.
“Well then,” Laneg turned to the young women next to him, “Suvarin, could you please take a look at Paul’s leg? See if he is well enough to walk on it.”
Suvarin walked up the raft and asked the girls if they could get off so she could have room to inspect Paul’s knee. Kelly and Oriana introduced themselves, and Suvarin greeted them both warmly. Laneg touched Kent’s elbow and motioned him to come with him down one of the tunnels. Oriana indicated to Kelly that she should keep Suvarin distracted with talking while working on Paul’s knee, while she surreptitiously followed Kent and Laneg down the tunnel. She got as close as she could manage without giving away her position in the tunnel. She listened to Kent give a concise but detailed account of what had happened. The old man was listening intently to everything he had to say.
“Kent, this is a bad situation that we are in. I was aware of at least two Tyranni agents already active in this city trying to establish connections with people traffickers and drug smugglers. However, they have been putting out feelers looking for traces of us here. I had thought they were perhaps unaware of our presence here. With two more Tyranni from interstate, that means there are four Tyranni here now.”
“That’s very grave, Laneg. We should all arm ourselves and be prepared for battle.”
Oriana heard the old man sigh in exasperation.
“No, Kent, that will not do. You should know by now that the Salvati are strictly forbidden to carry weapons. We all swore an oath to preserve and heal. Not to injure or kill. None of us are armed here and we have no weapons at all. The secrecy of our location is our only protection. If, in the future, there are some Vijoreans living in this city, then we will gladly come out of hiding and offer our services to the general population. However, until such time, it is too dangerous for us to be seen in public.”
“Then what would you suggest?”
“For now, let us take full advantage of this situation. You have a video recording of the Tyranni, one that endangers their interests too much for them to risk it getting out into the general public. This is good; they are unlikely to attempt any escalation of violence against you.”
“You can’t possibly think we are safe because of this! They knew this but went looking for my home! I think they want to kill us all and hope their friends in government can keep it quiet.”
“Perhaps, but what’s more likely is they were looking for your home just to try to equalise some of the power difference between you and them. It’s natural of them to attempt to do something to retaliate after they’ve been humiliated like this.”
“What happens if they find my home?”
“Probably not much, except that you would have to move again.”
“Hopefully it won’t come to that. What I foresee happening is that they will disengage from a violent approach and instead try to use infiltration methods. They will try to corrupt these three young people you brought with you and, if not turn them into Tyranni, they will attempt to turn them against each other.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Because if they can turn them against each other, they might be able to gain control over the video recording, or get one of them to frame the others as faking it. Something that would get them off the hook and allow them to move in and kill you and potentially us with impunity.”
“I wish the Vijoreans were here,” Kent said,betraying how crestfallen he was becoming from this news.
“My dear younger brother in faith, you ought to spend more time praying for the strength to accept such trials as this. Certainly, we have enemies, enemies who mean us great harm, but enemies are something to be thankful for. Enemies can teach us things that none of our best friends can. They challenge us constantly to do and think better than we would otherwise. Pity the man who has no enemies, for that man is a lazy cowardly fool.”
“But these Tyranni mean to kill. Peterson killed my grandfather.”
“No, that has never been proven. You have already done extraordinarily well by getting and securing that recording. This will not be a battle of bullets now, it will be a battle of wits. You are a smart man, Kent; you have studied philosophy and the classics. This is your battleground, not theirs.
“The next few weeks will be very difficult for you, Kent. However, you are a Druid and as such you are expected to protect those young minds from lies, evil, and heresy like you pledged to do. Do not attempt to manipulate them, whatever happens. Just carry your load manfully, answer their questions truthfully, and keep us all safe by keeping the location of our base here secret.”
Oriana couldn’t hear anything else but exasperated breathing from Kent. He was obviously taking this lecture from Laneg quite hard. Fearing detection, Oriana thought she had better sneak back to the others before her eavesdropping was discovered.