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   Chapter 15 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 30335

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:43

Chapter 15

To her surprise, Ladybug decided to stick to Elena like glue for the entire trip. Every time she turned around, the pug was never far from her feet. The dog even took over the small built in cat bed in the captain's quarters. Spin stopped by once to investigate, but didn't seem to mind the invader. As she never used the little niche, she seemed content to be magnanimous. Elena decided that in thanks she wouldn't comment on all of the extra treats her cat seemed to be getting from everyone until after they docked.

"Going to have to put her on a diet soon though, " Elena confided in the pug as the Storm Chaser approached the new channel. She smiled as they began their approach. Once, the section of space was a rather unremarkable stretch of nothing. Even with her extra senses, all she saw of the unopened channel resembled a shimmer of heat over a blacktop road on a hot day. Of course, once she opened it, her mind was flooded with data, not only about the channel, its depth and whether or not it was only a one way or a two way channel, but about what was on the other side as well.

Now, a small station was located not far from the still unremarkable stretch of space. With only the pilots affected by the Calling capable of opening the new channel, and most of those with the Calling sailing for Elena's House, other ships wishing to go to Haven needed a place to wait until someone could let them in. Elena knew there was a schedule and that anyone capable of opening the channel took turns in rotation making the run from Haven to channel in order to keep traffic moving. As Elena looked she spotted the signals from Simon, the person essentially serving as the station master. Sam was of course his counterpoint located at Haven's actual port as harbormaster.

Jennifer joined Elena in the pilot house and picked up the semaphore flags they kept in the corner. "What's the message Captain?" her apprentice asked.

"Tell them we are opening the channel and ask if anyone needs passage, " Elena told her. Jennifer nodded and headed to the deck. She sent the message while all of the Storm Chaser's passengers watched her with interest. As a return message was given and she turned to look at Elena, she could see Jennifer was blushing under their scrutiny. Elena slid the window open, having translated the return message from the station.

"Tell them we are fine with sending two through, " She called. Jennifer then passed the message and once matters were settled returned to the pilot house to put the flags away looking relieved. Elena saw the two ships waiting at the station for passage begin to pull away from the station. Deciding to err on the cautious side, she called channel crossing and watched everyone file into the galley. When the deck was clear and only she, Jennifer and Ladybug remained, Elena stretched her mind forward and opened the new channel. Ladybug whined and Jennifer knelt down to give the dog a cuddle.

"I guess dogs can feel the channel too, although it seems to bother them more than it does the cats, " Jennifer commented.

"It's still new, " Elena said, half listening. "I think Ladybug is the first dog taken through while there have been generations of cats maybe it breeds in as we take kittens from cats already used to channel riding." The other two ships in front of her put on speed and disappeared into the channel.

Elena pushed the Storm Chaser forward and followed them into the channel, splashing down into the waters of an alien ocean, the two earlier ships already sailing towards Haven. Elena allowed the channel to close and adjusted the ship to once again sail in terrestrial waters.

"All clear, " she called. People filed out of the galley to look around at the freshly salt water scoured deck, most not seeming that impressed by the view of nothing but ocean in every direction. Remembering that they were approaching the same season where a whale migration, or what seemed to be this ocean's equivalent of whales, took place, Elena switched on the sonar. Sure enough, she could spot a small cluster of the large creatures off to the port side.

She adjusted her course slightly to keep them at a distance as the two Thompsons began bringing out the fishing gear. She didn't pull them too far off course however, just far enough away to be safe. Thus far no one saw the large creatures' surface and knew nothing about them other than their general size on a sonar screen and the fact that they tended to travel in groups, at least during this time of year. She had to admit, she was curious and scanned the surface for any sight of the thus far elusive creatures. The surface was calm.

"Evan was getting a team together to study them, " She remembered as she saw Bob join Thompson and his father. As she watched the men settle with their gear she wondered if the exploratory team was sent or if it was still on the 'to do' list. While she received regular reports from both Mateo and Benjamin in her absence, she only found out what the Librarians were up to when Evan felt like sharing was necessary for the general welfare of Haven.

"Or if he is too excited to keep it to himself, " Elena amended with a smile.

On deck, Bob took a rod from Thompson and tried to imitate the other two men. Elena knew he wasn't much of a fisherman and figured it was the lack of anything else to do and a general lack of interest in a seemingly endless expanse of water that prompted his joining in. Stephen declined a rod of his own, but lingered nearby watching and listening as Alex gave Bob a fishing lesson. Released from her role as Bob's travel guide, Lisa settled in a shady spot with a paperback book. With Ladybug once again settled, Jennifer went to check on the cargo.

Towards the end of the day, Elena noticed some excitement on deck. Thompson was in the galley trying to cobble something together for dinner and Jennifer was resting so she could relieve Elena later in the evening. This left Stephen, Bob, Lisa and Alex on board. As Lisa had the most experience, which was admittedly minimal at best, Elena wasn't sure what the excitement heralded. She watched them confer and when they all turned to look at her, she waved and smiled. Somehow she figured encouraging them to ask her whatever the question was rather than let them continue to speculate was a better plan. Bob began walking toward the pilot house.

"I guess he's the emissary, " Elena said. Ladybug looked up from the rawhide bone she was in the process of gnawing on, snorted in dismissal and then went back to her bone. "Your dismissal doesn't sting nearly as badly as Spin's." she told the dog. "You should work on that."

Bob arrived at the door, knocked and then let himself in. "Something up?" she asked. He looked down at Ladybug. She wagged her stumpy tail, barked once and went back to her chewing.

"Yes, " he began. "We just wanted to know if that was Haven coming up. We didn't see any lights or anything so we wondered. I mean, I know there isn't electricity per se, but we thought there would be something, like, you know candles or some sort of light."

Elena smiled realizing he was slightly unnerved by the desolate looking island. "That's not Haven." She told him. She gestured towards the horizon and the growing shape outlined by the setting sun. "It's an outpost island and marks the halfway point of the trip this side of the channel. Sentries were set up there so when we approach there will be aerial probes launched to see who we are and then word sent back to Haven so they know we are coming. We have another full day at sea."

"Oh, " Bob said. As he went back to the others Elena wasn't terribly sure if he was relieved or dismayed as he seemed to be a combination of both. She suspected even if his seasickness dissipated, ships were not his favorite place to be and was not thrilled with another full day on the ocean.

"On the other hand the watchtower does look more primitive than he was led to expect so I guess that's the relief." Those on deck watched the growing island until Thompson called them for dinner. Thompson brought her a plate in the pilot house while the others ate in the galley. She pronounced the spaghetti with jarred sauce good although it tasted odd and told him she didn't mind the lack of meatballs. By the time the others returned to deck, the sun was gone and with the moon only starting to rise behind the thick clouds, the approaching island could no longer be seen in the dark.

With nothing to see, everyone turned in early, the promise of reaching Haven soon and ending the trip, providing enough excitement for the night. While initially treated as a cruise by her passengers, the Storm Chaser did not boast the amenities of a luxury liner and those not prepared often found time hanging heavily.

Elena smiled at the excited buzz of conversation and the few snippets that carried to her as they made their way to the bunks. The island at least broke up some of the monotony for those not actually workin

wers when that fact was realized.

"There will be less killing at least, " she thought. Elena darted a glance to Kiera whose pregnancy was just starting to show. While she was surrounded by members of her and Mateo's House, Elena was pleased to see both Benjamin and Thompson nearby, ready to assist if things turned ugly.

The already shadowy dream began to fade around the edges. Elena felt herself falling out of the dream and, to her horror, found herself back in the first dream, standing in the doorway looking at the broken, bloody bodies of her cousin and his wife. The dream played out, the shadows remaining thick around the edges. Elena realized, once she got past her own nausea, that that the dream was limited. In other dreams she could feel the grain of the wooden deck beneath her fingers, the spray of ocean on her face. She could hear music and the background noises of others' conversations. She could smell the flowers, the candles, even Thompson's aftershave as they danced.

While she was thankful she didn't have to smell the bloody death in front of her, Elena realized that what her mind was interpreting as shadows were lack of details, a lack of grounding in the scene so to speak. She saw the bodies clearly, but the floor beyond the blood pool held no detail. When she looked, Elena could barely see the wall and saw the furniture as just shadowy shapes, lumps with no details even though she already knew the furnishings of the house. She turned around as Therese ranted and postured. Behind Therese there was nothing, just gray white nothingness. No lush forest, no town of Haven.

At the end of the dream, she returned to her place in front of the mirror and then proceeded to the stage and into the ceremony. The same lack of details existed in this dream as well. She saw just enough to place herself in the scene, but nothing more. It was as if at this moment, both scenarios held the same weight, the same sense of realness. Elena moved back and forth between the two dreams as though they were both songs on a very short playlist set on repeat. The loop finally broke as Thompson shook her shoulder waking her.

Elena blinked and looked around. "Did I oversleep?" she asked groggily, the horror of Mateo and Kiera's deaths still leaving her feeling somewhat shaken inside.

"No, you were having a nightmare. Waking you seemed like a good idea." He told her, his face creased with concern. "You kept muttering something about no more killing and a crossroads." He brushed a strand of hair away from her face. "You want to talk about it?"

Elena sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Therese killed Mateo and Kiera. Kiera was pregnant and Therese was going to continue killing everyone, including her mother so that she could take grandfather's seat on the Council. She said she had plans, big plans." Elena shook her head. "She was crazy, just crazy."

"That's a rough one, " he said. Elena felt the covers move and looked to see Spin moving towards her. The cat rubbed herself against Elena's chin.

"Finally remembered I exist?" she said stroking the cat. Spin purred loudly and then turned, jumping down to the floor with a thump and walking towards the door. At the door she paused and looked back expectantly.

"Apparently since I'm awake it is time for me to perform my duties as the bringer of food, " Elena said with a shaky laugh.

"I think she can wait a bit, " Thompson said. "She ate enough yesterday to last her a week, she's starting to get a little pudgy."

"I wonder why that is, " Elena said with a smile, feeling a little more settled by the conversation and very glad Thompson was there.

"If that is your way of telling me to lay off the cat treats, I'll have you know the bag I brought with me is still sealed and stowed."

"Good to know. I figured I'd let it slide until we docked since she has been so good about Ladybug."

"The freshly caught fish will stop once we dock, but you are going to have to convince Benjamin that she isn't to be spoiled."

"Not much chance of that, " Elena replied. Thompson looked at her.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah, the dream was just so…horrible, " she decided. The horror wasn't entirely due to the bloodshed, but the fact that both dreams held the same amount of weight to them and they both felt like the dreams that came true before. They had the same feel to them. She had this horrific feeling that which one came true depended on her, on what she did between now and…whenever. She frowned not liking the vague time table.

"Did you say crossroads?" Elena asked remembering what Thompson said when waking her.

"Yeah, you kept muttering it."

Elena sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She hadn't managed to get it cut before leaving and resigned herself to either growing it out or hacking it off herself at some point.

"Maybe it is your subconscious' way of telling you that sooner or later you are going to have to deal with Therese instead of ignoring her and hoping she'll go away."

"Possibly, " she told him. She was sure he remembered when she nearly fainted from holding the necklace in her hands after dreaming of it for so long, but doubted he connected it with her dreams of blood and death. After all who would? Dreams were an internal process, not a predictive one, usually at least. Personally, she thought talking to Evan about the possibility of changing the laws might be a more useful step than confronting Therese. "Perhaps the madness in her eyes was my way of realizing that she wasn't going to be reasoned with."

"Perhaps you should put it away for now, " he said.

"Perhaps, " she replied. Elena shifted and started to pull back the covers. Thompson pulled her close.

"You still have time before you have to relieve Jennifer, " he reminded her.

"Do I?" Elena replied with a laugh. "And what do you suggest I do with my extra time?"

"I'm sure we'll think of something, " he told her, pulling her close. Elena smiled content for the moment to let the bad dreams slide away.

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