RISE OF THE ANATI
When Vanarra takes charge of the negotiations with the Allegiance of the Anati, she’s targeted by factions on all sides – including those with deadly intent! To help protect her, Theo grants Sahnassa the awesome powers of a Teldear. As forces hurry to the two friends’ defense, even deadlier foes relentlessly target Vanarra and all those she loves. When it’s discovered that the leadership of another house is trying to assassinate Vanarra, the houses begin to prepare for open war.
Overview & Preview
THURIA ON THE BRINK OF WAR!
With the help of their family houses and the mysterious Theo, Sahnassa de Orturu and Vanarra de Gonari brought about the complete collapse of the powerful and corrupt house de Caterra. Now, all of Thuria struggles to recover from the enormous losses of that conflict. The Allegiance of the Anati, a renegade band of rebellious mixed-bloods, have agreed to negotiate peace with house de Gonari, but it’s soon peace at a price Vanarra’s house can ill afford. When the talks fall apart, the Grand Matriarch reaches out to her house’s only mixed blood daughter.
When Vanarra takes charge of the negotiations, she’s targeted by factions on all sides – including those with deadly intent. To help protect her, Theo grants Sahnassa the awesome powers of a Teldear. As forces hurry to the two friends’ defense, even deadlier foes relentlessly target Vanarra and all those she loves. When it’s discovered that the leadership of another house is trying to assassinate Vanarra, the houses begin to prepare for open war.
Only moments remain before Thuria is destroyed with the rising of the Anati!
Looking up at her friend in utter disbelief, Vanarra de Gonari just shook her head. “Can’t be … Letta?” she asked weakly. In answer, the Faelnar dame gently offered her the envelope and emphasized the suggestion to take it with a gentle cant of her head. Instead, Van backed up, literally sliding her chair away. Her throat and chest tightened, her pulse started racing, and she felt like she was going to be sick. Again, Saletta stepped a little bit forward and quietly indicated that Van should take the envelope. “No, Letta; I … can’t! I can’t do–”
“Vanarra de Gonari,” Saletta admonished her sternly, “I learned long ago that there isn’t anything you can’t do.”
“But not this! I’m … I’m not … I don’t want–”
Saletta was compelled to interrupt her, lowering the envelope so she could place both of her paws on her own hips. “Vanarra! You remember when I came to you with Astalla and asked you, ever so nicely, for your permission, your agreement that Sahnassa be promoted to matron?” The question was delivered with a mixture of disappointment and frustration that fixed Van to the back of her chair. “Do you remember why Sahnassa was needed? We didn’t offer her that for any other reason than her family needed her.” The dame emphasized the last four words especially. “Van, we need you now! The whole of Thuria needs you! Haven’t you realized what’s happening?”
“I … I don’t understand, Letta,” Van confessed. “I thought things were going pretty well, actually. The negotiations are still taking place, right? That’s something, isn’t it?”
“No, Van, as I said. They’re stopped! Tanatta and her group have walked out.” Saletta just let that fact sit with Vanarra for a moment before she started. “Let me tell you what happened, as I was there. The Allegiance of the Anati are seeking enormous reparations for the damages that were done to them, and house de Gonari cannot afford what they are demanding. They’re calling it reparations, but call it what you will, it would completely bankrupt our house and place us in enormous debt! They’re demanding positions of leadership in businesses and in other families – they’re not qualified for them! We want to do something to help them, but we’re not willing to sacrifice our house to do it! Even if we did, no other house would follow suit!”
Van buried her head in her paws. “Oh, stupid, stupid, stupid,” she groaned, but then looked up at Saletta. “I understand it’s a problem, and I’m certainly willing to help with it, but why … why does that have to be part of it!?” she asked, pointing at the envelope. “And … and why does it have to be me?! Surely someone’s more qualified—”
Saletta was shaking her head and started pacing back and forth. “There’s more to it than that. The last exchange – it was a shouting match really – between Kinnessa and Tanatta ended when Tanatta stood and shouted at our matriarch and everyone on our side of the table that de Gonari didn’t really want Anati in positions of power or respect. She said that you had saved your own matriarch’s life and had more intelligence than the whole of our house leadership put together, but we had never thought of promoting you for that. Tanatta said that the only reason de Gonari were adopting those of mixed blood was so they could have someone in their claws to do the jobs no one else wanted to do. Then, the whole contingent turned and walked out.”
Van stared at her desk, slowly shaking her head. “No.”
“Oh, yes! Your own matriarch,” Saletta said angrily, but Van could tell her anger was largely directed at Tanatta, “she … she was in tears! She thinks she’s failed, Van.” Saletta paused, long enough for Van to look up. “And you know what? She has! Your precious ‘Myra’ has risked enormous amounts of her prestige on this effort, and it’s fallen apart! We can’t do this without you, Van! We have to find some way to talk to them!”
Van’s intercom buzzed urgently, and exasperated, Saletta shrugged and walked back to the couch as Vanarra instinctively answered it, picking up the LineCom. “Mauft, it’s not a good time.”
“Not out here, either,” Mauft replied. “I’ve got Tanatta, and she’s really ticked! If you don’t let her in, I’m going to have to bodily throw her out.”
Now, it was Vanarra whose claws expressed and back fur started to rise. “Oh, yeah, Mauft! You send her in! We’re going to resolve this right now!”
“Who is it?” Saletta asked with impatience, feeling that what they were discussing was far too important to be interrupted.
“Tanatta!” Van spat out as she stood and stormed towards the door.
Saletta was suddenly taken aback. “Here?!”
Before she could answer, Van had opened the door at just the right moment – knowing exactly how long it took for someone to walk from the front desk to her office. Tanatta’s raised paw, aimed to knock on the door, was what Van grabbed her by, yanking her in. A quick spin both closed the door and backed the startled Tanatta up against it. “What in the mange do you think you are doing!?!” Van demanded angrily. As mad as Tanatta might have been, several quickly-observed facts calmed her down into civil conversation. First, Van’s claws where fully expressed and her body was tensed as if to attack. Second, the de Gonari dame in the room was frozen in horror – another indication that Vanarra might not let Tanatta leave the office alive. Finally, the memories of how fast and powerfully she had disabled the very attacker who had nearly killed the dame on the couch made the visitor swallow and think again before answering.
“We … we had to break off. They weren’t listening!” Tanatta pleaded.
“Really? Were you saying anything even remotely sane?! Last sol, you’re a transport driver, and tomorrow you want to be president of the whole blasted firm!? You want to turn every Faelnar out into the streets and take over their lairs? Their jobs?! I sure as mange hope you were not that much of an idiot!”
Tanatta was struggling to locate her backbone in the face of Vanarra’s withering assault. “But we’ll never be able to get those positions! They’ll never let us! We could do those jobs!”
“Not right now you can’t!” Van shot back sternly. “You may want to with everything you’ve got, but you don’t have the training! You don’t have the experience!”
“And whose fault is that?!” Tanatta nearly growled, and for a quick moment, she shot a glance in Saletta’s direction.
“Oh no you don’t!” Van growled, and changed her stance, seemingly ready to eviscerate her opponent. “It wasn’t ones like her that did this to you, and don’t you dare say so! Every mangy low-crawler who did that stuff to you has either had their tail blown off or is in jail. I really don’t care where they are, honestly! Saletta and her leadership aren’t holding you back; they’re trying to help you find a way forward! Can’t you see that?! You can’t damn well wish your way to where you want to be!” Van chided, and then turned away in frustration, trying to reign in her anger. “Look at the picture above the bookcase, dammit, Tanatta! You see the absolute mud hole I started out in? I’m not here because I gave up or demanded someone do it all for me. I and everyone who joined me did it – we worked hard for it! It took seasons and seasons and seasons! Now, take one of those other Anati who are emptying the garbage, give him my job, and what do you think happens to this business? Would it succeed or fail?” There was a moment of silence, before Van turned on Tanatta and demanded, “Answer me, damn you!”
“It … it would fail,” Tanatta, who had not moved half a paw-step away from the door, answered softly, angrily. “But, I’ve worked a long time, Vanarra, and I never got anywhere! I’ve worked hard, too! No one gives opportunities to our kind willingly.”
“Some do, and some don’t. It’s life; it’s not fair; get over it and move on,” Van said dismissively walking back to her desk.
Tanatta shook her head and stepped forward. “So, we just give up! We … walk away with nothing for all that pain and suffering? We continue to be the fur-dressers and garbage collectors and transport drivers, forever? Don’t … don’t you care about your own kind, Vanarra?”
Leaning across the desk, her claws digging into it, Vanarra growled out the answer. “Don’t you even try that play with me! If you’re talking about any Thurian who is willing to work their tails off trying to make something of their life, then yes, I care a whole lot about them! If you’re talking about any Thurian who is willing to give to help another, regardless of where they come from, then yes, I care about them! If you think I would give even a moment’s thought to anyone who just wants to steal away all the money and possessions of another to throw a big, damned party and still be no better for it, then you’re out of your mind! They are not my kind, and you’re slandering all of those who have, somehow, managed to carve out a good life – despite being an Anati!”
“Then what do we do? Just tell everyone to work harder?” Tanatta asked, sounding utterly frustrated.
“Well,” Saletta put in quietly, “perhaps Vanarra has a good idea. Maybe, we could help with training or schooling—” Saletta was interrupted by Tanatta’s harsh stare, but Van would have none of it.
“Turn down that kind of an offer, and I’ll have absolutely nothing to do with you. I broke into schools to get books to read so I could do something with my life! They might actually be willing to give them to you! They might be willing to teach you—”
“Not in their academies!” Tanatta countered.
“I think we could,” Saletta interjected. “We may even be able to get other houses to agree to do the same.”
Tanatta closed her eyes and sighed, “Okay, I’ll talk to our leadership about it.”
“So, are we negotiating again?” Vanarra asked her, pointedly.
Again, the Anati standing in front of them nodded, but added, “I won’t do it without you there. I don’t think any of our group will. That would mean your house would have to promote you to matron, of course, which I know they won’t do,” she finished sarcastically.
“Really?” Vanarra asked, aggrieved. “Letta, please give her the envelope.”
Saletta stood and hesitated somewhat. “Normally, it’s the recipient who—”
“Letta, please,” Van bade, indicating Tanatta. The dame shrugged and surrendered the envelope.
Carefully and non-provocatively expressing a claw-tip, Tanatta sliced open the top of the envelope and pulled out the elegant document from within. She started reading it with skeptical detachment, and then her features slowly changed to disbelief. Glancing for the couch, she found it, sat, and read.
After a few passes, Van looked at Saletta and quietly asked, “Exactly how long of a letter does it take to say you’re promoted?”
“If you’re as loved by our matriarch as much as you are, Vanarra, it takes awhile,” Saletta softly replied, sympathy and understanding rich in her voice.
“I’ll … say,” Tanatta breathed. Putting the paper down, she looked at Vanarra and said, “I … I never knew.” Looking to Saletta she demanded, “This isn’t a fake? This isn’t for show? You’re really going to do this?”
“If … she accepts,” Saletta answered, looking back at Vanarra uncertainly.
Van stared at Tanatta and accused, “I blame you for this! I don’t want to be a matron! I never have! I never even thought about it! I’m happy with my business, and I love helping the orphanage, and I care about all of the Thurians who work here – purebred or Anati, avowed and disavowed. I wanted to do a good job for them as much as for myself.”
“Van, we will support your business with whatever resources are required,” Saletta promised. “We think your being in the negotiations is that important.”
“And … if what this says is true, Van,” Tanatta added, “your family would be crazy not to ask you.”
“You two may well not like what you get for your trouble. I am hardly a diplomat,” Van warned.
Tanatta shrugged and retorted, “Well, we’re negotiating again, aren’t we?”
Van covered her eyes with her paws and again shook her head. “This is not happening.”
“Now, who’s in denial?” Tanatta shot back, with just a slight edge of humor in her voice.
“Fine, you two! Have it your way! When do I have to be there?” Van asked, not moving.
Saletta cocked her head a bit and answered, “Well, we’d need agreement from the Allegiance on a date we could resume discussions.”
“Two sols from now,” Tanatta answered with certainty. “We’ll come back … a bit more ready to talk … this time, I think.”
“Okay. We agree,” Saletta replied. “However, Van, you’re going to be needed at the keep, tonight.”
Vanarra looked up in surprise and shook her head in disagreement. “We’ve … we’ve got an event tonight, Letta!”
“Flint said he could cover it for you,” she replied.
“Your soon-to-be-joined offered, did he?” Van accused, angrily.
Tanatta shook her head. “Hold on a tick! You talking about the big, gray Lupar-Pantera hulking–”
“Be nice,” Saletta warned. “You’re talking about my future lair-mate.”
Tanatta just stared at Saletta and bleated, “But you’re a dame!”
“And he’s a marvelous, honest, intelligent, and wonderful soul,” Saletta replied. “We have approval from the Grand Matriarch, and we’re putting the joining celebration together right now.”
“Okay … you have to be there, too,” Tanatta stated, her tone confused. “The negotiations are definitely back on now. We’ll … we’ll try to come up with better than what you’ve seen so far, Dame.”
“I think, Tanatta, that we’re going to find a way through this, with the right help,” Saletta offered, looking at Van.
Vanarra sighed, “And this sol had started out so nice, too. You two just keep this quiet, please. I have no idea how I’m going to tell my staff about this. That goes for Flint, too.”
The pair nodded and stood, with Tanatta placing the letter and envelope with near reverence on the corner of Vanarra’s desk. Each nodded, said goodbye, and stepped out.
With the door still open, Tallen stuck his head in. “Everything okay boss? I heard some shouting.”
Vanarra stood and said, “You only thought you heard shouting! If I were you, cub, I’d run! Flint!!!” she screamed, loud enough for everyone in the office to hear.
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Mr. Lewis has a way of frustrating the reader by making his stories so potent, so in depth, that the reader cannot put them down.
Reader and Reviewer
It’s a great read, which builds with every chapter!
Reader and Reviewer
You can't just help to find yourself feeling for just about everyone, especially since nothing is what it seems on the surface.
Reader and Reviewer
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The time of the mixed-bloods has come!
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