Two days passed without incident. This only aggravated Asharos. He stalked the corridors of the enclave with a scowl etched into his pale face. Most of his followers had the good sense to not speak to him, particularly after he stabbed one of them through the heart for offering him some tea. After, Asharos had wiped his knife on the young acolyte’s robes and went about his way, leaving the body to bleed out in the hall. No one dared move to clean up the mess until after Asharos was out of sight.

Early in the afternoon on the third day after Kenian’s absence was noticed, an older acolyte approached Asharos while he was in the temple praying with the rest of his maesters. He waited for Asharos to acknowledge him before speaking.

“I bring an urgent report from the watchtowers.”

“What is it?”

“We have a problem, sir. There’s a ship entering the airspace over the plains. It’s hard to get a fix on their trajectory, but it looks like they’re heading this way.”

“What?” Asharos shouted. “How?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“What do you want to bet Kenian is behind this?” Yakima snarled, whirling to face Aenek.

“That’s not possible. He’d never betray us!” Aenek insisted.

“We can’t take that risk. Power down the enclave and seal off the exits. If he has betrayed us, then that’s an Agency ship. They’ll be relying on visual cues and sensors. The less information we give them, the better.”

Ophalia’s eyes widened in alarm. “We have to get out of here!”

Asharos cupped Ophalia’s face in his hands. “If we run, we increase the risk of being caught. Besides, it’s just one ship. What, exactly, are they hoping to accomplish?”

She nodded, and he let go. “Forgive my panic, High Priest.”

“Atraxia forgives all who are properly contrite. If the worst should happen and we need to abandon this sanctuary, then we will. Go. Gather my flock and bring them to me.”

The messenger bowed and left.

“What are you planning?” Ophalia asked, wincing as Yakima slapped her on the back of her head.

“You dare question the High Priest?” Yakima snarled.

Asharos raised one hand. “We are going to protect our sanctuary, one way or another.”