The hall where Sylenia had first met Clan Mother Jiram was deserted. Its blank white walls seemed far away in the unaccustomed gloom. The desk and high backed chairs of the Clan Mother and her assistants retreated into infinity. Sylenia had never felt so isolated. It was nearly two weeks since that first confrontation, during which time she had learned much of the unfolding conflict with the Enemy. The balance of power within the Lazloi continued to be fluid and unpredictable, with friendly sponsors gone and moved elsewhere. It was not a time to be a young Lazloi far from home, whose loyalty had been questioned so publically.
A door to one side opened and allowed a narrow band of light into the room. Clan Mother Jiram entered, accompanied by Eyvonae and an unknown dignitary. They moved quickly to their chairs and sat down without acknowledging Sylenia. After a few whispered words between them, Jiram finally looked up and gave Sylenia a frosty smile.
"Sister Sylenia, your short hair suits you well."
Sylenia stared ahead at the wall above Jiram's head and said nothing. She knew that if Jiram had got her way, her head would have been shaved completely as an act of humiliation. Her demotion in status was well known and her cropped hair already a badge of that.
Jiram's smile faded. "We are here to give you new assignments." Jiram looked down at notes laid out before her in the surface of the desk. She studied them for a moment and then glanced at the stranger beside her. "It seems that your efforts in identifying the suppliers of dust and connections to the human leaders has not gone unnoticed. I understand that the material you gathered will prove very useful in helping rid this world of the Enemy."
Sylenia continued to avoid eye contact with Jiram, but as she glanced at the stranger was met by a faint but approving smile. It was a brief gesture of support that disappeared in a moment.
"However, your efforts failed to understand the bigger plan," said Jiram smoothly. "In concentrating your efforts to a single city, you failed to detect the network of activity that is taking place across this world. I fear that your motivation was out of a sense of revenge, and that this was hopelessly enmeshed with that of this human male. Thank the goddesses that you managed to retain some moral sense in that relationship."
Sylenia gritted her teeth and continued to avoid Jiram's mocking smile. The whispered insults and insinuations had continued for weeks after the first hearing with Jiram, yet the Clan Mother missed no opportunity to pick and scratch at that particular wound.
"We are aware of a nexus point in the desert hinterlands, from which Dust and dyybuk activity appear to be concentrated. There are communities and industrial activity in that region. It's possible they are the target of this activity, or are simply the victims of it. Either way, we need to understand this phenomena more fully."
Sylenia inclined her head in acknowledgement, but said nothing.
"Oh, and another thing," said Jiram gravely. "The loyalty of your runabout has been questioned. Given your current status we have decided to give you a small drone instead. It has no independent intelligence of its own. You will have the assistance of a simulacrum of course."
Sylenia frowned and spoke at last. "The runabout is my personal property, given to me by my grandmother!"
Jiram smiled broadly at Sylenia's angry outburst. "I think under the circumstances, your grandmother's status is somewhat below yours at the moment, if such a thing was possible." She crossed her arms, bringing the meeting to a close. "Go now, go to the desert location and find the source of the nexus, and on no account contact the human male again."
V4 in the Xena SD4 outfit and Valea Diamond Hair. The drone was created in Cinema 4D R12. Scene assembly and final rendering in Cinema 4D R12 Visualise. Post processed in Photoshop CS2