Quani didn’t know what to say. Up until this moment he didn’t think it was possible for his leader and old friend to suspect Lossepharr. But before he could find some sort of response, he watched as doubt once again flooded Katha’s face. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “My son is power hungry, of that I am aware. But is he capable of killing so many of his own kin? It sounds preposterous.”
Quani’s claws extended in disappointment. The Steward was not just physically blind but also blinded by love. “My lord, if you have any doubt in your mind about the death of your nephews and niece, perhaps you should reopen the investigation. It will put your mind at ease.”
Katha was already shaking his head before Quani had a chance to finish. “What if it’s true, Quani?”
“Then, son or no, you are the Boentu Leader and must see justice is dealt.”
Katha shuddered and clutched his gut. “He’s my son Quani. Besides, how will it effect the system? If it becomes known Lossepharr murdered the line of Boentu successors, his own blood, it could lead to a revolt.”
Quani was stunned. Could Katha truly be so willing to sweep everything under the rug? “My liege, you must do what’s right for the system.”
“What’s right for the system,” Katha muttered. “What’s right is we never look too closely. Because I promise you Quani, the people will destroy everything we have built if this news come to light.”
Quani sat stunned. He couldn’t force Katha to launch an investigation. There was no evidence of wrong doings, only suspicions. Was Katha right? Would the Boentu System be torn apart by civil war if the news got out? He didn’t think so. He wondered why Katha had even told him of his doubts. Then, taking him by surprise, Katha took Quani’s hands in his own and thanked him.
“You have been a true friend.”
“I’m ever your servant, my Lord,” Quani murmured.
Katha smiled. “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you to keep this discussion to yourself.
“Of course,” Quani replied.
“Good,” Katha murmured, letting out a yawn. “I am tired Quani. I think I might retire to bed.”
Quani recognised a dismissal when he heard one. He got up to leave as Katha leaned back in his chair, breathing a sigh of relief.
The door to his office chimed and Quani identified himself. Katha gave a verbal acknowledgement for the doors to open and his old advisor entered.
“You wanted to see me?” he asked.
Katha cringed. Quani’s voice had held the same tone of concern ever since Regat.
It didn’t escaped Quani’s attention that Katha’s health had deteriorated these past few moons. He understood Katha well enough to know it was more than just the death of his kin which bothered him. Quani watched Katha carefully, almost pitifully. Dark circles now peaked through the soft fur beneath the Steward’s eyes.
Katha motioned for his faithful friend to sit. Quani did so. Something in the resolve on Katha’s face told him that the Steward might finally reveal what was going on.
After several long minutes of uncomfortable silence, Katha finally spoke. “Quani, what do you think of my son?”
“Which one?” Quani asked, though he already knew which son Katha meant.
“He is a good warrior,” Quani replied after some thought. “He will make a fierce and protective leader for the system.”
Katha nodded his head and a flash of pride crossed his face. “He seems to be adjusting quite well to his new role as Future Leader.”
“Yes,” Quani agreed.
Still Katha appeared troubled. “Do you think he’s honourable?”
Quani bit his lip, wondering how to answer. “He is a Boentu warrior. The warrior Code of Honour was drilled into him at a young age. Why do you ask, my Lord?”
Katha sat fiddling with his fingers, deep in thought. “I’ve had this fear,” he finally said. “That perhaps what happened to the Boentu Atten was not… an accident.”
Relief flooded Quani’s face making him glad the Steward was unable to see him. Quani had harboured these same fears for months now. If Katha was questioning his son, it meant the Steward wasn’t involved in the explosion. “Do you think,” Quani asked, tentatively, “Lossepharr caused it somehow?”
“He has the resources,” Katha replied. “He knows the Outer Rim. He could have developed the contacts necessary.”
Katha sat in his study listening to the reports of the day. Lossepharr was doing a fine job taking over the position Dennethom once held. True, he lacked his cousin’s initiative and seemed more focused on the military aspects of the Boentu system. But he was still learning.
Yet a feeling gnawed at Katha day and night. A suspicion he dared not voice aloud. Instead, every time the thought arose, he tried to push it back down again. He didn’t even share his fears with his wife, Marvena.
Stifling a yawn, Katha poured himself some hot tea. Ever since his brother’s wife and children died on Regat six moons ago, he found himself not sleeping well. Between the system being in mourning, and his son taking over, Katha found himself with little to do but think about the accident If only he hadn’t sent Dennethom to the outer rim. If only the Boentu Atten had been properly serviced. Despite the passage of time, the system still mourned the warrior who should have been their leader. The people on Indra planned to erect a statue of Dennethom. Lossepharr wasn’t too happy to about the news. The people loved Dennethom. It was difficult for Lossepharr to compete.
It was the right thing, sending Dennethom away. At least, that’s what Katha kept telling himself. Dennethom needed to get to know the outer rim planets. Still, it didn’t help much. The more he tried to suppress his emotions, the more his feelings of guilt redoubled their attack at night, when he would toss and turn in bed.
The obvious sources of guilt, he could handle. His order had sent Dennethom and his family to the outer rim. True. But then there were the other thoughts. The ones that made him question the official report. Was it really an accident?
Ever since Katha heard the news of their deaths he found himself suspicious. But he was terrified to learn the truth. Which was why he conducted only the quickest of inquiries into the accident. To a layman everything seemed above board. The Boentu Atten had not been fixed properly. Wydun charged his own personal engineer with gross negligence.
Katha would never sweep evidence under the rug. But he was afraid to dig too deep. Afraid of what he might find and what the information would do to his family and the system he swore to protect. He couldn’t talk to Marvena. Not because she would think him crazy. No. Katha’s biggest fear is she would agree with him and demand he reopen the investigation. But such an action would reflect badly upon him, not to mention the rest of his family.
At first, he took sleep medication. The meds didn’t help. He began taking increasingly larger doses to fall asleep, and even if he slept, it just meant the nightmares would come. Ghostly accusations from beyond the grave. Chran, blaming him for not protecting his family. Katha shivered just thinking about the dream.
Losing his sight he could handle. You eventually learn to do without. But ever since he lost his sight he had had vivid dreams. It was the only way he got to see anything any more. It wasn’t fair that in the past few months the only things he saw were the dead. And so he gave up sleeping, instead taking the barest of naps as necessary.
But tonight would be different. Tonight he would sleep, because now he finally felt ready to voice his fears.