The Assembly Hall being in ruins, what remained of the Assembly chose to convene outside, where there was sufficient room for onlookers—which there certainly were. Some effort had gone into creating a useful set-up, but there were no tiers, no seats for the watchers, only six chairs in an arc for the much-reduced Assembly, all in formal cloaks, and a bench facing them for Kisea and Matt, who was currently not wearing his. The audience was, several rows deep, primarily students, who were sitting on the ground to make it easier for those behind them to see and hear. Nitarai was in the front row, and right beside her was a male siren of an age to be a student, who looked intensely nervous despite several other classmates circling them, protectively Kisea thought. The probable controller, she guessed, whose future hung on this as much as her own did.
At least he had Nitarai there, and on the other side a possibly human male classmate holding his hand much the way Matt was holding Kisea's.
But he didn't have a group of in-laws waiting as well, along with Fala and Jori-in-human-form.
“Kisea Jordan,” Etanynne said.
Some sorcerer was helping with acoustics: her voice carried too clearly without being a shout.
Kisea stood up, let go of Matt's hand. He stayed where he was, close enough for her to reach him, certainly close enough for her to feel his mind against hers, but not trying to hold her.
“The rulings of the Assembly as it currently stands are nonetheless valid and binding,” Etanynne said, “as far as issues that are already before us, at least.” She paused, took a breath.
“On behalf of those current and historical members of the Assembly who were oblivious to what was happening, you and all controllers have our deepest and most wholehearted and fervent apologies. The Assembly and the College failed you tragically and possibly beyond all reasonable forgiveness. We will do everything possible to set things right for the future. The details of sweeping rulings regarding controllers will need to be discussed and confirmed once the Assembly is restored to its proper level. However, what we can do, we will. There will be no more murders of students for having any sort of gift, and we will do our best to ensure that any student at the College will, without exception, feel safe in exploring their gifts and asking for help in doing so with the certainty of support, not condemnation.”
Kisea closed her eyes, wondering which of the gods she should be thanking, as the students cheered.
Though possibly, much of that thanks should be going to a single stormhawk, instead.
Nitarai's friend was safe. Any future controller who came to the College was safe. No one else would have to face the choice she had. It wouldn't happen overnight, but at least officially, they existed and were protected.
“Since the issue of the current telepath Oath being untenable for controllers has been raised, we will be looking at devising a new version of the Oath which will be more appropriate. That, however, will take some time since it should not be done in haste, and we do have a considerable number of urgent issues competing for our attention. Current educational materials need to be reassessed to make certain that all students learn more accurate information.”
More noise from, probably, the students, in clear approval.
“Does the student body find this acceptable?”
“We do,” Nitarai confirmed.
“Do the relay telepaths find this acceptable?”
“We do.” That was Garrick, from not too far back in the audience.
“Do the lifewitches, as a body, find this acceptable?”
“We do,” Olisai said, her voice ringing across the crowd with a distinct note of triumph.
Etanynne nodded. “Kisea. Your current personal legal status is that of a renegade.”
Kisea wrapped both arms around herself and took a deep breath. Here was her own future, the ruling that would determine whether she could go home with Matt and his—their—family or might as well die.
“The law technically states that any telepath of reasonable strength, which you unquestionably are, must swear the Oath or be considered a renegade. However, we've already acknowledged the difficulty with the current Oath, and quite possibly running away from the College before being asked to take it saved your life and led therefore to the exposure of a cancer within the College. The status of renegade is meant to indicate that someone is dangerous in some way, and you have, repeatedly, acted with admirable restraint under extremely trying circumstances. Several of us are uncertain that we would have done as well in your place. You have, in fact, put yourself at risk numerous times in order to help others. The Oath does exist for a reason, however. You asked, originally, that the Assembly recognize that your husband's Oath extends in spirit and legal responsibility to include you as well. For the time being, we consider this to be acceptable, but once there is a viable version of the Oath for controllers, we will expect you to be the first to take it. The Assembly hereby declares that you are no longer a renegade in any sense, and you are free to do as you please with no further need to hide.”
It took a moment for that to sink in, though behind her she heard what was probably the students begin to cheer with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
It was over.
No more hiding. No more conflict. No more impossible choices.
They could just go back to the Manor, and she could try to adjust to having a home and a family.
Etanynne smiled at her, and as the sound level dropped somewhat, she added, “We would like to ask your help with the best way to create that new version of the Oath and with several other matters as well, including updating the woefully inaccurate information available in the library and considering the best approach to help students who share your gift, but there's no hurry. We do understand you have personal matters to deal with.”
To her own utter embarrassment, Kisea felt her breath catch in a sob that just refused to be forced back down, felt tears that wouldn't be stopped, and hid her face in her hands, aware that she was shaking.
Matt stood up long enough to urge her gently to sit on the bench and sat beside her, an arm around her; she turned so she could bury the sobs in his shoulder. He pulled a handkerchief out of somewhere, she had no idea whether it was on him already or magic was involved, and gave it to her.
“I think,” Matt said, “that translates as, thank you. And I second that.”
“Thank you for all the work you've done in bringing this to our attention,” Etanynne said. “As uncomfortable as this has been, something very wrong can now be set right.”
“Go home,” Honora said gently. “Build your life the way you want it. I doubt it will ever be a conventional one, given who you're sharing it with, but it can finally be what you deserve.”
“The trials of those members of the Assembly who were involved in this monstrous conspiracy will take place when they are all fit to take part in it,” Etanynne said. “And when we have a full-strength Assembly to conduct those trials. We are in the process now of considering and contacting candidates, and hope to have the vacant seats filled before long, but we're being somewhat cautious. We are requiring that candidates be questioned under truthspell about several issues. We will make a public announcement when we are able to proceed, and until then, the remainder of the Assembly will continue to deal with any urgent issues that arise as best we can. Thank you all for your patience and your understanding and your cooperation while we work through this situation. This hearing is adjourned.”
Kisea heard a lot of motion around her, but couldn't seem to stop crying, and Matt appeared to be quite willing to hug her tightly and let her cry herself out.
“She's all right?” she heard Nitarai ask softly.
“Yes,” Matt said. “She's been afraid for a long time. Not having to be afraid any more is a big thing.”
“Very,” said a young male voice. “You two saved my life, and I didn't even know it was in danger.”
“Good. Then do something wonderful with it.”
“I've been reading the stuff about healing minds. I think that would be amazing to do.”
“We'll stop by to talk before you leave, maybe,” Nitarai said. “Right now, your family is waiting. Including those cute scary guards of yours.”
*I'm sorry,* she told Matt.
*It's all right. Anyone who matters understands. Anytime you're ready, we can go back to our rooms. And anytime we want to, we can go home. And you can help Kian and Shon and Jori with trying to keep me out of trouble.*
*Probably a lost cause, but worth it. I love you.*
*I love you too.*
*And thank you. For never giving up on me.*
He kissed her forehead. *Thank you for taking the enormous risk of trusting me all over again.*
Sniffling, she drew back enough to wipe her eyes, then blew her nose. That she was red-eyed and flushed and probably not terribly attractive right then, she knew, but there was nothing she could do and what difference did it make? Like Matt had said, those who mattered understood.
“Can we drag Fala back to Jordan Manor for that proper wedding celebration, do you think?” she asked Matt out loud.
He laughed. “We'll think of a way. And we'll get Lenart and Brylain there, too. I'm sure there'll be time while Kara and Lori and Kalli are making plans. With remounts for my parents and both uncles and Kalli, there'll be no problem with her having a horse to ride. It's going to be a long and leisurely trip. I'm not doing anything involving folding time-and-space for ten people, one stormhawk, three pack horses, and over a dozen riding horses. Not even with you there afterwards.” He made that handkerchief vanish, gave her a clean one. “Feel better?”
“I think it's going to take a while for everything to really sink in, but yes, I think so.”
“Good. C'mon, then, Kisea-Shimai Jordan, you have a life to get started on, and after as much time as got lost already, there's no more to waste. Let's go figure out what's next.”
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