Episode 17 — Reluctant Allies

NeVaga is taken once again for an extensive interrogation and mind-search by her Ukari captors. In the mean time, Aquilegia does the best job she can bandaging her own wounds. The Ukar interrogator questions NeVaga on the "surface world", what planets Ukar tribes live on and control, and whether they are all "as weak" as she is. Although she can't quite put her finger on it, she finds something subtly wrong and disturbing about this Ukar community, aside from their hostility.

When she is taken back to the small cave that serves as their jail cell, she and Aquilegia put their heads together and finally realize that there is no one here under the age of puberty, and few even that young. At first they surmise that perhaps through isolation and inbreeding the community has trouble with its lineage, and they consider negotiating help to contact other Ukar populations in exchange for their freedom. Then NeVaga is struck by the thought that, since Ukar psychic powers manifest at puberty and Urge increases with power and age, these might all simply be Urge twins.

They decide that they must escape. Between Aquilegia's careful planning and NeVaga's stealth, they manage to break out — NeVaga leaving a trail of bodies behind. They find a way out of the cave system and back to the surface, and return to meet with Lord Randall's group. NeVaga wants to avoid mentioning the Ukar colony so the matter can be dealt with "internally" by Ukar. Aquilegia is not sanguine about the idea but agrees to table the discussion until they are in a position to act, for now, they are still fugitives from Baron Clement and Duke Rochefort's forces.

In exchange for her promise to help alert the Emperor to the situation in Duke Rochefort's lands, Lord Randall agrees to help Aquilegia's little group make it to Londynium, which has a sizable starport. There they can book passage with the Charioteers or (Lord Randall's preferred option) attempt to steal one of the Duke's ships. The trip to the coast involves many arguments between Aquilegia and Lord Randall on the value and ethics of using terrorism in a guerrilla war.

They spend a few days on a fishing boat crossing from the Clement Barony over to the continent and duchy of Tolth. Lord Randall leaves them there for he is too well-known to show his face in the Duchy, but he leaves one of his men, Hod, to assist Baroness Masseri's group in their escape.

Hod provides disguises to the off-worlders, coaches them carefully, and takes them to Londymium. Disguise in the duchy of Tolth involves copious religious symbols and professions of faith. Aquilegia passes herself off as a lay Amalthean healer — not that much of a stretch — and NeVaga as a member of the Ven Lohji sect. Everyone goes to ground and observes the lay of Londynium and its starport.

After several days of observations from her entourage, Aquilegia decides that they know enough to attempt to sneak into the well-guarded port. She wants to stay away from the most strongly guarded points, military targets and areas with large numbers of people. They choose the dead of night, an hour or so before shift change, under the pretense of refuse collection thanks to NeVaga's Scraver contacts.

The infiltration is a mixed success: they make it into the starport and are for the moment undetected, but they have yet to find and steal a ship.

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