A stir of emotions rippled through the assembled crowd. It started as a whispered buzz, moved to a nervous chatter, climbed a level to a steady babble, and then finally rose in crescendo to the bombastic roar of contrary howling.

The dark woman with the sword ignored it all. She only had eyes for Dominick, and not in the way that romantics spend most of their waking moment dreaming about. The eyes that took him in held suspicion, disdain, loathing, and disgust, but mostly they held anger.

Dominick took an involuntary step back.

Queen Genivene stood and the howling of the crowd died down to an annoyed murmur.

“Captain Ovati,” the Queen addressed the angry woman. “You doubt this man’s claim?”

“I do, my Queen,” the woman, Captain Ovati, said.

“But he bears the mark,” Vivian said in a voice for all in attendance to hear.

“Does he?” Captain Ovati said. “Show us.”

The Triumvirate all turned to Vivian and Dominick. They held a collective look of unease as they realized that each one had publicly accepted Dominick as the One without seeing if he bore the mark.

“Show them the mark, Dominick,” said Vivian.

“What’s happening?” Dominick said.

“That’s Captain Ovati,” Vivian said quietly into his ear, her voice that of one filled with deep disgust. “She’s in charge of Queen Genivene’s Royal Guard. Show them the mark so that we can finish this.”

Dominick held out his right hand before him, palm up.

“For everyone to see,” said Vivian. “Hold it high.”

So Dominick did just that, turning a full three hundred and sixty degrees so that everyone could see the pale, hammer-shaped mark on the palm of his hand.

There were gasps all around.

“There, you see,” said Kendrick the troll. “He bears the Mark of the Hammer of Maxwell.”

“Does this satisfy you, Captain?” the Queen said.

“It does not, my Queen.”

“I have spoken for this man,” the Queen said. “Do you doubt my word?”

“No, my Queen,” the Captain said. “I do not doubt your word. But it is my job to ensure your safety, and in turn, the safety of Haven.”

“Only the One can wield Arakis,” Vivian glided toward Captain Ovati.

Dominick groaned. She mentioned the sword. Why had she mentioned the sword? A cold, sinking feeling grew in his stomach as Vivian continued.

“To any other it is just a sword. But in the hands of the One, well . . . Such power is indescribable.” Vivian smiled.

“You may speak true, fae,” the Captain said, finally turning from Dominick to face Vivian. “But he has not shown me that he can wield the sword. He has not shown any of us.”

“What’s happening?” Dominick repeated.

“Certainly you have heard the stories that your own soldiers have been telling?” Vivian’s voice rose. “How Dominick Hanrahan used Arakis on the field of battle? How he used the sword to call down thunder and lightning? How Hob’s grand army turned tail and ran? Only the One could do this.”

“Yes, I’ve heard the stories,” said Captain Ovati. “I prefer, however, to witness such miracles first hand.”

Vivian didn’t reply.

“He claims to be the one, you say he wields the sword. Let him prove it. Have your puppet call down the thunder and lightning now. Show us all that he is who you say he is.”

“Do you think that wise?” Roberta Green Tree, First Lady and Queen of the Fae stood, a smile on her face. “Lightning in the Great Hall?”

Dominick’s head was swimming. It spun like a record on a turntable, skipping once at the puppet comment. He could call down lightning, probably, it had seemed to come pretty easy to him out there among the chaos of battle. But he couldn’t do it now, regardless of the obvious safety concerns.

“No, Good Lady Green Tree,” said Captain Ovati. “I would not think such an act wise. I only ask because I do not believe he could do it.”

“But you’ve seen the mark,” boomed Kendrick the troll Chieftain. “We have all seen the mark.”

“I have seen the mark, Chief Kendrick,” said Captain Ovati. “But I still do not believe that this man could call down lighting here today.”

“Why?” Queen Genivene said.

“Because he does not carry the sword with him, my Queen.”

There was silence in the hall as all eyes turned from Captain Ovati to Dominick. He wilted under their collective gaze.

This was it. He would have to stand before the very people he had come to save and admit to them all that he lost the sword. He didn’t think he could do it. The thought alone made him want to flee. The silence around him grew from uncomfortable to oppressive as he toyed with the ring that would allow him his only escape. He could be back home in seconds. He’d soon forget about this place and what he’d done. Out of sight, out of mind. He thought of home and the symbol on the ring clouded and formed itself in to a cog with what looked like a microchip behind it. All he had to do now was touch it to his heart.

But no, it didn’t feel right. If he was truly their only hope, how could he run? How could he abandon them to certain death? He still wasn’t sure how he, of all people, was supposed to help, but he’d committed. He couldn’t just walk away.

Dominick raised his head, meeting the eye of Captain Ovati. He opened his mouth to speak, to announce to all present what he had done. Instead, Vivian cut him off.

“Might I suggest we take this elsewhere,” the pixie said to the Triumvirate. “There is something you all need to know, and it is best not discussed with so many present.”

Dominick realized that he could no longer hear the crowd around him.

“Where is the sword?” Captain Ovati stepped up to Dominick.

“Please,” Vivian said, gliding between the two. “No one other that the three of us and the Triumvirate can hear what’s going on, but we need to take this someplace else.”

“Using your magic, are you, pixie?” Captain Ovati said. “You know that magic in the presence of the Triumvirate is forbidden without permission.”

“Explain yourself, Vivian,” Roberta Green Tree stepped down from the dais.

“It is necessary, My Lady,” said Vivian. “I’m afraid I have startling news. I did not want to cause a panic.”

“Where is the sword?” Captain Ovati asked once again.

“It was stolen,” said Dominick, dropping his eyes once more to the floor as shouting erupted all around him.

Here ends Chapter Seven

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