"Mother," Maleen said. "I can't read Goth. I am quite sure she and the Leewit were pranking my friend this afternoonbut I can't find anything at all in her mind about it."
"Yes?" Toll said, her tone mildly interested. "I see," she said, after a moment. "Goth?"
Goth blinked at her. "Yes?"
"I think we need to go see Alran," Toll said. "If you can hide something from your sister and myself both, it would be quite interesting to know if you can hide it from our best mind-readers and how you do it."
"How do you know I'm hiding anything?" Goth asked, innocently.
Toll snorted. "Goth, dear, I know full well you and your sister were both in town, but I cannot find it in your mind. Come on," she said pleasantly, motioning to the door. "Alran will be waiting."
Goth shrugged and got to her feet, like a snake uncoiling.
The witches found Karres in the Talsoe system. It was to the Galactic South of the Empire and out in what amounted to the sticks. Very little of interest was out that way, so few people came looking. The world was beautiful and the planetaries were quite friendly if reticent.
Of course, the Talsoe system was too far out of the way for the witches to be able to quite do everything they wanted to.
Moving a world isn't simple, but oddly enough it turned out to be quite a lot simpler than moving a smaller ship would turn out to be. Klatha scales unpredicatablyas unpredictably as what klatha powers an individual will develop are.
Goth eyed Maleen. "What's got you worked up?" she asked.
Maleen pursed her lips delicately. "Had an awful big premonition. Going to go talk to Jerasin," she said. Jerasin was Karres' best probability calculator and the oldest witch still living. He actually spent most of his time telling the children of Karres stories.
"It's important, I think," Maleen said. "We're going on a trip."
"Just us?" Goth asked, interested.
"Likely," Maleen said. "We'll see."
Goth grinned. "Good. Been bored."
Eighty years ago, the witches moved Karres to its fairly-permanent position in the Iverdahl System from east of the Empire, not too far from the Chaladoor and Uldune, to gather information on Worm World, the great ship Manaret, and the Nuri globes.
Fifty years before that, it had been hidden within the Empire itself.
Before that, the Hersai system, where the witches had a nice restful spell; the Kirla system, where Karres weathered the worst wars and where they learned to buildand therefore unbuilddeadly war robots; and before that, of course, was the Talsoe system.
"Why'd we have to get captured by slavers?" the Leewit asked, once the guards finally left them mostly . "We coulda gotten away."
Maleen sighed. "It's not a good situation, but it'll come out right in the end, I promise," she said.
The Leewit looked at her sister suspiciously. "You premoted something?"
"Well, yes," Maleen said, calmly. "It's just important to have patience."
Goth snorted to herself. "Soon as we're off this crate, we can get free."
Maleen pursed her lips. "Yes. But not immediately. Oh, we'll be able to," she said, cutting the Leewit's protests off. "It's just that I think it might be a better idea to wait a bit. We're going to meet someone. It's actually why... well. We're going to meet someone and it's best if we wait for him."
The Leewit pouted prettily and begged to hear about who it was they were going to meet, but Maleen felt she'd said enough.
Sedmon the Fifth was not a good man, particularly, but he was a very smart one and perhaps even a great one. He saw that piracy would not sustain his empire for the long-run and in enlightened self-interest, reformed things just enough to get by.
A few witches might have given him the idea.
Uldune did make a convenient stop-over.
"Me," Goth said, after Maleen sort of awkwardly brought up finding Captain Pausert someone to marry. "It ought to be me."
Toll and Threbus looked at each other for a moment before looking back at their daughter.
"I like him," she said, before anyone said anything. "He's brave, has a good heart. And I'm young enough that he's not messing with my klatha; by the time I'm marriageable, we can come back."
Maleen didn't really look happy, but Toll and Threbus and everyone else felt that Goth had a good point, and in the end Maleen agreed that it should be Goth, looking relieved.
Karres witches are nearly mythical to most of the rest of the galaxy; many people have never even heard of them. It's intentional, of course, and entirely pragmatic; witches find they can generally go about doing that which needs done most easily if most people don't even know they exist, much less that they're about.
Goth looked up from her packing to see her mother watching her with a small smile.
"Take care of Pausert for us," Toll said.
Goth smiled. "I will," she said.
Toll hesitated a moment. "I'm not entirely certain I ought to tell you this, but it's considered probable you and he will end up right in the thick of some very dangerous business. It's part of why we've given Pausert what we didof course we're very glad he brought the three of you back, and we're certainly glad to see him coming awake. But it's also likely you'll both need the money."
Goth frowned. "I suppose you can't tell me what we might end up in the middle of."
"No, I can't," Toll said. "We're not entirely sure of it all, anyway."
Goth folded over her bagit was quite small, a few clothes, a bundle of wires, and a few oddly shaped and oddly textured stones. "I'll take care of him," she said, calmly.
Toll smiled at Goth, gave her a gentle hug and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Be safe, daughter," she whispered.