“I…I don’t know!” Ilnorat stammered. “This just…doesn’t make any sense!”
“Allow me to shed some light on the situation,” Alessandra said in a soft, dangerous voice, placing herself in between Torea and Ilnorat and crossing her arms across her chest. “How I killed Bezzum is irrelevant. The important thing for you to remember, is that I did kill him, and I did it with ease. If you have a problem with me being Clan Master, you are welcome to challenge me, and I will gladly destroy you. Otherwise, get used to the fact that I am now the Clan Master.”
“I…,” Ilnorat began, and swallowed hard. “Yes. Of course, Clan Master. Forgive my indiscretion.” Alessandra stared at her coldly for a few moments, and then she suddenly smiled warmly.
“I understand this is an unusual situation,” she said. “I’m kind of having a hard time believing it myself. I know a lot of people in this clan don’t like me, and I don’t expect people to fall in love with me immediately just because I’m the Clan Master now. But I do hope you, and everyone else who dislikes me, will give me a fair chance to do a good job.”
“Of course, Clan Master,” Ilnorat said, bowing her head. “I will do my best.” She turned and followed Meachen out the door, and Vegora followed after both of them, nodding to Alessandra in respect as he left.
“You handled that well,” Torea said in an impressed tone as soon as the door closed.
“I’ve never lacked for confidence, Torea,” Alessandra said, settling down in the chair behind what used to be Bezzum’s desk. “Now I’ve got the power to back that confidence up.”
“So it would seem,” Torea said, rubbing her chin. She looked as if she were going to say more, but Alessandra cut her off.
“I know, Torea,” she said, holding up one hand. “You want to know what happened. I will tell you…someday. But for right now, I need you to tell me how to be Clan Master.”
“I’m glad you’re willing to take my advice,” Torea said, smiling. “I have to admit, the first thing I thought, once I got over the shock of seeing you kill Bezzum, was that you were going to want to charge in headfirst and completely change everything here. You’ve always been more than a little stubborn.”
“And that stubbornness has served me well, wouldn’t you say?” Alessandra asked, spreading her hands wide. “But this is what I’ve wanted my whole life, and I’m not about to screw it up by being stubborn. I know Bezzum ran this clan well. As much as I hated him, I have no intention of fixing what isn’t broken.”
“I’m very glad to hear it, Clan Master,” Torea said, bowing her head. “Well, shall we get to work?”
“One thing, first,” Alessandra said. “I know you and Bezzum were…close, and I just want you to know that I had no intention of hurting you, and I’m sorry if his death grieves you.” Torea studied Alessandra for a few moments, her lips pursed.
“May I be honest, Clan Master?” Torea said, and Alessandra nodded. “Bezzum was a miserable bastard, and I’m glad he’s dead.” Alessandra’s eyes widened in shock at these words, and Torea laughed. “Surprised? You shouldn’t be. You saw the truth of who Bezzum was better than most of the people in this clan. I did as well, but that’s only because I worked side by side with him for many years.”
“But…but…you slept with him! I thought…”
“Occupational hazard,” Torea said with a shrug. “Bezzum didn’t exactly trust his Clan Leaders, but he trusted me more than the others, because it’s hard to keep secrets from a woman who shares your bed.” Alessandra stared at Torea, dumbfounded, and then all of sudden she burst out laughing.
“Torea, you conniving wench!” she exclaimed. “I never had any idea! I could never understand how you got along so well with that gutter slime, and now I finally find out that you didn’t! You are truly a master of deceit!”
“Goes along with the job, usually,” Torea said with a shrug. “If I had been too open about my feelings toward Bezzum, you would have liked me more, but I would have been sidelined by Bezzum, if not exiled. Conversely, if I acted like I was completely on Bezzum’s side, that would have increased my power and standing, but you wouldn’t have trusted me at all. It was a delicate balancing act.”
“Why even care about whether I trusted you or not?” Alessandra asked. “I’m just a nobody. Or at least I was, until today.”
“I’ve always seen potential in you, Alessandra,” Torea said intently. “I knew you had it in you to be Clan Master someday. Granted, I didn’t think it would happen so soon, but I knew it would happen.”
“That’s…that’s pretty high praise,” Alessandra said, taken aback. “I kind of wish I’d known that, especially when you were dragging me through the halls to physically throw me out of the building.” Torea blushed slightly, but she continued to meet Alessandra’s gaze.
“You know I was just doing what I had to do,” she said firmly. “I explained why I had to go along with exiling you at the time, and I stand by those reasons. I had a plan in place to overthrow Bezzum and replace him, eventually. I was hopeful that you would stay alive long enough for me to become Clan Master and then find you and end your exile. But I guess those plans are irrelevant now.”
“I feel a little bad about that,” Alessandra said with a slight shrug. “You would have made a great Clan Master, Torea. But I have no intention of swapping places with you.”
“Nor should you,” Torea replied. “You earned your place, as it should be. Now enough of this. We need to get some work done, and then you need food and some rest. Let’s get to it.”
To be continued…