He gave more orders, saying at their completion, “I am going to visit Uslina.” He would no longer call her his aunt. Uslina lived in one of the best apartments in Falcon House. Tyb had died during the war, also, but while on duty. He doubted Tyb’s death planned, but his own ascendancy had displaced Uslina, who he knew as many Falcons disliked as liked. He fell in the former group. When his wife Feather had died during duty, Uslina had once again regained her position as Falcon Matron. No one investigated Feather’s death at the time, but now his new knowledge only ignited Duvan’s suspicion.
He stopped mid-stride. While on duty outside the house, he had left Rea and Quill with her, his own children, who died in an accident outside the house when an exterior walkway had collapsed. The inside of his chest felt like it had twisted into a knot. Had she…? What had he allowed to happen? Would any proof remain?
“Leader Duvan?” Shannon, a passing Falcon asked, concern lining her voice.
He gave a brief smile and waved a dismissive hand at her. “A stray thought halted me, Shannon.” He began to walk again, his thoughts running rampant. How had the law enforcement branch of the Dominion Conclave become so… treacherous? Has my own family member become a traitor to their house’s mission? His gut churned in reaction.
House Matron Uslina, since Feather’s death, held prominent posts on several important house committees, including placement and promotion. What he suspected, and now acknowledged to himself at least, he had suspected for a long time. Uslina embraced power over the mission, over integrity, even over ethics. Would she cross unfathomable barriers to reach her goal? Why had
she treated Maera so hideously? Did she arrange my children’s deaths? Why kill my Rea and Quill? I have no proof, only her treatment of Maera, nothing about my children. He felt his eyes brim with tears but held them back. What about my uncle, Uslina’s husband and house leader before my father? What about all those deaths?
“I will investigate. I will find the truth. This I can do,” he promised himself. Once again, he thanked circumstances that he held no direct blood link to Uslina.
The door tender showed Uslina remained at home. Using his power, he laughed considering his recent contemplations and entered the premises unannounced. Uslina used her connex and seeing him, ended her conversation, and disengaged her device. She smiled at him, and said, “To what do I owe the honor of your visit, dear Duvan? Has this something to do with the Eagle now Raven who just visited?” She spoke as if she exposed her investigative skills.
Never considered beautiful by most Falcon males, he knew Uslina plain but not ugly. She held typical Falcon traits of medium brown hair, dark brown eyes with hints of gold, but her nose hooked more than curved. Her expression he considered calculating. He knew since her husband’s death, she preferred women mates. He had no problem with her sexual choices, only that she had betrayed her vows to his uncle.
He grasped his hands behind him in a tight clasp. “I am moving some assignments around to give more opportunities to Falcons who have received exemplary duty reports, so I must realign the committees and those in charge of them. To accomplish this I have removed you from the Novice Training and Placement Committee, and the House Security Committee.”
“You cannot do that; I chair those committees,” Uslina responded. “I am House Matron and my position gives me authority over them.”
“My father appointed you to those duties after his wife’s death, but now I make these decisions. I need someone in those positions who has experienced the rigors of the jobs.”
Her body stiffened and her chin rose while she glared at him in outrage. “Do not make such a bad blunder. I will not stand beside you to share the house shame when you need moral support.”
“Since you have seldom stood beside me for any reason, even when I mourned my wife and children, I can easily accept that.”
“You were lucky. Your unworthy wife lacked skills in jobs the upper echelons of Falcon House face anyway. Her death frees you to take a Falcon woman worthy of being the leader’s wife.”
“I will leave you as a member of the two committees you remain on, for now.”
“Oh, thank you, you underling and unworthy leader. I could have made a better Falcon Leader. Too bad I didn’t. This house would have much better control.”
“Too bad the Falcons themselves decided otherwise.” He turned and left. Her connex smashed against the door as he reached it. He looked over his shoulder at the angry hatred staring at him. “Falcon House will not provide a new one,” he said as he left. He would need to protect his back.