He met the gaze of his only ally, Jetr, a man from a distant galaxy who had been an ally of Anshan for three generations.
"I think you prefer war, my friend," Jetr said with his gentle humor.
"It has nothing to do with that, Jetr, as you know," he said.
"In the meantime, you've driven up a debt to them," Jetr reminded him.
"I've heard this before, Jetr," A'Ran said.
Jetr, the only Council member he trusted, had been an ally for three generations of his family without appearing to age.
"The Council wants an end to the millennia-old blood war between Anshan and Qatwal," Jetr said.
"I'm not saying I agree, just that it must be done," Jetr said.
"Not sanctioned, just not prevented," Jetr corrected.
I'll do it, Jetr, for you, not the Council.
You forget: I am not a warrior bound by honor but a diplomat accustomed to undermining others, Jetr replied.
But this was Jetr warning him.
Jetr was stacking a new problem on a pile of other problems he couldn't deal with.
If that doesn't work, I'll take your sisters to my planet, Jetr answered.
Jetr bowed his head, sensing the dismissal.
Anshan-- a chunk of rock in space-- was smarter than the entire Council combined, even Jetr, who was content to mediate between him and the Council without truly choosing sides.
Jetr had been loyal to his family for generations, and A'Ran respected him, knew the odd-looking man was the only reason the Council hadn't ceded to the Yirkins' petitions to claim the planet officially.
He'd contact Jetr when they were clear of Qatwal to let him know everything had gone as he predicted.
If what Jetr suspected were true, Ne'Rin would do less damage if he didn't know what A'Ran did while away.
Jetr, you are welcome to join us.
Jetr took the dismissal with a bow of his head and moved away.
Jetr met his gaze with a small smile and deferential bow of his head.
Jetr was one of the only champions A'Ran had on the Council.
"A'Ran, a word," Jetr said as he prepared to leave.
Jetr crossed to the door and closed it before asking, "Have you given any thought to what I warned you of a few weeks ago?"
He trusted Jetr as much as he dared trust anyone.
"I only ask because my own personal guards-- who, with your permission, keep an eye on the moon-- have had transmissions from Anshan that did not come from your commanders," Jetr said very carefully.
"We traced the communications to be from the personal communications device of the man who claims to be dhjan of Anshan," Jetr continued when he did not speak.
And the Council will help you build allies, Jetr said.
Jetr said nothing but offered a small bow of his head.
He carried it with him to the long, pointless Council meeting, to his afternoon sparring session with Jetr, to the banquet and introduction of his nishani to the clan leaders.
The Council split on sanctioning me, and those whose support Jetr swayed for me are sending their armies to battle.
"You are forbidden from destroying another's planet," Jetr reminded him.
I want my planet back, Jetr, and the Council has done nothing in all these sun-cycles but impede me.
Jetr was quiet for a long moment before he said, "Very well."
Contact me when you're safe, Jetr said.
She didn't doubt Jetr had reached out to Evelyn, or her friend would never have come.
She stopped within full view of Jetr and waited, not wanting to draw the attention of the entire Council to her.
Jetr listened and spoke, glancing over after a few minutes.
"I'm fine, Jetr," she replied.
I don't think anyone will want to cross him for a long time, Jetr said, amused.
It was hard to trust Jetr when he seemed so … squirrelly.
She recognized Romas and his father, two other Council members with Jetr, and a few more strangers.
Jetr motioned her to the side, and the men gathered in the center of the room, facing the largest viewer.
The lights dimmed as Jetr brought the viewer online.
This one will make reparations for the loss of your planet, Jetr said.
"Second," Jetr continued, unruffled.
Jetr glanced at Mison, who glanced at her.
Jetr stepped beside her, and Mison looked hard at her.
"You've captured none of my men, and Jetr is no more a prisoner than anyone else in your house," A'Ran growled.