Title: Warrior’s Watchtower
Author: Aedan Byrnes
“I am yours, and you are mine…Whatever comes now, we are one.”
Her heroes are gone, taken together in a flash by a vengeful God leaving Jondre to find her way alone. Befriended by a woman who knows more than she’s telling, she makes a choice to try to help what’s left of her family and finds herself at the seat of power but also the center of the expanding abyss. Her world is nothing that it seemed.
A Eupion raid near the boundary delivers a surprise to High House, a new tragedy to deal with and the catalyst for an even more difficult future to come. Just when she thinks there cannot be more, she sees the most fearsome immortal she’s ever encountered, and as match-mates are revealed, this one is hers. Nothing is simple anymore.
There is no simple description for Aedan Byrnes. Obsessive, dreamer, reclusive, compulsive, outdoorsman and wordsmith would be among the list if one were started. The displaced Gael lives in the upper Midwest with family between jaunts wherever the road goes. A frequent traveler, Aedan is as likely to be found rock climbing, spelunking, sitting fireside dreaming or aimlessly floating away as hiding with pen and paper working on the next tale.
A lifelong lover of words and writing, Aedan claims a diverse reading appetite and the writing reflects the myriad influences. A self-proclaimed ‘reader’s writer’, the emotional and sensory results of word combinations outweigh the visceral comprehension of phrases for the stories and drives the prose. The original ‘Eclectic Bard’ enjoys the special magick of storytelling, those who embrace the challenge of writing, and the dreamers who get whisked away by the words making the journey worth taking.
If I would have blinked I would have missed it. It was that fast. For every breath of every moment of my life one or more of them were there and yet in the span of time between breaths every one of them had disappeared.
Playing it back in my head, it was just too fast. I didn’t see it coming until the moment it happened, and then I couldn’t believe it happened.
“What have you learned Vengelys?”
“We have learned we are at war.”
“What else have you learned? You should have known we were at war.”
“We have learned that our adversary is wily and cunning and we have been, but should not underappreciate his tenacity in the war he is waging.”
“Do you infer that the strength of the enemy has been misrepresented to you Vengelys?”
“Do you believe then that the complexities of the war we wage are beyond our abilities?”
Tynan reached up to tap him out and take over. Rigor would never allow that I’m sure, but Tynan had tried anyway. I’m not the only one who noticed. Amaranos seemed to launch at the action as Rigor refocused fully on the God.
“Do you act in union or from a divided front? Perhaps it is not the war that was the problem with your ability to deal with the situation you discovered.”
“We stand as one, Amaranos.”
“Do you? It would seem that your kin believes they have the ability to stand before me with a calmer presence. Perhaps you should let them try.”
“We stand as one, and I speak for us all. My brother was reminding me to remember my place. It is his job to protect me as it would be mine to protect any of the others of us here before you.”
“Do you need reminding of where you stand? Is my presence before you not reminder enough?”
“No, I do not need reminding, though I appreciate his reminder just the same.”
I had never seen my father sit so still. His eyes were the only things that changed. They grew larger and larger as the comments flew between Rigor and Amaranos. My mother’s hands were red from ringing them and shaking in her lap. As I watched, Asmodai started to twitch and shake in the line behind Rigor. Tynan and Mastema traded worried eye glances. They were all showing the nervousness and fear I was feeling and I wasn’t standing there so I imagine it was multiplied for them. Kyrna’s forehead wept a large shiny sweat tear. I watched it splat on the stone floor before I looked back to Rigor again as Amaranos continued his verbal siege of my brothers.
“Do you supposition then that the task you were charged with was beyond you and your brother’s abilities? Is that why you flinch and fidget before me?”
“No my liege. I believe, as we all do, that we will become better with more training and that we completed the charge given to the best of our abilities.”
“So you instead infer that you were sent out ill equipped for the battle you were asked to take on. To read between the lines of your answer, you are yet unskilled and need training to become that which Amarine believed you had already evolved to. Perhaps my other face had seen something that I myself cannot, as I see a group of brothers with far to go.”
Rigor shook. He looked like he was going to explode apart he was shaking so hard.
“Stand. Down. Vengelys. I will not say it again.”
Rigor stood, but barely. My father grabbed the arms of the chair, but his whitened knuckles betrayed the energy he was fighting to stay put. My mother dropped her head to look down and I could hear her muttering something to herself. All I caught of it was ‘Please…’ I could only look on in disbelief.
These were my brothers. These were the heroes of my waking and dreaming times. The sight of them fidgeting and failing in front of the God and the people was breaking my heart. Rigor turned to the line behind him and turned back on a rough growl at Dom who had lifted a foot toward him. What that was about I had no idea, but Rigor was having none of it. When he turned back to face us, he was different. His face was a mask of rage and his eyes had a fire in them I had never seen before. I loved every one of my brothers, but the idea of facing any of them as Rigor appeared right then had me torn between tears and screams.
“No Amaranos I would not stand down, and I am evolved. We took on a charge from Amarine and completed it. We have brought forward four Eupion, three males and a female found on this side of the portals and demonstrated by the items they had with them that they were here establishing an operation on our lands. We did this because we believed Amarine wished us to do so. It was not simple. It was not without confusion, and it was not without knowledge that we could have been better prepared, but in an effort to honor the charge, we did as we were told. Could we have done better? Perhaps. Could other warriors of longer tenure done better? Perhaps. Will we know one way or another for certain? No, because we did as we were tasked without stopping to question if we should or should not. We sealed into purpose for the throne and the throne bid us proceed.”
The collective gasp was so loud it hurt my ears, or maybe that was just me. Amaranos was visibly angry…red. faced. angry. The air in the room changed and any in the gallery who had been whispering, went silent.
“What did you say to me?”
“With respect, I said…”
With a gesture of his hand Amaranos silenced Rigor, freezing him in place.
“No Vengelys, as you have not respected, you will not proceed. Let all who are herein know that this impudence and blatant disrespect is not tolerated in the high house of Amaranth.”
A flash of light sparked between Rigor and my brothers in line behind him. As we watched it grew fatter and deeper between them. Rigor had no idea. I wanted to shout, knowing that would lump me in with them, but I could not find my voice. The six of them in line behind Rigor looked at each other, but that was the only movement before I watched them slide together. As the gaping hole got closer to Rigor, though he couldn’t see it, he must have known. His frozen form did not change, but his eyes grew larger and the fire in them blazed. He seemed to get bigger before my eyes too, but I think it was me feeling smaller and smaller as I knew I couldn’t help him.
It was all over but the jump and I nearly missed that. As Rigor began to tip over backwards, the rest of them grabbed on and they were gone. Replaying it in my mind changes nothing. I still cannot believe it.
I cannot breathe. I cannot cry. I cannot fathom the implications of this. I want to rub my eyes and see them there, that their disappearance through the now perfect floor was just an illusion. It isn’t.
I’ve never seen my father weep until this moment. My mother is caught in a vortex of rage, grief and denial that mimics the emotions I cannot summon to the surface.
Before I know or notice, everyone else is gone too. The gallery, full to bursting earlier, is now empty. The court high seat, where Amaranos waved them off to no one knows where, is also void. All that remain are my parents and I; all numb, all shocked, all stilled in our disbelief.
Amaranos had raged all through the high light rise to peak and pitch before my brother’s arrival. For the neutral between the faces of the God, he was ruthless in his rule of the people. News of raids, open portals, and reports of missing emgur, durab and mataur from near the boundary had soured the day before the seven men I loved best after my father had walked in to stand at court center.
I imagine they were blind-sided. Given the notoriety they had gained in the war, I think everyone in the room was. I had expected their strides against the Eupion advancements to have been met with praise, not disdain. How wrong we had all been.
Saying it out loud, even as a whisper does nothing to make the obvious more real. The echo of those two little words around the now empty court chamber only serves to lance the wound in my chest to a deeper cavern of empty. It can’t be, but I know it is.