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An old friend from home brings troubling news to Gaeron, senior counselor to the King. What does it forbode?
Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. ~ Pamela Vaull Starr ~
There was a knock on Gaeron’s door. Sighing, the man drew himself out of his engrossing project and put down the vial of acid he was working with. His hair was in an uncharacteristic pony tail at the back of his neck, and his beard was braided to keep it out of his way while messing with his experiments. He stepped around the lab table and pulled the door open. He smiled with delight as he saw who was standing there.
“Rei! How are you! It’s been so long! How are you, old friend?”
“Too long, my friend, too long,” said the gentle voice of the young man in front of him.
Gaeron shook the man’s hand vigorously and slapped his back in welcome. The shy ambassador flashed him a gentle smile and hesitantly entered the room. He wore a gray single suit, a common uniform for an Enlian, and his black, slightly wavy hair hung down to his neckline. His black eyes beamed out from beneath his longish hair, peering about at Gaeron’s collection of vials and tables.
“Wow… it’s almost like home… if a bit archaic in nature.” He stepped over and read a few labels on the shelves. “Really, hand written labels and all. They don’t even let you spring for a type writer in this place?”
“Did you come here to criticize an old man?”
“Hah!” Rei turned and wagged a warning finger at the white bearded man in front of him. “If you are an old man, then so am I.” He stroked his own smooth shaven face, unlined with worry and time. “That act you play for the people here won’t work with me, old friend. Or have you forgotten the two of us getting stuck up in that tree as kids?”
Gaeron chuckled and walked over to the long couch he used some nights to sleep on. He gathered an armful of books and papers from the cushions and tossed them into a corner of the already cluttered workspace. He sank into it and laughed lightly at his friend. Beneath his matted brows, his frown lines almost disappeared.
“I’m sorry, I forgot who I was talking to for a moment.” He ran his hand through his wooly hair and sighed. “You play an old man for long enough, you start believing it yourself. It’s hard maintaining the stern facial expression too. So tiring on the muscles.” He rubbed his face with his hands.
“Must be hard. You look almost human now. You use some pretty mild acting and makeup skills to mask over your true appearance. Is it really worth all of this? Ever think of just coming home? Then you could take some time for Conversion and…”
“Don’t talk to me about that. I have no intention of turning myself over to Converters any time soon.” His eyes were dark as they stared across the room at Rei. The man hesitated, a look of surprise on his face, and then ducked his head, shaking it ruefully.
“Whatever you say, Gaeron, my friend. You make your own choices for your life, no matter what others say or think. I have to say your decision still boggles my mind. To give up all that…”
“I don’t regret the decisions that drove me from Enli, Rei.”
“Ok, sure. I know that.” Rei moved over and found a seat on a smaller stuffed chair. He stretched his long thin legs out and tried to relax as he considered Gaeron.
Gaeron cleared his throat, looking around the room for a moment before continuing.
“I didn’t know Enli was sending a representative to the celebration. This is a good sign.” Rei’s face became uncomfortable again. Gaeron felt an old bitterness rise in his chest, sure that the next words were going to bring back the feelings of disappointment he’d tried to forget.
“I didn’t know they were sending anyone either until they gave me a sealed message for the King and told me to come. I would have delivered it already, but the guards are not allowing anyone to see the King. So I thought I’d come and speak to my dear friend Gaeron about delivering this thing.” He waved a thin silver canister in the air between them, an apologetic look upon his face.
“I’m sorry to hear the guards are being over diligent. I’ll speak to Korwin about it. What sort of message is coming from Enli?” Gaeron’s premonition of ill from Enli increased.
“A pact for peace.”
Gaeron’s eyes widened.
“I wasn’t aware that we were at war. What is this nonsense, Rei?” Foreboding filled Gaeron.
“Enli wants Korwin to give them permission to be neutral in any sort of war or invasion. They are determined not to be involved in any internal conflict.” The gentle voice was sour and he couldn’t bring himself to look up at the expression on Gaeron’s face.
“Then they know something and are refusing to get involved.” Gaeron cursed solidly, his face flushing. He clenched his fists and pressed them hard into his thighs.
“That’s about the extent of it,” Rei said, leaning forward, his hands clasped, elbows on knees. “I cannot say that I agree with the elders, Gaeron. This stand of isolation, to protect their interests, doesn’t sit well with me either. But I can do nothing, not with over three quarters of Enli ratifying this move.” He shook his head sadly. “You can’t blame them, Gaeron. They’ve been outcasts for generations. They know something is coming, but they won’t step in and save people who call them demons and witches.”
Gaeron sat with his eyes closed. Danger was coming to Angstel and they would do nothing. With all their vast powers, they would let the rest of Angstel fall. The old rage welled up within him. He had meant what he told Rei: he did not now, nor would he ever, regret leaving home.
“So they will let Angstel burn around them. How typical.” The bitterness in Gaeron’s voice lashed out at Rei, but his friend just nodded sadly.
“They have confidence that they can repel any harm to their own citizens, so what need do they have for the rest of Angstel?”
“You know, Rei, one of these days, that defense system won’t be enough. Someone’s going to know how to break through it and then where will Enli and their damn council be stuck with no one to come and cover their backs. I can’t believe they are willing to sacrifice all protective agreements to make this move!”
“Come now, Gaeron. You know how it is… none of the people of this country have the slightest idea what they owe to this very council. Your own boy king has no idea what we of Enli have done for all these centuries to ensure the protection of Angstel. None of them have the slightest clue!”
“Yes, yes. But why this?” A look of realization dawned on Gaeron’s face. “Something is wrong with the western shield and they can’t fix it!”
“I don’t know anything about that, Gaeron, it’s not my field of expertise. All I know is that I spoke up against this move, it is too obvious to me that they are avoiding an issue. I’m not sure if it’s that it’s something that can’t be fixed, or rather a lack of desire to fix it.”
Gaeron shook his head and frowned furiously at the far wall. He calmed himself; it wasn’t Rei’s fault. Neither of them had, over the years, whether by brash insistence, nor by gentle persuasion, been able to affect change in the community of people who inhabited Enli. Their xenophobia was increasing with each passing generation, and ultimately, they were choosing their own fate.
Rei nervously cleared his throat.
“I was also sent with a request for you.” Rei waited until Gaeron looked up at him.
“Your parents wish to know if you are well and whether you will ever come to visit them. Your father said that 70 years was long enough to ostracize your family.” He was well prepared for the lashing he received as the white haired man across from him lost his temper, growling under his breath as he leapt up off the couch.
“My parents can go to hell!” Fury warred with long forgotten memories of his parents and home.
He was a man who cursed the fate that made him of Enlian blood. He had fled from them; he had been sickened by of the isolationism they kept. Kept? No, rather, forced upon their people. It was a surprise in fact that his parents would even send him a message after so long. One was banished from Enli when one chose to reproach the council and leave to live among the “norms” of Angstel. Gaeron’s face flushed as he remembered the events that had brought him out of Enli.
“Do you remember all those dreams we had when we were kids, Gaeron? We used to lie out at night and talk about the great things we would do, how we would change the world, both inside Enli and for those outside? It’s been a long time, tomodachi, since we shared those dreams. So many decades.” Rei smiled lightly. “I’ve watched several sons grow up and go from being apprentices to journeyman, to masters in their fields of work. And you… no family of your own, but you have helped raise three generations of kings.”
“Yes… sadly, it seems, that this lineage of kings is cursed to suffer. Even yet, the house of Avril still totters precariously. And yet they are each such good men…” his voice trailed off and he shook his head, all the years of experience and memories of the past overwhelming him.
“You still think of him, don’t you?”
“Who…Aiyan? Of course.”
“You’ve never been able to find out what happened to him?”
“Not a clue,” Gaeron said roughly. “How a king just disappears, without a trace, is beyond me. I thought we’d found him once, in some far off village, but it was only idle gossip. Every few years we think we find a clue, but then poof! Nothing materializes.” He paused, taking a deep breath. “I’m sure he died somehow, off alone in this world. What happened with surrounding the insanity around Korwin’s birth mother and everything… he just frankly seemed to have lost his mind. Poor man.”
The vision of a woman he had long forgotten filled Gaeron’s inner sight. Mariana. Was it she who controlled Aiyan? After her disappearance… Aiyan was never the same. All those dreams…those visions. Gaeron rubbed his forehead again, wishing he’d been more aware of the affects of those who had contact with the Dark Regions. From the Dark Regions came anarchy and death. Mariana was certainly one of their kin, and Aiyan had fallen into her trap so easily. And at times, he wondered when Korwin might show the signs of that heritage. His mother was born of the Dark. Will he ever evidence that genetic heritage?
Gaeron’s eyes turned to Rei, who watched him with mild eyes. His friend knew the passions that drove him from Enli so many decades ago, the one who seemed to support him through his travails despite his ostracism from the rest of Enli. It was Rei who had listened to him up until the last day in Enli, who had tried to calm his fury at the council of elders. And it was Rei who was the last to watch him walk away from through the gates of Enli. Rei’s calmer mentality and milder ambitions kept him content, working to try and slowly open the eyes of his fellows to what was going on outside the walls of Enli, but he never brashly angered those around him. So much unlike his friend Gaeron, whose passions sent him racing into the unknown, certain that his life was not meant to be lived within the grey confines of their little city kingdom.
And it was Rei who, of all the people from his previous life, who came and visited him from time to time, telling him the latest news from home. Gaeron knew his parents would never leave the confines of Enli, out of fear of the “norms” who were dangerous and hateful in their eyes. Gaeron sighed heavily.
“Don’t worry, Rei. I won’t kill the messenger. Even though the rest of them are intolerable fools, you have always been, and will always be, my friend. Although you do not yet see cause to leave Enli, you do not agree with their ideals either.” His eyes softened as he smiled at his friend, seeing the kind empathy in Rei’s eyes.
“Come on,” Gaeron said. “The celebration is about to commence. I can get you to Korwin and I’m sure he’ll ratify this for Enli. I won’t tell him what he is signing away. It wouldn’t help the situation and Korwin would only be turned away if he ever went begging them for help anyways, sign or not. Better to give them their neutrality and forget they even exist.”
Gaeron opened the door and felt Rei’s hand on his shoulder.
“As long as you never forget me along with them,” Rei said softly, his eyes seeking reassurance from his longtime friend.
Gaeron sighed and shook his head, a wry smile on his lips.
“You, my friend, will always be welcome. Now, let’s go celebrate.” His tone was heavy and he was frowning again, looking very old, and very anxious, as he escorted Rei to Korwin’s office.
|Legacy of Power Chapter One||Legacy of Power Chapter Two|
|The Stars Fell From Heaven: Prologue|