In the alcove was a low table, placed below a mural on the wall behind it. Lit by candlelight, the image of a woman in old fashioned battle gear looked down, gently smiling. She was carrying two daggers, and her auburn hair flowed out behind her like a flag.

The Evinthei’s principal families were descended from fifteen men and women who had once been the ruling elite of Nones, led by the ancient warlord Jayton Ember. There were shrines to each of them in the Central Complex, about one to every tenth floor. This one was dedicated to Jayton Ember’s lover and second-in-command - Adree’s direct ancestor, Adrigal Lawley.

Adree took one of the unlit candles, touched the wick to one of those already burning, and set it on the altar below the painting while she knelt to pray. As always, she was struck by just how closely the colour of the painting’s hair matched her own.

My father named me after her. I know he thinks I’m like her, as well as looking like her…  But – I don’t believe in reincarnation, not the way he does. Adrigal is Adrigal, and Adree is Adree.

Still…a part of her lives on in me, even if it’s only the DNA that gave me my telepathic talent. I hope I can live up to her legend. History’s important.

Adree knelt comfortably, looking up at the painting as she had countless times over the years. But tonight she was too sad to feel spiritual. She felt sorrowful and angry at the deaths of her men, especially Garbeton. Although she had pulled the trigger, Adree felt no guilt. Injured, he presented a greater risk than she was willing to accept. Athellus Borden’s defection had taught them that hard lesson.

Yes. Him and that weird partner of his, and the third one. They fought well, but they’ve got no conception of honour. They ambushed us. It just proves banru don’t belong in civilised society. They’re an archaic throwback, and an offence against the natural order. When I’m leader, I’m going to Gate out whenever I have the chance, and hunt them down. Every last one…

The eyes of the painting held her own. And a treacherous thought spoke up in Adree’s mind: Make all the resolutions you want. Just don’t forget that, while most of Nones lies in ruins, the rest of it, the very ground this building stands upon, was saved by the banru you supposedly hate so much.

She sighed.

“Help me,” she whispered to the image. “Help me be a great leader. Help me live up to what my father’s achieved – what all of you achieved.” And then, in a softer voice: “And help me catch him. Help me catch Athellus.”

She wasn’t aware of saying ‘catch’ instead of ‘kill’. If anyone had mentioned it, she would have corrected herself. But there was no one to hear.

Weary, she sank forwards, leaning against the altar with her legs curled up and her sore arm cradled against her chest. She was so exhausted she dozed off where she was sitting. A captain who stopped by the shrine later on found her there, fast asleep. He had come to pray, but he saw the troubled expression on her face, and let her be.

 

 

previous | archive | next