Chapter 1 - Aftermath
The chill of spring dawn seeped through the broken shutters of Kae's hut deep in the Forest of the Dead. It woke him better than sunshine would have, better than any bell. Dawn colored the sky a pale gray and sunshine was still hours away. Just as well he was up so early. The trek to the House of Troth, to Issa, would take the better part of the morning.
Kae pulled his ratty blanket over his head and imagined a roaring fire warming the room. Yet that exercise hardly ever worked back when he was still a trainee at the Protectors' Keep, and didn't work at all now.
Besides, remembering the Keep only brought Entan's pale dead face to join Issa's slack and lifeless one as he closed his eyes. Even in memory, Issa's eyes remained still blue pools. Her brilliant light was forever gone.
He'd not visited Issa for many days. But somehow, instead of fading, the vision of her in his mind grew stronger.
Does she wonder why I've not come?
Of course not. Issa had no knowledge of the world around her, not since the Joining at the Anniversary of the Veil. They ripped her essence right out of her chest then, used it to destroy the Veil that separated the world. Left her a mere shell of her former self.
Issa hadn't spoken since that day. Had hardly acknowledged anyone except the skinny young lord, her other half, whose hand she clutched day and night. She knew Kae not at all.
He threw back the covers and leapt out of bed as though sudden action could chase away all those oppressive, suffocating, sad thoughts.
Kae's fault Issa was now a lifeless, spent twin. Kae's fault that Entan was dead, the Protectors all scattered and hunted. Kae could have stopped it all. But he was too late. Always too late.
A heel of five-day-old bread was all that remained of his food. Spring was in full swing, the farmer in the town up river from Kae's hut would need help plowing today. Kae could go find work. Get more bread, maybe cheese and sausage too.
But he'd not been to see Issa in days.
When he walked outside he saw the bread was covered by a thin green coating. He tossed it into the bushes.
The Watchers would give him food once he got to the House of Troth.
Kae walked slowly to the river running deep and wild not far from his hut. Sometimes, during still nights, its whooshing current lulled him to sleep. Allowed him to feed into it all the visions of Issa's expressionless face, her lifeless eyes, all the memories of Entan's terrible secret, Kae's horrible failure.
He stripped on the riverbank, then waded into the icy green water. Shivering, he submerged his head and opened his eyes underwater. Dark reeds, like so many black snakes, swayed in the current all around him. Nothing stayed drowned in those depths. All bubbled back to the surface eventually, too soon.
Would that he could still call the fog. Thick and moist, keeping all pain in the world away for as long as Kae willed it to. But the Life Force was gone, taken when Issa lost her essence.
Kae came up for air and smoothed down his brown hair, tying it back into a knot. It reached his shoulders now and was in need of a wash, but soap was another thing he ran out of.
I should go into town and find some work.
He'd not been to see Issa in days. Tomorrow he would find work.
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Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Rating – PG13
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