- Tuesday, August 18, 2009
0: The Future
Chelise Hunter, wife of Thomas Hunter, stood beside her son, Samuel, and gazed over the canyon now flooded with those who'd crossed the desert for the annual Gathering. The sound of pounding drums echoed from the cliff walls; thousands milled in groups or danced in small circles as they awaited the final ceremonies, which would commence when the sun settled beyond the horizon. The night would fill with cries of loyalty and all would feast on fatted cows and hopes for deliverance from their great enemy, the Horde.
But Samuel, the warrior with his heavy sword and angry glare, had evidently put his hope in something entirely different. He stood still, but she knew that under the leather chest-and-shoulder armor his muscles were tense and, in his mind's eye, moving already. Racing off to make war.
Chelise let the breeze blow her hair about her face and tried to calm herself with steady breathing. "This is impossible, Samuel. Complete foolishness."
"Is it? Say that to Sacura."
"She would agree with me."
Sacura, mother of three just a few days earlier, was now mother of two. Her fifteen-year-old son, Richard, had been caught and hung by a Horde scouting party when he'd straggled behind his tribe as it made its way to the Gathering.
"Then she's the fool, not me."
"You think our nonviolent ways are just a haphazard strategy to gain us the upper hand?" Chelise demanded. "You think returning death with more death will bring us peace? Nearly everyone in the valley was once Horde, including me, in case I need to remind you—now you want to hunt their families because they haven't converted to our ways?"
"And you would let them slaughter us instead? How many of us do they need to kill before you shed this absurd love you have for our enemy?"
Chelise could take his backtalk no longer. It took all of her strength to resist the temptation to slap his face, here and now. But it occurred to her that using violence at precisely this moment would strengthen his point.
And knowing Samuel, he would only grin. She knew how to fight, they all did as a matter of tradition, but next to Samuel she was the butterfly and he the eagle.
Chelise settled. For the sake of Jake, her youngest, they must follow the ways of Elyon. For the sake of her father, Qurong, commander of the Horde, and her mother. For the sake of the world, they had to cling to what they knew, not what their emotions demanded from them. To take up arms now would make an unforgivable mockery of all the Circle stood for.
She faced Samuel and saw that his sleeve was hitched up under his left arm guard. She pulled it down and brushed it flat. "It's hard, I know," she said, casting a glance back at the three mounted guards who waited behind them. Samuel's band numbered a couple dozen, all sharing his hatred. Honorable men who were tired of seeing loved ones die at the hands of the Horde.
"He's larger-than-life, we all know that. Just because you're his son doesn't mean you have to blaze his trail."
She'd meant to console him, but he stiffened and she knew her words had done the opposite. "Not that you feel like you have to measure up to Thomas, but—"
"This has nothing to do with Thomas!" he snapped, pulling away.
"Nobody could possibly measure up to a man with his past. My concern is the future, not some crazy history bounding between the worlds through these dreams of his."
Odd that he would refer to the time when Thomas claimed to have traveled back in time through dreams. Thomas so rarely referred to it himself these days.
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