Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Page 765

Octavia seemed to have trouble continuing her story. She glanced at her reaper another time, and Wendy helped her out.

Axiolis and Zeff were both able to identify the attackers as members of Abolish,’ he said. ‘Zeff recognized them from photographs, while Axiolis had actually fought against them with his previous servant. We sent a team to the lake in order to look for any other survivors, but there weren’t any. Octavia and I visited as well in order to make sense of what had happened. It was very unsettling to us that Abolish could make it this far into our territory undetected while still having enough power to wipe out over two dozen servants--some of whom were quite powerful. We didn’t find any answers, but it has always bothered me.

‘After that, all of the Rainlords gathered to mount a counterattack, along with the Vanguard’s assistance. We knew who the enemy was, where they were located, and had solid intel on most of their members. On paper, at least, they DID have enough power at their disposal to have conducted such an attack, and we had several reports that they’d been in frequent conflict with the Vanguardian units to which the Elroys belonged. So, despite the strange circumstances, there was no doubt that they were the ones responsible, and at that point, we were all brimming with righteous fury. We fully intended to obliterate them from the face of Eleg.

‘However, when we reached their base of operations, there was almost nothing left. Instead of a large military complex, we found a smoldering crater. A chasm. So deep that we could barely see the bottom. And all around it, were the heads and mutilated corpses of everyone we knew to be responsible for the attack--as well as a few we DIDN’T. Some were quite surprising, actually, being well-known and high-ranking members of Abolish who might have given us real trouble in a direct conflict. Needless to say, we were rather surprised. We weren’t sure what to make of it. And thirty years later, we still aren’t.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Page 764

It was Octavia’s turn to hesitate. “Did Zeff ever tell you what happened to the rest of his family?”

It was as Marcos thought. He gave a weak nod. “He didn’t mention it much, but... they were all killed, weren’t they?”

“Yes. He and Joana were the only ones to survive. Afterwards, they lived here at Red Lake until they turned eighteen. I didn’t want them to rejoin the Vanguard, but they wouldn’t listen to me.” Her expression weakened, eyes glazing over with distant memory. “I was very upset by that decision. I should have been more understanding. Instead, they pushed me away, and I just... let them.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her brow with one hand.

Marcos frowned. The old woman had been so cheerful from the first moment he’d met her. He’d wondered if nothing ever fazed her or if she simply didn’t care. Seeing her like this invoked a strange mixture of worry and gratitude. He was slow to ask his next question. “He never really went into much detail about how they died, so... can you tell me what happened?”

Octavia looked at him heavily, then at Shenado.

Axiolis told me about it, but I’d like to hear your version of events, if you don’t mind.’

Octavia gave a slow nod. “Very well.” She took so long to gather her thoughts that it seemed like she might have changed her mind. “...Zeff and Joana had no other siblings. Their parents and grandparents were all members of the Vanguard, as were many of their cousins. Zeff was on his way to joining the Vanguard as well. He’d been with Axiolis for over a year, already.”

She paused again, biting her lip as she chose her next words. “The attack happened very suddenly. The Elroys were having a large family gathering out on a lake up north. About thirty miles from here. Almost all of them were present, including Zeff and Joana. The few who didn’t attend were later found dead elsewhere. I didn’t know anything had happened until Zeff showed up on my doorstep with Joana in his arms. She was unconscious but still alive. She didn’t have a reaper yet, so Zeff had carried her all the way here on foot.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Page 763

Even this painting is a bit misleading, if you ask me,’ said Wendy. ‘The Twins could have avoided this. They had ample warning that the enemy was coming to their doorstep, but their pride wouldn’t let them retreat like they should have. They could have lived to fight another day, but this painting implies otherwise by glorifying their deaths.

“It doesn’t glorify anything,” said Octavia, furrowing her brow. “You know that’s not why I had it painted.”

Wendy just ruffled his feathers at her.

“It’s a reminder that theirs was a cautionary tale,” said Octavia. “It’s so we don’t forget the consequences of our actions. My family has always been too reckless for my liking.”

I don’t know how much good it’s done,’ said Wendy.

For a moment, Octavia just glared at him. Then she wiped her face clean and looked at Marcos again. “Anyway. What do you think? Are you disappointed to hear that they weren’t quite the heroes that everyone claims they were?”

Marcos blinked. “Disappointed? Not really. Even if it’s not as nice or... as comforting, I’d still rather know the real story. Otherwise, it just feels like I’m being lied to.”

She broke into a wide grin and laughed faintly. “I don’t know if your father ever told you this, but when he was younger, he and his sister lived here at Red Lake for a few years.”

He thought back. “Oh... yeah, I think he mentioned that.”

“Did he? I’m surprised. Regardless, the point I was trying to make was that when he first came here, he and I had much the same conversation as this one. And he said almost exactly the same thing as you did just now.”

Wendy intervened with a nod. ‘I remember it perfectly. His exact words were, ‘I would rather find more pain in the truth than any solace in a lie.’

Octavia chortled. “That’s right. He was pretty intense for a fifteen-year-old.”

Of course he was,’ said Wendy. ‘He’d just been through an ordeal of his own, remember?

“I do,” she said, and her smile waned.

Marcos had an inkling of what they were talking about. “What ordeal?”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Page 762

Marcos hesitated. “Were the Twins not heroes?”

Wendy paused to mull the question over. ‘They were good in a fight, I suppose. And their hearts were generally in the right place. And they were natural leaders. In those regards, at least, I’d say they weren’t entirely dissimilar to Zeff. But I certainly don’t think they were deserving of the fame and affection that history has afforded them.

Few people are,’ said Shenado. ‘And many deserving people end up all but forgotten.

True. But I will always reserve the right to complain about it.

Ha. Fair point.

Octavia made her way toward the next painting over. She nudged Marcos with her elbow as she passed. “Wendy can be a real downer sometimes, but he’s not wrong. See this one here? I commissioned it a few years ago.”

An enormous canvas depicted a castle engulfed in flames. As he looked closer, he realized that the silhouette within was the same as that of Red Lake. And above it, a rift in the deeply gray clouds allowed sunlight to shine through. The title at the bottom read, ‘The Day of Clear Sky.’

Marcos tilted his head. “What is this?”

Madame Redwater placed both hands on the top of her cane as she looked up at the sprawling work. “Everyone remembers the Uprising. Of course they do. It ultimately brought down the empire. But people often forget that the Uprising itself was a grisly failure. All of the Rainlords suffered terribly, but my family had the worst of it. Only a handful survived this attack you see before you.”

Wide-eyed, Marcos only listened.

“The Redwaters were the first to truly stand against the empire,” Octavia went on. “The Twins’ early victories inspired people across the continent and sparked dozens of other rebellions, which tend to get lumped in as all being part of the Uprising, too, but they weren’t. Not really. You see, because we went first, we received the full weight of the empire’s military strength. So this painting--it’s a bit of an eyesore once you know what you’re looking at, but this gallery would be incomplete without it, I feel.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Page 761

In this painting, Lluc is the one on the left,’ said Shenado. ‘He always wore his hair longer than Marcelo so that people could tell them apart.

“Did you know them?” Marcos asked.

Personally? No. I’ve heard Axiolis talk about them at length, but I didn’t get involved with you Rainlords until after your parents met.

“Oh, right...” That subject hollowed out his expression as it brought him back to the present. However, he was resolved not to dwell on it, and instead attempted to spin it around to the past again. “It’s weird to think that Papa has their power now.”

Legendary people are still people.

Indeed, they certainly had their flaws,’ came another reaper’s voice. It belonged to Wendy, entering the room behind Octavia Redwater. ‘Lluc and Marcelo were identical in more ways than one. They were like wild horses, those two. You never knew what they were going to do next. And neither did they, I am convinced.

“Are you enjoying the gallery?” Octavia asked. She never seemed to need her cane at all, making Marcos wonder if she just carried the thing around for show. “I have not been down here in ages.”

It’s lovely,’ said Shenado, ‘even if some of the images are a bit unsettling. I was surprised to find no one else here.

“Ah, well, family members generally aren’t interested in this place. The youngins hear about it all their lives, I suppose. Nereida wanted this room to be an intimate shrine to our family’s legacy, but I’m afraid it has become more of a tourist attraction than anything. And of course, we’re closed to the public at the moment. So you see. Empty.”

Marcos was more interested in what Wendy had been saying. “You knew the Twins?”

I did,’ he said. ‘In terms of personality, they could not have been more UNLIKE your father, I should think.

“Really?”

Yes. They were impulsive, loud, obnoxious, and foolish.

“Don’t listen to him,” said Octavia. “I didn’t know them, obviously, but I know Wendy, and he has always been a party pooper.”

Lluc was your great great grandfather, wasn’t he?’ asked Shenado.

“That, he was.”