Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. 🙂
Tomorrow is the official release day for my second Mahaelian novelette, A Song of Conflict. I decided to release it after Conviction’s Pain has the story in Conflict takes place at the same time as the events unfolding in Conviction’s Pain. And since a bunch of you might be finishing up the second novel this weekend or next week sometime, I thought I’d tempt you with something new – a bit shorter. 😉
Read below for a taste of A Song of Conflict. 🙂
“This is where it happened,” Daergan said, pointing at the barren stretch of earth. “Do you see?”
Aedral, seven moon-cycles old and tall for his age, stepped forward and peered into the open space. The shadows of the Monument covered the ground in thick, jagged, slats that seemed to reach toward each other. As if the ancient, Wielded Elvayn trapped within those jagged, arching rocks were still straining to move, to break free. Aedral was about to say as much to his father, but decided to remain quiet. It was early morning, the sun’s glow having just crested the horizon, and all around them lay a heavy layer of silence; better to observe the solemnity he was expected to than to wonder aloud about the jagged pillars surrounding them.
Aedral ignored the biggest of the looming rock-pillars. He knew it was his imagination, but he was sure it was staring at him. Regarding him with thousands of years of anger and malice. It knew him, even if his father didn’t.
“Soon,” continued his father, “the First Disciples and the Holy One will be released, and this place will become the site upon which the true destiny of our people shall be built.” He gestured around at the monuments, whose shadows had begun to slowly turn with the sun’s movement. “These pillars will form the center of the Seed House, and it will be Wielded outwards until it covers even the ground that the City of Traitors held, so long ago.” Aedral noticed a fervent light in his father’s eyes, as if they were lit from within with the visions of future grandeur he was trying to share. “The Seed House will be the beacon that stands in the middle of the new city, waiting for us to return from our journey to rae’Fallo.”
Tuning out his father’s words –for he had heard them many times before- the young Elvayn sneaked a glance at the ruins of the first city his people had ever Wielded. Very little remained, since most of the surviving structures had either been razed or removed, but it seemed that the earth remembered that ancient battle.
In places the ground was barren and dusty –where Wielders had stood and drawn upon the energy at their feet until nothing but lifeless soil remained- and great depressions marched off into the distance, some small but many large enough to swallow five or six men, as if massive fists had struck out in unfocused anger. He tried to imagine what that day must have been like, wondered what had truly happened, and failed every time. According to the histories were taught, the succeeding battles to take the remaining cities had been brutal and vicious, too, but every story he had ever heard or read seemed to agree that this first battle of the Traitor-War had been the most brutal.
It was just too … large for his mind to comprehend. The destruction and death, the broken family-cells, the shortages of food and shelter. More and more he was beginning to agree with his mother.
Nothing warranted the doling out of such pain and misery. Nothing.
“And we shall return in glory and triumph,” his father continued. “In our lifetime will this occur, Aedral. Do you understand? You will witness the unveiling of our destiny.”
Aedral looked back just in time to meet his father’s gaze and he fought to maintain the connection, and the illusion that he was his father’s son in more ways than just biologically. He wanted nothing more than to run to his mother and take her far away from this place, to finally join the Circle and to take his place among the men and women who remembered the truth, not the manufactured and carefully maintained lies that had been fed to them over the generations.
“Come here,” Daergan beckoned, undoing the buttons of his black jacket before lowering himself to his knees beside one of the Monument-pillars. Aedral joined him, careful to maintain a ‘reverent’ air and to copy his father’s posture. When his father bent at the waist and lowered his head to the ground, Aedral followed suit, and their foreheads made contact with the earth at the same moment. Aedral expected a shock of contact, the Holy One reaching out with His thought-voice to acknowledge his presence and his genuflection, but once again nothing happened. Perhaps there was some truth to what was said – that the Holy One waited for each new Disciple to reach the correct age before the first Communion took place. He almost wished he had a headband such as his father wore, to somehow buffer the contact with the ground. This place made his skin crawl.
Aedral would rather that the Communion never occurred – he was sure that his thoughts would be laid bare; his motives and the motives of the Circle discovered in that instant. It was difficult to disbelieve the stories of Communion he had heard when almost everyone he came into contact with on a daily basis shared his father’s fervent loyalty, and his father wasn’t the only person who had said that they had heard the Holy One’s thought-voice.
Bent now as he was with his forehead touching the very ground upon which the Binding Chorus had been unleashed, Aedral was suddenly thankful that his ill-advised attempts had failed. He hadn’t told his mother what he’d done, and he hoped the others would keep quiet, too. The threat of Judgement would serve to keep their mouths shut, at least until the night of their Internment, but after that? Who could say? He hoped to be on his way to the Circle long before the ceremony began, because the fact that he had lied to them would be revealed – that he had told them that he had heard the Holy One’s thought-voice when he hadn’t.
Aedral didn’t want to be here with his father, not like this and not now. The Internment ceremony was days away, and as soon as they were done here he would return to his mother and try to convince her that they had to leave as soon as possible, that lingering was courting discovery and that … that he was afraid.
“You must remain prone during the Internment,” his father was saying, his voice muffled against the dirt. “From the moment the ceremony begins until the Holy One releases you, understand? To break contact is an act of terrible disrespect, an act that will taint our family’s honor for generations.”
Aedral almost voiced his frustration aloud at that moment, swallowing back the groan of frustration. He knew that his father wasn’t an evil man; Daergan had never shown anyone disrespect, had never been callous or unthinking, had always been gentle and respectful toward his wife. He wasn’t like some of the others, those who treated the Traitor-born with scorn, insulting them and even assaulting them on occasion. He followed the laws and had never once misused them. But it didn’t change the fact that he was on the wrong side, and that someday Aedral would have to face his father, stand firm as a member of the Circle, and possibly Sing against him.
Better that outcome, he remembered his mother telling him, than the complete destruction of the Circle. We must stand, Aedral. We cannot falter.
“I won’t bring dishonor upon us, Father,” he said, his voice also muffled by the ground inches from his lips. The soil was warm, its musty odor filling his head. The effects of Wielding left an indelible mark on the earth, something that no-one should have been able to dismiss. But it happened; the minds of the loyal focused so intently that such a simple thing as the difference between the scents of live earth and dead earth completely escaped them. Such an obvious thing. He was sad that he was lying to his father by saying those words, but it couldn’t be helped – his choice had just been made anew, and it seemed to him that the price he might one day have to pay to ensure that balance returned was something he could live with.
Aedral sensed the motion of his father rising and lifted his head from the dirt before rising to his feet, secretly happy that he wouldn’t have to genuflect like this again. He felt his father’s hand on his shoulder and turned to face him.
“I am proud of you, Aedral, and so is your mother.” He smiled. “You will become a great Disciple – you are already a worthy son.” He squeezed briefly, as close to showing affection as he ever came, and said, “Return to your mother. I promised her that I would not keep you long.”
Aedral nodded at his father, relief spreading through him in a wave, and when he turned away from the Monument he was walking slightly faster than what he intended. He felt his father’s eyes on him and refused to wonder what was going through the man’s mind.