A Traitor's Love
This story comes from the world of the Glass Eyes. It doesn't take place on Earth, but in one of the worlds connected to the Eyes.
It was said among my people, that a red thread of fate connected two people, but I doubted if it was true as I tossed the last of the white blossomed flowers onto the grave of my oldest friend. We were born, we lived and died, and our souls would transfer from our world to another in an endless circle of rebirth and renewal.
We weren't the same, but we were connected, and people believed we would one day meet again.
At least, that's what we told each other when our loved ones died. When parents lost their children, when friends lost their playmates. When grandchildren lost their grandparents - time had a way of healing, and time we had plenty.
My people were among those who managed the two worlds. We protected the short lives in the one world while we guarded those from our world. We were called everything from ghosts to fairies over the course of our existence, but we called ourselves simply the Ancaelius.
"He is to be given full military honors," my captain explained, joining me beside the graveside. He had been my captain ever since I first entered the royal guards fifty years back. I had moved through the ranks to be his second in command, a first lieutenant by rank.
"I heard," I said, my voice cracking despite the time I paused to control myself. "He sought vengeance for wrongs done in the past, but ..." I took another deep breath because that was the only way I could control my tears. "He died trying to save us all, but ... Did he have to betray us to save us?"
"I can't answer that Itzaro," my captain said. "It's not easy to consider all the possibilities, but ... He did try to save everyone in the end. I wish I could tell you it will be easier over time, but eventually you'll be able to smile when you look back. Until then, why don't you take a few days off to settle his things?"
"There's nothing to settle now; I took care of it last year when he left."
When he betrayed us with that murderous traitor - the very senator who had sworn to protect everyone. How wrong we all were. How wrongly we had believed and placed our trust. We had failed to protect so many people, and in the betrayal and loss Kaito had died attempting to save us all and place retribution on the man who had wronged us as children.
The hand on my shoulder was heavy, but comfortable. "Take your time, Itzaro," the captain said again. "Go visit the mountains you love so much."
My captain left with his daughters. His wife had died ten years past, and he had enlisted the aide of his parents to help raise his daughters. He had two sons as well who were both in the royal academy to train the guards, but they stood at the edges of the graveyard, waiting. Both young men, tall and dark like their father, bowed their heads ever so slightly to acknowledge the loss, but neither was sorry for the death of Kaito.
Few were among their people.
"What are you going to do, Itzaro?" The voice was tremulous and feminine. Kerensa, the wife of the senator who had betrayed everyone had remained loyal to their king, despite her husband's betrayal. Which was worse - to have loved one who betrayed and was found loyal, or to love the traitor and monster? There would be no funerals or military honors for her husband.
"My captain's given me a few days leave, Ma'am."
Kerensa twisted a strand of her loose flaxen hair around a finger. She continued to wear the bun of the married women with the loose lower strands signifying widowhood. "I am to return to my parents' lands until I can decide which action to take. My daughters will accompany me."
She only had the two daughters, around the same age as my captain's youngest daughter.
"Safe journey, then," I offered, bowing slightly to her as befitting her rank.
"No need of that," Kerensa whispered. "I am no longer in a position of authority or nobility. I am a simple daughter of a famer."
"You will always be our former leader, my lady."
"Kerensa," I repeated.
"Rise, Itxaro," Kerensa sighed. She stood not quite a head shorter than I did, but had always been small for her age. There were five years difference between us, she being the elder, though almost no one realized it. "I wish for us to be friends as we once were when we were younger."
I smiled at her, my first genuine one in almost a month. "I would like that as well, Kerensa."
"Then come visit when you can." She pulled her shawl close to her body and moved away, the only sounds the rustle of her heavy silk robes.
We had been friends once when we were younger, when I first arrived at the royal city as a young woman, throwing my entire life into an unknown future with only my best and dearest friend beside me. We had fought, studied and worked our way through the schooling. Any who were able to enter the school had their tuition and boarding paid along with a very small weekly stipend. We had used our money to do what we could, found out it was better to share a flat and had turned it into a home.
When Kerensa had caught the eye of a rising politician, Kaito and I had rejoiced over the good news, but we never knew how terribly wrong we were.
I turned and left the graveyard to collect the few small belongings I would want to take with me including my sword and knife. I had trained to use a two-handed sword like all members of the Royal Guards, but one of my teachers realized while watching me practice realized I was better suited to dual wield. Both of my swords were a part of my life and wandering around without them made me feel naked.
In my quarters, I strapped them to my back and took my small case before leaving.
At the door to my unit's barracks, I nodded to the guards on duty and left.
The Royal Guards all had special powers. One needed them to survive in our world. We weren't reborn here from the other world, the world below, but we were alive and grew older, the only difference being that our ageing process slowed to decades, not to years. Neither were those from below guaranteed similar status to what they knew formerly.
I had been born here in this world, but others hadn't been. One of the guards standing at the barracks entrance had arrived from below while the other one was born here.
"Lieutenant," the two snapped to attention.
"At ease, both of you."
"Thank you, ma'am." They relaxed instantly. "Are you going someplace?"
"To the mountains." I thought of the place I wanted to be in the mountains, and disappeared from the barracks to the mountain place I wanted it to be. We called the move heaven's gaite, a play on the words for walking as well as entrance. It was a teletransportation ability all the Royal Guards had to manage, though some were better at it than others.
I tossed my bag on the ground under a tree, and stretched my hand to catch the rope above my head. I had to take a running jump to reach it, since Kaito made it high enough for himself to jump. How many times had I told him to lower the dumb rope?
I dusted myself off and tried a second time, this time catching the rope and pulling down the ladder. We had built a treehouse three-quarters of a century past as a place to hide during the harsh days of our youths when bandits and other unfavorable people roamed the lands. We had hidden ourselves away.
"What am I going to do now, Kaito?" I whispered once I had pulled the rope back up. I sat on the edge of the bed, my head in my hands. "Just what am I supposed to do now?"
The word came from a memory, though I could have sworn I heard Kaito's voice on the wind.
Live. It might be hard, but I would live.