Second Sun Horizon – Chapter Two – Part Two
The village sat in an eerie quiet. No children ran around. Adults were not out to do any manner of chores. The guards that had encircled the healer’s hut seemed to have abandoned their posts. Wood piles meant for the celebration’s fires lay half burnt. A thin dusting of ash settled at their bases. A putrid smell like rotten oranges hung in the air, invading Ilenia’s nostrils and stung her eyes to the point that it brought tears. She gagged then plugged her nose.
“Ilenia!” called Helaia, stumbling out of the healer’s hut. She favored one leg, and where she clutched her side, blood leaked through her fingers, spilling to the ground in a constant stream. Ilenia ran to her. Her heart thud against her chest like it longed to escape. Just as she reached her, the doors to the healer’s hut burst open in a splintered explosion. The power of the blast lifted both women off their feet. Ilenia landed on her back with Helaia on top of her. Air forced out of her lungs. She tried to push Helaia away, to give herself a chance to breathe, but the effort was useless.
Shadows pushed in from the edges of her vision. She gasped as the dark became more pronounced. Helaia rolled off. Ilenia heard her cough, violent at first and then nothing. She sucked in a gulp to satiate the burning in her lungs. Each breath challenged her tolerance to pain as if several serrated blades scraped against her ribcage.
“Ilenia,” said Helaia, crawling to her. “Ilenia, the village is gone. Elren stabbed your mother to death… The guards… the guards murdered everyone… They hurried off without a word…”
Ilenia craned her neck. She saw flames swallow the healer’s hut, saw Elren approach them with a placid look on his face. He held a sword drowned in blood. His movements were slow and deliberate but unbalanced like a babe first learning to walk. Pain washed over her as she inhaled, and she struggled to stand. Helaia tried to help her. They haphazardly supported one another.
Elren stopped several paces before them. He cocked his head.
“Ilenia,” he said, but it was not his voice. This voice sounded older, rasped and low. “Do you know who I am, child?”
She did not respond but studied Helaia. Pale. Blood leaving her body every minute in cupfuls. If they tarry here too long, that wound would kill her. She gnashed her teeth, wondered why this was happening. Adrenaline buried any grief she should feel.
Elren stepped forward. “Do you know?”
“Who are you?” she asked.
He did not finish as an arrow lodged itself into his neck. Another pierced his chest. A third buried in the center of his forehead, just between his eyes. His mouth still moved in the pattern of speech, yet all that came of it were moans and gurgles. Blood dribbled from the corners of his lips. Ilenia heard the distinct sound of armor clanking behind her. Slowly she turned, almost crying in relief as a troop of Luna En’s army closed in on the village. Dozens held crossbows trained on Elren. A few reloaded while others provided cover. One rode a warhorse: the scarred man her mother healed the previous night.
“Ilenia, Helaia. Are you two all right?” he asked, sword in hand.
“Helaia needs medical attention. She’s lost too much blood.” The words rasped as they left her throat like sandpaper had scraped the insides. Flames ate the healer’s hut until it was just a memory joining the dirt. Ilenia felt tears slip down her cheeks. Her home. The only people she knew and loved, gone. Taken from this life and shoved into the next. She found herself limping to Elren’s body, decomposing beneath the second sun’s rage. All she did was stare.
His words drifted endlessly in her mind: “Do you know me, child? Do you know who I am?”
“No, I do not. But I will find out. And when I do, I’ll kill you,” she whispered.