Awakening 12

The others who were at the battle are fine, although Drachma suffered a concussion, and Kari had to spend some time under Sylvia's healing powers. Nobody seems as shocked and appalled as I am that there was a bloody battle out of nowhere, in the middle of town.

I'm starting to suspect things aren't as peaceful as people are making them out to be. Is this a common thing?

The sword Sebastean made me is propped up next to the door of Aelia's house, and now that I've got a chance, I pick it up and give it a good look. The hilt, or handle, is about ten inches long, just big enough for both of my hands, but the whole thing is light enough that I can lift and swing it easily with one. Where the black, leather wrapped handle meets the blade, a crossguard spreads out, protecting my fingers from a sliding sword, and the blade itself is unlike anything I've seen before.

One edge is perfectly straight and blunted, flat enough that I can drag my fingers across it unharmed. The other side is razor-sharp and curves to a point at the tip, and up the center of the blade are dark blue etchings of symbols I don't recognize.

It's right then I realize it: This weapon matches my so called "dress outfit" perfectly. That thing the Pteros women made for me isn't a tuxedo, it's battle armor. I guess I was an idiot not to realize it at the time.

The more I think about last night, the more I start to see what's going on here. Sebastean was surrounding himself with magic users, all of whom seemed ready for battle at the drop of a hat. Most of the people here aren't able to use magic, being the children or grandchildren of people who came here years ago. Only a dozen or so new people show up every year... yet here were more than six in one place, all about the same age.

Sebastean, it seems, has himself a little army.

"I guess you can see it that way, if you want to," he replies, when I mention this to him. "Aelia and I greet all the new arrivals, and I teach them how to use their abilities. I suppose it's only natural we stay close."

"And do they all get drawn in to your war with the Seraphs?" The words seem harsh, but he didn't get sliced nearly in half for no reason. In fact, he'd seemed to be enjoying himself, even as his friends were being mauled.

"It's not my war." Now his dark eyes flash with annoyance. "And you may notice; all of us are breathing today, but only a few of the Seraphs got out of here in one piece."

"So you're willing to kill them, then?"

He sits down next to me on the same couch where I woke up, that first day, and opens a drink. "You have to be."

"Or what?"

"Or it's a one-sided fight, when they come for you."

He offers me the untouched bottle, and I wave it away, impatient. "Who's they? Those guys only showed up for you, it's not like there's some kind of war on."

He opens his mouth to say something, perhaps even to give me some answers, but right then Aelia comes in the room, dragging a big case. "Come on and help me pack, guys."

Sebastean hops up, now drinking deeply from the gently glowing bottle, but I stay put. "You're moving?"

"We're all going away for a while. Besides, it'll be nice for you to see more of Fallen. Can you help me get this out the door?"

I cross my arms. I know I'm acting like a baby, but I feel like one at the moment. "And why are we leaving here?"

Sebastean answers, while carrying the case by himself. "Too much heat. I was too busy keeping you from bleeding to death, and I let a few of the Seraphs go. Now they'll report that I'm here and that I killed some of them, and they'll come down on the village in force."

"Well excuse me for breathing. I'm sorry, I've never fought a damned soldier before, let alone a guy twice my size, what did you expect-"

Aelia cuts me off. "The point is, if we're not here when they show up, they won't hurt anyone, and they'll leave. They'll figure we've moved away, so when we come back, they won't think to check again. Syrhe will help us by reporting that we haven't been seen in months."

"We're going to be gone for months?"

"Maybe. It's a nice season for camping."

"I hate camping." I don't, really, I just want to be difficult.

She rolls her eyes. "Yeah well, you hate fighting too. Want to do that for a few weeks?"

I don't know what to say, so I leave the room and start rummaging through my few things, deciding what to take.

Most of my clothes are silk or linen, loose-fitting, and sort of delicate looking. In fact, knowing that there are people out there who'd like to stick a spear in me, the only thing it makes sense to wear is the armor suit. I swear under my breath and start changing into the black underthings of the armor.

Aelia follows me into the side room, though I don't realize it until I've got my shirt off. "Evan," she says quietly, "I'm sorry we didn't tell you-"

She stops short when I turn to face her, the straight scar carving a line across my entire front. Her eyes widen. "I didn't know it was... oh, no. Evan, I'm sorry."

"Stop. It was wrong of you all to decieve me like this, let me think this was some kind of utopia. Don't act shocked when I end up sliced open like some uninformed fish."

"That's not fair. We didn't think you'd get involved so soon."

"Fair? What's fair about anything you've done?" I'm getting a little out of control now, my voice rising against my better judgment. "It wasn't fair to make me think you liked me, like I was a man, or even a boy, but more than a... a recruit! It wasn't fair to kiss me like you did and then blow me off with no warning or explaination!"

She starts to cry, still standing in the doorway. Sebastean pokes his head in, sees what's going on, and withdraws, all silently. For some reason, this makes me even angrier.

"And it wasn't fair," I finish, "To send me out there with a hunted man, and not even tell me there might be trouble."

For a long time, we stand there looking at each other, her with tears coursing down her lovely face. They vanish, though, when she speaks, with a flash of blue light from her eyes. "I did like you. I do. Don't doubt that for a second. I don't see you as just a recruit... I don't see anyone that way. We fight because we love each other."

She takes a step towards me. "And I left you last night, and I told you it was because you were afraid. And... and that wasn't true. I thought it was, but, well, I was just projecting. That's the word. I was afraid. I'm still scared, of what might happen between us. Of what already did happen, now that I think of it."

"So why not say so? I would have understood."

"Really, Evan?"

I consider carefully before I respond, pulling on the leather chest plate. "Maybe not. But I wouldn't have been hurt by that. Not like I was."

She holds out a hand, and I stare at it before realizing she's offering to help me with the straps on my armor. In silence, she throws my cape around my shoulders, attaching it to the shoulder plates.

She doesn't remove her arms from me, when she's done. She simply stands behind me, holding me, her warm head pressed against my back.

I can hear her breathing.

"Aelia."

"Yes?"

"I'm all right. I'm just a little shocked."

"I know."

"And I know it's not your fault."

She sniffles and murmurs, "I know..."

I put an armored hand over one of hers, and take a deep breath. "I'm ready to go."

We are almost out the door when Sebastean steps into it. "No, you're not," he says gently, and hold out the sword. My sword.

So we meet some others in the center of town, and without much in the way of ceremony, we leave for the port.

Sebastean, huge and menacing and friendly, in a long coat and knee-high boots, all lined with thick black fur. He carries a massive pack which must be lunch for everyone.

Aelia in her typical hodgepodge of styles, next me me, eying me warily.

Kari, healed and energetic, apparently excited for a change of scenery.

Oden, looking a little bored, in a simple pair of jeans and a white t-shirt, and what appears to be a backpack with a drinking straw attached.

And me. Armored. Armed. Scarred. Confused. Homeless.

Welcome to my new life. It's not so unlike the last one.

I am Evan North, formerly of Earth, and I am awake.