“If you want to be strong, train your back.”
Their father’s daily lecture while they ate dinner.
But Lizarb was confused, “But Father, one’s back is only shown when you have lost! A strong person would never show his back! Shouldn’t we be training our chest instead?”
Tarn said nothing, listening in silence.
Their father laughed, and said, “Listen up, both of you. When you show your back, it means you are the stronger one. People stronger than you are ahead of you! And the only thing you can see of them is their back.”
“The strongest people are those who are always showing their backs to others. And that is because they are those who do not desire to see other’s backs. If you see someone else’s back, it will be a proud, tough one. One that you will have to overcome someday, if you wish to become better.”
“And no matter how strong we become, we must never forget the weak. For another good thing about training the back, is to be able to carry them with us wherever we go.”
Jereziah stirred in his slumber.
“And what would you have of us: to lay back and do nothing as the Beasts destroy town after town?”
“Sebastian, they are simply retaking back old places. The people who’ve had their homes destroyed can simply move to Adkarna, we are a large enough…”
“And if they don’t stop?”
“They will. They simply desire their old habitats; not to destroy us.”
Sebastian made a sound that seemed to be a derisive snort.
“You are a fool, one who cannot even live up to Maliken’s image.”
Jereziah spread his arms in a wide gesture, saying, “I am not my father, Sebastian Avery.”
“You do not understand that which your father did to secure all of Mankind its current place!”
“Peace is more important, Sebastian. Would you leave the confines of your current peace, where you can enjoy the benefits of what you had conquered with my father many years ago? The people are content and…”
“The peace,” declared Sebastian, “is being shattered, even as we speak! Go, then; go to the gates of Adkarna and see for yourself. Personally be the one to give aid and comfort to those who seek refuge. It would do the people much good to see their young Princeling be the one who is reassuring them.”
And with that, Sebastian made a stiff bow, and left the room.
Jereziah reclined on his throne, and sighed. Sebastian had always been tough for him to handle.
“Your methods differ, but I can see that he also wishes for what he thinks is best for us.” whispered a voice softly from behind his throne.
“What did you glean from the conversation, Scar?” Jereziah asked.
“Nothing that will be of much value to you. What I understand from it is only the possibilities of what my future orders may be. What you understand from it is only the possibilities of what your future orders to us may be.”
Jereziah smiled grimly. “That is not really an answer.”
“You might be my superior now, but that does not mean I cannot have my occasional laugh.”
Jereziah became serious again, “And the report on the leader of the Beasts?”
This time, Scar’s voice was grim. “Just as the rumors say. I saw her myself. It’s Ophelia, alright.”
Jereziah closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Worst case scenario, Sebastian finds out about this, Jereziah. And even if we don’t bander about it, the men from the outskirts will eventually confirm the rumors. That the leader of the Beasts that are terrorizing all of Mankind, is none other than the sister of the current Prince.”
“Half-sister,” Jereziah murmured.
“That hardly registers as a difference. The people are losing homes, Jereziah. If you keep insisting on not making a move, Sebastian will use all of this against you. We all know he disapproves of you ever since he stepped down from Regent when you claimed the throne.”
Jereziah slumped down now. “What about the Illumined One? He could control Sebastian…”
“He has yet to emerge from his meditative isolation. The Shining Abbey denied me entrance. And we know Sebastian dislikes his younger twin just as much as he dislikes you. He’s always resented that Trymar was the one selected as the Illumined One.”
Jereziah laughed grimly, “Politics. I won’t have much of a choice, then, will I? Either Sebastian takes over or I have to listen to him.”
“I can’t make your decision for you, Jereziah, but do be careful. Sebastian may very well stab you in the back if not for the fact that he respected your father.”
Jereziah pushed the wooden stake into the ground, and with the pommel of his sword knocked it thrice resoundingly, forcing the tip to bury itself.
Lizarb had not said a single word ever since Jereziah had come to, which worried him. The Pyromancer had explained what happened ever since he woke up, and he also mourned the loss of Tarn, along with the Earth Elemental, but he grimly wondered whether or not Earth Elementals could even die from being buried alive.
But Tarn. That was a whole new matter. Scar would not be happy if he knew Jereziah had failed one of his charges. And Jereziah mourned. In the few days they had been in a group, Jereziah finally understood the extent of the abilities of the Legionnaire whose captains had so fiercely recommended for promotions. The only reason Jereziah had refrained was fear that rumors would spread that Tarn had earned them through undeserved relations.
And Jereziah mourned the loss.
He finished pushing the wood stake into the ground, and knelt in front of it, leaning down to pack the dirt around the base as solidly as possible, before he stood up, to see the Silencer approaching Lizarb, who was clutching the axe.
“I could remove the memories if you want,” said the Silencer softly.
Lizarb looked up with his tear-ridden face.
“It would not do to forget him, would it?” Lizarb replied, “My father has disappeared. My brother is gone. I am all that’s left to carry on their ideals. To forget them…would trample their legacy.”
Jereziah strode up, “An honorable decision. Come. We have much to do after this.”
The Pyromancer stood up from her meditations, having collected her energy throughout the night and resting. She sidled up next to Jereziah and the Silencer in silence, not levitating as a sign of respect.
Lizarb walked up to the stake that Jereziah had buried, and stuck the axe, hilt down in front of it as the three watched.
“I’ll be back,” Jereziah heard the Scout whisper.
The clouds parted and a single ray of moonlight struck the stake he had implanted, revealing the words he had crudely carved into it with the tip of his sword.
HERE LIES TARN.
A WARRIOR WHO DEFENDED MANKIND.
MAY HIS SACRIFICE NOT BE IN VAIN.
Jereziah put on his gauntlets and looked at the stars, looking for his bearings.
“Let us proceed,” he said softly, and the group left.
5 days left.