Copyright Kelly St. Clare 2015
“Willow?” Jimmy calls. I startle out of my morose thoughts, correcting my veering route and flash the red-haired boy a semblance of a smile.
Willow was one of my three personas. I borrowed the name from my whore friend in the Outer Rings. I couldn’t use Olina – my real name – or even Frost, the name I used in the fighting pits. I feared someone would link the names and my darkest secret would be revealed.
Crystal told the Ire I was a pit fighter. It wouldn’t be hard to find out who Willow really was if they went searching. Frost was the only woman to have ever fought there. But if anyone was to go searching, I hoped the trail would end there. It’s the reason I gave a different name to the Ire in the first place. Olina was the identity I had to protect. It was a traditional Solati name and I couldn’t be sure how many Bruma and Ire folk knew the Tatuma Olina resided in the Glacium castle.
Rest assured, if someone found out, Osolis would be pitched head-first into anarchy.
Jimmy is drooping with exhaustion ahead of me. Solis knows how many hours the boy has been without sleep. The last remnants of my false smile fade as I recall another problem, almost as big as the impending war.
I groan aloud as I remember the screams and gasps of the assembly as Jimmy flew from the castle’s ceiling.
Jimmy warned us of the army’s presence in the Oscala. Unfortunately, his forewarning came at the expense of the Ire’s secrecy. Before that moment, the Ire had operated in hiding for over three generations. Now the King’s assembly had born witnessed this, they wouldn’t forget. I’ve learned the assembly is close-mouthed; secrets are almost considered a currency. But someone will pass the information on and, in time, the hidden community will be hidden no longer.
Word of the “flying people” will get out. A circumstance I’m not eager to relate to their leader, Adox.
I touch down onto Adox’s Island behind Jimmy. The Ire is quiet.
The low, dusty tents erected on the islands surrounding us are still, the occupants within asleep. We made good time with Jimmy as the guide – unlike my solo journey not so long ago.
My legs threaten to buckle underneath me, weak from the long flight. I shake off the memory of Jovan and Olandon watching me from the rooftop and wobble behind a bouncing Jimmy. Having grown up flying he’s having none of my current troubles.
“Jimmy, go wake Adox,” I say. I feel a little bad about waking Adox, he must be pushing twenty-six revolutions. But the situation is dire. His reaction to being woken is the least of my worries. Every moment we wait means the Tatum’s army draws closer.
The boy hesitates for a moment. He’s seven years old, and I gather it’s just occurred to him an angry mother is the least of his problems. Adox will be furious. “I have to tell him,” I explain softly. The boy’s breath begins to come short and fast as soon as I utter the words. I hurry to finish. “But I will also tell him how brave you are, and that you came because I asked.”
It’s only fair I own up to my part of the blame. Yet another promise I haven’t kept. It seems like there’s a lot of those. Kedrick’s killer still roams free.
Jimmy gives a miserable nod as a few tears spill over the roundness of his freckled cheeks. I unbuckle my Soar, loosening straps and snapping rods to take the taut pressure off the stretched material behind me as the boy moves off with dragging steps.
I told Jovan and Olandon I had a plan. And I do. But whether the plan will work depends on Adox. If he refuses to let the people of the Ire help me then all hope is lost. The two worlds will fight at the loss of hundreds of lives. And that would just be the start. It wasn’t a single battle my mother wanted, it was war.
The Satums and the court revered my mother for her foresight in building up the food and supply stores. She’d spouted lie and lie about contingency plans in case the Fourth fires spread and burned Osolis to the ground. I knew the truth now.
The stores were war rations.
I’d stopped wondering why she wanted to invade Glacium long ago. It made no sense. Mother hated the Bruma and she could barely stand the first and coolest rotation on our fiery homeland, let alone the extreme cold of this world. In fact, Glacium might be the only thing she might hate more than me.
I unfold my arms as low murmurs in the tent turn to shuffling. Adox is limping my way when I turn. He appears older than last time I saw him. Does he lay awake at night wondering if his fears of discovery will come true? That the Ire will be
Little does he know it has already come to pass.