Some have walked these desolate worlds while you have slept. Some like me. I remember what you did. I remember the day.
The Tenno appeared at the Terminus, gleaming and victorious. Our cold and gold Emperors, breathless, bathed you in savior’s silk. Then came the sound. Across all our worlds, all at once, the ceremonial Naga drums. A royal salute to the honored Tenno. Ten solemn beats to declare the suffering was over. I watched from a distance, with the rest of the low Guardians. With each beat terror began to crush my throat. The Tenno were not stoic and silent. They were waiting. They were poised. I tried to call out but only a strangled whisper escaped.
When the ninth beat rang a torrent of blood filled the stadium, loosed by Tenno blades. The drums, the Empire, fell silent forever.
Now I hunt, dividing your numbers. Watching from that dark place, cataloging your sins, I am the ghost of retribution. You may forget but you are not innocent.
The trail was growing staler by the day. They’d traveled far, and though her discomfort had waned somewhat, Jaliqai had grown weary of finding nothing to speak of. Perhaps the former princess had drowned, like she’d entertained before. Eaten by a tiger shark or some other carnivorous sea dwelling creature.
Jaliqai didn’t really like to think about what fresh and unknown horrors lurked at the depths of the ocean.
She could feel the tension coming from Aika. If she tried, she might cut it from the air with her hunting knife the way that she had severed the throat of her father’s dragon elk in sacrifice to the spirits for a safe journey and an alleviation of the bad spirits that had circulated them since his death and improper burial. It should have been fine. You had his soul purified with fire, as you ought to have done.
Still, it had not been enough.
Jaliqai leaned heavily against her saddle, swaying with the movement of Altantsetseg below her, the silence of their group weighing heavy on her shoulders. They’d enough supplies to last them for some time, but she thought that perhaps Aika and Hanae would be glad of an inn’s warm, soft, beds instead of the cold of the forest ground this night. Perhaps it would lift their spirits and alleviate some of this strange tension that had hung about them since the journey’s beginning.
The Cragwoman turned to Aika, braids swaying heavily over her shoulder as she did, and the evening light shining warm against her skin through the silent sentinels of the trees around them.
“We should stop at the nearest town; find an inn and a warm bath and meal.” She glanced at Hanae where she rode on Aika’s other side, a blue shadow that nearly blended in with the shadows cast by the tree trunks.
Coming home is a very strange relationship with someone you love very much, but no longer know. It’s the paranoia of walking home alone in the dark, though you’ve walked these streets all your life. This place somehow seems smaller - the measurements off. The air is staler, and was it always this hard to breathe? Over the course of one year, life went on - as it always does. We moved to different states, and though we saw the same sun, it was now from a different angle. Under a different sunset blue purple pink sky. Over the course of one year, morals were questioned. We had to make choices, and live by them. Let ourselves be defined by them. Though to the world, we appear to have a new exterior, we are still the same we. The same heart and bones and blonde hair and eyebrows. Suddenly you show up somewhere, and the usual banter full of love is now a silence you haven’t heard in a while. You feel the lump in your throat, the tears well up behind your eyes. The universe collapses. It hurts in my stomach heart hands toes. It hurts in places that don’t have names. Home, I will always love you and stand by you, but you wear a face I no longer know.