Valleur possessed added biology that allowed them to breathe air alien to humankind, a fortunate situation given where the scatterlings of Ardosia were forced to ground.
On a rock twirling near a hot star, waterless, sluggish lava below the surface that would one day evolve into volcanoes, they huddled.
They could not stay long. Air issues were one matter; water was an imperative. The younglings would succumb first.
While squads of four continued the search for temporary and viable habitation, four hundred Valleur clustered in misery and grief on the barren wasteland.
At least a hundred would not see another universal day, their injuries fatal. Most of those were children, and their deaths created greater grief. So few left - the young should be the future.
Rillinon stared unseeing over the huddles and wished he died on Ardosia. Better than this hell.
He watched them breathe their last, one here, three there, and cursed the seers who looked, saw and had not offered warning before dying around a copper disc. Their equivocation led to absolute doom.
His wife and daughter, dead. What future now remained?
He caught sight of Camot, war leader. The man appeared bowed, weighed down, and thus it should be. A war leader unprepared. His reward should be eternal guilt.
A squad returned then and Rillinon pushed himself up. This squad was the one Camot dispatched back to Ardosia. Perhaps there was some good news.
“… raining,” one was saying as Rillinon closed in. “The Dome Guardians extinguished the fires.”
“Anyone left alive?” Camot barked.
Nobody said anything and that was answer enough.
“Is Ardosia habitable?” Camot asked next.
“Not yet,” the same man replied.
“Even if it were …” another began.
“We would be targets, yes,” Camot growled, and dismissed them. He noticed Rillinon and beckoned him closer.
“Anything on Dantian?” Rillinon asked.
“They found Dante, but no sign of the Vallorin,” Camot murmured. “The Rift is unattended.”
“We should consider Valaris.”
Camot bent over, hands on knees. “How I wish I could offer that option.” He looked up at Rillinon from that lowered position. “Guess where the Darak Or went after leaving this realm?”
Rillinon was horrified. Another world would soon suffer what Ardosia had. “If Vannis is alive …”
“What can he do before soltakin touch murders everything that is wholesome and sane in a world?” Camot straightened and passed a hand clearly shaking over his face. “The Valleur are cursed. Best to hide where no one will think to look.”
Then, giving Rillinon a troubled, helpless kind of shrug, he stumbled away. What future was now left, indeed?
A young voice whispered nearby, words of desperation, the kind to penetrate even numbness.
It will all burn, daddy. It burns.
Rillinon saw the man first and recognised him. It was Anastir, Dantian’s master sorcerer and also the sole Elder to escape Ardosia. He was prone and unmoving on the unforgiving rock and beside him a little girl swayed to and fro, thin arms clasped around legs black with soot.
It will all burn, daddy.
Something unlocked inside Rillinon then, and he began to heave and shudder. Tears ran unchecked over filthy cheeks. The young should be the future.
He approached and knelt beside the girl, reaching out to lay fingers in Anastir’s neck. He drew back. Dead. The last Elder had succumbed. He shifted to face the swaying youngling. Her hair covered her face; her lips moved saying the same words over and over. He lifted his hand and brushed her hair aside, tucking it behind an ear.
He rocked back on his heels.
The Valleur were cursed. How many times had he not heard that? Perhaps it was true; it certainly felt like it now. If it was true, then this girl was in danger. Danger would remain no matter how long she managed to escape hounding. Would the Darak Or come looking for her?
It did not bear thinking about. An innocent hounded. If the Valleur were ever to regain a semblance of what they were once, that future lay with this slip of a girl.
Daughter of Vallorins. The mother of the future. She was now the House of Valla.
Perhaps he should have given it more thought before acting on what was pure impulse and instinct in that moment, and perhaps he would have chosen exactly as he did. Sometimes destiny carried no nuance and remained unrecognised.
Rillinon reached out and placed the tips of his fingers on Varelie’s forehead. “Little one, I will take your pain away. Will you trust me?”
She ceased chanting and looked at him with huge eyes. “Will you be my daddy?”
He swallowed hard. His daughter was the same age as Varelie. He would transfer all the love he possessed from the dead to the living and be again whole. “Yes.”
Rillinon pressed firmly against her forehead. Your life begins now, little one. You have no memory of who you are. From this day, you are my daughter.
He opened his arms. “Daddy’s arms are empty.”
The little girl smiled and scrambled into them, twining her arms around his neck. Rillinon held her close as tears rolled again.
A new start. There was always hope.
“I love you, Mitrill.”
~ The End ~
The Lore Series continues in The Kinfire Tree
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