Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Wolkar shakes me awake. No noises disturbed me, so it’s through concern either distant or godly.
“Wolkar, it’s barely light.”
“Osky sent me. The sunrise swords have stopped.”
Distant and godly. I drag my furs on and grab my weapons.
“Lead me to him. Quick and quiet.”
For once Wolkar obeys my demand. I’m sure I know where he’s going to take me, but if I leave him in the village, he’ll start waking people to tell them the bad tidings.
As we crest South Hill, I see Osky sitting under the split tree, next to glowing embers in the fire pit. He feels the cold all the time these days. It won’t be long before he goes to join the government in the sky.
I turn to Wolkar.
“Go back to the village. Tell no-one about this. Say Osky has named today a river fishing day, not a beach walking day. When they set out, you stay on the beach side to stop the little ones roaming. Play. Teach them tricks. Tell them stories. Keep them off the beach.”
He grins and heads back, his step light. I’ve never known one so popular with the younglings, and today I’m thankful he’s here for me to call upon.
“Osky. You see our futures?”
The bony shoulders shrug.
“No more or less than I did yesterday.”
“When did it stop?”
“Just after moonrise. I watched the life fade from its eye.”
I gaze across the water to where the sword towers stand, guardians no more, their triple blades frozen at the moment their strength gave out. Back in grandfather’s time, people thought the dying of a sword tower meant a death in the village. Times have changed. New blood and cleaner ways reduced our early dying. Even so, those spinning blades mean something to us. A remnant of days before the sky fell, before the burnings ships passed for days on end. Before… It doesn’t really matter. Everything we know is built upon the ruin of what was. In those far days, the chieftains decreed that history was for fools and reading for weaklings. Strong folk were needed to claw a living from lands turned barren and wanderers turned hostile.
My father taught me a word from Before: ‘Turbine’. It’s the true name of the sword towers. I’ve never really dwelt upon what I could do with the true name of something so far away, but I’ve kept it my secret.
“The sundown swords?”
Osky points to the west.
“See for yourself.”
I peer into the morning haze and see their slow, steady sweep. It reassures me.
“Take yourself back to the village, Osky. I’ll do vigil until tomorrow.”
Nobody disturbs my watch. Between Wolkar and Osky, everybody will be happy all is right. My presence or absence causes no comment unless either lasts for more than a moon.
As night falls, I see the last baleful eye open. Without flinching, I stare right back. Nobody ever told me why demons were imprisoned in the towers. Penance? Harnessed to provide energy? Their red eyes have haunted me all my life. At least they seem to die with their towers.
Tabitha said they only sleep, waiting for the last tower to fail. Most people laughed at her.
I didn’t. That’s why, as I keep watch, my will is turned to a command chant timed to match the pace of the sundown swords. It’s a very basic chant. I’m a hunter-druid like my father. Unlike him, I’m far more a hunter.
“Turbine. Heed me. Turbine. Obey me. Turbine. Never stop.”