Darkness surrounded Gailin as the torrid laughter of the hideous, dead creature sucked the last bit of consciousness from him. Behind him he could hear the laughter of his comrades as he fell, leaving Raen gasping in disbelief. Why did Aesia abandon me?|
The laughter continued ringing around him for what seemed forever in a place where sight and sound seemed foreign. He was floating in the vastness of nothing. Do I still exist? Am I dead? Is this death? I can still feel, but where is my body? Where am I? He felt so alone. It must be death; nothing else could explain it. He had failed in his quest to save those poor people. This must be my punishment.
After an eternity of that creature’s laughter, he was still floating in the vile darkness of that place, wherever it was, when in the distant he saw something. A pinprick of light, far beyond his reach, was it the last vestiges of his life? It seemed so far away, yet he knew, somehow, that there was no such thing as distance anymore. Time and space; space and time, it was all so irrelevant. He thought that if only the laughter would cease, that he could find peace. Even in this place.
In the distance he could sense change. He could hear the sounds of a ticking clock coming from the pinprick of light. Familiarity set in, and he was in the pinprick. It was a memory from long ago, one he couldn’t quite place.
It was late afternoon, Gailin and his brother, Danyelle, had just come inside after playing at swords. Gailin’s head hurt, as the wooden blade had been cracked against his skull. Danyelle was complaining that his arm hurt, but he was just bragging as he had obviously bested his brother this time. Calahir stood behind them laughing as they both complained over their hurts. He had such rich laugh, Gailin wanted nothing more than to be as honorable and skilled as his father’s general, but Danyelle always seemed to best him no matter how hard he tried. It wasn’t fair, they were supposed to be twins, but Danyelle always seemed to be better at everything than he was.
Everyone in the keep seemed to be in a fuss over something, everyone was always running around about something, His father was probably in one of his moods again. Worried that something was going to happen, making everyone run around like they were chickens with their heads cut off. Maybe mother had come back from her trip, everyone always raised quite a fuss when mother returned.
Something was wrong though, even at eight, Gailin could sense it. The men seemed solemn, hurrying about, and some of the women were crying. Calahir seemed to notice too, as he had run ahead and was speaking to one of his father’s advisors. A grim look passed over his face as he turned to the two boys, sadness permeating his eyes. Danyelle seemed to think it was all great fun, as he loved the chaos that ensued when the castle was this busy.
After a few minutes Calahir came back over, and got down on one knee, so as to look the two in the eyes. “You boys should go to your rooms, till your father comes to get you. I can’t explain why. Not right now, but you must do it.” He seemed worried over something, if only he would say what.
Danyelle wasn’t having it though, “you can’t tell me what to do, I want to know why you’re ordering us around. We’re the princes of Gideon and you’re just the general. I’m going to tell my father about this as soon as I see him. In fact I’m going to find him now!” Just like him, to always scream and cry about being told to do something. Even father had a hard time keeping him under control.
Just then Calahir’s face turned bright red as he stood up towering over the two and glaring down at Danyelle. “This is no time to argue with me. Do as I say and stop being a spoiled little brat. You will go to your room and there will be no ifs ands or buts about it. GO!” Obviously bested, Danyelle turned tail and ran down the hallway, almost in tears. “You better go to your room too Gailin, this is no time to be out and about.” Gailin didn’t even say a word, just nodded his acceptance, turned, and walked toward his room.
He was scared though; he had never seen Calahir get upset like that, and he didn’t want to go to his room all by himself. He wanted to find his father; he would make everything all right again.
Quickly making his way toward his parent’s rooms he noticed that people were even more hurried and upset here, maybe there was to be more fighting. The halls of this place seemed even larger than the normally did to Gailin, more ominous, like the ceiling were really the sky. As he reached his father’s door he noticed the clock that father had been given by some strange little people, it made the nicest little sound; it was soothing to hear the tick, tock of it as it moved its hands around the circular face. He opened the door just a little bit when he heard talking inside, it sounded like his father, and Calahir. It sounded like his father was crying, which was strange; because he couldn’t remember ever hearing his father cry.
“What happened, where is the queen?” he could hear Calahir demanding of his father. They hadn’t noticed him yet. “Where is Aliandra?”
“Calahir, you’ve been a good friend to me and this kingdom. Together we’ve witnessed and been a part of some of the most horrible tragedies this world has ever known.” Gailin could barely make out his father’s words. “Through all of that we’ve found hope, fought our way through all adversity had to offer, but truthfully, today none of it seems as though it were real. Like it was some distant dream filled with fictional stories. Through all of it I always knew we would overcome it somehow.” Gailin could hear his father’s voice trailing off, as he stifled a sob. “But today I don’t know if I will be able to make it through all of this. This sadness is like an abyss. I feel as if I’m clawing my way to get out, but there is no out.”
“What are you saying Aldaric?” Calahir said in a hurried voice. “What has happened, you must tell me. For gods’ sake, what are you trying to say. Where is Aliandra?” For almost ever there seemed to be silence, except the ticking of the clock just behind Gailin; which sounded ominous instead of comforting now. As if it were counting down to something.
Stifling back the tears Aldaric finally spoke. “My dear friend, what I’m trying to say, is that . . .Aliandra . . . the Queen is dead . . . I just received word by messenger less than an hour ago. The light of my life was killed as she rode under armed escort by an archer’s shot. My Aliandra is dead, and so to am I now. She was the one thing that ever gave me true joy in life.” Gailin could feel his heart sinking; he couldn’t believe this was real. It had to have been one of father’s stories. “Now she’s gone and there is nothing left. The church of Sellador has taken from me the one thing that was dearest to me.” Gailin dropped to his knees, sinking toward the ground. “How am I going to tell Serianna that her mother is dead . . . How will I explain to the boys that their mother won’t come home . . . that all that is left for them is their father, who is now dead inside.”
Calahir stood there speechless, as Aldaric stared to the ground. Neither seemed to move until they noticed Gailin as he fell all the way to the ground, knocking the door the rest of the way open. Tears streamed down his face as he cried, lost in the emptiness. His father and Calahir rushed over to him, but he didn’t notice, the only thing he could hear was the ticking of that awful clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Gailin could feel the tears falling from his eyes. It didn’t even matter that he couldn’t understand where his eyes were, that he was back in the darkness. Nor did it matter that the laughter had stopped. The clock had stopped. The world was perfect silence, perfect nothingness, even the pinprick was gone. Yet he cried, remembering the pain that he had felt. Remembering the oath that he took as a boy at his mother’s funeral. He cried not in remembrance of the day his mother died,, but because he failed in his oath and had let down his mother in his oath to her to protect people so that no one else would lose a mother, a father, a brother, a sister. He had failed.