“You never blink.”
“I can’t afford to blink, I might miss something.”
Jerik scratched his stubbly chin. “That’s not true and you know it. This breeze’ll dry out your eyes the more you stare, that’s all.”
I swept my copper hair off my shoulder and glanced momentarily at my brother. Jerik Dacomé was seven years my junior. Much to his dismay he spent most of his time kept away from the heavy action—for good reason. Being here on this embankment was a novelty for him. For me it was an everyday routine.
As the brisk morning wind flicked at our hair, it was hard to believe how much he’d grown up since joining the 5th Legion only a year ago. He was no longer the small boy I wanted to shield from danger. He was almost my height, and almost a man.
A sudden gust pushed a stray lock across his black eyelashes hiding emerald eyes, so like my own. With confident grace, he secured it back into its tidy leather thong.
“Little brother, you fuss too much. Are you so keen to get back to the 5th Corridor?” I said sarcastically and smirked. “I’ll have Orelían drag you back, you know I will.”
“All I’m saying is that you’ll damage your lenses. This dust and sand gets everywhere. I’m just looking out for you.” He let out a deep sigh, defeated, not catching the wit in my voice.
“My lenses are fine. Stop worrying. Anyway, there’s nothing to see yet. But I must remain vigilant, Jerik. The Primords will be on us sooner than I’d like. I have to be ready the moment they appear.” Guilt was an emotion I wasn’t used to but I was aware that I’d stamped on his feelings. “I’m used to this. This is what I do,” I said softly.
“Sorry, Hally,” he shrugged absently. His courage made me laugh. Nobody was allowed to call me Hally but him. “You know I meant no disrespect.”
Sniffing into the air and smelling nothing out of the ordinary, I smiled broadly. “Don’t be sorry. It’s nice knowing you care,” I whispered back.
At last Jerik’s face lifted into a tender smile. A smile that was meant only for me.
I am Halíka Dacomé, daughter of Capíok and Alíanka Dacomé (now deceased) and sister to Jerik Dacomé.
My name was a court title in itself. The last name Dacomé signified the royal bloodline. We had no use for standard royalty titles as the other planets in our alliance used. Dacomé names were created to be spoken together—Halíka Dacomé—reverently and respectfully. First names only were considered the worst condescension and carried a heavy penalty for disloyalty to the Crown.
If Jerik had called me Hally when my father was around, the boy would’ve been flogged for betraying the royal code. I allowed a few close friends to call me diminutives but they were careful enough to use it when my father or any other dignitary was out of earshot. Personally, I disliked the royal code and its pointless rules. It wasn’t as if someone had stolen anything, or hurt anyone intentionally. Still, I had to lead by example. And until my father relinquished his throne, the rule stood.
As daughter of our ruler, I grew up in the crossfire of an ongoing war. As a young child I would sit on my mother’s knee, watching the Skeptics debate in the War Rooms. From the age of four and encouraged by my mother, instead of playing with ribbons and posies like the other girls of nobility, I eagerly grasped a sword, knife, or glaive in one hand, a shield in the other. By choice, the art of weaponry and warfare was my only schooling. Until I was old enough for the real thing. All I’d ever wanted to be was a great warrior, to ultimately lead my people into victorious battles.
On my sixteenth birthday and now considered an adult, I was granted my greatest wish. By order of the Arcan, the most senior Council of the City and as a birthday gift from my father, I was given absolute authority over the Arcanon army.
In my new role as Legion Overlord, the captains and soldiers soon learned to trust my natural instincts and skill. Even the old-timers, those of the Old Elite who’d seen more wars than most. The mantle of being the youngest ever Overlord, and a woman, had been a heavy one in the beginning.
But war was never over, merely an ever-changing, evolutionary cycle. Like the ebb and flow of a tide. Never the same a second time.
An end to this war was long overdue and I craved something I had never known with all my heart.
My father finally saw his great reign as a failure when we lost the other Xiryathon cities one by one. The Primords had overtaken and assumed control easily. The loss of our people living in those cities was devastating. Capíok Dacomé was more broken now than he had ever been. He no longer had the luxury of his people’s confidence and his authority was growing weaker every day. He kept himself isolated in the palace, rarely seeing Xiryathon’s one last stronghold with his own eyes, too scared to be amongst the people he ruled. To him, he would lose nothing because he had nothing to lose anymore.
I missed my mother more than anything. Her kindness and strength, her optimism and infallible faith in me. Her death, at Jerik’s birth, had maimed me like nothing ever had. When my father laid his eyes on me, I knew he saw a replication of her, and he disliked me for that reason. His relationship with Jerik had always been strained. Whether blame was behind my father’s reserve, I wasn’t sure, but both Jerik and I remained dutiful. We were both taught from a young age that a kingdom is not just a king. A kingdom is the people, and they needed our strength to guide them through these dark days.
The people only had faith in one person now: me. I led my soldiers into battle again and again. Yes, soldiers died and there was no going back from that. But every battle we won, the people’s hope lifted. I saw it in their eyes when I walked through the city streets. They still clung to a sliver of hope and while they held it in their hearts, I did my best every day not to let them down. We could not lose hope; it was all we had left.
In reality, I had lost more hope than most. In a way, I had lost who I really was.
Underneath my toughened and proud exterior, I mourned greatly when my colleagues, friends, and allies were cut down in a fight. All were exceptional men and women who I would miss. The years of war had made me resilient to the misery and suffering that went hand in hand with battle, but my stonelike manner made people who didn’t know me well uneasy. That’s what it took to be an Overlord.
The soldiers who fought for me would never dare call me anything but my full name.
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© Alexandra May 2013