He was ashamed of himself to give way to rage the way he did. But, he allowed the flashes of white to distort his world. He only realized such when his fingers dug into the neck of a surviving captain, his blue uniform scarlet with his comrades’ blood.

“Where is Lord Francis?” He who must had sent his sister on her suicidal mission…Aldebaran slammed the man against a tree trunk to kill his silence.

“I don’t…know…Are you…Lord Alde…baran? I am…your ally…”

Aldebaran brought up his bloodied blade to remind the man that it only took him less than three blinks of the eyes to fall the fifty men and babbling about useless claims does not bode well, “I am well aware that you are of the rebellion, thus it only makes sense that you would know where your leader is.” His grip tightened, his guilt doubled for he knew well that torture never extract truths anyway.


At last he let go, and the captain dropped to the floor, drowning.

“Why did you have to destroy the village, they did nothing wrong?”

The captain finally caught his breath, “They…refused to comply…to provide for us even though…we are fight their war…”

Aldebaran saw a lost cause and brought his blade down. He was no different: his rage set aflame forests where he spotted the blot of blue amidst the uniform green from above, his blade drank screams of agony without any question. He wrenched their lives from their vessels calloused with sins, painted with their blood.

He, too, was a monster.

When he returned no villager had the mind to inquire after his abrupt disappearance, his dark robes did a decent job to not flaunt the crimson of his deeds. As he sought for rest he made for his tent, though on his way he thought he heard a songbird, but only to figure that it was a woman’s lullaby. He strained to hear.

…of the nocturne, children of Etzion,

Trust the paths strewn by osmanthus, road sprinkled by the moon,

Trace the song of the crow, its midnight feathers

And you would be home,

The children of Etzion.

He was stuck in his place until the dark night swallowed the ring of the last note, and he didn’t have the mind to leave before a stir among the flap of the tent from where the song came from revealed Lyra. The surprise upon their faces matched.

“Where had you been?” Her harsh whisper accompanied a tug at his arm to direct him away from the resting children.


“…Hunting what? You said you don’t touch meat.”

“…I found the rebels…and…let’s just say that they knew very little of Eridani’s fate.”

“…” She noted the splatter on his sleeve darker than the rest of its silky material, but kept to herself.

As the grass crunched beneath their feet with each strolling step he heard the need for conversation that may distract the implication of his vengeful massacre, “I didn’t know that you sing.”

The night was dark enough to hide her embarrassment, “It was…a silly song Horatio used to sing for me when I refused to go to sleep…I was reminded of it by this.” She presented a note clearly weathered but endured. “It’s from Athlem…carried by Horatio’s raven who miraculously found me. Apparently they are currently staying at Athlem’s hometown.”

He could hear the smile in her voice, and that giddiness only reminded him of his bluejay, “That’s…wonderful,” His attempt at suppressing his bitterness failed, and his leftover wrath against monsters and the fruitless search for his still missing sister sharpened his words, “Lyra.”

She noticed his discomfort and paused, her eyes bright but the stars above them brighter, “We ought to set out tomorrow.” The thought of seeing his sister’s face among the children for another day was unbearable.

“…Tomorrow?” That would be quite perfect, actually, just in time as Athlem’s note served as a faithful reminder of things forgotten during a week of constantly negotiating with death. “…Yes, we’ve already delayed so much.”

“Don’t worry, all will be well.”

The sound of the hollow reassurance was also swallowed by darkness, joining the beautiful note of her lullaby.

The next morning Lyra attempted to recollect the bits of her speech she drafted in her sleepless night while she threw her belongings into a haphazard bundle. Our original purpose calls us, that just sounds as though the villagers’ distress was unimportant and they were selfish. We must go stop the rebels? That is quite a stretch, a lie. Still, as she examined the circle of her humble living place littered with pointless trinkets that symbolizes both the villagers’ gratitude and their attempt of finding normality in pretending that they are still in a position of power where they could still afford to pay others.

Part of her had yet to believe that a week had passed, while most of her cannot believe that she wanted to stay. Never before had she feel so demanded, needed by all, and freed to help those she wanted. But, she knew from Athlem’s note that Horatio needed her most. So, it was with renewed purpose that she stepped out of her shelter, stretched forth for the future, before she started for the main gathering place of survivors still without the faintest shape of the words she was to speak.

Had she not been spending all of her night and her current attention tossing and turning about in contemplation she might have seen the shadow flicker by the corner of her eye. It crept up upon her, raised a hand. A paralyzing pain slammed across the back of her head. She might have yelled, fell, and found herself on the ground, her world flashing and fading.


The world spun like a descending crow on its downward spiral, plumage that brought such good news now nothing but midnight.


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