Giana did not think they would be guarding the Broker’s garden. Since the Wyndlokians took over the city, they had only arrested Oracles, the women who could see their future, and instituted martial law. No one in, and no one out.
He gave an exasperated sigh. “If another guard was around, I’d have to bring you in.”
Giana tried to stand tall. “Then go ahead.”
She knew they would find out once she was before the new lord. But talking back to a soldier would be nothing when they learned she could be an Oracle. Even though she did not have any training, she still had the gift, or the black infection if you asked any Wyndlokian.
The soldier waved his hand. “I don’t even want to go through the trouble. There have already been to many people brought before Manson. So much so that now our captains are our first stop to solve problems between us and you, and trust me, you do not want a captain to even know that you exist.”
“Why should I trust you?”
That seemed to make the soldier think for a moment. “I guess that a name is the first step in knowing you can trust someone. My name is McGregon. You don’t have to tell me yours.”
Giana remained silent.
“You know I never asked for this war we have now. I thought this city and your country were always too far away now for the old hatreds to force us to fight once again.”
Giana remembered the old stories. When Wyndlok and Grenys fought over rivers and forests filled with unclaimed riches. Now they were separated by the people who united to forge their own kingdom between Wyndlok and Grenys. The great forest and the rivers they desperately grasped for were now infested by a people who wanted nothing to do with these two countries. Now it seemed that Wyndlok relinquished the middle kingdom, and went straight for the heart. After landing on the eastern shore, they marched with impunity over the rolling plains and vineyards of olives and grapes, straight to Grenys’ third greatest city, Nychenria.
“I made a family after Wyndlok’s last uprising. I never thought I would see another battlefield. My plan was to make it far enough to pay my way out of service. My wife,” he said, “is home alone. I should be there right now. Not here. Not fighting for these… fools who would kill us all to reclaim the fading glory of our people.”
Giana was getting worried. Why was this man telling her this? What did he want from her? She knew of no path in the garden, where they now stood, that could give her a way out, without the soldier alerting more guards. She looked up to the parapets on the wall behind the soldier. No guard moved along the wall walk and she was certain one would come by soon. She had to leave.
“I am… sorry,” Giana hoped that was what McGregon was looking for. The soldier cocked his head in wonder. “I did not ask for you to be here now either. I only wanted to see the garden. It was one of my favorite places in the city to calm my head. It was… luck I think that you were here. I must get back to my home now.”
Giana looked for any sign in the soldier. A wince, a tick, something to show her what he thought. There was nothing. Finally he said, “Go, and only come here in the evenings from now on. Otherwise another guard that sees you here may not let you go. I’ll keep my distance and make sure the other guards do too.”
“Why? You don’t owe me anything.” Giana thought the soldier would take her to one of his captains, but the man was letting her come back.
“I don’t, but I don’t want this place to be so empty. It just doesn’t… deserve that.”
Giana felt her stomach flutter. She put her right forearm across her stomach and swept an open palm to the right, until it was perpendicular with her torso. It was the farewell gesture of Grenys that also meant respect and gratitude.
She spun around and took a long step forward, but something held her. She turned back around. McGregon seemed to be just as surprised for turning around as she was. “And my name is Giana.”
She turned back around and ran out of the garden as fast as her heels could carry her. She passed the multi leveled market district that had storefronts, under stone streets that were level with their second story homes. A few lamp post’s candles were lit and being lit by an old man with a balding head, and whitebeard
By the time she got back home, Nadeen was already making supper. It was her twin’s turn to make supper tonight. Ever since they lost their mother to a plague when they were sixteen, it was up to them to make food to eat. Then when their father passed from grief, and too many nights at the White Shore Inn at seventeen, they had to get the food too. It was never easy, but they managed. Tonight they were eating a carrot soup, and three day old bread. There were even some raisins in a bowl on the table too.
Giana sat down, and dined with her sister, not saying a word of what happened, and not a word of the past, present, or future. Yet the words kept ringing her mind until they faded to one. Future, future, future. Giana felt her forehead sweat, and her hands clenched, and her arms felt like they were being constricted by one of the great water snakes of the Raining Forests. She feel the blistering heat of too many bonfires, and smell ash, instead of the sweet carrot soup in front of her. Then she saw it, a blurred version of a city on fire.