“You left me behind!”
How could she have been so careless? L’lorne had spent so much time thinking of ways to get into the Asylum, she hadn't thought to check up on Deborah and make sure she was still sleeping. If she had seen her awaken, at least she could have intercepted her before she got inside, and now they both stood there, face to face, right in the heart of the Asylum. “Yes, I did.”
“How could you? This is my mother we're talking about.” The girl was near hysteric in her anger, and L’lorne had to quickly squelch the sonic detectors in the room as well as set up a sound deadening field to keep Deborah's voice from alerting everyone and their uncle.
“I wanted to do some reconnaissance. See where the weak points were and. . .”
“BY COMING INSIDE!”
L’lorne grumbled silently. This wasn't going to go well. How had she gotten in anyway? The ventilation ducts was good, but how did she get into them? Didn't matter, really, she was here now, and L’lorne would have to deal with the situation. “Yes, by coming inside. I wanted to make sure your mother was actually here before we both tried to get inside. I'm a touch more agile than you, so I figured. . .”
“You didn't tell me.” Deborah was starting to recompose herself, but was still visibly angry, crossing her arms in a very scolding manner. L’lorne considered flooding her system with something to calm her down, but it seemed she was doing it herself. Good, L’lorne wasn't completely sure it would have worked anyway. Deborah was obviously starting to resist the less overt influences L’lorne had been working on her. She shouldn't have woken up until morning. Still no excuse for not watching her more closely.
“I decided to do it after you fell asleep. I figured you wouldn't notice.”
“Would you have told me in the morning then?”
Good question. “I suppose it would depend on what I figured was the best way for us to get in. But seeing as you found your own way in, I guess it's a moot point. How did you get in, by the way?”
“Oh, I asked the ghost. He told me of a secret way in he had developed, right before he moved on.”
“He moved on then? That's good.”
“Why didn't you try to help him move on?”
Not a good question. Not because she hadn't thought about the answer, but strictly because Deborah was unlikely to enjoy the answer: Because L’lorne didn't consider it important. The ghost would have moved on, eventually, but helping him? That wasn't even a remote thought in her mind. Deborah likely would disagree with that sentiment, probably figuring that helping others, even the otherworldly, should be a priority. Have to break her of that eventually. In the mean time, she would need to answer. “I figured he might know something more that could help us. Apparently I was right. Good work.”
Deborah smiled at the compliment, half hearted as it truly was, and released the remains of her more heated anger. She would still be upset for a while, but at least she wasn't screaming any more. “Well, now that we're here, let's find my mom.” She turned to the large cylinders. Their dark forms, highlighted by only displays and indicator lights, dominated even the massive room. “What's in these things.”
“I haven't had the chance to look yet,” L’lorne started, already accessing the data files remotely. Lots of genetic information, familiar information. Oh no.
“I'll look,” Deborah announced, her hand digging into her pockets for the glasses before she had even finished her statement.
L’lorne looked very quickly, just as the glasses slid over Deborah's ears. The first cylinder, what were the odds? “No don't!” L’lorne cried out, but it was too late.
“Mother!” L’lorne pushed past the people who crowded into the small hut. Her brother's both looked at her, one with disgust the other with surprise, as she stumbled into a kneeling position next to her mother.
Denofors looked far older than L’lorne could remember, and she gently grabbed her wrinkled hand, afraid that too much pressure would shatter it. The old woman opened her eyes and smiled. “You came back.” Her voice was weak and old, but still had that loving tone that L’lorne had grown to love. With her free hand, Denofors stroked L’lorne's face. “You've grown to be a beautiful woman.”
“Oh mother, I'm sorry I didn't come back sooner, I was just so busy and. . .” L’lorne stopped her explanation and buried her head into her mother's shoulder. “I got here as soon as I could.”
“It's alright,” Denofors said as she patted her daughter's head. “Most believed you were dead, though I'm sure they're more than surprised right now.” She eyed her sons, the youngest of which turned his head away. The other continued to glare at Lloren. “I knew better. Though you did cut it rather close.” L’lorne said nothing as she raised her head. The tears trickling down her cheeks was all the response she really needed. “Now then,” Denofors said as she wiped a few of the tears away. “Tell me what you learned about the stars.”
“The stars,” L’lorne smiled, remembering her promise. “They're just like the sun, only so far away they look like points of light instead of disks. Like the sun, they're really huge, many times bigger than the biggest thing you can imagine, made of a gas that is hotter than the hottest fire ever. There are arcs of fire that fling out every once in a while, and they even have spots.”
“More amazing than I ever believed,” Denofors said quietly.
L’lorne thought to continue, but it was obvious that her mother was starting to fade even as she spoke. “Mother, you can't die now, there's more to tell you.”
“And there is much I must tell you, but there is no more time. I'm sure I will learn all I need soon enough, but you, you will have to learn everything on your own. I'm sorry.”
“Don't be, please don't be.”
“I am. But I know you Lcorn L’lorne, you will figure it out.” Denofors' eyes closed for a moment, opening only slightly. She moved her hand on top of her daughter's hand and held it for a moment. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Lcorn Denofors, she who bathes in the light of the stars, died. L’lorne wept for a moment, holding the still hand of her mother. The hand of one of the priests pressed itself against her shoulder and pulled slightly. The hut began to empty as the rituals of passing were beginning.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she moved outside, followed by the crowd of family and friends. L’lorne leaned up against a nearby pole and let her tears come. She didn't break down into hysterics, but she cried anyway, weeping long and hard. It was only when her eldest brother, Mcorn Gunah, approached her that she pulled back on the tears to try to greet him with a smile as best she could.
“Damn you,” Gunah growled back at her, and grabbed her wrist with such a tight grip that she almost instantly lost circulation in her hand. For a moment she was surprised, but the next instant was nearly pure instinct. L’lorne spun her hand around and grabbed his wrist back, then twisted it up and over, braking his grip and forcing his arm behind his back. He squealed for a moment in pain as she pushed him down to his knees.
“Don't ever do that again,” L’lorne responded with a sudden flood of anger.
“I'll kill you traitor!”
“Gunah, L’lorne!” The familiar, if older, voice of her younger brother was enough to convince L’lorne to break her hold and Gunah snapped back up into a fighting stance. “I said enough!”
“She's a traitor Phulan,” Gunah started to argue.
“Go home Gunah,” Mcorn Phulan ordered. “I will come get you when it's time for the burial.”
“But. . .”
“Go home now.”
Gunah turned from his brother and glared at L’lorne. “I will kill you for what you did to father, I swear it.” With that he stormed off, heading for the far end of the village.
L’lorne watched with wary eyes, then took a deep breath. “I knew neither of you would be happy to see me, but I didn't think. . .”
“Father,” Phulan said without looking at L’lorne. “Gunah blames you for what happened to father.”
L’lorne studied her brother's form, far older than she last remembered him, but still younger than herself. She saw her father's stern frame and face, and her mother's eyes and nose, and most of all she saw the markings that once was her father alone. “You took his position.”
Phulan still didn't look at L’lorne, instead he focused on the people selling things in the nearby market. “I had to. Father was so angry when you left, he and Gunah went off to look for you. Someone had to fill his role, and with mother's help I did.” He finally looked up at L’lorne, directly into her eyes. “I wanted to go looking for you too. I was young, but I understood enough to know that you shouldn't have just left like that. I wanted you back.”
“I had to, he promised to teach me. . .”
“All about the stars, I know,” Phulan finished. “Mother told me, explained it to me as best she could. Father refused to accept it.” Suddenly his face grew very sad. “He died while looking for you, three winters after you left. An accident, but Gunah blamed you. He still does.”
“For what? Father was a hot headed fool. If he had just let you go, he'd still be alive. He couldn't let his pride go though, and kept at it.” Phulan shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Gunah will kill you if you stay too long. He is a warrior now, in charge of one of the stronger groups. They will come for you as soon as the burial is over and there is nothing I can do to stop them.”
“Yes, I understand.” L’lorne reached out for her brother, but he stepped back.
“Good bye L’lorne.” Phulan turned and left without another word.
L’lorne stood there and felt the tears coming again. They were flowing when his hand landed gently on her shoulder. “Not the welcoming you were expecting?”
“He didn't even want to touch me. Gunah I understand that, but Phulan, we were so close.”
“Perhaps that's why, and maybe he'll change his mind before we leave.”
L’lorne shook her head as she wiped the tears away. “I don't think so.” She began to look around the small section of the village they were in, trying to find something, anything, that could distract her from the pain. The small market stand seemed busy as usual, and she watched with waning interest as the farmer bartered for tools and clothing. All this seemed completely normal, but with a sniff, L’lorne looked closer. “Something is wrong.”
The baskets of grain looked alright, but the grain was strange, not quite right. Her eyes moved down to the next stand, and found something similar. She then looked up at the mounds that dominated the village, and looked at the various temples and buildings. All seemed normal, looked normal, but something was definitely wrong. “I can see that there's something wrong. But I can't figure out what.”
“I wouldn't expect you to see that yet. In a few more years, maybe, but not now.”
“What is it? Tell me, please.”
“Very well.” He took a breath, then let his smile fade away. “This place is dying.”
The phrase was enough to put all the pieces together and she began weeping again. “No, it can't die. I can't let this happen.”
“Stopping it would be hard, especially with the way they feel about you right now.”
“I have to, this is my home, these are my people, I have to help them.”
“Then I will help you, however,” he raised his hand to make his point. “There will be another problem in the future. Remember chess?” L’lorne nodded, her hand instinctively going to the T sharped piece of twisted metal that hung from her neck. “The people who invented that game are coming here. They will play to win, but I don't think anyone else on this continent will be able to stand up to them.”
“My people can.”
1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
4. It's obvious, but I'm not sure I can move the second section and still have the story flow right, but if moving it might be best, say so.