Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Thirty-Three

Lauren, Lydia’s daughter, was living with a foster family that lived an hour away from Ighosia Falls, and Becca was actually invited to meet with her rather than do their talking on the phone. Lauren was now seventeen, tall and beautiful like her mother, but she had the cold resentment of someone abandoned in her eyes.

The girl was snappish when the subject of her mother was approached, and she had nothing positive to say. It was clear that she blamed Lydia for everything, from her first failed marriage to her mental instability. Lauren wasn’t interested in hearing explanations; she pointed the blame at her mother, and that was that. Becca had been able to look at some of the reports from the group home where Lauren had been staying before placed with her foster family. She had been seeing an appointed therapist, and there was improvement behavior-wise, but she still had a lot of therapy to undergo. A brief phone conversation with Lauren’s therapist– no confidential information was shared, of course– told Becca what she had already figured out: that little or nothing Lauren said concerning her mother could be taken at face value. Lauren was an only child, her father and stepfather had nothing to do with her, her mother was out of reach, her grandparents were dead, and any other extended family was far away and out of touch. Lauren was very alone in the world and wrongly held her mother accountable.

So Lydia and Lauren had no extended family to contact. While she was in the city, she found the bank Lydia had worked for and got in to speak with Maria Ferrera, Lydia’s old manager. “Lydia was always a good teller,” Maria said. “She never brought personal drama with her to work, so I have to say it was a surprise when she broke down like she did. No one here, her coworkers or customers, had any idea what she was going through.”

More dead ends. Well, there were still Lydia’s two ex-husbands who might have something new to tell her. She wrote notes to herself to find them ASAP.

Jaidyn didn’t like this new man who was bossing him around. Akotherian. What a silly name. It was worse than the names of the Keidenelle. The one good thing about the man was that he knew Jaidyn was Cheyne reborn and kept helping him fill those holes in Cheyne’s memories. Akotherian told him things should have been readily remembered but could never quite grasp in his mind. Under Akotherian’s guidance, he was growing more and more comfortable in his role as Cheyne reborn. Once, he actually let Akotherian hold Sonsedhor so the man could affirm it was, in fact, the great sword of legend.

What really bothered him was that Akotherian seemed to think he was in charge. He never actually sat in the ruler’s chair or made decrees, but he seemed to think Jaidyn should obey his every word and whim, and he expected that obedience. Well, he never actually gave a real order or made his own decree, but the effect was the same. People he overheard talking in the castle corridors knew that Akotherian was the real power behind the occupation, even though Jaidyn was really the face of it.

After all, wasn’t it Jaidyn who sat in judgment when a pair of Keidenelle had a squabble? Wasn’t it him who decreed that any female prisoners should be brought to him for inspection. He had already, in just a few short days, built up quite a nice little harem. Some part of him remembered passing a decree like that before. He shook it away. Lexan wasn’t barging into his thoughts now. Akotherian did help with that. And wasn’t he the one with Sonsedhor, with the memories of Cheyne Firdin in his head? Yes, they were incomplete, but whose memories of past lives weren’t full of holes?

The ruler’s chair wasn’t a throne, exactly. Arlennia didn’t have a monarch exactly. Estria, the capital, was the seat of the ruling body. A new ruler was voted on every six years. Well, the poor sap who had been occupying the seat was dead now, slaughtered by that woman, Senne, by order of Akotherian. If there was one other person who never took an order from Jaidyn, it was Senne.

He wasn’t completely sure what it was between Senne and Akotherian. Were they lovers? Partners? What? He had finally come to the conclusion that Akotherian might not be the Mother. At least the man didn’t claim to be her anymore, but he didn’t outright say who he really was. Some sorcerer, perhaps. Either way, he was a thorn in Jaidyn’s side. And Senne was right by him pretty much constantly.

Jaidyn sat in the ruler’s chair idly. No one was bringing him any prisoners to look at today, things were going well. Keidenelle kept coming in, the Arlennians were subdued, and surely word was going out that Cheyne’s rebirth was settled in the city. Soon more followers would come. Soon, he would take his army out of the city and search for this false Cheyne he kept hearing about, this man Roark who served the Dark Father, killing everyone he came across. He was giving Cheyne a bad name, putting fear into the people and generally making Jaidyn’s job harder. He would set things right. Soon the whole world would know who the real Cheyne was.

But for the moment, he was bored.

He slid down from the chair and made for the rooms he had claimed for himself. Akotherian and Senne had taken the former ruler’s rooms for themselves, leaving Jaidyn the second-best rooms in the castle. Another slight, but one he couldn’t argue with. There were times he did have to listen to Akotherian. He was the only one who really kept Lexan’s memories at bay. Besides, his rooms were still spacious and very fine. He would have the best rooms soon enough.

Before he even got to the corridor his rooms were in, he happened upon Akotherian and Senne. They were in their rooms, secluded, but the door was open. As he walked by, he just happened to pass closely to the door, and his ear just happened to lean in enough and strain just enough to hear what the man was saying.

“…have him. My servants found him. At this very moment, they are bringing Cheyne and Sonsedhor to Estria.”

It felt like he had run into a wall. What did he mean “they are bringing Cheyne and Sonsedhor to Estria”? They were already in Estra. He was Cheyne, and his sword was Sonsedhor. Akotherian had told him himself, affirming what Jaidyn already knew.

Or had the bastard been lying? Was everything false?

It couldn’t be. Akotherian was playing a joke on him. That was all. He had heard Jaidyn coming and was playing a little joke. That was all.

Trembling, he hurried to his rooms. A part of his mind screamed at him, telling him that this man wasn’t just some sorcerer, that maybe he was... He forced the thought away. He didn’t want to think about the Dark Father right now.

He flew into his room and closed the door behind him. Where had that thought come from, that Akotherian was the Dark Father? He didn’t follow the Mother’s enemy. But… the man had power. With that kind of power, Jaidyn could challenge the Mother herself. She had abandoned him, abandoned him to this suave, oily… very powerful man. Hadn’t he come and gone at will? Wasn’t he giving Jaidyn everything he wanted? Wasn’t he bringing Sonsedhor– Jaidyn’s birthright– to Estria? If he was the Dark Father, so what? If the Mother had really loved him, she would have stepped in herself and saved him.

He stumbled away from the door and to the ornate marble washstand. There was a small mirror attached to it. He looked up at his reflection. “I serve the Dark Father…” he whispered. A smile crept across his face. “I serve the Dark Father, and I have power!”

He let out a loud laugh that echoed through the room.

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