[This post is from Artorius Mackenzie’s point of view.]
His steps carried him down along what his parents and aunts and uncles had told him was once a paved roadway to the edge of the river’s floodplain. Huge circles of broken concrete and half-rotted rebar stood out of the swampy ground, the memory of a bridge that had once spanned this area before it was moved—and before the world ended and brought the bridge that had once replaced it crashing down. The remnants of that bridge stood a few dozen yards to his left, broken slabs having fallen into the swamp and the river sometime between the time the world ended and the time he started to have clear memories of this place.
He and his father went fishing here when Cameron was around, when he wasn’t off riding his circles.
I always asked him if I could come with him. He always said no. Now I’m being given the chance to ride out and explore the wider world and I’m too—what? Too chickenshit to take the chance? Is that it?
Tory paused, staring at the river beyond the flood plain, his heart feeling too large and too heavy all at once, lodging somewhere behind his collarbone.
Am I just afraid to leave, or is it something else?
Gods and monsters, am I actually afraid of having an adventure?
He knuckled his eyes. Maybe that was it. Maybe that was why he was so bothered.
Maybe I don’t actually want to leave—I’ve only ever thought that I did. It was hard to fathom. What child didn’t want to see what was beyond the boundaries of their world?
Me, I guess. For all of my begging Dad, I’m balking now.
He drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, starting the careful trek across the soggy floodplain. The air was growing thick and humid, clouds building in the west, but it was early yet. The storms wouldn’t come until later—at least he suspected that the rain wouldn’t come until later.
Astrid would know for sure. Gods and monsters, is she supposed to come, too? Are they all supposed to?
Are all of us born to some kind of prophetic fate that we don’t know about?
There’s just too much. Too much I don’t know. Too much none of them every told us.
But then, perhaps they didn’t know, either.
Uncle Phelan knew—probably.
But what would it have meant if he hadn’t? What if the Taliesin didn’t know about all of it?
What then? What would that mean?
Tory didn’t know, and as he drew up to the river’s edge, he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
Some questions are better left unasked and unanswered.
He shook his head, staring out over the river, watching the play of light across the ripples. Above him, tree branches rustled in the summer wind and birds called to each other among the leaves. He took another deep breath, his heart calming. Beneath the river, the lines of power thrummed, soothing, gentle.
Maybe I’m just afraid to leave the nest, to range too far from the protections that I’ve grown accustomed to. Hell. Maybe it’s not just fear for myself. It’s the others, too. He glanced back over his shoulder toward the village, out of sight up the hill, on the gentle plateau that perched above the river.
Maybe it’s the others, too.