Silver Sun - Solars in the West
Lintha Wars Aftermath
The last battle was finally over. Wreckage bobbed gently in the surf; shattered masts, ripped planks, shreds of sails, tangled with very few floating corpses. Sharks and siaka circled lazily, occasionally dragging a body down beneath the waves. Siakal’s Children – the monstrous half-god siakas – had mostly deserted the area now the slaughter was done, but they had fulfilled their end of the bargain. Bluehaven burned, its ships looted, its protective labyrinth of old fleets charred and sinking. Its light illuminated the waters for miles around, the only thing differentiating water from sky on the pitch-black Calibration week.
Qismet sat in the open cockpit of his stolen warbird, its landing struts supported by the vast ironwood deck of their fleet’s flagship. The blood of the Lei Kiangi, the Lintha Matriarch, still stained the control panels and the gleaming orichalcum hull; Qismet had gotten to her on her way to the clouds and thrown the old woman’s body down to the Children of Siakal below. Head tipped back, eyes closed, eagle-beaked hood of his Veiled Eagle ensemble crumpled around his neck, he drummed his fingers on the colored orichalcum bracers clamped around his forearms.
How long had it been since he’d crashed that Lintha Father’s ship on the docks at Ikress? Was this the fourth Calibration since then? The third? He’d lost count. So much had changed since then it might as well have been another lifetime. Thanks – or maybe no thanks – to you, he thought in Sol Invictus’ general direction.
He kept telling himself the losses were worth it. The eradication of the Lintha and the general improvement of the entire Direction that would result from it were worth the deaths. They were not useless deaths. But they still hurt far worse than he’d expected, than he was prepared for.
Tris was the worst. Hurt the worst. Was it because she’d been the first to die, or because she was his only
friend family? They’d found her special glasses still on their chain, snagged on a piece of wreckage, after… If he’d been a hair faster, that demonspawn would never have had the chance to drag her overboard.
Qismet still didn’t know what to make about the man who’d inherited her Exaltation, Quinlan, except the urge to punch him was occasionally overwhelming. Tempering that reaction wasn’t in Qismet’s nature.
Gin… never expected Gin to go. But he’d never returned from his mission to talk the God of Artillery, Arbaest, into supporting their crusade. They could only assume he died in the attempt and his Exaltation had never found its way back to their Circles.
That had just left him and Darius from the Ikress crew… and Darius was more and more wrapped up with the administration of Ikress and its growing, thriving populace as second to Lord Belmorne. The genocide of the Lintha had always been Qismet’s personal campaign, anyways.
He shook his head, letting it fall to rest against the cool adamant glass of the cockpit windows. He still wasn’t sure what to think about the children. Bluehaven was full of them – halfbloods and purebloods each, Lintha to the core each and every one of them. If they hadn’t been, they’d’ve been fed to their demons long since. Killing them hadn’t been the problem – instincts had taken over when they came at him with weapons in hand – it was the second-guessing after. At least he hadn’t been forced to slaughter babies – though he would have, to save his Circlemates the task, and it had to be done – their mothers had drowned them rather than have them fall into his hands.
But the older children… Was the poison too deep in their veins? If he’d brought them away, put them somewhere safe, with people willing to raise them differently, would they have turned out better? Too late to find out now. He knew their faces would stay with him for longer than he wanted to contemplate. Was it your idea to give us lives longer than trees, Sol Invictus? So the sins of our past, sins we committed to make the bright future you commanded us to make, would stay with us and drive us mad?
He flung himself out of the cockpit, taking with him its hearthstone-key and tucking it into his belt-sash, trotting across the deck to the bridge, where his Circlemates waited. Or maybe… so there’s always time for redemption?