The Durants: Part XI


Brion’s strong arms embraced her and she felt warm for the first time in ages. She nuzzled into his shoulder. “I miss you,” she whispered against his burning skin. His thumb brushed away the tear that had escaped from her downcast eyes and tilted her head up. Flames danced out from his blue eyes. His chest expanded as he breathed in, on the edge of saying something, but the vision faded as Gaia awoke from her sleep. “Two years….”

The Orsins’ household had remained nostalgic yet disconcerting the entirety of her stay. The past few months had been lonelier as Mina, the Sullivans, and Edzard had gone to infiltrate the Taeshan guilds. They were preparing the city for the imminent coup. She couldn’t be sure of the opinions of the urbanites, but those in the countryside were enraged by the Volarchy’s seizure of their foods and working-age residents. The world was slowly dying around them.

“Oh good, you’re awake.” Lynn’s wrinkle-scarred face peeked out from the frame of the door. The time apart from her son and wife had taken its toll on her. “Did you want to help me make a job-well-done meal for my Sam and our Queen Bee?”

“Sure,” Gaia croaked out. Apparently the day for revolution had at last come. If all went according to plan, the Volarchy would be no more than a horrific memory by the end of the week. The guilds would be abolished. People could live freely. Dread filled her and she willed herself to believe that everyone would return unscathed.

Lynn chattered happily away at Gaia, who nodded periodically. The tangents the woman jumped off into were often startling and no amount of time spent together could acclimate Gaia to them. Always a favorite topic for her, Lynn lamented yet again her subpar Hyran cooking, especially in comparison to Sam.

Once finished, the pair packed up and left the house. Outside, they could hear a distant rumbling approaching. Panic filled the air as the Vaslerans fled back into their homes, trying to become scarce before whatever was nearing arrived. Lynn led them down a darkened alleyway. They peered into the street and saw a tall, lanky figure emerge from a mechanized carriage. It shambled toward the Orsin residence.

Beside her, Gaia could hear Lynn suck in violently. “He’s come for Katie….” she exhaled, nearly silently. “It’s her father, Dr. Paget.” Gaia’s stomach churned uncomfortably. “He’s a brilliant, though quite unethical, physician. I learned everything from him before he left after his wife died. She was a lovely, lovely woman. Poor Katie. On three counts, really. One-”

“Should we let him get what he wants?” Gaia whispered savagely, cutting off her companion. They considered each other measuredly. “That bastard hurt me while I was being held in the guilds. I can’t just let him waltz in here and….” She gulped.

Lynn nodded. “Let’s be careful. He’s probably also here to round up more villagers. I think the others are all but deserted.”

As quietly as possible, they fell into the doctor’s shadow and slipped into the house behind him. Gaia could see that he was familiar with the building, though time had worn his memories. Unknown to him, he was not the only one to enter Katie’s old room.

Her body was still being desiccated. The stone slab upon which she lay had several candles that had nearly burned out. The doctor sighed, pinching his nose. After a deep inhale, he turned around slowly in the dimly lit room.

“Here we have Lynn Orsin and…oh, I haven’t seen you in some years, my dear.” His nostrils flared as he breathed in once more.. “That sweet, earthy creature, Gaia Durant. How kind of you two to lay my offspring to rest.”

“You were never a father to her, James.” Lynn’s voice had taken on an edge Gaia had never heard before. “Even before Lydia got sick. Why are you here?”

The doctor snorted. “Always the sentimental type. The Volarch requires more stock for the guilds, dear. Vaslera is one of the few bastions harboring usable bodies. Thought I would stop in and say hello.” He stood between the women and the door. “It was not for naught, however.” A sickening, crooked grin marred his face.

“Gaia, follow me!” Lynn grabbed her upper arm and pulled her toward an inconspicuous ladder in the corner. The Vasleran scrambled up to the roof before looking down at her partner, who had turned to take a swing at the doctor. He caught her wrist, a manic glint gleaming in his widened eyes. “No!”

“Go! Get to Bionca and Sam. Warn them that Vaslera has been-!” Gaia’s jaw was held shut by her captor. His large foot weighed down the first rung. The last thing Lynn heard before departing on a long-distance glider was Gaia throwing herself into the ladder to knock it down.


A click reverberated in the room as the recording finished. Bionca felt Sam’s strong grip on her shoulder. “We’ll play that after it’s done,” she growled in a near whisper. “The people need t’know why we’re destroyin’ the city.”

The mottled woman nodded solemnly in reply. She stood from her throne. “It’s time. Start the explosions. She should blow any minute now.” Sam saluted before relaying the orders to the bomb team.

“Drake should have things all ready t’go on the Taeshan front,” Sam reported upon her return. She was accompanied by the beginnings of the tremors. They both looked out the window in the direction of the city. The air above the volcano warped in heat. A distant object drew over the horizon, approaching their command center.

The pair went out to greet Lynn. She was drenched in sweat and panting, her glider still attached to her frame. “Paget…took…Gaia…probably gonna…be in the city center.”

Bionca’s stomach dropped. “I have to go. I can’t lose my mom too. I need to save her.” Her voice cracked.

The wives looked at her pitiably. Lynn handed her glider over. “Be safe.”

Their queen nodded, her eyes glistening, and then took off toward the setting sun.


Brittany Teodorski


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