Teimo Rane swore to have nothing to do with war the day his first and only son was born. Twenty-eight years later, his son was killed in the war by a man who forgot his face. He was a younger man, probably younger than Teimo’s son, and yet he struck him down somehow with the long sword Teimo had clashed with only a day before. Now, he swore to find that young man and make him remember. He couldn’t kill him. He’d already lost in a battle of strength and skill. All he wanted was for his son’s enemy to remember him as an opponent worthy of remembering.
Today, though, was not the day. He was fifty-eight, too old to rush into battle as he could have at one point in his life. His wife, just two years younger, didn’t object to his oath of revenge, but she told him repeatedly to at least get into proper condition to fight a young man. From clashing blades with him yesterday as he passed through town, Teimo recognized the young man’s skills. Every human, fay, and fiend on the continent was born blessed with one ability, and that boy’s was strength. He had too much of it. Teimo wasn’t a stupid man. He could tell when his opponent wasn’t fighting with all of his strength. The boy had felt sorry for him and fought down to his level to make him feel like it had been a closer match. Teimo, after all, had accused him of being a murderer before drawing his sword. The boy had tried to explain himself, but Teimo would have cut his neck had he not retaliated.
He was almost ashamed of his actions now that he’d had a full night to reflect on it. That was why he resolved not to kill the boy, but to merely show him pictures. One of Sigmora’s local news artists had been kind enough to draw him in his Anti-Seeker armor, armed and poised to fight as he would have been the day he died. Teimo wasn’t sure he liked the picture. Of course, it was skillfully done, but Teimo didn’t want a reminder of his son to remind him of how he died. He wanted any sort of reminder to remind him how he had lived. All the same, he looked perfect suited up in armor and cloak, beautifully-crafted sword held out straight in front of him. It looked like that was what he was meant to do all his life. Teimo hated it and loved it at once.
“I may have to fight,” he said to his wife on the afternoon after his clash with the Seeker. They sat at the table in the center of the kitchen, eating rice and noodles. Teimo, in anticipation of what he might have to do, ate heartily, requesting a second serving before his wife had finished her first. It was nearly rude of him to do so, and he regretted it while hoping she understood his resolve. A smile as beautiful as a nymph’s and as pure as a siren’s settled his anxiety.
“You may have to fight,” she said. “But I’m happy you’ve chosen not to kill.”
“I’d give up and return home before killing another family’s son.”
He’d said it before, but redundancy was reassuring to both of them. It marked resolved. They finished eating in silence, and Teimo promptly began retraining his weakened body. His daily job was nothing he would inherently considered exercise. As he worked in one of the only remaining buildings in Sigmora with a large enough door to compensate an angel’s enormous wingspan, he had the horror of giving food to the creature who lived in the woods and haunted the city: the blood angel. Her face was pretty, he’d realized long before, but her narrowed red eyes and sad stare always unnerved him. Shining, metallic bladed feathers at the tips of her wings didn’t help his confidence, nor did the fiendish fangs he saw every time she opened her mouth. His wife loved the little girl, but everything about her haunted him and left him sweating by the time she returned her spotless bowl to the counter. She would lick it clean, leaving only the gloss from her saliva. It seemed almost pathetic how desperate she seemed for food, and that scared him even more while endearing her to his wife even more.
Compared to the blood angel, facing hundreds of Seekers without a sword wouldn’t be too hard. In fact, if he could do it, maybe looking a twelve-year-old girl in the eyes wouldn’t be so frightening. He pressed his body against the ground and lifted it with his arms planted on either side of his head. He kept his back straight and lowered himself nearly to the ground before pushing up again. He repeated this as many times as he could manage. Today, it was thirty-six. Tomorrow, or maybe even later today, he would surpass that.
“Every day,” said his wife, “the Seekers get further from Sigmora. Are you sure you shouldn’t go after him now?”
“They’ll always return to Treviri. I can find him there.”
“Treviri is nearly a hundred kilometers from here as the angel flies.”
“Treviri isn’t going anywhere,” Teimo replied.
“What if the Seeker dies?”
That hadn’t occured to him. The boy could very well be killed in the war. It was, after all, a war. As good as he was in single, fair combat, even the best swordsman wouldn’t be able to take on an army, or even three men for that matter. His son spoke of honor before heading off to fight, but were the battles civil? Did soldiers hold to a formal duel’s code of honor and refrain from inergy use during the fight? Surely not. In that case, the boy’s chances of dying in battle were that much higher.
Teimo stood up and brushed his hands off. “I should go,” he said. Then he stopped. “Which way did they go? Were they headed back to Treviri?”
His wife shrugged. “We could ask Siren to track them for us.”
Siren, the blood angel, was out of the question. At least Teimo’s question. At least at first. Slowly, he came to realize that the insane little girl was his only option. She’d killed every angel in Sigmora two years ago and she was the only flying thing left, and therefore, the only being capable of tracking Seekers.
“All right,” he said. “Siren it is.”
He would give the girl a letter with the picture to take to the blond-haired Seeker in gleaming armor. However dull the blood angel was, she could pick out a shining man from whatever altitude she chose to fly at. She would be in the restaurant tomorrow, and he would give her the letter then. If she didn’t accept, he would go after the Seekers himself. One way or another, he would find them.