We left today. As the sun rose over the complex, we voted and all of us, without exception, agreed. Everything and everyone was ready; we had been preparing for this moment for months now. There’s no looking back. Five hundred ships, carrying the last hope of humankind across the stars. Artificial light, artificial air, for as many years as necessary. Today is the first day after Exodus. Today was our last dawn on Earth.
The Book of Exodus. Part I : Leaving Home, by Admiral Kary Sarten
Chapter One : The Lady in the Storm
I believe that we have found our world. It’s a harsh, unforgiving planet, half desert and half ocean, but it bears life, and there are no humanoids. We don’t need to terraform or rely on the hospitality of anyone. More than three hundred years after leaving Earth, we can leave our survival vessel for good and call this place… home.
The Journals of Lady Adarei Erdane, 365 After Exodus, quoted in The Book of Edin
Sedna Erdane stood perfectly still on the edge of the canyon. A breeze kissed her tawny face and made her skirt whirl. The Red Desert of the North, wide and rugged, spread out for miles and miles, emptiness attracting her, beckoning her to walk and lose herself into the smiling mouth of the chasm at her feet. She resisted the impulse, once again.
Behind her, her cousin Mikhal was calling. “You’ve seen for yourself. Now you must decide.”
She bit the inside of her cheek. “Isn’t there another way?”
“I can’t believe you,” she said, her voice strained. There has to be a different solution.” Something other than having to beg.
“Not if you want to feed your people. If you don’t, they will die, or rebel, and it will truly be the end of your family.”
There was a taste of blood in her mouth. Mikhal was right, she had no choice; she had to sacrifice her pride if she wanted the people from her planet to survive. “Very well. I will bring up the matter of my apology when Minister March arrives. I will ask Queen Annelie for pardon” Even if the Erdane family never did anything wrong.
“Thank you, Sedna,” Mikhal said. “Now please, will you come and get your cloak?” She ignored him; the rays from the twin suns had never bothered her. She had always liked the intense heat of her world, every time finding a way to sneak out and run when the suns were high. She was usually alone when she did: the people of her planet did not go out in the daylight. Except the ones she knew were working in the dry fields in the valley, trying to grow their subsistence out of the unfriendly ground. She pinched her lips and turned around. From where she stood, she could see a vast portion of the desert. Red, powdery castles of sandstone rose, only witnesses of the ancient rivers that once ran there. She remembered the hoverplane journeys she used to take with her father when she was a child. They would land on the top of a canyon and watch the silence. She had tried to find the same peace again, but the scars in the earth ruined everything. With the blockade the Queen had imposed, her people had been forced to expand silver mining to pay the outrageous price the capital planet of the Federation charged for the food they sent once a month. They had opened deep gashes in the vast empty valleys to reach the minerals, while smelting furnaces erupted like a disease. Sedna toyed with her silver, jet and moonstone pendant, and wondered when the last time was that her people had made jewellery instead of selling raw metal.
The wounds inflicted upon her planet gaped, seeping men, machines and dust. Even from that distance, the tiny silhouettes seemed harassed. What happens when you starve scholars, artists and singers? Do they resist in style, fight with knowledge and beauty personified?
They don’t. History had proven so. They cry; they steal and curse like any other human, barely refraining from eating each other. Mikhal had done his best, but when you’ve been reading and dancing and playing music for all your life, growing food came as a challenge. Her father had had the good sense of never completely abandoning the orchards, but billions can’t survive on peaches and almonds only. After all, maybe Verlon had helped them when he wiped out five hundred million of them with his spaceships. At least the dead didn’t have to watch their children starve. The blockade had raised the number of deaths to three billion. Half the population on Edin. Edin… Her ancestors had a twisted sense of humour… The Book of Edin said that the planet’s name came from the Garden of Eden, a mythological place in one of Earth’s old religions, where people lived under the protection of gods and food and drink was never scarce. This had nothing to do with her world. There was no winter here, no one died in the snow, but immense deserts covered most of the surface, and the only cultivable areas of land were the banks of the giant rivers and their deltas, where they ran into the Ocean. So much land for so few people… Empty, barren deserts and a handful of dying scholars pretending to be farmers; that was what was left of the Erdanes’ world, Sedna’s world now.
She heard Mikhal calling louder. A sandstorm was building up, threatening to cover the desert and the Ocean for at least two days. They needed to be back in the city before it all started. She hopped into the old hoverplane and Mikhal drove over the mining site. She kept silent, gloomily staring out of the window, as vegetation reappeared in patches on the red dust.
The hoverplane was old but quick, she could already see the Ocean that covered the other half of her world, and within the hour they were in sight of the outskirts of Harea, the Sand City standing as capital for her planet, built around a peaceful cove. From above, the Ocean was deep blue and the jungle covering the delta offered a beautiful contrast of green leaves and red earth.
The comm buzzed in the hover. “Erdane Estate,” Mikhal answered drily.
“An urgent call for the lady Sedna”, said a voice. Her cousin glanced at her, worried.
“I’ll take it now,” she said.
“Do you want me to land and leave you alone?”
The display table lit up. “Sedna? I thought you’d never answer!” Her body tensed and she regretted it immediately. “Did I frighten you? You oughtn’t to be so edgy!”
“I’m not. I was touring the mines. It wasn’t very pleasant.”
“Not very pleasant? As always, you speak fluent understatement.” The man on the screen smiled.
“What can I do for you, Minister March?”
“The usual. I’m letting you know that I will be on Edin two days from now for my monthly assessment of the situation on your world.”
“Is it really necessary to go through this every month, Wesley?”
“It’s protocol, Sedna. I must make a formal announcement. You’re a part of the Federation and we can’t disregard due process.”
Oh, can’t we… “Very well. I will await your arrival in two days, Minister March. I would advise you not to use the spaceport, it’s undergoing renovations.”
“I’ll tell my pilot to go the Mansion’s landing field. Those renovations are a good idea, it was dreadful thinking of you having to trek all the way to that horrible place you call spaceport.” She ignored the insult. “I’ll see you the day after tomorrow.”
Sedna nodded, and he cut the communication. She sat in silence for a while, oblivious of Mikhal’s timid glances in her direction. She had to be better prepared for March’s visit; she couldn’t leave anything to chance.
Mikhal didn’t dare ask any questions and didn’t offer advice, and she didn’t ask for any. They were at ground level when they reached Edin’s Pier, the Erdane Mansion visible on its cliff. Sedna asked him to stop right there; she wanted to walk up to her home, breathe some air.
“What about the storm?”
“I’ll be home before it gets dangerous.”
He didn’t try to stop her, and she was grateful for that. She’d had enough asking permission for everything when she was in exile.
There was nobody to be seen on the streets when she got out of the hoverplane. The heat had locked people who didn’t work inside their homes, hidden behind the cool stone walls of their tall houses. Light reverberated on the white pavement and blinded her for a second. Her glasses adjusted their shade and she looked up to the twin suns above her. She walked along Edin’s Pier, slowly, her eyes taking in every detail. The decorations on the walls had decayed, small tiles had fallen off the large mosaic displays, and the pavement itself had lost its grandeur since the day weeds had started growing between the slates. A crumbling wall painting pictured the Edinites welcoming persecuted populations from other planets with gifts of flowers and fruit and books. Her world had been built on that belief, founded on this principle: preserve life, knowledge, and independence. Her father used to say that it was engraved in their flesh, flowed in the Erdanes blood.
She sat on a stone bench that had baked in the sun all day, letting the heat ebb into her body. There was still no one. Edin was essentially a night world, that’s what had made it popular with the Court for centuries. Confusion of parties and songs, bantering and theatre and music… All of it was gone. Nobody came here anymore; nobody bought the ripe, fragrant fruit that grew in her orchards. Since the war, her planet and people had been deprived of everything that had made their life. Will I be able to save them? There was no visible way out, and she had started to think that she would die here with her people. As long as the blockade was in place and they depended on Olympia, the Head Planet of the Federation of the Nesoi, for frequent deliveries of food, they were at the Queen’s mercy. Sedna knew that it couldn’t last and that the moment had come when she’d have to ask the Queen for help. Mikhal was right; what was her pride compared to the survival of her people?
At least she wasn’t in exile anymore. Despite her defiance towards him, she knew she had Wesley March to thank for it. He had been the first one she could consider calling her friend. A friend who only visited on her enemy’s order… Perhaps he could help her still. If she stayed on her planet, she did not have a single chance to get her revenge. King Verlon, who had orchestrated the murder of her parents and her people, was now senile and remembered nothing, and his daughter Annelie was on the throne, with her husband Othon. Sedna knew there was a brother too, Liam, but he had been ejected from succession and was now lurking in the background of the Court, drinking his bitterness away. I might try and meet him, Sedna thought. But it was highly improbable that the fallen Prince would ever grant her an audience.
The suns were bending to kiss the sea good night, and she rose to get home. Far away in the North, the two storms had met over the shore, teal and orange fury silenced by the distance. Dark blue clouds were gathering above Harea; she watched until rain started pouring down. It was warm and brought out all the smells of the gardens. She bathed in scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, orange blossom, and soon she was soaked. She could hear the water sizzling when it met the scorching ground. She took off her shoes and ran barefoot on the white pavement, exhilarated by the release of electricity. Her dress was drenched, the fabric clinging to her arms and her legs. She undid her hair and stopped there under the deluge, facing the Ocean, her skin welcoming the drops from the sky, rivulets running down her body. In the rain, she was the Lady of Edin again, proud heiress of the Erdane family. She broke into a run when the wind started slashing sand at her face.
Massive waves crashed upon the high, sharp crag where the house had been built, claiming great chunks of rock from the cliff. Sedna ran faster, climbed the hill back to the house, banged the door open and rushed through the hall, leaving large puddles of water on the marble. The house was peaceful; Sedna couldn’t hear the deafening sound of the waves anymore. She wanted to see for herself if the underground vault was resisting, so she ran down the concealed stairs. Initially, the cave had served as a retreat for the settlers, in case of an attack, but when the menace became less probable, the owners of the house had transformed it according to their needs and occupations
Her grandfather Parer had been the last person to alter the cave’s purpose when her father got married, and it had remained untouched since then. He had equipped the room with every existing weapon, carelessly mingling the eras: particle or scorching blasters, electric whips, axes, blades of all sorts, daggers and swords created according to old books from Earth, powder guns, laser guns, heat-wave pistols, and sound-wave bombs; miniature arrows no bigger than cacti spikes, paralyzing gas and sleeping vapours.
All the books and data of generations of Erdanes were also stored and catalogued there. Sedna walked slowly in the cave, caressing the spines of old volumes. This is what’s left of my family. They had helped create the Federation of the Nesoi, and the only legacy they had was some books and a twenty-six years old orphan, soon without a planet to rule. Sedna set her teeth. She would not let it happen; she would seize this Federation her family had founded. She owed it to her parents, to her ancestors, to become the greatest Erdane the world had ever seen.
She thought she heard laughter; there was nobody else in the room.
* * *
After dealing with the other matters on the evening’s list, Wesley March turned to the woman sitting in the Council room with him. He did not look pleased but tried to keep his irritation in check. “Your Majesty, what are you expecting of me concerning Sedna this time?”
The Queen smiled. “As always, Wesley. You ask her how the rebuilding of her world is going, you watch her lie, you hear her trying to hide the truth about what she needs to do. And one day, when you think she will cave, you make her ask to meet me.”
“I’ve known her for years and have rarely seen her betray her thoughts since she turned seventeen.” And broke somebody’s wrist, he remembered.
“She will break. Her starving people will make her break.”
Wesley didn’t answer right away. “Your Majesty, you can’t let people die indefinitely.”
“None of this is my fault. Sedna is the one refusing to ask for the end of the blockade.” The Queen was now pouting, visibly annoyed.
“Why do you want her to ask you? Why can’t you pardon her and her family and let this world live?”
“Oh, Wesley. Her family cannot be allowed to defy me, the crown, or the Federation ever again. She has to ask. She has to do what her parents never did, what cost them their lives; she has to surrender and beg.”
“The Erdane family was always proud. What if she never begs?”
The Queen snapped. “Then she can die on her scorched piece of rock and leave it to me!” The Queen’s temper flared. “She’s the last of the Erdanes; I could have claimed it before, I could claim it now, but I’ll wait. I’ve waited so far.”
So has Sedna, he thought. “Very well, Your Majesty. I will do my best.”
“I know you will. You always do.” The Queen was smiling again. “But this time I need you to be better. I want her here, Wesley, sooner rather than later. Understood?”
He clenched his teeth. “I understand.”
“Excellent. You can leave now.” She waved towards the door.
Home Secretary Wesley March gathered his things and left Annelie Rience, Queen of the Federation of the Nesoi, alone with her guards. He closed the door and smiled to himself. In two days, he would see the fascinating Sedna again.
* * *
Sedna had sent most of her staff away before Wesley’s arrival. Standing stiffly on the grounds near the Mansion, Sedna observed the starship approach, a wide black shape against the suns. When the landing was over, she drew near the door that had glided open and waited. Five guards of the Royal Safety Corps, all white and purple, emerged from the ship, followed by a slim, middle-sized man wearing light grey Olympian clothing, tight trousers, ankle boots and knee-long overcoat. They all stopped when they reached her, and Wesley extended his hand. “Sedna, I’m pleased to see you again.” He was smiling broadly, uncovering even white teeth. She took his hand and shook it briefly. Wesley hadn’t changed much. Maybe the thick dark hair still growing anarchically on his head displayed new streaks of silver, but his thin lips still smiled a lot without his eyes following the trend.
“I hope your journey was good.” She had to be polite, but her tone was icy, and she didn’t take her protective glasses off, as etiquette would have required.
“It was. I left Olympia’s spaceport two days ago and I’m already contemplating your wonderful world. I even had time to make a quick stop on Shelwin, on my way here. Ships are very quick and comfortable today, aren’t they?”
“So I am told. Follow me, please. I know you’re not used to the heat, so I’ve had refreshments served at the Mansion.”
Various fruit and delicacies had been arranged in the dining hall, and Sedna gestured her visitor to help himself as she poured a glass of iced water and sat at the wide table. Again, not what protocol dictated. Wesley took three dried dates from a bowl and chose a chair opposite her. The room felt cool and comfortable after the stifling heat of the landing field, but the silence was oppressive.
* * *
Wesley picked at the fruit while Sedna glared at her water, playing with the ice. I knew she wouldn’t start the conversation. He also knew he couldn’t play that waiting game. “This fruit is particularly tasty. Does it come from your own orchards?” She looked up, surprise on her features, as if she had forgotten he was sitting there, and stared blankly at him in silence, her grey eyes scanning his face. He swallowed and gulped down his drink to avoid losing countenance. He hated it when she did that. He sighed and decided to dive in. “I’m ready to listen to your report.”
She tilted her head to the right. “I am doing well. I’ve had some troubles with my staff, but they got used to my orders after a while. I’ve continued sorting my parent’s possessions and have recovered my mother’s poison collection.”
He glanced at his plate, then noticed she hadn’t eaten anything. Fear crept under his skin. She wouldn’t do such a foolish thing. She’s too clever for that. He cleared his throat. Why am I embarrassed around her? I’m the second most important person in the Federation, for Earth’s sake! “You said you are doing well?”
“I am, really. I haven’t had a minute for myself, you know. The city walls were in dire need of renovation, so was the spaceport, as I’ve told you already.” Her face grew more animated as she talked about all the improvements she had made.
He looked carefully at her eyes, sinking his teeth into the date. Liar. He knew it was just another of her masks; he was aware of the planet’s situation and knew she was desperate, but if it had been anybody else listening to her, Sedna would have fooled them easily. He lived in fear of the day he wouldn’t discern when she was lying to him.
She paused, smiling. “And this time I heeded your advice and prepared a brief for you to read and even bring back to the other members of the government, would they be interested.”
How would he ever make her cave in to the Queen’s demands, he wondered. “I will read it later; I promise I will. It seems that everything is going perfectly well for you, Sedna.” She didn’t say anything. “I assume it means you have nothing else to tell me. A question, perhaps, or a request you would like to make?”
He glimpsed a twitch on her lips. The hint of a quiver. So it turns out Annelie had been right, after all. The lady of Edin had realized that she needed help. Wesley was almost disappointed. But now that he’d seen an opening, he had to make her say it.
He got up and walked to one of the immense bay-windows that let the light in, but not the heat, and looked at what the Erdanes called the blood gardens. He locked his hands in his back, making the fabric of his expensive clothes rustle. He had thought he could wait for her to say something, but he couldn’t stand the deafening silence in the room, he had to speak.
“Isn’t there something you desire most in this world, Sedna?”
“I confess I don’t know, Wesley.”
“Listen to that! A question Sedna has to leave unanswered!” He turned around and faced her, trying to hide his embarrassment with sarcasm. She was dipping her finger in the glass, twirling the ice around with a clinking sound.
“Don’t ask questions you can’t answer yourself. What do you desire most in this world, Wesley?” She looked right at him and he immediately felt the rush of blood to his face.
“I like to think I have no wishes for this world. It protects me from – disappointment and frustration.”
“A wise aspiration. Unfortunately, I have too much… backbone to apply it to myself.”
“Oh, I have backbone enough, Sedna, but I’ve learnt when to bend it. That’s why I’m on the government and you’re here, sitting on your chunk of scalding rock.” He regretted his words as he was speaking them. She had made him snap at her; just what he’d promised he wouldn’t do. He felt impatient with himself. Sedna’s lips tightened briefly, then a crooked smile appeared on her lips and her eyes shone with wicked glee.
She seemed to be sucking on a very tasty sweet, and he didn’t like that. “Is it what you tell yourself at night, Wesley? That you’re better off than me? That doing all the things the Queen doesn’t want to do herself is a better position than mine? Does it really help you to fall asleep?” When he didn’t answer, she took a sip and banged the glass on the table. “I wonder when this idea first occurred to you. Was it when you first saw me on Mansi? Or was it later, when you were climbing the social ladder in the Queen’s brand-new administration? Tell me, Wesley. Are you of the sort of man who shrugs off responsibility by saying ‘I was just obeying orders’? Are you?” He stood, still and silent. He knew it had to happen: one day she would lose her temper and attack. He hardly ever let words shake him, but there was a mild sensation at the back of his mind that she wasn’t entirely wrong, after all. Maybe he should have stood up for her when she was a child, but he would have lost everything. He preferred to think he had helped her from where he was, while she lived in exile. Another dead supporter of the orphaned Erdane wouldn’t have improved her situation. She got up from her chair and walked to him. “Is this why you visit every month, Wesley, coming to see me and parroting your Queen’s empty words? Following her orders to come and observe me and my dying people, measuring how much we’ve got, how long we’ll last, trying to guess when I’ll finally wave a white flag and beg the Queen to call her ships back and let us live? I don’t think you enjoy this, not you, but she makes you do it, doesn’t she? You see, Wesley, that’s the very difference between you and me: nobody makes me do things.”
He didn’t react to the blow. There wasn’t much to do except wait for the storm to pass.
“Well, you have seen me,” she spat, “you’ve done your job, to perfection, as usual, and you can scamper home and report to your dear Queen that Sedna Erdane is still refusing to ask for anything.” She marched to the door and held it open for him. Her face was hard and her head high; he knew she meant every word. I wish the Queen could see that, he thought. He felt proud of Sedna, and of her refusal to play the Queen’s game, but not playing only meant she would lose everything. He walked to the door, removed her hand from the knob and closed it quietly before placing his hands on her shoulders; she did not move an inch.
“Sedna, I believe you ought to reconsider. I will not insult you and pretend that what you’ve said isn’t true. Nobody is listening to us now, there’s no Queen breathing down my neck. I can tell you what I know, and what I think you can do. I’m going to ask you to trust me.” Again, there was a slight movement on her lips. Trust was too big a word, he knew that, but she had to understand he wasn’t trying to manipulate her. “Sedna, you just have to ask. I know the Queen would listen. I am certain, even though she never said it that way, that she wants you at court, on Olympia. She’s losing the support of every other Federation lords, particularly where Edin and you are concerned, but she can’t lose face. All you need to do is ask her.”
He felt her body stiffen and saw her eyes scan every detail of his face, looking for the faintest sign of a lie. She shrugged his hands off her shoulders and backed from him, looking slightly sick. He tried to catch her arm, but she waved him off and for a split second he thought he glimpsed uncertainty in her eyes, but it vanished instantly.
“I can’t,” she said.
The Erdane pride will be the end of you, he thought. “Why would you refuse?”
“Did you imagine I would fall into such a blatant trap? I will not abandon my people.” She had complete control over herself again. “I will not beg. I know she sent you because she thinks you can persuade me; she thinks you know me…” She smiled. “But if you do, Wesley, you know that I will never beg.”
He stared at her for a moment. Was she lying, hiding her impatience from him, and trying to make him believe she wasn’t going to request the hearing? Or was it another sign of arrogance? He smiled, sat on his chair again and spoke to cover his confusion. “Sedna, I’m not trying to trap you. If I had anything to do with it, I’d lift the blockade, send food, money and supplies, so you would have no choice but stay here and rebuild. The idea of you at court, so close to the Queen and the rest of the royal family, is enough to keep me awake at night.” And not only out of fear. “But Annelie wants your allegiance, she wants you to ask for forgiveness.”
Sedna sat down again. “Your Queen wants me to grovel and beg.”
Wesley sensed a faint change in her tone. Her anger had receded, and she was thinking. He wasn’t sure he liked it. “Yes,” he admitted. “I do think she wants it to be… humbling for you. Even if it wouldn’t achieve much beyond making her think she’s bested the haughty Erdanes.”
Sedna smiled. “But Wesley, if you didn’t agree with any of this, why did you come here at all?”
“The Queen ordered.”
“I see.” She looked at her glass of water. “Wesley, I…” She shook her head.
“What is it Sedna?”
“If I do come back, if I give the Queen what she wants, what will happen?”
He had to pick his words carefully. “Once you’re there, once she’s pardoned you and lifted the blockade, what you do is entirely your choice.”
“My choice… I’m not sure I remember how that feels.”
“Sedna, I must insist. It’s the sensible thing to do.”
“No, Wesley, it isn’t. It’s the only thing left to do.” Her lips tightened. “I have one last question.”
He shivered. “Yes?”
“Can I count on you, on Olympia? Or will you leave me on my own again?”
She seemed so young, so lost. He knew she could be pretending to be afraid to get him on her side. But she was right, he had abandoned her. After first seeing her to her tutors, after her parents were condemned, he had left. He hadn’t had a choice, and he came back after a few years, but she had already changed. He knew he couldn’t trust her, that she didn’t need anyone. She had made that very clear many years ago when she was still living under Lady Matrya’s rule. He still remembered the cold, unforgiving shade of Sedna’s eyes on the day she broke the poor lady’s wrist in one swift motion for daring to try and touch her. But what if she needed him, what if he turned his back to her again, like he’d done many years ago, before she was even old enough to comprehend why she had been torn from her parents? What change would that bring in her now?
“I will be there Sedna,” he said. “I promise I won’t let you down again,” he added, but she didn’t seem to hear.
She let out a long sigh and rose, her head high. “Very well, Minister March. I formally request a hearing with Her Majesty Annelie Rience, Queen of the Nesoi. I would like to present her my apologies for my family’s behaviour and humbly ask her that the blockade around Edin be lifted. I can be on Olympia at the earliest convenience.” She smiled. “I can even come back with you if need be.”
She had recited it perfectly. She had planned this, he realized, she was always going to ask, whether he managed to convince her or not. He felt like a fool. A relieved fool, who didn’t mind it much, but a fool nonetheless.
“I… I think that it would be a suitable arrangement indeed,” he said.
“Perfect. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have quite some packing to do. Dinner is served at eight.” And without another word, she was gone.
A minute later, a butler came and directed him to a first floor set of rooms where his things had already been transported. He stretched out on the bed and smiled, letting his mind wander freely. It felt good to leave the Federation’s problems for a while, even if it meant having to face Sedna and her games.
He liked to believe he had understood her, a long time ago. The first time he’d seen her, she was a raging girl of twelve, who had just seen her parents killed and had been taken from her home to live with strangers. He was twenty-six and seeing the girl to her foster family had been his first mildly important assignment. But his patience had somehow managed to create a semblance of trust between them. They never mentioned her parents or her life before the massacre. She cried when she thought nobody could see her, but most of the time she bottled her feelings deep inside and never let anyone guess what she thought of her situation. After a while, he had left her to her new life and never heard of her for five years. He came back to assess the situation for the Queen, and he barely recognized the girl. The raging wildling with messy hair had transformed into an extremely quiet young woman. And that was when she had broken her tutor’s wrist, right under his eyes. After that day, no matter how hard he’d try, he could never reach out to her again.
When Sedna had turned twenty-two, Lady Janis Matrya had sent the girl away. Wesley couldn’t help the smile coming up to his lips as he remembered Sedna’s quiet air of triumph when she departed the rich Matrya Estate.
He got up and went on the balcony for some air; it was so hot it seemed too thick to breathe. The suns were still high in the sky, baking the walls of the Mansion, but he shuddered despite the heat. This place had always unnerved him, leaving him an aftertaste of danger, of exposure. The whole world seemed to hurt, but not because of its past heavy with death and destruction; from above, the blood-red globe reminded him of a stilled heart, torn away from its rightful seat in a rib cage. To him, Edin was a long and intense cry of pain, the Ocean carrying to his ears the sighs of a planet mourning its own aridity, and under his eyes the flayed beach was empty but for the ghosts of drums and dances. Every detail made his senses delightfully sore; the suns, the dry sand, the howls of unknown creatures in the desert, and even Sedna. He started when he overheard her voice, somewhere above his balcony. “What clothes do I want packed? All of them, of course.” He didn’t hear what the servant answered back. “Yes, all of them. I’m not going on holiday, Mariel. I’m going to Olympia.” Her determination made him shiver.
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