Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UNIVERSAL WARRIOR ATHEREAN DEFENDERS EXCERPT: Reginald's Reckoning

(Following the grisly aftermath of Red Morning, Reginald St. Morias returns home to be with his family.)


Reginald entered his home, looked once at his family and then continued onward to the back deck. They had looked at him expectantly, as they should've, but he'd had no idea what to say.

Once he was out on the back deck, he looked across the darkening blue sky and the clouds that were retreating over the horizon. He coughed once, his emotions finally getting the better of him. Then, he fell to his knees and sobbed loudly, his face in his hands.

He felt the warm, soft, yet firm hands of his wife on his shoulders, gently tugging him until he rose back to his feet. Once he was there, he was surprised to see a wrapped tobacco stick appear in her hand. Looking at her with a grin, he took the stick. She struck small pieces of timber together and held the ignited flame up. He bent down, allowing the stick to catch the flame, at which point Dayna dropped the timber and stamped it out beneath her feet. Reginald drew in a deep breath and exhaled the excess before looking at his wife. 

"You're not supposed to know about this." He said softly, gesturing.

She smiled dryly and said, "Well, we've been married long enough for me to know I'm not gonna win every battle with you. Besides, after what you saw today, I'm just happy you came home at all."

Reginald nodded, taking another drag. "Yeah."

Dayna hesitated before asking. "How bad was it?"

"We recovered, um..." Reginald scratched the side of his head with his thumb, not because he couldn't remember the count, but because he knew he'd never forget, "we recovered and identified seventy-four bodies...they were all children. Maximoff and Sira are...they're telling everyone who lost someone today."

Dayna nodded, gulping. She was grateful that Uriel had not been among the lost and guilty for feeling grateful. "There were more, Dayna." Reginald went on, appearing to forget about the cigarette, "The seventy four were just the ones we could identify and that was like putting together some damned...some damned meat puzzle."

Sensing that her husband was about to lose control again, she rubbed his back lovingly. He shivered at her touch. "But they'll be cleaning out the Atherean all night. All told, there may be two hundred more Angels waiting to be discovered. And there are at least a hundred more that we can't account for."

His voice was shaking. He hurled the cigarette to the ground and stormed away, hands on his hips. Dayna exhaled and braced herself.

"Damn us, Dayna!" He whirled, gesturing, "how could we be so blind?! So stupid?! Did we think Yin was really going to just up and disappear and that would be the end of it?!"

He shook his head. "All those Angels we exiled...I exiled...how could I have been so stupid..."

"Reginald." Dayna spoke sharply, in a tone that was impossible to ignore, "you did what was asked of you and that is all there is to it. What happened today was not your fault."

Reginald looked up at his wife and felt some of his anger melt away. He nodded, still fuming. "I know, Dayna." He said softly, "I know. It's not my fault, its not your fault, its not anyone's fault. It's everyone's fault."

Dayna looked down.

"It was headed this way for seasons, we all knew that. Heimdall point-blank said that this would happen. And none of us listened."

He shook his head and looked off to the sky, to the clouds that were escorting to souls of the lost home. "We didn't want to listen."

He paused and said, "Well, now we have to listen. Yin has put us in a position where we're not asking what we're going to do. Now we have to ask ourselves how we will answer this."

Dayna raised her head, tears in her eyes, and nodded. "You're right. You want to know how we answer this?"

She turned on her heel, disappearing into the house. Moments later, she returned, carrying a long object wrapped in dirty cloth. She walked straight up to her husband, lifted his hand, and placed the long object in it, closing his fist around it. "This is how we answer, Reginald." She seethed, and for the first time, Reginald could see that her anger exceeded his own. "Rest while you can, Reginald." Dayna was speaking quickly, in hushed tones. "Gather your strength. Tell me what you need so I may provide it. Because soon, Reginald, very soon...you're going to need this."

This time it was Dayna who held back tears as she pat his chest. "And when soon becomes now..." She forced, choking back tears, "please keep Uriel and I in your mind. Please come home to us."

Reginald held the object in his left hand and brought his wife close with his right, holding her tightly. "Dayna, I swear to you." He vowed, "no matter what is to come, I will return to you. All of you."

Dayna nuzzled his chest with her face and wished time would stop moving.

But it didn't.

She nodded, pushing herself away and then retrieving his cigarette. "Finish this, tell your son goodnight, and then come to bed."

They exchanged a lingering kiss, and then she vanished into the house.

Reginald placed the cigarette in his mouth and unfolded the object Dayna had given him. It was the elongated sword-axe that Maximoff had forgd for him, with a long, curving green blade on both ends of the petrified wood staff.

The wind shifted, a hint of jasmine rushing past him. Reginald looked up and found himself looking at the Woman in Red.

Her arms folded, she smiled crookedly at him and spoke maternally as she shook her head, "You shouldn't make promises you can't keep."

A sharp, cold wind blew. Reginald blinked.

The woman was gone.

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