Here is a sneak preview from my work so far.
The distant stars twinkled and a gentle breeze blew through the dark as Killian kept his eyes and ears open. Trouble wasn’t expected, but then again that was the point of being on watch wasn’t it?
But Argives lurking in the dark were not his only problems. It was things settled down and everything got quiet that his own mind became his worst enemy.
He loved his wife. He had met her when he and Jason were going through the academy together. While at first he had been hesitant to risk his friendship with Jason, he hadn’t been able to help falling for her wit and good looks. Their wedding day, which happened just after his graduation and in which he proudly wore his dress uniform, was the happiest day of his life. The love of his life had become his wife and his best friend became his brother.
Not even in his darkest nightmares had he imagined just how short a time the Fates had gifted him with.
Suddenly the crackle of a falling stone brought him out of his temporary reverie. A stone came clattering down the rocks on the west side of the basin.
Killian carefully rose from his seated position to his feet, careful not to make a sound. He switched his heads up display to thermals, the cooling surface of the planet only broken up by the warm sleeping forms of his comrades. Straining his ears, no sound could be heard except for the gentle hum of the breeze. Having always trusted his senses over technology, he switched his HUD off allowing his eyes to adjust to the gentle starlight.
He made his way silently to the edge of the basin, taking low loping strides like the wolves of Chione. Nothing greeted his eyes except the jagged peaks of the distant mountains and rolling plain.
Pausing for a moment, he again strained his senses to catch anything that might be out of place. Except for the uneven soil where the stone had come free there was no sign that anyone or anything had been there.
Satisfied at least for the moment, Killian made his way back to his seat.
Maybe the ground simply shifted.
Another noise from the same spot sent him spinning around and unsheathing his sword in one clean motion. It had sounded like three hurried footsteps.
Again there was nothing to be seen or heard, the whistle of the breeze over his drawn blade the only new sound to greet his ears.
Maybe I’m just on edge, hearing things. Somehow that thought didn’t comfort him much. He hated to admit it, but perhaps Jason had a point about how long they had been deployed. He had never gone this long without some shore leave. Perhaps this was just his body’s way of telling him the fatigue was getting to him.
Sheathing his sword across his shoulders again, Killian wove his way back into camp and to the new recruit’s tent.
“Recruit.” His loud whisper broke the silence inside the shelter.
The young woman bolted upright in her cot, green eyes reflecting the starlight back in a hue that briefly stunned Killian with its beauty. “Sir, what is it?”
He gently shook his head and refocused, “I need you to take over watch.”
The briefest flash of disappointment went through her face before it was restored to her default confidence.
“Yes sir. Anything I should know?”
“Nothing to report, I’ll wait until you’re geared up.” Killian walked out of the tent and stood next to his post. He removed his helmet and took a deep breath. Taking it off was strictly forbidden when in unfriendly territory, but he bent the rules occasionally. He loved the feeling of unfiltered air in his chest. This planet smelled of dust and rock, nothing like the fresh mountain air of his home.
“Isn’t that against regulation?” the recruit appeared behind him, snapping on her own helmet. Far from scolding, there was lightness to her voice that told him she was simply teasing.
“What’s your name?”
“And where are you from?”
“Ah, same as Jason.” He looked her over. She had the same lithe build as everyone from Acadia had and was about a foot shorter than Killian, but like nearly everyone from the League’s capital she stood with her back straight and head held high. There were few who held themselves with such pride as the Acadians.
“What about you sir?” her voice was strong and confidant.
“I’ve heard it’s a tough place to grow up.”
“We don’t believe in coddling.” Killian briefly felt again the sting of the rod across his back.
No, especially when you’re born a prince.
“I’ve heard a lot about you and Commander Jason. Best two students the academy ever had. People expect great things out of you two: one a prince and one the son of heroes.” She was polite and genuinely interested, but given their positions Killian never thought it wise to get too close to soldiers under his command.
“Faith, you’re on duty. Report anything suspicious to myself or to the commander.”
“Yes sir.” She gave a firm solute which Killian returned. A few steps took him to his own tent, where he shed his armor and sword with practiced thoroughness.
He felt his weariness settle in as he took a seat on his cot. It wasn’t often he stopped long enough to really feel it, but it felt like all of his energy simply ebbed away, leaving nothing but a worn out shell to sit on his cot. He remembered a conversation he had had with Darlene the last time he had seen her.
“You should learn to relax more.” She had taken a seat on his lap, “You push yourself too hard. You’re going to be old before your time.”
He couldn’t help but smile back when she smiled at him like that. “I’m the Crown Prince of Chione. I don’t get to relax.”
“Well maybe when you’re away, but when you are here you are my husband and I say you get to relax all you want.”
“You can’t just make up your own rules.”
“Of course I can silly. I’m the Queen of this house. You are in my domain mister.”
It felt like a spear piercing his heart. There were moments he missed her so badly that he swore if he closed his eyes he would wake up and find it was all just a long and horrible dream.
But it wasn’t to be.
“Maybe I just need to get some sleep.” He mused, stretching himself out. As tired as he felt, it wouldn’t take long. As sleep slowly washed over him, the last thing he heard was a chuckle coming from where the recruit was sitting.
“First sign of madness they say, talking to yourself.”