part III

“Sorry?” Eder asked, the trance of his distracted stare broken by his mother’s voice.

The screech of Agrona’s fork against her plate made him grit his teeth, as she meticulously skewered some food with the assistance of her knife and repeated, “I spoke with the Council earlier this afternoon.”

Eder gave a nod of false interest before returning his attention to his dinner. It always started this way, he thought, with some offhanded mention of the Council and, then, once more, he’d be stuck in the no-mans-land of his mother’s silent war against the Adarai.

“There’s to be a new expedition,” she continued with a familiar veiled contempt before looking to Eder for a response.

His eyes didn’t move from his plate, “First I’ve heard of it.” And it was the truth. How many more times do we have to do this, he wondered.

She made a sound of disapproval and shook her head, “I’ll never understand why they keep you so in the dark on these... prophetic developments.”

Dom, Eder’s father, silently shook his head in support of his wife’s position.

But Eder did not respond. He was usually the last to know about new developments, as, like most things, divination was not an exact discipline, and he thought this passive attempt to instill some kind of resentment within him towards the Adarai was pathetic.

They had only treated him well since joining the Salii and provided not only their support but solace after he was indicated in the prophecy, as the true gravity of the situation was yet to be known.

Since he was a child, Eder only ever wanted to leave. To leave Mars. To leave the solar system. To leave his life and his parents behind. He knew he could never truly escape his mother’s grasp without first giving her what she wanted, but he never expected to be tethered once more to this cold stone temple by forces beyond his control.

How long must he continue this fight? When would the prophecy come to pass? Would what he and the old man and his granddaughter had to face be any more terrible or destructive than what he had to confront at this dinner table every night?

Eder clenched his jaw, annoyed with himself, and set his fork on his unfinished plate. He was tired of the mundanity of his family drama and just wanted the meal to end.

He pulled the napkin from his lap with the intention of excusing himself, but his mother spoke.

“The girl,” Agrona started, “Your friend...”

Eder stopped and quickly suppressed the involuntary flicker of interest that flashed across his face by wiping his mouth with the napkin. He cleared his throat, “Tanith.”

“Yes,” Agrona replied, “It’s a new vision of hers that prompted the expedition. Something about a cave near Sacra Mensa, so they think. They’re sending a team tomorrow to investigate.”

Not wanting to engage but unable to stop himself, he asked, “What did she see?”

Eder swore he the saw a glint of satisfaction in his mother’s eyes at his question, as she replied, “They didn’t say.”

He stifled a sigh and began to stand.

“But don’t worry son,” Agrona said as he rose, “We will have answers soon enough.”

Eder gave her a restrained look of suspicion.

“My own... sources tell me Carter’s assistant was successful,” she boasted with measured triumph through her thin smile. “His granddaughter is on her way here.”

A familiar sense of dread began to fill the pit of Eder’s stomach.

“And when she gets here, we will do our best to make sure that she is... well looked after…