From the Ashes
an alternate-world steampunk short story
The tall stone building stained dark with age stood out like a beacon among the squat white buildings of the surrounding city. Rue shivered as she walked past it and pulled the thin, long sleeved workman's shirt tightly around her. She glanced up at the gargoyle perched on a column on one side of the church's large wrought iron gate. Wings splayed, one clawed arm reached down towards the pavement where she stood, as if the creature meant to take a step off its resting spot and pounce on anyone unlucky enough to be underneath it. Its mate, on the other large column on the other side of the entrance gate had long since disappeared, destroyed either by age, or the war. All that remained of it was a segment of the arm that rested on its platform, and its two stubby clawed feet.
'Don't dawdle,' said Kieran from behind, pushing Rue slightly and urging her past the church. 'I hate that place,' she mumbled, casting another quick glance at the building and the large cross roughly hewn into the face of the building.
'Hurry!' hissed Kieran into Rue's ear, 'the light is going quickly, and we do not want to be seen outside of here. People know that we aren't believers. And we don't want to get stopped by the watchmen.
'I'm not a believer,' said Rue in a whisper, barely turning her head to speak to Kieran who was still behind her. 'But you used to be, so I don't know what the problem is,' she said.
'That's even more a problem!' said Kieran as they walked past an abandoned shop. It was dark inside, and the large front window of the store was missing, large jagged pieces of glass still clinging to parts of the frame. From deep inside the darkness of the room, there was a flickering orange glow.
Before Kieran could open his mouth to say anything, Rue jumped lightly through the open display window, her feet crunching loudly on the broken glass that still lay on the sill. 'What's that?' she said loudly.
Kieran reached through the window but Rue was already beyond his reach, moving quickly further into the darkness. 'Rue!' he said as loudly as he dared. 'You shouldn't just go wandering into abandoned places!'. He sighed and moved around to the shop door that stood ajar. He was getting too old to be climbing through windows.
Kieran moved as quickly as he dared through the velvety dark, tripping slightly on an overturned chair and bumping heavily into what he thought might be a counter. As he got closer to the source of the light, he could see bright orange sparks flying into the air and quickly fizzling to nothing. He reached Rue, who had sensibly hidden behind a narrow wall and was peering into the open doorway.
Kieran cautiously looked around the door, above Rue's head. He saw a man wearing thick goggles over his eyes and holding a welding torch which flared nearly bright white with heat. Rue simply stood with wide eyes. 'What is that?' she whispered in awe to Kieran.
Standing in the middle of the small back room was a large man shaped figure, black against the brightness of the torch. The man with the goggles directed his torch at the torso of large looming figure and sparks flew high into the air. A second man, also wearing goggles and thick gloves stood on the other side of the dark man-shape. 'Okay, that's good!' shouted the second man. The man with the torch stopped, and the room suddenly went dim, save for a small gas-lamp on top of a wooden crate in the corner of the room. The second man, who stood with his back to Rue and Kieran took a large pair of pliers and put it at the figures' throat.
'What are they doing?' asked Rue again, softly.
'That must be a golem,' whispered Kieran. 'I've heard of them, I've just never seen one.'
'What's a golem?' asked Rue, looking up at Kieran and the strange shadows flickering over his face cast by the glow of the torch that had started up again, making him look haggard and even older than he was.
'It's a man made of metal – steel and iron mostly, I think,' said Kieran watching as the man with his back to them tightened more rivets and bolts on the massive metal body. 'They're used in the war. The soldiers use them.' Kieran pointed. 'Look at the hands. See there? Those are guns fused into the hands.'
'How does it work?' asked Rue, even more quietly. She tried to keep her voice from wavering.
'The soldier climbs inside. From the back, you can't see it here. They move the golem with levers and dials. The legs are pistons, powered by steam. The fingers as well, pistons that fire the guns.' He shook his head. 'Dangerous things I've heard. To be the drivers of, I mean,' he said speaking to the top of Rue's head, not wanting to take his eyes from the men in front of them. 'The drivers can get steam burns. And burns getting out of it after. The metal of the body heats up with the steam power. So the drivers have to jump clear. And they can get trapped.'
'Trapped?' said Rue, unable to keep the fear from her voice.
'They have to get locked in. Someone on the outside has to use latches down the back. And the driver can lock himself in on the inside. For protection. But I've heard of ones getting lost. And if they have no-one to open it from the outside...' Kieran trailed off.
'Oh,' Rue said simply.
Suddenly there was silence. 'What's that?' said man with the torch peering around the side of the golem.
'Oi!' yelled the man with the pliers. 'What're you doing?' he said, moving swiftly towards them.
'Run!' yelled Rue grabbing Kieran's arm. And they ran.
'Come on, hurry!' whispered Kieran impatiently, now pulling Rue down the dark alley strewn with garbage and rubble. They had run blindly through the darkened alleys, the man with the pliers had given up chase only a block or so away from the abandoned storefront that held the strange metal man.
Rue yanked her arm out of Kieran's grip and stood defiantly in the middle of the narrow alley, glaring at him in the quickly fading light. 'I don't need to go anywhere!' she spat, crossing her arms over her chest, the light from Kieran's portable gas lamp flickered casting strange shadows across her face.
'But you don't want to get caught out here by the nightwatchmen!' Kieran said as loudly as he dared. 'Remember what happened last time? And I don't want to have to go against the Council again to get you back,' he said, holding a small strangely shaped gun tightly in the hand that had been holding Rue's arm.
Rue sighed, rolled her eyes, and kicked a large chunk of rubble near her foot. The stone bounced away and hit a glass bottle in the shadows. Kieran flinched at the noise and turned to move away again. 'Come on,' he hissed. 'We're not that far away. We should get back before darkness falls completely.'
Rue fell in close behind as Kieran picked his way as quickly as he could through the darkening alley. As he came to the end, he slowly poked his head around the corner of the squat white washed stone building and looked up the street, keeping his small lamp out of sight behind him. He breathed a sigh of relief after looking up and down the empty wide cobbled stoned street.
'Okay, run!' he half-yelled to Rue as he dashed out into the brightly light road under the golden glow from the gas street lamps overhead. They ran back into the shadows on the other side of the road, moving past broken windows with glass sprinkling the sidewalks.
Kieran took out the small strange gun as he reached a door, and turned down the flame in the gas lamp. He inserted the barrel of the gun into the lock and turned, opening the door quickly and dragging Rue through behind him. He closed the door with a soft bang and exhaled. Moving towards heavy black curtains at the front of the small living area, he flicked aside one and glanced outside warily before moving it carefully back into place.
He turned around and looked at Rue who was sitting on the edge of a thin, lumpy bed, swinging her legs back and forth and scuffing her already worn shoes. 'Ruth,' Kieran said pleadingly, heading towards her. Rue glared at him from under dark bangs that fell into her eyes and stopped swinging her legs.
'Rue', he corrected. 'I don't understand why you can't wear a dress like all the other girls,' he said leaning against the kitchen worktop and gesturing towards her cut off trousers with the ragged bottoms.
'Because, didn't you know there's a war going on?' Rue said sarcastically. 'Who wants to be running around in a long skirt with all the gangs in the streets and the Emperor's stupid airships flying around. You can't run easily in a dress!'
'You shouldn't be running around and going outside anyways with the Coalition's airships flying around during the day.' Kieran said, not even blinking an eye when a black and white flash ran past him on the counter, jumped off and then bounded onto the bed beside Rue. She absentmindedly stroked the long wiry white and black mottled coat of the ferret that was trying to burrow its way under the bed covers.
'Maddie!' said Kieran running over and grabbing the animal around the stomach and holding it up to his face, it's little pink nose with black spots and whiskers quivering. 'I've told you before not to hide in the bed covers!' he placed it on his shoulder, it's long thin body wrapping itself across the back of his neck. 'Silly girl!' he chastised, wagging a finger at her. Madigan playfully nipped at his fingertip.
Rue pouted. 'I don't know why the stupid Emperor started this silly war in the first place!' she whined. 'I don't understand why everyone doesn't want to have steam-powered cars, instead of slow and smelly horse and carriages. I don't know why he wants to still have gaslights, and not the new electricity that other places have. I've heard that England has electricity now. Why don't we?'
'Well they need electricity. They live underground. Gas flame doesn't do as well underground as electric powered lights,' explained Kieran.
'Well, I still think he's crazy,' Rue said jumping down from the bed and going over to the small icebox in the corner of the room and removing a small glass bottle of milk. 'Making war against your own country and killing innocent people for no reason.'
Kieran looked down at the dirty and cracked hardwood floor, not wanting to look at Rue and be reminded of what happened to her parents.
'He has no idea what it's like!' she continued, slamming the icebox door closed. 'He just lives in his big, fancy manor house and has servants to do whatever he wants. He doesn't see what it's like for the rest of us in the cities. He doesn't know that we have to steal things to live!' she nearly yelled.
Kieran's head snapped up. 'Keep your voice down!' he harshly. 'And we don't have to steal things to live.'
Rue's eyes flashed. 'Yes. We do. If I didn't, we wouldn't have hardly anything to eat or any good clothes to wear. We have hardly any money, and no one can really work with these airship attacks and the warning alarms going off all the time and people having to run and hide from soldiers patrolling what's left of the city! You should be glad I stole those sticky buns from the baker's down the street this morning, otherwise you'd be complaining of being hungry!'
Kieran looked into the face of the strong-willed young girl taking a sip of milk. She's gone through so much, for someone so young. Sometimes, she doesn't even seem like she is only fourteen, he thought sadly. He took Madigan down from his shoulders and grabbed a canvas bag that was hanging from a long strap over the back of a chair and placed her gently inside. Her pink and black nose peeked out from under the flap and her whiskers twitched.
He slung the bag across his torso and grabbed a lump of sticky bun from the counter top that had begun to already harden, and stuck it in the pocket of his long wool pea-coat.
'Okay, let's go,' Kieran said, removing his key-gun from the waistband of his trousers that was held in by his braces.
'Where are we going?' said Rue, stuffing a large bit of another chunk of sticky bun in her mouth and following it up with a drink of milk.
'To see the Emperor,' Kieran said, turning the door knob and slipping quietly outside.
Rue's dark blue eyes widened in shock.
'Really?' she said, disbelieving. 'Why?'
'To ask him to stop this war,' said Kieran simply. 'It's gone on for long enough, and caused too much devastation and destruction. And for what? There's still those of us who want new technologies, and there's still those who don't. It hasn't changed anything.'
'And religion,' said Rue, falling in behind Kieran as he moved stealthily across a store front, underneath a gas lamp that had been shattered and had gone dark.
'Yes, and religion,' Kieran agreed, turning down a dark unlit alleyway and stepping gently over bodies lying in the narrow doorways lining the lane, that he dearly hoped were only sleeping.
In the distance they heard a loud boom followed by a brief brightening of the night sky. They walked down a maze of dark, rubble littered side roads and sprinted across the brightly lit wide main roadways in fear of being spotted by nightwatchmen, or worse, members of one of the vigilante gangs that roamed the city at any time of day, or night.
Finally they stood in front of the gleaming marble manor house of the Emperor, feeling dwarfed by the sheer size of the building. Row upon row of smooth, wide steps lead up to a massive rounded wooden door, with large round iron knockers on both sides of the double door.
Kieran ran a hand shakily through his dark hair, greying at the temples and began the ascent to the door. Rue dashed easily past him and made it to the top barely breaking a sweat. Kieran reached the top stair and wiped a sheen of sweat from his forehead and stopped to catch his breath. 'I'm not as young as you,' he panted. 'It would be good for you to remember that,' he said to Rue who was leaning casually against one of the large marble pillars that framed the door. Before taking the knocker in his hand he turned around and surveyed the city from the hill on which the manor stood.
In the distance, the snow capped mountains stood like silent sentinels guarding a precious treasure. 'Not very precious anymore,' Kieran said under his breath as he looked down onto the cluster of stone buildings, most four storey apartments, none taller than six, and most filled over capacity by more families than they were built for.
'What?' said Rue looking up from idly picking at the dirt under her fingernails.
'Nothing,' said Kieran, continuing to stare out at the once beautiful city, now nearly in ruins, along with the rest of the United American Empire most likely, he thought glumly. The Homeland Wars, as it was called, had been going on for the past ten years, mostly between the Northerly Districts, and some of the Central belt, against the Southerly Districts. Though there was some inter-warring between some neighbouring districts of both the North and South, depending.
He sighed heavily and turned back towards the door towering high above them, the smooth wood glowing slightly in the two large gas lights mounted on either side. Lifting the heavy iron knocker, he brought it down heavily against the door, and then again. The bang rang out hollowly behind the door.
He took a step back and stood anxiously, waiting. Rue moved away from the pillar and stood next to Kieran.
Should I take her hand? Kieran wondered. That is what her father might have done, in a situation like this. But before he had time to act, the large door creaked loudly and opened slowly onto a giant foyer.
A tall, thin man with an angular face and nose like a hawk, looked down at them. 'Yes?' he asked in a bored, nasal tone.
Kieran tried to stand up as tall and straight as he could. 'We are here to see the Emperor'.
'Do you have an appointment?' said the man at the door, looking down over his hooked nose with beady dark eyes.
'No, but-', Kieran began.
The man shook his head.'I'm sorry,' he said, starting to close the door, 'you need to have an appointment to see the Emperor'.
Suddenly, Rue darted from Kieran's side and ran through the doorway into the main entrance hall.
'Stop!' shouted the man who was still pushing the heavy door shut.
'Rue!' shouted Kieran, running through the door after her. 'Come back!'
Rue ran up the large flight of stairs in the middle of the room, taking the stairs two and even three at a time. She reached the top and continued running down a corridor that over looked the large empty entrance hall.
'Rue, stop!' yelled Kieran, running up the flight of stairs as quickly as he could, his long pea-coat fluttering behind him as he ran. He got to the top of the stairs and turned, just as Rue disappeared down another hallway. Kieran could hear the footsteps of the doorman heavily on the stairs behind him. His heart pounding in his chest, and without thinking, he dashed down the hall closest to him trying to get away from the man who would most likely throw him out if he got hold of him.
'Ruth!' shouted Kieran as loudly as he dared as he ran down one long corridor after the next, lined with large, extravagant paintings in thick gilt frames, most of them depicting the current Emperor in various poses and scenes. 'Where are you?' he wished he had brought his gas lamp with him but was grateful for the small key-shaped gun he had in his coat pocket as he wrapped his fingers around the cool metal.
He turned down another corridor and burst out into a brightly lit area that was empty save a few plushly upholstered loungers and small tables with statuettes and gold and silver trinkets scattered here and there.
A large ornate door occupied almost one whole side of the wall. Rue stood against the door with her ear pressed against it. She looked up and saw Kieran and motioned for him to join her and held a finger to her lips for him to be quiet.
'I think this is the Emperor's office or something,' Rue whispered when Kieran reached her. She stopped and looked at him expectantly.
'What?' Kieran whispered back, puzzled.
'So...' urged Rue. 'What are you waiting for? Let's go inside!'
Before Kieran could say otherwise, Rue had grabbed the large crystal doorknob and turned it, flinging the door wide and striding through it confidently. Kieran reached out to pull her back, but his fingers only brushed the trailing cuff of her shirt sleeve before she was out of reach. He sighed again and followed her grudgingly into the large room beyond.
A large fireplace loomed at the opposite end of the room, a fire blazing ferociously inside despite it being the end of summer and still hot outside. Two large leather arm chairs were angled towards the fireplace. Only one was clearly occupied by a large, imposing figure.
Kieran raised his key-gun shakily in his right hand and took a hesitant step forward towards the armchair.
'Excuse me, um, Mister...uh, I mean, Sir, oh, your Majesty,' he stuttered, 'Highness? I mean...' he paused. ' Emperor,' he wheezed.
'Eh?' said a deep voice from within the depths of the armchair. 'Who's there?' the voice grumbled as the shape in the chair shifted and leaned forward.
'Your...' Kieran began again, taking another small step forward and trying to still his trembling hand.
Rue made a noise of disgust and shot him a look. Kieran cleared his throat and tried to sound as confident as he could. 'Emperor. I have come here with my...ward,' he smiled apologetically towards Rue. 'To implore that you please put an end to this war.'
The shape in the chair pushed itself upward and stood, teetering slightly before grabbing hold of the armrest. Dark brown eyes blazed from underneath a large forehead and head of light brown hair, cut short and tidy. The light from the fire in the background made the Emperor's already pronounced cheekbones even more angular and gave a strange, harsh look to his somewhat handsome features. The Emperor took an unsteady step forward before grabbing onto the high back of the chair and casting a cursory glance towards Rue.
'Say again?' the Emperor said, cocking his head slightly in confusion. 'You said you want me to stop the war?'
Kieran was about to speak again but Rue spoke up first. 'Yes,' she said in a loud, clear voice. 'We want the war to end! There has been too much destruction. Too much devastation that I'm sure your eyes don't ever see. Or if they do, they take no notice.' She brushed a piece of dark brown hair back behind her ear that had slipped out of one of her braids.
'Ha!' the Emperor barked loudly, flashing white teeth in a vicious grin. 'And what give you the right, little girl,' he sneered, 'to tell me, nay, order me to stop the war?'. The Emperor lurched towards Rue and Kieran started forward. 'Hey!' he yelled out.
The Emperor swung in his direction, the long robes of royal dark purple he wore swirling around him like liquid.
'Don't hurt her!' Kieran yelled, not knowing what else to say.
The Emperor took a step back, a stunned look on his face. 'Hurt her?' he said bewildered. 'Why would I hurt her? She is just a young girl. Just like my little Lily,' he said, a tender look crossing his face.
Rue ran towards the tall floor-to-ceiling windows that were covered with thick, heavy velvet curtains, the same dark purple as the Emperor's robe, behind a large elegant wooden desk. She pulled on the thick brocaded cord that hung down from one side of the windows with all her strength and the curtains slowly unveiled the expanse of the city below the hill on which the Emperor's manor sat.
'Look!' she said, pointing down towards the closely knotted array of buildings. From here you could see some that had been damaged and broken, the upper floors of buildings just an empty, vacant shell, and places that were once shops were burnt out and looted of anything of importance. 'Look,' she repeated. 'At what your war is doing to your city! Don't you care? Don't you care that you are killing your own home? That innocent people are being killed by your airship raids? Do you know that the nightwatchmen aren't protecting people, but instead they're harming people? I don't think they think of their batons as weapons. I think they enjoy using them. They enjoy hurting humble, honest, people.'
Kieran noticed Rue's eyes were glassy and bright. 'My parents...' she began, then stopped.
'Rue, you don't have to,' said Kieran, reaching towards her, even though she stood out of his reach.
Ruth shook her head, causing the braids tied to hold the rest of her hair back to come out.
'No,' she said. 'He needs to hear this. It is all his fault!' she cried. Tears began to roll down her cheeks but she didn't stop to wipe them away. 'My parents. They left me. When I was only four years old. The war had been going for six months. And they ran away. They left me and I don't know who they are, or where they are. I don't know if they are still alive. And they did it because of your silly war!'
Kieran looked over at the Emperor and saw him blanch.
She pointed at Kieran. 'He is my guardian. They left me on his doorstep, so he had no choice but to take me in.'
The Emperor looked towards Kieran, a mix of anger and sadness in his eyes.
She continued. 'But he saved my life and raised me. All throughout this war. I don't know anything about my parents lives. If they were happy when they gave me up. Or sad. Or scared. I don't know where or why they went. But all I do know is they did it all because of you!' she sniffed loudly and wiped her nose on the sleeve of her oversized green men's shirt she wore over her top.'He's given me hope,' she whispered, barely audible. 'Hope when I had nothing else. And if you stop this war, you can give everyone else hope. Everyone down there,' she pointed again to the dark shapes of the buildings lined along cold cobblestone streets and lit by the warm golden glow of gas lamps. 'Everyone there who has given up hope. The people that lie sleeping on the streets sheltered only with a doorway.' She glanced over at Kieran who nodded for her to continue. 'Or the store owners who are forever having to sweep up glass from their broken storefront windows by the gangs who just go around causing trouble for no reason.'
Kieran raised his hand for Rue to stop, and spoke up. 'You can change all this...my...' he paused.
The Emperor waved a hand. 'Eldon.' he said. 'Call me Eldon, as that is my name, after all.'
Kieran shook his head. 'No, I do not feel comfortable with that,' he said bluntly.
'Leander, then,' the Emperor said motioning to the second large armchair by the fire. 'That is my surname.'
Kieran nodded and offered a small smile. 'Leander it is, then.'
'You are Irish, are you not?' Leander asked abruptly not looking at Kieran as he spoke but, out the windows onto the dark mass of the city below.
'Yes,' said Kieran simply, surprised by the question. 'And you are Sc-,' he began.
'Scottish, yes. And I still have my accent after all these years,' Leander said almost wistfully, still looking out into the night, hands clasped behind his back. 'And may I ask are you Catholic, or Protestant?'
Kieran shook his head. 'Neither. Not anymore. I was Catholic back in Ireland. But since the war, I have had no reason to believe, or put my faith in a God.'
Eldon Leander shook his head and Kieran noticed there were tears in his eyes, but none fell, as he took his seat again and Kieran took the other.
Leander hung his head and sighed, mumbling under his breath.
'Pardon?' said Kieran straining to hear and leaning forward.
'I fear it is too late,' Leander said, his hands falling open in his lap in defeat.
'What is?' said Rue who had come up and was standing at the arm of Kieran's chair.
'It is too late to end the war,' Leander lifted his head, staring blankly through Kieran and reached for a crystal glass resting on a small table next to his chair, draining the amber liquid inside with a clatter of ice cubes. 'It has gone too far.'
'It is never too late!' cried Kieran so vehemently that Madigan poked her head out of the canvas bag he had hanging at his side. Kieran patted her head soothingly and fed her a little piece of sticky bun from his pocket. 'Ex cineribus resurge.'
Leander had lifted the empty glass to his mouth for the remainder of whisky mixed with the melting ice. He raised an eyebrow. 'Pardon me? What does that mean?'.
'It's Latin,' said Rue proudly.
Kieran smiled and nodded, gently patting her hand that was resting on the arm of the chair. 'It means 'Rise from the ashes'.'
'Rise from the ashes?' Leander repeated, puzzled.
Kieran nooded. 'Do you not remember Japan?' he asked.
'Japan? Why would I have any notion of Japan? I am the Emperor of the United American Empire, it is only that that is my priority.'
'It must not be much of a priority if you are waging war on it,' said Rue sharply. Kieran glared at her willing her to be quiet with his eyes.
Leander covered his face with his hands. 'Do not chastise her. She speaks the truth,' he said. 'It seems I have lost my way since my lovely Anna passed away. She was my confidante and always pointed me in the right direction. I do not even know my own daughter anymore.' He lowered his hands and folded them in his lap, looking and Rue and Kieran solemnly.
'I digress,' he said. 'What is this you want to tell me of Japan?'
'Do you not remember the papers?' asked Kieran taken aback. 'It was all over the dailies.'
Leander shook his head. 'I care nothing of the world outside my Empire anymore,' he said. 'Foolish as that may be.'
‘The papers spoke of destruction across the ocean, against the coast of Japan,' began Kieran. 'A small nation comparatively to that of the United American Empire, but a nation of strong-willed people despite their size. This was not a war of people against people with guns and airships, such as here. Not a war of clashing ideas and ideals. But a war of nature against humanity. Unlike a war, this was not planned. But the people of Japan were able to come together, as a nation, and rise up. Rise from the ashes and begin again, fresh and new.' Kieran paused and held tightly to Madigan who had started to climb out of the shoulder bag. 'That is what you have the opportunity to do here. That is the power you hold in your hands. It falls on your shoulders. Though, if I may be so blunt as to say no single man should have that much power – enough to decide the fate of entire lands.'
'So you are saying there is still hope for us? We can still rise from the ashes, and that it is not too late, if I stop the war now?' said Leander staring intently at Kieran.
'I am saying exactly that, Leander.'
Leander sat quietly for a few moments, looking into the flames of the fire. 'You have given me much to think about,' he said. 'I think I may indeed try and stop this war.’
In his excitement Kieran squeezed Madigan who he had been holding in his lap, causing her to squeak in protest.
‘I fear I have not been living up to my name,’ He continued, glancing over at Kieran and smiling sadly. ‘Do you know my name, Leander, means ‘lion-man’? I have not been brave, like the lion, the king of his domain should. Instead I have been a coward, hiding behind drink,’ he waved his hand at the empty glass on the table. Kieran opened his mouth to speak.
Leander raised a hand. 'However, there is no guarantee that even if I make a decree that the war has ended that the people will stop fighting. What is your position on these new technologies that other countries are taking on, may I ask?' he said, looking coldly again at Kieran. 'Are you for, or against?'
Kieran lowered his eyes, knowing the Emperor's stance on the issue. 'For.'
'Ah, yes, I see,' said Leander. ‘I thought you to be the type. A smart man. I must admit, I do not have as brilliant a mind as some, and so I am content with what we have. And,' he said turning to Rue and giving a small lopsided smile, 'you are right, my girl. That I do not see what is in front of my eyes, because I do not care to see. Because I know only of what I am used to and do not look beyond that to the lives of others, even those of my own people.' He sighed loudly. 'I am a selfish old fool.'
Kieran leaned over and placed a hand on Leander's arm. 'No, you must not berate yourself so. You are only doing what you think is best. You are only human. You must not look back on your past choices with regret, but only look towards the future with hope, no matter what the current situation.'
Leander placed a hand atop Kieran's that rested on his arm. 'You speak wisely, my friend,' he said staring again into the tall flames of the roaring fire in the hearth. 'And what is that phrase again you spoke of? In Latin.'
'Ex cineribus resurge,' said Kieran and Rue simultaneously. ‘Rise from the ashes’, added Kieran.
'Ex cineribus resurge,' Leander repeated into the fire. 'Yes, I believe we will.'
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