Tad peered around the Tea and Tomes shop, not even trying to hide his amusement. Whether he was impressed by the facade of a pleasant café that hid the technology required to decrypt and read Tomestones that clients brought to the shop, it was hard to tell.
No matter his cousin’s opinion of the place, it had served Amon well in bringing in some much needed gil while assisting adventurers with resources for better options than just to trade their Tomes to Roweena’s business. He also found it rewarding and fun to see what curiosities his clients brought in.
Amon fixed Tad a blend of tea that he guessed might be pleasing, and placed it on the table nearby. Whatever his cousin had come all this way to tell him, it seemed to be important, and this was as safe enough as anywhere to have that deeper discussion.
“Why don’t we start at the beginning?” the bard suggested, leaning against the bookshelf. He was too antsy to sit down and relax.
Tad sipped his tea and gave a look of approval at the taste. But he also did not sit down. “Very well. You’re aware that I took up arms against the Empire as part of the Resistance, aye.”
This had never actually been confirmed, but it did not come as a surprise to Amon. Tad was not one to stand by idly while the world around him struggled, just as he wasn’t. Given his cousin’s forest upbringing and simple sensibilities, the Resistance was the most likely cause he’d turn to.
“I’m surprised that doesn’t offend you.”
“Why would it? Xande was trying to hand over the Empire to the Void. I don’t blame the people for trying to stop it.”
“Why didn’t you try to stop it?” Tad asked – more curious than unkind.
Amon looked the other way and ran his finger along the spine of a book on the shelf. “’Twasn’t that easy.”
“Fair enough,” came the reply, making it clear that his cousin wasn’t there to point fingers and debate the consequences of past choices. He simply continued, “I was there when the Tower sank. Ground zero to the calamity itself. I was the only survivor of my squad, and for a long while, I couldn’t understand why.”
The bard tried to offer a sympathetic look, but Tad’s gaze did not turn to receive it.
“’Twasn’t until I found my way back home… days of walking through the destruction and rubble… to our people…”
“How did they fare?” Amon breathed the question.
“Better than most,” Tad reassured him. “The Elementals protect their own.”
“Aye,” he agreed with relief.
“’Twas much to rebuild, even for us, and I was of a mind to turn my attention to that. However, ‘tis when Princess Salina arrived.”
Amon didn’t hide his surprise. “I’d heard tell she’d survived the calamity. But she came all the way to the forest sector? Why?”
“She was searching for me,” Tad said, still not meeting his cousin’s gaze. “I don’t know how ‘twas she had the information she did. Mayhaps ‘twas Allagan royal blood. Mayhaps ‘twas insider Resistance information. Or mayhaps even a bit of the echo.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because,” he let out a soft sigh. “She identified me as the Warrior of Light.”
Amon felt his body stiffen for a moment. Then the next moment, he was dashing across the room, towards the door. The mere words “Warrior of Light” struck terror in him, and flight was all he knew to do. After all, the hero of their world would only see him as an enemy to strike down once again…
“Amon!” Tad called out.
One strong hand caught and gripped the bard’s wrist, moving impossibly fast to intercept. Squirm as he might, Amon was unable to break away from the other Elezen’s hold. All he could do was stare into his cousin’s face in terror.
“What is wrong with you?” Tad exclaimed, flushed with surprise.
“Did you come to kill me?” Amon almost stammered, still attempting to pull away.
“What? No! What are you talking about?”
“The Warrior of Light… the raid on the Tower… surely… knowing that I’m still alive…”
Tad made a little “ah” sound as understanding dawned on him. Then he tilted his head and slowly shook it.
“No… no…” he said with a softer, gentler voice. “I’m not that Warrior of Light. I’m the Warrior of Light from our age.”
“Our… age…” Amon repeated, the concept slowly sinking in. As it did, he felt the fear slowly drain and his senses clear.
“Apparently, ‘tis a phenomenon that repeats itself,” Tad slowly released his grip on his cousin’s wrist. “Though I don’t understand exactly… I mean… I’m still learning about this.”
Fear shifted into awe at the idea. His own cousin – the closest to a brother he’d ever had. The once scrawny headstrong kid that he’d pranked as much and as often as circumstance allowed. They’d grown up together until the day Amon had left for the Tower. And now…
“The Warrior of Light…” Amon’s voice sounded far away as he mused. “You?”
“Aye, tell me about it,” Tad gave a sad laugh, finally flopping down in one of the chairs. He finished drinking his tea all in one go before letting out another breath.
“I should have known you were meant to be something special.”
“As were you.”
“No,” Amon just shook his head. “Despite all my efforts, I only brought our people closer to destruction.”
“’Twasn’t all your doing,” Tad told him with a serious expression. “The Resistance has more information… but… ‘tis jumping ahead in the story.”
“Ah, right. The story.” The bard, too, returned to his place near the bookshelf and took up his tea again.
“Salina knew that you, Xande and his followers had not perished in the Tower. Don’t ask me how. Probably some Allagan royalty mumbo jumbo. She tasked me to ensure that should the Tower ever wake again, Xande would not live to succeed in allowing the Cloud of Darkness to enter the living realm.”
“That sounds like a big order,” Amon observed.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Tad agreed.