scavengers

Prompt from a while ago, just trying to … infuse some life into this. Prompt was “scavengers.”

From an old novel idea that I still may write, ~who knows~, about a voyage of discovery led by Brendan that turns into a mutiny on an island that transcends the bonds of reality.

The ancient texts, once deciphered, had said that the glass forest gave voice to the memories of the departed. That each fragile filament contained a remnant of a soul that had once inhabited this world—that some contained hints toward what worlds lay beyond.

Brendan stood amidst the trees and felt the leaves’ frigid touch against his skin, cool like ice but without the wet. He’d read all the texts, he’d listened to Connor painstakingly translate them, glasses on, that look of scholarly disapproval appearing whenever Brendan had interrupted him. The memory caused physical pain, a knot of hurt lodged in his sternum. He thought—I wish I’d listened to him, more. Talked less. But the thought was fleeting and he allowed himself to marvel at the world around him, a world he’d conquered but scarcely explored.

He’d scoured the texts but he’d never been to the glass forest. And he’d come here on a whim—woken up this morning and Connor wasn’t there, not even the shell of Connor he’d come to expect and rely on. A memory had come swimming back—

“It is said that the memories of the dead whisper with each flash of the sun through the leaves, and the wind stirring the trees is the voice of the past.”

“Yes, but—strategically, an army led through a forest made of glass would be disastrous.”

Connor glanced up from his reading, lifting an eyebrow archly at Brendan.

“I think you’re not quite grasping how beautiful—“

“I’m a warrior, Connor.” Brendan smiled and he felt ugly, twisted up inside, like being a warrior hadn’t ever been a choice. Not once he’d replaced Connor on the Boadecea. The thought had lashed through him not for the first time—anger at the events that had made him into this.

“I would think a warrior, more than anyone, would long for the whispers of the dead.”

—strange, how it’d taken him this long to recognize the truth in that. He crouched a little beneath the trees, the sun through the multi-faceted, multicolored glass blinking and blinding. Fear gripped him and he didn’t like it—because the whispers of the dead wouldn’t only be Connor. If he stilled his mind he’d hear them rising, the tormented, accusatory roar of those he’d left trampled in his wake.

Strength left him and he sat down carefully, being that the forest floor was littered with shed glass leaves. Now, a scavenger in the world he’d created, Brendan sat still and he listened, but the only noise the wind stirred from the trees was the shrill, grating scrape of glass on glass. No whispers. No voices from the past. No explanation for why the fulcrum of his conquest and then his life had one day begun to waste away. No explanation for why he’d faltered, when—

“Please, Brendan, please give me my sword.” Connor had been sobbing for a while, his eyes bloodshot, his pale skin blotchy and red. He’d woken Brendan up by pushing his shaking fingers into the younger man’s hair, so that the first thing Brendan saw upon waking was the look of tortured longing in Connor’s eyes.

“Why?” Brendan knew the answer.

But Connor didn’t give it. Just stared.

“Go back to sleep.”

The remnants of Connor’s affection had spoiled, turned to resentment and the most pathetic, feeble sort of anger in the weeks that’d followed. Brendan had watched him fade into a husk that he hardly knew and hardly acknowledged, because Connor had exuded the sort of fragile weakness that the warrior in Brendan needed to extinguish. He’d denied Connor the last opportunity to die of his own volition.

He wished he felt guilty. He wished he heard anything in the glass forest.

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