The Red Twins
The Red Twins
P rincess Aelia Torcama stared down at the waves washing against the cliffside of Saara, the island her family had ruled for generations. Usually the waves of the Tytherian Sea crashed against the granite face of the cliff with great force, sending towers of foam high into the air. Today, however, there was a marked calm. It was this very calm that had driven Aelia's father to send her on this errand.
She cast a glance toward the southwest tower of the keep, where her brother Varro lived. Varro was the best veshuta killer on the island-not just currently, but in all recorded history. As much as Aelia despised him, even she could not deny his right to make this boast. She was as well read in history as any Saaran. She would have loved nothing more than to find an example of any man, no matter how long-dead he might be, who could be held up as an equal to Varro in this regard. But copious research had failed to find any such man.
Despite his skill at defending the king's subjects from their tormentors and saviors, Varro was by far the least popular of the king's three children. Aelia was very popular, but even more so was Crown Prince Runario, the "Golden Prince." That popularity led many Saarans to claim that Runario surpassed Varro as a warrior, but Aelia knew better. She had seen many attacks on Saara's mighty wall. Runario was an able fighter, but he lacked Varro's raw rage and ability to direct it at the veshuti.
"Good morn, Yer Highness."
Aelia spun about, startled. She found the little waif Tisenna standing behind her, hefting a bag of laundry. Aelia smiled at her. "Hello, Tisenna."
The girl's jaw dropped. "Yeh...know me name, Highness?"
"Of course. I know the names and biographical details of every single one of my father's subjects. All 3,263 of them."
Tisenna stared at Aelia blankly. With shame, Aelia realized how foolish it was of her to assume that the poor thing would know what "biographical" meant. Why should she? She was born in the Chain District (named for the great chain that once existed there, four centuries previously), the seediest part of seedy New Saara. Aelia hastened to elaborate, hoping Tisenna would be able to work out the meaning of the word by context and spare both of them the awkwardness of the princess having to explain it to her. "It is important for every member of the Royal Family to know the details of the lives of every single Saaran, because we are all that is left."
"God preserve ta' Granite Ark," Tisenna said, releasing her right hand from its grip on the sack and doing a quick sign of the Io-Vu on her chest. Aelia repeated the words and did a more elegant sign of the Io-Vu. The first and last letters of the alphabet, they symbolized beginning and end. A strained silence ensued, during which Tisenna shifted under the weight on her back.
"It's a beautiful view, today," Aelia stated.
Tisenna grinned, taking the princess's words as permission to drop her burden. The maid flopped the sack on the ground and went to the battlements. "'Tis, Highness. Such a lovely view, up ta' keep." Aelia smiled indulgently at her, then took stock of the same view. Though raised in the towering keep of Saara, which doubled as the Royal Palace, she still found the vista impressive. To a girl raised in the lowest part of New Saara, it must have seemed like a vantage point from heaven itself.
Old Saara had been built by the mighty Tytherian Empire, Queen of the Seas, six centuries before. The Tytherians meant the masonry of Saara to impress potential allies and intimidate potential adversaries. They quarried the granite of Saara to build the glowering wall that encircled the island and built stout buildings on the terraces that the quarrying left behind. The