I know, right?? Two posts in one month. Please don't fall over. :)
In other things .... as with so many other people in 2017, my personal life got nuked. The bad news out of the fallout comes from no longer having full-time work, but still having kids and a mortgage, and not being able to work (wooo-hooo .... stress breakdown ....) at a time when there's no work for my stay-at-home-dad husband to look for. The good news out of the fallout comes from the industry my husband is trained for now starting to show signs of coming opportunities, and that I'm suddenly (and luckily) able to focus full-time on writing as both a recovery tactic and as a life-long love that I might be able to get some steam into.
This "dreams into reality" thing is too good a chance to pass up.
2. 300 Years Later
The darkness was complete once everything solidified again. Alex’s stomach was churning in that old, familiar way that meant something in the timeline was breaking, her old memories shifting and shadows running across them that were horrific: barren world, dead seas, her own life and whole family fading into nothing … The tomb felt closer now, but was too dark to see anything after the brightness of the torches. She reached out where open space had been and encountered cold stone. Another rock casket. The stumbling steps and choked off whimpers were constant now, and getting closer, the owner of both obviously feeling her way forward.
Alex crawled in the only direction available that was likely to get her closer to the tunnel entrance and spied around the end of the new casket. The dim, yellow light of torches was barely bright enough to be seen, but was moving in a way that could only be of someone approaching. That explained the rough voices of men that she could hear.
They were all speaking Latin smoothly, at least the ones who were talking, although the accent they all had wasn’t one she recognized. They were also definitely looking for the woman that Alex could hear stumbling deeper into the tomb, calling out to each other as they looked around caskets and into crevices, their own noise hiding her retreat and slowing their search.
Alex gritted her teeth and glared at the approaching glow. Her husband, her family, her brother … all stripped away on the first day of Ixor’s funeral. She’d literally been ripped out of Verus’s arms and dropped into only the gods knew when, to discover a gang of men chasing a stumbling and crying woman into her family’s tomb. Alex felt her lip curl back into a snarl as the anger solidified into something that was soon going to have a flavor if allowed to get any stronger. The timeline steadied into familiar the moment Alex decided to defend the woman, and her snarl curled into a grin as her hands wrapped the hilt of her jian. She hadn’t realized just how much she’d needed this kind of emotional outlet until the pending fight was shouting and striding toward her.
Shadows shifted nearby in perfect unison with the heard stumble and gasped whimper. The woman ducked into the gap just on the other side of the new casket from where Alex was rising into a crouch.
“Ancestors, Grandmother, hear me praying, please!”
The whisper was pleading, the woman still trying to stay quiet even though volume wouldn’t matter soon. Why she would’ve thought to corner herself down here … didn’t really matter. She had, and now Alex was tied up in whatever mess this woman had gotten herself into.
“Please, Old Grandmother, if you can hear me, please, please help me,” the woman begged between terrified and choked-off sobs. Her accent was the same as the men who were chasing her.
The words hit Alex hard. She’d buried her gigno back in Rome, in his family’s tomb. Ixor had been adopted by her gigno, but they’d decided to start their own family tomb here in Illyria, where they’d built their life together and raised their family after the revolt had been put down. But this woman had called for her ancestors, and specifically her ‘old grandmother,’ as she cowered beside the stone casket placed right next to where Ixor had been buried only hours before. Long enough ago now that he was an ancestor … and so was his wife. Alex was crouching behind her own casket.
The old memories came up with a shock that almost made her vomit. Her mother’s research, long forgotten, that detailed every inch of this tomb. The discounted carbon dating that had been recorded as tainted samples and finally as a … what had been the word? Verbiage didn’t matter. Ixor’s stone casket was full, and Alex’s was currently empty. The strange gap in their carbon dating of nearly three hundred years was glossed over because of the huge amount of undeniable evidence carved into both caskets that she was his wife … and the collar around her neck. The clothing and the body had provided results incorrectly, but the armor, collar and sparse jewelry had all carbon dated correctly. And she assumed that Verus had dated her death, carved into her own casket, as the day she’d disappeared from him.
Alex felt the anger bubble back up and solidify again. She wasn’t even going to get to see him again, her dearest friend, protector, and brother. She wouldn’t get to see her children again, or hug her grandchildren. She wouldn’t meet her youngest son’s first child, who was still just a bump in her daughter-in-law’s tunic. She wouldn’t get to train the new colt from Max’s bloodline, and she wouldn’t be there for Verus’s oldest granddaughter’s wedding in a month. Her whole life had just been ripped away.
History that hadn’t happened yet surged through Alex’s memories in a blink. A three hundred year gap put her death around the same time as the Illyrian rebellion that resulted in the eviction of the Roman Empire and the establishment of Illyria as a separate country. Not just a revolt, like the one she’d marched to after first coming to this now. If this hiding woman was truly one of Alex’s relations, she was living in an area that was – or soon would be – ripped apart by civil war.
And instead of fighting or training, she was hiding in a cave.
Alex stood up slowly, facing off with the torches and nearby voices that would soon be rounding the final corner in the turnings of the tunnel down to this deepest chamber. She settled her cloak so that she was covered completely from neck to toes, forcing her hands to release her jian for the moment. Every woman in her family that she’d just been torn away from could fight. Every one of them had been trained, the same as the men, from a very young age. When the Emperor banned women from the Legions, Alex’s family – and all the other women they’d trained who’d chosen to be warriors – simply nodded politely in respect to the Empire and then formed into mercenary ranks and continued fighting as Auxiliary. The fires of the first two torches came into view just ahead of the men carrying them.
Both men had swords drawn, and their attention snapped to Alex as she stepped around the end of her own casket into the main walkway. The grins that had immediately sprung up on their faces faltered almost as swiftly. A third man shoved between them, cursing at them for blocking the entrance, his reaction identical to theirs as his progress forward halted with a jolt. All three of them were dark haired, olive skinned, and richly dressed. They carried themselves straight and were similar enough in looks to be brothers or close cousins. Nothing in their faces or postures was familiar looking.
“What are you supposed to be?” the third on into the chamber condescended to demand of her.
Alex glanced over her shoulder at the mosaic that Verus had said he was going to commission. Her children had all instantly agreed the moment he’d mentioned hiring a Tiler during dinner last night, and they’d stayed up late plotting who to hire and what scenes to include. The finished work was beautiful. The tiles very closely resembled Alex and Ixor at different times throughout their lives, a few scenes of importance captured to keep the memories for what turned out to be the next two thousand years. The resemblance of Alex to her oldest, tiled self was similar enough that when she faced forward again, the two men who’d been first into the chamber visibly paled. The man who’d spoken scoffed.
“Trespassing old bitch,” he accused. “Where’s my wife?” he demanded.
“She’s not your –” the yell from further down the tunnel was interrupted with the thump of a punch landing. Alex ignored the gasping whimper nearby, but the man grinned cruelly as he looked around the chamber.
“I can hear you, Adellexia,” he taunted.
“That’s far enough,” Alex commanded as the talkative one took a single step forward. He reared back to his full height, barely taller than Alex, and glared down his nose at her.
“How dare you –”
“Shut up,” she snapped at him. He inhaled to return some kind of comment and choked instead as Alex drew her jian to hum through a spin before pausing in an attack position facing him. He blinked at her armor and the second sword on her hip now that her cloak had been thrown open. He charged unexpectedly, the advance swift in the small space.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!