An Old Enemy

I scanned my surroundings constantly. Even though the banquet hall was “safe”, I felt uneasy. The worst attacks occurred in safe areas.

When a servant offered me wine, I declined it. Alcohol muddled the senses and mind. I missed my weapons. Only a knife hid under my dress. No armor fit under it either.

Though I was an honoured guest, I kept my bangs over the left side of my face. If anyone saw my tattoos, they would throw me out immediately. I resented my brands. They made a normal life impossible.

An unrecognized presence crept behind me. My left hand hovered over my concealed knife. I turned. Drapes concealed the object of my fear.

A man's hand beckoned me.

“If you wish to talk to me, do it in the open,” I ordered.

The masked man looked both ways before he emerged. He shoved a bundle into my hand and fled the banquet hall.

To prevent an explosion, I surrounded the bundle with my unstarlet. After ten minutes, I realized that the bundle contained no bomb. The other party attendees shook their heads at my “paranoia”.

For once, I appreciated my dress gloves, which protected me from potential toxins in the bundle. With trembling hands, I loosed the bundle. A carbine, my carbine, rested at my feet. The last time I held my rifle, I fought for the survival of my people. I lost that fight.

I retied the bundle and tucked it under my arm. My gaze darted from window to window. My enemies must be near.

Why did they give me a weapon? I thought.

A man with two chalices approached me. His mind seemed familiar, but not identifiable.

“I thought you might like a drink, Valora,” he said as he proffered a cup.

I smoothed my hair away from my right cheek. People normally left when they saw my brands. No one wanted to talk to a traitor, thief, etc.

The man did not stand down.

“I do not drink,” I said.

“I am sorry,” he replied.

To cope with his fear, he downed both chalices. As he tilted his head back, I noticed a scar on his neck.

I recognized him, the Potentate. His armies exterminated my people with disease weapons. He personally slaughtered the last of us.

I ripped the cover off the carbine and loaded it. My barrel pointed at his forehead.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

My finger hovered over the trigger.

“I came to make things right.”

“How? By killing the last Red person. You tried that already. I am extramortal; you cannot keep me dead.”

“I know that. I came to be killed, not to kill,” he said.

I glanced around the room for the Potentate's soldiers. None appeared. Party attendees shrank from the confrontation.

“I brought no soldiers. I came because you deserve revenge.”

“You want me to kill you?” I asked.

“Yes. Why did you spare me? Why do you haunt my dreams? I can't sleep. I hate myself,” he said.

“I spared you because your successor would have been even more violent. I could not bear to release his evil on the world.”

“He is Potentate now.” the man hung his head.

“What happened after I left?” I asked.

“Your face tormented me. I renounced my throne. My wives divorced me. I found every scrap of paper I could in your homeland. After you kill me, at least you will have some memories from your people.”

A red-haired girl with a toddler at her side rushed toward me. An aura of love surrounded her.

“Please don't kill him!” she shouted.

I turned my head without turning the rifle.

“Who are you?” I asked her.

“Please don't kill my husband,” she pleaded on her knees. “I need him. Our daughter needs him.”

They cannot be married. She has red hair. She looks similar to my people. I thought.

“Is she really your wife?” I asked him.

“Yes. Please, Avalynn, go away. I don't want you to see this.”

“I know what he did to you, but he has paid for his crimes. His exile is torture. He saved my life. I will die before I let you kill him.” Avalynn announced.

“How can you love a red-haired woman? You hated my people,” I asked.

“I was wrong. I know her red is different than yours, but I wish for her to become one of your people.”

Her hair had hints of orange. Mine was blood-red. She also had brown eyes instead of red.

“You want to restore my people,” I asked.

“I know my child doesn't look quite like you, but yes. I want to restore your people,” he said.

“I wish the same. I've heard stories of your bravery. I want my child to be like you,” Avalynn said.

The emotion of Avalynn's love overtook me. I dropped my magazine and emptied my chamber. Brass rang as the round hit the floor.

“I do not hate you,” I embraced him. “Your crimes are forgivable.”

“I swear to serve you forever,” he said. “I wish I could undo my murders.”

He wept on my shoulder. The toddler tugged at my skirt. I tussled her red hair.

“What is her name?” I asked Avalynn.

“Her name is Valora. He named her after you.”

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