Heroes, p.36
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       Heroes, p.36

           Leigh Barker
When the Senate Leader’s daughter, Amara, announced that she was with child—which everyone guessed to mean she was pregnant—the bells rang out across Eden, raising the often heard comment, What the blazes is all the noise about? To which the general response was, That up-herself bony-ass has got pregnant, but how, is anybody’s guess. Some folks are not nice. But true, everyone knew Amara meant bitter, and they had to call it as it was.

  Still, for the immediate family, it was good news.

  And by way of a bony-ass dividend, the Knight School got the day off, so not a bad result.

  The past few months had been a lot easier for Anella and Woe, after the Games. No one could exactly remember what had happened, except Woe had won against all the odds and brought the trophy back to the knights’ school. Apparently, there had been some kind of incident, but it was all a bit vague and soon forgotten.

  With the school closed for the day, the twins had nothing to do on that hot afternoon so took a stroll up through the city to see the festivities in Harmony Plaza, the uneven cobbled square with a grab-and-run flea market selling junk of every sort. The square separated the overdressed marble and quartz building, officially named the Senate Palace, from the riff-raff. Someone should have told the senators that giving an awful dog’s dinner of a building a grand name doesn’t make it grand. Problem was, the senators could, and probably would, throw the teller of truths in the rat-infested cells. Rats provided (free) by Rats R Us. The marketing man who came up with that slogan is dead now.

  Anella climbed the half-dozen stone steps leading to the Guardians’ HQ and looked out over the heads of the crowds milling around in the plaza, mostly there for the illusory bargains from the flea market, but some there for the public appearance of Bony Ass. It wasn’t an impressive turnout, just a few dozen mildly curious looking up at the various balconies in case anything interesting was happening. Oh, except for the pickpockets, they weren’t looking up, though things were, for them.

  Woe joined his sister at the top step just in time to be moved on by the local law.

  “You can’t stand there,” said the watchman, slapping a short, round club into the palm of his hand. “Move along. There’s nothing to see here.”

  Woe and his sister did as the watchman instructed, as he was fully empowered to give them a bit of a thud with his truncheon, and would be pleased to do so at the slightest provocation. The law, even in heaven, has a way of making a person’s ears ring.

  The crowd, okay, that was a bit of a stretch… the small bunch of mildly interested onlookers shuffled forward, and the watchman strode off to control them. Anella walked back up the steps, and after a quick check that the club-wielding madman was gone, Woe followed her.

  The surging mass of marginally indifferent bystanders had stirred when the big doors to the palace had opened, but it was just a footman taking the dog out for a pee. The mutt gave them a long, dirty look while the footman closed the doors.

  “Why are we here?” Woe asked sullenly, feeling hungry and fed up.

  “That, dear brother, is a question asked since the dawn of time.”

  He turned to look at Anella in case the sun had got to her. She was smiling smugly. “It feels like we’ve been here since the dawn of time,” he said with a sniff.

  The big doors opened again, but no one took any notice this time. Probably the cat. It was Amara, come out to milk the adoration.

  Well, good luck with that, girl.

  Amara was wearing a dazzling white flowing robe and her hair was braided and piled high on her head. She looked good. From a distance. Closer up, her thin, angry lips gave away her true disposition. She waved a royal wave, her hand weaving little circles in the air in response to the tumultuous welcome from the crowd. That being one old chap clapping slowly, and two youngsters whistling and shouting encouragement to disrobe and behave rather rudely.

  The old guy stopped clapping, so Amara gave up on the waving and stepped forward to the edge of the big steps. She was going to make a speech. The people at the back of the crowd were the lucky ones, they could leg it immediately, while the ones who’d wandered too close had to wait their turn or elbow their way out.

  Except the four burly men standing on the left side of the steps.

  Anella saw them and all the training she thought was having no effect kicked in. “Woe, this is bad!”

  Woe switched from amusing himself at the sight of people struggling to get away, to the people Anella was pointing at. And the sudden jolt as adrenalin hit his system told him she was dead right.

  The four men ran up the steps and across in front of the building and grabbed Amara. She struggled like a true girlie. That being screaming and demanding to be released at once. The watchman strode up the steps, drew his short sword and ran towards them, demanding they cease and desist or face the full might of Eden’s Watchmen.

  They killed him.


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