Brilliant sunlight and glass. Barrin trod a pavement of glass streaked in brilliant blue. Around him walls of dark glass glowed in the bright light. He squinted his eyes. One hand trailed the wall, the fingertips pressing against its surface.
He couldn’t feel it. Was it smooth? Cold?
Haliessen gestured. “Now, you know how to address the sun, yes?”
Barrin nodded. He had paid some attention to the old man.
He tried not to frown. The sun didn’t like frowns.
Haliessen grinned. “Now, the North Wind has granted you single audience. It will be just you and her. There won’t be anyone to save you! So don’t go jumping off any cliffs, all right? Stonefeather won’t save you!”
Barrin nodded again. What had the old man taught him? Remember everything. Do the duty you never trained for. Bear the weight.
If you don’t bear this weight, the sun will never return.
Finally Haliessen stopped before gates of dark green glass. Behind them, the great light of the sun pulsed. “Now, little warrior, remember: She’s not an enemy. Treat her as an honored mother, and you’ll do fine. Just fine!” His great hand patted Barrin’s back far more lightly than anything that size should be able to. “I’ll wait for your return.”
The glass doors swung toward them, casting a crimson light down the long hallway they’d trod. Barrin closed his eyes, took a deep breathe, and stepped forward.
A long glass walkway, open to the elements, open to wind and ice and snow, lay beyond. The sky remained black, but covering most of the darkness hung the sun. She bent close to the earth, a great orb that caused Barrin to break into an immediate sweat. At the end of the walkway, far away, a platform lay. He needed to get there to address the sun.
He began walking. “Never hurry to meet the sun, boy,” the old man had told him once. “She comes when she’s ready, and she leaves when she chooses. Nothing you can do will change that.”
His boots thudded against the glass. The wind pressed against him, but he felt no cold under the sun’s intense gaze. He did not look up at her.
Glass railings rose on either side of the walkway. He let a hand slide over one, just touching it with fingertips. Again, he felt nothing.
His arm began to shake.
No. No fear. Yes, the sun could burn you alive if her temper flared, but she chose to rise on the righteous and the wicked. He had nothing to fear here. She was not the Judge.
All he had to do was remind her of her duty. That’s all.
After years, months, hours, minutes of walking, he reached the end of the walkway. Only a platform, three steps up, and he would address her. One step.
The sun took up the sky. How could she not be burning him to ashes? How could she not be burning the towers and the trees of the garden? It made no sense.
The air grew thick around him. How could he talk to the sun? The old man told him no one returned from that. And if he did the old man’s duty, who would do Barrin’s? This was madness. He couldn’t do both duties!
He looked up toward the great orb that dominated the sky. “Mother Sun! Please listen to your child, one you care for, one you provide for. I cry out for your attention!”
Her voice came as if all the sky thundered at once. I see you, Barrin, the fifty-first generation.
“Mother, you have a duty! Do not flee! Return to the sky!”
The sun did not answer.
“Mother, answer me! If you do not return, how will you provide for your children? How will we endure?”
Barrin, the fifty-first generation. I cannot return. I fear.
She feared? What could scare the sun? And if something frightened the sun, how could Barrin possibly stand up to it? How could anyone? How could something make Mother Sun so frightened she would run away?
“Mother Sun, we need you!”
I know, Barrin, the fifty-first generation. But I will not return until the darkness has fled again. Find the Sword.
“Mother Sun – “
I must go now, Barrin, the fifty-first generation. I will not return.
The sky went black. The heat vanished. Mother Sun fled to her palace in the west.
Barrin failed his duty.
He… he failed.
This is the eighteenth chapter of Summers’ End.