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Children Of The White Star

Children Of The White Star

Book excerpt

Garryn sat up in his bed.

For a moment, he half expected to be surrounded by the flames and smoke from his dream. As always, once he attempted to remember the substance of it, the memory fled from his mind. By the time he realised he was awake, it left him with his pulse racing as he struggled to recall why.

Taking a deep breath, he ran his fingers through his hair, shaking away the residual effects of the nightmare. Despite the cool night, his sheets remained plastered to his skin. For a long while, a sensation of being lost and uncertain gripped him, before it evolved into frustration. This was the same dream from almost every night since his return home and, if the pattern held, he would not be sleeping the rest of the night.

After a futile effort attempting to defy the odds and try anyway, he decided to get out of bed. It was still dark outside. The chrono on the wall told him dawn was not far away. It was years since he'd watched the sunrise in Brysdyn and even longer since he was home to appreciate it.


“Lights activated.”

The computerised environmental controls responded in a calm and feminine voice, flooding the room with soft, ambient light.

The sight of this room still jarred him.

He would have preferred to move back into his own, but the choice was no longer his. The room was a suite and it adjoined a balcony overlooking the courtyard below. It housed antiques and priceless art from a dozen worlds and boasted fabrics both luxurious and elegant. Garryn felt like the final piece in a museum display.

He climbed off his bed and wrapped a robe around himself before stepping out on the balcony. He needed to breathe the night air in his lungs and escape the rising panic in his gut. Deciding to take up the official residence of the Prime had never felt more claustrophobic.

Garryn leaned against the marble palisade and took in the view of the glorious dawn. It was still dark, but the deep amber sky revealed a warm day ahead. The suite belonging to the Prime was situated on the higher floors of the Domicile and provided a panoramic vista of the city.

Paralyte slept below him, making him envious of its ability to sleep. The capital reminded him of an ancient dowager who sat at the centre of the Brysdynian Empire. Home to the Imperator and the Prime, his heir apparent, it had been immortalised in prose, plays and art since the earliest days of the Empire. The first colonists, emerging from the Exodus, had chosen this site as the place to build their new settlement, after reaching this part of the galaxy.

The Empire had begun from this city.

Now, the jewel was a blanket of darkness, its life revealed only by the twinkle of lights across skyscrapers throughout the sky. Garryn loved Paralyte. He enjoyed wandering through its pavilions, promenades, museums and its parks. One could make a day of riding a hover train from one end of the metropolis to the other, stepping off only when something of interest happened to be along the route.

His mother loved the bazaars and she made him love them too. He relished walking through the stalls, taking in the aroma of spices from exotic places. One could listen to the merchants for hours, haggling as they sold their wares to wily customers who came from all corners of the Empire. When they were children, Aisha had brought him and his sister to explore the markets. They would conduct these trips in anonymity, because she thought the best bargains were made when the pedlars did not know she was the Imperator's wife.

She was gone now and Garryn still missed her. Being home again without his mother waiting to greet him was almost as disconcerting as sleeping in a room opulent enough to be a museum. He was a fool to believe life could ever be the same, given the approach of the Ceremony of Ascendancy. His being in this ridiculously lavish room was proof of it.

For the last decade of his life, Garryn had played the part of soldier. Joining the ranks as just another recruit, his comrades had no idea of his real identity and he preferred it, to avoid any special treatment. He enjoyed soldiering and would have been content to remain one, if not for the responsibilities of his station.

He was always proud to be the son of the Imperator. Not because his father was the ruler of Brysdyn, but because he was a good man and a better father. He'd led them through its most turbulent years and won the undying devotion of his people in the process. It was hard for his family to not share it. After the nightmare of the Scourge, family became the singular concern of every Brysdynian and Iran was no different. He treasured his own as a precious gift.

Even though Garryn was a New Citizen, he was expected to become Imperator one day. The ceremony was only the first step. He wondered if hesitation in taking up the mantle was due to being an adopted child. Perhaps royal blood was necessary to be the Imperator. He was the same as any other New Citizen brought to Brysdyn after the Scourge.

What made him special enough for the Imperator to choose him as the next ruler?

Nothing, except he loves you, Garryn told himself. Because, adopted or not, you're his son.

Garryn discharged himself from military service to return home for the Ceremony, which was only a month away. Once he became Prime, he would fall under the direct tutelage of his father and learn the intricacies of running the empire. Even if the responsibility was daunting, Garryn knew he would do the best he could, because the only thing worse than failing the Imperator was disappointing his father.

Now, if he could only get a good night's sleep, things would be fine.

The number of times he was waking up in a cold sweat was growing. The nightmares had started months ago, but he was at a loss to understand what had triggered them. True, he recently returned from Erebo. The military was sent to suppress a violent uprising on the colony world and, while war burdened a man's conscience, he was a pilot, not a front line combat soldier. Aerial attacks spared him the ordeal of seeing the devastation of his missions up close.

If Garryn dreamed about war, it was one not familiar to him.

Perhaps he should take Elisha's advice.

His sister, the Princess Royal, was two years his junior and very much her mother's daughter. Breaking the stereotype of the vain, frivolous aristocrat, Elisha was no dilettante. Aisha, a child of the Jyne Delegation, raised her children to value tolerance and knowledge. Thanks to their mother, she grew up to be a conscientious young woman whose first loves were her causes and her books.

Spoiled scandalously by their father, Garryn dreaded to imagine what monsters they could have grown up to be, if not for Aisha's discipline. Since her passing, Iran was free to indulge Elisha's fancies, including allowing her to choose her own husband. The majority of Brysdynian aristocracy frowned upon the decision, of course, but Garryn knew his father did not care. Elisha was his little girl and he would never force a political marriage on her.

He was grateful for this. When they were children, they were confidantes; as adults, best friends. It was Elisha who knew the right things to say when he had doubts and it was only natural he would confess his nightmares to her.

Like all soldiers, he distrusted men of medicine, even if he recognised their contribution to society. Elisha suggested he consult a mentalist for his problem. At first, he baulked at the notion. If Healers were bad, mentalists were worse. These physicians, who claimed to study the psyche, saw no sacrilege in demanding access to one's most intimate memories. Garryn neither liked the idea, nor wanted to submit to such treatment.

Still, he couldn't afford to be mentally unbalanced at this time. Not when he was only weeks away from being crowned the Prime. There was also a nagging fear in the back of his mind that he might truly need help. If so, he not only owed it to himself to correct the situation, but to the Imperator, who would need his Prime in the best of health.

So, for his father's sake as well as his own, he had no choice but to see a mentalist, no matter how loathsome it might be.

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