Prologue - Call My Name
Sitting upon a chair full of feathers, the man whispered a name. “Bella… Oh, Ms. Bella…” It rang like a call around the small room. The stone walls took possession of the sound and destroyed it, sending it away.
“Why… Why do you… mention my mother?” The condemned girl’s voice shook. The man scared her, but she always had to respond to his calls.
The man smiled, his teeth perfectly white. His dark hazel eyes glittered in the faint light peeking through the window behind him. His short-cropped brown hair, designed to be soft, but spiky, matched him well. “Shall I call your name now?” His voice echoed menacingly.
The girl shivered, and the man felt it. “Rivi... My Rivi…” He sighed, his smile bright, as he relaxed against the cold wall. His woven clothes were soft against his golden skin with their fibers a dark red; almost like blood.
The girl didn’t dare to call the man’s name in turn. She was owned, leashed, with nowhere to go.
And the man knew it. “Oh Rivi. Aren’t you going to call my name? It’s only fair.” He rubbed the back of his neck, his smile darker.
The girl almost screamed in panic, knowing what damage he could do with a single pinch.
“Cantrell! Cantrell!” She finally called his name.
Cantrell recognized his victory and lowered his arm, watching the shadows of the room. He waited, silent in his thoughts.
Rivi didn’t relax, but didn’t shiver either. She flinched at footsteps outside of the building.
Cantrell didn’t move, his senses dulled with Rivi so tense. “The disadvantages of having a child as an AI.” He muttered, pushing off of his pillow and standing, walking with small movements over to the window. The edges of his sight was blurred, but the light helped clear it.
No human was outside his window, but the Forest was full of shadows and stilling silence. The vines that his house were practically made of shook in the sudden gust of wind. No birds sang, no leaves were crunched in the cool breeze of the season of Hazan.
“Silence…” Cantrell murmured. “It’s times like these that remind me of Autumn.” The man tilted his head slightly. “Of home.” He clasped his hands together behind his back. He closed his eyes and turned back to the shadows of the room. “Do you remember the seasons?”
Rivi kept her silence. She knew nothing of Cantrell’s home. Of Earth. She didn’t want to know.
“If only Henry knew how to program you without messing it up. Then I would have some music.” Cantrell muttered, trailing off in remembrance of his past.
This foreign word, music, piqued Rivi’s interest. The word sounded beautiful. “What’s music?”
Cantrell watched the wooden door set into the wall, indifferent, for a second before making a sound. A vibrating note resounded through his neck, not traveling far, but was steady.
Its constant timbre calmed Rivi, sending her to sleep.
Cantrell’s vision and hearing repaired; Rivi’s influence little when she was unconscious. Still he watched the door, no sound echoing except his hum.
The man closed his eyelids over his reddish eyes. The hum stopped as he sighed, relaxed in the stone-ridden room. He waited.
The wooden door smashed open. “Sir! Sir Cantrell!” A small man with thin robes rushed in after the crashing door. His brown hair bobbed as he ran, his gray eyes wide. He paused as he saw his lord. “S-Sir?”
“What are you here for?” The lord asked, his eyes still closed.
“A…” He swallowed, straightening. “A message from your…” He glanced around and lowered his voice. “Your spy.”
Cantrell tilted his head and smiled. “Bring her here in chains and I may forgive you for breaking into my personal room.”
The man swallowed again before bolting, his footsteps echoing down the hall.
Rivi’s program cracked, the hidden line manifesting. She fell deeper into sleep.
Cantrell kept his eyes closed, the temperature rising within the room, until the man came back with a small girl at his feet.
The blond-haired girl kneeled, her eyes a shimmering brown with gold flecks within them. Her clothes were ragged, torn, discoloured; even frayed with their poorly sown edges. She kneeled, her head lowered in respect. She knew of the man’s reputation.
Instead, the man who had brought the girl in stood taller, proud of his accomplishments. “Here she is, sir.”
The vines covering the walls of the inside of the room peeled away from their home, their leaves burnt.
“Do you know how to count, girl?” Cantrell’s bright teeth peeked out from in-between his pale lips. With a subtle hum, Rivi, who had been unsettled the sudden voices, calmed and quieted.
The girl just glared up at Cantrell, her eyes sharp, despite her underlying fear. “Why don’t you open your eyes and then I can answer.”
Cantrell laughed in the way he remembered. Loud, echoing, bright. Happy.
The man and girl winced at the sound. They didn’t know what true happiness was. Just quiet smiles and hidden giggles.
“Oh, how you amuse me.” He said finally after the echoes subsided. The vines charred and broke against the stones littering the floor. The door’s hinges melted slightly, having been formed by shards of many metals together. It slid down at an angle, scraping the ground. “You misjudge this place.”
The castle’s lord finally opened his eyes. Their reddish tinge had seeped through to the rest of his eyes, red as an old world’s cloudy sunset.
“It is morning, is it not?” He whispered, waking Rivi once again, but now just her programming, not her intelligence.
“She found her.” Rivi’s voice shivered and rang, fluxuating in pitch. “She found my sister.”
“Bob and Eryn.” Cantrell tried their names like a hot stone on his tongue. “Did you find that AI?”
Eryn nodded slightly, swallowing.
Bob froze, his mouth slightly open.
And both of them bled molten iron.
Silence overcame their fading souls.
“Send a letter to James.”
“At once, sir.”
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