326 The Bruised, Battered, Black & Blue I
Rima stood several kilometres from Black Sands city, yet she could still see it. The column of blackened smoke rose too high to miss in the vast blue sky of the desert. Aegin had, for all intents and purposes, burned the place to the ground. Despite Rima's request for him to help control the blaze to at least save half of the city, he'd been adamant in reporting that he hadn't the power nor the will to do so.
"You don't even sound guilty," Rima had huffed, "They may have had a shitty leader, but not all of them were bad people, and these are their homes".
"The Blue Suns never called this place home. This was a prison to them," Aegin replied, "As for the Black Sands, the majority that didn't blindly follow Gryffyn have long wanted to return to more traditional Tribal ways. Or am I wrong about that?"
Rima had had little to say about that. After all, he wasn't wrong.
"Homes can be rebuilt," Sevis had said as he'd passed them holding a sack full of whatever they managed to raid from Gryffyn's vault before they left, "And hopefully look better than this rigid monstrosity".
Rima had been reluctant to admit they were right. After all, this was an entire city they were talking about, and not all the people that lived there wanted a new start. It occurred to her as she walked away, turning a blind eye to those who started fires of their own at the Estate to ensure it was razed to the ground, that this was what a leader would feel like. Making decisions like this with the knowledge that she could not please them all. It was a lot to take in, and she wasn't exactly groomed for such a position.
But it was her they followed from that city. It was her they came to with enquires and troubles in the hours following. Had she really made that much of an impression? Were they not just projecting their hope that because she was technically the Heir of Blue Suns, that she would be a good leader? She feared the backlash should she make a wrong decision, but after she'd turned away several of the enquirers, Mira, the old maid who'd looked after most of the Estate's needs, had approached her.
"Just give them your opinion," said Mira, "That's all they're asking for".
"And if my opinion is wrong?" asked Rima, "I don't want to ruin their lives because of something I said".
"Do you think every Chieftain that ever was and ever will be is expected to never make mistakes?" asked Mira, "Why do you think they have a council of Elders in the first place? Chieftains are individuals too; they just tend to have more concern over the Tribe as a whole than their own welfare".
"I'm not a Chieftain," said Rima.
"You've been a Chieftain ever since your mother died," Mira replied, "You just haven't had a Tribe to care for".
"I'm not cut out for-"
"You are," Mira interrupted, "You showed that you were perfectly capable during your stay in that city. You're intelligent, strong-willed, and kind to those who would be construed as beneath you. All qualities of a good Chieftain".
Rima was silent before Mira sighed, "Just answer them. They'll be grateful for your time and to hear your concern any way".
So, reluctantly, Rima did as Mira said. The first few times she was unsure. Hesitant to say anything that could be misinterpreted or that could be wrong. But then she would turn to see Tigin or Sevis, or even Mira, and they would look back at her encouragingly. After a few hours, it had become easier to reply.
Aegin had been strangely absent, a comment about needing a bath and a good meal had been made, but none of them were really paying attention. To be entirely honest, while Aegin's journey may have brought them together, it had been months since they'd turned to Aegin for any kind of aid or advice. The only reason he'd been involved this time around was because of Yashi. It was not that they were ungrateful for his help. It was that, despite Aegin's powerful and intimidating presence, it had long been clear to them that Aegin was not the same as them.
Aegin had his own path. His own calling. And they were not entirely sure if it should be theirs as well. If Yashi was any example, Chaos was not kind nor easy to those on one of its paths.
Now, after his display in Gryffyn's throne room, it was safe to say that Aegin was even further away from them than he'd ever been. Rima could not help but find herself wondering if a friendship was even possible any more. Even if that was what she wanted, she wasn't sure she could forgive him for his actions over the past eighteen months. Was it right to judge his actions in the past on the man, or rather, vampire, that he was now? She was positive, even from their short encounters, that the two individuals were not the same.
"You look like your head is going to burst with all those thoughts running through it," Tigin remarked as he came to sit beside her on the side of the dune. Below them, at least 15,000 Tribesman set up camps in the evening light and made an effort to distribute rations to everyone. Tigin handed Rima a few slices of bread with some dried meat.
"Someone's got to think around here," Rima sighed.
Tigin smiled, "I missed you".
Rima turned to look at him, a small smile on her own face, "I missed you".
Tigin wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug, "It must have been hard, I'm sorry that I couldn't come sooner".
"It's okay," said Rima, "Clearly it was at least a bit worth it". She pulled away, smacking his biceps that were now much bigger and more prominent than they had been in the past.
Tigin huffed a laugh, "Yeah, well, I figured if the Vampire wasn't going to save you, somebody had to".
Rima's smile faded slightly as she turned back towards the black smoke, "Was it really his job to begin with?"
Tigin frowned, "What do you mean?"
Rima sighed, "Aegin wasn't born here, Tigin. This is not his land. He came here just as lost and confused as we were. As much as it pains me to know he did not play an active part in trying to get me back until last night, I…I can't really blame him for it".