The Sands of Change
Hot air buffeted the hover as it sped through the dunes. Eglamour lifted his collar to protect his neck from the sand spray. He shut his eyes from the blazing sun, but the bright lights of the Polity’s Kite Night display flashed in his mind instead. Travels through the savagelands, especially by hover, were dangerous because of the beasts and bandits that lurked there. Eglamour forgot all about those threats today. A new, larger one threatened to dismantle the precious way of life he helped nourish in Westminster.
The uncertainty the Polity brought to the Globe rattled Eglamour to his core. He sunk deeper into his seat wishing the pilot would go faster.
Sebastian lounged with his feet on top of his father’s desk. His younger brother, Gonzalo, peered out the office window to the Smith below. To the left, glassmiths twirled molten glass at the end of their blowpipes, creating intricate and delicate designs. The right side was filled with grand annealing lehrs for the larger glassworks like the wall pieces ordered by Whitehall.
“We should have gone to meet the Polity instead of Father.” Gonzalo tapped his fingers against the glass.
“All in due time, Gonzalo. Let him savor these last few vestiges of power before we take our rightful place. With Emilia finally gone, Father will soon see his time is over.”
“You are right, as always big brother,” Gonzalo sighed. “But the Polity arriving could mean great things for Westminster. We need to make sure Father doesn’t ruin our chances.”
The office door opened and a slouching Eglamour shuffled into the room.
“Greetings, Father! Welcome home.” Sebastian jumped up from the chair to greet Eglamour.
“Yes, welcome home! What is the news from the Polity? We are so anxious to hear. There were distant lights in the sky coming from Whitehall. They must know how to throw a great party!” Gonzalo grinned.
“My sons, it was no party.” Eglamour sat at his desk wearily. “The captain the Polity sent, Captain Ward, she made it clear the Polity intentions here. We need to be cautious, especially if we want to keep our little desert haven the way it is.”
The brothers exchanged a curious look.
“I will explain more but first, has Emilia sent the comm she arrived in Whitehall yet?”
“There has been no word, Father,” Gonzalo said.
“I am sure there is nothing to worry about. Whitehall must be flooded with people. Comms are spotty as it is. Perhaps she had trouble finding a drone to send her message in the clamor of the rocket landing. I am sure she is fine.” Sebastian reassured his father, confidently patting him on the back.
Eglamour nodded at his eldest son.
“You are probably right. I must go see Benedick to tell him what I learned. I trust everything has been running smoothly in my absence?”
“But of course. Smooth as glass, like you say, Father.” Sebastian winked.
“Thank you, Sebastian. You will do great things with the Smith when it is your time.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Sebastian smiled wryly, with a quick wink to his brother.
Eglamour rummaged through bits and bobs that littered the top of his desk. He paused to check the communication logs again. Seeing nothing had come through, he muttered to himself and kept shifting things from one spot to another.
“We’ll leave you to it, Father,” Sebastian said, tugging at Gonzalo’s sleeve.
“Yes, nice to have you back, Father.” Gonzalo closed the door behind him and Sebastian.
Eglamour, lost in his thoughts, failed to look up.
Soft, white curtains diffused light across the bedroom where Benedick was resting. A fit of coughs interrupted the relative quiet of the room. Benedick held his chest and laid back against his pillow when he heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Benedick managed to squeak out.
A young woman entered the room. Her hair was pulled into a neat braid that cascaded down the length of her back. She carried an elegant, glass water pitcher to the side table and filled Benedick’s glass.
“Uncle Benedick, Eglamour has come to tell you of the Polity landing. Should I show him in?”
“Please, my dear Imogen. Thank you for the drink.”
Imogen patted the back of his hand and left the room. Moments later Eglamour poked his head around the door.
“Come in, come in, old friend. Thank you for coming to see me,” Benedick said, inviting Eglamour to the chair near his bedside.
“Good to see some color in those cheeks, old man.” Eglamour shook Benedick’s hand before taking his seat.
“You old liar. I have never been paler in my life. With the days in the Fields long gone, the only sun I see is through the window of your beautiful glass over there. That is, when Imogen allows the curtains to be open.”
“You are lucky to have someone watching after you.” Eglamour looked at his hands folded in his lap.
“I take it Emilia has left already. She will serve the Globe well. You should be proud.”
“I shouldn’t have let her go. She could have waited a little longer. And now with the Polity, who knows what they will have the Brides do?” Eglamour let out a breath. It seemed as if he had been holding it in since he arrived.
“Don’t worry without reason. Come, tell me what happened with the Polity. What do they want?”
“They have come under the guise of peace, but they were sure to make their might known. They seek resources through our lands for the good of the Polity.”
“I would have never thought we would have seen this day during our lives.” Benedick coughed and closed his eyes in pain.
The sun is setting on the Westminster that was ours, Eglamour.
Eglamour reached for Benedick’s water glass and offered it to him.
Benedick took a sip. “Thank you, Eglamour.”
“Their captain will be going on tour through our cities to survey what the Globe has to offer the Polity. We must keep the peace to protect Westminster. Perhaps if we appease them with a portion of our goods, they will leave as quickly as they came.”
“I see. The sun is setting on the Westminster that was ours, Eglamour. Your sons are shaping up to be great heirs for the Smith, when you are ready to step back. My days are numbered, and I don’t think I properly prepared Imogen for what she will face when she takes over Wildcat Fields. Becoming the first woman to run Wildcat Fields in our city’s history is one thing, but now to do so under the eyes and demands of the Polity is something else entirely.”
“Imogen has already done an exceptional job with the crews in the Fields. She will serve Wildcat Fields and Westminster well. No matter the circumstances.”
“I do hope so, my friend.” Benedick reached for Eglamour’s hand. “Please look out for her when I’m gone. For me.”
“Of course. As if she was my own.”
“When are we to expect this captain to arrive in Westminster?” Benedick asked.
“They are supposed to send word shortly. I should start preparations.” Eglamour stood but kept a hold of Benedick’s hand for a moment longer.
“Yes, I must speak to Imogen so she can be ready. Thank you for your friendship all these years. We have made this city beautiful, haven’t we?”
“Benedick, don’t talk like that. I will be back soon. We will show the Polity our united city together.” Eglamour opened the door to leave.
“I hope it will be so. Farewell.”
Imogen appeared at the doorway, holding the door open for Eglamour.
“So long, dear friend. And goodbye, Imogen. I am sure we will see each other soon, as well.” Eglamour gave a nod to Imogen.
“Good to see you as always. Be well.” Imogen came into the room, carrying a small plate of food.
“Time for a bite to eat, Uncle. I hope Eglamour didn’t get you too riled up. You need your rest or else . . .”
“Thank you, my dear,” Benedick interrupted.
He was tired of Imogen reminding him of his declining condition. In the beginning, he hoped he could fight this illness and return to his beloved Fields. However, the days drew on, and it was evident that this was not a war he could win.
You are Wildcat Fields. You are its beauty, its mysteries, its life.
“News from the meeting with the Polity is concerning, but it is nothing we cannot handle,” he continued. “We are Westies after all, aren’t we?” Benedick tried to smile, but he ended up looking more in pain than jovial.
“Don’t think I didn’t see you change the subject. I need you with all this Polity nonsense happening. Now eat. You need your strength.” Imogen set about tidying the already clean room around her.
Benedick watched as Imogen adjusted the curtains and straightened the few items on his dresser. Her graceful movements reminded him of his sister, Imogen’s mother. She had died when Imogen was only a child, and Benedick took care of Imogen ever since. They had grown inseparable, and Benedick’s mood grew sullen every time he thought about his limited future.
“Imogen, come. Sit.” He motioned to the chair beside him.
Dutifully, she obeyed and took his hand.
“My beautiful girl. I hoped I would live forever. You can see how well that has turned out.” He half-heartedly chuckled, which quickly turned into a fit of coughs.
Imogen handed him the glass of water and tried to bat away the tears that were starting to rim her eyes.
“You have been doing wonderful in the Fields in my absence, but the time has come for me to turn over Wildcat Fields to you, officially. It needs a strong leader, especially with the Polity so close at hand.”
“Don’t talk like that. You have plenty of time.” Imogen’s cheeks burned with emotion.
“Neither one of us can deny this any longer. My days are numbered, and they are fewer than either one of us hoped. The captain of the Polity will be arriving soon to assess the city. I have little doubt she will want our oil. We must do what we can to appease the Polity while we protect our city. Our people.”
The tears were now silently streaming down Imogen’s cheeks.
“You are exactly what this city needs. Your compassion and strength will lead us and protect us. My heart tells me so.” Benedick wiped her face with a tender touch.
“I’m not ready for this, not without you.” Imogen looked down.
“You have been ready for years. I have taught you all that I can. You are Wildcat Fields. You are its beauty, its mysteries, its life. This is your time.” He lifted her chin.
Imogen’s lips slid into a small smile.
“I will do all I can to make you proud, Uncle.”
“I am prouder than you will ever know. I love you.”
Imogen leaned forward and wrapped Benedick in a warm hug. “I love you, too.”
“Has he come out of there yet?” Gonzalo paced in front of his father’s office door.
Sebastian leaned against the wall next to the door, picking at his fingernails. They had received a comm that Captain Ward was due to arrive the next day, but Eglamour locked himself in his office since returning from seeing Benedick.
“I’ll try again.” Sebastian knocked on the door, but they heard nothing. “Father, can you open the door? We need to finish the preparations for the Polity’s visit.”
They heard muffled noises, then nothing once again.
“We can’t wait forever!” Gonzalo whispered exasperatedly.
“Patience brother. This is better than we could have hoped. We will be able to handle the Polity visit ourselves, the way we want, since Father is . . . indisposed.”
“I like your thinking, Sebastian.”
“Trust me. We have to play this just right. The Polity is our best shot at putting those filthy Hallers in their place, for good. Westminster superiority will finally be recognized.”
“And when the Polity leaves, we will make sure they install us as the new leaders of the Globe.” Gonzalo’s eyes lit up.
“Now you’re getting it, Gonzalo. Go. I’ll take care of Father, and we will meet Captain Ward in the morning.”
They shook hands and Gonzalo disappeared down the stairs to the floor of the Smith. Sebastian slipped a key out of a hidden pocket. He unlocked Eglamour’s door and stepped inside.
The room was dark aside from the light filtering in from the gallery windows overlooking the Smith floor. Papers were strewn all over his father’s desk and floor. All the picture frames were placed face down and small glass ornaments lay toppled from their display stands. Eglamour slumped in his chair, staring blankly at the glowing furnaces below.
“Father, it’s me, Sebastian.” He stepped gingerly through the mess and switched on the side table lamp.
Eglamour winced at the bright light and blinked blindly toward Sebastian.
“Son, what are you doing here? Your mother will be worried you aren’t home yet.”
“Father, Mother has been gone for years now. Don’t you remember?”
Eglamour stared at his son for a moment and then turned back to the window. Sebastian examined the man before him. Eglamour’s gaunt face was covered in white stubble from lack of shaving. His proud shoulders now rolled forward, leaving him hunched and frail looking. Though Sebastian felt a pang of sadness over his father’s decline, he could not let that distract him from the task at hand.
“It is time to come home, Father. Your work is done.” Sebastian rested a hand on Eglamour’s shoulder.
“I . . . I . . . I am waiting to hear from Emilia. She said she would send me a comm. I can’t miss it.” Eglamour shook off Sebastian’s hand and turned back to his desk. He began shuffling papers absentmindedly.
“Father, I am sure she is fine. You need your rest.”
“Perhaps you are right.” Eglamour started to rise out of his seat when a ping echoed in his office. “It’s her! I knew she would keep her promise!”
Eglamour pushed the papers around with renewed vigor, trying to find his small drone comm device. The messenger drone hovered outside his window, ready to relay the message to it. Sebastian easily found it under a picture of his sister. He handed it to his father and laid the picture back down on its face.
“Okay, are you happy now, Father? She is safe, and you can go home. Gonzalo and I will take care of everything.” Sebastian took his father by the shoulders and guided him toward the door.
Eglamour stopped short and dropped the comm device on the floor. He clasped his hands over his mouth and tears fell from his violet-flecked black eyes. Sebastian bent to retrieve the device and read:
Benedick died in his sleep early this morning. He is finally at peace, and he flies with Elizabeth Hathaway now. –Imogen
Sebastian cleared the message and stashed the device in his pocket.
“Let’s get you home where you belong.” Sebastian shut off the lamp and took his father home.
If you enjoyed Shanel’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Shanel’s “Shadow of the Dunes,” which kicked off the Westminster stories in the Globe Folio series.
And make sure to check back Friday for Part 2 of “The Sands of Change” by Shanel Wilson. Part 2 brings Capt. Ward to the remote, desert city, and a deal is struck, setting new courses for Imogen, Sebastian, and Gonzalo.