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The Maker frontThe Halls of the Hallowed Dead are the only structure that still exists on the the surface of Shakazhan. It is an ancient place of burial for the warriors of the Timokuan people. Each warrior’s essence is preserve there for posterity, their voices recounting their accomplishments for anyone who will listen. Since it’s not integral to the functioning of the planet, Wil and his people haven’t fully explored it.

Wil has been to preoccupied with mending the Sentience’s networks to worry about the Halls, though he knows that the sentient robots have been repairing and restoring it. At the moment, it’s the only way in or out of the Sentience’s lair.

Muttering to himself, Wil walked down the long corridor from the Sentience’s lair to the Halls of the Hallowed Dead.

Wil felt compelled to deviate a little further to the west than usual and wandered to the very end of the branching hallway. His feet led him to a monument whose importance was overshadowed by other, more recent additions to the Halls. Long neglected, it stood on a wall by itself. Probably one of the original tombs placed here.

Wiping dust of ages off the plaque on the tomb, Wil deciphered a little of the legend carved there. He’d had been teaching himself the language, he christened Old Speak, compiling a database as he went. A word here and there stumped him, but he memorized the characters, intending to look them up later.

His left eye caught the hint of a bas relief, some sort of picture. He spit on his sleeve, using it to clean the plaque. Rubbing vigorously, he managed to wipe a six by six inch area relatively free of accumulated dust and grime of ages past.

Wil gasped. The area exposed showed a face—his face. There was no doubt in his mind that the visage depicted there, centuries old, was that of Wilhelm VanLipsig, The Lone Wolf. He saw the same firm jaw, the high cheek bones, chiseled features, it was all him. The most striking thing were the eyes. Crafted of onyx, they were black as night, glittering like a dozen stars.

Wil was unaware of the passage of time, having no clear idea how long he stood gazing at his own face, until his comlink startled him. Blinking, trying to focus on the here and now, he raised his hand in slow motion to answer, still looking at the portrait.

“Yeah?” His voice sounded far away, rasping, dry.

“Wil?” Matilda’s voice was tinged with worry. “You were supposed to be back half an hour ago. Where are you?”

“You need to come see something. Where are you?”

“I’m on Styx.” The worry grew in her voice. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, I’m fine.” He couldn’t seem to draw his eyes away from the portrait. “I’m in the Halls. I’ll wait here for you.”

“On my way.”

Wil knew Matilda had started to walk off the ship as soon as he answered her and would be nearly half way to him by now. A few moments later, he heard her running down the hall toward him. He stepped out of the alcove so she could see him.

“Wil? What’s wrong? You’re way over—” Her voice stopped when she saw the portrait. “Oh, my God, Wil, that’s you!”

Dragging her eyes away from the tomb, she stared at him, as if he were a stranger she was seeing for the first time. Wil nodded mutely, eyes still riveted on the crypt.

“You’ve been here since leaving Sentience?”

He nodded again, this time his eyes flickered over to her and back. “I read some of this on the stone. This guy was incredible! He saw even more action than I’ve seen.”

“Do you believe in reincarnation?” Matilda asked quietly.

Wil studied the portrait again for several moments. “Until today, definitively no.”

“And now?” she asked sharply.

“Well, now I’m not so sure.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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