There was a time in Aerin’s life when he didn’t hate his father. He grew up with stories of the mad magician who made life in Coral Heights almost enjoyable. There were adventures, there were fantastic miracles, and there was hope. And then it vanished, quite selfishly, into the blue. Aerin had fought long and hard with the question of why his father, Aephistos Featherwalk, had left him and his mother behind in the prison world. He had long since abandoned the childish belief that there was a good reason for it.
He sat on the steps in darkness, huddled against the wall as another frightful creature passed by. The strange winged sentry did not notice Aerin crouching in the dark stairway, and when it had passed out of earshot, Aerin climbed the stairs quietly. His father was here somewhere – and he would get his answers. The corridor at the top of the stairs was lit by an occasional torch, giving it a dungeon chic that Aerin thought was a little bit too exaggerated. The dim light did make it easy for the boy to slip from shadow to shadow.
At the end of the corridor there was a single door, which Aerin opened without much difficulty. The room inside was dark as well, and Aerin was beginning to wonder if he had arrived at night. Aerin could not make much of the room out in the darkness, though he could tell just by the smell of it that it was teeming with useless old items. He had heard his father had a knack for collecting them. As he moved forward, he tripped over some trinket or other, and attempted to make as little noise as possible as he caught himself on the wall.
Suddenly, the room lit up all at once, as if the sun had come out in a matter of moments. Aerin saw that his feet had been caught by a mannequin’s arm sticking out of a box of other plastic body parts.
Aerin looked up just in time to notice a giant curtain pulling itself back, revealing a face that he remembered strangely well. It was a portrait of his father. The Featherwalk played across his face, mocking Aerin’s fury. In a burst of inexplicable rage gripped him, and he grabbed the nearest vase, hefting it over his head and hurling it at the portrait. The vase shattered noisily against the canvas, tearing a small hole in the image, and the shards of porcelain clattered to the stone floor.
In the silence that followed, Aerin took a few short steps closer to the face of his father, and saw for the first time the dusty state of the room. A living soul had not been in these chambers for a very long time. Thinking his cause lost, he sunk down to the floor, deflated.
A voice echoed through the room to his ears, “You are not one who is known to me. And these halls are not friendly to wandering eyes.” The face the emerged from the darkness was of a middle-aged man with striking features and raven black hair. He was clad in resplendent white – what seemed to Aerin like ceremonial garb of some kind.
Aerin quickly wiped away the tears budding at the corners of his eyes, and faced the stranger. “My name is Aerin…and I would call this man father…if he had not abandoned my mother and I to an endless life in chains.”
The face that seemed somehow snakelike smiled pitying at Aerin, offering him a hand. “This man has been the cause of much suffering. Would you like to help me punish him?”
Aerin accepted the hand tentatively. He thought for a moment, standing and looking up at the portrait. There was a glimmer of something akin to hate in the eyes of this stranger, and Aerin found a sympathy in that anger. He turned back to the man before him after a thought, and nodded. “I will.”