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Rated: E · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2190667
Chapter Five
CHAPTER FIVE

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Divider (2)

While all the moves were the same, this was nothing like riding the gauntlet. Jace moved to the side, dodged down, but it was faster. Insanely fast. It was so fast that even Jace had that feeling in his stomach he hadn’t had since he was a kid galloping at full speed for the first time. The horse he was riding, Darvin’s horse, rode with a speed and conviction but they were in perfect sync, it was almost preternatural.

The first stretch of the wide open business throughoufare on gray stone ground that was uneven and he dodged and weaved. He got a good distance before he was even fired on, the enemy so surprised to see one man riding full speed through. It was a combination of arrows and comets from the golden riders, more than he had ever seen, but somehow he simply knew he wasn’t going to be hit. That he couldn’t. Occassionally he would hear the shrill whistle of Malcolm’s arrows, presumbably on those with the best firing angle on him, and it would also cost a disruption throughout that entire area as there would be a brief delay, barely detectable but evident, before the barrage would continue.

Now he was coming up to a fairly steep incline, all of stone, and he knew if he would be hit it would be here if he was going to have a decrease in velocity. Only there wasn’t. The horse hit the incline with ferocious speed and Jace felt his stomach into his throat. He held tight, fell down and held tight on the horse, making himself a smaller target but also just holding on with everything he had. Feeling as intense as any maneuver of one of the airships up above it was like being rocketed straight right up, and then it started to even out and he knew he was through to the docks he had seen from the ridge and that Malcolm had seen better with his scope on his bow.
Only when he blasted past the crates and other things that were up on the dock, there was not a lot of room. In fact, less than thirty yards. He knew he was on the dock but it was all just a blur as he saw the thick wooden railing and then a steep drop off. How far down he couldn’t tell, but he knew it was water. He was out of the sight of Malcolm now so if there was any threat to him hear that needed that assistance Malcolm the sharpshooter would not be able to help him.

There was nothing to do but prepare to jump, and somehow though there couldn’t have been more than a second or two to think about it, all that could go wrong flashed through Jace’s mind in that instant. He should have prepared to stand on the saddle, even at these speeds someone of his skill could have managed it and prepared to jump. But he saw the thick oak railing right ahead and knew it would mean the horse’s death. So he stayed in the saddle and at the last minute did what he had to execture the jump at the last minute. The horse did not slow down in fear, from Winterwine, the best there were and trained by the best as well, and that discipline and and courage is what gave it a chance.

At the last minute Jace exectuted the jump and they jumped up over the railing, as they started to fall the dip down was 40 feet down and at this point Jace did detach himself from the hood, springing himself up off the saddle and flying through the air, but falling awakwardly and hitting the water on his side, shoulder first.
And then all the insane chaos was snuffed out all at once to absolute warped warbly quiet and cold all around him. He got his way through the water, feeling the cold all around him and it felt like he was under the water longer than he could have been. Then he was caught in a current, tumbling and moving all over the place, even if he was free and could have moved on his own he had no bearings whatsoever, he could have been swimming deeper thinking it was up. Then there was a moment of stark colder and he knew he was going deeper. He felt the sensation of moving very fast through indecipherable cold darkness, and then in some impossible feat he felt like he was jerked to the side by something and the next thing he knew he was on the surface, came up and gasped for air, looking away.

He spit out a little water, coughed, looked around and then all he saw was the stepp rising of the docks and things that associated with giant ships no centuries out of use. Initially he swam up to the dock with the sea vegetation all frowing all around slimely and slick just to hold on as the waves lapped behind him as he caught his breath, just to stay up and not have to swim. After a couple minutes he twisted out behind him to see the rest of the empty bay to where it opened up at the far end surrounded by mountains. Looked left and right and saw no sign of the horse, bowed his head a moment but then realized he could actually climb the thick ropes that were all around the dock.

He moved side by side, like someone climbing a mountain, the feverlew he had taken really working now, mixing with the adrenaline, he felt his heart beating faster and the inexplicable feel of his spirits rise no matter what the situation. As he continued to climb the ropes he felt stronger, and as he came over the dock he could have almost sprun himself up over them and landed on the docks. The field outrider uniform he had been wearing, careful to be made to look worn and filthy for his ruse, were already scampy but they were soaked enough to increase the weight, still even that meant nothing and did not effect him as he continued to climb.
Dripping wet he stood completely exposed. Looking left, still breathing hard, he saw the opening where he had come in and the now distant stretch of railing he had jumped over. Again, his thoughts briefly went on Darvin’s horse and then Darvin itself, but he let them go quickly. The battle was beginning to die down from here this far back spot of the city, and it sounded like there was more of the sound of the airships flying in the air than the sound of their complex weapons and then his focus went to surveying the dock complex that now totally surrounded him as he had been swept all the way down to the center of it.

What started as a survey to check to see if any of the enemy on the throughfare that had been there to ambush a larger force would pursue him. Even if they would not risk moving out of place, still expecting that large force, maybe the would send a few. Perhaps they didn’t see the point for one, obviously insane, rider. But what began as a survey for enemy activity, ended in awestruck gazing.
The enormous bulk of the Dock Complex cast a long shadow over the sea, its staggered tiers of hangars and harbors coming together in a vast, dense hive of structures that could have easily held an entire fleet by both sea and air. It had clearly come together over the course of generations, and gave the impression of both a towering nest and a formidable citadel. It was easy to imagine ships and aircraft of every kind maneuvering in and out of the complex, making it a hub of activity and a landmark to be proud of.

​Now, there was little sign of that proud history, little sign that this had been one of the few places in Ciridian that had ever served, by its very nature, as an embassy where the leaders of nations met. Silence had descended over the great building like a shroud, and small fishing boats anchored near the outer walls kicked idly in a listless current Further out, immense masts rose up like tombstones, bits of torn sail playing against the wind like phantoms of the once-proud ships that no doubt lay below, destroyed and ransacked by the enemy.

Towering crates had been scattered haphazardly about, leaving rotting food and other goods to create a slick, eerie hazy on the sea and an awful stench in the streets. The battle was coming to an end, the sound of the airship engines flying around now outweighed the the sound of their powerful weapons firing. Lockhardt was no doubt in the city by now, the STAR teams rooting out pockets of last resistance, but it would be some time before the Dock Complex truly reclaimed the majesty of its past.

​Lining the dock, separating the dock from the drop to the water, two railing posts – one depicting an airship, the other a naval warship – flanked an ancient-looking stone staircase descending inexplicably into the dark sea, marking the beginning of two cylindrical, hardwood banisters. Each was engraved with images and inscriptions recounting the evolution of the Dock Complex. In one direction, the distant one that Jace had jumped his horse over after the warship, there were the early events and people of the Royal Sindell Navy. On the other side, after the airship, the timeline broadened into the evolution of the Royal Air Force that replaced it. It was also the academy of all new airmen, and the forefront of technology of airships.

​Emblazoned high above, on the front of the immense structure itself, was the emblem of a squadron Jace did not recognize. It was a glittering talon, inscribed with words curved over its top and bottom. From here, they could not be made out, but then all at once Jace realized they weren’t meant to. For the motto was reflected by sunlight on the pavement below: Live in Fame over the top. Die in Flame rounding out the bottom.

​The splendor of the site of the Dock Complex and its sheer grandisoeness was fading, and once more Jace became once again and suddenly aware of his surroundings. It was quiet as the battle was dying down in the distance and he continued walk through a series of back ways and under arches and cool scenery. It was the same as one might walk aimlessly and without thought through a new marketplace, no conscious thought and yet somehow direction.
When he came around the last corner, past a bunch of neglected tables that were all scattered outside a boarded up outdoor café, he saw an elaborate stone staircase having circled around and back to the docks, as he could look to his right and see where he had just been not 50 yards away. The stone staircase looked strangely out of place and interesting, Jace felt drawn to it. It had two massive leviathans on each side, reminding him of the murals he’d seen in Lornda Manor and the cave entrances he had confronted Artemus Ward near and then taken to get to Sindell.

The curved wall and entrance section surrounded back around the top, but then they descended straight down spiraling down to the water.
Jace, having been standing still and just staring, transfixed, took a single step forward towards it, and then when he did, he heard voices and immediately crouched down quickly down, motionless and glancing around to better gauge where it might have come from. As he did, he realized he wasn’t in any danger because the voices were coming from somewhere in front of him. And he crouched down moving slowly to a wall of crates with fishing net on the outside. Coming around to the side and looking, he saw Desmond and two other golden riders gathered around Hazel, who looked pale and unconscious lying there.
“Sir?” one of them asked Desmond, looking like they were waiting for something.
“Her orders, sir were to…”
“I know what her orders were,” Desmond said.
“We can’t move her, sir,” the other said. “She’s too weak, without feverlew….”
“I know that,” Desmond said. “But I’m not leaving her. You like orders, here’s another one. I’m ordering both of you to go.”
They argued with him a little but the concurred, requiring finally for Jace to duck a little bit down further as they passed and ran towards the staircase, and Jace watched in fascination as they ran down the staircase and then a glint rose up from the bottom in a blast of the same green light he recognized from the Tunnels in Lornda Manor. Transportation tunnels, but Jace’s attention was soon diverted to a sound of pain.
Suddenly Hazel regained consciousness, gasping and arcing her back in pain.
“Shhhh…..” Desmond said. “Easy, girl.”
Jace could see the look in his eyes. He knew it well, deep concern, fear and crippling sadness but flawlessly conveying strength and cockiness. It might have even been impossible to detect if not a perfect practioner of it himself.
“I….,” she started weakly, swallowing hard. “I told you to go.”
“Did you?” Desmond asked. “I don’t recall.”
“You have to,” she said, but there was real sadness there now and it went deeper than just losing Zarponda or this massive loss. “You have to tell my father we’ve lost Zarponda. Lead the others back. The …. the stairs.”
“Others have already gone,” he said. “Your father will know. Everyone else has been led to the stairs, all those who can make it.”
“You’re almost as stubborn as me,” she said and then let out a very brief scream.
In response to that scream, before Jace knew what he was doing, he stood up straight and in plain view. In a flash, with that same amazing draw he rememberd seeing Desmond fell back and held it on him. Still, amazingly, Jace did not ever break stride on his way to Hazel who was lying down in front of him.
Desmond looked both shocked and for awhile held his crossbows aimed at Jace looking like he wanted to pull the trigger but his arm shook as if some great force was keeping him from doing so, as he was so mentally torn. It was the same look Jace had when he had a knife to Artemus’ throat and yet for some reason could not kill him. He had a lot of time to think about it since then and started to wonder why he didn’t kill Artemus, and that there might in fact be more to what causes being mentally torn like that.
He had it mastering that even as he never broke stride, he knew, having now learning to trust that so completely that he knew there was no chance that Desmond would fire on him. Jace crouched on the opposite side of Hazel as Desmond, hardly paying him any attention at all until the very last minute, when he looked up at him.
“Hands are going in my pockets,” he warned. “Assuming your demand I ask for permission still stands.”
The mixture of confusion and concern for Hazel superceded everything and there was no attempt to hide his vulnerability as the crossbow trembled in his hand still aimed at Jace.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Helping her,” he said.
The two men’s eyes locked for awhile, there was a bit of a standoff, and then sighing as if the discipline to do so actually caused physical pain he lowered his crossbow and dropped it, giving in that there might even be the slightest chance he could save her was worth taking, even if it meant his very cause. A feeling Jace knew well himself.
He took out the special pouch his feverlew was held in, and it had done specifically what it was designed to, protect it from any elements, and it was totally dry. And he took out some feverlew.
“How do you guys not have feverlew?” he asked, sliding some out of the pouch he held in his hands. “Don’t all of you have this plague?”
“Not all of us,” Desmond said, simply answering and being up front. “Only the most powerful,” he said.
Hazel’s eyes were looking up at Desmond now as if pleading for him to stop, as she was paralyzed now just as Jace was earlier and he knew the feeling well. The horrible desperate feeling and she was incapable of speech now. Pleading for him not to say anything.
Jace reached down, grabbed her wrist, picked it up and put the feverlew in her palm, and she didn’t even look at it, just stared at him coldly.
“Hey,” Desmond said, nudging her until she looked at him in defiance. Instantly her resolve weakened slightly when she looked at him and put it up to her mouth and took it. Instantly some of the color started to come back from her skin and her breathing was regulating and the immense relaxation in her face started to relax. As they watched the progression, again Jace was struck by her, that indefinable thing about her. When she recovered enough to speak she looked back at Jace.
“We don’t have it because all of our supply was destroyed when you destroyed Lornda Manor! Destroyed our home!” She might not be dying anymore but she was still in significant pain, similar again to how she was when Jace had first started looking in.
Desmond was looking at Jace with a softer, surprised expression.
“Don’t be so foolish,” she said to him, a mixture of pain and anger in her tone. “He only gave me that feverlew to save my life so they could find out Artemus’ location.”
“Yeah,” Jace said sarcastically, and he was already going for a vial filled with purple liquid that was kept, in his boot, he undid the vial that was kept in an unbreakable vial material, and put in a hypodermic needle out.
“What is that?” Desmond asked, but not so accusing this time.
“Something Cool sounding liquid,” it’ll take away her pain.
“No, I mean that.”
“Hypodermic needle, Sindell is just filled with all kinds of inventions. It’ll get the medication to her right away in a way we don’t know about.”
He stuck it in her leg, and pushed it in, and she instantly relaxed, calmed down, and looked peaceful, losing consciousness.
“Where did you get that?”
“From that same person who is the only one who can help her.”
The two men locked stares for a long time and then he stood up.
“Now go,” Jace said.
“How do I know I can trust you.”
“She will be kept safe, Desmond, you have my word.” He glanced down at Desmond’s hand and saw he was holding a gauntlet with and orange stone that was glowing on it, a goldensapphire. It was Hazel’s but he was holding it.
Now they were standing out on the stone dock, space on either side for a long way, just alone, staring each other down. Jace stood up and followed out a few steps, staying near Hazel but planning on watching him go. Finally Desmond turned around and there was a bit of a standoff, and he twirled back unable to resist asking.
“You have my word,” he said.
He pulled up his sleeve and exposed his gray scars from the same plague, the affliction ravaging through Hazel.
“That’s impossible,” he said. “It’s only been three months,” he said. “It shouldn’t be as advanced as that.”
“Guess I’m just lucky, I guess.”
“No, it’s a good deal more than that, although I don’t know what. I was wondering how you could have survived an encounter with Artemus. Now I know. You’re a lot more like us.”
“Like a golden rider,” and Jace paused realizing that some including the highest ranking such as Desmond were both. “Or a wizard?”
“That term is racist,” Desmond said. “But I suppose we’ll find out in time what you are.”
“I suppose.”
There was another while of silence and then.
“Maybe I should have taken a look over that ridge.”
“We all make mistakes.”

There were hooves approaching, a lot of them, calls in the distance but the men just stood and looked at each other unfazed, enjoying the stand off. And then Desmond’s glance went behind Jace to where Hazel was lying.

“You have my word she won’t be harmed. And you can trust in that.”
“I know,” Desmond said, still looking at her, and then he glanced back to Jace. “The rest of your reputation as proven accurate, I’m sure that part is true as well. You’re famous, ya know?”
Jace nodded and smiled.

“So I’ve heard.”

Divider (2)

The sunset over Glate Bay was stunningly beautiful. And yet – even in that dazzling blend of purples, reds, and yellows that roiled with each breath of the breeze on the water – Jace could not help but notice the eerie undercurrents of a scene he had witnessed not long ago.

​Had it really only been three months since Lornda Manor? Felt like a lifetime more, but this sight seemed like yesterday and as Jace withdrew his golden lighter, he felt as if he could have been back on that balcony, smoking with the friend who had provided the cigarettes in his hand. This had become his routine; celebrating each victory as he would have had Cedwyn been with him.

​Jaret Brandon was in conversation with a group of his Dragoons and Sky Knights, recounting the plan to defend against the possible threat of Winged Creatures not ten paces from where Jace stood. Over the Sky Lord’s shoulder, a tavern stood dark and quiet near the entrance of the Dock Complex; a sign creaking on sea-rusted hinges proclaiming it The Swan.

​The briefing was coming to an end. Jace could not help but hear as Brandon exchanged a few last words with his men and sent them off to their tasks. He took a long drag, waiting, knowing that Jaret would come to him next.

​The Sky Lord turned and walked his way. “Lockhardt’s still in the process of securing the city,” he said as he rolled up the map over which he’d been conferring a moment before. “Haven’t assessed the Complex, either.”

Jace nodded. Neither bit of information was news to him, although he was curious as to why no one had yet entered the massive structure at their backs. “Thought you’d be eager to get in there,” he said.

Jaret turned slightly to the side.

“Yeah, well, eagerness is not the issue. It’s time. You’ve seen the size of the hangar in Sindell City?” Jace glanced down to his cigarette and nodded. “Now multiply that by four. Not to mention the barracks, the offices, the…” He drifted off, looking away. “Gonna be a nightmare to secure that place.”

“Hm,” Jace mused, flicking ash into the darkening water. “

Jaret turned around and pointed casually up to the emblem, though the dying sunlight was now too dim to reflect the motto. “The Winged Creatures haven’t attacked since Jaden arrived, but there’s no forcefield over Zarponda, obviously, so we have to be ready for anything.” The Royal 8th,” he said. “Home of The Sun Downers. One of the oldest, most distinguished units we got, second only to the Capital Squadron.” He gestured up and down the dock to where the airships from that very force stood idle in a perfect row. “Won’t have Jaden’s weaponry yet, but we’ll remedy that soon enough.” Tucking away the map, he sighed as he rested his forearms on the timeline railing. “Assuming they’re still alive, of course,” and it was clear he’d been avoiding that thought until now. “And that the airships haven’t all been destroyed.”
“When was the last time you heard from them?”
​“Not since Zarponda fell. Well over a year now.” He took a few moments to stare at the inlet’s opening and what remained of the scarlet sunlight flaring through. Then, as if the beautiful sight had inspired some optimism, he stood upright. “Still … we might count a whole other squadron among our assets by this time tomorrow, along with some of the finest Sky Knights in the realm.”
​Jace nodded. What Hazel had told him heavy on his mind and as Jaret handed back a clipboard to one of his pilots, he realized in the idle moment that Jace was not asking out of interest but idly, distracting, and he didn’t know him well but could tell there was something wrong with him.
​“Actually, a dogfight’s a lot like the present.” Jace looked over to him. “Takes courage to stay in it.”
​Jace goes to look for the wounded, simultaneously hoping to find him and not. That’s when he finds young one.
​“Yeah, well, I like the chances of that. I’d bet anything they’re alive. Some of the townspeople when I was running here told me they’ve been flying the whole time this place has been occupied.”
​“Oh?” he asked. “That’s strange. Why would the golden knights and wizards allow them to fly around here why they were occuping here.”
​Jace shrugged.
​“Don’t know. But can it be anything but a good sign?”
​“Not sure,” Jaret admitted. “Right now it’s just strange. We’ll know more tomorrow.” Then he refocused and smiled as he came back to the present and he extended his hand. “This truly was a tremendous victory, Jace. Due in no small part to you.”
​“To all of us,” the outrider corrected and the handshake released. “Good luck up there tonight.”
​Jaret was already moving back to the airmen near his craft. He had only taken a step or two, however, when he turned back to Jace with a snap.
​Jace nodded with interest.
​“Stellan took her back to the capital in his airship.”
​“How is she?”
​“Last I heard? Unconscious. But her vital signs were stable.”
​Jace nodded again, but before he could say anything further his attention was pulled down the dock by one of the airships firing up. Also in that direction he saw Malcolm crouched beside the stone staircase, examining some aspect of the curious thing. Jaret had already made his way over to a pair of guards, part of the group scouring the streets near the Complex for signs of the enemy – he was talking to them urgently, but quietly.
​Jace walked away unnoticed, closing the distance to Malcolm. There was much more to their conversation left unsaid. They had grown close in the months since they came together. “What’s up?” he asked when he reached Malcolm, talking over the roar of engines as the nearby airship lifted off..
​“Any idea what this is all about?” asked Malcolm.
​Jace bent down to the ground and snuffed out his smoke, stayed in the position to see what Malcolm found so interesting. He noticed that there on the side was a leviathan, though not a statue it was engraved on the side, and there was another missing eye socket. Jace said nothing. Though he wondered about it. The tide was a little higher now, to the point where if one were to walk down the watery flight, they’d be ankle deep in the bay after two or three steps.
​“No.”
​Carefully etched into each individual stair were several rune symbols the outrider recognized immediately – a truth reflected in his tone and hesitation. Some of the symbols had come from Constable Thean’s record book; others, he’d seen in the Tunnels of Armageddon. “But I’ll ask when things calm down.”
​Malcolm sighed, clearing his mind as he stood and crossed his arms.
​“These serpents,” he said, referring down to the pair of small statues flanking the stairs. “I’ve seen them before.” Still crouched, Jace wrinkled his brow. “They’re like the entrance of that cave in Bryce Valley.”
​For the first time, Jace caught sight of them himself, and while he wasn’t aware of any change in his demeanor, Malcolm’s response suggested there was one “You have too, I take it.”
​“Lornda Manor,” Jace said. In fact, he’d seen three.
​“Well, well … if it isn’t the Twin Stars,” a booming voice sounded behind them.
Jace smiled, coming to his feet and looking toward the sound.

“Should have known it was you who’d leave weapons lying around.” There had been plenty of times in Jace’s upbringing when the mountain of a man had made such comments seriously. Today, the inflection in Sergeant Alaric Caulurn’s voice was unmistakable pride. “You Outriders, I’ll tell ya,” he went on, shaking his head and handing the short swords and crossbows back to Jace. Now he turned to Malcolm, shaking his hand. “And you Whistlers … don’t even get me started.” He saluted both of them, but it was a gesture more in regard to their status as Veil’driel Star recipients than their rank.

​Malcolm smirked. “Sergeant.”

​“Good to see ya, kid,” the colossal man said, then his expression tightened to business. “General wants to see ya. Got some o’ those oversized bats comin’ in by the looks a things. Probably wants your boys in place.”
​“Hm.”

“Problem?”

Malcolm sighed.

“Problem? No. But I only got have half a dozen guys with me here,” he said, confused. “And our mission was specific to covering Jace, not fending off flying demons.”

At this Caulurn laughed.

“Listen to this one,” he said, turning briefly to Jace while pointing to the bowman with his thumb. But that prideful tone was back and he was barely smiling by the time he looked back. “All grown up. General Lockhardt’s giving you command of his entire Archer Division tonight. In preparation for becoming the lead archer back in Hamon.”

Malcolm cleared his throat, and for just the quickest moment, Jace was reminded of how he appeared the first night they met.

“The, uh … the whole division?”

“Movin’ up in the world,” Jace said.

​The smile on Caulurn’s face had returned.

“Better get a move on, lad.”

“Right, I’ll …” Again he was clearing his throat, then looked to Jace. “Right, so I guess I’ll see ya later.”

“Yep.”

And with a departing nod to the sergeant, he was off, joining a small group of his men who were waiting out in front of the abandoned tavern; one of them clearly imitating Malcolm’s desperate leap from the tower.

​A little closer, guarding a small group of golden riders awaiting medical attention for seemingly minor wounds, a bearded Veil’driel infantryman with a giant axe was telling his comrades, “There’d be a party a brewin’ on account of ta’day, I tell ye,” Alarick said.

​“Another one down, eh?” Jace took a deep breath of the saltwater air and leaned back against the stairs. “How many missions is that now? Eleven?”

​Caulurn smiled.

​“Ah. This one was different than those, lad. Today was a major victory.”

Jace shrugged.

“I guess.”

“Yes, you guess,” the triplicarius said, rolling his eyes. “You’ll be headed back to Hamon in a couple days time, sounds like. Gonna have to fly on one of those infernal machines.”

“Go back?”

“That’s the rumor. You and the kid.”

The outrider’s eyes widened a bit in surprise.

“Huh. But then why –”

“Bah, I’m sorry, Jace. Hold on a second,” Caulurn said, cutting him off, then he looked down the dock to a large detachment of soldiers gathering in front of the Complex. “Hey! Ironhead!” he screamed, and one of the men looked over. “Did I tell you to set that up there?” He extended his arm and pointed to a spot further down. “Or there?”
Realizing his mistake, the corporal started to move whatever contraption he had started to place there. From here it looked like a bronze brazier.

“Sorry, triplicarius!”

“What are they doing?” Jace asked.

“We’re laying siege to that place. Lockhardt’s orders,” Caulurn explained, and at last he looked back. “He thinks the rest of the wizards and,” he gestured over to the convalescing golden riders. “Those bastards over there could have locked themselves inside. We’re meant to make sure they don’t try and launch an assault when the bats attack.”

Jace nodded, knowing that a single word of the departing ship he’d seen leaving the bay would end such speculation. Still, shocking even himself, he said nothing. He was sure Caulurn would have seen right through him; seen he was hiding something, but the old sergeant was once again fixated on the men who were now setting up tents.

“Oh, what by hell are ya –” He turned back to Jace. “Sorry, lad. I’m gonna have to get over there and –”

Jace smiled.

“Right. See ya later.”

Shaking the outrider’s hand again, he leaned close to emphasize his point.
“You take care tonight, ya hear?”

“You too, boss.”

And then the sergeant was brooding down the dock again, clapping his hands.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” he was yelling. “Pain is weakness leavin’ the body, let’s go!”


Divider (2)
 Chapter Six  (E)
Chapter Six
#2190668 by Dan Hiestand
Divider (2)
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