TKC 181 and 182
Three days later virtually the entire host is dispersed. Work teams head out in the morning to return as night falls, although some roam further afield and camp out wherever they are. It appears, after the division, we are more Ilfin than Glonu and while this is better for the situation on this side of the rim, for escape it is a problem.
One Ilfin requires three Glonu sacrifices in order to leave.
Many Ilfin will thus remain trapped here to become part of the Glonu army. I notice how drawn Lyra’s face becomes; she has calculated those numbers.
Kay paces the cave like a madman, muttering under his breath. Manuel has gone south, but I noticed the searching look he gave his brother-in-arms before he left. Manuel is suspicious of this entire enterprise. He, like to the others, does not yet know his genesis, but soon Arc will reveal it to them and then we will be in trouble.
Soon Arc will play with Ilfin minds also, to transform them into the enemy; we are almost out of time.
The children remain nearby, under watch from rotating teams of minders. The women are all Ilfin, the kids are made up of both kinds. Lyra is silent on the subject, as I have held my peace. No one desires to hurt a child; by unspoken consensus we have decided to save all of them if possible, whatever it implies for the future.
Kay comes to a sudden stop. “How long do we have before we no longer recognise that this place is a trap?”
“Not long,” Lyra says quietly.
Kay focuses his attention on me. “We need to keep those we believe able to fight, right? But if Arc gets to them …”
“One problem at a time, Kay,” I say.
“Where is Damin?” the westerner demands, appearing suspicious. “Are you all planning stuff behind my back?”
Lyra flicks me a look and I understand her concern. Is Arc beginning to prove its insidious influence? I shake my head slightly and she looks away. “Damin is having a quiet word with those we marked as fighters. He will then lead them south.”
Kay stares at me. “Why am I not involved?”
“Your loyalties are torn,” Mirlin says as he enters the cave. “You will seek to save Manuel and others you know from your long march to this place.”
“It’s Manuel, Mirlin!”
The older man closes his eyes. “I know, my brother, but this is war.”
Manuel swings back to me. “Why are you not with Damin?”
“Folk trust Damin; I am a boy who changed, someone who does strange things,” I respond. “Damin is the better choice for this task.”
“And if it comes to fighting?”
“If he needs me he will call.”
Kay frowns. “How? He will be far from here.”
“He is a Delver,” I remind the distraught man. “And I am able to hear him.”
Lyra smacks a wooden bowl down. “Will you keep quiet? I have had enough of war talk.”
Mirlin turns his head my way, his gaze unreadable. Yes, it is time to talk to my sister. To that end, I stand up from the log someone dragged in as seating. “Lyra …”
“No,” she snaps. “I know that tone. Do not treat me as a child. Not only will I not accept the reversal of roles from you, but I am well aware of the stakes … and my part in it. Leave me alone.” She shifts her focus to Mirlin. “Are you not meant to be with Damin?”
“I am meeting him in a few hours. He needs time to get everyone in place,” Mirlin says. “Horin, we need you with us.”
I shake my head. “I will be bringing the Ilfin to the barrier. When enough have died in the south, I aim to help them go beyond.”
“There is a lot of plans in place I know nothing of,” Kay mutters.
“You are not alone in that,” Lyra says, staring at me.