TKC 259 and 260
Iniri grips Artur’s shoulders. “Never mind any of that! My father is dying? Is that what they said?”
He nods, staring at her.
“Did they say how? Is he ill? How long?”
He steps away. “My Lady, forgive me, but I do not know.”
Her hands clench into fists and she swivels to look at me. “Enris, we need at least one alive.”
Indeed. “Get back to the shuttle,” I say. “I will … talk … to them.” I am aware my face is without expression, but I do not care. Like to Iniri, I need to know the truth. If it means five men die in the next few minutes in order for one to spill his truth, then so be it.
“Artur,” Damin murmurs, “take Lyra back.”
“I can …” Iniri says, but Damin cuts her short.
“The big man grips Iniri’s upper arm and hauls her off. She protests at first, but then goes meekly, throwing looks backward as she goes. I notice she looks more at Damin than at me.
“She is not a soldier, am I right?” Damin demands.
“She was a Priestess,” I say quietly.
“Then I did right.”
“She will still flay the skin off you.” I grin, if reluctantly. Nothing is amusing. My father is dying. If that is how it is, I am not ready to assume the mantle of rulership.
“What was my role on Makaran?” Damin asks next.
Clever. Quick. Damin has understood something intrinsic about himself. He simply needs it confirmed. “You were the leader of the protectors based in the badlands.’
“Hmm. And how did I come to know Iniri?”
“You were wounded. She was your healer.”
Damin nods. “I cannot yet remember, but what you say resonates. I was for the Makar rulers?”
“We counted on you, yes.”
Again he nods. “As I thought. Then let us get these traitors and hear what their plans are.”
This time I smile with all warmth. “We need only one.”
“One for you and one for me,” Damin says grimly, not responding to my smile. “I have my ways and you have yours. One of them will talk.”
I incline my head and set off into the tress, heading in the direction Artur spilled from. Damin is on my heels.
Within minutes we hear the tell-tale sounds of low conversation and the rustles uncaring boots make in drier undergrowth. I flick my hand, and we separate in silence and stealth.
Not long after, six men wander towards us, weapons pointing to the earth. They believe no one has marked their absence. Foolish indeed. I notice they are not as young as the main host of soldiers. These are men seasoned by time and war. Idiots. They should know better than to walk as if they have no cares. Given their stealth in leaving, they should employ it also in their return.
Damin vanishes and I am amazed. The man is a Devil indeed. Here he is a Forest Devil.
I step into their path, sword raised.
Six men freeze.
Before they are able to respond to the threat of my presence, Damin deals with two of them in rapid succession, coming at them from behind. Two swing around to face their attacker at the rear, while the other two rush at me, eyes so big I realise they understand that they have been unmasked. I thus have no mercy.
Swiftly Damin has one in a headlock. The other is dead. He tosses the soldier’s weapon into the forest.
Mere moments after, I have the only other survivor under my boot, pressing at his throat. “Move, and you are dead,” I say coldly.
Silence returns to the forest as we stare at each other without moving.