Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The King's Challenge #274 and #275

TKC 274 and 275

Dusk is upon us as we skim the treetops. We will be at the Spire in a few minutes and everyone is tense, especially the women.

I study them. We are all strapped in for the ride, but hand movements and shifting eyes reveal their anxiety. Leaning forward as far as I am able to, I draw their attention.

“Siri, you must stay aboard no matter what happens out there. I may have need of your healers’ talent soon. Please.” I know Siri Mur can be stubborn and hope she hears me.

She glances at Kay, who nods imperceptibly. I notice Damin’s eyebrows shoot up. Stupid man; he has not yet understood about Kay and Siri. Siri looks to Damin next, who stares steadily back at her. I choke back laughter when she sticks her tongue out at her brother.

“I will remain here,” she murmurs, nodding at me. “Why bring me, though, if I am to stay behind?”

“Because you are safer with us.”

“Really?” Her eyebrows hike up.

“Yes,” Damin growls, causing Kay to flick him a look.

I focus on Marian. “You have to be with us. I believe you know why.” The Messenger inclines her head. She is able to collapse rock; we may need her. “Hanna,” I smile, “you will not like this …”

My saviour and tracker grins back. “I will watch over … the shuttle.”

She meant to say ‘Siri’, but knows that Mur will become obstinate.

Damin speaks then. “Artur, Hal, Allin and you, soldier, secure our left flank as soon as we hit ground. Kay, Joseph, Ross and you, mate, take the right. Commander, you will be with Iniri and myself. You, soldier, stay with the shuttle, and be on guard at all times. Shoot first, hear?” He points to the three added soldiers in turn. “Marian, you remain in the rear. Keep low.” He glances around, meeting each set of eyes. “We move fast, but it will be dark and the terrain is unfamiliar, so be careful also, do not stumble if you can help it.”

“Your helmet visor has night vision,” Gennerin puts in. “Tap here twice.” He shows us how to access the added vision. “Tap once if you need to turn it off. Do not stare directly into a light source or you will be blinded.”

We are all in Ilfin uniform, gear included. “What does this do?” I point at a red toggle set into the side of the slim pack we will wear on our backs.

“A parachute,” Corporal Allin says. “Handy for escape from a high point, but it will also lift you if deployed from the ground. A last resort, however.”

“Pull only when heavily under fire, then shoot for all you are worth down upon the enemy. You will have seconds only before the parachute drags you to earth again,” Gennerin murmurs.

“Twenty seconds!” The navigator hollers from the cockpit.

Instantly nerves flutter as flying ants in my belly. By the stars, Iniri was a priestess in another life and Lyra was a country girl. What do either of us know about warfare? My left hand warms without warning. Looking down, I see light leaking through my clenched fingers, but it is no longer Lyra’s light, the elemental kind. This is green; this is the orb’s magic. I now possess the Warrior within.

Damin is looking at me. He understands the Warrior does not live long. Whatever we were together in a past life and became again here on Massin will soon have no meaning. Our future will not be lengthy.

I blink as realisation dawns. This is why I have it. This is why I am the orb. Enris must live, for he is the heir, the future king. I am expendable.

The shuttle descends, the door opens, the ramp lowers. Harnesses are undone, we stand.

Damin strides across the small space. He grips me to him and kisses me. “I love you,” he says as he releases me.

I cannot answer because Siri stomps through us to grab Kay’s face, bringing his mouth to hers to kiss him deeply. “Live, hear?”

He offers a lopsided grin before lifting his gaze to Damin. Then, shrugging, he heads to Joseph and Ross.

Laughing, I drag Damin into position.

The shuttle lands.

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