Chapter Thirty-Three

on June 18, 2010 in Evermist

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Thirty-Three

The Magistrate walked beside Shen, Captain of Deisarch Dain.  Valenz trailed them like a shadow as they stepped into the room acting as a triage for all the casualties.  The attack had been coordinated and deadly and completely unexpected.  The men of the Militia had been slaughtered.

“I’ve lost nearly half my forces,” Shen continued.  He’d been talking for so long the Magistrate wondered how his voice hadn’t gone hoarse.  “And another half lie wounded or dying.  I know that the Engineers are helping, but…”

Devastating, the Magistrate thought, trying to ignore what the Captain was trying very hard not to say.  In truth, he couldn’t blame the Captain his distrust of the miserable little creatures.  If he had his way, they would be rid of them.  Of course, everything would fall apart inside of a year.  He stared at a dark skinned man sitting on the floor, trying to hold his intestines inside his stomach.

“Six months,” he muttered, not really seeing the man.

“My Lord?” asked the Captain.  The Magistrate jumped as if goosed.

“What?  Oh.  Nothing.  Errant thought,” he said dismissively.  “Let it melt from your mind.”

“Yes.  I see,” said the Captain.  Clearly he didn’t.  “What am I to do about the women, my Lord?  Their keep was completely destroyed in the attack and now I have…”  The Magistrate stopped listening.  A young man had caught his eye.  He lay on a cot, one of the few able to do so.  He was surrounded by other young men, almost as if they’d formed a wall of their own to protect him.

As the Magistrate drew near, sad, sunken eyes looked up at him from those young men.  In the cot, shallow breathing barely stirred the blankets.  One of the young men tried to stir, he had olive skin darkened from prolonged exposure to the sun.  The Magistrate placed him from the south and waved him to remain seated, it looked as if his arm might be broken.

“Can you help him?” the young man asked.  “My Lord?” he added a second later as his Captain cleared his throat.  The Magistrate waved it off, concentrating on the boy on the cot.  He was keenly aware of Valenz breathing loudly behind him.  Valenz always breathed loudly.  He meant to tell him that it was an annoying habit but never quite got around to it.

“What is his name?” he found himself asking instead.

“Eli,” answered the olive skinned man.

“He saved us all,” said another voice.  The Magistrate turned sharply, pinning the man under his gaze.  This one was older, wisps of gray already at his temples.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“This is Eli, scout and marksman,” Jaycn said.  “He shot the Rider.”

The Magistrate’s ears perked up and he shot a quick look to Valenz to keep him silent.  “Rider?” he asked.  “What Rider?”

“I didn’t see him,” Jaycn continued.  “Not at first.  But Eli did.  When we were losing, when the trees and the cats were killing us all, he just stopped.  Stopped shooting, stopped fighting and simply sighted down his rifle.  A tree took that moment to break my arm,” Jaycn said.  “When I got back to my feet, Eli still sat there, like stone, like a piece of the wall – unmoving.  That’s when I saw the Rider.  I looked where he sighted down his rifle, and for just a moment, I saw it – a rider on one of the Great Cats.  Eli fired and the Rider staggered and the Trees screamed and the Cats ran.”

“All the coordinated attacks ceased at that same moment, near as we can tell…” Shen said in a quiet voice.  The Magistrate nodded again, looking down at the boy.  He looked very pale.

“They say he won’t live through the day,” Jaycn added.  “The Engineers.  They say there are others who can be saved quicker, easier, so they let him sit here and die.  It isn’t right.  He deserves better.”

“Yes,” the Magistrate cleared his throat.  “Yes he does.”  He looked around the room at all the wounded.  What would this cost him, he wondered?   Would it be worth it?  Valenz appeared at his elbow as if to answer the question for him.  The Magistrate smiled, really more of a grimace.  “Bring me an Engineer,” he said roughly.  “This boy is next.”

A cheer went up from the men around him, startling him.  Smiles had broken out on faces that just a moment ago were full of pain.  Who are you, he thought as he watched the boy?

What are you?

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