Silas and Kael ran through the twisting labyrinth of back alleys, heading for Castle Matisse. Silas felt absolutely sick; it seemed like everyone around him was dying. Eza and Olrick had disappeared after the Giskens took the outer wall, most of the men in the small unit they’d put him in charge of were dead, he’d just learned that the Giskens had run Mathis through with a sword while he was trying to evacuate people from a field hospital; the way things seemed to be going in the city, it was damned lucky that he and Kael were still alive, if a little cut up.
“What are the odds that they’ve already gotten to the castle?” Kael asked as they ran through one of the main city squares. The Giskens had reached that part of the city, judging by the fires in the buildings and the various personal belongings that littered the streets. Thank the gods, no enemy soldiers ran out of the buildings to kill them.
“Very good,” Silas said as they entered another back alley. Too good. He’d told himself a million times over on the run to the castle that, even if they’d managed to take over the castle, they would keep Marion alive; they’d kept every other captured ruler alive, so why not her?
Then again, if she’d actually succeeded in her crazy plan to kill Raul, they probably wouldn’t feel too keen on doing that.
Finally, they reached the castle. From the second they arrived, it was apparent that the Giskens had, in fact, overrun it: the ground in front of the castle gate was littered with the bodies of the men assigned to guard it, with only a couple Gisken ones among them. One of the bodies caught Silas’ eye: it was a young man, wearing the gray cloak of the Watch.
Silas began to run faster. The Watchman was still moving.
He knelt down beside him and rolled him onto his back, making him groan. It took him a few seconds to realize who it was because of how cut up he was.
“They have Marion,” Olrick said through clenched teeth.
Silas gently picked him up. “Don’t worry about that, right now. We need to get you to a doctor.” He turned around and began wading back through the bodies, being careful not to step on any of them.
“I don’t suppose you know of a place that the Giskens haven’t sacked, do you?” Silas asked.
“There’s a Gisken cathedral a little ways south of here,” Kael said. “They tend to avoid destroying their own holy sites when they invade places; it brings bad luck.”
“Do they have some sort of doctor there?” Silas asked.
“They would have to,” Kael said. “Gisken cathedrals are more like your monasteries; they’re pretty self sufficient, and that means their own medical staff.”
“Lead the way, kid.” The two of them began to head for the cathedral.
Elise sat in front of the fireplace, a bowl of soup in her hand. She didn’t know how long she’d lain on the couch, paralyzed, but after awhile, she’d managed to gather the strength to get up and walk around. She’d discovered that the cathedral was more like a monastery; the monks and the few novices that were there lived at the cathedral, grew their own food, made their own bread, and even had their own doctors. It was like a small village within the biggest city Elise had ever been in.
There was a loud knock at the door.
Curious, Elise set down her soup and peeked out of the room at the front door. When the oraniomancer novice opened the door, she saw that Silas, carrying a wounded Olrick, and Kael were in the doorway.
“We need asylum and a doctor,” Silas said as he made his way through the door. The novice nodded as he shut the door.
“Y-yes, sir,” he said as Elise ran towards them. “Stay here; I’ll go get the abbot.” The novice ran down the hallway, where the abbot was eating dinner.
“What happened?” Elise asked. They sat down on the floor of the cathedral, with Olrick lying down in the middle of them. It looked like they’d tried to stop his bleeding as much as they could, but it still trickled out of a few of a few of his wounds.
“We’re getting slaughtered out there,” Silas said bitterly. “From the sounds of it, Admiral Kylar is head of the country right now.”
Elise could feel the blood drain from her face. “So they’ve killed Polain and Marion?”
“Marion’s been captured and Polain’s been run through,” Kael said. “Raul’s dead, too, which makes that Abunaki bastard Blair general of the Gisken forces.”
Elise looked down at her feet, terrified. How could all of this happen? To think, that she’d been in Thaos, getting ale to quarry workers two months ago. It was amazing how fast things had gone.
“Wh-who else is dead?” she asked. Something inside her told her that she didn’t want to know the answer to that.
“Mathis is gone,” Silas said quietly. “Eza seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet, so as far as we know, the bastards got her, too.”
Elise could feel a lump forming in her throat, but no tears came to her eyes. She just felt… numb. So many people were dead, just because of one man’s ambition. Milo, Papa, Polain, Mathis, maybe Eza, Olrick if his condition went any farther south; it was a lot to take in.
“That isn’t the only thing,” Silas said. “Marion signed a surrender a few minutes ago.”
Elise felt like she’d been punched in the gut. All the death and pain from the past few months had been in vain.
Caitha had fallen.
END OF BOOK ONE
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