Warlands of Song

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PART III: Chapter Thirty: Glen

Glen glared at Carter as he hobbled down the hallway with his crutches. His friend wore a terribly smug grin as he jogged backwards in front of him.

“Will you leave me alone?”

“This opportunity only comes once every few decades. I’m not going to waste it. So tell me, Commander Mykel, what it feels like as one of the scariest people alive to be unable to walk normally down a hallway?”

The man held out a rolled up piece of paper like a microphone. Glen licked his lips and leaned in to the makeshift prop.

“I don’t need my feet to kill you. Remember that and get away from me.”

His friend lowered the paper with an eye roll. Glen continued down the hall, not intending to speak any more.

“Where are you going, anyway?”

“To see Saige.”

“Whoa.”

Carter stopped jogging and instead moved closer, blocking his path.

“That’s not a good idea.”

“I need to see her, and she needs-”

“Space,” Carter finished for him.

He paused at the intense, nearly desperate look on Carter’s face. Carter continued.

“She is not in a good head space right now. She-I didn’t tell you while you were in the hospital, because I knew you would be stupid and want to see her, but she’s not doing well.”

“What does that mean?”

“To put it bluntly, because I know you won’t let this go, she’s on suicide watch. I no longer train with her. Eavan is the only person she’ll let anywhere near her without flipping out.”

His mind spun with the information he’d just received. She wanted to die. His goal had been to show her the game she was being manipulated in, but instead of clinging to him, she’d let go of all hope.

“She’s broken,” he murmured. “Like I knew she would be.”

“She’s jumpy. She trusts no one. She can’t handle a lot of noise. She has nightmares and screams so loud it sets off our alarms. You’ve never heard a scream until you hear hers. It’s crazy. And she won’t talk to anyone anymore. At the monthly bath, she made friends, but now she won’t even enter the courtyard. If anyone talks to her, she tries to pick fights. It’s like she wants someone to fight. Someone to hurt. Or someone to hurt her.”

“All the more reason why I need to see her.”

“She doesn’t want to see you. You’re probably the reason she barely leaves her room. The first time she set off the alarms with her screaming, everyone ended up at her room. But when we woke her up and everyone else left, she asked me if she’d killed you. When I told her you were alive and healing, her worry disappeared. But so did everything else.”

He’d let this happen. Her pain was his fault. No one else’s. And he had to fix it.

“Where is she now?”

“Out. With Eavan. I swear, that woman is weird, but she might be the only thing that can save Saige from dying. Whether of her hand, or someone else’s. The two of them have some sort of craz bonf. Almost like a parent, child relationship. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Not here anyway. She doesn’t smile at Eavan, or speak to her, but I’ve seen Eavan give her a hug, and she doesn’t freak out like if other touch her.”

“What do you mean, when you say she freaks out?”

“She starts fighting. And if she can’t get free, she’ll start shrieking. IT’s horrible.”

“PTSD.”

“Something. Something horrible. Something that isn’t going away.”

He needed to sit down. He looked around and tried to think of the closest, most secluded room he could think of. His own apartment was in an entirely different wing. Carter gestured for him to follow him down the hallway.

They ended up in a room he’d never been to before. It looked like a nurse’s office, but it held nothing but a bed and a chair. Her sat on the bed while Carter locked the door and sat in the chair. Carter looked at him and laughed. It was a bitter laugh. Not smug at all now.

“What did you expect? Did you really think everything would be all peaches and cream when you brought her here?”

“Are you saying I should have let her die on earth?”

“Is her life now much better than her death would have been on earth?”

The question stopped him cold.

“You brought her here so she’d have a better life, I assume. Or a better chance at life. Yet you knew she would be used the moment she joined. Imagine what this must feel like from her perspective. She felt like she finally belonged somewhere, but the man she thought cared about her stopped when she did the one thing she thought would help her make a difference. No big deal. She could fit in with the soldiers she’d joined and go on to make a difference in the world. But no, that’s wrong too. Because she’s being used by people who couldn’t care less if she lives or dies. So tell me, Glen, is this life any better than what she left behind? Do you even know what she left behind?”

He had nothing to say.

“We don’t know anything about this girl. All we know is what she is, and where she came from. And the traits she’s exhibited over time. But we don’t know her life’s story. Aren’t you the least bit interested? I am. Because something tells me that little girl has been through more life than we’ve lived in over a millennium.”

“I know you’re right, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. There’s nothing I can do about anything in my life.”

If I wasn’t scared you’d kill me, I’d love to knock some sense into you myself,” Carter spat, leaping from his chair. “How dare you sit there and act like your life is the worst and you can’t change it. While you’re sitting in front of someone who was dealt a hand of cards so horrible no one thought they would amount to anything. I’m living proof that no matter what you do with your life, or what you’re given, you can turn it around and make it work. But woe is you, I guess. I’m so sorry for you, Commander, that you’ve got it so rough.”

“That’s not what I meant-”

“Doesn’t matter what you meant. It’s what you said. And you’ve said it so much that I know you’re serious, too. Get off your high horse, your highness, and come back to the ground with the rest of us. It’s truly hard down here.”

His friend left then, leaving him alone with his thoughts and his crutches.

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