Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Thirty-Eight

“This isn’t exactly what I hoped my first visit to Estria would be like,” Zanthys said.

Draegon couldn’t agree with him more, although he had been to Estria before, multiple times. The Gilded City was just on the other side of the hill they were on. They could see the shining walls– and the blackness around it that unsettled them all greatly– but he couldn’t even begin trying to figure out how to get into the city to talk to Jaidyn. The whole city was swarming with Keidenelle, and they even had numerous camps outside the golden walls.

Wagons were scattered everywhere, and there were people tied in lines to them–prisoners, most likely. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. The savages milled about between wagons, some occasionally looking at the nothingness that brought the horizon closer all around them. Looking behind him, Draegon swallowed at the blackness far off behind them. If they had stayed a few more days in Morena… what had become of the city?

He rummaged in his pack for a spyglass, hoping against all odds that he might see some way to get in through the mass of Keidenelle. Before he could even raise the glass to his eye, he heard an uproar from the crowd below him.

A wagon was racing toward them, coming up the road from almost the same direction he and his companions had. A number of Keidenelle and bound prisoners were sprinting next to the wagon, all racing ahead of the blackness that crept gradually towards them all. When it finally reached the edge of the gathered masses, the wagon slowed to a stop. He lifted the glass to his eye then.

He supposed the two big Keidenelle men were leaders of some sort. They were talking animatedly, and one of them began shouting at the other gathered people. They parted, a path opening up to allow the wagon to reach the city gate. The line of prisoners began moving.

Draegon’s heart leapt into his throat. Weslyn was among the prisoners, her wrists bound together and a rope around her neck joining her to the line of other prisoners. Every fiber of him screamed to go and rescue her, but his head cried against it. He would stand no chance of getting in and getting her out in that crowd. Watch and wait for a chance, he told himself. He forced himself to rip his looking glass from her and scanned the prisoner line slowly, searching for Roark. He found the soldier tied separately, at the driver’s seat of the wagon, right behind the horses. He was being kept separate from the other prisoners. He looked dismal, beaten. His hands were covered with some reddish-brown filth. Dried blood? He didn’t have to check to know he didn’t have Sonsedhor on him. The Keidenelle would have disarmed all their prisoners.

The wagon passed into the city. Still peering through the spyglass, he glanced over the interior of the city. The Keidenelle filled the streets. The great ruler’s palace was close enough that he could make out some detail, even at this distance. All the balconies of the great building were teeming with savages, too.

“I’ll wager anything that’s where Jaidyn is,” he said once Kemeny and Zanthys had taken looks into the city. He returned the spyglass to his own eye and watched as the wagon Roark and Weslyn had come with stopped outside the palace. Roark was released from the wagon, and the lead of the prisoner line untied and led into the palace, the whole line– including his Weslyn– trailing after. A Keidenelle woman rummaged in the wagon and came out with a sheathed sword Draegon was fairly certain was Sonsedhor. She followed after the prisoners.

He lowered the spyglass and thought deeply. He began to feel nubm when he realized what he was considering. But it might have been the only way to save Weslyn and Roark.

“Do you think they all know each other?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Kemeny replied. “But there are a lot of them. Thousands. They can’t know everyone, can they? Why?”

“Because…… I think I might know how to get in and save them. But… do you trust me?”

Zanthys opened his mouth, no doubt to respond negatively, but Draegon cut him off. “Zan, you don’t have a choice. You’re to blame for a lot of this as it is; you do what I say. But you, Kemeny, do you trust me?”

After a moment, she nodded.

Draegon was glad his hair had returned to its normal color.

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