The Shattered Gate: Book I

The Shattered Gate: Book I is a 3-part story. Books II and III are on the way eventually. I started this story to get back to my roots with fantasy, but a different landscape appeared, setting the story in Victorian-likes times.

"The Shattered Gate: Book I follows the lives of four brothers, second generation landless nobles. The brothers leave their home and set out to find a new life in the uncertain territory lands, where they find magic and fantastical creatures still exist in the background, not yet banished to antiquity as the new world tries to step forward from the old. The brothers must find their own Destiny in a foreign land on the brink of war where muskets, sabres and etiquette make an empire, while greater forces work to reshape the lands. As with all realities, their actions dictate the future that they cannot yet possibly see.

The Shattered Gate is a story of adventure, intrigue and courtly drama, where powerful, unseen forces emerge from centuries of obscurity to find a new hold in the world." - From the back cover.

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The following is the first 3 chapters of the book:


It watched. Through vision that spanned the known worlds and reached all the planes of existence, it watched. Alone in the black void of its caged home, the being was neither mortal nor god, demon nor angel, but simple lived, fulfilling its purpose by watching. For time measured beyond eternity, it traveled the paths of light and darkness with eyeless sight. It knew no other existence, though it had witnessed the passage of every living soul in all that was. It watched. And, when it found what it was looking for, it summoned…

Chapter 1

“Larem,” Wallice yelled over his shoulder. “Try and keep up.”

“I am,” Larem muttered under his breath as he pulled himself up the sharp incline of the hill. Stopping, the young man wiped the sweat from his brow and glared at his older brother. He had about enough of trudging through the woods. Wallice glanced back and shook his head.

“Come on, we’re almost at the top. We’ll have a rest then.”

“Alright, I’m coming.” Readjusting his awkward pack, he took a moment to breathe in the fragrant April air before he set his lean shoulders and started up the path again.

Larem was a distorted mirror of his three older brothers. The youngest of four, Larem was only seventeen. His youth was no match to the years of military service and training that had strengthened and prepared his siblings for this journey. His feet were constantly swollen and raw, his legs and back ached with exertion, and his shoulders were numb from the heavy weight he was forced to endure. What he would have given for a horse…

Wallice and Hanek were waiting for him at the top of the path, looking through a gap in the thick foliage. The young man panted his way to a halt beside them and took a few moments to compose himself before he was able to straighten and look about. He gasped just as they had. Their position on top of the hill afforded an unobstructed view of the valley below. Green, rolling hills, lush forest, and dotted farmland. It was rich and pure, untouched by the ravages of the conquest wars that waged so far away. They each took a long, deep breath. The air was filled with the freshness of spring. The chirping birds quieted in the light breeze, as if giving them a moment to take it all in. The afternoon sun glanced off lakes and ponds that were surrounded by teeming life. It was a free land. It was their destination.

The whinny of a horse broke their reverie. Larem fumbled for the pistol in his belt. Wallice and Hanek already had their muskets drawn and aimed at a man on horseback who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Larem saw a large man dressed in a russet cloak and matching uniform of studded leather armour. The uniform was worn and dusty from days, maybe even weeks in the wild, but was still worn with a sense of pride in something greater than it was. Even from horseback, he could tell the stranger was a large man, easily a match for Hanek’s height. His long hair was a rusty brown, the same colour as his short beard. He may not have been as thick as Hanek, but his strength was evident. He seemed a wild man, a wanderer maybe, and dangerous.

Wallice and Hanek did not see a wild man. They saw a warrior, and by the broad sabre at his back and pistols on his belt, a soldier as well. His eyes were piercing, a rich green that seemed to watch everything at once even as they rested on a single object. They saw his hands resting on the pistols, but he made no move to draw them. They also saw the distinct pendant over his heart. It was made of silver, shaped as a ten–pointed star over two crossed swords. He was without a doubt a ranked soldier.

“Who are you?” Wallice called out, his musket aimed. The man smiled at his question, a relaxed curiosity in his eyes.

“I was about to ask you the same question,” was his only response.

“We’re just passing by. We don’t want any trouble.”

“I believe that, to be certain,” the man laughed. Hanek set his jaw and glanced at his older brother. “But I can’t let you by, even with two muskets pointed my way.” Larem had still not drawn his pistol.

“How about two muskets and a bow?” Wallice smiled as the sound of a drawn bow made the man turn slightly and glance over his right shoulder. Krasan, the third oldest brother, lined the man up directly in his sights from his previously hidden position amongst the trees.

“He’s good,” the man nodded. “Almost as good as the men surrounding you.”

There were several purposeful snaps of twigs and rustles of bushes as almost a dozen men stepped into view. They were all dressed in similar fashion to the man on horseback, and spread their muskets over the four brothers. Larem fumbled with his pistol again. Hanek put his hand on the boy’s arm and shook his head. Wallice and Hanek slowly lowered their weapons, but didn’t drop them as Krasan released the tension on his bow with a grimace.

“Now,” the man said with a smile, “we can be more civil about this. Who are you?”

“My name’s Wallice,” Wallice announced. “These are my brothers Hanek, Krasan, and Larem, of the d’Hinton family.”

“Kriterans?” the man asked. Wallice only nodded as he stared at the man. The rider knew something of Kriteran etiquette. They were likely deposed nobles or landowners. He had seen his share of them, especially from Kritera. The eldest Kriteran boy always announced the others in age order. Like his own, the brothers’ weapons were military issue. Wallice set his jaw and waited. The man smiled again.

“Well, d’Hinton brothers, what are you doing trespassing off the main road?”

“We’ve offered the courtesy of our names,” Wallice snapped. “I request the same courtesy back, sir.”

“Edmund Redmane,” the man said without pause. “Captain Redmane of the Southern Mounted Lancers.”

“Captain?” Wallice looked the scruffy uniform up and down with poorly disguised contempt.

“Yes. You’ve crossed the border into the Barony of Renyork. And the baron is very insistent that all visitors use the main road.”

“We didn’t know there was a main road, captain.” Wallice’s voice changed pitch on the last word. “The Renyork Barony? We’re in the territories then?”

“You are.”

Wallice frowned. He couldn’t read the intentions in Edmund’s face. “Well, then, if you’ll point us to the main road, we’ll be on our way.” Edmund jutted his thumb to the west. “How many days to the nearest settlement?”

“Renyork, the capital, is four days down the road.”

The soldiers lowered their weapons when they brothers slowly moved together and prepared to head off, but watched them with the same vision that their captain possessed. There was mistrust in their eyes, a mistrust aimed at anything that was foreign to their world. Half turning, Wallice set his jaw and looked back at Edmund.

“You wouldn’t have a horn of powder you could spare to get us through to Renyork? We can pay.”

Edmund raised his eyebrows and slowly smiled again. It was a comfortable expression that rested naturally on his face. Wallice doubted his smile was always one of mirth; there was a temper of fire dancing behind those eyes. Edmund looked down at each of the young men before turning to the west. He would have been surprised if the brothers could have paid for their next meal.

“It’ll be dark soon. Why don’t you come back to camp with us for the night? We’re heading back to Renyork, ourselves, if you don’t mind an armed escort.” Wallice glanced at his brothers and nodded.

“Your offer is very generous. We accept.” ***

“No one in Pierton seemed willing to give away free information, even the time of day, so we headed northeast and have been walking ever since.” Wallice poked at the fire with a stick as the men gathered around listened to the tale. Larem was already curled in his bedroll, sound asleep. Wallice smiled and shook his head. The youngest brother was proud, far prouder than Wallice at times. It was Larem’s stubbornness that kept him in pace with the others on their long journey.

The camp of fifty men was gathered into what Wallice learned was their five patrol units. The border patrol lived most of their on-duty lives within their small units. Despite being of the same group, they seemed most comfortable with their patrol mates, even at a time of rest. They each had their own fire and personal area, but Wallice suspected that they were all listening from a distance.

“Pierton is a free city, and attracts the worst of humanity,” Edmund snorted with a nod. “It’s one of the hazards of a city without a strong ruler.”

“Whaya doing in the territories?” a man who was introduced as Lieutenant Barnek asked as he tore the meat from a chicken bone. He was a rough, weathered man, aged by nature and war beyond his years. An officer by rank, Wallice knew that no other company in a professional army, at least in Kritera, would have allowed a man such a Barnek as a leader. Officers were gentlemen, that was the way of things. “A couple of ya got the look of soldiers, but even officers would be hard pressed to afford some of yer gilds.” He stubbed a thumb at Wallice’s engraved pistol. “We’ve all served in the Kriteran armies, except Larem. He was too young, and then too attached to his schooling to join us. The pistol was my grandfather’s.” He set his shoulders to Barnek. “We’re second generation landless nobles, and we intend there to be no third.”

“Belligers,” Barnek mumbled, but kept his face straight. Wallice and Hanek both reddened. It was a slang against landless nobles they had heard all too frequently.

“So,” Edmund said, when he was certain Barnek wasn’t going to press, “you’ve come to the territories to claim land? There is very little this side of the Bay of Balsed left untouched by the barons.”

“It’s a better chance than we’d have left at home,” Hanek mumbled into his mug. “We’ve better chance gaining lands with your barons than with the empire wars.”

“I could arrest you for such words,” Edmund said quietly, looking into the fire. The brothers tensed and glanced for their weapons. Edmund looked up and laughed out loud at their stressed faces. “But I think an army of four is little cause for alarm! I like you boys. Do you have credentials?”

Wallice nodded. “We have our family seal, to make a land claim. And we have our military papers from the Kriteran army. I was a sergeant, and my brothers’ corporals. It was the highest I could get without land. Larem never served, but he trained at school. The smartest of us all, I would say.”

Edmund looked over at the sleeping boy and nodded. He had seen many young men enter the Lavanon lands in search of a new start, even a few belligers. None of them ever amounted to more than soldiers or minor merchants, at least the ones he had seen. He wasn’t lying though. He liked the brothers in the short time they had been together. He liked their spirit and loyalty. They may have been landless, but they seemed to deserve the noble title more than most landowners he had known.

“The title will mean nothing here. I wouldn’t even mention it to others. And the military papers will mean little more, but it’s a start. I can put in a word for you when we reach Renyork. The baron is always looking for good soldiers.”

Wallice nodded. “We’re in your debt, Captain Redmane.”

“Please,” he raised up his hands, “until you’re actually part of the army, my name’s Edmund. Now, get some sleep, we head out at dawn.”

Chapter 2

“City Guard?” Hanek demanded. Wallice set his jaw. Outside the barracks was not where he wanted to do this.

“It’s the best Edmund could do,” Wallice sighed. “We’re fortunate that he spoke for us at all.”

“But City Guard? We’re not even of rank. In Kritera our name alone made us corporals.”

“We’re not in Kritera!” Wallice snapped and moved in front of Hanek. At six feet tall, Wallice was not a small man, but Hanek still looked down at his older brother. Larem and Krasan watched the familiar scene from the side. It had been many years since Wallice had bested Hanek in wrestling or fisticuffs, but the sudden rage that stormed onto Wallice’s face made the younger brother step back.

“Our name means nothing here. Nothing. We’re landless nobles, bloody belligers, and if we tried to push that fact we’d be the laughing stock of the entire city!” He turned and walked a few paces, trying to bury the anger. A few loitering guards turned their way and Wallice moved his brothers to the side of the building and off the street.

“Listen, we have to start somewhere. We’re almost out of money. We have nowhere to stay. This is our best chance. With luck, our experience will move us through the ranks. Edmund said that the baron is generous to people who do well. Ten years ago, Edmund was less than us. He was just a commoner drifting around. And now he’s a captain. We’re nobles. We’ll be officers in no time.”

Hanek kicked the ground and looked over at his older brother. “They have a position for all of us? Even Larem?” Larem scowled and was about to speak when Wallice silenced him with his raised hand.

“Even Larem. We’re on city patrol, and if not for Edmund, we’d have night watch. So there’s something to be thankful for.” Hanek rolled his eyes.

“What are the uniforms like?” Krasan asked. Both Wallice and Hanek could not help but smirk while Krasan looked gloomily to the ground. Born to live in the wilderness, not the city, it had been Krasan’s luck to begin his formal military career as a corporal of a city watch. The uniform consisted of an unruly metal breastplate and helmet. It chafed him for weeks before he was reassigned to a country patrol.

“Don’t worry,” Wallice smiled. “You’ll like them.”

Wallice led them back down the street towards the barracks’ front door. It was a large, pristine building. With smooth walls, high, barred windows, and offices separate from the main room, it was designed to house soldiers and to act as a point of defence against invaders and peasant uprisings alike. The inside was sparse with cots and footlockers, and a walled area to one side, which housed the baths and lavatories. A handful of men loitered or napped on their cots, or talked and gambled quietly amongst themselves. Only curtains sectioned off the three shifts of day, evening and night, and the brothers could hear stirring beyond one of the sections that was closed off by a front curtain as the night shift slept. Though the building itself was well kept, the men inside were a different matter. The air was pungent with the reek of dirt and sweat and unwashed bodies.

Wallice and Hanek were soldiers, but their rank in Kritera afforded them private rooms and nice beds when in service. To them, as they wrinkled their noses, the room seemed hardly fit for serfs.

Used to sleeping under the stars, Krasan’s only thought of the conditions was the closed walls.

Larem sighed. The youngest and most schooled, Larem had rarely been beyond his family estate or school campus. Both were lavish with the fineries of nobility. He looked over the room with wide–eyed disbelief. Wallice glanced at his youngest brother and shook his head. It was a harsh lesson, but would be only one of many in the coming months.

“Where would we find Sergeant Mallok?” Wallice asked a guard, grabbing the man’s arm as he walked passed. The guard raised his eyebrows and looked down at Wallice’s hand. With a tug, he pulled himself free and pointed to where three men stood talking. Wallice nodded and put a hand on Hanek’s chest to keep him still. Wallice had seen Hanek brutally punish more than one commoner for not showing them proper respect. Pride was a luxury for the more fortunate. “Come on,” he said to his brothers and led the way.

“Sergeant Mallok?” Wallice asked the older man with the pendant of a ten–pointed star on his chest. The man glanced at the four brothers and gestured the two guards away with a wave of his hand. They saluted sharply and hurried away.

“That’s me,” he grunted. He was easily in his forties, with numerous scars on his face and some missing teeth. But he stood straight as a board and stared down the men with his steel eyes. “You got business in these barracks, boys?” He fingered the pistol in his belt.

“Yes, sir,” Wallice said sharply. He pulled papers out of his tunic and handed them to the sergeant. “We’re reporting for duty, sir.” Mallok snatched the papers out of Wallice’s hand and glanced at them. It took him only a minute to read through the recruiting papers.

“Captain Redmane recommended you for service?” he asked, surprised and clearly impressed.

“Yes, sir,” Wallice said with a smile.

“Wipe that smile off your face,” Mallok bellowed. “I don’t give damn who recommended you. Or what training and service you’ve had. You’re in my service now.” He glanced over at the brother’s clothing and gear. “Those four bunks are yours. Stow your weapons and clothes and report to Private Banson. He’ll gear you up proper. Report to me on the practice field in one hour!” ***

Larem stood in a line with his brothers, trying his best to mimic their rigid stances. Their uniforms were of wool that sweltered in the sun. They were grey, matching the other uniforms they had seen on the city watch. The trousers were plain and belted, and their petty coats buttoned with one row of buttons to the neckline, hiding the plain, white shirts beneath. The black, stovepipe shako hat felt awkward and heavy on Larem’s head despite the chinstrap that held it securely in place. The utility belt strapped over his coat felt worse than the hat. Lined with pouches for ammunition and personal belongings, the leather was thick and heavy. It also supported a knife and newly issued sabre.

In his hand, the musket that he tried his best to hold vertical, felt all wrong. He was trained in its use, but always felt it clumsy and awkward. The pistol was his firearm, but as the private had roughly explained, no one less than a corporal carried a sidearm, and only officers carried non–issued ones. He only hoped that the private was right about the lack of stealing among the militia as he thought in dismay of the few personal belongings in his locker.

The four stood at rigid attention on the open field as Sergeant Mallok paced up and down in front of them. His uniform was similar to their own, but with two lines of buttons up the front, and a thick, red stripe between the button columns. He fingered the crop in his hand while Private Banson and their commanding corporal, Benis Drollner, watched from the side.

“We may be town watch,” Mallock snarled, “but we are still apart of this army. You are now a part of the First Dragoon City Guard of the Renyork Regiment. General Stehora demands the best, and I demand the best. I have one hundred soldiers under my shift, and every one of them will be the best soldier he can be. You will salute every man with a rank, and you address him as ‘sir’. You will do as you are told, when you are told to do it. You will police this city in times of peace, and march against our enemies in times of war. You will be drilled every day for two hours, and you will train on musket and sabre every day for one hour each. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” the four brothers said, with no unison or enthusiasm.

“I said is that clear!”

“Yes, sir!” they cried out.

“Private Banson?”

“Yes, sir,” the private yelled as he ran to the sergeant’s side.

“You will test these men’s skill with musket and sabre for the remainder of the afternoon. I have loaned them to evening shift. Corporal Drollner has made the arrangements. They will walk your route tonight, learn it, and join your company for day shift tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Private Banson said. “Thank you, sir.” He saluted, and the brothers quickly followed suit as the sergeant marched away with the corporal at his side.

The private looked over the four men before him and spat on the ground. “Soldiers,” he ordered. “Fall in. Your asses belong to me now.”

For three hours, the brothers drilled in the musket before being allowed a brief break to eat and rest. Larem received the brunt of the private’s bashing as his skill with the musket passed as little more than adequate. More than once Wallice bit his lip and forced his brothers to do the same. The private was a pitiful man. Not even brazen enough to be a true bully, he hid behind his rank as he degraded their skills. He moved from man to man, repositioning a weapon, straightening a back, changing a loading style, and fixing uniforms.

“On your feet,” the private called out. He charged towards Larem as the young man struggled up, exhausted. “Do you use a sword any better than a gun, soldier?”

“Yes, sir,” Larem said with a strange smile that made the private frown.

“Well, let’s see about that.”

The private stepped back and drew his sabre. Larem looked over at his brothers and handed his musket to Krasan who stood closest. Krasan smiled as well and nodded. Drawing his sabre, Larem swiped it in the air a few times, testing the weight of the new weapon and the flexibility of his heavy clothes. It was a plain weapon, but well-balanced and deadly sharp.

“It stays on,” the private snapped when Larem reached for the strap on his hat. Larem frowned but nodded.

Banson eagerly took a duelling stance and faced his opponent. Larem swiped at the air a few more times and mirrored the private’s pose.

“Begin,” Banson shouted and lunged forward. Caught off guard by the sudden attack, Larem stumbled back in the awkward uniform and almost lost his footing. Swiping out with his sword, he parried the private’s lunge and scrambled to regain his balance.

The brothers began cheering their youngest sibling on, their hoots attracting the attention of loitering soldiers. Soon a dozen off–duty soldiers were standing about.

Backing out of range, Larem cursed under his breath as his shako tipped forward over his eyes, and cut his sabre through the air a couple more times. Adjusting on the move, he turned back to the private and readied himself as his opponent lunged again. This time, the young man was ready and countered the heavy thrust. Swiping the blade aside, he advanced with a ferocious series of lunges and cuts that drove the private back several steps as he desperately fought off the skilled attack.

Larem smiled. He was duelling champion two years in a row at school, and his more experienced brothers could no longer best him in a fair fight. Using his momentum to his full advantage, Larem feigned a thrust, and rolled his blade over Banson’s when the private attempted to parry. The private’s sword flew from his grasp and skittered into the dirt. Larem jerked his sabre, holding it to Banson’s throat. His brothers clapped and cheered as Larem stared into the private’s eyes. Banson stood frozen, and Larem could see him shaking as he slowly pulled his sword away. Glancing from Larem to the other brothers, Banson quickly composed himself, ignoring the cheering soldiers. Straightening his uniform, he glared at the off–duty until the last of them had slowly walked away.

“Fall in,” he yelled. The brothers straightened in a line, and Krasan handed his younger brother his musket as Larem quickly joined them. “That will be enough for today. Report to the evening shift at 4:00. I will see you in the morning.” He spat the last part. The brothers saluted and tried not to laugh as the private retrieved his sword and stormed away.

Chapter 3

Ledarian Valinar was a simple man. He was by no means unintelligent or uninformed. In most circles of Renyork, and many parts of the territories for that matter, he was considered a very dangerous man and a very desired ally. For the very few that actually knew him intimately enough to even know his first name, he was an enigma. Kind and gentle to those about him, there was a hint of power in his eyes that demanded respect, or least fearful awe. He cared not for gold or authority, or the gentle pleasures of the world. He took his gratification in study, a good herbal tea, and in seeing the people of the barony prosper. As Bishop of the Grand Cathedral of Renyork, Ledarian was seldom in a position to live the simple life he desired.

The Bishop was a middle–aged man, nearing his fifty–fifth year in the world of Palotheus. His shortly cropped hair was grey beyond his years, as were the lines that crossed his forehead and face. Not a particularly large or fit man, the heavy robes of his position were a daily burden. He thought they made his head seem too small for such a thin body. There was not one priest or acolyte in his service who would have ever agreed with that. No, not a single man that ever looked into those eyes would have been able to muster the courage to say anything about him that Ledarian didn’t want them to say.

It was late evening, after the general mass. As Bishop, he was obligated to personally present the sermon. It was something he loved and loathed about his position. A follower and devout of the god p’Flar, it was often a painful task to speak of all the gods of Palotheus as equals. Even after so many years, he had to grimace as he spoke of the glory of They, and not just the glory of Him. The daily sermon left the Bishop feeling stretched thin. The duties of his position allowed so very little time to pursue his passions, both of his god and of the world.

Ledarian made his way out a cleverly constructed side door that opened behind one of the massive columns that adorned the front wall of the Grand Cathedral. It was a small door that led out of an insignificant side hall that was rarely used except by the Bishop and his immediate staff. He was just far enough away from the main entrance to go unnoticed when it occasionally opened on an evening such as this.

The Grand Cathedral was the only church in Renyork, and one of the newest significant landmarks in the city. A church in Renyork had never withstood an invasion before Madar’s, and the new baron had declared the freshly constructed church to remain standing. The territories worked on a unique principle from the majority Palotheus. Peopled by immigrants of many different lands and cultures, it was dangerous to promote only one god. And history had shown that supporting different temples in the same city was an invitation for trouble. The final solution was to build one temple to the gods of lightness and good to be worshipped by all. It was a fine solution, though the end result was that invaders often destroyed the enemies’ temples. The belief was that since they worshipped the same gods, it would give them the advantage if their temples at home stood and were used while their enemies’ temples burned. The theory seemed flawed, but was a long held custom in the free lands that was still practiced with zeal.

Ledarian took a deep breath of the cool air and watched as the last of the sun’s rays disappeared into oblivion. He watched as a troop of soldiers approached from up the street. Right on time, as usual. If he had come out ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later, he would have missed them and could have enjoyed a quiet moment. Bishop Valinar did not have the luxury of ten minutes.

He was about to turn away and slip back inside before one of a score of people came looking for him when his eyes squinted and his brows furrowed. Four too many. The patrol that marched down this street every evening was only four strong. This night, it was twice that. Ledarian’s brows furrowed again. He was not a man that easily accepted change and disorder. He feared for a moment that he would spend the night in contemplation of this unnatural number when he spied another figure loitering on the steps some feet away.

“A lovely evening,” Ledarian said as he moved forward. “Wouldn’t you say, sergeant?”

Sergeant Mallok almost fell forward off of the steps. The approaching man did not overly startle him; he had heard several steps before the man spoke. He was, however, completely taken aback by the soft, commanding voice that belonged to the Bishop. After fumbling with his balance, he quickly turned and bowed humbly to the man whose voice could never be mistaken.

“Eminence,” he blurted, keeping his head lowered. Mallok finally realized that the Bishop was waiting for an answer. “I–yes. A lovely evening.” Ledarian half smiled. It never failed to dumbfound him how his presence affected the masses, even as he knew he should not be so surprised. He recognized the sergeant from a wedding. His mind flipped frantically as he watched the patrol approach.

“This isn’t your shift, Sergeant Mallok?” he spoke matter–of–factually as the name came to him. “Covering for someone?”

“No, Eminence,” Mallok said. Alarmed that the Bishop knew his name and position, he looked up into the man’s eyes. Mallok immediately wished he had not. He saw in those eyes the same things that every man saw when they dared to meet that gaze: sadness and joy, resolution and doubt, confidence and fear. Every absolute that a man could feel seemed somehow magnified in the eyes of the man of the gods.

“I have new recruits, Eminence,” he managed to continue. “Just wanted to take a look before they started tomorrow.”

“A wise course of action, sergeant,” Ledarian nodded as he glanced at the men that passed by. He gasped as he looked into the faces of the d’Hinton brothers. He did not recognize them, not even a little. But there was something about them… something so very familiar that his head throbbed not being able to remember. He stared at them as they passed.

The audible gasp was loud enough to catch Mallok’s ear and he followed Ledarian’s gaze. “Eminence?” Ledarian shook his head and forcefully turned his gaze.

“These new recruits, men of p’Flar are they?”

“Kriteran, Eminence. I think.”

“Asterius,” he murmured as if it did not matter and slowly turned away. “Good evening, Sergeant Mallok.”

“Eminence,” Mallok responded with a bow he would not see. Mallok watched the Bishop walk away, unaware that the man was about to cancel everything for the remainder of the evening as he prayed to p’Flar for answers.

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