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.He helped the King into it, and all of them left the tent without another word.Steffen sat there, staring at Welson’s body.He didn’t know how long he sat without moving, without even a thought.Eventually he crouched and used his hands to shut Welson’s eyes.“I’m sorry,” he whispered.When he stood and looked at Alex’s brother dead with the rest of them, he rushed to the corner of the tent and retched.Wiping his mouth, he found his face was bloody.No matter where he put his palm, it came back red.He felt cuts along his cheeks, his forehead, even his lip and nose.Pain came soon after.Determined, he sat back on the stool and wrote.A few drops of his blood fell onto the scroll when he began, so he leaned away to make sure no other words would be smeared.He didn’t look up until he was done.He set paperweights on the scroll’s edges.Then he left the tent as he waited for the ink to dry.Steffen closed his eyes as he emerged.He let one eye squint open, just enough to confirm that there was no one else left alive.The clouds had parted by the time Steffen got back to the Fjallejon Mountains.The evening sun was warm and bright.It angered him.It should’ve been the darkest day in Ovira.“Hey! Hey!” a voice shouted down from the peak, barely intelligible.Steffen looked up to find the silhouettes of what he knew to be his allies—men and women of Kyrro who would stop any intruders from using the pathway to get into the territory.“We couldn’t see with the trees blocking our view,” one shouted.“What happened?”The thought of screaming it sent him to his knees.He grabbed onto the soil for balance.“Are you hurt?” they shouted.“Do you need help?”He shook his head, though he knew they couldn’t see it from their distance.“No,” he whispered, getting back to his feet.After a deep breath, he tried to utter the words.But nothing came out.“What happened?” he was asked more insistently.Steffen fought back more nausea and took a gulping breath.Then he leaned back and screamed, “The King is dead!”Chapter 29:ZETIZeti saw Keenu as a different Krepp during their walk back from Tenred.A lot had changed from the time they’d left.Their Human allies had proven themselves to be weak, as Keenu and Zeti had both predicted.They’d fled up into the Tenred castle, and all the Krepps that had come with Zeti and Keenu had been killed.Zeti knew she and Keenu would’ve died with them if it weren’t for Zoke, but she couldn’t find any gratitude toward her brother, not when he continued to fight with the Humans who inevitably would be crushed.She was too angry with him.Keenu never brought it up, but Zeti knew her brother had mentioned the prospect of Keenu being her seshar.It was the way he looked at her after the battle, as if they already were family.It made her feel weak and vulnerable.She wanted no one else to worry about besides Zoke, especially after what had happened to Grayol.His death still caused her great misery.She didn’t know if she was ready to lose another Krepp like him or her brother.She knew Keenu wouldn’t speak about being her seshar.It was the female’s duty to ask a male to be her mate after he’d demonstrated his interest, usually through gifts.When they arrived back at their encampment, worrying about whether Keenu might give her a gift was one of many things on her mind.She would be leaving her home only one more time—to march with the rest of the Krepps to Kyrro, where she would face her brother in battle once more.Only this time, he would be on the losing side.Zoke was going to die.She’d come to terms with it by now.She wouldn’t be the one to kill him, nor did she wish to see him suffer, but she’d done everything she could.There was nothing left in her power that could save him.She didn’t forget what he’d told her at Tenred, though.Heaviest on her mind was finding out what really happened when she was a baby.Did her mother truly enter the eppil garden to get herself killed? Zoke made it seem like there was more to it, and knowing Doe, that was certainly a possibility.After jumping over the wall, she and Keenu went straight to see Doe.She wondered what she could say to bring up her mother.The enormous Slugari was speaking with another Krepp, though Doe let Zeti and Keenu enter to listen.They were discussing the progress of the weapons for the Dajriks, something Zeti had been responsible for before leaving.“Their swords and shields are nearly done,” the Krepp said.“Do you wish to dress them in armor like the Humans have suggested?”“How long would it take?” Doe asked.“Thirty days, maybe forty.”“No,” Doe answered immediately.“But when you’re done with the Dajriks, work with Zeti to make sure every Krepp that can fight has a suitable weapon.” Doe pointed at Keenu with his black gnarled claw, his bulbous tail wiggling to propel him.“I already know Tenred was attacked and lost,” Doe said with surprisingly little anger.“How many Krepps did you bring back?”The other Krepp left quietly, knowing Doe was finished with him.“Only Zeti and I survived.”“How’s that possible?”Shame gripped Zeti.She couldn’t look at Doe as she waited for Keenu to answer.“Many of our Human allies fled while Zeti and I were busy elsewhere.We stayed somewhere safe when it was clear that the battle was lost and the other Krepps were already dead.”“So you hid?”Keenu puffed out his chest.“We fought and killed many.Zeti and I aren’t cowards.But we didn’t wish to throw our lives away when there’s much more fighting to do.”Doe grumbled as he stared at Keenu.When his beady black eyes shifted to Zeti, her guilt almost made her blurt out the truth about Zoke forcing her to drink a sleeping potion and Keenu staying at her side until she woke.“Did you see brother to you?” Doe asked.“No.He might’ve died for all I know.” Suddenly the fear was gone.She relished in her ability to lie, knowing there was no psychic.Doe broke his gaze with her, satisfied.“Haemon has been killed.”“He…what?” Did she hear that right?Keenu said nothing, his face frozen with an indifferent expression.“Vithos and some Human shot him with a poisoned arrow before he and the others made it back to the encampment.”“I…” Zeti didn’t understand, but she refrained from speaking, knowing it wasn’t her place.“May I ask questions?” Keenu said.“You may.”“How many were with Vithos and the Human?”“Those with Haemon reported seeing only two of them.”“So they at least killed Vithos and this Human,” Keenu said.“No.They shot Vithos, but he was still alive when he escaped.”“How?” Zeti blurted before she could stop herself.Doe showed her a scowl.“They each were riding beasts with four legs that were too fast for the Krepps to stop.They buried Haemon where he died, and they brought back the corpse of one of the beasts they killed for me to look at.I don’t know what it was.I don’t know where the Humans found two of them.Perhaps they’ve discovered a way into Sumar to the south and they came from there.”“Will these beasts help our enemies fight?” Keenu asked.“Yes, but we believe there were only two of the beasts—now one.The Krepps with Haemon had already attacked two of the Humans’ cities, their capital and what they call the Academy.” Doe stopped himself, his scowl worsening.He seemed to be speaking to himself when he continued.“But some Krepps reported seeing Vithos in the capital with a beast, while others said he was in the Academy without one [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]