SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 70 / city in flames
Posted April 7th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: AHHHHHH so exxcite
| 70 |
City in Flames
“We are doing this with or without your support.” Lianna said, standing at the head of the huge map table in the war room. The torches were burning low. Eileen groaned and moved the figurines that represented the very few men Ejiri Roku had away from Xanthe’s border.
“Even Devdan thinks its a bad idea,” Eileen said.
Devdan tilted his head. “I said it is risky.”
“Very risky were your exact words.”
“Yes, well…in this climate, I wouldn’t put it past King Chaka to lash out and declare war because of one little attack.”
Lianna harrumphed. “If that happens, what is one more war compared to what we already face?”
“One more war is huge,” Eileen said, “considering we have no army.”
“Your friends are supposed to be helping out with that,” Lianna said.
“Give them a break.” Eileen started pacing, her mind immediately going to Castor, wondering where he was. What he was doing. Why weren’t they back yet? “Ejiri originally gave us a month to complete that mission. Now they have less than a week before his deadline is up. Not that he cares much at this point.”
“His wife did die,” Devdan said.
“I don’t care,” Eileen said, trying her hardest to bite back her tongue. “Just because someone dies doesn’t mean you can abandon your entire country.”
Lianna’s face turned ashen, but she didn’t speak. The Queen Regent, Hand to the King. Eileen wondered what horrible thoughts about how she’d been thinking lately.
“I used to admire him,” Eileen said. “I would look up to him and think that he was an example of what a king should be…but he’s not…he’s weak…and a coward.”
“You’re angry,” Lianna said.
“Maybe,” Eileen popped her knuckles. “But that doesn’t make it not true.”
Lianna cleared her throat. “Back to the subject of war, I’m dispatching this group no matter what you say Eileen. Ejiri left me in charge and I am going to do what I think is best for the fate of the country.”
Eileen shook her head. “You can’t.”
Lianna sighed. “I have to.”
“Why?” Eileen asked.
“Because I already have.”
Eileen straightened up. “What?”
“They’re gone. We should be hearing of news of an attack on Xanthe any day now.”
Eileen started around the table, closing in on Lianna. “How could you go behind my back like that? Why would you? Was Ciara in on it? How about Devdan, did he know? And you just let me sit here and act like a fool—”
“Eileen, please,” Lianna said, holding out a hand to tell her to calm down.
That gesture made her fume even more.
“There’s something you don’t know.”
“Really?” Eileen laughed. “More?”
“Just before the group went out, I almost canceled the entire thing. I was a second away from telling them all to drop their armor and go home. To take care of their families before the war came here.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Ciara noticed my hesitation. Then she gave me an idea. It was absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it. But it changed everything. Gods, I hope it works.”
“What was the idea, Lianna?” Eileen asked, feeling the fuse on her patience slowly burning away.
“Ciara suggested that we dress the men up in Leon Hadar’s old colors, use his tiger sigil, so that when news spreads, it’s not that Kaede attacked Xanthe. It’s that—”
“Euanthe attacked Xanthe,” Eileen finished. “So that King Chaka will join the fight against Serilda.”
“Exactly,” Lianna said.
“That’s incredible. I would’ve gone along with that from the beginning. That doesn’t put us as a target at all, it just makes our chances a thousand times better of actually winning this war.”
Eileen laughed, relieved to finally hear good news.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you laugh,” Lianna remarked, with a slight grin on her face.
“I don’t remember the last time I have.”
Ciara walked with her hands deep in her pockets, feeling the trails of her long coat slide over the dirty, wet paths that wound through the garden. She blew out a cloud of hot air and watched it curl away, past the frozen hedges and dead flowers, and into the gray sky.
Mila, to Ciara’s surprise, hadn’t stopped talking since they’d began their walk through the garden.
Devdan had asked if she would watch Mila while they went in for a meeting. Ciara smiled and agreed, even though she felt like she should be in there, make decisions with the others. Though she knew what they were going to talk about. Her idea. It really had been brilliant. How had they none of them thought of that before? It was so painfully obvious.
It was after a few seconds of silence that Ciara realized Mila had asked her a question.
“Say that again,” Ciara said, holding her skirts and speeding up a little to catch up with Mila’s bouncy pace.
“What’s it like having a baby inside you?”
Ciara slowed down, and noticed Mila do the same, walking at her side, beaming up at her with those big brown eyes.
“It’s like…” She felt the little girl staring at her and it made her skin crawl. That was a child. A small child. That was what she had growing inside her. Suddenly she felt her stomach crawl inside itself and up her throat.
“Are you okay, Sarah?” Mila asked.
“Ciara,” she corrected. “And yes…” She inhaled the crisp winter air.
A chorus of blood-curdling screams rose into the day. From the city. Ciara jerked her head around, searching the tall hedges for anyone. She grabbed Mila’s arm and dragged her the way they’d came, back into the Wind Keep.
Devdan found them in the hall, wrapping his arms around Mila, holding her for a second. He pulled away.
“You two okay?” He asked.
Ciara nodded. “What’s going on?”
Devdan looked up at her, and she recognized the gleam in his eyes. Fear. True, raw fear.
Her still unsettled stomach climbed higher up her throat, dragging her heart with it.
“Where’s Abygale and Lawrence?” Eileen says, coming up to them with Lianna trailing her.
“I think they’re in their room,” Ciara said.
Eileen and Lianna exchanged a look. “Then they already know,” Lianna said.
Eileen nodded. “I’ll go get them. Where are we going to meet?”
“The war room,” Lianna said. “Go.”
Ciara frantically looked between the two. “What is it?”
When Lianna faced her, she had the same fear in her eyes as Devdan.
Eileen sprinted to Abygale and Lawrence’s room and didn’t bother knocking. She barged in, the door slamming against the wall, but she didn’t have to warn them. They were already up and alert. Their balcony doors were open, gauzy curtains drifting on a snowy wind, showing the massacre below. Streets flooding with Witches. Fire flowing like sewage up and down the ancient cobble. Every street going up in flames. By nightfall, Acantha would look like one giant bonfire.
Abygale had just finished lacing up her shirt and throwing a sheath of bows across her back.
Lawrence was fastening his bandoleer decked with knives over his shoulder. In his hand he had sword, which he slid into its sheath.
“Ready?” Eileen asked.
“Where are we going?” Abygale asked, following her into the hallway. They walked and talked, not wasting any time while the Witches burned their way to the castle.
“You’re going to the war room. It’s the door behind the throne. If Lianna, Ciara, Devdan, and Mila aren’t there, then somethings wrong and I need to know.”
Lawrence blinked. “Where are you going to be?”
Eileen sighed, glancing at the balcony at the end of the hall. “Doing what I have to.”
Abygale nodded, seemingly understanding. Lawrence still looked confused, but she dragged him away and left Eileen alone in the corridor.
She opened the balcony doors and stood as snowflakes and ash decorated her hair. The city below her destroyed as black hordes of fire-breathing bitches swarmed the streets.
Eileen took a deep, shaky breath. She’d once burned a man’s army sitting on a window sill.
She could protect the people she loved standing above a burning city.
She held out her hands and let everything she had flow out of her. She used the water around her, encased in a frozen prison, and sucked the moisture through her veins until the ice turned to dust and wind.
Tendrils of water flew out of her hands and began circling the Wind Keep, creating a liquid dome around it, stretching to encompass every towering spire. She felt bad for the wealthy class of people staying in the courtyard. They couldn’t fit in the shield she’d made, so they were stuck outside to burn alive.
Eileen couldn’t afford to feel bad. If she were going to survive, others would have to die.
She pushed as much strength as she could manage to lose into that shield, making it five feet deep of roaring, ruthless water.
Then she tightened her hands, tightened her grasp on the water, and the entire shield froze.
A dome made of ice around the Wind Keep. She could no longer see the city. But she could hear the violent screams, the roaring fires, and now the echoing booms as Witches threw their fire against her shield.
Eileen had no time to waste.
She ran to the war room.
Lianna and the others were waiting for her.
Everyone was there, even Safia Lawless, her massive sword dangling from her hip.
“What did you do?” Lawrence asked.
“I made a shield. It should buy us some time. But not a lot.”
“Holy shit, you made a shield? How big is it?”
Abygale hit him in the shoulder.
Mila trembled, but Safia tried to soothe her with kind words. Devdan watched the warrior with a close eye.
Lianna watched them all, Eileen noticed.
An ear-piercing crack seared the air outside. Eileen didn’t have to go look to know that the Witches had just blown through her ice shield.
“We’re out of time,” Eileen said.
Lianna closed her eyes and shook her head. Was she praying?
Should Eileen pray, too? To what gods? Saoirse?
But that little voice in the back of her mind told her what to do. Told her what she had to do in order to save them all.
“I can teleport,” Eileen said.
“What?” Lianna blinked.
“I can teleport myself and other people from one place and to another. Very short distances. And I’ve only done it a couple other times—”
Lianna didn’t hesitate to question her. “Let’s go. Mila and Devdan, Lawrence—”
Eileen grabbed the woman’s wrist. “Lianna, wait. People could get seriously hurt doing this.”
Lianna jerked her arm away. “I’d rather get hurt than be dead. I’d rather you all get hurt than have your lives on my hands, too.”
“Ciara goes last,” Eileen said.
“What?” Ciara intervened.
Eileen explained, “I don’t trust myself to teleport her first. She might get burned…or worse…the baby...”
“Fine, Mila, Devdan, you two first,” Liana instructed, as if it were her responsible for these people’s safety.
Eileen took a deep breath. Another.
“I don’t think I can do this,” she said.
Lianna stood, grabbed her arm, and looked her directly in the eye. “You have no other choice.”
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