The Red Hand Part 27
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Seven Darkness Ascending
The idea that Tenth is one of these secret guardians has my mind racing. I’m too excited by this to even try and sleep. So, I volunteer to be on guard duty after the others go to bed. Fourteenth has taken first watch with me. He’s inside watching our two groups of “guests.” The miners have no love for the ones who held them here. I’m sure that extends to the crew of the supply wagon as well. Some of them have been eyeing the crew since we brought them up. I can’t imagine the hatred they must feel after the way they where treated down there. There’s a chance either group might try something like attacking us. But I doubt they’d be that foolish, since we greatly outnumber them.
I kick up some dirt as I walk across the courtyard. I need a little fresh air. Those miners stink so bad. The smell was giving me a fierce headache. Fourteenth reassured me he had it under control. The crew and the miners were both asleep.
Tenth wasn’t able to give me all the details about the group tonight. She was worried someone might overhear. But she promised to fill me in on the rest soon. The idea of this group and the sight of those miners all helping each other, it’s given me an idea. Our enemy, The Imperium are a few of the races gathered together. We need a similar united front. These guardians are a start. But how many of them are there? We need another group, a larger force. The Imperium has the Roka, Troika and the Sildun. All apparently working together. To what end? Controlling the planet is most likely their goal. Mr. White…Hagen, I doubt he’d be content just controlling a planet. Why are they helping him? That tower is the answer. I’m sure of that. Just like I’m sure it involves The Red Hand.
A scream cuts through the still night. There’s only one place it could have come from. I sprint to the stone building I was in a few minutes ago. The building I should have still been in. I push open the door. Scared of what I might find.
Fourteenth stands, sword drawn. Behind him are Nasr and the bridge crew. Some of them bloody and beaten. The miners are split into two groups. The larger group is advancing on Fourteenth. Leading them is the big blue guy. The other smaller group hangs back. They look at me as I enter, dread on their faces.
“What the hell?” I shout.
“Justice!” The big guy screams!
“Don’t give me that justice crap!” I say. My insides twist tight. “This is revenge.”
A short green skinned lizard says. “We tried to talk them out of it.”
The miners aren’t holding any weapons. Blood drips from their clawed hands.
“We’ve never hurt you!” One of the bridge crew says.
“But you knew! Let it happen,” one of the miners shouts.
“What could we do? We’re not fighters,” another crew member answers.
The big glares at the cowering crew. “You could have done something.”
Fourteenth holds his sword inches away from the big guys head. “Enough. You’ve spilled blood. Did that not quench your thirst?”
“For them to suffer as we did. It can never be enough!”
“How many of you will die by my blade before you get to them?”
“It’ll make no difference. There are more of us. Better to die trying.”
The big guy puts Fourteenth’s blade to his forehead. “You cut me down and the others will be on you before you can do anything.”
“Get the others!” Fourteenth shouts to me.
My head starts to unravel as I think about what to do. Get the others. Or stay here. If I leave they could kill Fourteenth before help arrives. Stay and we both may well die.
“You kill him and the others will slaughter all of you.” I say.
“Then leave.” Big blue says, the blade pressed to his head. “This is not your fight. Why defend them?”
“Because I was ordered too.” Fourteenth answers. If he’s scared, it doesn’t show.
“And you Serena of ice and snow? Why defend them? This is not your world, your fight?”
“You know people keep telling me that. No, this isn’t my world. But until I can get home…I’m stuck here along with everybody else. So, I’d kind of like it if everybody didn’t fucking kill each other off. Because I don’t want to have to clean up the damn mess alone!”
He lets out a bellowing laugh. “You are an amusing creature.” He backs away from the sword. “Stand down. They live for another day.”
There’s a murmur among the miners and then they back off reluctantly. The big guy has a lot of sway with them. What did he do to get them to follow him?
“If you want them to live, I advise you find other quarters for them,” Big blue says. “Can’t promise one of us might not try to slit their throats in the night.”
I find a small supply shed for Nasr and the others to bed down for the night. Not great accommodations, but all things considered it’s better than them dying. Soon after our relief comes to take over guard duty. After explaining what happened, I find a corner to curl up in and go to sleep. The next thing I know its morning. I must have been more tired than I knew.
Tenth informs me that two of the beast riders have left. They set out at the crack of dawn. Off to deliver the news of our victory to The Reint. The rest of us are staying here for the time being. She tells me Second Gar is none too pleased over last night’s little standoff.
“What does he have in mind?” I ask as we walk across the dusty courtyard.
She hesitates for a second. “After the trouble last night. He gave them to the miners.”
“Where are they?”
“Sister, it’s too late. I’m sorry.”
“Where!” I shout. Sorrow choking my words.
“Outside the gate.”
I take off running. Headed towards the gate. To do what I don’t know. If they’re already dead, what is there to do? I’m a fool. I slept while they killed those men. I promised I wouldn’t let that happen. And I slept.
When I reach the gate it’s slowly opening. Second Gar, Fourteenth and the big blue guy are there standing along with some of the miners. There’s no sign of Nasr and the bridge crew.
“What have you done?” I scream. Nearly stumbling in the dirt as a shiver runs through my body. “What have you done?” I repeat. This time my voice fails me. Becoming scratchy and weak. My throat burning as I let out a sob.
Gar sees me, he shakes his head in clear disappointment. “I did what had to be done. We can’t sit around here watching prisoners like some hatchling nanny.”
“Y-You let them kill the prisoners?”
“They were more than willing. We need their help if we’re to make use of this mine we’ve taken. The others were no longer necessary.”
He walks away. Quickly hurling orders at one of the warriors. As the gate starts to close again, past the returning miners I can see a large mound of sand and rock. A grave.
The big blue guy sees me. He smiles. “Do not worry for them. They did not suffer.” I never noticed how deep his voice was till now.
I look up at him. Is that actual regret I see in his eyes?
“As your commander said ‘it had to be done.’ Blood calls for blood.”
“And now you satisfied?” I rub my watering eyes. Bluing my vision a little.
He leaves, saying nothing, joining the other miners as they walk towards the mines.
I walk around in a haze until I find a little spot behind a small shed. I sit down in the sand. When will this break me? Just when it feels like I’m about to crack, I keep going. Since Sixth died, every day I make it through seems like a victory. A victory. I’m alive. I didn’t lose it. How much blood is on my hands? A puddles worth? A lake’s worth? A river? I’ve no idea.
I could just sit here all day. Would they miss me? Maybe I could find a way out. Into the desert. Take my own long walk.
No. I won’t run away.
I stand. Best get back out there. Put my mind to some task. My little cave away from home seems like heaven about now.
I walk out into the courtyard. My fellow warriors are busy fortifying the place. I’m sure our enemy will want the place back. It’s just a question of who gets here first. Our forces or theirs.
“Serena!” A familiar voice calls my name.
Third rushes up to me. She looks a little out of breath. “There you are! Where have you been?”
“Around.” I answer. Not quick enough on my feet for a lie.
“Never mind that. Second Gar needs you in the main building.”
Great would could he want now? Third walks with me to the main building in the courtyard. It’s where our warriors stayed last night. I haven’t looked around it much, but it’s mainly a manager’s office for the mines along with the main barracks for the warriors. Second Gar has set up shop in the office. He’s seated behind a simple wood desk. Two warriors are there with along with…No. Can’t be.
I feel all the air in lungs escape in one long gasp.
Standing to one side of Gar’s desk is Nasr Junner.
“Well there you are.” Second Gar taps a clawed finger on the desk. “I have a job for you. And since I can’t trust you to follow orders, perhaps nursemaid will better suit you.” He laughs. “Besides he requested you.”
I leave the building with my new charge in tow. I should have run away when I had the chance. It was only a matter of time before I got punished for disobeying. Looks like it’s time to pay.
“How are you still alive?” I ask.
“Seems I know things that might be worth keeping me alive.”
“Shame the others weren't useful.”
We walk across the courtyard. No real destination in mind. All around us the others are hard at work. A group of warriors are training. Practicing their weapon forms. Another group are working on the wall of one of the buildings. Damaged during our attack.
“Sacrifices have to be made. Those men wanted blood. An offer was made. They could get their blood and I could live.”
And we’re all one big happy family. “I don’t see you as someone who gives the enemy information.”
I head towards the mess building. Nasr at my side. I need something to eat. I don’t feel like eating, but my body is telling me otherwise. Problem is the mess is the same place we’re keeping the miners. Nasr could pose some problems if there’s any of them hanging around. But we’re in luck. The mess is empty. I star picking up some fruit lying on a large wood table.
“Normally I’m not. But something changed my mind.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?” Probably a sword to the throat. I take a bite out of one of the fruits.
I stop eating. “Me?”
“Yes. You. You didn’t turn me in when I tried to turn you. Cut my bindings. Defended us when those men wanted our blood. I owe you. I don’t like to owe anyone.”
I laugh. Guess we have something in common.
“Just what were you doing down there in the cargo hold when we found you?”
He smiles. Showing his pointed teeth. “Can’t tell all my secrets.”
Three days pass. Then a week. Then two weeks. No word from The Reint. No sign of a counter attack from the Imperium. I spend most of the days trying to look busy as I traipse around the place with Nasr in tow. Everyone s nerves are starting to fray. We expected something by now. But it’s as if the world outside the gate has ended and we are the sole survivors. Waiting for a battle yet to appear. Waiting for an enemy yet show itself. No sign of any back up from The Reint. Second Gar is leery of sending out anyone else. Not wanting to risk us being short-handed should an attack come.
The miners for their part have kept their distance. We don’t see much of them except when they come around for some food or it’s time for bed. They stick close to the mine.
The only bright spot is Nasr has started training a few of us to use the rifles. I finally pinned down what they remind me off. The style of them reminds me of the old flintlock rifles Kimmy Rhodes’ dad used to hunt with. The crystals on the outside, where the flint would be are charged up by the shooter. Who then would channel their energy through the barrel? Which is lined with a few crystals of its own. It packs quite a punch, but is far more draining then using one of the swords.
Nasr makes for a pretty good teacher. I really need to find out how he knows so much about all of this stuff. I figured him for some kind of clerk or middle man. There’s definitely more to him to that. But what exactly is he?
A small group of us are taking turns with the rifles when sentry on the wall signals the camp with a horn.
Another warrior near the gate calls out. “A rider approaches. One of ours!”
It’s almost a stampede as half the camp makes towards the gate to see who’s on the other side.
As the gate starts to open. Agonizing second after second tick by. A minute feels like years, until finally we see the sole battered and beaten beast rider on the other side.
He dismounts and staggers towards us.
“The Imperium…They’ve attacked our home. Destroyed it.”
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