Tenlyres Chapter 36 – Gray Smoke

Hello, everyone, Tim here.

I am working on edits for Tenlyres before I set up the preorder for the complete edition. Keep your eyes peeled. This will be done soon.

Yesterday I celebrated a pretty phenomenal birthday. I think there are more RPGs in my future too. So yeah, it’s been a very good week.

You know how you can make any day better?

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Previous Chapter

 

The battle of Howling Pass is over.

            Ilsa and the nomads have escaped to count the cost.

Smoke rose from the funeral pyres built of tower and steppe-grass.

There were far too many, especially considering the number of fallen nomads left behind in the pass.

Hiragen and a limping Ganara had laid Akirette at what was now the center of the blaze, with her people all around them. Megalli had yet to wake again since the end of the battle, though she still breathed.

So much had been left behind, from Hailek to Ilsa’s red staff, to her instinct for mercy.

The fires blazed higher. Ilsa watched from a distance, standing beside Lemuel and his sister, tears in her eyes. She could not help but remember how Akirette had sworn not to die in the cave, that night not long ago. Yet, she had raced into action to save the leader of a different tribe.

Megalli had only survived because of Akirette’s charge, and come to that, Ilsa and Lemuel owed her their lives as well. Those facts only made watching the smoke rise more difficult.

Ilsa choked out a sob and leaned against Lemuel where they stood.

And the greater tragedy yet lay ahead. With the death of the Red Lector, a war for Ayoch on the steppe had become inevitable. It did not matter how he died. The other four lectors of Ayoch, and the Queen’s army with them would be on their way. They would wage war against the people of the steppe, and the demons of the old gods.

The war would begin, and the people of the mountains and steppe would be caught in it. More Uzan would arise because Ilsa had been weak. Because she had failed.

She sagged where she stood, completely exhausted after kilometers of riding west from the pass, across the plateau. The mountains had taken a lot from her, including her faithful strider. She shivered in the breeze that came with the sinking sun. Blue contacted her mentally.

You killed one of them. I know you did this time.

Maybe marring the name on their forehead really worked, Ilsa thought back, brow furrowed. “We can’t be sure yet,” she said out loud.

Lemuel glanced at her, tears behind his glasses. “What do you mean?”

“I was talking to Blue.”

“She’s close,” said Tirica. “I see her.”

Lemuel frowned.

Her friend made her way to them through the gloom and shadows cast by the flames. The mind eater’s face looked as tired as Ilsa felt. “The Red Lector isn’t after the Keeper anymore, I suppose.” She sighed. “But his wife won’t give up the chase as long as we have her daughter.”

“Ashnia made it?” said Ilsa.

“After her mental scream she passed out,” said Blue. “I’m just glad she didn’t get hit in the melee.” She indicated her own dented and scratched body-armor.

“You’re glad?” Tirica wrinkled her nose. “She’s really dangerous.”

“Yeah, but isn’t everyone?” Blue shrugged. “There was a time all I remembered was how I loved her. Now I wish I didn’t.”

Tirica looked into the fire and nodded. “I guess that makes sense. Because of who she is.”

Blue turned to Ilsa. “Cass and Ferdinand are talking.”

“Where?” asked Ilsa. “And hey, you shouldn’t spy on everyone.”

“I’m keeping my mind open for now.” Blue pointed down by the fire where two shadows stood with their arms around each other. Ferdinand’s overgrown mop of dark hair pressed into Cass’ red one.

Ilsa raised her eyebrows at Blue. “What are they talking about?”

“I thought I shouldn’t spy?”

“You have an open mind right now.”

“You can guess.” Blue gave a small snort of laughter. “Each other.”

Ilsa glanced at Lemuel. “Who’d have thought?”

“What, my old enemy and your old friend?” Lemuel shrugged his shoulders. “I guess there’s never a good time, and they both know that well enough.”

The fires burned higher, and the shadows deepened. In the morning they would need to keep riding and send out messengers to gather more Oshomi. Ilsa would do her best to tell what happened in those letters. But for the night, the pyres held back a little bit of the cold, and a little bit of the darkness.

Ilsa prayed their sacrifice would not be in vain.

#

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