As Leandra anxiously fidgeted while waiting for her cousin to return, she tried to find anything else that could keep her mind occupied on something else. Running helped for about ten minutes, but then she got tired. Lifting weights lasted a little longer, but after thirty minutes, she grew bored with it. She tried exploring the market square in Xamalie, but she was too nervous about being absent the minute Kel returned to keep wandering the streets.
The other members of their troop filtered into the main dining hall as Leandra waited for her cousin’s return. Perry was the first one to come over and sit with her. Though she had defended him publically that afternoon, seeing him now when he was alone made her begin to rethink that. Given his natural height, he did have the potential to be an intimidating presence, but he would have to project himself that way first, and Leandra didn’t think he knew how to do that just yet.
Jones, Stephen, and Jay came in next. Leandra was curious where they had wandered off to this afternoon. She hadn’t seen any of them walking around as she tried to waste time, as she had with the Guide and the former Rogues. Speaking of the former Reans, they showed up only a couple of minutes after the return of the Xamalians. When she finally saw her cousin making her way down the wide hall, Leandra scrambled up and called out, “Kel! Over here!”
As Kel made her way over to her squadron, Leandra inspected her cousin as she approached. The first thing she noticed was Kel seemed annoyed. The second thing she noticed was that she was wearing what looked to be a wedding band around her wrist. Arching an eyebrow at seeing that, Leandra tried to think of a way to ask Kel why she was wearing the band without actually doing it, but all she came up with was, “So how did it go?”
Kel snorted and shook her head irritably. “Kendrick said no,” she frowned. “Does anyone else have any bright ideas?”
Leandra could see that the majority of their troop was disappointed by that announcement, but not surprised.
“Did he give any reason for saying no?” Jones asked.
“Yeah, my uncle is a giant and he is afraid of facing him on the battlefield,” Kel scoffed.
“Rightfully so,” Stephen offered quietly. “Nolan is an intimidating opponent for any man that fights every day. To expect Kendrick to go up against him when he hasn’t fought on the battlefield for years had to be a long shot.”
The look Kel shot over to Stephen after that comment was not a helpful one. As the silence grew among their troop, Leandra tried to think of a way to get Kendrick to agree to fight her dad. The problem was, though, that the marriage band around her cousin’s wrist was incredibly distracting. Every time she glimpsed the braided leather straps, Leandra got curious to why Kel had the band on in the first place. Her obsession with the bracelet did not go unnoticed by her cousin. Spotting that Leandra was distracted by the leather band around her wrist, Kel looked down and then, seeing why Leandra was staring at her wrist so often, said, “This was just part of the act, Leandra. I’m not really married.”
Leandra could feel her cheeks warming up as the blush came on, but she cleared her throat and said, “Ok.”
Seeing the odd expression on Leandra’s face caused the other members of the squadron to look over to Kel. In doing so, all of them spotted what they had missed the first time they looked at her: the fact that she was still wearing the wedding band.
“Then why are you still wearing the wedding band, Lieutenant?” Jones asked.
“Alston thinks that the only reason we were able to leave Kendrick’s alive was because his brother actually believed that we got married. Since Pike agreed with that assumption, the fairy recommended that we continue with the façade.”
“So, what, is he going to be joining us?” Stephen asked skeptically. “Given the fact that Kendrick’s brother doesn’t fight for Xamalie will probably prove to be a hard selling point to King Samra and Ella.”
“Unless he is willing to fight for Xamalie,” Jay chipped in. “Then I think they would be fine with it.”
Seeing Kel’s displeasure with the way the conversation seemed to be going, Leandra tried to steer it in a different direction before her cousin snapped. Jumping into the conversation before anything else could be said, she asked loudly, “Why don’t we try asking Edan for help?”
“Edan?” Jay asked, voice confused. “Edan Kavich?”
Seeing that the rest of the troop seemed to be just as confused as their Healer, Leandra nodded and said, “Yeah. He trained Kel.”
When that did not prove enough of an explanation, her cousin added, “I can’t imagine that asking him to help out would be a bad idea. I mean, if there’s one person who hates Kendrick, Edan would be it.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Lieutenant, but didn’t your dad have Edan banished?” Jones asked slowly.
“Technically, Uncle Patrick wanted to have Edan executed,” Leandra replied easily. “You know, to die a traitor’s death, but obviously, that didn’t happen.”
The Messenger scrunched up her face as she processed that news and finally said, “Then what makes you think that her dad is going to go for having Edan help out on this mission?”
“If he wants to keep my uncle safe,” Kel said, her voice much quieter than Leandra had been expecting, “then he’ll have to be ok with it. I think if I promise that he won’t have to actually see Edan, he might be all right with the plan.”
Yeah, or he could demand you bring Edan to him once we kill Kendrick so he can off the eldest Kavich as well, Leandra thought. The only time she had ever seen her uncle get so angry that he couldn’t control himself was shortly after her aunt had died. It had taken not only Leandra’s dad, but her mom armed with a syringe that was laced with rhenkip as well. His outrage was so unbelievable that Leandra had been sure that she was having a nightmare when she saw it; her uncle was not a loud man. Truly, he always seemed to be the most rational and levelheaded adult in their family. But that could be thrown out a window if they were talking about the man that Uncle Patrick believed killed his wife.
It had been a statement and Kel was staring right at Leandra when she said it. After a second passed and she saw that no one else was jumping in the middle of their conversation, Leandra shrugged and said carefully, “Your dad doesn’t always proceed in the most logical manner when dealing with anything that he believes relates to your mom’s death.”
Kel glared at Leandra for a second, then reluctantly backed off a little. Leandra knew that Kel was very aware of the fact that she could get very angry very quickly. As she had been doing for the past decade, however, Kel kept a handle on her emotions. Taking a deep breath, she turned to face Jones.
“Is it possible to incorporate Edan without telling Commander Deluvia?”
“Possible?” Jones asked evenly. Weighing the question for a second, she answered begrudgingly, “Yes, it is possible.”
“But I would advise against that,” Stephen said abruptly, gaping at Kel. “Keeping secrets from your superior officers is a punishable offense.”
“I think Ella would be ok with it, actually,” Kel shook him off. “She wants my dad to be able to function, right? Trust me, if he knew we were working with Edan, his judgment would be seriously impaired.”
That was certainly true, as far as Leandra could see. Her uncle had always possessed a mental block to being rational in every event surrounding her aunt’s death.
“So, what, you’re just going to walk up to Commander Deluvia and say, ‘Here’s the plan, Dad – we’re going to have Edan Kavich lead the way to his brother,’ is that it?” Tirzah asked, looking amused by the absurdity of that statement.
“Of course not,” Kel scoffed. “I’m just going to tell him that we have a plan, but he isn’t going to like it. If he reacts the way I think he will, he’ll trust me and let the matter drop.”
“And if he doesn’t react that way?” Perry asked, his voice sounding much higher than it should have been. “What if he wants to know every detail of your plan?”
Kel shrugged elaborately and said quietly, “Then I’ll tell him that we want to use Edan Kavich. The Commander knows that Edan trained me and he knows that Ella takes great pleasure in using Kavich to further punish my dad for keeping me from Xamalie for so many years.”
“Well, it is a plan,” Ashia said slowly, finally joining in on the conversation. “And having a plan is better than not having one at this point.”
“I agree,” Annette said, with her sister nodding behind her. “Take it to the Commander and see what he says.”
Kel looked at Leandra one last time, almost as if she were waiting for permission. Heaving a sigh, Leandra just nodded and said, “Do it. What have we got to lose?”
With a brief nod, Kel turned to return to her dad, leaving Leandra and the others to wait for her return.