As Patrick lay on his back and slowly massaged his sword hand, he let his mind wander over the members of his new troop. The four men that had been put under his lead were outstanding with blades. After a three-hour practice session with his brother and the four new men, that much became very clear. Patrick had no idea how Ella or King Samra had been able to enlist the men, but he was glad they had. James King, who happened to be Moran merchant Frank King's nephew, was exceptional with throwing knives. At 6'2" he stood just an inch or two shorter than Patrick, although he was not nearly as well muscled as the Deluvia. Like most other people that Patrick had met from the defeated city, James was lean. Certainly he was toned, but his muscles were not gigantic. Like the Deluvia brothers, his soft brown hair was cut short. Titus Shield and Keith Young were only a few inches shorter than Patrick's brother, and the muscles in their arms looked to be bursting out of their sleeves. They had dark skin and their heads were shaven. Given the slight accent to their speech, Patrick was pretty sure that they were originally from one of the most northern parts of what used to be Rea. The fourth Warrior that had been added to the troop was Edgar Weston, who told the troop that he went by the name "Weasel." Since he did stand several inches shorter than the other three that had been added, his size could have certainly been a factor in getting the nickname, but Patrick had a sneaking suspicion that there was more to the story. Weasel seemed to be very good at playing nice with people on the outside, but it looked to Patrick that there were about a hundred thoughts going off in his brain at any given moment. Of course, getting any of them to listen to him was most likely going to be a challenge, but Patrick was actually looking forward to it. Surely a challenge would help take his mind off the ever-present problem of drawing Kendrick out of the mountains.
Though Nolan had just recently been assigned to killing the Temoragun Flair, the Deluvia brothers had actually tried killing the man before. Granted, they had been acting of their own free will on all previous occasions, and they had been working closely with Edan, but still, their previous success rate was dismal. Three of five times, Patrick and Nolan hadn't even seen Kendrick. The other two times, they had gotten a passing glance, but it was over a distance. When they tried to move in, he disappeared.
Looking back, there were many times that Patrick had tried to talk Edan out of going after his brother. Hell, by the last time they went out, even Nolan was afraid that they were not going to be successful. But Edan was unflinching. "The ass-hole deserves to die," Edan had told Patrick one night. "You do not decide to fight for the country that ordered your mom's execution. It would be one thing if they had executed my dad - he is the one that betrayed them. But did they do that? No. Instead, they killed my mom."
His stomach began twisting at the memory of the pain that Edan put into those words. Patrick hated that he still felt such emotion in matters relating to Edan. Other than the time in that first year after he accused Edan of killing his wife, when he had been so stricken with rage and grief that he didn't care about anyone, Patrick felt a tinge of guilt about accusing his former friend. And what was worse, that guilt grew as the years continued to go by. Nearly six years had passed now, and he still had no idea how Edan had been able to kill his wife. The more time passed, the more Patrick began to regret his damning of Edan.
As soon as the regret came, though, the vindictive anger was soon to follow. Feeling the strong emotion course through his veins, Patrick balled his hands into fists and slammed them down into the mattress he was lying on. The smack sound echoed off the walls of the room and Patrick tried to curb his anger. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly and pictured himself breathing out all of the negative energy surrounding thoughts of his wife's death.
"Why do you have such trouble controlling your emotions when it comes to me?" He could hear the words Matilda had asked him on one of their first dates. The answer he gave her was still true to this day: "Because I love you."
That had been the first time that he had said those words to Matilda. It had surprised him that he could fall in love with anybody as quickly as he did with her. Immediately after he said the words, he braced himself to be laughed at, but that didn't happen. Instead, Matilda's cheeks flushed and she asked, "You love me?"
When he nodded, she kissed him lightly and then whispered into his ear, "I love you, too."
And just like that, his anger was gone. Dead or alive, his wife had always been able to diffuse him. Hearing the door to the room opening, Patrick sat up and saw James King and his daughter. Shooting Kelly a confused glance, he waited for one of them to explain why she was here. Seeing the questioning look on the Commander's face, James said, "Lieutenant Deluvia was looking for you. She said something about having a plan for our mission. I didn't think you would mind if I brought her right to you."
"It's fine, thank you, James."
Offering a nod to signal that he heard the response, James turned and left the two of them alone.
His daughter didn't say anything at first; it looked as though she wasn't sure if she was allowed to address him, or something. Patrick hated that he hadn't gone over all of the formal rituals with his daughter before Ella had found her. Perhaps if he had, Kelly would be more equipped to deal with this situation. Putting on a mild half-grin, he broke the silence first, asking, "What's on your mind, Lieutenant?"
Although "Lieutenant" was how he was supposed to address her, not calling her by her name felt wrong.
"Commander," she began slowly, "we think we may have a way to get Kendrick out of the mountains."
"That sounds good," he replied slowly, waiting for the inevitable but that was going to follow.
"Yeah," Kelly said carefully, "my troop is going to head off towards Mor. Xamalie is going to send out another troop to fall in and play your troop to buy you guys time for an unobserved exit of Xamalie. Once you are out of the southern capitol, then you need to head off to join us in Mor."
Seeing that Kelly had more she wanted to say, Patrick waited silently for her to continue. When she didn't, he gave her a nod, to try and prompt her to finish.
"We have a plan, like I said. But the thing is . . . Commander . . . I don't think you are going to like it."
Patrick caught on to the fact that his daughter was still getting used to calling him by his rank, rather than just calling him "Dad." Truthfully, Patrick wished that she could call him that, but since they were currently in the southern castle, now was probably not the best time to break protocol.
Giving his head a brief shake, he tried to refocus on what his daughter had just said. As he so often did with his peers, he tried to buy more time by repeating the sentence back to her. "You don't think I'm going to like it?"
That intrigued him. For the first seventeen years of her life, Patrick could count the number of times that Kelly had done something that he hadn't liked on one hand. But he could see the uncertainty in her gaze and the nervous tension that was causing her to shift back and forth.
Giving her a measured look, he asked, "But you think the idea has a decent shot of being successful, I presume? You wouldn't come to tell me you have an idea if you thought it would fail, right?"
"No, Commander," she said quickly. Explaining further, she continued, "I think it has a fairly good shot at getting Kendrick out of the mountains."
Putting on a full-blown smile, he looked at her with his bluff face and said confidently, "Then that sounds good to me. I don't care how you get him out of the mountains, just make sure you do."
He knew that Kelly didn't believe his bluff emotion as much as he had hoped, but she did give a brief nod and said quickly, "Then, I guess we'll see you in Mor?"
"Yes," he confirmed, "we will see you in Mor."