Staring at his newly assembled troop, it was obvious to Patrick that Ella was still mad at him and his brother. First, there was the fact that she assigned Aerlene Kavich to be their Guide. There were several reasons that Patrick was unsettled with this assignment. Beyond the fact that she was not naturally a Xamalian, she was Edan’s sister. Though Patrick hated Edan now, even before the falling out between him and the eldest Kavich, Patrick thought that there had always been something off about Aerlene. It was more than the simple fact that she was so exceptional with leading her troops successfully. It was almost as if she had some connection to Temoragu that made her untouchable. Patrick did not trust connections to Temoragu. Nothing good came out of the West in his opinion, so he was uncomfortable with her eerie success rate. Perhaps it was the fact that her twin fought for the West. Though Patrick did not know what it was like to have a twin, he did know what it was like to have a brother and be close to him, and if it was anything like that, then he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be impossible to completely forsake him. Although, as he thought more and more about that, he realized that if that were the case, he would never be able to trust any of Edan’s siblings - because Edan had a younger brother that fought for Temoragu. Assigning Aerlene to be his Guide was apparently just the beginning of her vengeance on the Deluvia brothers, however.
The four Warriors that had been assigned to them were recently acquired rebels and traitors that had been recaptured. They were not completely useless, though. Three of the four of them were giant men; only Nolan towered over them. All four of them were well muscled, which could be another plus. Of course, that could turn out to be a double-edged sword, because if Patrick wanted to use them, he first had to earn their trust. And obviously if they had already bolted once, that would not be an easy task. The Healer assigned to the troop was fifteen – fresh out of training. Even if she would have been a Flair (which she wasn’t), she would have been several steps below where Regan had them performing. Although, it would be hard to replace Regan with anybody, so Patrick tried not to pass too much judgment on the girl.
None of that mattered, though, not in the long haul. Nolan was pissed, of course, but Patrick didn’t have the luxury of being able to be angry about what had been done. His job was to play nice and somehow find a way to ensure all of his team was performing at their best. As the last of his new troop took a seat, Patrick stood up and cleared his throat.
“Hello,” he greeted them, putting on his friendliest smile. “I’m Patrick Deluvia, Commander of Squadron 1042. I realize that most of you are recent additions to Xamalie’s forces, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.” Except you, Nolan, he added silently, shooting his brother a look that he should be well versed with.
Patrick was about to continue when he noticed that the Healer’s hand was up. The four new Warriors choked back snickers. Though Patrick wanted to laugh with them, he couldn’t do that. Instead, he tipped his head forward, nodded at the girl and asked, “What can I help you with?”
“What is our mission, exactly?” she asked. Her voice was solid, though it was a little high-pitched for his liking.
“We are to kill Kendrick Kavich,” Patrick began, and instantly, all of the new Warriors began shouting things. Two of them were being extremely vulgar, cussing up a storm. The shortest of the four of them looked incredibly worried, but he had a right to be. Patrick knew that it took him years to come to terms with the fact that he would probably never be able to kill Edan’s brother. Expecting this troop to accept the mission without argument would have been foolish.
“They want us to kill the fucking Flair?” the tallest new man demanded heatedly. “Are you joking?”
I wish I was, Patrick thought grimly. Sadly, he was not. Instead of admitting his own nerves with the mission though, he simply said steadily, “Yes, with aid from Squadron 1365.”
“Squadron 1365?” the Healer asked. “That’s a newly formed Squadron, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Commander Deluvia nodded.
“How are we supposed to kill the most powerful Flair in Viger then? Do they really expect us to be able to kill Kendrick Kavich with the aid of a freshly formed troop?” one of the Warriors asked.
I really need to learn their names, Patrick thought. Aloud, he said, “Squadron 1365 is led by Lieutenant Kelly Deluvia, who is also a Flair. She may be a recent addition to Xamalie’s forces, but she is more than capable of matching Kendrick’s ability with a blade.”
As that response filtered into his squadron’s ears, Patrick saw the recognition of what that meant in each of their eyes. To his surprise, their expressions softened at the news. He hadn’t been expecting to get pity as a reaction to anything he said, and seeing it angered him. Patrick did not enjoy being pitied. Clearing his throat, he put on a more stern face and addressed the group, “So you see, I am being punished too. Now, if we could get back to the matter at hand, Squadron 1365 is in charge of getting Kendrick out of the mountains to fight my brother in person.”
The tallest of his new troop members gave him a skeptical look and asked, “If Nolan would have a better chance of killing Kendrick if he fights him in person, why would the Flair agree to do it?”
“If he wants to kill me,” Nolan said, his voice echoing in the room, “he will have to fight me in person. I don’t touch food or drink that I didn’t make or watched being made. That ass hole doesn’t have a shot at killing me with one of his poisons; I’ve been cautious of what I am eating for years – knowing that Kendrick is trying to kill me is just another leaf on the pile, as far as I can see.”
Another leaf on the pile, Patrick thought grimly. As much as he hated to agree with Nolan on that fact, he really didn’t have any other choices. His brother had been making enemies since his first year in the Xamalian army, and he didn’t trust anyone completely. Patrick wasn’t even sure that Nolan would trust him to make his meals, since he didn’t even trust Regan to do that. The only time he had seen Nolan drink anything that he hadn’t prepared himself was when Kelly had brought the Healing potion with her when she broke them out of the Temoragun prison.
Stepping in before the Warrior could retort, Patrick said calmly, “I am sure that Lieutenant Deluvia has some ideas to try. We are going to meet with her in a couple of days to view the options. Once we have a game plan, we’ll let our troops know and we’ll go get him.”
Looking around the room, Patrick could see the doubt in each of the Warriors’ faces, but honestly, he hadn’t been expecting anything else. A second passed and he asked if any of them had anything else they wanted to talk about, but of course, no one said anything. Patrick turned them loose after that, and the Warriors filed out as soon as they were released. Aerlene was not far behind them. The Healer, though, did not move. Instead, she stayed in the room.
“Is there something else?” Patrick tried, after a few minutes passed and the girl said nothing.
“No, Commander,” she said with a long pause. “I was just thinking. I will see you tomorrow.”
Patrick watched her stand and leave, and once she was gone, he exchanged a questioning look with his brother.
“Does she look familiar to you?” Nolan asked, gesturing in the direction the Healer had left in.
Thinking for a moment, Patrick answered, “No. Why, do you know her from somewhere?”
For a long while, Nolan didn’t respond, then his face darkened. “You know who she looks like? She looks like Matilda’s brother . . . what was his name . . . ”
“Devon,” Patrick said suddenly. Devon was Matilda’s youngest brother. Instantly, the vision of the kid flashed at once to Patrick’s mind. He could see the dark brown eyes, the one part of Matilda’s kid brother that made him look like he belonged to another family. Everything else about the kid - his thick lips, his straight nose, and his lightly curled hair screamed Duchesne. He couldn’t have been much older than twelve or thirteen when Patrick and Matilda started dating. His young age did not detract from his detestation of Patrick, however. In some ways, it actually added to his level of dislike because he saw Patrick as stealing his big sister. Her older brothers, they just didn’t like the fact that Patrick was a Xamalian Warrior, but Devon took their relationship personally. Thinking back to the Healer, he could see traces of the Duchesne family . . . like her hazel eyes and full lips.
“Devon, that’s it,” Nolan confirmed, oblivious to the inner monologue that was running through Patrick’s mind.
“She does look like him,” Patrick said thoughtfully. “I wonder how Xamalie got her so young . . . surely she hadn’t been planning on wearing the Xamalian blue.”
“Let’s not go running to conclusions just yet,” Nolan cautioned, placing his hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “Just because she looks like him doesn’t mean she is actually his daughter.”
Maybe he is right, for once, Patrick thought with one last weighted look at the door that the girl had exited through. Giving a final squeeze of Patrick’s shoulder, Nolan took his leave too, leaving Patrick in the room alone. Devon Duchesne, Patrick thought. If the Healer really was his daughter, then Patrick may have to start making his own fihae like his brother did. After all, Devon had tried to kill him on more than one occasion. Who was to say that any child of his wouldn’t try to do the same, if given the opportunity?