As Leandra followed Cy through Xamalie’s castle, the only thing she could think of was how disappointed she felt walking through the cold, stone halls. She had been imagining what it would be like to walk through the southern capitol ever since she learned of its existence, though she truthfully didn’t have much to go on. That was one thing her parents had always been very vague about – the description of Xamalie. As she followed the fairy and her troop, Leandra wondered why that was. Surely it was more than the fact that Xamalie would fail to impress her.
Reaching a hand up to gently touch her cheek, Leandra wondered how different the new insignia made her look. Getting the insignia hadn’t hurt; she took a potion that Cy handed her and that was it. A second later, her family’s marking appeared on her left cheek. Other than the slight tingly feeling, she couldn’t tell that she had even gotten her insignia. Though she looked to see where Kel’s insignia appeared, she didn’t see anything; it must have appeared somewhere less visible.
As she looked at her cousin, she was at once taken back to when she was seven, standing astonished in the weapons’ arsenal of the Deluvia family. Not long after she and Kel found the hidden room, Leandra had asked her parents if they would show her their insignias. Her mom’s was on the small of her back. The design was simple: a small circle with two straight horizontal lines going through the left side of it, with a curved line off to the right. The Deluvia insignia was on her dad’s left biceps. Thinking back, she remembered that her mom had told her something about the location of an insignia being related to that person’s most distinguishing trait. Unfortunately, Leandra couldn’t remember what her parents’ insignias’ location meant, let alone what her new one would mean. Maybe Kel would be able to shed some light on it, but since her parents hadn’t told her about the war, Leandra was not certain that they would have told her anything about the insignia.
As Cy turned another corner, Leandra found herself in a crowded hall. The sight of so many people surprised Leandra, because all the Warriors were silent. They had given her no auditory clues that they were all in the dining hall. That really unnerved Leandra. Pretty much everyone in the hall kept their eyes off the troop, but Leandra did catch one curious glance their way. Of course, as soon as the man noticed that Leandra saw him, he quickly averted his gaze. As the troop continued down another hall (this one empty again), Leandra fought with herself to stay silent. She really wanted to know why all of those people were in that hall, and why they were all silent.
When the fairy turned down another hall, Leandra saw four people stand suddenly and snap into formal salutes. Cy returned the formal greeting and turned to Kel, saying, “Lieutenant, these four have been assigned to your squadron. Three are Warriors and one is a Healer. You are getting your Guide tomorrow, before you meet with Commander Deluvia.”
Again, Leandra had to bite her lip to keep from asking why they were getting a new Guide. Though she did not trust Aerlene completely, she had grown used to her presence. Getting used to these four new members of the troop would be hard enough; having to train her brain to trust a new Guide would be hell.
Kel straightened into the formal salute, but said nothing. That was good enough to please Cy, though, because the fairy disappeared in a torrent of green fire. Turning her attention to the new members of the troop, Leandra tried to size them up.
The men were tall, easily surpassing six feet, though they were not quite as tall as Redding’s lanky body. They were older than the rest of the troop; they looked closer to Aerlene’s age than any of the Warriors that had travelled with them so far. Their nameplates identify them as Stephen Wright and Jay Elks. The two women, standing a little to the left of the men, look to be about the same age as Ashia. They also look considerably more pissed off than the men. Frowning, Leandra read their nameplates: Annette and Tirzah Gaines.
“I can’t believe they assigned my sister and me to you,” Tirzah scoffed, narrowing her eyes in a glare directly at Kel. “They probably think this is funny.”
“Tirzah, just let it go,” Annette said quietly, grabbing her sister’s arm.
“Why should I, Annette?” Tirzah snapped bitterly. Turning to face Kel once more, she added, “If she hadn’t killed Lee, we wouldn’t be in this mess!”
What the hell is this girl talking about? Leandra asked herself, giving her cousin a questioning look. But Kel didn’t see it; she was too busy gazing at Tirzah. It was almost like she was trying to place her, as though she actually thought she may have had a clue to what Tirzah was referring to. Then, getting a startled look, Kel asked the girl a question that caught Leandra off guard: “In Meira?”
Leandra only barely saw Tirzah’s nod. “You killed a Xamalian Warrior?” Leandra demanded, finally breaking the silence she had been keeping. Managing to keep her voice from booming out like her dad’s probably would have, she asked in a low growl, “What made that a good idea?”
“It’s not like I had a choice,” Kel replied through gritted teeth, glancing over at her cousin briefly before turning her attention back to Tirzah. “The necklace took over. Before I knew what I was doing, I killed him and his partner.”
“You killed two of Xamalie’s Warriors and they let you live?” The question came from Stephen, the blue-eyed man. “Why would they do that?”
“I’m a Flair,” Kel responded shortly, turning to face him and taking her necklace out so they all could see it. Refocusing her attention on Tirzah, Kel told her, “If it makes you feel better, I was punished for killing your brother. That’s why I was assigned to this mission, actually.”
“What is the mission?” Jay asked, tipping his head to the side.
“We are to aid Commander Deluvia’s troop in keeping Nolan safe. Apparently, Temoragu has assigned Kendrick Kavich to kill him,” Kel told them.
It amazed Leandra how unemotional she appeared when she said it. Usually, it was Leandra that was the stronger of the two, but in this situation, their roles were reversed. Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that Temoragu wanted her dad dead so badly that they would force their wonder-Flair to kill him. Leandra had a lot of faith in her dad’s abilities, but according to everything that her mom had told her, Kendrick’s power was legendary.
“Your family must have really pissed Samra off,” Tirzah chuckled, not sounding the least bit concerned for the troop’s wellbeing. “Samra wouldn’t usually give his top Warriors a mission this risky. Unless he knows something about Kavich, he’s basically marching us into certain death.”
Annette shook her head at that. “I don’t think Samra is one to throw away his top Warriors, even after committing the crimes they did. He must know something.”
Sighing, Kel shook her head. “Kendrick is a Flair. It will take a Flair to beat him. Using me, King Samra kills two birds with one stone: protecting Nolan and punishing all of the Deluvias at once.”
That is certainly true, Leandra thought. This has got to be killing my uncle. I just hope that he is able to keep himself together when he meets with Kel tomorrow.
“Look, how about we all cool down and deal with this tomorrow morning? Let’s meet in the dining hall,” Kel offered after a bit of silence. “Maybe things will look brighter tomorrow.”
I seriously doubt that, Kel, Leandra thought grimly, eyeing the heated glare that Tirzah was giving her cousin.
Without offering any objection, the four new members of the squadron stood and walked off in two different directions – the females taking the hallway to the left and the gentlemen taking the hallway that Cy had brought the troop down.
“What do you think of them, Jones?” Kel asked the Messenger once they were alone. Leandra didn’t really have an opinion on Jones, although Redding hadn’t liked her, so that made Leandra a bit wary.
“The men are fine,” Jones nodded. “They belonged to a troop I delivered a message to when I first started.”
“So, where is their troop, then?” Ashia asked. “Xamalie doesn’t typically reassign its Warriors, does it?”
“No,” Jones confirmed. “They were killed in battle. Only Stephen and Jay escaped with their lives.”
An uneasy shudder raced down Leandra’s spine. She couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be one of only two survivors of an attack. Certainly, she was a strong person, but even she had her limits. Losing that many people at once would probably be hers.
“What about the girls?” Kel asked, moving the conversation along.
“That is much harder to say, which makes me uneasy. There is probably something more to how they got assigned to your troop, but I don’t know what that is, yet.”
“All I need to know is if I can trust them,” Kel replied.
“My gut says that Annette is ok, but I’m not sure about Tirzah,” Jones said.
Geez, Kel, I could have told you that, and I’m not psychic at all, Leandra thought. But, she kept that to herself, and remained quiet. Knowing when to remain silent in a conversation was one of Redding’s most valuable survival skills that he had tried teaching Leandra, and she was determined to learn how to do it.