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Edited by AggressiveBacon: 3/10/2019 2:43:02 PM

The Lords of Ambros (Chapter 10, Part 2)

Table of Contents: [b]Chapter 10, Part 2[/b] Upon returning to the basin of his troops’ encampment, Roak noted two things which seemed to him unusual. First among these observations was the fact that, despite his making no efforts to conceal his arrival, none seemed to notice it. The frontiersman thought it especially strange that, once he had entered the camp, not an eye rested upon him, nor was a single face cast in his direction. Most, it seemed, were preoccupied with the examination of the ground at their feet. His second observation was that none in the camp appeared willing to divulge whatever secrets they had uncovered in their particular patch of the earth, or even to share the object of their search. The whole of the place was, Roak found, filled by that sort of silence which is so complete as to be achievable only in places equally as desolate as the dead plain about him. In an effort to discover the cause of these peculiarities, the frontiersman scanned the lot of faces before him for that belonging to Locke: his only personal connection among them. Spotting the boy, Roak drifted toward him. Though the gust of his passing succeeded in stirring the clothes and the hair of those nearest it, it still seemed to Roak that his presence was felt more so than seen or heard. For a brief moment, he thought himself a ghost. The Risen’s fears were given further substance upon his reaching the person of his interest, as the boy made no sign of sensing his approach, but shivered once his shadow fell upon him. Roak noted absently that Locke was without his cloak. Hoping (though-due to his growing fear of his own intangibility-not necessarily expecting) to receive a response, if only for the sake of dispelling his unease, Roak offered in greeting the first word that came to mind: “Hey.” Locke did not respond. The frontiersman circled about, pondering his predicament, and turned to face his silent companion. Kneeling, he gazed quizzically at the boy’s downturned face; waved his hand before it; found no response; stopped. Less confident than ever in his corporeality, Roak thrust his finger forward in an experimental jab. As one should expect, it failed to bypass the figure before him. Roak, having expected quite the opposite, was markedly relieved at this. His worry quickly returned as he noted that, despite physical prompting, the boy still had not acknowledged his presence. “Locke” the Risen spoke again, and, again, was met with silence. He placed his hand beneath the boy’s chin and forced it upward, remaining all the while wary of his own strength. Having no choice, Locke turned his gaze, looking for a moment into the black of Roak’s visor before hastily averting his eyes once more. Roak saw now that the boy’s face was awash with blood, and bore the usual coloration of one that has suffered a considerable beating. Through the window of an instant, he saw in Locke’s eyes a shiver of fear, made all the more violent by the aching of a pain which he had tried-and failed-to mask. This brief glimpse told Roak all that he needed to know. He saw, in the carefully-erected façade of stoicism upon the boy’s face, the beginnings of a great many cracks-small at present, but growing larger. Sooner or later, this front would be shaken to pieces. His task, then, was simply to expedite its impending collapse. “Locke,” Roak repeated, holding his grip. “What is going on?” Still, nothing. “What happened?” the Risen pressed, driven by a mixture of curiosity, compassion, and concern. Silence, and a single tear. Roak released the youth from his grasp, sighed, and stood. Locke had time only for a moment of false relief before he, too, had risen to his feet, though this was done by neither his own will nor any express measure of consent. In little time at all, the two were scaling the crater’s side: Roak steaming ahead with purpose; Locke dragging absently behind, barely managing to keep pace, and ignorant to his own steps. The others watched on, drawing their eyes from the ground for the first time in hours. That is, save one, who sat as he had sat, and wept as he had wept. He was, from all others in the basin, notably set apart-by the measure of distance, and by the mark of blood. After some time, the Wolf and his reluctant companion made their return. The two stopped atop the basin’s crest, and the prior spoke, his words hushed by distance. His fellow did not loose a word, but his eyes, as before, darted about of their own accord, landing-in answer to the Wolf’s unheard inquiry-upon the lonely figure of Hardy. In response, the Warlord left the boy at the ridge, and descended. Hardy sensed none of this. He simply waited, as he had for innumerable minutes prior, for a sound which he hoped would never come: the sound of footsteps. It came, and it came in company with the Wolf. Hardy tensed as the sound-and its source-drew nearer. A shadow drifted past. He did not look up, but knew that Roak stood before him. After a moment of pause, the Warlord dropped a small object into the boy’s lap. Hardy stared at the item before him, his eyes wide. It was a knife. It was [i]the[/i] knife. [Continued]

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