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The other chimeras started to come out of the places they had been hiding in a few minutes after we did. We walked towards the coastal farms, even though we were all exhausted. We didn’t know what else to do… we didn’t know where Sentinel was yet, and we needed to make sure that there were no surprises for us anywhere.
Slowly, more and more chimeras gathered. Everyone greeted each other with nods, and only few words were spoken, with the same theme each time, no matter who was speaking the words.
“Good to see you made it. Is anyone missing?”
“No; my brother was wounded, and so he and his friends are going back to the village for the healer’s help. But the rest of us can keep fighting.”
“If there’s anything left to fight.”
“You’ve seen the carnage, then?”
“Has anyone found where Sentinel is? Or, for the love of the gods, even Snitch?”
“He’ll be closer to the farms. We might have to go there to find him. That’s where we’re all heading, anyway.”
“We’ll come with, then.”
I was walking next to Storm and the elves. Storm, Fayne, and I were walking ahead of the others, while Nayila and Safiena trailed just a little behind. The whole group ended up being around fifty people who kept close and stayed attentive. Every time we came across another clearing, the smell of blood went from a major annoyance that could still be ignored with some effort to an almost overpowering wave that made everyone’s hair and fur stand on end. I looked at the elves. Fayne and Nayila looked like they were about to throw up every time we got within view of another of those clearings, and Safiena was clearly avoiding looking at any of it. Many of the Chimeras weren’t doing much better, though for us, it was less shock and horror and more… a horrible amount of familiarity.
The forest was too silent as we crept forward, along the coast, not even able to count the number of soldier corpses because of how much the storm had torn through them. Around every patch of blood, there were pieces of armor, the seams of which had been torn through and destroyed. Maybe we’d go back to scavenge later.
But somehow I felt that would be a job that nobody would want.
Our group made it to the large clearing where the farms and farmhouses were located. Other chimeras, including Red and Quiver, immediately came towards us.
“Some soldiers survived.” Red’s words immediately sent a shock through my chest, and all of us moved to grab our weapons. “Only a few, though, and they’re… not in a good condition right now.”
“What do you mean, Red?” I snapped.
“A few of the soldiers were locked in a house. One of the leaders had also claimed one of the houses, and when the storm started, he locked it to save himself from the storm at the expense of everyone else. Snitch and Sentinel and a few others broke in and found him throwing up and coughing up blood, though. He hadn’t covered the windows, and had eaten contaminated food. And all of the soldiers who had gotten inside the other houses were too late in locking the doors, so they’re all dying, but not dead yet. Sentinel and Snitch are interrogating their leader for information.”
We nodded. Then, Safiena stepped forward. “Can Nayila, Fayne, and I see him? Not in a way that he can see us, just… we may be able to tell you what rank in Lassania’s army he is. That might give us an idea of how much of a threat Lassania sees in this area.”
Storm, Red, Quiver and I paused. I was the first to speak up: “They have a good point.”
“Okay…” Red narrowed his eyes at the elves, clearly still mistrusting them. I couldn’t say I blamed him. “But in that case I’m coming with and only one of you is going in. We can’t risk anything that might harm Sentinel and Snitch, or let him get away.”
“And how do you still think we’re going to help Lassania?” Fayne asked, narrowing his eyes. But Safiena quickly motioned for him to stop talking, and nodded.
“I understand. I’ll come with, then. Nayila, Fayne, stay with Gray and Storm. And if they tell you to do something, listen.”
“Sounds good,” Nayila said with a nod. “What are the rest of the Chimeras doing?”
“Gathering all the crops to burn them because they’re all contaminated,” Quiver said, watching Safiena and Red as they walked away towards the houses. “Or looking through the supplies of the soldiers to try to find something not contaminated. You can help with that, maybe.”
“How much have they found?”
“Not a lot, but they actually did find a sword that we’re keeping. Some of it was too badly scratched to be used, and still had dust embedded in the metal.”
“The more I hear about the dust, the more afraid I become,” Fayne growled. Quiver gave him a sideways glance.
“That’s for the best.” Storm and I nodded.
“Let’s go help, then,” Storm suggested, starting to walk towards the houses. “Care to come with us, Quiver?”
“I can’t. I’m keeping watch- just in case there are more soldiers that somehow survived.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “Good luck, Quiver.”
“You too, Gray.”
We walked to the houses. Unlike the Village, the houses had no large cover to protect them from the dust; instead, they had no windows and inside, had walls, floors, and ceilings covered with thick cloth. The doors were cut out of the cloth and had extra ties to tie them down during storms. In the small central area between the three houses, there were piles of supplies from the soldiers. Chimeras were taking supplies, looking over them, and throwing them into a larger pile in the middle of the area.
At least… most of them. There were two swords that were mostly clean lying near one of the houses. A scream came out of that house, shortly followed by Safiena, who looked extremely pale, and Red, who looked very scared. Safiena looked at Fayne, and shook her head.
“He’s… he’s a fourth rank commander.”
I looked at Fayne and Nayila and watched their faces drop. “That’s bad, I take it?” I whispered. Fayne nodded slowly.
“It means that there are only a couple of people above him. The first rank commander is the king, and there are only two other people above him. They’re sending some… very high-ranking people here. They definitely view this area as a threat.”
“But that means that we may be able to take them by surprise by announcing that we’ll fight them here,” Nayila said.
“We’ll leave that decision to Valla and Harold,” Fayne said, shaking his head. “But for now, it’s… not looking great.”
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