The Immune – Chapter 06

As the carriages circled out on the gathering grounds, Lincoln approached Silverlake’s Eastern gate.  He smiled broadly upon seeing Dresten and Odyna coming to meet him, and councilor Darcy Platiner not far behind them.  The village trainer leaned against the frame of the gate itself, his thick arms crossed in front of him.  Lincoln approached him, exchanging a handshake and a smile.

“You’ve been building quite a reputation, my friend,” Bryan said with a smirk.  “While most of it is good, there’s enough trouble following you around that I may double the wall-guard this evening.”

Lincoln laughed.  “I suppose I do seem like bad news.  Last time I was here there was a war right outside.”

Bryan nodded.  “Life always gets interesting when Lincoln Graddall is near.”  He waved the gypsy inside, toward the others of the troupe, then strode to a ladder and climbed up to the watch platform over the gate.

“Welcome back to Silverlake,” Councilor Platiner said, drawing Lincoln into an embrace.  Her hair was greying quickly, he noticed, but it only made her seem more regal, more beautiful.  Not many people had the chance to age in this world, so it was rare to watch someone age gracefully.

“We always get the royal welcome in Silverlake,” he laughed.  “Good to see you again, Councilor.”  He turned to Dresten and Odyna.  “And greetings to you two.  I hear your numbers have grown.”

Dresten smiled, and shook Lincoln’s hand.  “Yes – and several of us moved to Hammerhand, to help out there as we do here.”  He looked past Lincoln and toward the carriages.  “We’ll come to see you later, once you’re settled.  Many of the councilors are looking forward to seeing you, and exchanging news.”  Several of the others in the Order had appeared behind him, including Saia and the elderly Idzac, drifting together to form an orderly and quiet group.  They had kept their manner of dress from the old Order, all of them dressed in black from head to toe, including black hoods that were now left down behind them.  They were smiling at him and the others in the troupe, but at the same time, they looked focused.

Dresten saw Lincoln’s interest, and smiled.  “We have an opportunity moving past the city to the South.  If all goes well, we’ll return tonight and tell you.  It will make an interesting story.”  He turned to the others, and nodded at them.  They moved out through the gate as a unit, and Dresten followed them.  They broke into an easy jog once past Lincoln’s caravan, following the road as it parted the crops.

Lincoln looked back toward Councilor Platiner.  She merely shrugged.

“They’ve been working up to something for two days now.  They wouldn’t say what.”

Lincoln returned her shrug, then walked beside her as they moved toward the town square.

“So, we haven’t heard anything from Carter’s Hill since last summer,” she said.  “You haven’t been that direction yet, have you?”

“No, we’re on our way there,” he replied with a smile.  “Marlena and Jameson want to help out.”

Darcy’s eyes narrowed.  “They couldn’t travel there on their own?”

“Of course they could.”  Lincoln let the statement hang for a moment.  “That doesn’t mean we should make them.  Besides, we can help the city out, too.  And while they may not have a whole lot of surplus to trade with, they have needs.  If we help them out now, they’ll remember it.”

“Always thinking of the future,” she sighed.  “Carter’s Hill will always make me nervous.”

“I know the Immune make you nervous, too,” he said.  “Marlena and Jameson will stay outside while we’re here- they know you prefer that.”

She nodded, then paused.  She turned to the right, toward the other gate across the village.  The top of the wall was just visible between the peaked rooftops, and the guards on the platforms beside and above the gate were talking and pointing animatedly.  Something out on the road had gotten their attention.  Lincoln turned to look behind him, to see if Bryan had been alerted yet.  His own reaction would depend greatly upon the village trainer’s judgment.

“We might as well go see what they’re all excited about,” Darcy suggested.  “Perhaps there’s another caravan coming.  Think you can handle the competition?”

Lincoln laughed, speeding up to keep pace with her as she crossed the square.  “We don’t compete.  Besides, if someone is going the other way, Red Hill has some requests.  They might have some ideas for us, too.”

“I never understood how you all got along so well, when you’re trading the same goods with the same villages,” she said, shaking her head.  “It doesn’t make sense.”

“If we didn’t get along, it would only be a matter of time before we were fighting.  Nobody wants that.”  They were nearing the gate, and could see part of the road leading away from the village.  “There’s a few bad apples out there, but villages like yours are pretty good at spotting them, too.  How long do they last in this way of life?”

“Not… long…” Darcy replied, distracted by what she could now see out on the road.  It wasn’t a gypsy caravan or a merchant train approaching, but a pair of young women, both trying feebly to run and support each other as they stumbled toward the gate.  Even from 50 meters, it was obvious that they were exhausted- and terrified.  They looked back at the road behind them every few moments, as if someone had chased them all the way to the gate.

Lincoln stopped short of the gate, letting Darcy approach to meet the two women.  While he would be happy to help out those who needed it – and these two looked like they needed help – he didn’t have the authority to let them into the village.  Darcy and Bryan would determine if the two were too great a risk to allow inside.  The two women – girls, really – nearly collapsed when they reached the defenders.  They spoke to Darcy for only a few moments, quietly and quickly, before the councilor waved them inside, toward the small inn.  Their clothes were nearly destroyed, torn in many places and filthy from the road.  But underneath the dust and sweat, they were both very pretty – and were most likely sisters, Lincoln decided.

Darcy stopped beside him.  “It’s hard to imagine them being a threat, and they didn’t have any visible wounds.”  He nodded his agreement, and she continued.  “They say they’re from a village that was over-run last night, and that they were followed here- by people who were trying to kill them.  They also said they wanted to travel away from here as soon as they could, so once they’ve eaten, you may want to speak to them.”

A sharp whistle sounded from outside the gate, and Lincoln turned his head.  Marlena had circled the village from outside the cement block wall, and was now out on the road, looking toward the treeline where the two girls had come from.  She looked back in toward him, and beckoned him to come outward.

“There’s someone out there, all right,” she said, nodding her head toward the road and the distant trees.  “Two, I think.  Both Immune.”  She paused for a moment.  “I told you what Svetlana said, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” Lincoln replied, scanning the trees.  “That someone had not only let the Turned into a village, but they’d come back the next day and murdered the survivors.”

Neither of them spoke for a long moment.  Then Marlena looked back into the village, at the girls who were just reaching the door of the inn.  “It’s too great a coincidence.  I’m wondering if we should ask the council to let us move the carriages inside tonight.”

“I’m wondering that, too – but at the same time, will it offer us any more protection?”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Marlena said.  “If we’re inside, we can help the village defend itself.”

*****

Dana and Taurus stopped 5 meters short of the edge of the forest, watching the two girls disappear inside the gates.  Taurus was shaking his head, smiling.

“Couldn’t have worked out better if we’d planned it,” he said.

Dana’s lips were a tight line.  “It still would have been better for us to catch them before they got here,” she said.  “The village will be on alert tonight.”

“What does it matter?” he replied.  “How will they protect themselves from the Turned coming up inside the wall?”

“I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it,” she said.  “And the gypsies have an Immune with them.  They may sense the Turned approaching from underground, and raise the alarm early.”

He looked at her, silent for a long moment.  “Should we hold off on our attack until after they leave?”

Dana sighed, thoughtfully, before replying.  “No, we should do it tonight- which means we’ll have to start right away.  There are still some farmers in the outer fields, but we’ll have to move fast.  And I’m starting to think that for next time, we’ll have to come up with another assault plan.”  She paused again.  “Something tells me these people will be better able to counter our current strategy.”

Taurus shrugged.  “There’s lots of ways to get the Turned past those walls.  We’ll think of something.”

A smile tugged at the edge of Dana’s lips.  “I already have.”

*****

The seven of them kept a steady pace throughout the day, stopping to rest and eat only one time.  Ivan led them, 15 meters ahead of the single-file line, jogging easily down the road before them, alert to danger from any direction.  The others were similiarly watchful, and carried their weapons within easy reach.  And while they were tired from their long march and the attack the night before, they were still formidable.

Cheszalt felt more alive than he had for many years.  Joining the assault team was both the best and worst decision he’d made since becoming a councilor.  He had let himself grow distant from the mission his Order had been charged with, and had forgotten what it was to carry out the Creator’s will with his own hands.  But he’d also lost much of his resolve- seeing so many of his brothers and sisters killed in the attack had hurt him more than it should have.  He himself had nearly been killed- only an impossibly fast intervention by Ilyana had saved him.  He couldn’t help but wonder if she’d prevented his untimely death, or intervened in his fate.

His mind was carrying home more conflict than it should have.

Only seven, he thought to himself again.  He couldn’t help but wonder if their plan could have been better, if it could have been timed differently, or if they should have brought more warriors with them.  The long run gave him nothing else to do but think.  He couldn’t wait to get back to their new home, to immerse himself in the mind-numbing routine of administration, but at the same time, he knew he could not allow himself to distance himself from these missions any longer.

“Master!” he heard someone shout from behind him.  He slowed, looking behind him to see Ilyana, stopped in her tracks.  The rest of the team behind her had stopped with her, clustering in the road.  Ivan had already stopped, and was jogging back toward the group.  Cheszalt approached them as well, and a few moments later, the entire team was in a group.

“What is it, sister?” He followed her gaze into the forest, but couldn’t see what had gotten her attention.  But a moment later, he saw it easily – another member of the Order was approaching them, coming right through the trees.  The forest was thin enough at the edge of the road to allow sunlight in, and there was little chance of any of the Turned being close enough to attack.  Nonetheless, it was disconcerting to him.  A moment later he recognized the man who stepped out onto the road behind them.

“Dresten,” he said, evenly.  He felt the rest of his team tense.

“Councilor,” Dresten replied.  He still wore the Order’s uniform, and the sword, but his hands were clasped behind him.  He nodded his head in a half-bow, still respectful of Cheszalt’s rank, in spite of…

More figures moved out of the trees, on both sides of the forest, both ahead of the assault team and behind.  Cheszalt recognized more of them, his expression hardening as he realized what was happening.  His gaze met that of Saia, another officer he had once trusted.  She, too, gave a half-bow of respect, but Cheszalt wondered how far that respect would go.  He and his team were outnumbered two-to-one.

Ivan began moving first, towards Saia and the others near her.  He began to draw his sword from his side, prepared to challenge the ambush and fight his way through.  The ambush held one more surprise for him, though.

“Don’t, brother,” Ilyana said, appearing at Ivan’s side, entrapping his sword arm behind him and stopping him in his tracks.  “There’s no need for a fight here.”  She applied pressure to his elbow, and the sword fell from his grip.  His expression was stunned.  She released him as the other traitors approached the group, and stood beside Saia, looking inward at them.

“You, too, Ilyana?” Cheszalt asked.  “How long?”  Seeing her beside Saia, he suddenly realized how alike the two looked.  Almost as if they were-

“At Silverlake, Master.  The assault force was completely overwhelmed by the Turned outside the village.  Tasia and the other officers followed your instructions to the letter- and it got every one of them killed.”  She looked at Saia, then back at him.  “My blood-sister is the only reason I’m alive.”

Cheszalt nodded his understanding.  Then he looked back to Dresten.  “And now, you mean to finish the job Svetlana started.”

Dresten took another step forward.  “No, councilor.  We didn’t come to fight.”

“You’re prepared for combat, though,” Cheszalt nodded at their weapons.

“Always.  We came to bring you with us, in the hopes that we could share what we’ve found about our Order’s origins.”  Dresten kept a comfortable distance, his hands still behind him.  “But we could not ignore the possibility that you would fight us.  We do not want that to happen.”

Cheszalt looked around the traitors for a moment, then re-focused on Dresten.  “The Order’s origins? We know our history well enough.  I was one of your instructors once.”

Another form moved through the trees- an elderly man whose white hair stood out against his black uniform.  “And I was once yours,” the man replied, moving onto the road ahead of them, to stand beside Saia.  “Listen to me again now.  Give what we have to share with you the chance.  If your own belief is strong enough to withstand the evidence we plan to show you, we will not prevent you from returning home.”

Again, Cheszalt looked around at the ambush.  He had no doubt they could put up a good fight, but to throw away more lives in the effort did not seem wise.  And with Idzac standing against them, and Ilyana tipping the odds even further, many of his own fighters would hesitate to fight, even if he gave the order.  Morale was against him, at least for now.  If they did surrender peacefully, the opportunity to strike might present itself later on.

“Very well,” Cheszalt said, standing relaxed.  And taking the cue from him, the rest of the strike team stood easy.

“Follow us, Councilor.” Dresten smirked a little.  “Where we’re going, you’ll be more comfortable than you would be sleeping in the trees.”

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5 Responses to “The Immune – Chapter 06”

  1. Bob Wall Says:

    Where can I find the ending?

    • I’m still working on writing it (as of 2Apr2011) but I have the plot-line worked out… some amazing, beautiful and terrible things are going to be happening. Keep checking back! I try to post a chapter a week or so. Thanks for reading!

  2. Love, love, love it! I’ve been reading it off and on for the past two weeks. Will you be able to post another chapter soon?

    • I hope to! I try to keep writing a few chapters ahead, and edit them as I go (this also gives me some room to revise if I come up with something more terrible later on LOL). Family life has gotten busy lately, but I should have at least one more chapter up soon!

  3. Roquendo Says:

    You have made another loyal reader. Love the story line

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