PART TWO: FIRST SURGE
To Guc, it seemed like the flight from Tsab had lasted forever. Now, under cover of darkness, with Pipit’s Cove just to his south, he could rest. Having not slept the previous night while planning the day’s strategy, his energy level was at a low ebb, and he needed at least a short period of slumber in order to think clearly.
The refugee group that Guc was a part of numbered fewer than one-hundred. While it was possible there were stragglers who hadn’t found the encampment, most of the survivors were present.
Guc hadn’t given much thought to the future - either near-term or far-term. While his immediate goal was to meet the approaching reinforcements from the Twin Cities, it had occurred to him that those troops would not be enough. Even factoring in Llam’s minor contribution, and Vorti’s more significant one, Guc didn’t think there were enough human soldiers to stop the quatics. The fate of Devforth might ultimately rest on the shoulders of the cities’ few Apaths, and the use of magic in any battle was fraught with uncertainties.
“Your Majesty,” inquired a voice. “Are you all right?”
Guc’s eyes snapped open, and he was surprised to realize he had closed them while standing. “You wanted something, Lieutenant?” he replied, taking note of the young man’s insignia.
“Captain Yob was wondering if you wanted couriers dispatched to the other cities to inform them of what happened?”
“Tell Yob to find the six most rested riders and send them in pairs to the Twin Cities, Llam, and Vorti. Make sure they follow the most direct paths, since all the armies are likely on the march.”
It was an order Guc should have given already, but his mind was so benumbed by weariness it hadn’t occurred to him. What other critical factors was he forgetting?
As the king found a spot near one of the fires to lie down, and wrapped a blanket around himself, his thoughts turned to the events of the past few weeks. At this point, all of his maneuvering to marry Lea seemed pointless. His goal, to elevate Tsab to her former glory, had gone up in flames along with the city’s buildings and inhabitants. Now, he was a king in exile with a ragtag band of six-dozen followers. No longer a ruler, really - just another refugee fleeing the scourge of an enemy his race had ignored for far too long.
As consciousness faded, the lurking nightmares emerged into the open.
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