PART THREE: THE EDGE OF THE BLADE
"Missing? How can he be missing?" demanded Eya.
"Just that. No one has seen him since shortly after dusk. The work at his station is complete, but he hasn't checked in with his commanding officer," explained Reg. Personally, he wasn't concerned about his son; Sor could take care of himself. His wife, on the other hand, had a different opinion on the matter. Bre had been angry enough at Reg for permitting Sor to enlist. Now, in addition to being sick with worry, she was furious. It was reason enough for Reg to spend a few extra hours at the palace.
"Considering how chaotic things are at the moment, I wouldn't let it worry you. There's so much activity going on, it's hard to keep track of everything."
"It's not me that's concerned. It's my wife."
"Oh. Well, considering the problems you have with your daughter, wouldn't her efforts be better spent addressing that situation than wondering about a boy who's some place out there building a wall or digging a ditch?"
Reg winced. "That's a sore point. Bre blames herself for Lor's 'failures' - most notably the unborn child. She blames me for Sor's."
"I'll see what I can find out, but I doubt I'll have more success than you. Has it occurred to you that he may not want to be found?"
"Of course it has. If I was his age, I'd find a pretty young girl for a roll in the hay before the battle, but that's not the sort of thing Bre is interested in hearing."
"No, she never was one for rolls in the hay. Sometimes I wonder how you two managed to produce two children. I've never been married, but I'm sure I've spent a lot more sweaty nights in bed than you have."
"Undoubtedly true. I love Bre - at least most of the time I think I do - but she's not the most imaginative woman around. This hasn't been an easy marriage, and I know what she's going to be like when I get home tonight."
"There's certainly enough work to keep you here 'til long past dawn, if that's what you want. With all that has to be done, we could keep a thousand hands busy."
Reg chuckled lightly. "I wouldn't mind staying out of the lion's den for a little longer. I suppose I'll have to face my wife sometime, but I can put it off."
"Maybe if you wait long enough, your wayward son will show up. I think Lea may have sent someone looking for him too. She wasn't aware he was in the army, and now she wants to talk to him. She thinks he's too young to be fighting."
"Sisterly concern, I suppose," mused Reg.
"Probably. I've given up hoping for anything more. He may be devoted to her, but her feelings for him don't transcend affection. It's strange, considering how hard we tried to push them together. In the end, I guess we did Sor a disservice. Unrequited love is the most agonizing emotion."
"Surely you don't speak from personal experience?" asked Reg, surprised.
Eya chuckled. "Of course not. But I've seen enough of it. Mostly in Sor, and even a little in Lea where that bastard from Tsab is concerned."
"So she's going to marry Guc?"
Eya's expression became almost predatory. "Not a chance. With his city destroyed, he has nothing - and she feels betrayed by him. Thankfully, that union is just awaiting the proper moment for its dissolution. But we can leave the matter of looking for her husband until after the quatics have been eliminated."
"So what's next?"
"Gav's midnight elevation to Supreme Battle Commander. Lea is supposed to stand by his side to authenticate his stature as Sor's son. I'm not sure this is a good idea, but it seems necessary. We can worry about the ramifications later, I suppose. Hopefully, Gav will be able to infuse some energy into the current battle plan. As it stands, everything's a mess."
"We're putting a lot off until 'later'," noted Reg.
"Lea said something similar earlier tonight. But we don't have a choice. It used to be you could plan for the future - say with reasonable certainty what you might be doing a year from now. At this point, we don't know there will be a human race by the start of winter. There's something ominous about the way the quatics have rampaged across Devforth thus far."
"Eya, tell me honestly: do you think we can stop them?"
"I don't know. There are so many variables. How effective magic will be against them. Who or what the intelligence is behind this drive. How our army will react to fighting a legion of hideous giants on the battlefield."
"But if you had to guess...?"
Eya considered for a long moment. Then, looking her brother directly in the eyes, she spoke one word: "No."
Reg felt his blood turn to ice.
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