Upcoming Publishing Schedule

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on a few things. I apologize in advance because there is going to be a flurry of activity this week, but it all good stuff and I think you’ll be excited.

Deliver Update

I have had a lot of people ask me when Deliver (The Blades of Acktar #4) will release.

The short answer: I don’t know yet.

Sorry. *wince* *ducks flying books*

The long answer: The first draft is written. That’s the first big step. Now that November is over, I plan to spend December revising. The revised draft should go out to my editor and early readers in late December or early January. Then it all depends on how long it takes for my editor and early readers to go through it and send it back to me, and how many changes I have to make in the second revision. Then all the publishing stuff and proofreading. Right now, I’m hoping for a March release, but I’m making no promises. I don’t want to rush and give you a sub-par book.

Before you despair too much, keep reading for an update on everything I plan to publish in the next few months.

I Won NaNoWriMo!

In case you don’t know what that is, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. In November, authors all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words in 1 month. Yes, it is as crazy as it sounds, especially for writers like me that also work a day job. To put this in perspective, since working my current full time job, I have never written 50,000 words in a month. My highest word count was roughly 30,000. Somehow, I needed to find time to write an extra 20,000 words.

I did it. Not really sure how. Actually, I do know how. I pretty much did nothing but write and work the entire month of November. But, it was worth it.

What does this mean for you, my amazing readers?

Well, obviously, I wrote 50,000 words of new Blades of Acktar stuff. That’s a lot of words that will be coming your way.

Stuff I wrote during NaNo:

  • I finished the novella about the Leader titled Destroy
  • An extended ending short story for Deliver
  • A short story about Shad and Jolene
  • A few backstory scribbles of scenes in Dare from Shad’s POV
  • A short story about Laurence & Annita Faythe, Renna and Brandi’s parents
  • A short story set 10 years after the end of Deliver
  • A few scenes set 8 years after the end of Deliver that could turn into a novella down the road (but not right away.)

Publishing Schedule

If you’ve been keeping track, I have first drafts of Book 4, a novella, 4 short stories, and a few random backstory scribbles waiting in line to be published. You might be wondering when in Acktar all this cool stuff will finally make it your way.

Here’s the tentative schedule. Things might change, and I’m making no promises.

Late December

  • Destroy (The Blades of Acktar #3.5) releases as Kindle only – this is the novella on the Resistance Leader that gives both backstory for when Respen took over and some new information on what happens immediately after Defy ends. This novella is something of a prequel-sequel that spans about 6 years of time. It isn’t necessary to read this book before Deliver, but it gives more insight into certain characters.
  • short story about Shad and Jolene (to be titled yet) – this will be posted as a freebie on my website as part of launch stuff for Destroy
  • short story about Laurence and Annita Faythe (to be titled yet) –  this will also be posted as a freebie on my website as part of launch stuff for Destroy 

March

  • Deliver (The Blades of Acktar #4) releases – remember, this is a tentative release date. Subject to change
  • extended ending short story for Deliver (to be titled yet) – this will be posted as a freebie on my website as part of launch stuff for Deliver
  • short story set 10 years after Deliver  –  this will also be posted as a freebie on my website as part of launch stuff for Deliver

April 

  • Destroy releases as paperback with all the short stories released as part of the launches for Destroy and Deliver included as bonus content.

Some of the other random backstory scribbles will probably also be released during one of the launches as freebies on my website.

Yes, you read that right. The next Blades of Acktar release is planned for the end of THIS MONTH. It’s a novella (though technically long enough I could call it a short novel) and releasing as a Kindle ebook only at this time, but still. That’s only a few weeks away. I might be kinda freaking out at this point.

Later this week, I’ll have a cover release for Destroy and give out an official release date so you can count down the days. There will also be more information about Destroy then.

So stay tuned. 😉


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What's up with the Title of Book 4?

All the previous titles in The Blades of Acktar are four-letter D words. Dare. Deny. Defy. All of them have a punchy, raw feel to them.

And then there’s Book 4. Deliver. It’s a longer word. A little weird and outdated. Why would I pick it for the title of Book 4?

To be honest, when I came up with the titles for the first three, I wasn’t planning a book 4. I only needed titles for three books.

But I chose those titles very carefully. They are all commands. In some way, shape, or form, the characters are commanded to dare, deny, or defy throughout each of those books. They are also the theme of the books, both each individual book and all the books in the series. Finally, all three of those words can have dual meaning. Leith daring to stand up to King Respen is a good thing, but Respen daring to stand against God isn’t. Denying self is good. Denying Christ isn’t. See what I mean?

Trying to find a word that started with D, was a command, captured the theme, was present in the earlier books, and had dual meaning was a bit of a challenge.

Finally, I settled on Deliver.

Criteria #1: Starts with D. Check.

Criteria #2: A command. Check.

Deliver isn’t a word we use often, even though it is used a lot in the Bible (or at least, in the KJV that I use), especially in the Psalms where the writers routinely beg for God’s deliverance from enemies. In this context, it means save.

Even though the word deliver wasn’t used often in the books, it is essentially the prayer Renna prays A LOT. She wants God to save her (read: deliver) her from her enemies. Leith needs deliverance from his sins and his enemies. Pretty much any time the word save is used, you could substitute deliver.

I also noticed that the word deliver was used in a few of the verses from Daniel that I choose to begin the books with. Another tie in.

Criteria #4: Present in all three books. Check.

Remember I mentioned the word deliver is used in the Psalms? Especially in the Psalms written by David. The Bible stories about David continue to play a role in the theme and shaping the characters in book 4.

Criteria #3: Captures the theme. Check.

Now to the tough one. Dual meaning. The cool thing is, the word deliver has the most complicated dual meaning of all of them. Dare, deny, and defy have the same meaning that can be directed in two different ways. Deliver as a word has two different, and in many ways, opposite meanings.

On the one hand, it means to save or to be taken out of. Saved from enemies or sin or bitterness, etc.

On the other hand, it means to surrender or to be handed over. (like delivering a package or delivering oneself to the enemy).

See what I mean by opposite? This one word means both to take away from and also to hand over.

But in a way, these two definitions work together. To be delivered from bitterness, we need to surrender our own pride and hurt. To be delivered from our enemies, we surrender our need to rescue ourselves. Because of God’s deliverance from our sins, we surrender our lives to Him. There’s also the negative. There are those who surrender their lives to their bitterness and hatred. They are delivered into the hands of their enemies.

I’m already having fun using this duality in the book so far, and I’m brainstorming ways it will come out into the ending. The word deliver might not be as noticeably used in the book the way dare, deny, and defy were, but any time you see the words save or surrender, that’s what I’m thinking about when I write it.

What do you think about the title? Love it? Not so sold on it yet?

 


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Why Defy isn't The End

*Warning: This Post Contains MAJOR Spoilers for the end of Defy. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*

DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOUR HAVEN’T READ DEFY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Okay, you’re still here? Either you’ve read Defy or you are ignoring all the warnings.

As many of you have heard already, I’m currently writing The Blades of Acktar book 4. Some of you might be a little confused. After all, the big bad guy got defeated at the end of Defy. What more is there left do to?

Well, here’s my four reasons for why I decided to write a book 4:

  1. Martyn didn’t die. In my original plan for Defy, he was supposed to die in the end battle saving Leith. But when it came time to write that scene, Leith realized what was going to happen and shoved Martyn out of the way. So I now had a live Martyn on my hands that I had to deal with.
    • After thinking about it for a while, I realized my characters were smarter than me. After all, the whole, ex-best friend makes a last minute decision to turn good and saves his friend before dying is a little cliche. (See Harry’s death in Spiderman 3)
    • Besides, an alive ex-best friend is a whole lot more complicated than a dead one. Having Martyn die would’ve been the easy way out. He and Leith wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of their decisions throughout the first three books. Leith could simply move on. But with Martyn alive? Let’s just say the tension between everyone is SO much fun to write!
  2. Leith needs to figure out what happens AFTER. One of the main questions throughout the series has been “Can Leith move on from the Blades? Can he do anything else? What does he do after the war? Where does he fit in a peaceful Acktar?”
    • I could’ve ended it with Defy. You know he’s going to figure something out, but it would leave that question unanswered. I know some readers love unanswered questions like that in an ending. Personally, I’m one of the ones who wants to know the answers to things like that, especially if the author has made a big deal about it.
  3. Leith and Renna’s relationship still has a long way to go. If you add up the time they actually spend together during Dare, Deny, and Defy, you’ll realize that that week in the dungeon counts as their first real, quality time together. Due to the circumstances of thinking one or both of them would die, their relationship progresses quickly in that week. BUT, they are just BEGINNING their relationship. They have pretty much agreed to finally start dating at the end of Defy.
    • Once again, I could’ve left it as is. You know where they are headed. But, they are the main couple of the book. Defy ends with more obstacles in their path than they even realize (she’s still a lady and Leith doesn’t fit with that world. He’s still an ex-Blade. They both have no clue what they are doing when it comes to a relationship). I felt their time building a relationship also needed to be told.
  4. Acktar is a mess. Most of the time, books don’t show what happens after a major war tears the country apart. We don’t see the rebuilding of Hogwarts. We don’t see Panem trying to build a new government. There’s so much hurt and bitterness in Acktar and in its new king. I wanted to explore what it takes for Acktar to either begin healing or tear itself apart, whichever comes first.

Healing and restoration is really the theme of book 4. All of the characters (Martyn, Keevan, Leith, Renna, Brandi) have some healing to do. The whole country needs healing.

Over all, my planned ending for Book 4 will bring the characters and the country to a place where they are truly ready to begin the next chapter, even if the series comes to a close.

What do you think? Are you excited for Book 4? Or do you honestly think Defy should’ve been the end? Don’t worry, I won’t get mad if you do. 😉


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Defy Blog Tour – Conclusion

Defy Blog Tour Header

I can’t believe Defy has officially released and all the blog tour and party stuff is all over! As you can probably tell, I’m still playing catch up since the blog tour ended five days ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting a conclusion. *sigh* That’s the way things go. It’s Wednesday, and I’m still trying to finish my to-do list from last Saturday.

So here’s a recap. You’ll want to keep reading to the bottom of the post where I have a bit of an update/news for all of you guys. 😉

All good stuff, though. The launch went amazing! You all were so enthusiastic! A big thank you to everyone who participated! A big thank you also to Jaye L. Knight for being a guest author at the Facebook party!

The live character chat at the Facebook party went really, really well. So well, in fact, that I’m leaving the Facebook accounts I set up for my characters open. A few of you have even had Facebook recommend them as friends, which is cool. You might see them pop onto my Facebook page occasionally, and I might set up a live character chat again down the road.

I’m glad it went well, since it was a total experiment. I half expected to have it fizzle out after the first half hour. Instead, the whole hour and a half flew by. A live chat has a much different dynamic than the blog post character chats I’ve done before. Shorter sentences, more small talk, little conversations going all over the place.

Defy is currently available in both kindle and paperback on Amazon. The paperback is still in the process of being uploaded on Barnes & Noble, but I do have my personal copies in stock in you want to buy a signed copy directly from me.

Here’s a recap of the blog tour:

Reviews

 “I couldn’t stop reading it and basically breathed the book in. (read it in a day people. All 359 pages)” – Soleil from Reviews by Soleil

 “There were some dark moments, but there’s always hope, always the promise that God is in control. It’s a simple message and nicely woven in.”- Claire Banschbach from The Overactive Imagination

 “Plus, our favorite villainous king is plotting something villainous (go figure).” – Hope Brockway from Stitches of Freedom

 “Come on peoples! It’s a book series about assassins, why aren’t you reading this?” – Rachael Steele

 “If you like heartfelt adventure with deep-rooted characters in a meaningful, well written story then this entire series is for you!”- Mandy Fender

 “Finding out who “The Leader” is was just … ahhh!!!! I was so not prepared for that!” – Jesseca Wheaton

 “Leith went through so much, I mean, so much just to protect Renna. It was very torturous to read, but I think it was vital to the story. He is no longer afraid to defy Respen.”- Gabriella Paige from A Heart Redeemed

 “Guys, I’m serious when I say this, I can’t pick a favorite book in this series!” – Alyssa Van Fossen

  “It is one thing to profess faith, it is another to need it.”- Jessica Dowell

 “Renna, a healer, is one of my absolute favorite characters of all time! AHH, I just love her so much!”- Hannah Rodes from My Bookcase and I

 “Lots of twists and turns in the book that I wasn’t expecting—I was glued to the Kindle. It was sogood! Lots of fangirl squealing happened while reading.”- Ivy Rose from Lakeside Publications

 “Tricia clearly knows the way of a good story” – Hannah Williams

 “You know, those all time favorite characters you want to hug and place in bubble wrap and take them away from their author until said author learns to play nice? Leith is one of them. And it’s terribly ironic considering Tricia and I are basically evil author twins.”- Jaye L. Knight

 “Third in the series, peaking with an intense climax, and full of…well, everything, Defy most certainly didn’t disappoint!”- Abby Cashen

 “It was fantastic. It was also daunting and heavy. Made me giggle hysterically. Melted my heart. Strengthened my soul. In short, it’s a thought-provoking novel exploring perilous and even terrifying times; yet there are lovely moments of humor and sweetness – and the characters that experience them have quite captured my heart. I loved this book!”- Shantelle Hannu

 “I. LOVED. IT. SO. MUCH. You have to read this series!!!” – Bethany Reinstedt

 “Also more battles = more action = more awesome.” – Jonathan Trout

 Book Spotlights

Gabrielle Nadig

Micailah Cialella

Faith Potts

Mandy Fender

 Oh, you’re still here reading and waiting for your update? Some of you may have seen in the back of your Kindle or paperback copy of Defy that yes, there will be a book 4. I know Defy really seems like the end. It was originally planned to be. But things didn’t turn out that way. I’m about 60,000 words into book 4 and I’m hoping it’ll be published sometime this coming winter.

  Deliver Mock Up Cover
 About the Book (preliminary)
Can something broken ever heal? 
Martyn is broken. After betraying and torturing his best friend, he doesn’t belong anywhere in Acktar. Yet he can’t seem to make himself leave.
Leith is broken. While healing from the torture he received at Nalgar Castle, Leith struggles to find his new role. But can a Blade ever truly move on?
The country is broken. Bitterness divides town against town, neighbor against neighbor. Will they heal or deliver themselves to chaos?

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Release Day!!!!!

Defy releases today!!!!! Eeep! I can’t believe it is here already!

Blood and Battle Quote

The blog tour is in full swing. You can check out what has been posted already and upcoming posts here.

Today is the last day of the giveaways on Goodreads for Dare and Deny. Be sure to check them out here and here and enter before it is too late!

One final bit of housekeeping. The Kindle versions of Dare and Deny were both supposed to be on sale this weekend. You may have noticed that the sale on the Kindle version of Deny suddenly cut out. Never try to schedule a sale on one of your Kindle books right when your Kindle Select membership is set to renew. It makes it difficult, just saying. Due to this, the sale won’t go back up until June 2 and will continue to run to June 4. This is only on Deny. The sale for Dare went off without a hitch and will be running through June 3.

Enjoy Defy and the rest of the blog tour! Don’t miss the Facebook party on June 2. It’s going to be a blast!


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Defy's Cover Reveal

I’ve been promising to reveal the cover for Defy sometime this week. I was holding off on sending out the ARC copies, hoping I’d get the cover in time to include it on the ARCs.

Last night, I broke down and sent out the ARCs. An hour after I sent them out, I finally got the cover. It’d my own fault it was so delayed. I’m the one who based Nalgar off a ruined castle.

If you signed up to review Defy as part of the blog tour or as one of the review copies, you should’ve received an email from me last night. If you didn’t, you might want to check your junk mail. If the email is still missing, please email me.

Oh, yes, you’re waiting for the cover reveal, aren’t you?

Once again, my cover designer did an amazing job. Click here to check out her website. She had to digitally recreate Nalgar Castle based off the ruins of Raglan Castle in Wales and my own tweaks. I’m amazed at how it turned out!

Without further chatter from me, here is the cover for Defy!

Defy_Cover


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Defy Blog Tour Sign up

*Edited: Thanks to everyone’s enthusiastic response, all spots are now full. Thanks!*

It’s that time again! Defy releases in a little bit over a month and a half. Eeek! My cover designer is furiously working on the cover, so I should have that by the time I send out the blog tour information in the first week of May.

Defy Blog Tour Header

I have two sign ups this time around. One is the standard blog tour sign up. The other is for those who don’t have a blog and would like to review Defy on Amazon and other places.

Thanks in advance for your willingness to help out once again! I know this is a crazy couple of months with lots of releases, so I definitely appreciate it!


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I have a Release Date!

No, that’s not an April Fool’s joke (because that would be cruel). Actually, I planned to announce this yesterday to avoid any April Fool’s fake outs, but being sick through that timeline out the window.

Anyway, the news that you’ve all been waiting to hear:

The release date for DEFY is…

Badlands Landscape; Defy Announcement

May 31!

My awesome cover designer Ashley is working on the cover, so hopefully I’ll have that to reveal shortly. And it’s time to start putting together all the launch stuff. Seriously, didn’t we just do this?

Oh, and I got to finish the final edit and send it off to the proofreader. Details, details.

Anyway, what are you looking forward to in a book launch?


Posted in Announcements, The Blades of Acktar and tagged , , , , , , by with 19 comments.

Fan Art Contest Winners!

Before I announce the winners, I want to once again congratulate everyone on their submissions! Thirteen people sent in a total of 28 different submissions! Wow! I was amazed to have so many of you send in such creative pieces! Even if you didn’t win, I loved each and every one of them.

I’ve already emailed all of the winners. If your name is listed below, you might want to check your email. 😉

Prizes: 2 $5 Gift Cards just for entering, choice of Dare, Deny, or Defy ebook for the winners of the different categories, and choice of signed Dare, Deny, or Defy paperback for the winners of the Fan Favorite and Author’s Favorite awards.

Winners of the $5 Amazon Gift Cards

For those who entered the fan art contest, I held a drawing for a total of 2 Amazon gift cards.

Winners: Jessica Witt and Moko Kai

Photo Category

The voting on this category was EXTREMELY close. It kept going back and forth between a couple of photos, but in the end, the below photo pulled away by a slim margin.

Winner: Adri Ray – Photo 1

Adri Ray - Photo 3

Fiction Category

I’m not sure how everyone managed to pick a favorite in this category! I was glad this winner was chosen by voting, because I never would’ve been able to choose!

Winner: Blades of Acktar Fanfiction by Rebekah Jewett

If you’d like to read it again to refresh your memory, click here.

Video Category

So many great videos! In the end, one video managed to pull ahead of the others.

Winner: Dare Book Trailer – Rose Knight

Drawing Category

I loved so many of the drawings in this category! You guys are all so talented!

Winner: Leith and Vane – Hannah Rogers

Leith and Vane


 

Now, on to the two grand prizes: Fan Favorite and Author’s Favorite!

Fan Favorite Award

To determine the Fan Favorite, I had all of your enter your top three. I then dumped the result in Excel and averaged the rank of each entry. You guys made a great choice, because Hannah’s artwork is amazing!

Winner: Leith and Vane – Hannah Rogers

Author’s Favorite

Like I’ve said, I loved all of the submissions. It was so hard to choose just one for this prize! In the end, I decided to choose a submission that I adored, but it hadn’t already gotten a prize.

Winner: Scene from Dare – Hannah Rodes

Once again, congratulations to everyone! Thanks for your enthusiasm for The Blades of Acktar and for making this contest so amazing to look through!


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Fan Art Contest – Fiction Part 3

And the third part of the fan fiction pieces. This shorty story by Rebekah Jewett speculates what MIGHT happen in Defy. Sorry, I can’t tell any of you just how close she gets to what actually happens. That would be spoilers. 😉

I can say, she has some awesome ideas. Wish I’d thought of them. 😉


 

Blades of Acktar Fanfiction by Rebekah Jewett 

         Oh dear! What happened? Please let him be ok! 

         “Take him to his tent and have him cleaned up. Watch over him and give him some ointments and medicines.” 

         She was quick to obey, but fear continued to take hold of her body. She touched his forehead. It was burning hot! Oh dear! Please, please be ok! Oh Lord, please heal him! 

 

         Screams. Screams filled his ears. The screams were followed by the sound of metal entering flesh. Crunching against bone. He wanted to scream himself, but it did no good. However hard he tried to run or forget about what was taking place around him, the terrified eyes of those being slaughtered stuck in his vision. Just as all hope was gone, he saw her. His heart lept within him as he ran to meet her. Her eyes, however, were filled with fear. Why? He lifted his hand to caress her cheek, but at his touch she screamed. He pulled his hand back, and where he had just touched her there was a long slash of a red liquid lay on her cheek. Blood? What was happening? He reached for her arm, only to have her whimper and take hold of her arm, her blood seeping through her fingers as she valiantly tried to hide the gash. He looked down at his hand to see a dagger, his dagger, in his hand with her blood covering the blade. He had hurt the one person he wished to protect, the very person he would offer his life for if it meant her safety. He hurt her, with his own dagger. The look of horror, disbelief, and pain etched on her face was more painful to bear than if he had thrust the dagger into his chest. He watched her fall to the ground, covered in blood, and he could do nothing to help her. He screamed her name over and over, trying to find a way to help her. But with his screams, the screams of those around him intensified as well as her wails of grief. 

         Something cool touched his arm. He tried to open his eyes but they felt as though they were glued shut. The smell of blood filled his nostrils. He stirred, trying to open his eyes, but unable to because the force that held them shut was too strong.

“You think he will be ok?” A young feminine voice asked. Where had he heard that voice? It sounded so familiar.

“I’m not sure,” another feminine voice answered, her voice wavering as she spoke. He knew that voice too. That voice belonged to-

“Renna?” His voice sounded raspy. He felt two people lean over him, one pair of hands pulling his head in an upward position as someone held a flask to his mouth. His lips touched the opening, but he couldn’t get himself to drink any.

“You need to drink it. It smells bad, I know, but I can imagine your throat is half raw from screaming all-”

“Brandi!” Renna cut off her little sister from saying more. Leith winced. He’d been screaming all night? Had he awoken everyone in camp?

“It’s ok,” Renna reassured him. “Brandi and I took shifts during the night so we were able to keep you as quiet as possible while the other slept.” Even as she said the words, fatigue etched her voice. He cleared his throat.

“Thank you both for helping me. I think I can manage,” he started as he tried once again to open his eyes. This time he was rewarded with his sight, but what he saw frightened him. There were small streaks of blood across his shirt, sheets, and the dresses Renna and Brandi wore. Leith looked down to see his arms wrapped in blood soaked bandages. Brandi instantly found where his eyes had traveled and explained.

“You had a really bad fever and kept thrashing and screaming. Sometimes you would start clawing and you would scratch yourself. You would open up previous gashes as well as make new ones.  Renna and I tried to stop you from further harming yourself by wrapping your arms in cloth.” Leith put his head down and shut his eyes. The smell of blood was much more powerful and, even being (or at least used to be) a blade, he felt as if he might be sick.

“Perhaps since you’re awake now, we can clean your arms and get you some new blankets,” Renna mused aloud. Just as Renna reached for Leith’s arm, the tent flap opened and Cahira marched in, bowl and towel in hand. Cahira glanced at Leith, then gave a tight nod.

“Good, you’re awake. Renna, dear, could you use this to clean his arms and anything else that might have blood on it? I’ll be right back with all of your breakfasts.” With that, she walked and exited the tent as quickly as she had entered. Leith was still amazed about how much she resembled her husband, General Stewart. She led the camp’s residents just about as strictly as the General ran his army. Both could be very stern, but both were very kind, compassionate, and courageous.

Renna set the bowl next to Leith’s bed and both girls set to work unwrapping Leith’s bandages. Once they had gotten the bandages off, Renna began to clean the wounds. Leith tried not to yell as the cloth moved over his arm. The liquid must be some type of strong cleansing ointment. He locked his jaw as the searing pain ran up and down his exposed arm. After what seemed to be an eternity, Renna put the towel back into the bowl, then began to wrap Leith’s arms back up. It reminded Leith of the first time he had met her which brought a smile to his lips. How much had happened since then! It scared him to remember not too long ago he was still in bondage to Respen. But by God’s love and amazing grace he had become one of his own children. God had led him to Renna and Brandi’s cabin that night, and there he began to think about the Lord. That had happened not only because of Renna and Brandi’s care and love for him, but because of Brandi’s Bible stories of Daniel. He smiled again as he thought of all the times she had visited and told him stories of someone named Daniel.

“So, Leith, how did it go? We were both worried sick when you rode into camp yesterday afternoon with a burning fever. We did everything we could, but your fever was very strong. Thank the Lord it finally broke!” Brandi said as she scooted over to his bed. Leith cleared his throat. It had been almost  a week since he had left Eagle Heights. He had heard rumors that some Blades had been spotted roaming in the cliffs. Leith was worried by the news and decided to scout out the cliffs to see how close the Blades were to their encampment. However, he was spotted and then was locked in a fight  with two other Blades. But God was with him and allowed him to return back to camp, unhurt other than a fever, a miracle Leith was very grateful for.

He looked back at Brandi, her big brown eyes begging him to answer. Turning to face her, he began, “Well, it turns out the rumors were true. There were Blades roaming throughout the cliffs a little too close for comfort. Blizzard and I watched for a while, trying to determine their mission and course of action. However, we were-”

Leith was cut off by a stream of light coming through the open tent flap. Cahira and Shad marched in with Jamie at their heels. Leith smiled as Jamie was visually relieved to see him alive and talking. As promised, Cahira had three bowls of steaming hot oatmeal and gave both the girls one. As they thanked her, she turned to Leith hesitantly. Extending the bowl, she asked, “Do you think you can eat?” Leith nodded his head and eagerly reached for the bowl. He hadn’t had a hot meal since he had left Eagle Heights. Blades aren’t known for having luxurious food while traveling.

As he began to to scoop his oatmeal, Shadrach broke the silence. “Probably the first hot meal, or food that can even be considered a meal, since you left Eagle Heights,” he said with a chuckle. Leith gave him a nod and a muffled laugh.

“So what happened?” Jamie asked.

“Well, as I was telling Brandi, the rumors where true. Sixth Blade Franklin Tooley and  Eighth Blade Farsin Kent were both roaming about the cliffs. Blizzard and I watched them from our vantage point for a few days, trying to learn where they were going and why they were here. However, the day before yesterday, I was spotted. We engaged in a fight.” Leith turned to Shad. “They’re still training. Someone must be training them because they were more skilled than last I remember. I never remember learning some of the techniques they had mastered when I was sixth or eighth blade.” After letting Shadrach digest the entirety of what he had just said, Leith began the story of his journey again. “However, by God’s grace he allowed me to survive. In the fight my supplies were ruined, and I had to flee in case there were more men with them. I’m guessing that’s what led to the fever.”

Cahira stood beside him and felt his forehead. “Well, another one of God’s blessings. Your fever is completely gone!” She gave him a warm smile. I’ll go let the General know. He will probably want a full update on what has taken place.” She took Renna, Brandi, and Leith’s now empty bowls, and left the tent.

Shadrach made his way to Leith’s side and placed his hand on his arm. “I’m glad you’re ok. We were all worried, and we prayed for you every day.” He took a breath. “I’m glad you’re all good. Would’ve been too quiet and boring without you.” He smirked as he left the tent.

Renna sat watching all this take place. What would have happened if Leith….didn’t come back? What would she have done? Tears stung her eyes as she quickly wiped them away. No, she couldn’t think of that now. She sniffed again as she thanked the Lord for safely bringing Leith back to her.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Leith tried to stifle a yawn. He had been summoned to the army headquarters to review what he’d learned with the General and a few lieutenants. What should have been a short meeting turned into a full fledged battle plan. Well not quite, but Leith felt as though he’d spent enough time in the stuffy, cramped tent.  He just wanted to get back to his tent and sleep. He looked over at Shad, who looked to be just as bored as he was. Shad caught his gaze and made an overdramatic bored face. He wanted this to be over. Leith nodded to show he thought the same.

“So would that be ok with you Leith?” General Stewart asked, breaking into Leith’s thoughts. He looked at the General and tried to remember what had just been said. General Stewart’s face held a hint of a smile as he cleared his throat. “By our sources we have learned that there are more men roaming about the cliffs. You ran into one company, which happened to have two Blades. However, one of our spies was able to follow another group. They, as you said, are definitely training. Our informant said he’d never seen so many men able to be so uniformed together. They practiced, never missing a beat. We’ve decided to send out a small party to watch, perhaps even learn from these groups. We also want to range how close they are to camp. We were wondering if you could be the leader of the party, as you have knowledge that would be invaluable for scouting out Blades.”

Leith thought about it. His previous life as a Blade would definitely help if they tried to find the Blades. He would know the best way to defend them if a Blade attacked the party. But he had just gotten back from a scouting expedition, and he really didn’t want to go on another one…especially so soon. He sighed. No, it was his own selfishness that didn’t want him to go. The desire to be able to relax…slothful. No, he would go. Besides, he had promised Lord Alistair he would protect his family. His family would need him to join the men going in order to protect them.

“Yes, that would be fine, though I will want to have a say in who will go and who will not.”

General Stewart gave a nod and then turned back to his lieutenants. “Tomorrow we’ll pick some men to go with Leith. Meeting dismissed!” Leith breathed a sigh of relief. Finally!

He found Shad by the entrance to the tent and walked over to him. “Have any idea on what they’re up to?” Shad said with a solemn expression.

“I wish I did, but a Blade’s ways are only known to himself. I don’t even have a clue,” Leith answered. Shad nodded and then relaxed. “Well, I’ll see you later, Leith!” With that, he walked off. Leith wondered what was with the strange change in his mood, until he saw Joline standing not too far off. He smiled briefly in her direction, then turned to walk to his own tent.

He walked around aimlessly for a while, wondering what journeys the day ahead would bring him. Who could be training the men? Would a Blade “lower himself” so much as to train another common man? What Blade would be training them? How many men were trained? How extensive was their training? All these questions, but no answer. Leith had almost driven himself insane trying to answer the many questions swirling in his mind when he remembered the answer. Bowing his head, Leith prayed to the Lord. Prayed for wisdom, strength, and courage to face the Blades; to face his old life.

Leith felt better after he prayed, he always did. He couldn’t imagine living without being able to pray to God, to be able to pray for his strength and love. He had lived like that for too long. He had been a cold, heartless, merciless Blade. He shivered. No, he would never return to that lifestyle. God had chosen him as his own child, and the Lord would be with him no matter what.

As Leith approached his tent, he heard a muffled sound inside. Even if he was no longer a Blade, he still had his instincts. He positioned his hand to a dagger strapped to the side of his legs. He no longer wore his daggers strapped to his chest, but he wasn’t completely unarmed.

He stealthy made his way towards the opening of the tent flap. He swiftly tore it open and stepped inside. There was no enemy, no Blade. Instead, stood a girl, her strawberry blond hair frizzing as she sifted through some chests by the opening of the tent. He cleared his throat and she slowly turned around. After recognizing his face, she burst into a smile.

“LEITH!” she screamed. “I was worried they’d keep you in there all day!” she said as she ran to hug him. He wrapped his arms around her as she bounded into them. Brandi was the little sister he was never able to have. She looked up at him with her big, questioning brown eyes. “So how’d it go? You finally recover from your journey just to be thrown into a boring meeting all day! That must of been horrible!” she exclaimed.

Leith chuckled. “Well, yes, it was difficult. Shad and I were practically falling asleep! But we did discuss important issues.” Leith said with a small smile.

Brandi nodded then said “Jamie said that they’re sending out a party to go look for more Blades. A-are you going too?”

“Actually, I am. My knowledge of Blades will be very useful for the scouting expedition, so I decided I should go.”

Brandi simply made a grim nod. Leith gave her another quick hug. “It’s ok, God has been with me and I know he will continue to guide me.” This time, Brandi nodded more vigorously. She made a sidelong glance to the chest she had been roaming around. Leith’s curiosity peeked. “What were you doing in there?” He asked as he gestured towards the chests.

Brandi shrugged, but a mischievous sparkle was in her eye. “Well, Blizzard was a little antsy this morning so I brushed his mane. It calmed him down and I had wanted to give him a complete wash since he was probably dirty from wandering in the cliffs. I was looking in the drawers for something to wash him in.” She said as she hurriedly moved back to the chest. “I found this,” she exclaimed as she held up a bottle of yellow-orange liquid. Leith strode over to her and bent beside her.

“Yeah, that is good for his mane. And this,” he said as he took out another bottle, “is for his body. There’s brushes and combs in the bucket” he said as he gestured to a bucket next to Brandi. Brandi smiled at him, her eyes sparkling.

“Thanks Leith!” With another hug she skipped outside the tent in the direction of Blizzard’s stable.

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Leith was up before the sun the next morning. He needed time to pray and think. It was a restless night of sleep and he was unable to go back to bed. Bowing beside his bed, he prayed.

By the time breakfast came around, Leith was mentally prepared for the new task that lay ahead of him; physically being prepared was another story. He had to check with Renna to make sure his cuts wouldn’t open up once he left. That would lead to infection, and infections were never good.

He quickly made his way over to the tent that served as the camp’s hospital. As he opened the door, strong odors hit him; some not-so-pleasant smells, and some that smelled like herbs and spices used to calm a queasy stomach or heal a wound. He spotted Renna not too far away, helping a patient wrap his foot with bandages. Leith made his way beside her. She looked up, startled at first, then relieved.

“Leith,” she said. How happy she was to see him. But he was leaving soon, if not that day. She bit her lip, then forced a smile back to them. “Hold on, I’ll be right with you.” She wrapped her patient’s leg quickly, but with care, then turned to face Leith. What should she say? Had he come here to tell her he was leaving? To ask what had happened the week he was gone? Maybe Brandi had gotten in trouble and he was here to tell her. She mentally kicked herself. Of course he was here to see how he was healing. How could he go on a journey with a wounded arm? “How are your arms?” She asked as she gestured to his bandage covered arms.

He brought them between them to show her as he said, “I think they’re fine. I just wanted to make sure I can use them without risk of infection.”

She motioned for him to follow her, and moved to a table with a chair on either side. She unwrapped the cloth and inspected his arm one by one. Leith watched her, her eyes carefully searching for any sign of infection, even for a cut that threatened to open. She shifted his arm, looked it over, then gently placed it back on the table. She stood and roamed about a shelf not too far off. Leith watched as her hand moved up and down the shelf, looking for a certain ointment. She picked one up and walked back to the table.

“Your arms are healing very well. I just want to apply some of this salve to help ease any pain you might be feeling, and to be sure to prevent infection,” she said as she coated his arms in the cool, sweet smelling liquid.

She finished quickly, and returned the bottle to the shelf. Leith managed to wrap his own arms and walked over to her. He smiled down at her, then turned serious. “Thank you for your help. I probably would’ve ended up much worse than a few scratches on my arms if it wasn’t for you and Brandi. Thank you!” With that, he turned and headed to the front of the tent.

Renna watched him leave. He was leaving, and she didn’t know if he was coming back. She could tell by the look of regret and sadness in his eyes. She might never see him again. They’d been through so much in the short time they’d known each other. She and Brandi nursed him back to life, Brandi told him Bible stories, Leith endangered himself so many times for their safety, he didn’t hesitate to put himself in front of a mountain lion for her and Brandi, to go against Respen for them. And-

A cough interrupted Renna’s thoughts. She’d fret over Leith’s departure later. Now, she had to resume her job as the camp’s nurse.

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Leith barely blinked after he had consented with General Stewart about whom he wished to accompany him to scout out the Blades and their parties. Men came swiftly from around the camp, bringing swords, shields, horses, Rashens, and other supplies they would need for the journey.

Leith was loading up carts when Brandi suddenly appeared beside him. He didn’t want to look at her, it would make it all the more harder to leave. But she waited, and didn’t make a single move. Leith finally turned. She smiled up at him, then did a funny salute. “Reporting for duty, sir!” she said in her most general-like voice. Leith laughed and saluted back. He turned back to his work but could still feel her eyes on him. He turned, once again and saw her staring at him. He raised one eyebrow.

Brandi cleared her throat, saluted and said, “Here I am, reporting for duty sir!” accenting each syllable. She wasn’t joking. She wanted to either help, or go along with them. But no, she couldn’t go. It would be much too dangerous, especially since Renna and her were so important to Acktar.

He shook his head. “Sorry Brandi, but you can’t come with us-” he began, but she interrupted.

“I wasn’t exactly asking to come along. I just wanted to help,” she said as she ran to the wagon and began to organize the shelves. “And obviously, you need some help,” she said as she pointed to the shelves that had odds and ends littering it.

Leith chuckled and nodded. “Very well then. Thank you, Brandi, for your help!”

The work seemed to go by much quicker with Brandi working beside him and the men. Her cheerful attitude and quirky jokes made it seem as if they weren’t even working. Even in the heat of the day when she was drenched in sweat, Brandi never complained. Leith found her attitude admirable and strived to make his the same.

After an entire morning and some of an afternoon, the men were ready to depart. They would wait till dusk, for the lack of light would eliminate the chance of being spotted by watching eyes. Leith tried not to get pulled into the pit of selfishness that was waiting to swallow him up. He knew that the Lord would be with him, that He wanted him to go. If he stayed, It might be more comfortable for himself for a time, but it was disobeying His will. Leith never wanted to do that again. Yes, there were times he would slip up, but he strived not to. And that was only possible by calling upon the Lord for help.

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Renna could barely keep the tears in as she watched the group of men vanish into the cliffs. She was thankful for the darkness that she hoped hid her red eyes and red nose. She didn’t mean to cry but it was just too much! Beside her, Brandi sniffed and rubbed her nose. Renna looked at her and could see her tear streaked cheek glistening in the little moonlight that lit the camp. Renna rubbed her own, hoping no one would notice. She watched as the last of the party was swallowed up by the darkness.

Again there was a sniffle, however this didn’t come from Brandi. Renna looked at Jamie, as a single tear slid down his face. They all were obviously thinking the same thing. They would never see them again. Even if they survived the night without falling off the dangerous cliffs, the little group would be no match for the many Blade-trained masters they would be facing. It was too much. Renna began to quietly weep. After a while, she felt hands on her shoulders, one on each. She looked up and saw Brandi and Jamie staring back at her.

“It’s ok. God kept Daniel safe with the lions. He will keep Leith safe with the Blades.” Brandi said, her voice barely above a whisper. Renna attempted a smile. Of course Brandi would find the perfect Bible story for any situation they were in.

She nodded and looked at them once again. “We should probably go back to camp,” she said as she hugged them both. They nodded and then began the slow, sad walk back to their tents.

 

 

 

Leith turned in the saddle again. The darkness had already fallen so much that he could barely make out the people standing at the edge of the camp seeing them off. He saw who he was sure was Renna standing beside Brandi and Jamie. Leith nodded. He was glad he had told Jamie to stay behind in the camp. No matter how much he had assured Leith he was up to the task, he didn’t want to risk Jamie’s life, no more so then he already had. Jamie had been so courageous and brave, going back to Respen’s castle even when he had freedom in his reach. Jamie was not one to shrink away from responsibility, and he was loyal to a task he started. But Leith didn’t want him to go along on this mission. His mission was to stay in camp to train the young men or woman who had to stay behind. Even in his youth, Jamie was skilled with the sword. He could use his knowledge he had been forced to learn in the art of the sword to train those in camp. He could also protect Brandi, and Renna.

Leith turned forward once more. His throat constricted and moisture began to collect in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes. He grabbed Blizzard’s reins and urged him forward. He eventually caught up with Shad, who was closer to the front of the procession. Shad had a look of grim determination on his face. It was probably externally hard for him and Jolene. Leith was glad Shad had decided to come though. It would have been a lot harder leaving if he hadn’t come.

Shad acknowledged Leith’s presence with a nod when he rode up beside him. They rode in companionable silence for a long while. Leith’s mind wandered as they rode. Who could possibly be training the men? How armored were they? Would their group of valiant men be enough to stop them? If their group lost, who would protect the refugees in camp from the Blades? How were the people at camp faring? What was Jamie doing? Was Brandi wandering in the stables? How was Renna?

They rode into the night. Darkness grew around them. The only light was the silver that came from the moon. As their journey wore on, Leith began to become more anxious. He pulled on his reins and listened. Blizzard picked up his big head and looked around, sensing his rider’s discomfort. Leith also looked about but couldn’t see anything other than his party and tree branches swinging in the gentle breeze. But his uneasiness grew. He spent a few minutes watching and listening for anything unusual. There was nothing. He grabbed Blizzard’s reins and nudged him onward.

They had only gone a little farther when the company stopped. Leith saw Shad conversing with some other men and made his way over. “Leith, we have approached the cliffs. We will need to dismount and go single-file for a bit. This will also prove dangerous, for once out of this portion of the cliffs, our protection is gone. There is an open plateau that you can see for miles on. We must use extreme caution from now on,” Shadrach informed Leith.

Their journey had begun. They were in the midst of leaving Eagle Heights and entering into the Blades’ territory. Leith nodded. “Very well, have most of the best swordsmen go first. A small handful shall stay in the back in case of attack.” Shad nodded, as did the other men. Leith led Blizzard forward. He made his way through the crowd to the front of the procession. Fear gnawed at his stomach as he looked over a steep drop. It was so long, he couldn’t even distinguish the bottom. A memory flashed in his mind, a memory of Shad falling off a cliff similar to this one, except that had been the plan. Leith prayed no one would accidentally fall; fall to sudden death. He shivered at the thought. Perhaps they should wait to sleep before pressing on? The men had a much better chance slipping over the rocks in their tired state. No, they could not sleep next to the cliffs. That would be just as bad, if not worse, than trying to navigate through them.

Leith carefully dismounted Blizzard. He stroked his mane as he searched for a safe way to maneuver about the cliffs. He heard footsteps behind him and turned. Shad stood two paces away from him. “All the men are positioned and ready to move.”

Leith nodded. “Very well.” Turning to the narrow outcroppings, he sighed, “I suppose we shall continue.” Shad nodded as both men began to carefully made their way through the cliffs. Both were consumed with prayers for safety.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Two men sat beside the fire. One was lying on his side, the other staring into the roaring flames. The one on his side turned, his knife in hand. “What do you suppose we do?” He asked, his voice low.

His companion looked at him. He stared at him before speaking. “We will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes!” he answered. He stood and continued, “I will go look for some others.” With that, he picked up his own knife and walked out of their little encampment.

 

 

 

Leith, Shad, and a few others had made it safely down by the time the sky began to change colors. It was a beautiful sight that Leith would have enjoyed very much, if it had not been at such a crucial time. He had no idea how many had safely made it through the night. Leith made his way to Shad. Shad greeted him with a small smile. Leith returned the gesture. “Do you think we should scout the area?” Leith asked Shad.

Shadrach looked around their surroundings and nodded. “I suppose so. But right now, I’m hungry. Do you want to have breakfast first?” Leith nodded.

They opened their packs to find their rations. Leith bit into his almost rock hard roll. He had never minded such food, but at that moment, he missed Cahira’s fresh herb seasoned rolls she made for the camp. Shad bit into his too. He, however, obviously minded the food.

“Ugh, how do you go on nibbling it as if it was some gourmet piece of dough? I think I lost a tooth just now trying to bite into it!” he exclaimed. Leith let out a chuckle. Shad had never had the stomach, or teeth, for the meals Leith so easily ate.

By the end of their small breakfast, a few others had made it down the narrow passage. Leith and Shad got up and began to hike around the perimeter of where they started to make camp. All seemed well, too well. Leith thought they should at least see some sort of activity somewhere, but nothing moved. The continued westward. Leith found a vantage point that would enable them to overlook the Westward ridge of the cliffs and some of the plateau. He pulled on Blizzard’s reins and spun around in the saddle. “Want to see if we are able to see anything from up there?” Leith asked, indicating the small outcropping with his head.

Shad looked at it then nodded. “I suppose.”

 

 

They climbed for a while. It was steeper then Leith had imaged it was going to be. However, they still made good time climbing it. They made it to the top not too long after, and despite Shad’s horse slipping once or twice, it was a relatively easy route for it being so steep. When they placed their feet on solid ground, the view took Leith’s breath away. The sky was beautiful so early in the morning, and being so high gave him an amazing vantage point. He spun in a circle, taking it all in. Shad let out a low whistle. “This is amazing!” he said in awe. Leith nodded.

He stood there, soaking up the beauty when another feeling welled up inside him. Small, then it took over him as much as his awe had, except it wasn’t a feeling of awe. It was fear. An uneasiness fell upon Leith and his stance became rigid. Shad obviously felt his discomfort for his stance changed to a more battle-ready stance. He turned around. His eyes became huge as a scene behind Leith played out.

He barely had time for a yell to pass his lips before a knife came flying-aimed for Leith’s neck. Leith fell face forward, landing in the dirt in a forward break fall. Shad searched for his weapons. His bow and arrow was strapped to his horse. It would take too long to retrieve. Another dagger came flying, this one aimed for him. He tried to dodge it, but it scraped his left arm. Burning fire poured down his arm. He grasped it with his other hand, trying to slow the bleeding. He looked up and found the other man’s attention on Leith. This was his chance.

He knelt down and reached into his boot. He would only have three chances, three daggers. He held firmly onto the dagger as he did a practice flick. He had learned to throw daggers a while back, knowledge that had been useful when he had to pretend to be the late First Blade Harrison Vane. But even then, his shot had been dreadfully off. This time, both he and Leith’s life depended on his accuracy.

“Oh God, please guide these,” he mumbled as he let his first dagger fly. It landed in the dirt next to the other man’s boot. It startled him, which gave Leith a moment to find a way to defend himself. The man turned his focus back to Leith. Shad saw the glint of metal in his hand as he was about to send it flying at Leith, but he was too slow. Shad sent one flying to their attacker. This time, it lodged itself into his abdomen. He screamed and dropped his dagger. Pushing both hands onto his wound, he turned to flee. Before he had gone far, he turned and sent one last dagger flying to Shad. He noticed too late.

Another searing pain shot from his calf. Blood spilled from one wound into the other as he tried to apply pressure to his newest wound. Leith ran past him, pursuing their invader. Shad couldn’t keep his eyes open, the pain forced them closed. He tried to take deep breaths. He heard a scream not too far off. He prayed it wasn’t Leith’s. He sat there praying and trying to stop his bleeding wounds.

He heard footsteps coming near him. He forced his eyes to open and saw Leith. Shad breathed a sigh of relief. Other than a nasty gash on his forearm, he looked fine. Leith walked over to his horse and grabbed his water skin. As he walked over to Shad, he used his dagger to cut a strip of his shirt off. He sat beside Shad and carefully wet the cloth. Shad tried not to yell at the pain that was caused when Leith moved his shin in order to tie the makeshift bandage on. Fire ran down his leg where  the dagger had landed. He tried not to scream.

“Thanks for doing it as carefully as you could,” Shad said, his words laced with pain and sarcasm. He remembered another time when Leith had helped him with a dagger injury. It had been as painful as it had been right then, but this time he didn’t have any pitch pine to aid in the healing process. Leith went through the entire process again, wrapping Shad’s arm this time. Shad noticed he tried to do it more gentle this time, but it didn’t make too much of a difference with all the pain he was experiencing.

After soaking his wounds with water, they felt better; not healed by any means, but as good as it was going to get. He turned to face Leith. He was obviously struggling with the same pain on his forearm.

After sitting together for some time, Shad broke the silence. “Did you recognize him?”

Leith shook his head slowly. “He was a Blade. Fourth Blade Dallen Offen. I never knew he was able to throw daggers. I thought the only Blade, the only person, who had mastered that was Vane,” Leith said in disbelief.

“Thanks Leith,” Shad said sarcastically.

Leith shook his head. “You know what I mean,” he said with a small laugh. “He was a master. I didn’t know he had taught anyone else how to do it.” Had he? If Offen had learned, who else had?

“Thank you for saving my life,” Leith smiled. “And yes, I guess there are others who are able to throw knives,” he said with a hint of a smile in his voice. “And shockingly, that includes you,” Leith smiled again. “I am impressed actually. Thank the Lord you still can, or else we would have been dead!”

Leith turned serious once again. “I found a small campsite close to here. That’s where he was fleeing. I wonder who else was there. There were two tents,” he said.

Shad inhaled a deep breath. “Maybe we are closer to our enemy than we expected. We should prepare our men to be ready at all times. Hopefully they’ve all made it through the cliffs safely.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~<•><•><•>~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

“They’ve all made it through and are accounted for,” Geralt informed Leith. Geralt was one of the leaders of the party, and a friend of Leith’s.

“Thank the Lord!” Leith said. “Shad and I ran into a little skirmish when we were scouting out the area. I chased our attacker for a while. He led me to a campsite he must have been sharing with someone else. There were two tents and a fire. It seemed they had been camped there for some time.”

Geralt thought it over. “Did you know who it was?”

Leith nodded. “It was Fourth Blade Dallen Offen. When he attacked us, he was throwing daggers at us. That was the way Vane would fight. It is a very effective fighting style if you can aim. You can injure and even kill your opponent without going close to them. If he knew how to do it, I’m sure there are many more who can.”

Just then, Shad walked up, his injuries freshly bandaged and cleaned as much as they could be. Hearing the last words exchanged, he nodded. “We should be prepared to fight at any moment. There was a campsite near here that Leith discovered. If there were two, there may be more,” he paused. “We’re not even that far from Eagle Heights and we have spotted enemies. I hope those at our camp are safe.”

Leith became worried. Shad was right, they were only a good twenty-four hours away from Eagle Heights. Could it have been discovered? Leith prayed not.

Geralt broke into his thoughts. “I understand the urgency of our situation, but our men have not slept in far too long. I’ve already set up a sleeping schedule that will have enough men on guard when the rest sleep. I’ve bend waiting for you to get back to make sure you agree.”

Sleep. Leith’s eyelids threatened to close just thinking about it. He nodded, “Yes, that should be fine.” Geralt nodded and marched off to go put his plans into play. Leith walked over to Blizzard and untied his sleeping bag. He hadn’t slept for too long, and the fight had taken the last bit of his energy. The last thing he was aware of was the slight throbbing in his forearm.

 

 

Leith felt something shaking him. He couldn’t force himself to open his eyes. The shaking increased, and with it the throbbing in his forearm.

“Come on, Leith! Wake up! It’s time to keep moving!” a voice told him. Leith obliged and opened his eyes. Shad was standing over him, his pack swung over his shoulders. “They’ve been preparing to head westward, towards the campsite you discovered yesterday. They think there are probably more.” Shad offered his hand. Leith took it and swung himself up with his good arm. He quickly packed up his things and strapped his little pack back onto Blizzard.

Looking around, Leith spotted Geralt. He led Blizzard over to him. Geralt nodded at him as he approached. “Sleep well?” He asked. Leith nodded. “How is your arm recovering?”

Leith shifted his arm. Pain shot through it. Not as bad as the day before, but still there. “Better, but not yet healed,” he responded.

Geralt nodded. “While you slept, we sent Grioghar to keep watch over the campsite. He said another man dressed in black came a few hours later. He had a group of about twenty men with him. Once they spotted the blood and noticed the absence of Offen, they quickly fled southwest. He followed them to a river. From there, they went in the direction just west of Naglar Castle.”

This spiked Leith’s interest. Not exactly to Naglar Castle. What was west of Naglar Castle? He couldn’t think of anything. One thing was for sure, they were going to face this evil, probably sooner than expected.

Geralt continued. “We’ve decided to follow them. We may be able to discover what they’re planning. If we are attacked, we will all be there to fight together.” Leith nodded. That would be fine.

The men quickly got up and made ready to depart. It was only mid-morning when they left their campsite. They swiftly maneuvered through the plateau, heading westward towards the campsite Leith and Shad discovered; towards the enemy, and towards what Leith prayed wasn’t death. They made good time, and were able to reach the campgrounds in a matter of hours.

Leith dismounted and looked around. Everything looked the same. They had even left the tents up in their haste. Leith beckoned Shad towards him and slowly made his way to the tents. Shad followed him and nodded. They silently entered the tent, looking for anything that would help them.  They didn’t find anything except for a pile of daggers with the initials  DOingrained intothem. Shad took the daggers and went to put them in his pack. When he came back again, Leith was done searching the tent.

They entered the next one, desperately looking for anything that would give them a clue. This one had more supplies in it. There were different odds and ends in it that would help them in their journey. Shad took then to Geralt for inspection. As Leith was searching, he noticed a small strip of paper close to the bed roll. There was a large spill of ink on it, but it also had writing on it. He bent to look at it.

Hegarty,

         My men will soon be on the move. We believe to have found them. We shall begin our attack immediately. I believe you have been tra

The rest was blotted out with black ink. This looked like a letter. But it was much too small. Did the Blades use courier birds to communicate? More so important than the knowledge of their enemy communicating with courier birds, was the message itself. Who was Hegarty? Hegarty….he had heard that name before.

Shad walked in again, just coming back from giving Geralt some medicines he had found within the tent. He noticed Leith’s concerned look and began to worry. “What’s wrong, Leith?” Leith held out the stained paper for him to read. His eyes grew big and he handed it back to Leith.

“Could they have purposely put that in here? They noticed that we were here and put that here to mislead us?” Shad asked.

Leith thought it over. It was very likely. Maybe they weren’t going to attack for a long while. They would wait for our soldiers to exhaust all our supplies, then attack.

“Maybe,” Leith muttered. “It’s very likely possible.” Turning to look at the letter, he noticed something. “How long would it have taken for it to dry?” he asked. Shad followed his train of thought and inspected the parchment.

“It’s hard to tell. It does not help that much because it was at least an entire day ago,” he sighed.

Leith nodded. “We should still show it to Geralt,” he said as he exited the tent.

He found Geralt with Grioghar not too far off. He approached them and handed the paper to Geralt. He inspected it, then handed it off to Grioghar. He took it carefully and stared at it for a long while. Looking towards Leith, he asked, “Where did you find this?”

Leith pointed to the tent he had just come from. “In there by the bed roll. It’s the only useful information we found,” he briefed. Geralt was suspicious.

“Could they have placed it in there purposefully for us to find? Could they have known we were coming?” He pondered.

Grioghar cleared his throat. “Sir, I watched the campsite and saw them arrive. They had no time to write this and place it in the tent. They saw the blood, looked in the tents for a brief minute, and conversed together. They then fled southwest to the river. There was no time to write the letter. I believe this was written and was supposed to be given to whoever Hegarty is.” Handing it back to Leith, he continued, “Sir, I would suggest following these men. We must know their every move. They seem so sure of their ability to attack us. That could only mean one thing. They have located Eagle Heights.”

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