Trell paced the floor of his study, cell phone still in hand, his thoughts racing. The doctor had said Mable had only a few months to live; six at most, unless the cancer spread faster. As much as Trell hated the thought of his best friend’s wife dying, he knew at her age, there was nothing they could do except make her comfortable. After eight years secretly looking for Elion, she deserved to be at peace.
Had it already been that long?
The task of explaining Mable’s condition to her son, Bill, wouldn’t be a pleasant one, but as her caretaker and friend, it was the least he could do. Trell started punching in Bill’s number and stopped, suddenly wanting a few more minutes to collect his thoughts.
He knew Mable’s wishes—that Bill and his family return to the homestead in the event of her death. That meant dealing with a situation he hadn’t had to be responsible for in
“Damn it,” Trell muttered, rushing over to his writing desk and pulling out parchment. The ink stained his fingers as he uncorked the bottle and took up his quill. He still had the upper hand here, and he wanted to keep it that way.
As the quill scratched out symbols known to only him and the Sages, Trell’s mind raced with possible scenarios, strategies for protecting Elion’s secrets. His secret now, he corrected himself, while he communicated the
sudden changes in his post and urgently requested orders.
The study door burst open and the quill tip broke.
“Sir,” Chasky panted, his usual indifference disturbingly absent. “Perimeter alert. Multiple breaches.”
“Do we have a visual?” Trell demanded, pulling out a knife to reshape his quill. Most of the time, the motion sensors were set off by animals and other forest life.
Chasky held up a tablet with a still image of three figures leading horses.
“Those are not Sages,” Trell said, hearing how ludicrous that observation was as it left his lips. It was mid-February, months away from the summer solstice. And no one on a higher learning sabbatical traveled with so many weapons and that much gear. This was no friendly delegation waiting for him to integrate them into this world’s culture.
“Not Sages,” Chasky agreed.
Trell set his quill down,
covered the half-finished letter, and darted out of the room, Chasky on his heels.
In the surveillance room, Trell found every camera pointed at the gateway paused on a single image. He checked the time stamp and rewound the video several times to be sure of what he was seeing. Any hope that they might be Sages crumbled as he zoomed in on shadows of three large birds that followed the mysterious horsemen.
Trell’s blood boiled and he couldn’t help an absent-minded brush of the iridescent lines that ran up his neck. His shoulder still bore the scars of the first giant eagle he’d destroyed. All the trouble he’d gone to exterminating those cold-blooded killers, and there were three more flying out of the cave in broad daylight.