Rain beat on our heads, seeped through the seams in our tents, and soaked into our food supplies. I answered my correspondence with an oiled tarp pulled over my head. Even then, I remained damp.
“The supply wagon is delayed,” Korneli announced as he came through the flaps of our shared tent. “Broken axle in the mud and no nearby wheelwrights to fix it.”
I groaned. “Sabotage?”
“Weather.” He shook his head like a dog and then scrubbed at his scalp. “This blasted weather is enough to drown a fish.”
“It can’t last forever.” I blinked and tried to focus on the letter in my hand.
“I wouldn’t bet on a break just yet, Hadrian.” Korneli sat on the edge of his cot and reached for his journal. “Letter from home?”
“No.” I rubbed at my blurry eyes. “More news of the cleanup efforts in the east. The Elitists have scattered. Our men found two more compounds already abandoned.”
“You know what that means, don’t you?”
I closed my eyes. “The Elitists are still out there. They are still plotting. Next time they won’t be as easy to spot. I am more concerned about the future for all of us, though.”
“One Elitist by himself cannot accomplish much,” Korneli observed.
“But one Elitist raising a family of strong talents indoctrinated with a toxic world view can do a lot of damage.”
Korneli mulled on my observation for a while. I returned to reading my letter.
“When is Zezilia joining us?”
The mention of her name snapped me out of formulating a reply to the letter. The constant ache in my gut jumped to the forefront of my awareness. I groaned. “You had to mention her.”
“You are better around her. Why ever did you leave her back at the compound? Our defender ranks are dwindling fast. We could use a talent like hers.”
“The dwindling numbers are improving. Since we ordered the defenders to dress like regular ranked soldiers, they are harder to identify and target.”
“We are still losing, Hadrian. Ilar and Sabine know our weaknesses. Eventually we will run out of trained defenders. What then?”
“We will deal with that when we get to it.”
Silence, heavy and uncomfortable, hung between us. I used it to begin writing a reply to the letter in my lap. The wording didn’t flow, but I got my point across. I slid the parchment into the pouch to be reviewed by Renato before it went to the tutor.
“Did you two fight?”
I glared at my best friend. He knew me well enough to know that I didn’t want to discuss it. “No. We agreed to separate until we are certain of the Almighty’s leading.”
Korneli snorted. “You decided to separate. I saw her a few weeks ago, Hadrian. She is not at peace. For that matter, neither are you.”
“I can’t marry her, Korn.” There, I said it. The awful, horrible, terrible truth.
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