Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, 5)(5)

By: K.F. Breene

He passed by the stables and pretended not to flinch when one of the male beasts growled at his presence. Apart from harm coming to Junice, Sanders wasn’t afraid of much. Those beasts were at the top of a very short list.

“Everyone good here, Rufus?” Sanders asked Cayan’s assistant.

The smaller man looked up from his clipboard. “Yes, sir. Our food stores are handling the additional animals just fine.”

“And the extra Shadow that keep arriving to join us?”

Rufus licked the tip of his finger and peeled a sheet of paper up from his clipboard. “I believe another group of ten just arrived this morning,” he said after surveying the contents for a moment. “They’ve been stationed with the others. We have space for a couple dozen more, but then we’ll need to make some decisions.”

Sanders tightened his lips before nodding and walking on. That made four dozen Shadow that had arrived since Sonson’s party three weeks before, with more coming every couple days. At any time, Shanti would win the battle with the Captain and give the signal to be on their way. Word was constantly coming in from Burson about the movements and whereabouts of Xandre. Other messages came in about movements of what could only be Shanti’s people, stuck behind layers of well-trained Graygual. Still more news came in about each new barrier delaying the Shadow from reaching the main land. So far the Shadow had fought their way through, but that wouldn’t continue for much longer if Xandre was any kind of strategist, and if the battle in the Shadow Lands taught him anything, it was that Xandre could form a plan or two.

Sanders hated to admit it, but Shanti was right. Xandre was tightening things up and locking in the Westwood Lands. Soon they’d all be trapped by a sea of the enemy, cut off from help.

He blew out a breath.

But to leave would be to leave their family and friends vulnerable. It would not be an easy decision to make.

The early afternoon was fresh and vibrant as Sanders made his way through the city. Efforts were still being made to clean up after the battle, but the city people were working diligently, combining their efforts. A soft breeze blew against his face, bringing the vital smell of trees. He’d gone through a lot of shit in his day, but to protect his home, he’d go through ten times more to protect his home.

He turned a corner that led toward the eastern side of the city. The Shumas had been placed close to the eastern gate so they could escape out into the trees as often as they wished. He clasped his hands behind his back and gripped them tight, willing the patience he knew he was going to need.

It only took one second in their midst to prove those efforts futile.

“What in the holy hell is going on here?” Sanders marched into a front yard where the oldest of the Shumas was standing, looking at a blooming pink flower. A corset wrapped around his middle. His manhood dangled between his legs.

The man—Tulous, if Sanders wasn’t mistaken—glanced up with a surprised expression.

“You’re naked, man!” Sanders barked. “And wearing women’s undergarments. Care to explain?”

“What is problem?” Sayas, the most lighthearted of the Shumas, walked up with a brisk pace. He wore a creased blue army uniform.

Sanders stared for a full beat, waiting for Sayas to figure it out for himself. When the other man gave him a quizzical expression, Sanders pointed at Tulous’ exposed bells and whistle. “We don’t have outside bathhouses in this neck of the land. We wear clothes when we’re outside. This has been explained to you people.”

“Ah yes.” Sayas nodded in understanding. “You tepid.”

“Tepid? You’ve gotten some words mixed up there, man.” Sanders glanced around, noticing two women standing opposite the lane, gawking. “Well? Move along,” he yelled. “This isn’t something for you to see.”

“They are curious,” Tulous said.

“Want inspect.” Sayas grinned and slapped Tulous on the back.

“They’re married with children—they know how one of those works, and now they’re probably horrified and headed straight to the Women’s Circle.” Sanders pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why is he wearing women’s undergarments? How could this possibly be normal where you come from?”

“What’s going on?” Shanti jogged up before taking one look at Tulous and cracking a giant smile. She rattled off something in her own language.

“And he’s got it on backwards,” Sanders growled. Two giant, empty cups stuck out from the man’s muscular back and the lacing wound down his stomach, a little off center. The device was obviously meant for a larger woman—how else would it fit Tulous? Somewhere around this city, someone was waltzing around with two huge breasts swinging free.

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