Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, 5)(6)

By: K.F. Breene

That would probably be the next fad.

“My life was so quiet…” Sanders mused as Tulous spoke to Shanti in their language. Two Shadow ducked out from between houses, looking around in confusion. Another ran into the street three houses down, appearing as if from nowhere. “What the hell are they up to?”

Shanti laughed. “We are training. I’m trying to teach the Shadow the way we communicate through our Gifts.” She gestured at Tulous. “His back is strained. He was looking for a brace and found this. He was given permission to borrow it.”

“Granted the right—” Sanders cut off and started walking away, shaking his head. His patience was all used up. Soon he’d just start stabbing people, and that sort of behavior was frowned upon when there was no enemy present. He bet Tulous hadn’t been given permission either—he probably wandered into someone’s backyard, naked for all the city to see, and demanded the garment from a shocked and embarrassed housewife. Of course she was going to say yes. She was probably terrified for her life, scared that the riffraff would do something violent if she refused.

“Take care of it,” he demanded of Shanti over his shoulder. “We don’t need a bunch of dicks wagging around this city.”

“You already have a bunch of dicks wagging around the city,” Shanti yelled back. “They’re the ones barking orders.”

Sanders clenched his fists as the peal of laughter followed him up the street. He stared down a Shadow with a shock of blond hair, daring the other man to challenge him in some way. All these cultures being confined within the same walls was jarring, at best. If someone wasn’t wandering around naked, he was bathing in a pond, or roasting a pig in his front yard. Two Shumas were caught having sex in the trees in the large park, and Shadow loitered in all the parts of the city, quiet and deadly. Sanders was open-minded, sure, but this was just ridiculous. Lord only knew how they’d get along when they left to find Xandre. That would be an all-out clusterfuck, if he was any judge.

Halfway to the practice yard, he found two of the Honor Guard skulking toward the trees.

“What are you doing?” Sanders shouted.

Xavier jumped and swung around with wide eyes. He moved a garden spade and hoe behind his back. Gracas stepped out from behind Xavier holding another couple of gardening items, both with purple handles.

“Nothing, sir,” Xavier said, standing straight and tall.

“What’ve you got there?” Sanders gestured to the items in Gracas’ hands.

“Just some, uh, gardening equipment, sir,” Xavier said.

“I was thinking about planting something, sir,” Gracas said with a straight face.

Sanders stared at Xavier for a beat, then Gracas. They stared back, not blinking.

“The women are dressing as men, the men are wearing women’s underwear, and the young men are taking up gardening instead of chasing women or punching stuff. I do not understand my life anymore.” Sanders took a deep breath. “I assume this is free time?”

“S’am’s orders, sir,” Xavier said with a snap to his words.

Of course it was that woman.

Muttering to himself, he continued on. He didn’t have it in him to care about gardening equipment or what those two might be up to. It was easier that way.

A few minutes later he walked onto the practice yard and saw the Captain and Lucius standing at the edge, watching the proceedings. Sanders headed straight for them. He could feel the stress and confusion break away, uncoiling. This made sense. This place. Training, swords, physical exertion—everyone knew where they stood in the pecking order, and if they didn’t, there was a clear way to settle the matter.

“Captain.” Sanders sighed gratefully as he came to stand right next to the solidest man this land had to offer.

The Captain glanced at him before looking back out at the surging, moving mass of bodies. “How are the female archers faring?”

“Mela, one of Shanti’s countrymen, has taken over at Shanti’s behest. I would’ve chased her away, but she was as blunt and pushy as Shanti. She cut away the fat in three seconds and she hadn’t even started to work with them.”

“Good. You weren’t making any headway.”

Lucius chuckled. “Does that surprise you? Everyone knows Junice runs the house.”

“That shouldn’t have anything to do with the army,” Sanders growled. “This whole city is in chaos.”

“Roles have been called into question. People are figuring out what they’re good at and changing their destinies. When everything settles, it’ll make us stronger. We need that if another section of the army plans to leave in the coming months.” The Captain’s focus shifted for a moment as Shanti and a team of Shumas and Shadow entered the practice yard on the opposite side. She glanced at Cayan, nodded in hello, and turned toward the Pit.

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