389 United Era
Orwyn stood in the burning tavern, Harachin sword in hand. He anxiously watched the wall of flames inch closer. As he waited for Jax to return from the kitchen, he looked down at the two bodies clad in black leather at his feet and considered his options. He couldn’t check the exit in the kitchen himself, so he’d sent Jax. He needed to maintain mental acumen at this crucial moment, and he knew the sight of Elen would shatter his concentration.
I should have sent her away with the boys.
The moment the entire front wall of the tavern erupted in flames, he’d known they were in trouble. The true extent of their peril became apparent when the flames began to creep unnaturally across the floor.
Jax returned from the kitchen gripping the tattered cuff of his cloak in his hand. “The door’s jammed. A trap?”
Orwyn nodded. With one less option to consider, he watched the flames creep closer and made up his mind. “They have us boxed in.”
“Then let’s fight our way out!”
“Jax, you know as well as I that the Sodality is out there in force. And they do not underestimate those they’re sent to eliminate. The moment we attempt to open that door”—Orwyn looked from the unnatural flames moving toward them to the kitchen door—”they will attack us with everything they have. We wouldn’t make it two steps out of this building, and you know it.”
“What do you suggest, then? That we stay here and die?”
“Our only hope is that they don’t know you’re here as well.”
“I’m not leaving you here, Orwyn.”
“It’s our only option, Jax. I’m getting you out of here.”
“There’s no other choice.”
“We should’ve left when we had the chance.”
“I know,” Orwyn acknowledged. His decision had cost him his wife. He didn’t know if he could ever forgive himself. She didn’t deserve this. “But I’m tired of hiding.”
“Orwyn, no matter what, we’re in this together. I’m not abandoning you here.”
Orwyn forced himself to look away from the assassins. They’d killed his wife. He looked intently at his friend. “If you stay here, we’re both dead. And I won’t permit it.”
“Then I’ll stay,” Jax said.
“No. You know they’re here for me.”
“Orwyn, if I had brought you—”
“Jax!” Orwyn shouted. “This isn’t about that! The Regency’s wanted me dead since the war. Now listen to me. Please. Go upstairs and position yourself by the window in my room. I’ll create a distraction to draw them in. Wait until I strike. When you see them close in on the back door, flee out the window.”
“I’ll catch up with you in the Mindons.”
Jax hesitated. He stroked his beard and looked intently at Orwyn. Then he put his hand on Orwyn’s shoulder and squeezed it tightly. “See you in the Mindons.”
Orwyn knew when he said it that it was a lie.
He walked calmly into the kitchen as Jax positioned himself upstairs. He looked down at his wife lying in a pool of blood. He knelt beside Elen and moved a strand of hair so he could see her face one last time. He tried to hold back the tears welling in his eyes, but when he blinked, he set them free.
Orwyn took a deep, shuddering breath and stood. He drew deeply from the Harachin sword. Using Synthesis, he forced the door open.
When the first black-clad soldier appeared through the opening, he acted.
The kitchen wall exploded and sent bodies flying.