❅ Chapter 8 ❅

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They led me through the camp, and I couldn't help but feel like an exhibit that just opened and everyone wanted to get a sneak peek of what lay inside. I still swayed on my feet, the man's huge hand cupping my elbow, a steady support, his fingers as strong as steele. For a split second I wished they were Sebastian's fingers, his touch gentle despite his hard eyes.

Blood trickled down my bottom lip, but I didn't feel any pain. I used the tip of my tongue to inspect in inner walls of my mouth, feeling around until I noticed the hole in my inner cheek, the flesh inside mushy against my tongue. That's going to need stitches.

Up close, I could see the large black tents were made out of silk, their ebony canvasses like glass under the high sun. The second largest tents were made of silver, cotton infused with metallic strands of silk that kept seducing my gaze. The smallest and unappealing tents, the white ones, were shabby and stained, the once white cotton now yellow from wear and tear of war.

I always assumed witches were treated like royalty, even in the army camps. I always figured they were respected. Was this what respect looked like? I found myself marveling at the diversity amongst the witches. It seemed even the highest division of beings still had a high and low class.

I guess I was just as low as they come. Well, I was anyway.

The white tents - if things ended as I feared - were probably going to be my sleeping quarters one day. I would become a witch, a soldier in the Order's army, and camps like these would become my home.

We shuffled down the compacted roads through the labyrinth of makeshift buildings - the bald man, me, and a group that started to form around us, like how gostlings tail their mother.

My heartbeat increased slightly when a single black tent, probably one of the largest in the entire camp, stood tall at the foot of the road, a short, stocky man standing in the entrance.

The man, whose dark hair was shorn to his chin, glanced at me, his black eyes narrowing at the sight of me. He was pale, his skin seemed to be sundered from granite, and an accumulation of angry scars littered his forearms. He looked vicious - a wolf among sheep, like he'd seen war and went back for more eagerly. Predator against prey, and I couldn't help but gulp when we stopped only three feet in front of him.

He wore the same color every other witch wore: black, with the Order's crest sewn into the fabric and a heavy leather belt clinging to his hips. Weapons of every variety hung by his waist: knives, throwing stars, daggers, axes, and even a sword winked at me in the sunlight.

He stared at me, a slightly amused smile tugging at his lips as he said, "And who might you be, little miss? You must be important, getting Ulirc here to escort you to me and all. And by all means, why are you bleeding?"

The man holding me up, Ulric, bowed, his eyes glued to his feet. "Sir, this girl brings news from Count Sebastian."

The man in front of me whom I presumed to be Fritz, nodded, his eyes holding a wicked gleam. He put his hands on his hips. "Aye, out with it then lass. What is it you need?"

I wasn't quite sure I could find my voice. "Um, a code blue.. Sebastian said it was a code blue."

The cocky smirk dropped from Fritz's lips, his eyes rounding in surprise. "A code blue you say?"

I nodded. "I think so. That's what he told me," I quivered. The world swayed around me, the copper taste in my mouth was almost hot. I needed to sit down.

Fritz nodded, almost to himself as he surveyed the group that had gathered around us. He pointed to a thin boy around my age with mousy brown hair and large, frightened eyes. "You there! Yes. Come boy, come! I need you to fetch Count Sebastian. Find him. Tall bloke with dark hair and a tattoo of a moon under his eye. Think you can do that?"

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