Chapter Twenty: The Seventh Blade.

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20.1

As the twilight I'll never see

Let fire burn inside of me

For in cold uncertainty

Was not where I wanted to be

What more is there left to me

A warrior in dark livery

A sword in the armory

A fire consuming a dying tree

   Jaden smiled tiredly, looking down at the tiny, half-burnt slip of paper he had moments ago picked up off of the muddy campground. He couldn't remember the last time he'd read a poem. It had been years, for sure. Not since he'd last had a few hours in the Royal Library back in Itun.

     Home, he sighed to himself, the soft drizzle of cold, persistent rain stinging his skin. Would he ever see his palace again. His family. Would this war drag out for another century, burning the land low once more? You could have stayed.

    He shook his head, no, he couldn't have stayed. He owed Arlon, even if he was only now a memory, more than that. The Tera Tenaru had fought so hard to earn what they had. So many had died over the centuries since they'd first found themselves, untrained youths, standing on this very soil.

    Of all of them, Arlon had fought the hardest. Arlon has lost the most. And in the end, Arlon had faced the bitterest demise of them all. I'm sorry old friend, Jaden whispered, slipping the piece of paper with the poem on it into a flap of his uniform.

   He straightened up and gazed tiredly about the plain where he and his men, their numbers augmented by what was left of Averone's troops, had set up camp.

    The once beautiful mat of golden grass which had covered the area had now been ground into the mud by marching boots, cut down and used for fires, or taken away as padding for the soldiers rest. He picked up a blade that still lay there, unharmed in the dark shadow of a tent.

    “Sir!”

    Slowly he glanced behind, his armor creaking weakly. One of his officers was marching up to him from the direction of the command tent that Jaden had just left. He wore a flowing red and gold cloak, red and gold painted armor and a long, wide strap of cloth across his chest which marked him as a Captain of the Information Core.

    “Reports are in sir!” the man saluted stiffly, his scarred face dripping with the cold rain. He continued without being prompted to do so.” Position: Thirty-seven miles due south of Eukron Forest. Health: 87 dead, 1,213 wounded, 38,271 still in fighting shape. Scouts report no enemy activity in the area.”

    Jaden nodded solemnly, Jacob's fort had been small, outnumbered, and outmatched. They'd fallen easily, and he was not surprised at the low casualties.” What of the other armies?” he asked softly, referring to the other twelve armies he had positioned in the area, all less than a thousand miles away: all under specific orders to keep him posted on everything.

    “Lord Tur: Some 2,000 Halavarde Regular's camped nearby,” the officer replied briskly,” nothing of note from Lord's Ianer, Cobalt, or Kevo.”

   Jaden nodded, nothing could be expected from the other, farther way generals for a few hours yet.” Go. Get yourself a drink. You've done well,” he ordered.

    The man bowed stiffly and trotted away, heading for the nearby pavilion where all of the army's officers were indulging themselves in honor of their leader's most recent victory.

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