Chapter 15

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SEPHR HUNCHED OVER a swiftly spinning grinding wheel. Sparks sprayed in every direction. A pair of dark round goggles protected his eyes from any stray metal flakes. Straightening from the wheel, he flipped a lever and the goggles became clear. He marveled at the smooth finish of a long silver blade. The alloy was burning hot to the touch and sharp enough to cleave steel. He turned and passed the weapon back to its owner, Mikhael.

"There, now. Promise you won't break it this time. That is some of my best work. I would hate to scrap it."

Mikhael grinned, taking his sword in hand. He eyed the blade, pleased with the work. Giving it a try, he swung it through the air. The blade sang with each pass. Then he checked the carved chalcopyrite pommel to be sure the ore hadn't been harmed in the mending. The peacock tones of the stone glinted at him.

"That depends on what the dark princes make me do. It'll be a cold day in hell when I let them take Captain Maiel without a fight," Mikhael said.

Sephr looked across the space, filled with all the tools and equipment a smith could need. Two of his arms men hammered a new sword on the other side of the room. A proud youngling was soon to be made. The pounding hammers couldn't pound the thoughts out of Mikhael's head, and the warmth of the company couldn't take away the cold he felt. He looked through the great window on the western wall. The sun had set and the moon rose in its place.

"If they don't return soon, it'll be known throughout Zion," Sephr said.

Mikhael sheathed his sword and looked as stoic as ever.

"They'll be here soon," Mikhael assured him.

Sephr nodded, and his friend put an arm about his shoulder. They walked out of the smithy into the cool air. The night was silent as it blanketed Zion in a dark cobalt hue. The early stars twinkled and the moon peeked above the skyline of the citadel like an enormous ghost. A sudden scraping sound roused them from their watch. They turned back to the doors.

Gediel and Luthias came along the west mall, a causeway that fenced the base of the armory. Between them, they carried the broken guardian they believed lost to them. Mikhael rushed to help. He easily assisted Gamael, allowing his rescuers to catch their breath. The old engel smiled, looking as though he would faint into a trance at any moment.

"You've looked better, old friend," Mikhael said to him. To the others, he added, "Let's get him inside where he can rest."

"I have to question him before we take him for healing," Gediel said, concerned he was about to lose his information inside Zion.

The others turned to the svarg, noticing the damage to his armor and wings and couldn't help but see the pained tilt of his trunk.

"I'm not going to betray you. Make the questions quick. They expect him before the moon has fully risen. Perhaps you should go with him," Mikhael said.

Gediel nodded, running a hand through his hair.

"There's no time for that."

Sephr retreated inside to gather a stool and pitcher of water from the armory shop. He brought the items to where they could set Gamael against the outer ring wall. The guardian barely held himself up. His head lolled sleepily. Gediel knelt at his side, taking the bruised arm in greeting.

"You're safe now, Gamael."

The old engel opened his eyes and stared at him. He placed his broken hand on Gediel's head with thanks. A small smile curled his mouth and tears filled his eyes.

"I owe you my life, boy," Gamael croaked.

Sephr offered the old guardian a clay mug of water. He took it in his broken hands and stared inside the cup.

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