9. The Fire

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I met Palleman at the bottom of the Listener's Tower before the entrance to the training yards. We usually spent the beginning of each evening together before we split up for patrols. These short walks that doubled as meetings remained on a constant loop. Palleman would ask me how the Dardon Wall warriors had fared the night before. Then he would ask me about the lower Stages in Edent and if I'd noticed anything unusual. I never did. Then he would give me an assignment, or a certain event to keep an eye out on. I always did as I was told. I had become like an extension of him.

He was waiting at the entrance, looking out over the courtyard as a few Fourth Stages trained. I checked the moons; they were just beginning to fall under the horizon. Work Light would soon be upon us all. These Fourth Stages were very dedicated to whatever cause they trained for. Hardly anyone ever put skills to use during the moon hours. It was even rarer that they were so low Stage and still so adamant about an errant training.

Palleman nodded me over. We walked side by side along the courtyards, watching the punches and the kicks be delivered rather viciously. I could tell by their sashes that they were Watchers. What were Fourth Stage Watchers doing training so vigorously? Palleman did not seem to mind the oddity, for when he spoke, it was on a very different topic.

"I smell your doubts, Brother Kol," he said, looking straight ahead and nowhere else. It was no longer a task to keep pace with his long, hastened stride. It was easy. My mind was instead focused on the strange start this meeting had taken. Palleman never began a briefing in this manner.

"My doubts?"

He nodded. "Tell me of them."

"My concerns, sir, are not so rooted in my own heart as they are in the Treasure's." I paused, attempting to see if I had crossed a line by blaming my weakness on Kelsie. Palleman did not know that I had been spending more and more time in Kelsie's company, asking her advice and taking Tane related favors from her. I was just lucky that Charlie had not been the only human on Earth to understand the concept of a favor. They were presents that I was becoming quite fond of. The constant visage of Tane kept me strong.

Palleman's long face was stoic, so I continued, perhaps fool-heartedly. "She is unhappy."This did not seem to faze my superior. I tried again from a different angle. "She is also convinced that a war is upon us. I try as adamantly as I can to dissuade these depressing thoughts, but she persists."

This time, Palleman's face reacted if only infinitesimally. A small, concerned twitch of his eyebrow. He turned and began strolling directly across the training yard. This was a dangerous thing because whoever occupied the yard had no official obligation to keep their swinging hands and legs out of our path. Naturally, I stayed by Palleman's side, warily watching the pairs in action on either side of us. As his second, I had taken on the unspoken obligation of being his bodyguard when his Feeler accumi, Farlen, was elsewhere. Farlen was not a frequently sighted man. He was one of the most powerful Feelers in Fismuth, and it was rumored that he could create shields as large as an Edent tower and from as far away as the Dardon Wall.

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