Chapter Seven

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          Crimson-cloaks were roaches upon Scanla's streets

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          Crimson-cloaks were roaches upon Scanla's streets. Too many of them gathered in such a short span, even Siobhan was nervous as they trotted through the overflowing streets, winding their way to the gates. Though the Vanguard mages used magic, none had the ability for instant travel. Yet the Vanguard General ranks had doubled in the night. Siobhan could reach out and touch one around every corner.

Anyone, man or woman, with light brown hair and blue eyes were stopped by the crimson-cloaks. If they resisted the use of the truth serum the Vanguard Generals used like candy, they were arrested. Siobhan knew all too well that arrest meant they'd never be seen again. Her heat skipped a beat more than once when the crimson-cloaks halted their horses for a closer inspection their riders.

She glanced to Wren. He sat straight in his saddle, though his hands twitched against the reins. His glance would draw toward her whenever a crimson-cloak spent too much time staring at them. The changeling potion would hold. It had to hold. Not even Siobhan could fight through the amount of crimson-cloaks filling the streets if it didn't. They pooled into buildings, explored alleys—they were blood upon the dirt and cobblestones. No joy carried through the streets of Scanla that day, nor would it for several days until they accepted the boys they sought were gone.

And gone they would be if Siobhan had her way.

Siobhan took a deep breath when the towering eastern walls of the city came into view through the mist soaking in from the clouds. Though the gates were closed, they would open to allow any to pass whom the guards cleared. So close. They were so close. She kept a tight watch on the faces of the Vanguard Generals trolling the streets. If her once drugged crimson-cloak was among them, their game could be over. With the crystillium in his system, neither her totems nor the potion Ivan used should've worked on him. The crystillium should've negated their effects. It made her nervous, too nervous, trying to figure out how they'd worked or if he'd been faking it. If he had, she'd be dead. He'd be able to identify her on the spot. With the crimson-cloaks still saying they were looking for two young men, Siobhan had to guess she was in the clear. Still, she hated uncertainties.

She'd been careless helping Wren. Why had she been so careless? What was it about the moron that made her want to help him? This wasn't like her. Not anymore. She wasn't the kind of person to stick her neck out for anyone, least of all a stranger. Now she was knee deep in crimson-cloaks who would enjoy feasting on her entrails and bathing in her blood. All because a one-time noble stole a purse she could've easily replaced in time.

"Look them in the eyes when we reach the gates," Siobhan whispered. "I'll do most of the talking, but hide your fear."

Wren nodded and loosened his grip on the reins. Wind whipped his hair around but he didn't seem to care. One hand dropped to his side as he leaned back in the saddle. In an instant he went from the tight backed, on nerve, fool that he was, to nothing but a casual rider ready for the long ride to Firnlan. It impressed her. Maybe there was potential in him after all.

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