Chapter 6: Welcome to the jungle

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Recap: The Connarii welcome the sight of land. Exiled from their homes, their very world, lost and wandering in a featureless land of mist, they eagerly rush toward the sight of trees on the horizon. But their journey through the mists has not been without benefits for Crown Princess and recently appointed captain of the First Guard, Edana. Not only has she been recognized for her martial and leadership abilities by her reluctant father, the King Torchan, and granted a command of her own, much to the disappointment of co-captain Camlin, she's even overcome the initial reluctance of her troops, proving herself in combat and winning some hard-earned trust and respect. And just in time, too; with a strange new land on the horizon, and an ominous one at that, Aislynn's ominous visions forebode more than just internal struggles on the horizon. What dangers await in the red jungle?


Camlin threw himself down beneath the first tree that he reached, a scant inch behind Edana and still fuming about it. The pair had led the mad rush to the edge of the forest, abandoning dignity as they raced each other, Camlin hurrying ahead of his men to get the first glimpse and a few extra minutes of reaction time. Although, to call the canopy they lay under a forest seemed entirely inadequate – now that he had a closer look, what they were laying under seemed entirely too alien – more a jungle, than anything.

Edana's troops jogged up, gasping for air, scanning the gloom under the trees suspiciously and eyeing Camlin and his close proximity to their captain. The bulk of the Connarii straggled along behind them, making their way between odd hills and humps of land on the edge of the jungle, towards the first spiky weeds at its base. Both the earth and what should have been greenery were stained with eerie shades ranging from an orange rust to deep, bloody reds. Camlin's men had formed an unsteady perimeter around the stragglers and were ushering them in, while Edana stationed her troops in pairs to form a shallow crescent just inside the tree line, where they beat down the brush to make a shallow clearing at the edge of the jungle.

Camlin eyed the near-solid grey mass in the distance. The mists closed off the horizon like an iron dome, curving up and inwards, and fading finally into the pale aquamarine of the sky at a juncture many times the height of the tallest mountain he'd ever seen. He whistled, shaking his head at it. "Now there's a sight to make you feel hemmed in."

"Have you ever seen the dungeons of the underground halls of the Danaan, Camlin?" Edana scanned her troops and the jungle behind them, sparing a scant glance at Camlin as she spoke. He couldn't read her tone; it was uncharacteristically subdued, so even it made the hair on the back of his neck raise.

"Of course not! What do you take me for?" Everyone knew nothing escaped those hell-holes but the ghosts of the poor wretches that went in.

"Don't be an ass. I meant from the other side of the door."

Camlin bit back a snarky retort, disturbed by her tone. She was too thoughtful. Remote and cold, not the overeager, intense to the point of silliness girl that he was used too. He didn't like it.

"I have. I even went inside one, for a few minutes. Father and I were visiting the castle. We were being shown the royal defense and justice system. It was part of some lame attempt at diplomacy with those Danaan scum. I went into a cell, and had the guards lock me in – told them it was to inspect their security measures. They were so freaked out at the request, they actually complied." The shadow of a smile flickered across Edana's face; Camlin blinked and it was gone. "It was only for a couple minutes, and I had a lighted candle the whole time, but it was terrible. There was no escape. Dark rock hemmed me in on all sides."

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