Chapter 7: A surprise proposal

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Recap: The Connarii prepare to enter the red jungle. Exiled from their homes, they welcome the easy hunting and shelter of the alien landscape over the strange emptiness of the mists they first arrived in. Camlin and Edana each struggle for recognition and power, as co-captains of the Connarii forces. Camlin leads the charge to set up camp and build a new life in the jungle, but Edana responds with trepidation to the stained landscape, wary of Aislynn's ominous visions and on guard against the promise of danger to come.


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"All right there, boys?" Edana started on yet another round, creeping along the edge of the camp to check on her guards stationed in pairs, equidistant around the perimeter of the sleeping masses. Though each pair kept a flame burning bright, the central campfires had dimmed to smoldering coals, and under the thick canopy the humid air was nearly opaque.

"Nothing to report, captain." One of the men replied. His partner stifled a yawn.

"Stay alert just a little longer," Edana advised. "You've done a good job – and it's nearly time for Camlin's boys to take their turn." She moved along to the next pair of sentries.

"All clear?"

The guards whipped round, tangled together and nearly fell at her feet. Evidently they hadn't noticed her approach.

"C-clear." One stammered, trying to salute, regain his balance and stand at attention all at once. Edana stiffened.

"Tell me." Her eyes narrowed as she peered out into the deep shadows through the trees. The flames behind her tricked the eye, hinting at an enemy behind every bush and trunk while revealing nothing.

"He's just imagining things." The second guard gestured towards his partner, misreading his position and awkwardly smacking him on the chest in the flickering light.

"And just what-" Edana shot the pair a hard look before turning back to the jungle, "-is he imagining?"

The men – boys, really – hesitated, shifting their weight. One fiddled with a bit of string tied around his wrist – a charm, perhaps, or a lover's token. The other held both hands behind his back as if he were standing at attention, though his shoulders rolled forward protectively. Both were nervous; neither was ready for anything, much less a surprise attack. Edana was torn between reprimanding them and addressing the possibility of danger. She settled for a mix of the two.

"What are you here for?" She said. A whisper wouldn't have had the effect she was looking for, but she took pains to keep her voice low and even, scanning the trees as she spoke.

"To keep watch?" One of the guards answered doubtfully from behind her.

"Which makes you...?"

"Sentries?"

"And I am?"

"A pri– the! – the princess?"

Edana couldn't suppress a huff of irritation at the tentative response.

"Try again."

"The captain?" The other guard spoke up, equally hesitant.

Edana risked a look back, making eye contact with each guard as they listened to the crack of the fire and distant rustling.

"You're sentries. I'm captain. Your job is simple. You keep watch and tell me when anything – anything, you hear? – happens."

"Yessir." The sentries replied doubtfully. "Er, ma'am, uh..."

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