Ch.3 The Little House - Part 2

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Christophe shivered as they walked passed yet another row of Conventioneer villas, his arms tightly folded. He could feel the eyes of his timid colleagues in their homes, watching.

Will none of you take a stand? Will you all hand over your ideas to the enemy who has killed your families and burned your communities? Of course you will, cowards. You are tinkerers and dabblers, he thought.

The piercing creak of an iron gate sent a bolt of fear down Christophe's spine. Looking about, he saw armed guards with crossbows at the ready, the tips of the bolts glinting in the moonlight. His fanciful ideas of a harrowing escape melted away.

He shifted from side to side as he stared down the long, walled path to the palace. He'd watched too many good men and women go down this lonely road, never to return.

Christophe swallowed hard as a sense of doom came over him. Closing his eyes and putting his hands to his forehead, he fought back the tears. I meant to keep my promise this time, Meeshich, I swear it. I will find a way. I will be late, but I will come.

Glancing over at Nikolas, he saw the worry, tainted with hope, on his friend's face. You believe that Marcus will save you, don't you? How can you not see him for what he truly is, Kolas? Is it naiveté or hopefulness with you? I never know. Christophe's lips curled up at the edges. I pray that you are right. You deserve it.

"Pick it up, it's not getting any warmer." The captain waved over his shoulder as they headed onward.

Christophe's shoulders drooped as he thought back to the thrill he'd felt over a year ago. He'd convinced Nikolas to throw caution to the wind and work with him on a secret project. For the first time, they would ignore Marcus' stifling advice and stay true to their revolutionary ideas.

Once it came to life, however, when the manifestation of their imaginations and hard work stood before them, Christophe had been unable to stop himself from showing it off to the king. He'd convinced himself it would humble the king's arrogant ignorance and have him toss aside Marcus, his principal advisor.

Now, in the cold, with the midnight ground crunching beneath his feet, Christophe wondered if his real goal had been to sabotage himself and his one true friendship.

Nikolas' expression had soured further. It reminded Christophe nothing of the look he'd had the day they'd set up shop in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of the city. Or when they'd found a retired blacksmith keen to help forge the gears and metal casing they would need. They'd thrown the dice of Fate, and now Christophe couldn't help but feel they'd come up snake eyes.

Christophe swallowed hard and glanced up at the full moon as they stepped up to the mouth of the palace. Please, let this be just a chastising. Let me get to her, let me keep my promise, he thought.

He turned to Nikolas as they walked past ornate statues and fine paintings. "I know you wanted to talk about your Solstice celebration idea tonight. I'm sorry I didn't let you. I think it's a very noble idea. Making presents for the poor children once a year, giving them something to look forward to, it's a good thing. You're a better man than I, Kolas."

Nikolas smiled appreciatively and then shook his head. "One day, we will have such a celebration."

Christophe's stomach turned at the thought that his actions and influence may have signed the death warrant for such a saintly man. He knew Nikolas made him a better person. His stomach twisted even further at what type of person he'd be without Nikolas around.

As their heels clicked and clacked against the marble floor, Christophe felt his chest tighten. Then, in the middle of a thought, he stopped and looked about nervously.

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