Chapter 27

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Return, dear friend unto the night,
Give up this body, this life, this fight.

Cade's death anthem bursts from our lungs, floating up into the night sky to search for it's place amongst the stars. I sing as loudly as my aching heart will allow, my vision blurring as the too-familiar pit of loss opens up within me.

Though our paths diverge, this is not the end,
We will speak of it all, when we meet again.

Luca and his brothers stand flanked before the funeral pyre. Great tongues of flames lick the sky above their heads, twisting a furious dance in sharp contrast to the mourners' somber farewell. I notice Luca's hand resting at his side and on instinct I reach out, grabbing hold of it and lacing my fingers with his. He squeezes back tightly, his warmth seeping through my cold exterior. Blinking through the haze of sparks and song I look up to find the long neck of a catapult looming over us. Our weapons are ready but the way to Babel seems fraught without Cade's light to guide us.

Our sendoff ends with a low hum. Twenty thousand people join together in a single note, the sound setting the earth to tremble and the stars to quake. The hand holding mine gives a gentle tug, coaxing me out in front of the crowd. It's time.

Grabbing a lit log from the pyre I heave myself atop the catapult, clambering one-handed up it's frame until I am standing on it's highest point. Thrusting my torch into the air I hold firm as the hum transforms into a deafening roar.

"Friends," My voice is hoarse. Swallowing, I try again. "Sisters and brothers, the depth of this loss cannot be expressed. Cade is...was..." My voice cracks as the scene before me begins to swim. I squeeze my eyes shut tight, willing away the tide threatening my composure as I sway on my perch. "...Cade is irreplaceable. He had a gift for healing both inside and out. The world is a better place for having had him. I am better for having known him. Who among you can say the same?"

Another bone-rattling cry of assent erupts from below. I tilt my head up to the sky in an attempt to hide my face. Pinpricks of light appear out of the blackness above me and for a moment I imagine that Cade is a part of it, forever watching over us.

"We will keep Cade with us." I say, some of my strength returning when I am forced to shout over the growing frenzy. "In our minds and in our hearts. Let his lessons feed our fire, let them be the boulders that turn Babel's walls to dust!"

A thrill runs through me, alighting like firecrackers across my skin and setting my hair on edge. The combined spirits of twenty thousand souls fills me, lifting me high above the catapult and out into the great beyond.

"This famine will claim no more lives." My voice is strong and steady. "Never again will we allow some madwoman cowering inside a dome to dictate our fate. Babel's time has ended and now it is our story that will be told! We march to take back what we are owed! We are warriors and we are not afraid to tip the scales with blood!"

The roar has grown so loud that I am no longer sure if they can hear me. Nonetheless, I hurl my voice as far as I possibly can, "This is our time! Our victory awaits us in Babel, all we have to do is seize it!"

Sliding down the neck of the catapult, I toss my torch to Jaron and land amid the bloodthirsty fervor. Hands clap down on my back and shoulders, setting my scars to burn and propelling me further away from the camp. The horizon calls to me as my muscles twitch with the anticipation of flight. Weaving my way through the swell I search for two people, one with freckled features and another sporting a pair of blue-black eyes.

Frye catches up to me near the fringes of the mob, red-faced from the exertion of running. I grab hold of his arm to keep from losing him and spin around, cupping my hand over my mouth to project my voice towards the crowd, "When we next meet, it will be on the battlefield!"

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