Chapter 16: A Light at the End of the Tunnel

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Libro wept until there were no more tears left to be shed. Until hunger, thirst and the need for warmth took over. Then he picked himself up and searched for a way out. He walked down to the end of the vaulted room, following the sewer river that split the corridor leading out. With one hand pressed to the wall, he kept his steps slow and methodical through the stinking dark.

How could he have done this? How could he failed the Vangen so? The questions beat against his mind with every rhythmic step he took down the corridor. The Archive had been the greatest treasure of the Vangen since the company's beginnings. The book alone chronicled nearly three centuries of history, greater than anything else like it. Now it was nothing more than a soggy paperweight. A fresh set of hot tears rolled down his cheeks.

He could only imagine what the others would say once he reached the Palace. If he reached the Palace. Dux would be disappointed. Even though the man was Imperial born, he had Libro keep the Archives regularly updated like the Keevan Ras Captain's of the past. Magus too. Despite the aloofness the old codger gave towards everything, he always listened when Libro read too the other men.

Libro's mind turned to Civis, and only anger churned up from the pit in his stomach. That traitor would most likely laugh at him than anything else. He always scoffed at the Archives, as if he knew better. As if the words of the past were less than the shit on his boots.

Then why was he so interested to listen back at Orienta? That question quelled the anger welling up inside him. Shame took its place. He shouldn't have been so harsh to Civis back when they were fighting the Dargon. The Vangen were more than soldiers. They were brothers. Family even. The truth was, Civis and the other officers were the only family that Libro had left. His father was dead. His mother was dead. His brothers, his sisters, his uncles, his aunts, and all the little cousins he once had were dead. Taken by the Green Fever. How unlucky it was then that he had survived.

Up ahead, the corridor split at a junction. A shaft of apricot light peeked down from a sewer grate above. Twilight was upon Byzantia and soon night would follow. Libro shivered, and not because of his wet clothes. He could only imagine the horror of having to spend the night cold and alone in the sewers.

The scraping of feet above caught his attention. People? Hopefully Vangen. If not, at least someone who could help him out of his foul smelling hellhole.

Libro cupped his hands around his mouth. "Hello? Is anybody there? I need help."

For a moment, nobody appeared. Libro feared that they had moved on, until the sound of feet moving closer made his heart swell with hope.

Three sets of golden masks leered down from the sewer grate. Libro's hope sank like a stone.

"Hello traditor," one of the masked men said mockingly. "What are you doing down there?"

Libro didn't give them an answer. He shot down the left corridor, running away as fast as he could muster.

A commotion surged from behind. "Get him! Get him!" Another voice called out. "Don't let him escape!"

Gods, how could he be this stupid? The whole city was infested with rebels. Why did he think calling out had been a good idea? Libro's heart beat like a warm drum in his chest as he beat feet down the stone corridor. Another junction came up ahead. Left or right?

A set of masked men appeared from the right. "There he is!" One of them shouted, pointing a finger at him. The other stepped in front of Libro.

Libro didn't stop. He turned his shoulder suddenly and barreled into the masked man. The rebel fell in a heap, down into the sewer canal below. Brackish water sprayed up into the air. Libro skirted left and bolted.

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