Chapter 26 Part 2

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Tristan was a doer, not a planner. He knew thirty-two ways to behead a demon, but not the first thing about plotting abduction.

That’s what this was—abduction.

For the past six years, Tristan had followed the High Commander’s every order without question.  He’d never had any reason to doubt the man who had pulled him from the ashes. The High Commander had given him a purpose again when he’d thought life wasn’t worth living. Tristan owed the leader of the Paladins everything.

It wasn’t far from Luca that the High Commander found him, nearly eleven years ago. Tristan had been walking aimlessly for days, maybe weeks – he’d lost track of time. He was cold and alone and so hungry that he’d taken to gnawing on meatless bones just to give his mouth something to do.

Tristan had hidden behind a boulder when he heard the pounding of hoofbeats and baying of hounds. He hadn’t seen another human being since he left Finchold – how was he to know whether the sounds belonged to man or demon? He’d closed his eyes and waited for teeth or claws or talons to tear his body to shreds. His soul already lay in tatters.

And then that voice – that impossibly beautiful voice – had called out to him. “You can’t give up on life just yet, boy, not when the dead still need avenging.” 

The High Commander was an intensely private man, revealing only bits and pieces of his plans at a time. There were few, if any, who could call themselves his confidante. But his vision was a worthy one – that of a world free from the tyranny of demons. And after demons had torn Tristan’s own world apart, he devoted himself to making the High Commander’s vision a reality. Killing the monsters that had destroyed his family was all Tristan wanted. He left human infighting to the aristocrats and politicians.

Tristan swore many oaths on the day he was anointed as a full Paladin, and among them he swore to obey the High Commander in all things. And so he would obey this order, even if it left him unsettled.

He just needed to figure out how to do it.

“So what’s the plan?” Sam asked, elbows on the small table.

“Accept Sander’s dinner invitation,” Tristan replied promptly. He could do this planning thing.

“Okay,” said Sam. “And then what?”

“We go to the dinner,” Tristan declared.

Sam’s eyebrows pinched together. “And then?”

“We capture Sander.”

Sam was speechless for a full thirty seconds. “How?”

Tristan opened his mouth and drew in air through his nose. “I’m still working out the details.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “In other words, you have no clue.”

Tristan glowered at him. So what if Sam was right? The boy should know better than to make light of his superior’s shortcomings. Although Tristan really did need to come up with something, and fast.

“I have an idea,” said Braeden slowly. “It’s a little bit unconventional, but I think it could work.”

“We’re trying to kidnap a man out of his own stronghold. I think unconventional is called for,” Tristan said.

“I’m still working out the details,” Braeden said wryly, looking at Tristan sidelong. “But what we need to do is draw Sander out, isolate him from his men. There are only three of us, and the gods know how many of them. And if they all fight like Adelard and Donnelly…” Braeden trailed off.

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