It was horrifying to think about. And confusing. She didn’t feel different. Not really. But then again, there was that emptiness, that pit in the back of her mind. But that was just... loss. Wasn’t it? Psychological. Not physical, surely.
She was beginning to dread finding out.
Perhaps it didn’t matter, though. She hadn’t seen the monster again. Perhaps she never would. Perhaps it was just a one time thing. A freak event of some kind.
Wishful thinking, she decided. She wasn’t sure optimism suited her, anyway.
‘Hey,’ Chergoa said privately, pulling Emiliana out of her daze. The reaper’s glowing eyes pointed her toward the others.
Everyone had stopped talking, Emiliana realized. At the heavy silence, she stepped closer.
Dimas and Diego both stood.
“Is something wrong?” Emiliana adjusted the edges of her hoodie to make sure she could hear them, but Shenado was the one who responded.
‘We have an unexpected guest at the front gate. He seems to be alone, apart from his reaper. I sense Joana moving toward them.’
Chergoa drifted up behind her servant. ‘You recognize them?’
‘It’s Melchor Blackburn,’ said Shenado.
Emiliana understood the sudden tension in the room now. The Blackburns had been the only one of the ten who hadn’t joined in the campaign against the Vanguard. And that name. Melchor. It hadn’t been very long since she first heard it.
Without warning, Iziol brushed up against Dimas and then bolted from the room, phasing straight through the glass wall.
‘Where’s he going?’ said Chergoa.
“...Only being cautious,” was all Dimas said.
Emiliana watched Iziol shrink into the horizon.
‘Joana is bringing Melchor here,’ informed Shenado.
They waited. The two men took up positions facing the Red Den’s northern door, Dimas in front of Marcos and Ramira while Diego covered Emiliana.
At length, the door opened, and Joana entered first, followed by a long-faced man whom Emiliana didn’t recognize and a host of Redwaters whom she did.
Joana started them off. “Lord Melchor says he has received word of an imminent assault on Red Lake. So he has come to help us guard the children.”
“How generous of you,” said Diego. “Who told you they were here?”
“No one,” said Melchor with his reaper right behind him. He had a hard voice, the kind that carried easily through the air and bit at one’s ears. “We merely guessed that you would be keeping them here.”