Dayne stood at the metal rail of the catwalk and scanned the warehouse for any sign of trouble. The floor below was a flurry of activity as people erected partitions and assembled cots. Volunteers prepared food for everyone in a kitchen at one end of the room while those with first aid training bustled about the medical bay treating those injured during the last attack. Elodie patrolled the warehouse floor and passed out guard rotations while Samon stood look-out at the main door. Squeals and laughter echoed from a far corner where Bailey and Lila created a make-shift playground for the younger children. Everyone was coming together in ways the Alfath could never have achieved before, and it was in no small part due to Lincon.
He was the one who suggested nightly gatherings as a way for Caelynn and her followers to get to know one another. Though initially stilted and uncomfortable for all who attended, Lincon urged Caelynn to keep it up, and soon the informal get-togethers became a welcome respite of music, stories, and fellowship. It was at one of these meetings that someone first suggested a new name — a way to distance themselves from their Alfath kin actively trying to kill them. Within a week most were referring to themselves as the Remnant, and the nightly gathering was an intrinsic part of their new identity.
Satisfied all was well for the moment, Dayne turned around and let himself into the warehouse office. He stopped just inside the door and made sure it was fully closed behind him before bowing his head in formal greeting. “Amarrah… Lord Foley… Lord Sparks.”
Seated in the middle of a threadbare couch, Caelynn acknowledged him with a regal nod. The formality complete, she gestured to a nearby chair. “You were right — Thyla came back to finish the job.” Her eyes returned to the flickering, second-hand holovid, where a news report out of Raqmu showed dramatic footage of a collapsed cliff. The reporters discussed the potential impact (none) on holiday makers in Siqit.
Seated next to Caelynn, Lincon’s fingers flew over his flexscreen. He glanced at the holovid report with a slight frown. “Dawn’s Light knows about it, but aren’t doing anything besides monitoring the local authorities.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” Dayne shared Lincon’s frown. “Something like this, your guys would normally swoop in before guardians even finished setting up a perimeter — especially if they already knew it involved the Alfath.”
“The official stance is that this was a natural event and so they have no reason to get involved.” Lincon’s voice was flat.
Dayne shook his head. “Thyla had to have set charges inside to get that kind of destruction. She knew we were gone.”
Caelynn quirked a brow. “Why destroy it?”
“Because it was literally your court.” Collin spoke up from the desk where he was studying a map of Region Drasil. “The formal name was Amarrah’s Court. By destroying it, she’s sending a message to the Alfath that Amarrah’s power is broken and you are irrelevant.”
“Irrelevant enough to hold them off through three weeks of attacks?” Caelynn turned her eyes back to the holovid report on the cave-in. “They knew we were gone… could they have followed us when we left?”
Collin shook his head. “Nyx would have attacked right away rather than risk giving us an opportunity to dig in somewhere else.”
“It’s more likely they came back for another attack and realized we weren’t fighting back.” Dayne added.
Caelynn grimaced. “So Auntie Thyla wants to destroy me on principle, not just because she thinks I have the Archives. The only power I have is over those who choose to stay with me. She’ll come after my people.”
“Once they find us.” Dayne agreed. “This is a good location for now, but it probably won’t take Thyla and Nyx long to discover Lord Foley’s connection to this place.”
Collin shrugged. “They still think I’m dead, so they may not make that connection soon.” He looked back to his map. “Regardless, we should prepare for another attack — and another evacuation.”
Caelynn rose from her seat and began pacing the office. “I promised to protect these people, but they’re in danger just being near me.”
Dayne sat up. “Are you saying you want to leave?”
Caelynn considered a moment before shaking her head. “Thyla planned her assault on the half-breeds long before any of us knew I’m Amarrah. My leaving would be an invitation for her to finish the job. But we know she’s going to keep coming after me, and we have a lot of families who could get caught in the middle.”
Collin frowned. “These people believe in you. Even the ones who initially left came back because they trust you to protect them. If you start sending them away now it will look like you’re abandoning them.”
“Even if it’s for their own safety?” Caelynn countered.
“It’s all in the framing,” Dayne spoke up. “Tell them you are sending them away for their own good and it makes them feel weak or like they are a burden. But if you ask them to take on a mission for the good of the Remnant…”
“It gives them a purpose… a way to contribute.” Caelynn nodded her understanding. “But do we have…”
The rest of her words were cut off by a knock on the office door. Collin rose from his seat and ducked into a small storage room in the corner before Dayne went to answer the knock.
“Sorry to interrupt.” Bailey smiled sheepishly. “Dinner is ready and, well, we know there was a kitchen in Elyoniem but we didn’t figure there’d be one up here. Should we send food up?”
“We’ll come down,” Caelynn piped up.
Collin waited until he’d heard the door close once more and the room had gone quiet. Shoulders slumped, he stepped out of the storage closet to find Lincon still there. “Aren’t you going to go eat?”
“I will in a minute,” Lincon replied. “I wanted to talk with you about that favor, first.”
Collin nodded slightly. “Were you able to destroy the box? They wouldn’t have blown up The Court without ransacking it first, especially Peter’s apartment and Elyoniem.”
“I took the liberty of doing something first.” Lincon went through a backpack of his own belongings and pulled out a large, only slightly rumpled envelope. He held it out to Collin.
Collin looked inside to find the few surviving trinkets and memories from his life before joining the Alfath. Lincon had even brought the top panel of the box that bore the academy seal. He looked back up to Lincon, speechless.
“I couldn’t bring the box itself but didn’t want you to lose everything.” Lincon’s brows lifted in concern. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“What? No!” Collin found his voice. “No,” he repeated, a bit more calmly this time. He looked back into the envelope. “This… this is far more than I expected.” His vision started to blur with tears and he didn’t dare look up again at the moment. “Thank you.”
“I should join the others before someone comes looking for me.” Lincon patted his shoulder as he crossed the room to the door. “We’ll be sure to bring some food back for you.”