The World of The Lost gets a little darker, in The Alchemy of Treason.
I got as low as I could and continued my inch-by-inch skull drag, moving into a slightly lower fold in the ground, shielded from the sentry by several stands of nearly two-foot-tall grass. I still had to move very slowly—even more slowly than I already had been for the last two hours. I was a good twenty yards away from him, but that was plenty close enough to get spotted or heard if I wasn’t careful, even in the deepening dark.
I might have heard something off to my right. Maybe a grunt, suddenly cut off. Santos was supposed to be over there. Maybe he’d moved faster than I had.
The last of the faint remaining glow in the west had faded and the stars were glittering in the black sky overhead when I finally rose to a low crouch. Firelight glinted faintly off the dark, satin steel of the Bowie in my fist as I quickly scanned my surroundings before padding as silently as I could toward the sentry, his back now to me.
The fire still flickered, though most of the Avurs were now proned out and snoring. A couple were still up, sitting by the fire, one of them staring into the flames. That one almost gave me pause. There was something about him that bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it immediately, but something told me he was more dangerous. He wasn’t staring into the fire because he was a boot who didn’t know any better. Any man who had any experience in the wild wouldn’t look directly at an artificial light source at night. It would ruin his night adaptation.
Rolling my feet carefully, almost wishing I had moccasins on instead of combat boots, I crept toward the sentry, planting each foot slowly and smoothly before putting my weight on it. It was achingly slow movement, while every nerve screamed at me to get up and rush the guy, take him out before he turned and saw me, or one of his buddies noticed something.
It felt like it took forever to get barely ten feet from him. I hadn’t made a sound, careful to breathe through my mouth so that I didn’t give myself away with a nose whistle, but his head started to turn as I got closer.
Close enough. I lunged.
I hit him hard, with all one hundred seventy-odd pounds I had left on me after close to a month of ever-shorter rations and long days on foot or in the saddle. With him sitting on the ground the way he was, there was only so low I could get, but I put a knee in his back and knocked him hard onto his face, catching myself with one hand before I went over his head. Putting my weight on that knee, I shoved his face down into the dirt and the grass as I brought the Bowie plunging down onto the back of his neck.
The blade cleaved through skin, muscle, tendon, and nerve, and he stiffened, then went limp. His head was still attached, but I’d just severed his spine. He wasn’t getting up ever again, nor was he going to make any further noise.
Unfortunately, I was one of the lucky ones.
I heard a strangled cry off to my left, where either Rodeffer or Farrar were closing on their own targets. A moment later, the noise increased, as a hand-to-hand fight really started to get going.
A shout rose from near the fire. I spun around, just as the man who’d been staring into the fire threw something into the flames.
The fire flared up suddenly, the flames turning a sickly green. There were a couple of chemicals that could do that, but generally speaking, borax or copper sulfate don’t result in a small, disproportionately long-limbed fire goblin leaping out of the flames.
Friends. Foes. Where is the Line?
Conor and his allies return from the quest for the Sword of Categym to find the Galel kingdom under siege. The forces of the Empire of Ar-Annator gather on the frontier, and the Marines must fight their way through enemy lines to reach friendly territory.
To make matters worse, an attempt is made on King Uven’s life, grievously wounding him. As traitorous elements among his retainers make a grab for the throne, a deeper, darker, sorcerous plot makes itself felt.
The Empire has planned this for a long time. The foul things they’re in league with have been planning longer still.
Can Recon Marines and their allies adapt quickly enough to head off a coup before darkness envelops Cor Legear?