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Cinis had just stepped away from the stone door when Jessica noticed footsteps reverberating around the corner, hastening toward their position. She shoved Cinis behind one of the statues that littered the room and crouched behind a second, peeking through the crux of the elbow to catch a glance of the incoming figure and motioning for Cinis to stay still. A dark, cloaked head poked through the doorway, urgently searching the room.
“Libus!” shouted a surprised Cinis as the hood receded, and the tall figure stumbled into the room, blood pouring from a gash just below his left ear. A broad grin lit up his face.
“Finally, I’ve found you, boy. Any longer and these tunnels would have swallowed me whole. Great news! The attack was a success! All because of you.”
He shook Cinis’ hand, the strong grip overcoming Cinis’ own as his entire hand was encompassed.
“The revolution owes you, Cinis. Or should I say, Shadowseeker. And I see you’ve made a new acquaintance.”
Jessica had cautiously emerged from her niche and was sizing up Libus.
“Jessica,” she said, using her real name to avoid confusing Cinis. At this point, her identity was already exposed. “What do you mean by success? You were all nearly killed.”
“It was a raid. Casualties are to be expected. Originally it was to be done under the stealth of night, but conditions weren’t exactly optimal with the fire. But when you ran off, everyone followed. The guards, the dogs, the lunatic and the girl. Gone, plain out left us unguarded. We captured a few of the remaining guards—the ones who followed you were the beastly creatures. But as we speak, the guard’s shack burns. We suffered hardly any casualties, considering the circumstances, and the taverns will sing of this victory against the palace guard’s oppression for years to come.”
“A victory for one, but a near loss for another,” sighed Jessica. “The palace guard is only a front, a puppet played by Rorcul’s hand. Do you want the true reason for the guard’s oppression? He stands before you. They were searching for Cinis, and nearly caught him, but for a pure stroke of fortune. And they will pursue him until death’s cold grip has chilled the blood in his veins. Soon even these tunnels will not be safe. Already the city gates will be closed, every exit closely watched by the beastly guards that you mentioned. The longer we wait, the worse it will become—he has to leave the city immediately.”
“But the rebellion,” protested Libus. “Cinis, you are our greatest asset. With you, we can access any place in the city at a moment’s notice and disappear in a blink. We can crush them.”
“Libus, I have to leave,” spoke up Cinis. “It was Rearden’s last words, and to dishonor them would be spitting upon his grave. Do not attempt to convince me otherwise, as I am just barely sure of it myself.”
“A terrible loss. But we are thankful for the little you have given us, Cinis. The revolution is in your debt.”
“Tonight we will call upon this debt,” said Jessica. “Surely you know of another way to leave the city? We must be gone faster and more invisible than the wind, and we have far to travel.”
Libus thought for a moment, leaning his square shoulders up against the wall.
“All the ways will be guarded. Rarely do we have reason to inspect the Outer Wall, so many of its secrets are unknown to us.” He hesitated. “But there may be a way. It’s risky, and we’ll need some more of your luck.”
“Careful, I don’t think there’s much left,” remarked Cinis. “So what’s the plan?”
Libus explained, and a frown gradually crept over Jessica’s face.
“I don’t like it. There’s too much that could go wrong.”
“It’s the only way.”
“He’s right,” concluded Cinis. “These tunnels do not breach the Wall, which is solid even beneath the earth. It’s our best bet.”
“Alright. But if anything goes wrong, we run for it, understand?” She poked a finger at Cinis, “Absolutely no heroism.”
A howl echoed from behind them, a howl that became more distant the longer it was held.
“That’s our cue,” said Jessica. “Cinis, lead the way. Libus, if you wish to inflict a true wound to the palace guard, this is the greatest opportunity you will likely ever be presented. Make the preparations.”
As they whisked out of the room, Jessica turned for a final glance at the frozen statues beside the door, near identical to the ones outside the stone.
“Thanks, friends,” she whispered, and a twinkle of light flashed across their eyes. Then she scurried away—after Cinis, after safety, and after freedom.
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