“Ahh!” Al sat bolt upright in bed as a shock of something akin to fear ran through him. He looked quickly this way and that, but there was no one and nothing there.
“Al! Hey, man! What was that all about? You playin’ around?”
“Gah-ha-ha-ha-ha! Ain’t it enough for you to be on display up top?”
The other sword slaves, enjoying some drinks nearby, were more than happy to give him a hard time about it. In the same way that there were prostitutes on the island, there were some down here who knew their way around cooking and brewing.
Al glared at his soused companions, running a hand through his black hair.
“Hellooo, Al? Allll! Don’t tell me you’re all upseeet,” one of them said.
“Spare me your Hornet impressions. It’s like a waking nightmare,” Al spat. Then he slowly got to his feet. His mood was never going to recover if he sat there arguing with drunks. He shuffled off, hoping to find somewhere he could be alone. He had to be careful, though—he wouldn’t want to accidentally stumble across the Hornet or Ubirk. The thought made him realize that the only person on this island he could really relax around was Orlan, and that thought made him unbearably depressed.
Al wandered along until he found himself emerging from the suffocating underground, out in the night breeze.
Directly connected to the underground space dedicated for the use of the sword slaves was a small staging area for the patrols that policed the island’s outer walls. Since the drawbridge was the only way on or off the island, security was somewhat lax about making sure people on the inside stayed indoors. Of course, that led a few morons to try swimming across the massive lake…
“But that’s not much of a plan when the lake is crawling with demon beasts that live in the water. Only thing you get that way is killed,” Al said to himself.
Thus, despite the laissez-faire approach to security, not a single person had ever yet succeeded in escaping from the sword-slave island. In a place like this, to even dream of freedom was the height of foolishness.
The thought reminded Al of Ubirk’s ridiculous chatter from earlier in the day, and he clicked his tongue angrily. It was just babble, and usually, he would have been able to let it roll right off his back, but today, it nagged at him.
“Dreams are for when you’re sleeping, not when you’re awake. Damned idiot,” he grumbled. He looked up at the sky to see a half-full moon. It looked awfully large, yet what drew his attention wasn’t the moon itself, but the stars that stippled the night sky around it. Pinpricks of light beyond counting. Al stared at them for a long moment, then bit his lip.
“Bad stars. That’s what’s behind it all.”
The “celebration” to be held on the island was getting very, very close.
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