Chapter 7

Bella had been quite the taskmaster as she ordered them to take on all kinds of menial labor, from laundry to reconstructing and fortifying a section of the tiny base all within their first week. Although it was hard, Xand had encouraged her team and they endured the work they were subjected to, while Bella and her troop relaxed. In the second week, they had done nothing towards securing the area or scouting the land for the enemy, and it felt more and more like they had been sent from the city to be used as servants instead of enforcers. When Xand confronted their new leader about this, Bella would assure her that they would start their mission as soon as she received orders from the main branch of the Queen’s Guard.

Week three began and nobody expected much change, but they remained hopeful. They cleaned their armaments, checked their ammo, and Xand polished her sword. It was something that she had grown accustomed to doing since Vix had demonstrated how to do it. As an arms expert, he knew about almost every weapon known to man. During their down time, he still took inventory of their personal ammunition and inspected their guns, even as Grey grumbled about it being pointless. Xand seemed to find a bit of solace in polishing the strange looking sword. She liked seeing it glitter in the sunlight and studying the odd markings on the hilt and the snake symbol on the blade. She was prepared to spend another uneventful week cleaning and looking out wistfully at the outside world after an evening of sword polishing, but something felt different. Bella spent most of the week in her quarters and every so often, a member of her troop would depart from the base for parts unknown only to come back a day or two later with a letter that they would promptly deliver to their leader. Alex also began to display odd behavior. His once calm demeanor was now overshadowed by an anxious energy. He began to distance himself from the group, and he could be seen frequently speaking to Grey in hushed tones. Xand got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach, but she tried to remain calm and positive for Ryna and the brothers’ sake. After the sixth day of this behavior, Xand finally got up the nerve to confront Grey about the strangeness Alex had been exhibiting; she was worried about him and frustrated that he and Grey were keeping secrets. She entered their room to find Grey snoozing on the tiny cot, his large frame making him look like a giant sleeping on a bed made for a child as he snored away. Alex was nowhere to be seen and neither were his belongings. Bella had headed out with a few of her underlings hours ago, so Xand didn’t have to worry about being heard as she bent down and screamed into Grey’s ear, jarring him from his rest. His face first displayed panic, then annoyance and finally rage as he awoke fully to see Xand near his bedside with her arms folded and a look of disdain on her face. “What the fuck do you want!” he shouted, his ear still ringing from her shrill voice. “I ought to slap you; what is it? What!”

“Where’s Alex? What have you two been whispering about? What is going on?” Xand asked, her voice full of concern with a tinge of anger.

“Huh…?” Grey rubbed his forehead; he was getting a pretty bad headache. “Leave it to a woman to be curious about what men talk about amongst themselves. Why didn’t you ask him instead of waking me up?”

“Because he’s gone!” she yelled. “Look.” She motioned towards the other side of the room where Alex slept which was now void of all traces of his existence.

Grey frowned, “So, he really did leave. I told him it was a dumb idea, but I guess he doesn’t listen.”

“What are you saying? Explain!” Xand began to grow restless.

 “Your boyfriend is a deserter,” Grey said gruffly. “He’s gone back to his people in search of a person called Fair Mother.”

“What…? That’s crazy,” Xand couldn’t believe what she just heard.

“Yeah, that name is pretty stupid. I don’t know exactly what’s happening, but apparently Bella made a deal with one of the influential groups in the Outskirts and they’re coming here to buy us.”

Xand was speechless. She slowly sat down on the bed opposite Grey as he passed her a document proving everything he said to be true.

“I don’t know about you, but I have no intention of being sold like a fattened calf to the highest bidder. So, what do you think we should do next?”

Her eyes burned with anger, “We get our weapons, stock up on ammo and we get the fuck out of here.”

Bella returned that evening to a blood-soaked warzone as all her underlings had been brutally slain. Bullet holes and shell casings covered the area. Her blood boiled, and she let out an enraged yell as their killers stood boldly before her.  Her new companion found amusement in the situation as he burst with laughter. “Well, well! Looks like they’re going to be worth the money! Hope this little incident doesn’t cause your prices to go up. I hate people who pull the ole bait and switch.” He was a very large man who had a leather bag over his head with a hole in it that allowed him to see with one of his eyes; the burning amber iris sent chills down Xand’s spine as she watched it carefully examine them from head to toe. “Ahh, such fiine specimens. I’m eager to finalize this sale!” he said in a sickeningly cheerful tone.

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