Clouded Purity

by Cynus

Chapter 16

"Do you understand yet, Prism?" Ghayle asked.

"Understand what?"

"Love," Ghayle stated. "That's what rules you. It is what has always ruled you."

"Duty," Prism disagreed. "Duty ruled me. Duty stood in the way of love. I spent that time rationalizing every single decision by the will of the Order, instead of following my heart."

"Duty is a form of love."

"Spare me." Prism growled, tearing away from Ghayle again. "I gave up love for duty, we both know that. Just as Marhys did. You may think of her sacrifice as pure, but that is not how I see it."

"She loved me," Ghayle replied. "She stayed for me. Out of love for her mother."

"She abandoned her husband and child out of some need to be close to someone she thought was a deity. A woman sworn to protect the world, who then destroyed it," Prism said. "The one who gave up all her vows to consort with demons."

"Interesting."

"Oh no, drawing parallels again? Trying to show me how much I'm like you?" Prism asked.

"Interesting."

"Woman, you infuriate me!"

Ghayle smiled slyly. "Interesting."

"Is that all you have to say?"

"What infuriates you is me making comparisons between us, no matter how valid or vague. To think that you, the stonehearted monk, filled with his duty, is driven to anger so easily." Ghayle laughed heartily and stood before Prism, a primal fire blazing behind her eyes as she stared deep into his soul. "What is the source of your anger, Prism? Is it not because you can't stand what you see? Why not? Duty, devotion, love . . . it comes back to love, again and again. What we do for that most fickle of emotions. Why we're driven to the brink of destruction out of the instinct to preserve what we care about."

Prism bore it all with stoicism, refusing to let her goad him until she leaned in close, her lips inches from his own as she asked him once more, "Why are you so angry, Prism?"

He tried to push her away from him with all his strength, though he might as well have tried to push over an oak tree. She stood her ground and Prism threw his hands in the air and stormed away from her for several paces before turning around. "I spent my entire life keeping my emotions in check, and seeing it played before me now, I have a right to feel, in death! I have a right to mourn the life I could have lived!"

"You mourn the life you did live," Ghayle said. "You're not at peace with your choices."

"Are you at peace with yours?" Prism asked.

"Yes," Ghayle replied without hesitation. "I acted in accordance with the duty I felt toward the world. To preserve what I could of what I loved. I gave myself to the cycle, to death, so the world could be saved again. You did the same for Grim. You gave him everything you could."

"No, I didn't. I owed it to him to keep my promises."

"There is time yet for those promises."

"Death prevents me from fulfilling them," Prism said.

"Does it? Do you remember the contract you made with Selfaeth, to protect his son, even unto the sacrifice of your own life?"

"I know where you're headed with this. Please don't make me relive it," Prism begged.

"Prism, you have to understand." Ghayle gestured to the garden around them. "Death is not the end of everything. Ripples of our passing spread on throughout the ages."

"A single storm is nothing to a mountain, the endless storms break it down to rubble," Prism recited.

Ghayle bowed and said, "Valkean also once said, 'the mountain is forged from the collision of heat and pressure. A mountain is forged by the hammer and anvil of creation itself'. He knew the price you pay for wisdom is pain. And you once did too."

"I hate you," Prism said.

"I can live with that," Ghayle replied, and she reached for him again. Prism did not resist.


Prism entered Grim's room shortly after lunch, adjusting his robes nervously, dreading the coming conversation. A week had passed since they'd acquired the tattoos, and the connection had only grown. Along with the sensory benefits, issues had arisen as well.

Finding Grim naked from the waist down as he dressed for the day, Prism almost turned around and left. Instead he walked to the balcony door and stared outside, waiting for Grim to finish. He sensed Grim's amusement, and blushed.

"So . . . we have a problem," Prism said after a moment.

"What?" Grim asked, joining Prism at the window and handing him a bottle of water. Prism nodded his thanks and took it, wondering for a split second how Grim had known he was thirsty. These new shared sensations would take some getting used to.

"When you, um . . . you know . . . this morning?" Prism blushed, hoping his emotions would communicate the rest, because the mere thought of Grim masturbating had brought the memory back in full force.

"Oh blood . . ." Grim said, clamping a hand over his horrified mouth, "you felt it?"

Prism nodded. "Every second of it."

"Uh-oh."

"I had to take a cold shower to stop from giving in," Prism said. "That was the closest I've come to breaking my oaths since I arrived. Even worse than the first day."

"That explains the chill I felt," Grim said, sighing in frustration. "That's not good. What are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know . . ." Prism replied, taking a drink. "I don't want to ask you to stop but . . ." He shrugged, not sure what else to say.

"I understand," Grim said. "That's going to take an adjustment. I didn't think it would be this intense."

"At least we're not sharing thoughts, just emotions and sensory information,"

"Although, that would be appealing, too."

"I noticed it was different when we were a little farther apart. It wasn't quite as intense. Maybe I could just go for a walk next time you need to do it?" Prism suggested.

"We could try that," Grim said. "Or I could just try to exercise willpower. Though you know why I did it this morning, don't you?"

"Why?"

"I could feel you doing your morning stretches, and it was . . ." Grim shuddered, and arousal wash through his body, affecting Prism as well. "intoxicating. The way your muscles feel when they're moving. It was like being inside you."

"That is not an appropriate image right now, Grim!" Prism scolded.

Grim blanched at the admonition. "I'm sorry. I didn't even think about it."

Prism couldn't help the thought from forming in his mind, and his tongue eagerly formed the words before he could stop it. "Well, in two years we'll get to know what being inside each other really feels like."

"Prism!" Grim said, laughing even as his body responded to the image.

Despite the dangerous territory he had strayed into, Prism still could not contain his thoughts, their mutual attraction resonating through their magical bond. "Won't that be something? Having sex with each—"

The door to Grim's room burst open, and Sharis stormed inside. He locked the door and immediately moved to lock the other door which led to Prism's chamber before speaking. "Lord Grim. You need to turn on the broadcast immediately."

"Sharis! What are you doing? You can't just—" Grim started.

"Now, Lord Grim!" Sharis insisted, locking the door to Prism's chamber. "The broadcast."

Grim stared at Sharis for a second longer before moving to his broadcast screen, turning it on and stepping back as an anxious newscaster addressed the viewer.

"The insurgents have just made their demands of King Hashayne. He is to hand over control of the government to them or be removed by force. Several hostages have already been killed, but more remain in rebel custody. We have access to live surveillance footage from inside the Council of Lords." The image changed from the newscaster to the view of a large, tiered seating area over a wide floor. Flags bearing the colors and crest of the royal family, and smaller flags for each region in Ultaka, decorated the chairs and desks occupying the tiers. Several dozen Fedain—including Duke Selfaeth—knelt in a row on the bottom floor, while masked soldiers moved among them, all brandishing heat-rifles.

"That's . . . Father's in there!" Grim said and pointed at the bandage wrapped around his father's head. "He's wounded."

The newscaster continued to speak over the live surveillance feed. "The insurgents have stated they will kill one member of the nobility every five minutes until their demands are met. The military is moving to intervene but has not yet managed to penetrate the rebels' defenses."

"This is bad. What are we going to do?" Sharis asked. "I'm worried there are more rebels here. What if they attack us?"

"We're going to try and remain calm. That's all we can do," Prism said.

"My Father's in there, Prism! He's about to be killed!" Grim insisted, pointing frantically at the screen.

Duke Selfaeth rose to his feet, flagging down a soldier, his hands raised in surrender. Prism latched onto this image and said hopefully, "Maybe not. Look! He's asking to speak to the rebel leaders. Your father has the best reputation among the nobility. Maybe he can negotiate?"

A soldier raised his rifle and pointed it at the Duke, and Duke Selfaeth dropped to the council floor, blood pooling beneath him. The feed darkened, and the stricken newscaster's face reappeared on the screen. Grim gasped loudly as a single, frightened sob shook him.

Fear emanated from Grim through the link, and Prism forced himself to fight it as the newscaster spoke again. "W-we apologize for cutting the f-feed. Duke Selfaeth of Tehir has been shot in the chest and head. The insurgents have . . . the insurgents have opened fire on the remaining hostages!"

"What!?" Grim shouted.

As if in answer to Grim's volume, gunshots rang out in the distance. It took Prism a moment to realize the sound came from inside the palace and not from the screen. Shouting followed the shots, and Prism moved toward the door, putting his ear against it to determine all he could from the noise.

"New reports coming in from all over the country, the military has turned against the monarchy," the newscaster announced, his hands shaking as he stared directly at the device recording him. "We've lost contact with our correspondents in Madrith and Chandir. Fighting has broken out in the streets of Xarin. I don't know how long we'll be able to broadcast, but we'll keep you informed as long as possible."

"We need to get you out of here," Prism said, moving away from the door to Grim's wardrobe. He pulled out the two coils of chameleon rope from the bottom and walked toward the balcony doors. Grim and Sharis both remained frozen by the broadcast screen, even though it had already cut out. "Right now, Grim!"

Grim turned toward him, his face unreadable though Prism sensed the shock and horror in him. "Veil," Grim said simply. "She'll be in my Father's study."

Prism's promise to Duke Selfaeth to protect both his children blazed in his mind, and in honor of the Duke's death he could not ignore that responsibility now. He handed one rope to Grim and said, "I'll go get her. Barricade the door. Go out through the balcony as soon as you can, if you feel it's safe. I'll meet you in the garden." He slid the other coil of rope around his shoulder, approaching and unlocking the door. "Lock this as soon as I'm through. Be careful about letting anyone in. You can't tell who is loyal or not."

"Is anyone loyal?" Sharis asked.

"They must be, or there wouldn't be fighting in the palace," Prism said. "But we don't know how outnumbered they are." Grim still hadn't moved, and Prism shouted to get his attention. "Grim!"

"What?"

Prism used all his monk training to force his own emotions to calm, hoping it would feed back through the link between him and Grim. "Everything is going to be okay. I need you to work with me. Feel my heartbeat, draw on my senses. I'll get you through this."

Grim nodded, reinforced by Prism's words and feelings as he moved toward the balcony. Sharis joined Prism at the door, preparing to lock it as soon as Prism stepped through. Prism listened to make sure no one was coming before opening the door and entering the hallway.

The door closed after him as Sharis fulfilled his duty. Scraping of furniture moving across the hardwood immediately followed, and Prism left the door. In his time in the palace, Grim had given him a full tour on more than one occasion, and Prism carefully picked his way down the hallway, heading for the Duke's study on the floor above him.

When he reached the spiral staircase leading both up and down, he came across his first set of corpses. Three soldiers and a Fedain servant lay across the steps. Prism glanced down, making sure no one lay in wait to come up after him, and caught glimpses of more servants' bodies strewn all the way to the ground floor. Many had tried to escape the carnage this way, and it appeared none had succeeded.

This gave him hope the enemy would not discover him as they had already passed through here. He climbed quickly, but not so urgently as to sacrifice stealth, drawing as much on his upbringing as a thief as on his monk training. When he reached the next floor, only one obstacle lay between him and his goal. Two rebel soldiers, behind an impromptu barricade of a heavy table, fired into the open door of the Duke's study.

The soldiers cowered behind the table as someone returned fire from within the room. Several other soldiers lay across the floor, all dead by Prism's best guess, but he couldn't tell which were rebels and which were loyal. All were the same in death; only the living concerned him now.

He would have to kill at least one soldier. This would be his first time killing, though as soon as he agreed to become Grim's bodyguard he'd accepted the possibility. He couldn't handle two at once, however, and so one would have to die for him to only incapacitate the other.

Descending the stairs again, he searched the soldiers' bodies for something he could use easily. He picked a sidearm, despite a complete lack of knowledge on how to use it, and took the belt knives of both soldiers as well. These would be his best bet, if he could close the distance between himself and the rebels. He tucked them into his sash.

He returned to the landing, keeping the soldiers in his peripheral as he poked his head around the side to make sure no reinforcements were on their way. He slid forward, conscious of the weight of the coiled rope still around his shoulder, and the unusual weapons at his waist. His extra attention to detail kept him from making a sound as he approached.

Thirty paces. Twenty-five. Twenty. One of the soldiers noticed him, and he'd run out of time. He acted on his training, overriding his natural fear, and dove forward closing ten paces in a roll and drawing a knife as he righted himself, dashing forward. Before the soldier could even turn his weapon, Prism was on him, driving a knife into the soldier's neck with deadly accuracy.

The other rebel rose up, turning toward him and firing. The shot pierced Prism's shoulder and knocked him back, the virulent radioactive particles in the ammunition spreading through the wound. Prism grunted through the pain, preparing to tackle his opponent as a shot traveled through the doorway and entered the rebel's head, blasting through in a bright splatter of blood.

Though Prism's shoulder ached, he could still move it, and the nanites in his blood worked to close the wound. He raised his hands in surrender to alert the soldiers through the door that he meant no harm. He risked their trust and moved around the barricade to the open door. The chair on this side of the desk had tipped over, and General Parrow's body lay on the floor, a bullet hole in the back of his head.

Two soldiers popped their heads up from behind the Duke's desk. One soldier's eyes lit up with recognition—Captain Farr, one of Veil's usual bodyguards. "Master Prism!" he shouted, standing and bowing in greeting. "It's good to see a friendly face."

Veil and the other soldier, a young man with dark hair, skin, and eyes, stood as well. Prism addressed Veil, "I've come to get you out. Grim and Sharis are in his room. They barricaded the door and will join us in the gardens."

"How are we going to get out?" Veil asked. Prism slid the rope from his shoulder and lifted it to show her. Showing her leadership abilities, she instantly said, "Let's do it. We can use the balcony in the next room over."

Prism nodded and led the way, walking into the next room down the hall. It was the Duke's sitting room, complete with a fireplace and balcony access. The soldiers and Veil followed him in, and one of the soldiers locked the door. Both soldiers moved a piece of furniture to block the entrance while Prism headed straight for the balcony to attach the cable.

Veil followed Prism, and soon the two soldiers joined them at the balcony. "Master Prism should go down first to scout out the bottom," Captain Farr suggested. "We'll come down last and make sure no one gets in."

"Thank you," Veil said, bowing gracefully to both of soldiers as Prism swung over the balcony and descended to the gardens. He slid most of the way and only walked against the wall for the last few feet, causing rope burns on his hands. These, too, healed slowly from the nanites in his system. His shoulder was already only sore, its condition improving by the moment.

Veil joined him in the gardens and spoke quietly to Prism as they waited for her bodyguards to descend. "I was meeting with General Parrow when fighting broke out. He tried to kill me but one of my guards stepped in before he managed it. Do you know what's happening?"

"I do, but we need to focus on getting out of here, first. Then I'll explain," Prism replied.

"Okay."

Prism glanced anxiously around the garden. It appeared deserted from his current position, but they were beneath the back wall of the palace, while Grim's room was on the east wing. He could still sense Grim's approximate location through the link. As soon as the two soldiers reached the ground, Prism moved in Grim's direction.

When they rounded the corner, Sharis waved them over to some large hedges. "Master Prism! Over here!"

The group headed straight for them, Prism leading with the soldiers bringing up the flank. "Good, you made it down all right," Prism said, smiling encouragingly at Grim. Grim did not respond, instead staring at Prism, as if in shock. With a grimace, Prism turned to the others and said, "We have to get over the wall somehow."

"We can't get out through the main gate. Rebels have already taken over that position to block any attempted escapes," Captain Farr said. "It was the last thing we heard before we stopped being able to trust communications."

"Unfortunately, both ropes are in use," Prism said, glancing to Grim's nearby balcony. "I didn't think to figure out how to bring them with us. Someone would have to be up there to take that one down." He sighed and said, "I'll climb back up and get it, then find some other way out."

"No, you're more likely to be targeted than either of us," Captain Farr replied. "I'll go up, then I'll join the rebels temporarily until I can make it to safety."

Prism nodded, glad to have another voice of reason to help him make decisions. "Understood."

Veil placed her hand on Captain Farr's arm. "Be careful, Captain Farr."

Captain Farr grinned at her. "I will. Don't worry, I'll be back and harassing you about safety in no time."

Prism followed Captain Farr to Grim's balcony and waited for the soldier to climb up and untie the rope. As Prism collected and wrapped it around his shoulder again, loud banging emanated from Grim's bedchamber.

Captain Farr walked into the bedroom, disappearing from Prism's view. "They're not in here! Check the kitchens! We've got to catch that Pale bastard," he shouted.

"Why was this room barricaded? Aren't you Veil's personal bodyguard?" a loud voice replied. Five shots rang out, followed by several seconds of silence. The same voice said, "Check the gardens. Grim has escaped."

Prism sneaked back to the hedges as quickly as he could and said, "Come on, let's go. They're coming for us."

They headed straight for the outer wall, finding a spot where the hedges grew thick enough to obscure them from view to both east and west. Prism tied a slipknot into the cable and hooked one of the wall spikes with it.

Before he could suggest Grim or Veil go first, the soldier spoke. "Master Prism, please go up first to make sure no one is waiting on the other side."

Prism nodded. "Right." He ascended and peered over the side. From this vantage point, several groups of soldiers moved through the area, two of which were engaged in combat in the plaza before the palace gate. Unable to determine which group was loyal and which was not, he scouted for other options to escape into the city.

"Okay, now Lady Veil, then Lord Grim, then Sharis. I'll bring up the rear," the soldier suggested from below him. Veil, Grim, and Sharis all climbed the rope, perching on the wall while the soldier climbed. As Prism scouted ahead, Veil kept her eyes on the palace gardens.

"Time's up. We have to jump right now," she said after a moment. "There are soldiers coming."

"What? It's too high!" Sharis replied.

"You'll heal," Veil said, then pushed him off the wall toward the street. She jumped after him, Grim joining her a moment later in numb silence. Prism helped the soldier climb the last foot to the top and they jumped together. Though Prism rolled to absorb the fall and came up mostly unscathed, the soldier injured his ankle as he collided with the pavement.

Veil immediately saw to his wounds, kneeling beside him and touching his injured flesh. Within seconds, the soldier could stand, and the group looked to Prism to lead them on.

"They're coming. We have to get out of here, now!" Sharis said. It was all the encouragement Prism needed, and he turned toward one of the many alleyways near them. His first instinct led him toward the place where he'd once disembarked a streetcar with Kaeral for his clandestine meeting with Grim. He wracked his brain for a plan and hoped Grim, in his numbness, wouldn't feed off the frantic thoughts flowing through Prism's mind.

Rounding a corner brought them face to face with a group of humans dressed not in uniforms, but in their everyday clothes. A dozen men and women stood before them, all holding makeshift weapons. Their eyes burned with the rage of an oppressed populace getting their first chance at freedom, and they instantly recognized the three Fedain under Prism's protection.

"Well, what do we have here?" one of the men said, pulling his large bat from his shoulder and swinging it into his palm as he stepped up to Prism. His companions circled around Prism and his group, cutting off their escape. "A couple of escaped nobles. Just the people we were looking for. We saw the soldiers move in on the palace and couldn't help ourselves. It's time to show you Pales what we think of your rule."

Three others appeared at the end of the alleyway behind the group, all dressed in hooded jackets as they came to join their fellows. They'd attracted attention, and the longer they spent here, the less chance they had of getting out alive.

"You're not coming anywhere near them," the soldier said dangerously as he joined Prism, staring down the apparent leader.

"You're just two men, and you're going to stop all of us?" the leader replied.

"Count again," a familiar voice said. One of the three newcomers stepped forward, a keen, curved sword in his hand. Kaeral Elrhanadan had come to their aid. He cut down the leader from behind, severing his spine easily with the sharp blade. He took up a defensive stance over the corpse, flicking his wrist and spraying the dead man's blood across the nearest members of the group.

The other two who'd accompanied Kaeral threw improvised incendiary bottles into the group, coating several in fiery alcohol. Sufficiently intimidated, the remaining members of the group fled from the powerful allies.

"Don't look so shocked, Prism," Kaeral said, sheathing his sword and turning to face his friend. "Did you really think I'd abandon you?"

"Kaeral! What are you doing here?" Prism asked.

"Saving you, obviously," Kaeral replied dryly, then looked at Sharis, Grim, and Veil. "Hey, you Fedain need a wardrobe change. You're lighting up the whole damn city. I might not have even needed that spell to find you at the rate you're going." He slipped out of his jacket and handed it to Grim, while one of his friends—who resembled Kaeral's uncle-in-law, Tala—handed his jacket to Veil.

The third, who turned out to be Tala's son, handed his jacket to Sharis, who refused to take it even while the two nobles slipped into their gear. "I will not wear the garment of a human on my—" Sharis started, but Kaeral cut him off.

"Then stay here! You're either going in disguise or you're not coming with us."

"You cannot speak to a priest like that. I am—"

"Dead, if you don't shut up!" Kaeral said. "Now, put on the jacket, or I'll kill you myself."

"Do as he says, Sharis," Veil ordered. "We don't have all day."

As Sharis grumbled and put the jacket on over his priest robes, Kaeral placed his hand on Prism's shoulder and said, "Come on, Tala commandeered a streetcar a minute ago. The quicker we get there, the better."


They reached Tala with little issue, managing to stay out of sight of any patrols by keeping to the alleys. As soon as they climbed aboard the large vehicle, Tala sped off into the city. Only then did Prism address the convenience of Kaeral's arrival.

"What made you come to the palace?" He asked as they sat together in one of the large seats.

"Tala has contacts in the military and learned about the coup. I know you keep one of Grim's hairs in your sash, so I took a note and slipped in one of my own some time ago—don't ask where it came from. I used my connection to that hair for a locator spell, and I was coming to warn you and hoped to get you and your lover out before it happened, but we didn't make it in time. You saved me the trouble of sneaking into the palace, I guess," Kaeral said. "We caught the report of the Duke's death while we were on our way, and we were close to the palace when we heard you'd escaped, so we—"

"Father's dead!?" Veil shouted from several seats behind them.

"She didn't know?" Kaeral asked. "I'm sorry, Lady Veil, that I was the one to tell you."

Veil nodded and looked down, absorbing the news in silence as tears welled in her eyes. Prism grimaced and glanced at Grim. Nothing but apathy emanated from his lover.

"I was going to tell her after this, so she would be able to focus on getting to safety," Prism said.

"If I'd known, I wouldn't have said anything," Kaeral whispered, "but it looks like she's doing fine, all things considered. It's Grim I'd worry about."

"I am worried about him," Prism said, glancing again at Grim. "I can feel him."

"You can feel him?"

Prism lowered his voice even further. "We're familiars now."

"You dirty monk," Kaeral said, slapping Prism with the back of his hand. Prism winced and did not reciprocate, and Kaeral hastened to apologize for his behavior. "This isn't the time for that, is it? I'm sorry, Prism, despite the circumstances, it's good to see you. I'm just glad to see you made it out alive."

"We haven't made it yet, nephew," Tala said from the driver's seat. He pointed ahead at the road. A battle raged in the distance, military against military. Bodies lined the street, and in this rich sector, most were Fedain.

"Go west now. It'll be a bit of a staggered route to the docks, but we should try to avoid the military entirely. We can't trust that they will be on our side," Kaeral said.

Tala glanced at Kaeral as he turned down the next western route available. "We can't fit all these people and everyone else on the boat, nephew," he said.

Kaeral shrugged as if this was a non-issue. "Then we'll steal a second one."

Tala grinned, and Prism placed himself in their hands. These people were used to evading the law, and they had the skills to do it. With other capable people on his side, he could relax just a little now, and he refocused his emotions, to send comfort Grim's way.

The streetcar tore down the city streets, avoiding roadblocks and patrols alike as Tala drove them to the docks. He pulled in at a specific pier, finding a small group of people waiting for him, including his two wives and Kaeral's son.

Tala opened the door as he parked alongside them, leaving the engine running. His wives came aboard, and the eldest one spoke for the group. "Tala! There's a blockade. No one is getting out by ship."

"Damn!" Tala said. "Everybody aboard then. We'll figure something out."

"Go north," Prism suggested. "We need to go through the north gate."

"You want to try and fight through a military checkpoint?" Kaeral asked incredulously.

"I don't think we'll have to; the captain of that post is sympathetic to the nobility. Just drive north," Prism said.

"Can we trust 'im?" Tala asked.

Kaeral clapped Tala on the shoulder and said, "Definitely. Prism's instincts are as sharp as anyone's. North it is."

As soon as Tala's family and their group came aboard, the streetcar was full. The weight of responsibility settled over Prism again. He'd brought his charges this far, but now he had even more to look out for. Did he have it in him to save them all?

But then again, he didn't have to. Kaeral, Tala, the yet unknown soldier who'd protected Veil—they and others in the streetcar had proven themselves already capable. They were all in this together, and they would find a way through. He had to believe that.

The streetcar screeched to a stop just short of the open north gate, and Tala pointed to the military barricades now facing against the city instead of the outer wall. "Look, the military is 'olding the point against its own citizens."

A small group of people approached the gate, and after a brief interaction with the soldiers, they headed past the blockade and out of the city. "No, they're letting them escape. Come on. Let's go. Trust me on this," Prism said.

The streetcar approached slowly and stopped as a soldier raised his hand. Prism recognized Captain Tson's familiar face and poked his head out the vehicle before it came to a complete stop.

"Captain Tson!" He said.

"Master Prism! Let them approach!" Captain Tson shouted, waving to his soldiers to lower their weapons. He stared through the windows of the vehicle at Veil and Grim, his eyes lighting up. "Lady Veil and Lord Grim! They're safe!"

Prism nodded and said, "We need to get to the Temple. They'll protect us there. We'll be taking the streetcar with us."

"That's a good idea," Captain Tson said. "We're working out a strategy to get to the hospital; hopefully we can rescue some of the doctors. We're trying to get as many Fedain out of the city as possible, as they're the most in danger."

"Good luck," Prism said.

"You too." Captain Tson glanced through the gate, toward the Temple of the Mountain standing in prominent view. Several crowds of people walked along the road between the city and the temple. "The monks have already opened their doors to refugees, but you might have to work your way through some crowds."

"We can get inside," Kaeral said. "It's nothing I haven't done before."

"Come to the temple, once you've saved as many as you can," Prism said.

Captain Tson shook his head, but he smiled confidently at Prism. "My duty is to this city. I can't abandon it, no matter what the cost, even if I must haunt its streets. I'll see you again, honorable monk, in this life, or another."

Prism nodded solemnly. "May it be in this one, Captain. We'll take our leave now, but please take care not to haunt these streets just yet."

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