Fade to White
Chapter Twenty One
Tryne was already up and fixing breakfast when Jerek was awakened by the sun sneaking in through the window and shining on his face. It was still too early for his liking. Sitting up, Jerek could instantly feel the stiffness in his muscles and the soreness in his back. Rotating both of his shoulders then pulling his arms forward across his chest, he asked, “What are you making?”
“Pancakes and scrambled eggs. Don’t eat too much though, Ken’s going to be back here soon and I want there to be enough for him,” Tryne replied.
“Ken’s coming back?” Jerek scowled.
“I thought the two of you got along quite well last night. Why wouldn’t you be happy to see him now?” Tryne curiously looked over her shoulder at Jerek, bringing up the spoon she was using to stir the pancake batter with and unconsciously pointing it at her face.
“We have a common goal, that’s all. That doesn’t mean I have to like him.” Jerek stood up. “I’m going outside.”
“Don’t wander off too far. I’m almost finished with breakfast.” Tryne turned her head back to the stove, but hit her cheek with the spoon, smearing batter across her face. Squeezing her eyes shut, she wiped a gob off of her face then transferred it to her apron. “Smooth,” she muttered, wiping her face again.
“Graceful too,” Jerek added, turning Tryne’s head toward him and using his finger to swipe a spot of batter, then stuck it in his mouth.
“Don’t try and get all kinky with me, it won’t work.” With false indignation Tryne turned back to the stove and pushed the spoon back into the batter.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Jerek waved his hand, turning around and walking out the door.
The morning air felt cool against his shoulders and the skin of his back that wasn’t covered by bandages, and in the distant trees he could hear the birds chirping happily as the wind moved through the leaves in gentle pulses. Stretching his arm above his head, Jerek set out on a leisurely stroll. He loved this lifestyle, quite a lot. He enjoyed the freedom to walk around outside as he pleased, and he liked listening to the soothing sounds of nature. It was hard for him to imagine that he had lived so long in the darkness of the castle, only venturing outside when he was on a mission or stealing time to ride his horse for a couple hours. This was how life was supposed to be.
“Hello there!” a voice called clearly across the breeze, and Jerek turned to see Ken riding on his horse.
“Don’t act so happy to see me. Is Tryne inside?” Ken dismounted, readjusting the bag he had slung over his back.
“Breakfast!” Tryne yelled, stepping outside of the cottage. “Oh Ken, you’re here! Come inside, you’re just in time to eat.”
“Delightful!” Ken answered back, pushing past Jerek and handing off his horse’s reigns to him as well, before stepping inside.
Jerek looked at the painted mare, whose glossy eyes stared back at him. “You don’t like him either, huh?” Jerek whispered to it, stroking its nose before leading it to the post near the cottage and tying it up next to his own horse. “Be nice,” Jerek directed at his horse, “we have a common enemy.”
Stepping inside, he saw Ken already seated on the edge of his bed with a plate piled high with pancakes and eggs. Jerek picked up his own place, and put a couple pancakes on it.
“I think you’ll be happy to see that I have brought a few things back from town with me,” Ken said, putting his concentration to getting a piece of egg to stick on his fork.
“What? I didn’t need anything from town.”
“You’re only walking around shirtless exposing your tattoo for all the world to see,” Tryne interjected, sitting down with her own breakfast.
“Does it offend you?” Jerek asked, watching her.
“No, it’s just . . . It’s a little strange to see it on you, that’s all.” Tryne avoided meeting his eyes.
“So she asked me to bring back some clothes for you, and out of the kindness of my heart, I did. They’re in the bag.” Ken tilted his head in the direction to where he had set the bag down. Jerek went over to it and opened it up, pulling out a dark red shirt, then a black one.
“I told you, I only wear white.”
“I want to see you in those colors. Come on, just live with it. I’m sure you’ll get used to them.”
“You’ll get used to it all right. Tryne has a way of getting everyone to do everything she wants.” Ken laughed.
“I’ve noticed,” Jerek growled. Dropping the black one to the floor, he pulled the red shirt over his head and looked down at it, unsure of what to make of it.
“You look good,” Tryne commented, smiling.
Shrugging his shoulders, Jerek sat down and began eating again. “So what are the plans?” he asked.
“I was kind of hoping that you could tell me what they were,” Ken replied. “How is your standing with Nosaj?”
“Can you still get close to him without suspicion?”
“Then we’ll go for an assassination. All you would have to do is go into the castle, walk right up to Nosaj, and stab him.”
“How would I get back out of the castle? What would you do if the government didn’t collapse with his death, and someone else took over?”
“You could . . . I don’t really know. We’re still in the planning stages, so it doesn’t need to be solid yet.”
“I can see why your resistance group hasn’t overthrown Nosaj yet.” Jerek shook his head, smirking to himself. “All you know how to do is survive, but you don’t have a clue when it comes to accomplishing your goal. That’s the difference between us.”
“Then teach me, how do we accomplish this?”
“We attack. All the resistance and boycotts your group has been pulling hasn’t achieved a thing. You can’t continue with those tactics. What you need to do is directly attack Nosaj’s castle. Storm inside, kill everyone there.”
“Everything worth having is worth fighting for. Do you want to be free of Nosaj?”
“Then you’ll fight. You need to round up everyone you can who is willing to, and that means women as well as the men.”
“This sounds more like an act of desperation.”
“Maybe it is, but it’s the only thing that will have any sort of effect. Nosaj’s castle isn’t as guarded as you may think. Most of his soldiers are currently in Amber and Opal. At the very least, you’ll send him the message that you mean business.”
Ken nodded. “When should I round people up?”
“A couple days from now. But first I really need to rest up, then I’ll head back to the castle so Nosaj doesn’t suspect I’m up to something. To throw him off even further, I’ll confess to him that I’ve fallen for a girl and that’s where I’ve been disappearing to. He won’t be suspicious.”
“You’re going to tell him the truth?” Tryne inquired.
“Isn’t that the best way to deceive someone?” Jerek chuckled.
“All right, tonight I’ll send word out for every single rebel group member to meet here and prepare for battle. In a couple days we’ll finally overthrow Nosaj.” Ken raised his fist, glory burning in his eyes. “This is what we’ve all been waiting for!”
“Waiting never accomplishes anything.” Jerek stood up, putting his empty plate down on the stove. “I’m going to continue my walk, and think about the best tactics for storming the castle. You stay here,” he pointed to Tryne, then over at Ken, “and you, remember that she’s mine. I don’t trust you around her anymore.”
Ken seemed surprised. “Did she tell you that we were . . . ?”
“No, I haven’t,” Tryne interrupted. “It slipped my mind. It’s so unimportant.”
Frowning, Jerek looked suspiciously at them but didn’t ask any questions, silently going out the door.
“Don’t want him to know, huh?” Ken rested his chin in his hand.
“No, it just doesn’t seem necessary to tell him. It would just raise questions and result in awkward explanations, and you don’t want to hear me proclaiming that I never wanted to go through with it. It’s just easier this way, right?”
“I guess so. What about the other thing? Are you ever going to tell him about that?”
“I don’t know, not right now.”
“It’s unusual for you to act like this.”
“I know, it’s just that there was something about that guy that made me feel horribly insecure about my relationship with Jerek. It’s weird, but I feel that way.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t ever say a thing.” Ken pulled his fingers across his lips. “It’s sealed shut.”