Enturi’s eyes go wide with comprehension. He knows where I am going with this.
Rien knew where the other bosses had their secret lairs because he had Jeamo’s scrolls. And he had Jeamo’s scrolls because he and Raichon and Lynae were the ones who commissioned the work. They needed to know everything about the other ward bosses because they needed their assistance to carry out the evacuation. Without their help, at most Rien would be able to evacuate only the elves in his ward, leaving the rest to continued servitude and imprisonment.
Raichon is not only a mage, but a necromancer. He understands the power of blood. He must have studied the rune in the Hall of Law above their hidden operation and divined its purpose. Then, somehow, probably through the pirate Captain, they hired Jeamo, a sadistic and unscrupulous patrician, to conduct the rituals and Calmorien, his elven twin in perverse appetites, to obtain elves for the bloodletting. The Captain even provided the herbs for the twilight sleep, selling them to Mýldir, who mixed them and sold them in his turn to Jeamo.
Calmorien targeted the dregs of Elftown, the homeless street rats no one would miss. And he lured them in with a promise that they were being recruited into a movement to liberate the elves in Elftown. A sick promise, but one with a core of truth to it. Tonight’s operation is built on the information divined through their unwilling sacrifices.
Damn it. I’ve been an ogrish idiot.
The humans aren’t behind anything. They couldn’t care less about what goes on here in Elftown. When Jet started using the information in the scrolls to conduct raids on the other ward bosses, it was Lynae and Rien and Raichon who got worried. Jet’s violent ambition, if carried much further, would put their plans at risk by destroying the organizations they were counting on to carry out the mass evacuation. So they leaked the part of Jeamo’s scroll which detailed Jet’s operations to the humans, most likely along with allegations that Jet had gone on a murder spree, murdering Calmorien and the human patrician Jeamo. The humans couldn’t ignore a murdered patrician. They used the information to completely destroy Jet’s entire operation, leaving a message of human power written in elven blood. Only Lynae escaped, knowing of the impending attack and arranging to be somewhere else. And Enturi and I, on an unauthorized and unplanned mission of revenge that took us out of Jet’s scope of operations.
Rien and Raichon and Lynae have done horrible things. And I am helping them. The rage rekindles within me.
Goddess. What in the stinking hell of Elftown am I going to do now?
“Sing.” Rien’s voice is urgent, annoyed. “Come on, Arq.”
The warehouse is silent, as every elf looks up at me, uncertain, scared, waiting. Enturi gently nudges me with his shoulder.
“Arq, you have to sing now,” he whispers, warning in his voice.
Every flame of my rage is telling me something else. To get vengeance. To make them pay blood for blood. Beginning with Rien. Right now. I remember what the apprentice necromancer asked me in the escape tunnel. You’d really ruin the chances of all of us for freedom, just for vengeance for one dead kid?
Yeah, I had said, and slammed my blade deep into his chest.
But today, I say . . . .
I reject the call of blood. Vengeance is the Elftown way. But it is not the elven way. If the songs are still true, we are an ethical people. We believe, not in vengeance, but in justice. And the people standing in front of me are not complicit in the wrongs of their liberators. They need guidance out of the city and north to the elven lands far away. They need the logistical support that Rien and Lynae have arranged.
There will be no more innocent victims.
I will avenge. But not now. I take a deep breath and look on the assembled elves about to become refugees.
I feel that I should say something.
“It is time to remember who you are,” I announce. And I begin to sing.
* * *
After over half of the elves have disappeared down the stairs to the tunnel, led by several of Rien’s enforcers, I stop singing. It is time for us to move to the next group of elves at the hideout of the next ward boss. Rien barks out orders to the assembled elves to keep moving. Several more of his enforcers will stay here to ensure the orderly evacuation. But as I watch the remaining elves, I feel like I have made a difference. There is still fear and uncertainty, but there is now more hope, more resolve. Here and there I see smiles. And when I see tears, they are tears of joy.
I wish Nana Romina were here to see this. I think she would be pleased.
As we walk through the muddy, rain-drenched streets to the next assembly, I can tell that Enturi wishes to speak with me. He looks tense and troubled. When he starts to open his mouth, I shake my head imperceptibly. There will be time enough for us to work through this later.
Tonight, we have to get these elves out of here.
Off to our left, Elftown glows red where Mýldir’s first purifying fires are battling the pounding downpour.