The Rogue Knight Page 101

Cole looked out at the army of collapsed bodies. Here and there, bewildered people were sitting up, hair matted, faces smudged with grime, male and female, old and young. So far, only fifty or so were awake out of the thousands in view. Most rubbed their temples, as if troubled by headaches. Ripples of motion passed through the mass of bodies as more people stirred.

“They’re waking up,” Dalton said.

“There will be great commotion soon,” Desmond warned. “We should gather our surviving horses and depart.”

“And the masks,” Jace said. “We can’t leave them lying around.”

Honor came over and put an arm around Cole. “Can you travel?”

“I think so,” he said. He still felt woozy. And oddly stretched.

“You look pale,” she said. “We can put you on one of the horses. Skye too.”

“I think I’m all right,” Cole said

Honor kept an arm around his shoulders. “Everyone contributed today. But you saved us. Without your power, the fight would have been lost. Morgassa didn’t see you coming. Everything you did caught her off guard. I underestimated you and your friends when I first met you, which isn’t fair, since I met you when you rescued me. Thank you, Cole.”

“Sure,” Cole said, embarrassed but pleased. “But I don’t know—you were the one who finished Morgassa.”

Honor shook her head. “Morgassa was finished when your Jumping Sword came to life, along with Jace’s rope. He’s amazing with that thing.”

“They’re out of commission again,” Cole lamented. “For now, at least.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Honor assured him. “We should go.”

Cole went to retrieve his cougar mask. As he bent down to pick it up, everything went black.

Chapter 39

NEW MISSIONS

Cole awoke swaying atop a horse, bound to the saddle. Oster led the steed. Cole faded in and out of consciousness for some time, only really awakening when they got him down off the saddle at midnight and fed him. Even after the drowsy day, he slept through the night without trouble.

The next two days passed in a series of groggy, disjointed moments. Cole was either semiconscious, strapped in a saddle, or else eating or resting. His body felt depleted. His muscles had the stiff soreness that sometimes follows overexertion. Light worsened the ache behind his eyes, so he kept them closed a lot.

By the fourth day, he began to feel more like himself again, though whenever he reached for his power, he found nothing there. After having consciously perceived it, the absence was profound.

Cole finally noticed that Minimus and Twitch were gone. Dalton informed him they had departed from the battlefield in the opposite direction. Cole regretted not getting to tell Twitch good-bye or wish him good luck.

Lashed onto a different horse, Skye showed a similar lack of vitality. Cole supposed it should come as no great surprise—they had both been invaded by the same corrupt power. All the others Morgassa had changed probably felt the same way, though there was no way to tell, since they had left the former changelings behind days ago.

On foot with some horses, it took six days to cross the distance they had traveled in a matter of hours as animals and mounted knights. By the time they reached the encampment, Skye looked more like her old self, and Cole felt much more alert.

“Did you get her?” Brady cried, running out of a tent to greet them.

“We got her,” Cole told him.

Behind Brady, Joe emerged from the same tent, a sword strapped to his side.

“She’s dead?” Brady asked. “For sure? Did you chop off her head?”

“Morgassa is no more,” Honor assured him.

Brady looked around at the company. “Where’s the Rogue Knight? What happened to the other knights? Why is Oster back to normal? Why doesn’t Minimus have his armor?”

The chattering questions made Cole laugh. He wasn’t alone.

“You won’t see the Rogue Knight again,” Sigmund explained. “He and most of the other knights are gone. I’m not Minimus, by the way. He survived, though.”

“What about the old lady?” Brady asked.

“Callista died bravely,” Honor said.

“Everybody keeps dying,” Brady said.

Cole knew how he felt, but he wasn’t sure how to respond. The deaths were hard enough for him to deal with—how was he supposed to help a much younger kid figure it out?

“Is the Rogue Knight dead too?” Brady asked.

“Not really dead,” Sigmund said. “Just gone.”

Brady paused, brow scrunched. “What do we do now?”

“That’s the question,” Skye said, dismounting.

“We’ll discuss all that soon enough,” Honor said. “First, let’s get settled and see where we stand with supplies.”

For the next little while, the former knights busied themselves about the camp. Some brought out food stores. Others claimed spare weapons and gear. Cole helped tend the horses. By the time he finished, Desmond and Joe were handing out breakfast.

Cole sat on a log and munched on a sandwich made from a biscuit, a thick slice of cheese, and a plump sausage. Once the food was distributed, Joe came and sat by him.

“The knights didn’t need to eat,” Cole noted. “Why so much food?”

“They had a lot for me and Brady,” Joe replied. “They liked to be prepared. We have enough stores to feed all of us for a couple of weeks.”

“We won’t be here nearly that long,” Mira said, taking a seat next to Cole. She placed a hand on his shoulder. “How do you feel?”

“I’m fine,” Cole replied honestly.

“Completely fine?” Mira probed.

“My muscles are still a little sore,” he admitted. “It’s probably from riding tied to the horse for so long. I don’t sense my power at all. Otherwise, I’m good.”

“You were really wiped out for a while,” Mira said. “I was worried.”

“I didn’t feel too bad right after the battle,” Cole said. “I must have been running on adrenaline.”

“You were probably in shock,” Joe said.

“After we eat, Honor wants to talk about where we’ll go next,” Mira said. “Are you all right to travel hard?”

“Sure,” Cole said.

Jace came and sat by them. “I wish Morgassa shook me up a little more,” he said. “It would be nice to get to ride a horse.”

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