“Eat up,” Omec encouraged. “We’re expecting the bastard and his little minions tomorrow, early. But don’t worry, I have sentries posted. If he does show up tonight, there’ll be an alarm.”
“And you know he’s coming because he sent word?” Sylvie asked.
“That’s right,” Omec stated. “He sent some of his boys ahead to demand our fealty. We dealt with them and turned their little boat into kindling. I don’t care if he is actually the son of Zeus, no punk comes to our town and makes demands!”
“Well, when he arrives just leave Scotius to us!” Inés declared. “You and yours can deal with his thugs.”
“I won’t deny your strength,” Omec said. “But you should be cautious. Scotius may be a punk, but he’s also a conqueror and he has a particularly bad reputation when it comes to the young and attractive.”
“Don’t worry about us,” Inés said. “We’ll definitely bring him down.”
“Or die trying,” Sylvie muttered.
“What was that?” Inés asked.
“Never you mind,” Sylvie stated. “In any case, the three of us should get some sleep. We have a difficult task in the morning.”
“I suppose so,” Inés said. She held out a hand to Serena. “Shall we?”
“Well, just for a little bit,” Serena said. “We really should rest.”
Sylvie found herself feeling rather restless. As much as she’d talked about resting to be ready for the morning’s battle, her mind just wouldn’t stop racing. This was a son of Zeus, Athena had told them as much. And the three of them were going to fight him.
Would Athena send them to a battle they couldn’t win? Sylvie doubted it. However, it wouldn’t surprise her to be sent to a battle they wouldn’t survive winning. If it meant saving a bunch of other people, Athena might very well let some of her priestesses be sacrificed.
On one hand, it would certainly be a noble end. No one could deny that much. But at the same time, she didn’t want to die yet. She wasn’t ready to die yet. She still wanted to be officially recognised as a full-fledged priestess. More importantly, she wanted to see Illyana and, finally, confess her true feelings.
Was it really so selfish of her to want just that much?
She rose from bed and walked. Past the room Serena and Inés were using and outside. It was a chilly night. She could see the sentries still watching the sea by lantern light. But something else caught her attention.
It was a sound she knew well, Inés’ aggressive grunting. She always hated hearing that sound during practice. Why hadn’t Inés gone to bed? Could she also be worried? Somehow, the very concept frightened Sylvie even more. If someone with Inés’ freakish strength was scared, what chance did she and Serena have?
She found Inés practising her staff moves while moving swiftly around.
“You’re still up?” Sylvie froze upon hearing the masculine voice. She quickly moved out of sight. Captain Omec was approaching Inés from the other direction.
“Yeah,” Inés said. “Thought I’d get a little practice in before going to sleep.”
“Won’t you need your energy?” Omec asked.
“I’ve always had plenty to spare,” Inés said. “I’ll be fine.”
“What, are you afraid of dying?” Omec asked.
“Dying?” Inés asked. “Not particularly. To be honest, I’ve always thought I’d get myself killed while in Athena’s service. Protecting someone or trying to bring someone notorious to justice. If it happens here, it happens here.”
“But you are nervous,” Omec stated.
“Well, there is the excitement that always goes with a big fight,” Inés said. “And I guess I really don’t want to let Serena and Sylvie down. The two of them have so much to look forward to in their lives.” Inés sighed and looked up at the stars. “I just have to make sure I’m strong enough to protect them.”
“And if you die in the process?” Omec asked.
“Then I’ll have to make sure Scotius goes with me,” Inés said. “Night, Omec.” She raised an arm and headed back.
Sylvie stayed out of sight until they were both gone and moved back to her own room. Somehow, she was able to sleep quite soundly.
In the morning, they gathered. Stood alongside the men and women of Ghuji. They watched the sea, waited. Archers stood at the ready.
“Hey, Omec,” Inés said. “Could you tell them to hold their fire?”
“I could,” Omec said. “Why?”
“Because I have an idea of how to get the first hit in and I don’t want to catch a stray arrow or two,” Inés said.
“Oh, I think I get it,” Serena said. “Because they’re coming from sea, yeah?”
“Exactly,” Inés said.
“I think I know what you’re planning,” Sylvie said. “Just do it carefully, okay?”
“Is that concern in your voice?” Inés asked. “Could it be that you really like having me around?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Sylvie said. “But we are all in this together and I’d hate to see you sacrifice yourself.”
Inés put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, it’ll all be fine. Just leave it to me.”