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#Alexander stared into the fire, watching it's flames dance and flicker as the desert's chilly night air bore down on them. Sitting on one knee, his good eye left the flames for a moment to look around their encampment. To his left, on his blind side, he knew Tirilan du Casse, the boy he had adopted, lay soundly asleep. The furs that covered him came from an animal he and Alexander had brought down a few nights ago. Lacie de Medina, his niece and ward, lay to his right. Her sleep was fitful, as it had been every night since they left into the desert. He frowned as she muttered something he couldn't hear before tossing and turning some more.

 

Her husband, Felipe de Medina, had been taken months ago. The party that took him was spotted disappearing into the desert bordering Osanora. Alexander was still Baron of the Rhein at that point, but gave his title and rights to his trusted second when he heard the news. Alexander's eye closed as he let his mind drift back...
 

***


"Alex!" A high pitched scream broke the morning air of the Rhein.

 

Alexander's eye shot up from the blueprint he was reading. An architect stood on one side of him, his second in command Alastor to the other side. All three turned towards the tunnel that led into the town. The blueprint fell to the ground as the men all recognized the figure, clad in a disheveled and torn dress, her face stained where tears had sullied her makeup.

 

Lacie stood, still holding her dress up enough to run. Her breath was shallow from the effort, sobbing between pants. "It's Felipe." She took a deeper breath as Alexander surged forward, closing the gap between her and himself with an almost unnatural swiftness for a man in his early forties. "And Father."

 

Alexander swore as Lacie dropped to her knees, her sobbing giving way to full fledged crying. Dropping down with her, he placed one hand on her back, the other on her forearm. "What's happened?" His good eye searched her face, but she kept crying. Alexander reached his hand to her chin, raising her head so she was looking at his face. He gave her a worried yet serious look. "Lace, breathe, and tell me what's happened."

 

She forced her mouth to a frown, taking a few breaths to steady herself. Once she had got the tears to stop flowing she took one more breath before speaking. "They took him."

 

Alexander's eye narrowed slightly as he noticed the spots of blood on Lacie's abdomen. His hand instantly shot to her stomach, pressing down slightly in search of a wound. His blood ran cold as he felt something else.

 

"They took Felipe." She looked down to her stomach as Alexander's hand reached it, staring for a moment and placing her hand on his. She looked back, giving him a knowing look. "The father of the du Casse heir." 

 

He opened his mouth to speak, but Lacie broke down again before he could. He watched her carefully as she again forced herself to recover. Although she had a lower constitution, she was still a du Casse and bore the hereditary instincts for crisis.

 

Lacie's eyes, still full of tears, fell to the ground. "Alex..." She looked back to his face, where he was still intently watching her. She didn't know how to tell him...

 

Her lips quivered. "Ames du Casse is dead."

 

Alexander looked for a moment, his good eye producing a tear. His older brother, the man he had looked up to for all his life... He cleared his throat, blinking away. Now's no time for grieving. "How did it all happen."

 

"They came in the night." She swallowed, not looking at Alexander as she recalled the event. "I never even saw them until it was too late. He and father stayed up late, talking about the future. He came into our room at midnight, father was staying across the hall." She took a slow breath, continuing. "I heard them first. Three had broken in. One already had Felipe, they did something to him so he didn't wake up. She raised and then dropped her arms. "I didn't know what to do, what to think... I just... screamed." she buried her face in her hands, sobbing for a moment before forcing herself to continue as she recovered. "Ames heard me. He came into the room, the door flying open. I've never seen him like that."

 

Alexander watched his niece as she spoke, now giving a frown. He knew what Ames would've looked like in that moment. He remembered, when they first settled the Rhein. Lacie was a small child then, playing in the open field. A wild boar came out of the grass and charged her. Ames, an old man even then, ran faster than both he and Ezekiel, who had both spotted it as well. With his bare hands Ames took it by it's front armpits and held it up, allowing Alexander to take it with a swing to the neck. Lacie had never been the wiser, Ezekiel running past them both, distracting her so she didn't see.

 

"He took the first one with that blade he always had in his cane. Opened his throat with half a swing." Her eyes grew wide. "The second man pushed him out of the room, and the other raised his crossbow. Then Ames was just..." Lacie looked down, her eyes showing the trauma she had gone through.

 

Alexander's face contorted, letting his anger show for a moment before forcing it to go blank. He stood and pulled Lacie to her feet, who offered no resistance. He turned to Alastor, who seemed to already know what he was thinking. Alastor gave him a nod, no words needed to be spoken. Alexander nodded in return, sprinting into the barracks to grab his gear. He returned a moment later with a packed bag. He moved to Lacie, who was still sobbing. The architect that had been with Alastor and him was awkwardly trying to comfort her. He shot to a straight stance when he noticed Alexander. He placed a hand on her shoulder, pushing her gently towards the exit. "With me Lace. We'll bring Felipe home."

 

A young teen boy came charging out of the barracks, a pack thrown over his shoulder and his shirt still halfway buttoned. "I'm coming with you."

 

Alexander looked back to Tirilan, frowning for a moment. He had trained the boy since he adopted him two years ago. For someone who he didn't share blood with, the two were uncannily alike. Alexander gave the boy a tight nod before leading Lacie down the tunnel, Tirilan trailing behind the pair.

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