The Centurion Cycle Book Five: Of Shadow and Fire

Chapter Nine: An Empty Bed is No Man's Pleasure

"Lord Philip," Varrus said entering the Demon's study.

"What is it," Philip grumbled. As always, when Jason was not near his mood tended to suffer.

"I have just received word that Jason has left Qul Hoth."

"Good, going up river he should be back here in a week or so."

"That is what I'm afraid I have to tell you. Three days ago a great light was seen near Qul Hoth. When people went to investigate they found the entire city was gone."

"What do you mean gone?"

"I mean gone... where the city once stood is a blackened wasteland."

"Jason is not dead," Philip insisted as he started pacing the room.

"I know he's not. Nor are any of the Saints he took with him."

"Then what happened?" Philip said running a hand through his ghostly white hair as his head started to swim.

"We don't know Philip. There is not a clue as to what really happened."

"Jason might, wherever he is."

"Yes, this is why I've sent a dozen Saints to search for him."

"But where to look," Philip said in an agitated tone.

"I think I know where to start," Varrus said.

"Where," Philip demanded.

"Qul Tannith. Before leaving Jason sent word to Vanhal that he wished for Princess Amanda and Prince Louis to head to the city to be picked up by a Tosian ship for the capital."

"Why do you think Jason will be there?"

"Two days before Jason left for Qul Hoth the ship leaving to pick up the Sithians left here. It was also carrying supplies for Qul Hoth. I think it might be possible that Jason boarded that ship in Qul Hoth and plans to use it to reach Qul Tannith."

Philip crossed his arms over his chest, giving Varrus a suspicious glare. "And why do you believe that?"

"Because Jason might have a reason to visit Vanhal," Varrus said sheepishly.

"Varrus, if you and Jason have been keeping secrets from me again..." Philip warned.

In fact, we are but because I am Jason's mentor I'm not about to break his trust. Anyway, all I know was that he was planning to do something drastic. Since he knew you would question me he made sure not to give me the details."

"Very clever of him... that was your idea I take it?"

"I can't tell you what I don't know."

"Did you know Qul Hoth would disappear?"

"Of course not. That's why I sent the Winged Guard to go looking for Jason. If things were going to plan I wouldn't even be here talking to you."

"Now listen to me Varrus you are a clever man so I know you must have some idea what Jason is up to so unless you want to lose your precious pretty looks you better tell me what that is?"

"Threatening me?" Varrus said skeptically. "Jason's right, your just a big bully."

"When it comes to my lover's safety I don't mind being a little pushy. That's not an idle threat I gave you Varrus. I won't kill you but I will give you a good limp to remember me by."

"I believe he plans to go to Domus hoping to save your brother," Varrus grumbled giving Philip an angry look.

"Thank you Varrus. If you don't mind I have a trip to pack for." Philip said taking down his double-bladed sword off his study wall.

"You're not going to go chasing after him."

"No, he has too big of a head start on me so I'm going to take a shortcut."

"A shortcut?" Varrus asked skeptically.

"Remember Rondus' secret tunnel in the Jasper Mountains. I believe I can use it and arrive in Domus a good month ahead of Jason. If Alex is so important to him I see no reason why I can't spare Jason the effort of getting him."

"Really, you're not going there to kill him?"

"Don't tempt me," Philip growled. "So long as Jason doesn't sense me following him I'll be free of his leash. By the time he reaches Domus, I'll have Alex wrapped up with a tidy bow for him."

"Be careful Philip. Alex is not the same man you used to know."

"Nor am I," Philip said, snapping a breastplate in place over his chest.

"Jason is only doing what he thinks is best Philip."

"So am I. How you as his mentor could let him walk into such danger is disgraceful."

"I will not always be his mentor Philip. He's almost doesn't need me to guide him anymore." Varrus said causing Philip to stop at his door.

"He will always need you Varrus," Philip said not bothering to turn to face the High Chancellor before he ran out of the room.


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