They met the Scarab militia soldiers in the street.
In front, Somer stood near a forlorn curly-haired dog.
Somer’s skin was darker, contrasting with his white hair. His eyes golden eyes. On the side of Somer’s head, pale scars ran parallel to his face and connected with his iron-gray beard.
“It’s good to see you safe,” He said in his bass voice embracing Zingara with a side hug.
After a quick salute, Somer and Yew Rue clasped hands. Somer feigned a smile.
“I hope you took care of her, captain.”
“She took care of me, sir,” Yew said.
“No surprises there,” Somer clapped Yew’s shoulder.
He squinted for a moment. “Commander Iyo?”
“Royal Bodyguard now, sir,” Iyo corrected.
“You look like a new man.”
“I am a new man.”
“I hear you have information for me,” Somer said.
“Yes sir,” Iyo said, then shifted uncomfortably. “But first, sir, my brother Driver was to meet your company. Has a young kid joined with you recently?”
“Driver…? No. No one’s met us.”
Iyo paled. His stomach clenched. He staggered and leaned against a building with one arm. His stomach held by his other. He slipped around the corner out of sight.
“Yew Rue, fill the eraser weapons. I’ll be back.” Somer shouted.
The Wise Old Man came around the corner and stood tall next to Iyo. The slow black dog slinking around the corner after him.
“Keep walking,” Somer commanded.
He extended an arm. Iyo leaned on it. They walked down an alley away from the army. The dog remained sitting – puzzled.
“Don’t do that,” Somer said sternly. “Your brother’s missing. I understand.”
Somer glanced around and said, “I need to know what you know.”
“What do you mean, sir?” Iyo asked.
“You’re a Royal Bodyguard now. You’ve got their braids. You didn’t do those yourself. You’re wearing a jungle uniform – in the desert. Bloodguard weapons injured you.” he paused, “Talk to me, Iyo.”
“We found the lost princess,” Iyo declared.
Somer’s arm tensed under Iyo’s hand.
“She and her bodyguard, Arrow, came to the old jungle ruins where I was stationed. They needed a safe place to hide. The princess pretended injuries.”
Somer grew agitated.
“My brother, Driver, and I let them in. The entire station betrayed us — sold out to Lamia. Mutiny. So we ran.”
Somer raised an eyebrow and scowled.
“Driver distracted our pursuers. We said we’d rendezvous here. So, we crossed the desert and stayed in Anchor’s cave shelter. Then we proceeded here.”
Somer stopped and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He stared at Iyo.
“We encountered the Bloodguard. But we fed them false information about our destination.” Iyo said.
“I thought we were safe here.”
“Where’s this princess of yours now?” Somer asked.
“The enemy took the princess. Her bodyguard, Arrow, pursued – and is still missing. I was stuck here. I need to find them.”
The general contemplated in silence.
Iyo heard claws clicking on cobblestone. The great dog followed them again.
“Repeat the princess’ name, please,” Somer said.
“Anchor, sir,” Iyo answered.
“That’s not her,” Somer said resolutely.
“What do you mean?”
“There was only one princess who made it out that night. I was there. This other girl is a pretend impostor. Why? … Why? Especially when it endangers her life.” He scratched his beard.
“Sir. Anchor is her self-made name. She invented it herself. Arrow, her bodyguard, helped her escape Lamia. She was later captured by Morgan. He tortured her,” Iyo said.
Somer furrowed his brow. Deep lines darkening his forehead.
“Does that make any sense?” Somer growled. “I was an adviser to our dead king.”
“Yes, of course.”
“I carried the only surviving princess out. That is Zingara. The other princess was in the courtyard. She couldn’t have made it out.”
Somer paused and thought in silence.
“… with the help of the bodyguard? How old is the woman?”
“About my age, sir,” Iyo said.
“The bodyguard could only have been a child then. Iyo, this is difficult. Unbelievable.”
“Sir… you said you carried one princess out…”
Somer nodded. He glanced behind him. Only the dog was listening.
“Iyo, betray my trust and I’ll cut you to the ground bleeding to death. Understood?”
Iyo’s face froze.
“Sir? Yes, Sir.” Iyo said quietly.
“Zingara is – Lamia’s daughter,” Somer whispered.
“How can that be? She looks just like… you. Oh, Iah.”
Somer closed his eyes. “Yes, I know,” He stared at Iyo again. “That’s why the king sent me to study with Bennu.”
“You and Lamia….”
“Yes, Iyo,” Somer said harshly.
There was silence between them.
“Is the second princess – your daughter, too?” Iyo asked.
“Yes. But she didn’t look like me. Or her mother for that matter. She’s different.”
“Yes, Iyo!” Somer grabbed Iyo’s shoulders.
Then he whispered. “Yes. Lamia. Keep your voice down.”
“Could Anchor be this other princess? Who’d risk their life so recklessly?”
Somer’s eyes scanned the sky as if he were reading. “I don’t know. I suppose… I don’t want to – hope.”
“Somer, sir, isn’t hope what we’re fighting for? Fight the crown. Restore the ocean. Put a new princess on the throne,” Iyo said earnestly, “We dare to hope.”
“Wise words – young man,” Somer smiled, his leathery face wrinkling. Tears seeped into his eyes.
He sucked in a breath and held it.
“By Iah, what if she – is alive?”