At one point Brekke’s Directors order the bombing of Dorre Arantxa, the mountain stronghold where Damien, his Queen, and the others have sought refuge. Forewarned, they and the keep’s residents flee to other shelter. But the Brekken airships bomb the tower in a destructive rage. Now Damien and Eadmond are headed down the switchback road to the southern province of the Piedmont on the Queen’s business. But their way is unexpectedly barred…
* * *
They rounded a turn on the road and stopped short, appalled. A large section of the main Dorre had come down whole onto the road and shattered, leaving a pile of stone and rubble as tall as Eadmond. They dismounted and tethered the horses to some larger rocks, leaving them happy with handfuls of grain while they went on to inspect the rockfall. With a heavy sigh Damien took off his coat, laying it across his saddle, and rolled up his sleeves before going to the road’s verge and looking down. Eadmond joined him a few moments later.
“Well, at least it won’t matter if we shove all this over the edge,” Damien said. “There’s nothing down there to be hurt or blocked.”
“Aye,” Eadmond replied, backing off from the edge. “Nothing but down all the way to the bottom.”
The topmost layer of the pile was mainly larger blocks from the outer wall of the Dorre; settled but not immovable. After wrestling the first one loose, both went back to the horses and dug out leather gloves from their kits; no sense courting cuts and broken nails for no reason. And then back to the pile to clear the road.
After an hour or so the largest blocks had gone over the side, and then it was smaller stones and debris from the inner walls and floors of the Dorre. And then Eadmond came upon some small items and clothing, calling up to Damien to show them to him.
“Just set them aside for now,” Damien answered. “We can make up a pack and set it somewhere safe—in the—wreckage…”
Eadmond looked up as Damien’s voice trailed off. He watched as Damien bent and picked up a child’s doll. He dusted it off and gently smoothed the doll’s hair, his face ineffably sad. Then Damien sighed and looked up the cliff face to where the Dorre had stood.
“What a waste!” Damien said with a sudden, savage anger Eadmond had not heard before unless it touched on his Queen. And then a moment later Damien let his anger go with a hard sigh. He reached across the debris to Eadmond to pass the doll over. Eadmond took it, and where a few moments ago he might have tossed it aside to the growing pile of belongings now he stepped over and laid it down gently. He stood staring at it for a moment and felt that same helpless rage at the pettiness of it all.
Then, as Damien had done, he turned and grimly put that anger to use shifting the fallen stones.
* * *