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Hector wondered if he should even bother greeting his own mother before setting out again.

Probably not, he decided. Garovel had said she was sleeping, anyway. No point in disturbing her. Oh, but he should’ve asked Mr. Easton how she was doing, at least.

Bah.

He hunted down a phone in order give Gina a quick update and also ask for one in return, but she hadn’t heard from Roman since she’d last spoken to Hector. It was nice to hear her voice again, but he knew he didn’t have time to enjoy the conversation--or even to explain fully. It sounded like she had quite a few questions for him--particularly why he was back on the surface without Roman--but Hector ended up just telling her that it was a long story and not to worry about it for now.

She didn’t seem pleased with being left hanging like that, but time was a factor here, and it looked like Zeff, Diego, and Manuel were ready to go again.

So they did. The group of four servants and four reapers made their way down to the lowest chamber in the Tower of Night and the heavy, round door to the Undercrust. Their reapers latched onto their bodies, and then one by one, with Hector going last, they jumped into the pitch dark hole.

It was going to be a very long fall. 


Chapter One Hundred Seventy-Five: ‘When the world began to shift...’


...171 years ago...


It was in the village of Trintol where they first met. A little place, by any account, not even large enough to make it onto a map. But it did have the sweeping vistas of the Melmoorian countryside going for it. The rolling green hills in all directions and the view of the aptly named Storm Mountains in the east--together, they offered a view that was quite uncommon.

Shepherding was the trade that kept Trintol afloat, and that was the first job that the six-year-old Parson Miles ever held. He wasn’t very good at it. Stefol, the family dog, did a lot of the work for him. His father might have been able to teach him, if he hadn’t been drafted into the war.

But Parson was not alone in that regard. It was much the same for all the other children in the village, even Damian, the lord’s son.

They met when he saw Damian throwing rocks at Stefol. And Stefol, though he was old and rather small for a Melmoorian Shepherd, did not appreciate that gesture very much. So the dog chased the boy down and bit him on the ass.

Needless to say, that wasn’t a very favorable first impression.

Being the lord’s son, and a vengeful little shit, Damian tried to get Stefol put down. It was outrageous that a peasant’s animal should bite the son of a lord, he said.

But Trintol wasn’t much for that sort of thing. Everyone knew that the Lord Lofar, though he was currently absent due to the war, would not have approved of such retribution being taken, especially when the animal in question was an important part of the livelihood for the family it belonged to. Not to mention, everyone in town knew and liked Stefol more than Damian.