Chapter 9: Boy I Sure Hope No One's Dying Offscreen Right Now
Commander Salazar said, sliding her forefinger between the papers in
her hands, preparing to look at the next one. "Alexander Kingsman."
dark eyes flicked up to Carter from behind the file. She sat opposite
his desk, posture upright and alert even in the cushioned seat beneath
her. It was late at night, and the office was candle-lit with lanterns
in opposing corners of the room, along with the tall wax candle burning
on his desk. Salazar's silver-plated armor caught the warm light in
streaks of orange and yellow and reflected onto her warm, dark brown
skin. Her deep, black hair seemed to swallow up the light, pulled back
into a neat bun as was customary for their uniform.
"Yes," Carter said, leaning back into his office chair. "He seems promising."
office was small. The decor was minimal, if nonexistent, but the exposed
stone walls kept the room cool even on the hot summer nights. It was
always humbling being this far from King's Peak, outside of the
Moonlight Kingdom's borders, away from the capital, and away from the hub of
the kingdom's wealth and resources.
Salazar laid the file down on the desk in front of her and looked at him with a raised brow.
"I assume what you saw in him was--"
"A useful skill set," Carter answered. "And because of his troubled background, I thought this would be an opportunity to redeem himself and use his skills for a better cause. I didn't think it would do any harm. We've grown in our relationship. He knows the boundaries."
"You're hoping he'll finally catch Tiberius," Salazar said, straight to the point as always.
course that's what I'm hoping," Carter said, tapping his fingers on the
table rhythmically as he looked out the window. "It's been six years,
and he's been a thorn in the kingdom's side and a mar on the kingdom's
reputation for too long. I'm tired of his infamy."
sun had set, and its remaining light was fading from the sky. The
window was cracked open, letting the faint breeze in through, carrying
with it the smells of the city.
always had a soft spot for the outcasts," Salazar commented, flipping
to the next page as she skimmed the rest of the file.
was being humorous, but her assertion wasn't untrue. She herself had
been an outcast before he took her under his wing and helped her ascend
the ranks of the Moonlight Kingdom military, and everyone in his inner
circle had a similar story. Of course, none of them were without their
own merit, but he always found himself drawn to the ones who were looked down upon. Perhaps it was because he saw himself in them. So often, people were bursting with potential and just needed someone to see it and call it forth. And with him, they were all able to find a sense of belonging and meaning in service of the kingdom - something bigger than them. It not only made them powerful allies but loyal friends.
But he was careful now.
He'd made a mistake in trusting James. That's what led to this whole mess; this years-long headache of trying to catch him and finally tie up loose ends.
"He was supposed to send word a few days ago," Carter said. "Alexander."
"You think he ran into trouble?" Salazar asked.
Carter pursed his lips.
"Well," he said. "Tiberius has made it this far. Seems he still has fight in him yet, so I don't imagine him going down easy."
"But you said he wasn't cruel when you knew him," Salazar said. "Maybe he's just been lucky all this time."
"After six years? That's one lucky man," Carter answered with a huff of amusement through his nose.
"Seems so," Salazar ceded, finally leaving the file alone, done with her interest in Alexander's background.
Kingsman was a former criminal. But he'd been reformed for years, and
the best use of his skill set was channeling it towards something
redemptive - or at least redemptive in the eyes of the law - like
catching Nye's most wanted outlaw.
He just wished Alexander was better at communication.
stronger breeze pushed through the window, sending the formerly
half-open pane clattering against the outer wall. The breeze flew in and
swirled throughout the room, rustling the papers on his desk and
blowing out the candle.
he excused himself first and got up, his plated armor clinking with a
familiar rhythm as he made his way to the window, catching the
remnants of the sunset. Beyond the tall, leafy trees, there was a glow
of red on the horizon, and everything above it was turning to a deep,
the moon was starting to peek out in a crescent, reminiscent of the
Moonlight Kingdom's crest. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe it was just the
A small shadow came fluttering out of the darkness.
Ah. There it was. The poetry of life.
extended his hand, recognizing the raven as one of the kingdom's
messenger birds for the shape of the small cylindrical pack on its
back. The bird recognized the inviting motion and seamlessly landed on
his armored finger, looking a bit spent from the journey.
gently pet the bird's head with the padded portion of his gauntlet.
With his other hand, he reached out and pulled the window shut, latching
it to prevent any more windy disturbances.
he turned with the bird in his hand, Salazar got to her feet, standing
at attention. Carter waved for her to sit back down and opened the
leather container on the bird's back to pull out the letter it carried.
With the rolled-up letter in hand, he let the bird to a standing perch
in the corner of the room, and it hopped off of his finger to its
Then Carter turned to Salazar, opening the letter.
Sent on the 26th of Sol, to the High Commander Carter Haddon,
I expect to capture Tiberius within the next few days. He is traveling
north of Bone under the guise of a cowboy. I will deliver him to you in
Ruddlan before the month's end.
Rest in the Moon's Light,
"Kingsman?" Salazar asked as Carter's eyes flitted across the letter.
a few days late for correspondence," Carter said, rolling it back up.
"But he's on schedule. He should be here in two days."
He paused, letting out a faint laugh. "Apparently our outlaw's pretending to be a cowboy, of all things."
"You think he still has that horse you gave him all those years ago?" Salazar asked.
"We've received reports of sightings
of him with a golden steed," Carter said. "Though only in recent
months. I thought he'd done away with it but he's always been the
sentimental type, even if it's to his detriment."
"Well, at least it'd make him easier to spot," she said.
That was true.
Carter walked back to his desk, setting the letter to the side as he sat down again across from Salazar.
don't have to stay," Carter said. "It's getting late. You should get
some rest. If Alexander is coming soon we'll need to prepare to
transport Tiberius to the kingdom."
Which would be a several weeks' journey.
hesitated, glancing off out the now-closed window. Carter watched out
of the corner of his eye while he pulled out a blank piece of paper,
pulling his pen and ink towards him to write back.
Salazar looked deep in thought, with her brows pinched together, pensive.
"Will it be painful for you?" Salazar asked. "To see him again?"
Carter's expression softened, and he let a wistful sadness show.
"Yes," he said. "But it's been a long time coming. And it's been a very long time since we were friends."
Salazar nodded, starting to get up to go. Her armor clinked as she stood and she paused, standing in front of her seat.
I was betrayed like that," she said. "I don't think I'd ever be able to
trust again. I respect you for not letting that interfere with the
looked like she wanted to say more but her eyes fell to the ground as
if she were embarrassed. Carter tried to smile with understanding.
"I'll be fine," Carter said. "Go get some rest."
without any more delay, Salazar nodded her head and turned to march out
the door down to the barracks. When the door closed behind her, Carter
let out another sigh in her absence, leaning back in his chair.
He let his gaze drift over to the raven, already asleep on its stoop.
It would, indeed, be an interesting reunion.
one point, James had been wanted alive for information. But after six
years, it was entirely possible his information was useless, now.
wasn't exaggerating when he said that James had been a thorn in the
kingdom's side - but he'd been a thorn in Carter's side before he'd ever
made himself a problem for the kingdom. The only reason James
accomplished what he did was because Carter had enabled him. James never
would've gotten close enough to do that much damage if Carter hadn't
helped him get there.
No one saw it coming. Not even him. But he should've.
Carter sighed, idly twirling the ends of his mustache as he looked down at the empty paper in front of him.
If Alexander was still near Bone, Carter needed to send the letter immediately.
He sat up straighter, dipped his pen in the inkwell, and began to write.