East (Chapter Three, page 1 of 8)

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Smoke swirled overhead for the rest of the night and even managed to delay the sunrise, or so it seemed. Billowing black clouds stretched out from the city towards the horizon. The rising sun was soon visible in the east, the murky ball appearing before the dawn had managed to pierce the smoke.

I waited for Flowers to fall asleep before checking my phone. My mystery handler had responded to my question.

My identity is none of your concern. Do as I direct you.

"Jackass," I muttered, taken aback. I stared at the message, torn between anger and hurt and god knew what else. I had never pulled punches with Carter, but I felt comfortable with him, even when he was planning to pull the rug out from under me and leave me stranded in the past. There was something … familiar about Carter. Even now, it was hard for me to be angry with him.

But this stranger, who kidnapped me from Carter and sent me on a mission without even bothering to give me his name …

Who the hell do you think you are? I typed. Who do you think *I* am? I'm stranded in the past in the Mongol Empire on a roof waiting for them to chop down me and some little girl, and you're going to refuse to give me your name because … what? You're waiting for me to die here and now? Because my life doesn't matter? Well IT DOES MATTER. Either you get your shit straight and get me out of here or I tell the Mongols who this girl is and take my chances they won't kill me because I'm a goddess!!

It was probably the least diplomatic thing I'd ever said. I wasn't prone to outbursts or anger or even grudges. But at this moment, I felt like unleashing all three at the stranger. I had no intention of turning over Flowers to anyone, but I was banking on my handler not knowing that.

The corridors nearest us had long since grown quiet. Fighting continued in other parts of the city. Achy from the awkward position dozing off and on, I straightened when the princess awoke. She pulled away to observe the damaged city through tear-puffed eyes. I automatically smoothed out her hair.

"It's quiet here. I think we can find some food or something," I murmured. "Are you hungry?"

She nodded.

My new handler hadn't responded. I wasn't surprised.

With a deep breath, I stood, stretched briefly and squeezed back into the room. Already I was able to see the bodies in the hallway and the blood covering the floors and walls. Steeling myself, I began walking across the beam, back towards the girl's room. She trailed me and waited while I climbed down first then caught her when she leapt off the beam.

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