"Now You two have things a little differently because one Jasper you haven't left Headquarters for large sum of years, so its required that you have a co leader, and as for Zane you don't have experience as a captain, and you're also supposed to be being punished for your previous acts so you'll need supervision, and that's why I'm pairing you two up. Now go make yourselves a team." Ceri said, his face a mask of strength and power. Jasper bowed his head and turned to leave, mulling it over in his head. On the one hand, he was getting out of the Rocks, on the other...

"We won't disappoint you. I promise." Zane said to Ceri before catching up. Jasper only glanced at him, too angry to speak. They were out of earshot of the guards outside Ceri's chambers when Zane broke the silence.

"You know I'm not any happier about this than you are, but we need to put aside our differences here, something is going down and we need to cooperate, besides you're a man of duty and I personally believe you're a man who prizes dignity and honour. So lets do this together as best we can. Anyways lets form a team, I suggest we bring Riovynn along with that snooty friend of his, maybe Layla if she is up to it..."

Zane prattled on, but Jasper felt the blood drain from his face at the mention of Layla's name. Her armor wasn't ready. “What?" Zane interrupted himself. "She has improved greatly in her training, a little bit of field experience would be good, and she doesn't have to come if she doesn't feel confident enough. She shouldn't be treated like a kid ya know." He finished obnoxiously. Jasper snapped, grabbed Zane's shoulder and yanked him against a wall.

"You’re so goddamn naive!" He shouted, surprising even himself. Jasper never swore. "You think this is all a game? You think that if you kill some soldiers, you will suddenly be a man? People have died." Zane's face clouded over with sadness at this but Jasper continued relentlessly. "If you think that way in battle, you will get your team killed." 

"It's better than being a coward." Zane replied darkly, his usual smile gone. The comment hung in the air for several minutes. As the tension rose, it became almost tangible. Anyone who wanted to reach Ceri's chambers took a different tunnel, not wishing to get caught in the crossfire. At last, the tension shattered as Jasper turned on his heel without a word and headed for the blacksmith's to check on Erik's progress with the armor.

"Erik?" Jasper called upon entering the forge. There was no reply, not even a curse. All was quiet, and though it was hard to see much in he light of the forge, Jasper could see there was evidence that Erik had been in the forge since dinner last night. A broken, half-made swordblade lay in the corner, and one of Erik's mechanical dummies had been penetrated by a sword, thrust so deep into it's workings it would probably never come out. Collapsed on the stone floor in front of the broken dummy was Erik, his gloves bloody and some of his fingers looked broken. He was semi-conscious as Jasper wordlessly helped him to his feet and into his bed. Erik looked terrible, worn and stressed, even though he was asleep now. No work would be done in the forge today, that much was certain. As Jasper left Erik to rest without making his inquiries, he ran into Durn, who smiled his usual, smug smile, like he knew something no one else did. 

"Erik is sick." Jasper made up an excuse. "I was about to send for a healer." 

"Is that so?" Durn replied. "He seemed fine yesterday."

"It seems to have sprung up suddenly. If you'll excuse me." Jasper ducked out of the forge swiftly and headed straight for the healer's cavern. 

"Silcer, I didn't expect to see you in here again so soon, what is this, 3 times in the same month?" Sonja looked stern.

"it's not about me, it's about Erik, his hands have been seriously injured, I don't know how, but several of his fingers appeared to be broken." 

Sonja gestured for another of the healers to go to the blacksmiths and Jasper turned to leave again.

"So, my husband is letting you out again." Sonja began knowingly. Jasper stopped and nodded. 

"I guess I've served my punishment." He said quietly. 

"You will keep your team safe." It wasn't a question, just an assurance, "Ceri knows that just as well as I do. You only need to learn that for yourself." Jasper only nodded again and left. It was just about time for lunch anyways.

The End

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