Falcon finally arrives back at the camp, feeling hollow and distraught, and heads straight for the darkest corner he can find. He needs to think of something to say, to explain this whole predicament to his people before anything else goes wrong. After all, he's the one supposed to be defeding them isn't he? They didn't pick him as leader for him to run off chasing fantasies. Particularly fantasies that would bring ruin on everyone involved.
I'll just tell them the truth, he thinks. That's all I can do now. Bluffing and pretense got me into this mess, there's no point making this hole any deeper. I doubt it'll fix everything, but it might help. Oh gods, what a bloody deep hole I've dug myself.
He gets to his feet and heads into the main camp, his gait determined and standing as tall and sure-footedly as he can. The group look up quizically, as he takes his place near the centre. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Falcon clears his throat and calls out:
"I know what you're all thinking," he says, looking around at all the peopl watching him. "I know what you think of me. You think I'm mad, letting Eternal join us, fighting off the Blaze soldiers. And for falling in love with her. You know that don't you? You know I loved her, I can see it in your faces. Well guess what. You were right. It was all lies, dirty stinking lies. My foolishness has put us all in danger, and perhaps the full force of it has yet to hit us. I can't excuse myself from any of this, there's no way I can deny any of it. All I have to say is that I'm sorry and hope that you can find it in yourselves to forgive me. I've made mistakes, but I swear by all I hold dear I will never put myself before any of you ever again. You all mean everything to me. I won't put you at risk again."
He stops, feeling weak-kneed and nervous, looking around at the assembled faces. Some seem confused, others relieved and one or two still look sceptical. Some open their mouths, as if to respond. Falcon tenses himself. This is the moment of truth.
Suddenly, before anyone can so much as breathe, a figure comes racing through the crowd, crashing through the mass like a wayward cannon ball. Falcon recognises Rowan and stares at him in alarm as he collapses at his feet:
"Soldiers!" Rowan gasps, "Soldiers in the forest! Coming this way, hordes of them. They'll be here in minutes. Got to run... got to get out..." He stops, his strength gone and chest heaving like a dog in the sun.
For a moment, no-one speaks. Then, almost as one, they turn to look at Falcon. He remains silent for a few seconds, then barks out over the group:
"All those unable to bear arms are to head for the tunnels. Follow them until you find a way out, then get into the forest and find a place to hide. The rest of you, arm yourselves. If it's a battle they want, it's a battle they'll get!"
A roar of approval rises from the assembled people and Falcon's heart swells. They still trust him! After all this, they're still willing to listen. This knowledge fills him with a burst of strength. He's not going to let them down now. If they fall, he'll die with them.