Earl’ Summer, Se’enday, 1341 (Later)
I am finding it harder and harder to believe that Arkan and Wynellia are musicians like they claim.
The way they moved today…I guess I hadn’t really thought about how real those guns and blades on their belts were, or how well Arkan and Wynellia knew how to use them. And Kent, that sword of his, but that’s hardly a surprise to find out that a soldier for the Dragon knows how to fight. Not surprising like Torrent. I still can’t believe what she could do. I’ve seen mancers before, of course. The sisters didn’t like it, but we would teach each other cantrips and pretend we knew how to hex each other. I’ve never seen someone who really knows what they’re doing, aside from street performers, and what they do isn’t real anyway.
I’m sorry, I’m all over the place again. It’s just that it’s like the first night all over again. I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, and I feel like any second the Regesians are going to come bursting out of the woods to kill us all.
I’ve been bombed, shot at, forced out of my home, and been made a refugee. I’ve watched men, women, and children butchered in the streets. But this is first time I really felt like I’m in over my head.
Let me back up.
When I last left off, I had just left the tavern with Wynellia, Sir Kent, Torrent, Brother Xiao, and Arkan. Torrent had her documents, Kent had his sword, Arkan had his guitar, Wynellia had her axe, and Xiao had his prayer beads. I had nothing.
It won’t do me a whole lot of good to describe how we got from the tavern to the south side of the city, where the big gates are. By then, most of the fighting had moved to the north side of the city, so it was actually kind of quiet. The airships were still overhead, so we had to stay under cover, and every few minutes a firebomb would go off a few blocks away, but other than that, you almost wouldn’t know our home had been invaded.
I mean, you’d have to ignore the rubble and carnage, but still.
I wasn’t sure where we were going—I mean, I knew we were trying to get to the gates, I had overheard that much—and every time I tried to ask, somebody would shut me up. Xiao and Wynellia were nice about it, but the rest just hissed at me.
We were almost to the gates, maybe about a block away, when we ran into the rider.
The thing was even bigger on the ground, black and bat-winged and drooling, sitting in the middle of the ruins of a bombed-out house. It was still in its bridle, and there was a Regesian tying down an anchor cord. Arkan was in the lead, and when he turned the corner and saw the rider, he put up a hand for us to stop, but it was too late. The thing had our scent, and it turned towards us, snuffling with its dripping dog snout. We all froze, us and the Regesian, as we waited to see what the creature would do.
Everything happened at once. The Regesian started to pull his short blade from its sheath. Arkan drew his pistols. Wynellia and Sir Kent charged, covering the fifty feet in less than six seconds. Xiao turned and grabbed my arm, pulling me down behind a piece of fallen masonry. Torrent didn’t move.
At least, it didn’t look like she was moving. I looked closer, and I could see that she was quivering, her hands clenched into fists, her nails digging so hard into her palms that blood was dripping from her hands. Her lips were moving, like she was praying, but of course I couldn’t hear what she was saying.
The beast leaped forward, but it was still tied, so it came up short, struggling against its bridle. Bullworth and Wynellia were on it then, hacking and slashing at its legs, its wings, anything. Bullworth was like a man made of iron, shrugging the thing’s bites off of his armor. Wynellia dodged under and around, slicing at its underbelly.
Arkan aimed carefully with his pistols, and fired two shots. There were two sharp cracks that were loud enough to cause my ears to ring, even with the damage that shell had done the day before. I saw blood blossom on the Regesian’s tunic, and he stumbled forward, the sword tumbling from his hands. He hit the ground, face first, and didn’t move.
Wynellia and Bullworth had gotten the black thing back up into the only standing corner of the house. Things looked good, so of course that’s when everything went wrong. A pair of Regesians appeared from behind the house, jumping at Wynellia and Bullworth and forcing them backwards. They were the rest of the thing’s crew, of course, but we had no way of knowing that then. We might have been more careful if we knew those creatures could carry three.
Arkan aimed and fired again, but he missed. One of the Regesians threw a handful of soot at Bullworth’s face, catching him in the eyes. The big knight stumbled and tripped over the charred remains of a stool. He was barely able to get his sword up in time to catch the Regesian’s thrust, and he shouted, desperately, “Torrent!”
That’s when everything exploded.
I heard a rumbling, and at first I thought there were more shells incoming, but then I realized it was coming from under our feet. We all froze, even the Regesians and the monster, as tremors shook the ruins on the street. Then a geyser of water erupted from under the floor of the house, tearing a hole in the floor and ripping through what remained of the ceiling. The Regesians were caught in the deluge, thrown backwards by its force. Wynellia grabbed Bullworth and helped him to his feet, and the two of them started to run.
I could see the Regesians gathering themselves through the mist. Then there was a creak, and the house, already weakened by the firebombs of the night before, collapsed onto its ruined foundations. Their screams were silenced quickly–not even the most savage Northman can survive good Gate’s Pass architecture.
We all sat there for a few moments, stunned. I think we were all looking at Torrent. I know I was.
The rest of it is still a blur: making it to the gate, Torrent showing the guard something from the document case, the gate opening, all of us tumbling onto the path towards the Stone Forest, towards the coast, and away from my home.