I must thank all you good folk for spurring me on with this project; hence the rapid appearance of this episode
(In this first half of the chapter Karlyn & Meradat get to fight vile creatures from the Fourth Realm. The extract is a bit longer…action!)
Karlyn was maintaining what she thought was a thoughtful silence. She’d told Meradat that the bees very confused and she’d encountered a few very cross butterflies. She was now looking at the clouds, trying to make out which way they were actually going, never mind the way the wind was blowing, because that didn’t count. She wished that the custoady would stop looking at her in that hound peering way; it wasn’t her fault that the Time was all skewiffed.
Meradat had accepted the girl’s observations concerning Time. IN his dealings with the Stommigheid and the Jordisk he had learnt and experienced enough to know what might be plausible. So far her some of her potential was solidifying into capability; his principal concerns being would her tenuous hold on normality stand the strain of dealing with the true dangers which must arise out of these temporal distortions. Whatever those dangers might be
Migran had not previously endeavoured to have his oculator work at such an intense level, each gem set to its limit, but he would prove to Trelli. He would. By Ven of Numbers he would!!
Frib! There’s that damn; hue!!
Beritt correctly estimated she had not earned the right to call him ‘Sarge’; hence her very precise but respectful tones.
Even if his response was his signature grim and indicating for disapproval at the messing up the balance of his file, it was better than having to put up with the claims to injuries and could she kiss ‘em better of which troopers Norvan, Trex and Dell just did not weary of.
Thanks to Poseydale she was finally used to getting to balance the oculator while riding. Captain Dekyria had been most insistent that she scan the locality for anything untoward every three thousand and report to him. Of course this meant much broken sleep, a great deal trying to get the colour and shape right, even in the dark, trying to read the code book correctly and after all that fribbin’ about getting replies which indicated he was not worried about ‘that’
But this time, she saw a hue about the all the colours; in the form of a thin line of orange which slithered into the sort of green wounds turned before she had to saw someone’s leg off.
“I’m seeing one of those hues I was warned about!”
Erzns being as wise in matters of the Astatheia as Beritt swung his mount about rode alongside her and peered at the screen, when he spoke he was calm and strangely affable.
“Do you know where?”
Beritt ruffled through the code book, peered back and forth between it and the screen, and very glad it was still daylight.
“According to the code book, not more than a thousand at the fast trot,”
“Alert Captain Dekyria now, don’t hurry yourself get the report right,”
By now there was a huddle of troopers, their concerned expressions giving her the luxury of a brief smugness.
Belacheli was hurled out of his meditation on the crimson curtain’s heat which inflicted roasting pain upon the floor-chained wretches selected for the pleasure of the Lords of The Fourth Realm. Came a shrill scream not from any of the sacrifices but from the fabric as came the sudden jagged tearing apart. Who would tear at these sacred materials? What lurked and where?
He must consult!
Others on the council strode with purpose; he scampered. The guards confessed to each other their amusement at the sight.
Karlyn was sure that cloud was going the wrong way; she sat straight in the saddle to sniff the air, her nose wrinkling up in disgust,
“Blurgh!! There’s ripe splosh-pit somewhere! Yurgggg!!”
Meradat could smell nothing in particular to account for the girl’s agitation, now causing her to turn from one direction rapidly, to another while she scratched frantically at her thumbs with index fingers, alarm spreading across her face twisting her features into wide-eyed and teeth-barred ire.
The horses grew agitated, both riders more accustomed to being foot-solid dismounted, hauling off packs of their choices
A sudden sharp creak upon a branch of the wayside trees, followed by another and another. Meradat aware of the thick, slow slap of flesh upon flesh, looked up to see three shapes perched above them, large bat-like wings slowly folding. Slack jowled human faces stretched by dogs snouts and elongated ears, fever-yellow eyes bright with cruelty.
“Live meat and souls” one croaked deep and malicious, ending in a paradoxical high pitched laugh.
“A fine time for feasting,” added another and raising one leg, voided a stream of thick and foul excrement, in Karlyn’s direction, causing her leap backwards, while screaming in angry fear.
“A female,” breathed the third and standing tall revealed extended male organs beneath folds of flesh landscaped with ruin. “The feasting will wait,”
Meradat looked with some approval that having moved towards him knife drawn she had now positioned herself back to back with him, and was as composed. Although he would have preferred prayers to the muttering of curses and oaths.
There was more of the thick slapping sounds as another one of the creatures alighted upon nearby trees, obviously all ready to enjoy the anticipation of the horrors they were about to inflict.
“That was the pong then!” she said “Where the scraith?”
“Fourth Realm,” he replied “They are not calling out a name. They must have strayed into through a rupture between the worlds, no doubt caused by that meddler,”
“So what do we do?”
Meradat picked up his axe settling it tight in both hands
“Rely on the Lord God for our strength and forbearance,” he said ending his words in a soft low chant.
“That’s the knobbling death hymn!” she objected.
“One must always be ready to-”
“Oh dongers to that!” she dropped into a crouched, one hand beckoning at the creatures, forcing herself to smile “C’mon if you think you’re hard enough!” she chanted at them.
Meradat had been ready to explain to her that he was conducting a pronouncement of fortitude, preparation for death being a requirement. If all had gone well a slight and temporary but nonetheless effective barrier brought by his faith would have offered some protection to him and the girl and injury to the creatures. This might have eased the odds slightly, but that was all supposition as with a collective screech the fel things spread wings and descended, taloned feet and clawed hands eagerly outstretched.
“’Ware your face!” he warned, diving to his left and dropping; a pair of filthy limbs brushing through his hair, as he looked another two pairs had landed close in front, to begin advancing, slowly, unevenly and bunching, allowing him the time to scramble up into a crouch. From there he hurled himself forward, hands gripped to his axe as he swung the weapon backwards, then pivoted on one foot whirled the blade towards his assailants. One took to the air with a mocking screech, but the other let out a howl of pain as the axe ripped across one limb, an odorous sickly green ochre spilling froth.
Karlyn, badly pressed by the other two had been dodging with all of her street honed skills from one grasping claw to another. She caught sight of wounding and found time to grin. One thing hopped and landed before her with a screech, which annoyed rather than scared her, so anger fuelled she brought her knife blade down into its foot, through flesh and bone and into the ground beneath, pinning the beast.
“Shit your way out of that!” she cried, diving to the right to avoid the grasp of its comrade, then thrusting her right hand into a pocket brought out a small oiled bag. She, danced back from the one assailant, tore at the bag with her teeth, spitting quickly, and then dashing forwards under clumsy failing claws slammed the ripped packet upon the injured limb, its powdery contents spilling out. At once there was a sizzling, and the smell of burning detritus, swiftly followed by a burst of flame, which travelled up the things’ limb flames licking upon the tips of the wings, Karlyn rolling away whooped in savage glee “Ooh you bright little fosfer powders!! Give it a roasting!!”
The one wounded by Meradat, howling and leaking its essence had flapped to a nearby tree, the other two were much alarmed by the sight of one of their own threshing, and gradually tuning into a thing of oily flame and smoke. This sight caused they to retreat into the air, huddled and temporarily uncertain of their next action. Karlyn stumbled and chortled her way to Meradat who having wiped his blade upon the grass was now once more couched ready for the next assault.
“Them’s easy!” she gasped in heady victory.
“What were you using?” was the stern demand.
“Not giving away my secrets,” was the smug reply.
It was at this stage the one wounded by Meradat whimpered and tumbled from the tree, completely empty of life.
“Bled to death from that weedy wound!” the girl cried “Oh this is gonna be fun!”
“There are still two of them, more cautious now,” warned Meradat.
Just as, there came sudden shrill sounds overhead, faint metallic glows marking some sort of passage, ending in explosive impacts upon each of the creatures, tearing their bodies and scattering debris over the area…..